FEDEX & BUD LIGHT PRESENT
Fri, May 5
Sun, May 7
Beale Street Music Festival Three-Day Pass
Kings Of Leon, Soundgarden, Widespread Panic, Snoop Dogg, Sturgill Simpson, Death Cab for Cutie, Wiz Khalifa, MGMT, Jill Scott, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Tori Kelly, Ludacris, Grouplove, X Ambassadors, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Eat World, GRiZ, BUSH, The Revivalist, Silversun Pickups, Midnight Oil, The Strumbellas, Taking Back Sunday, Alter Bridge, Drive By Truckers, Greensky Bluegrass, Highly Suspect, Sum 41, Machine Gun Kelly, Ani DiFranco, MUTEMATH, Mayer Hawthorne, Dawes, KONGOS, Deer Tick, Charles Bradley, Booker T Jones, John Paul White, Peter Wolf, The Record Company
Riverside at Beale Street
Memphis, TN, 38103
Beale St Music Festival - Three-Day Pass
The annual Beale Street Music Festival has attracted music enthusiasts to the banks of the mighty Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn every year since 1978. Visitors from all 50 states and a dozen foreign countries make the May pilgrimage to the city where rock-n-roll and blues music both began. Over the past decade the festival has attracted over 1.1 million music fans to the multistage three-day event. Best known for its eclectic mix of contemporary rock, blues, soul and modern talent, the festival is held in an inspiringly beautiful 25-acre riverfront park at the foot of historic Beale Street.
The music festival has played host to a broad array of diverse and notable contemporary musical talents such as: Neil Young, The Black Keys, Paul Simon, Beck, the Dave Matthews Band, MGMT, John Mellencamp, Van Morrison, Ed Sheeran, Flaming Lips, Foo Fighters, Paramore, Phoenix, Stone Temple Pilots, The Avett Brothers, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz, Santana, Cee Lo Green, Jack Johnson, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Fergie, Jason Mraz, Lou Reed, Katy Perry, Ben Harper, The Killers, Steely Dan, Fall Out Boy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, B.B. King, Shinedown, Fleetwood Mac, Big Boi, John Lee Hooker, Sarah McLachlan, The Roots, the Allman Brothers Band, Cat Power, Public Enemy, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Widespread Panic, Nelly, Godsmack, Willie Nelson, Iggy Pop, My Chemical Romance, ZZ Top, Big Star, Korn, Al Green, 30 Seconds to Mars, Steve Miller Band, Three Doors Down, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many more!
Kings Of Leon
We've written about some things on this record that we're ashamed of, said things that we wouldn't normally say. We've got some songs about fighting and some songs about loving and some songs about fucking," says Caleb Followill about the songs on Kings of Leon's new album, Aha Shake Heartbreak. "We're definitely not the same people we were 18 months ago. We've all just grown so, so much and seen so many things," the lead singer says, adding that the band's new songs chronicle "different nights, different stories and different emotions. "
Drummer brother Nathan adds, "On our first album, I'd say about 30 percent of what we were writing about was autobiographical and 70 percent was wishful thinking. We were writing about things we hadn't seen yet. On this album, 90 percent of what we're writing about are things we've experienced, nights we've had. There's still that other ten percent though..."
Kings of Leon's second record, Aha Shake Heartbreak, finds the band--brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill, and first cousin Matthew Followill--delving deeper than ever into their rich musical rapport and shared personal history to deliver a dozen doses of raw, personally-charged rock. The new band-penned songs reflect the life-changing -- often traumatic --experiences that irrevocably altered the four band members' perspectives during the 18 months that preceded the album's creation. During that time, the band swiftly rose from rural obscurity to bona fide rock stardom overseas--particularly in the U.K., where their 2003 debut Youth & Young Manhood has almost sold double platinum.
While Youth & Young Manhood shook up the musical landscape, introducing a bracing blend of runaway-train energy, pointedly thoughtful lyrical attitude and a remarkably fresh take on traditional guitar-rock dynamics, the new collection marks a wildly impressive leap forward, taking the first album's primal rock into deeper--and unmistakably darker--musical and emotional territory. The upheaval that accompanied the band's rapid rise to heavily-scrutinized international rock stardom is reflected in Aha Shake Heartbreak's original compositions. These haunting, twisted tales compellingly confront the darker side of success, surveying the personal toll of debauchery, overindulgence and fast living. The NME recently observed, "If Youth and Young Manhood was the party, Aha Shake Heartbreak is the hangover."
The material encompasses a broad range of stylistic elements and lyrical moods, from the anthemic, soul-searching "My Generation" rush of "The Bucket" to the pensive, nervous groove of "Slow Nights, So Long" to the swaggering throb of "Taper Jean Girl" to the jittery minimalism of "King of the Rodeo" and the dreamy desolation of "Milk." Throughout the album, the band's unique instrumental chemistry is matched by the emotional gravity of Caleb's distinctively slurred vocals.
The British press has already taken notice of Aha Shake Heartbreak's creative quantum leap. Mojo said the record is "an ultimately outstanding crack at Brokering an accord between spiky noo wave and fuzzy '70s stoner rock", while The Guardian gave it "CD of the week" status and went on to say that the band has "sophistication that outstrips their contemporaries...a vast improvement on Youth & Young Manhood."
Like its predecessor, Aha Shake Heartbreak was recorded with producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller) at his 3 Crows studio in Los Angeles using the Beatles' old Abbey Road mixing desk. Once again, the band's longtime mentor, noted songwriter/producer Angelo, made additional co-production contributions. The tracks were cut completely live with no overdubs, and the stripped-down approach resulted in punchy, organic performances as well as some affecting moments of intimacy and sensitivity.
"There were things on this record that I wouldn't have been brave enough to do before because I was afraid everybody else would think I was soft," said Caleb. "Anything from yodeling to singing pretty when I wanted to sing pretty...I still bring it when I got to bring it." The singer also kicked a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit in order to expand his vocal range in the studio.
Three of the four Followills were still in their teens when Kings of Leon debuted with the five-song EP Holy Roller Novocaine in February 2003. Youth & Young Manhood followed six months later, winning such early accolades as a four-star review in Rolling Stone, before achieving wholesale international stardom. Admiring critics have often focused on the undiluted purity of Kings of Leon's rural roots. But that purity has, ironically, led some observers to overlook the originality and complexity of the band's music, which draws freely from a multitude of musical traditions while sounding like no one else.
Caleb makes it clear that, despite the outside pressures and expectations that have accompanied the band's rise to prominence, Kings of Leon remain fiercely focused on continuing to create riveting music that's wholly their own. The whirlwind of the band's recent history has tested the Followills' mettle and strengthened their resolve, carrying the four musicians from their sheltered, humble upbringing to the sort of high-profile mythology that's usually reserved for veteran combos.
"We were plucked out of nowhere, and we had a lot of fun and did a lot of crazy shit," the singer notes. "But we've also become more serious about this music and more confident in what we're doing. We're growing, but we're trying not to grow up."
"Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock. Their fellow Seattle rockers Green River may have spearheaded the grunge sound, but they relied on noise rock in the vein of the Stooges. Similarly, Jane's Addiction were too fascinated with prog rock and performance art to appeal to a wide array of metal fans. Soundgarden, however, developed directly out of the grandiose blues-rock of Led Zeppelin and the sludgy, slow riffs of Black Sabbath. Which isn't to say they were a straight-ahead metal band. Soundgarden borrowed the D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk, melding their guitar-driven sound with an intelligence and ironic sense of humor that was indebted to the American underground of the mid-'80s. Furthermore, the band rarely limited itself to simple, pounding riffs, often making detours into psychedelia. But the group's key sonic signatures -- the gutsy wail of vocalist Chris Cornell and the winding riffs of guitarist Kim Thayil -- were what brought them out of the underground. Not only were they one of the first groups to record for the legendary Seattle indie Sub Pop, but they were the first grunge band to sign to a major label. In fact, most critics expected Soundgarden to be the band that broke down the doors for alternative rock, not Nirvana. However, the group didn't experience an across-the-boards success until 1994, when Superunknown became a number one hit.
For a band so heavily identified with the Seattle scene, its ironic that two of its founding members were from the Midwest. Kim Thayil (guitar), Hiro Yamamoto (bass), and Bruce Pavitt were all friends in Illinois who decided to head to Olympia, WA, to attend college after high-school graduation in 1981. Though none of the three completed college, all of them became involved in the Washington underground music scene. Pavitt was the only one who didn't play -- he founded a fanzine that later became the Sub Pop record label. Yamamoto played in several cover bands before forming a band in 1984 with his roommate Chris Cornell (vocals), a Seattle native who had previously played drums in several bands. Thayil soon joined the duo and the group named itself Soundgarden after a local Seattle sculpture. Scott Sundquist originally was the band's drummer, but he was replaced by Matt Cameron in 1986. Over the next two years, Soundgarden gradually built up a devoted cult following through their club performances.
Pavitt signed Soundgarden to his fledgling Sub Pop label in the summer of 1987, releasing the single "Hunted Down" before the EP Screaming Life appeared later in the year. Screaming Life and the group's second EP, 1988's FOPP, became underground hits and earned the attention of several major labels. The band decided to sign to SST instead of a major, releasing Ultramega OK by the end of 1988. Ultramega OK received strong reviews among alternative and metal publications, and the group decided to make the leap to a major for its next album, 1989's Louder Than Love. Released on A&M Records, Louder Than Love became a word-of-mouth hit, earning positive reviews from mainstream publications, peaking at 108 on the charts, and earning a Grammy nomination. Following the album's fall 1989 release, Yamamoto left the band to return to school. Jason Everman, a former guitarist for Nirvana, briefly played with the band before Ben Shepherd joined in early 1990.
Soundgarden's third album, 1991's Badmotorfinger, was heavily anticipated by many industry observers as a potential breakout hit. Though it was a significant hit, reaching number 39 on the album charts, its success was overshadowed by the surprise success of Nirvana's Nevermind, which was released the same month as Badmotorfinger. Prior to Nevermind, Soundgarden had been marketed by A&M as a metal band, and the group had agreed to support Guns N' Roses on the fall 1991 Lose Your Illusion tour. While the tour did help sales, Soundgarden benefited primarily from the grunge explosion, whose media attention helped turn the band into stars. The band was also helped by the Top Ten success of Temple of the Dog, a tribute to deceased Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood that Cornell and Cameron recorded with members of Pearl Jam.
By the spring release of 1994's Superunknown, Soundgarden's following had grown considerably, which meant that the album debuted at number one upon its release. (A year before its release, Shepherd and Cameron released an eponymous album by their side project, Hater.) Superunknown became one of the most popular records of 1994, generating a genuine crossover hit with "Black Hole Sun," selling over three million copies and earning two Grammys. Soundgarden returned in 1996 with Down on the Upside, which entered the charts at number two. Despite the record's strong initial sales, it failed to generate a big hit, and was hurt by grunge's fading popularity. Soundgarden retained a sizable audience -- the album did go platinum, and they were co-headliners on the sixth Lollapalooza -- but they didn't replicate the blockbuster success of Superunknown. After completing an American tour following Lollapalooza that was plagued by rumors of internal fighting, Soundgarden announced that they were breaking up on April 9, 1997, to pursue other interests.
During the late '90s and 2000s, each member kept very busy. Cornell released three solo albums, also recording and touring as Audioslave with former members of Rage Against the Machine. Cameron toured his Wellwater Conspiracy project, and also played and recorded with Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. Thayil collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Cameron, Dave Grohl, Steve Fisk, and Boris. Meanwhile, Shepherd helped out with Wellwater Conspiracy, and also played and recorded with Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees. Finally, in 2010, the band announced a reunion with a few live shows during the summer (including that year's edition of Lollapalooza) which preceded a compilation, Telephantasm, in the fall. Telephantasm was initially available as a double-disc set on September 28, with a single-disc version appearing a week later (the single disc was also included via Guitar Hero on September 28). In 2011, Soundgarden released their first live album, Live on I5, which featured material recorded during the band's touring for Down on the Upside." - Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusicGuide
Everybody loves surprises, that feeling of not knowing what might be around the next corner -- and that's exactly the vibe that Widespread Panic gives off every time they unleash a new album. Sometimes that means taking listeners on a nice, smooth ride, and sometimes it means making 'em hold on tight, but either way, it means the trip is gonna be worth it.
On Dirty Side Down, their ATO debut and 11th studio offering overall, Widespread Panic offer listeners the sonic equivalent of a dip in a cool mountain stream. At once bracing and cleansing, invigorating and soothing, the album is something of an emotional travelogue, its ebb and flow evident in every aspect of the instrumental interplay -- skittering rhythms, fanciful guitar flights and low-slung melodies alike -- as well as the pensive-but-not-ponderous lyrical tone. "We didn't necessarily have an overall vision for the album going in, because we never really have things that cut and dried," says singer-guitarist John Bell. "We all came in with some ideas, and had a few bits of subject matter that we really wanted to touch on, but the one thing we all agreed about was the fact that we wanted to make sure we could play every song live and really enjoy playing all of them."
The sprawling, serpentine "Saint Ex" sets the tenor of the album beautifully, with guitarist Jimmy Herring unspooling indigo-hued lines that weave gracefully around Bell's impressionistic short story -- a tale that uses the life of Little Prince writer Antoine St. Exupery as the foundation for a poignant tale of the thin lines that connect us as people and the circumstances that sometimes put a kink in those lines. Such twists and turns permeate Dirty Side Down, from the title track -- a breathless excursion that reminds us that life is more about the journey than the mere act of getting from point A to point B -- to the breezy instrumental voyage laid out in "St. Louis Jam," a piece that's long played a part in the sextet's live performances.
"Quite a few of these songs had been around for a while, like 'St. Louis' and 'Visiting Day,'" says Bell. "But a lot of them, people might not recognize from the live sets because they've changed a lot -- some of them with different tempos, some with different chord structures. That's the beauty of working with these guys, there's never a sense of that song is my baby, you can't mess with it."
There's a lot of subtle messing going on throughout Dirty Side Down, from drummer Todd Nance's gritty lead vocal on "Clinic Cynic" to the alternately fierce and friendly guitar sparring that veins the closer, "Cotton Was King," a tune redolent of the Band at its sepia-toned best. "Everybody in the band has a really broad musical vocabulary, and sometimes we use certain parts of it, sometimes we keep certain parts on hold," says Jimmy Herring, who, at four years worth of service, is the newest Panic recruit. "Every song is donated to the cause, I like to say. It's almost subconscious after a while."
Multi-platinum artist, actor and entertainment icon Snoop Dogg is at the forefront of popular culture with award-winning albums and songs, multiple films, lifestyle products, philanthropic efforts, and digital ventures, including his YouTube original series "GGN News." Snoop Dogg has sold over 35 million albums worldwide and received multiple GRAMMY® nominations. Since 1993, he has released thirteen albums and collaborated with artists across all genres of music. Snoop defines hip-hop history. He's set records with his seminal album Doggystyle, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold over 800,000 copies in the first week.
This past spring, Snoop released his 13th studio album, BUSH, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart, marking this as Snoop's sixth chart topping hit. Entirely produced by Pharrell Williams, BUSH is a creative experience and cultural exploration that transports listeners through a journey of sight and sound. BUSH is Snoop's first album on Columbia Records and features collaborations with Gwen Stefani, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross and T.I.
Snoop's non-profit work in the community is commendable, as he established the Snoop Youth Football League (SYFL) in 2005 to give children between the ages of five and 13 the opportunity to participate in youth football and cheer. SYFL teaches them the values of teamwork, good sportsmanship, discipline, and academics. Today, SYFL boasts 30 teams, more than 1,200 players and over 75 cheerleaders.
Most recently, Snoop has positioned himself as a savvy and forward-thinking leading in the tech space. In late 2015, Snoop launched MERRY JANE, a media platform which sits at the crossroads of pop culture, business, politics, health, and the new generation of normalized, sophisticated cannabis culture for all. He also recently unveiled his very own cannabis product line, "Leafs by Snoop," which are currently available in dispensaries throughout Colorado.
Sturgill Simpson's 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth' is the rare album that traverses the entire world, both musically and lyrically. It's dizzyingly diverse, jumping from one style to the next, with ports of call in Motor City and Music Row, Harlem and Stax, Berlin and London, yet it never leaves Simpson's very specific point of view. It's his most personal album as well as his most ambitious: a song cycle penned as a sailor's poignant letter home to the wife and child he left behind.
Aptly, 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth' is all over the map, presenting Simpson as music's most daring auteur. He combines the sophisticated soul of '70s Motown, the stomping r&b flash of the Dap-Kings, the reckless rave-ups of the Stones and the Clash, even the countrypolitan flare of legendary Nashville producer Owen Bradley. "I wanted it to be an exploration of all the different types of music that I love -- a musical journey," he says. "I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye, a lot of Bill Withers. I like the way George Harrison sings and tried to incorporate that. Some people will say I'm trying to run from country, but I'm never going to make anything other than a country record. As soon as I open my mouth, it's going to be a country song."
For Simpson, who produced the album himself, country music is a strong foundation for heady experimentation and exploration. He's been leading the charge to expand the genre's reach, opening the doors for a new generation of rule-breaking musicians. His 2013 debut, 'High Top Mountain,' introduced him as a bold and raucous innovator with a sharp burr of a voice and a rousing band behind him. He followed it up quickly with 2014's 'Metamodern Sounds in Country Music,' a headtrip album full of backmasked guitars, psychedelic Mellotron strings and heartfelt musings on the universe and his place within it. The album proved a surprise international hit, placing high on year-end lists of at array of publications, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, L.A. Times, Vogue, Stereogum, NPR Music and the Village Voice.
But when his son was born around the time that 'Metamodern' was garnering rave reviews, Simpson began to rethink his place in the music business machinery. "I really questioned whether I wanted to spend however many more years on this bus, not being there and seeing all that was happening," he says. "That's where this record came from, just processing all that guilt and homesickness. I had to figure out a way to put that into music, so I decided to write the whole record from the perspective of a sailor going to sea and not knowing if he's ever coming home." The idea has deep roots in the Simpson family: "I remembered an old letter that I read, written by my Grandfather Ora to my grandmother when he was in the Army. He was in the South Pacific during World War II, and he thought he was going to die. So he wrote a goodbye letter to her and their newborn son. He finally made it home five years later."
To convey that deep sense of yearning that illuminates 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth,' Simpson drew not only from his life as a touring musician, but also from his own experiences in the U.S. Navy. He enlisted as a teenager and shipped out to basic training just two weeks after graduating high school. A few months later, he found himself on a frigate in Southeast Asia, spending ninety days at sea on a cramped, gray boat, then a few days at a different port. "I can't even believe that's the same person. We were so young, and we couldn't comprehend the immense responsibility of what we were doing everyday. It seems like a lifetime ago."
Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie knew immediately that Kintsugi would fit perfectly as the title of their eighth studio album. A philosophy derived from the Japanese art of repairing cracked ceramics with gold to highlight flaws instead of hiding them, kintsugi speaks to the way an object's history is part of its aesthetic value. "Considering what we were going through internally, and with what a lot of the lyrics are about, it had a great deal of resonance for us — the idea of figuring out how to repair breaks and make them a thing of beauty," says bassist Nick Harmer, who suggested the name to singer-guitarist Ben Gibbard and drummer Jason McGerr. "Philosophically, spiritually, emotionally, it seems perfect for this group of songs."
Long before they gave the album its name, the band embarked on a process that forced them to do things differently than they ever had before. For instance, in the course of making their seven previous albums, the Seattle band hadn't written much in the studio together. They had always preferred to hone their arrangements separately, or with just two or three of them playing at once. But when it came time to record Kintsugi, Death Cab for Cutie went into the studio with the openest of minds. Their willingness to try anything — including a twenty-minute exploration that evolved into one of the album's finest tracks, "The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive" — yields Death Cab's most compelling new work in years: an album that packs as much sonic as it does emotional wallop.
Kintsugi is the band's first time recording with a producer other than their own Chris Walla, the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist whose talents behind the board had helped shape Death Cab's sound since Gibbard released the You Can Play These Songs With Chords cassette in 1997. For Kintsugi, they worked with Rich Costey (whose production credits include albums by Franz Ferdinand, Muse, and Interpol), recording at his Los Angeles studio Eldorado over the course of twelve weeks in the first half of 2014. "He was all in in a way that I don't think a lot of producers are nowadays," says Gibbard. "We couldn't have landed on a better collaborator for this record. He accomplished what we've always attempted, which is to make Death Cab sound on a record how we sound live. And we're a rock band live. The difficulty now for the live show is making them rock as hard as they rock on the record. That's a new quagmire for this band."
Work on Kintsugi began back in early 2013, as all Death Cab LPs have, with Gibbard writing and demoing the songs on his own before arranging and recording them with his band mates. They initially convened in fall of 2013 at Walla's Hall Of Justice studio in Seattle. Ten days into recording, Chris decided to step down as producer. Says Gibbard. "Nothing dramatic, he just said, 'I don't think I'm the right guy to do this album and we should find someone else.'" The band all felt that they needed to shake things up a bit. "We challenged each other more and left no stone unturned. That was as gratifying as it was frustrating at times, but I couldn't be happier with the end product," says McGerr. Walla has since decided to leave the band but participated in the recording process as fully and vitally as he had on their previous albums. In fact, Costey didn't even know Walla was leaving the band until after Kintsugi was finished. Chris played his final show with the band in September at Rifflandia Festival in British Columbia.
When they started recording, there weren't any rules at all. They'd work on a song for a while and then regroup with Costey to figure out elements to expand or elaborate. "These guys have a chemistry that's existed for a long time, and that chemistry can't be ignored," says Costey. "When you have a band that can play as well as they can play with each other, having them jam together in real time can actually be the quickest way to try a bunch of ideas and get them on tape." Songs such as the instantly memorable "Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)," the warm and vulnerable "Little Wanderer" and the brooding lead single "Black Sun" were all tracked with the four members of the band playing together in a room, reacting to each other in real time, adding layers — and later subtracting some. "All four of us being on the floor together in the studio was something that hadn't happened in years, because Chris was always behind the glass or in the control room," says McGerr. "But this was more like when we're onstage, where everyone has their eyes closed and we're playing in the moment. With 'The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive,' it turned into a twenty-minute thing they captured in the control room on a two-track. We had started it in Seattle months prior and it just wasn't getting there. Rich brought us into the control room and was like, 'This is our song.'"
Costey credits another element of their production set-up with helping achieve the perfect balance of their classic approach and the new one: "My studio has one big live recording space and two control rooms," he says. "Once we got basic tracks together, Chris would work on them in the other control room. And he would end up doing completely different versions of the songs. For 'Black Sun,' Chris did all this super old school sequenced synth stuff that we used on the final track, and it really brought that song to another level."
"Black Sun" is also a perfect example of Gibbard's customarily honest, fearless approach to writing about affairs of the heart. "'Black Sun' is about divorce and the ugliness and conflicting emotions that come with that: anger, sadness, finger-pointing, acceptance, forgiveness, understanding. To me, the idea of a black sun has multiple meanings: The black sun could be an eclipse, where one thing eclipses another. The sun is supposed to be a radiating light on the world but in this instance it is blacked out. We've all been that at some point in our life when we're supposed to be shining upon someone giving them support, but for some reason are unable to do that. I am the black sun, and the song is as much an indictment of myself as anything."
Although, in the case of "Black Sun," Gibbard says he's willing to elaborate on the elements of the song that are autobiographical, he's never been one to reveal the precise meaning behind his lyrics. "I know that people will assume these songs are about certain things, and in some instances they are going to be correct," he says. "But I'm not going to give people a road map."
Gibbard acknowledges that, early on in the process of writing this group of songs, as he was still trying to make sense of the major changes happening in his life, he had to remind himself not to change his creative process. "If there's a reason people can relate to my songwriting, maybe it's they feel like they're getting an honest, fearless approach to writing about affairs of the heart. I'm certainly not going to censor that just because people think they know something about my personal life. I would be cowardly as a songwriter and not be true to what I've always done if I shy away from these events in my life because I was in relationship with a public figure.
"I know the lyrics aren't 100% fiction and they're not 100% nonfiction, and only Ben knows what that blend is," says Harmer. "But with this group of songs, I do think he is writing from a genuinely vulnerable and honest place and I'm proud of him for putting himself out there and being fearless about it."
One of the songs on Kintsugi that Gibbard says he holds closest to his heart is "Little Wanderer," where he sings, "You sent a photo out of your window of Paris of what you wished that I could see. But someone's gotta be the lighthouse and that someone's gotta be me." He explains: "There are innumerable songs about, like, 'The road ain't no place to start a family.' 'Home Sweet Home' by Motley Crue, 'Gone Til November,' by Wyclef Jean, and so on. But nobody ever writes a song about sitting at home, waiting for someone to come back. And for so much of my life, I've been the one off somewhere in the world trying to maintain a connection through digital portals. Now, being with someone who travels pretty much all the time, I feel like I've gotten a taste of my own medicine. All the songs are personal, but that one is personal in a way that is very tender to me."
Here, too, "The Ghosts of Beverly Drive" encapsulates important elements of the album's larger theme — embracing flaws and being open to change. "If only you had known me before the accident," it begins, "for with that grand collision came a grave consequence." Says Gibbard: "There's this charade you play with someone when you start seeing each other, that no one has ever made you feel this way before," says Gibbard. "'The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive' is about when you say to the person you're with, 'Let's just acknowledge that we are not the first people to feel this way. Let's be honest with each other that we've been in love before or that we've fallen out of love with people before, and that's OK.'"
It's hard not to love an original: the first of many to follow. This notion lends attribution to the world's adoration with Wiz Khalifa. Born Cameron Jibril Thomaz, Wiz Khalifa is more than a mere M.C. He is a movement and maverick. Four years ago, he simultaneously gave blue collar Americans, as well as his native town of Pittsburgh, a Hip-Hop champion with his #1 mega-hit "Black & Yellow," a nod to his city's colors. When rap marketing was primarily focused on street and nightclub promotions, an unsigned yet clairvoyant Wiz decided to share his sinsemilla-scented indie music with an overlooked demo of suburban and collegiate youth. Rap touring mined newer soil and conceived was the soundtrack for a new generation of free-spirited young hippies––fans as well as up-and-coming MCs. "No matter what changes, you're always gonna want that original feeling," says Wiz. "Nothing really comes in the way of that. You can't really fight it."
Over the last five years, many rappers have latched onto the Wiz Khalifa wave, but while they've mostly kept their head above water, Khalifa has soared on both indie and major plains. Before signing his second deal with Atlantic in 2010, Wiz had already amassed a respectable following, fortune and awareness. He was selling out his own 20-city tours, including the Deal Or No Deal tour and Khalifa was being crowned "Rookie of the Year" by top media brands, including The Source Magazine, XXL Magazine, BET and MTV. His mixtapes penetrated the culture not only musically, but also digitally, with 2010's free download Kush and Orange Juice hashtag becoming #1 on Twitter and was #1 trend search on Google. In 2010, when the reincarnation of Snoop Dogg declined an offer to join the tour of a heralded rookie named Drake, the decision made as much sense as it did dollars. Instead, the PA product took his new Atlantic deal and the triple platinum Stargate produced "Black & Yellow" smash and commenced his own 50-city run entitled the Waken Baken Tour.
Wiz's Rostrum/Atlantic Records debut Rolling Papers and follow-up ONIF both burned their way into the cultural conscience from atop the Billboard charts, reaching 197,000 and 148,000 in the first weeks, as well as producing street and commercial hits, including "On My Level" feat. Too Short and "Work Hard, Play Hard." Each year that followed his debut release, Khalifa would appear on Forbes lists and in Grammy Award categories. Solo artist success allowed the lanky MC to spread his label owner wings. In 2011, he tapped Juicy J from the Academy Award winning legendary rap group Three Six Mafia, to be co-CEO of his Taylor Gang Records. The imprint would introduce audiences to new acts including Chevy Woods and Ty Dollar $ign. Though King Khalifa quickly became a pop darling, the music industry wasn't alone in recognizing his enterprising mind and market magnetism, which is why the Taylor Gang boss's recent collaboration with Converse's Chuck Taylor line is symbiotic perfection (it's hard not to love an original). "When I find that the other ways I express myself are as interesting as my music it opens up doors and makes things more interesting for me."
Wiz Khalifa is very much a brand. Within each relevant brand exists a community (or few), and within each community is a lifestyle. This lifestyle was definitely portrayed on his fourth studio album Blacc Hollywood. The 28-year-old millionaire has reaped gold and platinum fruit by being relentless and individualistic. As illustrated on the ONIFC cover, Wiz is inspired by rock star greatness. Khalifa says that the era that exhaled such ethos the most was the 1980's, when leather-tight geniuses like Eddie Murphy and Ozzie Osbourne reigned supreme. Clarifying the misspelling of "Blacc," Khalifa says: "It's not a color, it's a mind frame of early 80's Rock & Roll when nobody gave a fuck and everybody was a star and everybody had a limo. The music was so good and there were so many stars born from that attitude that I just wanted to channel that and represent it with the album."
Every Wiz album must possess the production of the Taylor general's go-to maestros Jim Jonsin and Stargate. While the track "Drop It Down On It" deliciously invites, premium seduction occurs when Jonsin teams up with decorated scribe Rico Love (Usher, Nelly, T.I.) and allows Khalifa to release the songbird within. Of course there's a ton of exotic smoke in Blacc Hollywood, demonstrated in tracks "So High" and "KK" featuring Juicy J and Project Pat, and a succession of movies made with white women and white liquor, displayed in the track "Raw." There are even epic DJ Mustard-produced after parties co-hosted by Snoop and Ty Dollar $ign, shown in the track "You And Your Friends"; and Blacc Hollywood's grandest fiesta is shaping up to be the Dr. Luke turn-up "Staying Out All Night." But none of this should be a surprise. The Blacc Hollywood extravaganza began months ago as its lead single "We Dem Boyz," produced by Detail (Lil Wayne, Beyoncé), snatched the summer anthem of 2014 crown before the season began. Temperatures only got hotter when the remix dropped with the sizzling East/South/West lineup of Nas, Rick Ross and Schoolboy Q. His current hit, "See You Again," off the FAST AND FURIOUS soundtrack, catapulted to the top of the charts across 95 countries. Holding the #1 spot on Billboard's Hot 100 for a consecutive 12 weeks, "See You Again" continues to break records by being Spotify's most-streamed track in a single day in the United States and in a single week in 26 countries. In addition to winning 3 Teen Choice Awards in 2015, "See You Again" continued its success by winning a Critics' Choice Award in the category Best Song, earning three Grammy Award nominations in the categories Song of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media, and a Golden Globe nomination in the category Best Original Song – Motion Picture.
This is what Wiz Khalifa does: Create moments. He did just that when he co-headlined a national Boys of Zummer Tour with and Fall Out Boy; hitting over 40 amphitheaters across North America before its final show at the famed Hollywood Bowl on August 10th. This is who Wiz Khalifa is: The rock star with the luxurious life who works as hard as he plays, doing it all in jumbotron-sized peacock fashion. "I'm a full-time Dad but I love to have fun. This is pure super stardom. Constant progression. I have a good time living it but I'm gonna have way more fun rapping about it."
Cosmic forces were at work when MGMT's co-founders, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser met over ten years ago at Wesleyan University. Drawn together by a mutual love of mystic paganism, the duo signed to Columbia Records in the eve of 2006. On a mission to sprinkle the music industry with weirdness and unpredictability the band delivered their debut album "Oracular Spectacular" in 2008. The record garnered the band three Grammy nominations, along with numerous accolades across the globe, including landing at #18 on Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 albums of the decade.
2010's "Congratulations" was conceived even before "Oracular Spectacular"'s release! The "musically adventurous" eclectic mixture of tracks may have sounded a little confusing to some, but that's only because MGMT's unconventional pop structures reflect the chaotic vibrations of the world -- and who can realistically make sense of that? "Congratulations" debuted at #2 on the US Billboard 200 and #4 in the UK, going on to become one of the most talked about albums of the past decade.
Performing live as a five piece, MGMT continue to entertain through multiple TV appearances (including covering Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam" on Jimmy Fallon in while decked out in hardened fisherman's gear), a steady stream of music festival performances around the world, curating the latest edition of the "Late Night Tales" music compilation, and remaining precocious and curious under-30 wunderkind. Via their recorded music medium, the endlessly experimental and spontaneous duo have stayed true to their precarious nature.
In November 2011, MGMT performed two nights at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, creating a unique musical performance to coincide with the opening of Maurizio Cattelan's career retrospective All -- an installation of over 100 art pieces dangling from the museum's ceiling through its legendary inner spiral space.
Last year MGMT conquered South America with their live show and in September Ben and Andrew performed as a two-piece for the first time in a decade, as part of the legendary Joshua Light Show. Listening in on the universe's stream of consciousness for inspiration, the duo are currently completing the third MGMT album due for an early summer release. As a band that exists in its own space and time, and is constantly defying expectation, there is no saying what magical gifts MGMT will bestow.
Three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, New York Times best selling poet, and critically acclaimed actress are only a few titles held by Jill Scott. Before having the #1 album in the country with her new album "The Light Of The Sun",performing at The White House, being named People Magazine's Top TV Breakout Star of 2010 and appearing on VH1 Divas alongside Aretha Franklin, the triple threat began her career collaborating with musical icons, The Roots, Will Smith, and Common in the late 90s. In 2000, she released her much anticipated debut record,Who is JillScott? Words & Sounds, Vol. 1, a double platinum album that earned Scott several Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist. Two more critically acclaimed albums followed, Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds, Vol. 2and The Real Thing: Words & Sounds, Vol. 3 which garnered two more Grammy Awards and spawned multiple worldwide tours.
Never limited to music, Jill Scott is a true multimedia brand across books, clothing, TV and film. Most recently, Jill was cast as the lead character in the HBO/BBC mini series filmed on location in Botswana, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, a Peabody Award-winning show directed by the late Oscar Award-winning director Anthony Minghella. Before that, Jill starred alongside Tyler Perry & Janet Jackson in the #1 national movie series Why Did I Get Married? as well as Lifetime Movie Network's Sins of the Mother, the made for TV movie which became the second-most watched premiere in the network's history. This fall Jill will star in the remake of Steel Magnolia's which will also air on Lifetime.
A consummate writer at heart, she penned The Moments, The Minutes, The Hours, a compilation of poems that instantly became a New York Times bestseller. Scott also developed an intimates line for Ashley Stewart and founded Blues Babe, a registered 501(c)3 foundation that has raised over hundreds of thousands dollars to support minority students pursuing college degrees.
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals will reunite on stage for four sold out concerts at San Francisco's famed Fillmore Auditorium. The shows take place March 25, 26, 27 and 28 of 2015, and will be the legendary band's first live performances since disbanding in 2008. The intimate Fillmore shows also mark the IC's first visit to San Francisco since their 2008 main-stage set at the inaugural Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park.
Said Harper of the shows, "I have always loved the Fillmore and its
history. San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in the world and it felt like the right place for us to set sail."
The Innocent Criminals -- comprised of percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboardist Jason Yates and guitarist Michael Ward -- trace their roots back to 1993. Harper and the band toured the globe nonstop for 15 years, earning legions of fans thanks to their explosive live performances. Their fans were also fueled by Harper's acclaimed studio output with albums such as "Fight For Your Mind," "The Will to Live," "Burn to Shine," "Diamonds on the Inside" and the GRAMMY® nominated "Lifeline." They featured such songs as "Burn One Down," "Diamonds on the Inside," "Steal My Kisses," "Better Way" and "Fight Outta You." The Innocent Criminals also backed Ben and The Blind Boys of Alabama on the two-time GRAMMY® winning collaborative album "There Will Be A Light."
While Harper has sold millions of records throughout the world, it is on stage that he and The Innocent Criminals established themselves as one of the world's most versatile and hard-working bands. That reputation took the band from the early days of playing the tiny Mint in Los Angeles to the world's finest concert halls, theaters and festivals including Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Byron Bay Bluesfest, Fuji Rock, Roskilde Festival and the inaugural edition of Coachella in 1999.
"The Innocent Criminals are a family," Harper added. "We've remained very close over the years and it seemed like we couldn't
wait another minute. It's time for us to get back on the stage together. We've all come full circle in our own ways and it is time we pick up where we left off. It's creatively time for us to do this."
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals have decamped to a studio in Los Angeles to rehearse and record new music. Expect to see a string of additional concert appearances in 2015 and beyond.
Capitol Records recording artist Tori Kelly – nominated for a GRAMMY award in the Best New Artist category – will kick off an extensive North American tour this April, including a stop at Oakland's Fox Theater on May 18th! Tori is touring in support of her debut album, Unbreakable Smile, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and includes the hits "Nobody Love" and "Should've Been Us." Capitol Records will reissue Unbreakable Smile on January 29 with two additional tracks: Tori's current single, "Hollow," which is already in the Top 25 at Pop radio and climbing on the Rhythmic chart, and a brand new song entitled "Something Beautiful." The Target and iTunes editions will each contain two exclusive bonus tracks.
Recording artist, actor, philanthropist, restaurateur…just a few of the befitting titles for Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, who first gained worldwide acclaim more than 10 years ago with his debut album, Back for the First Time (2000). Ever since, his unrivaled lyrical prowess, dynamic performances and timeless hits including "Stand Up," "Get Back,", "Number One Spot," "Money Maker," and "My Chick Bad," have solidified him as one of music's best entertainers and led to the sale of more than 20 million albums domestically. W
ith the 2013 release of LUDAVERSAL, fans can look forward to more great music from Ludacris.
In addition to immense commercial success, Ludacris' consistent output of stellar music has garnered the admiration of his peers, as well as numerous awards and honors including three Grammys.
The same talent and versatility that Ludacris showcases in his music has enabled him to make a seamless and successful transition to acting, with acclaimed performances in films including Crash, Hustle & Flow and the #1 movie, No Strings Attached in January 2011, and television's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, under his belt. His work in Crash earned him the prestigious Screen Actors Guild and Critics' Choice awards. He co-starred in The Fast & The Furious film series, Fast Five, which debuted at #1 in April 2011 and in May 2013, he will co-star in the latest installment of the series, Fast Six.
In addition to his non-stop efforts in the studio, on stage and on the big and small screens, Ludacris' long held entrepreneurial spirit led him to open a restaurant, Straits, in Atlanta, GA in 2008 which he closed after 2 years in business to concentrate on the opening of his new restaurant, Chicken n Beer, which opens in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Concourse D in 2013. Along with launching his own spirit, Conjure Cognac in 2009, Ludacris also entered into a partnership to launch SOUL by Ludacris headphones, which entered into the market in the summer of 2011. Both of these ventures have captured the attention and affection of the public and firmly established themselves in their respective markets in a short time.
Although one could wonder how Ludacris finds the time for anything outside of work, his artistic and business fortitude is only rivaled by his desire to give back and use his success to change the lives of others. This passion inspired him to establish the Ludacris Foundation, a non-profit organization which seeks to inspire youth through education and memorable experiences to live their dreams by uplifting families, communities and fostering economic development.
In 2010, MSNBC.com named Ludacris, along with other eminent figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet, as one of today's most effective influencers on American culture. With his feet firmly planted in so many diverse areas, we can certainly see why.
Turns out that a big mess can actually be a good thing. In the case of Grouplove's third studio album, Big Mess refers not only to a lyric in the buoyant lead single "Welcome To Your Life," but also to the situation in which they found themselves when they got off the road following 2013's Spreading Rumours. For the first time since releasing their breakthrough 2011 debut, Never Trust A Happy Song, Grouplove were back in Los Angeles indefinitely, with a lot of catching up to do. "We got off tour and realized we had been completely neglecting normal life," says singer and keyboard player Hannah Hooper. "We were out of touch with friends and family, our house looked like we were hoarders -- it was like an explosion of so much at once."
In the midst of it all, Hooper and Grouplove singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi, who have been a couple since the band's inception, found out they were going to have a baby. Like the true pair of artists they are, Zucconi and Hooper viewed the chaos as an opportunity to be creative. "We felt so out of control. Instead of trying to deal with the mess, we just started writing," Hooper explains. "We had so many songs come out of that, and Big Mess is a collection of our favorites."
The album's opening track, "Welcome To Your Life," was one of close to forty songs that began in that messy moment. Hooper recorded the hook -- "we're back in business, you're such a big mess, and I love you" -- on her laptop, but the rest of the tune took awhile to come into focus. Months later, on the same day that Hooper went into labor, the joyfully defiant chorus came to Rabin in the shower, like a bolt from the blue. Says Rabin: "I showed them the idea and when we put those two parts together, they fit perfectly, both lyrically and melodically. It almost felt a bit fated."
There has been the tinge of fate to Grouplove since the beginning, when its five original members met at an arts colony on the island of Crete and formed such an immediately comfortable bond -- both personally and musically -- that they started the band upon their return to LA in 2010. Though Sean Gadd left Grouplove amicably in 2014, new bassist Daniel Gleason says he connected to the familial spirit of the band right away. Describing the vibe in the studio during sessions for Big Mess, Gleason says: "It was really open and honest. I've never been a part of an environment where everyone was willing to be so selfless if it made the song better. The lack of pride or ego allows the best ideas to drift to the top, and that's rare, but I think that's what makes the band what it is."
While those core qualities remain, Grouplove continues to mature on Big Mess, which demonstrates their ever sharper instincts as songwriters and their growing ability to make a bright, bold, genre-defying sound that is entirely their own. The band members say they feel most inspired when they're collaborating on new ideas with a completely open mind. "What influences us the most is each other," says Zucconi. "Even a song you that think might come out a certain way will be completely reimagined by someone like Andrew or Ryan or Dan, because their tastes and inclinations are so different." "It's always been sort of a rule for us is that we want the writing process and studio process to be spontaneous," says drummer Ryan Rabin, who has been Grouplove's in-house producer since their earliest recordings -- tracks including their platinum-certified 2011 single "TongueTied," as well as alternative radio mainstays "Colours" and "Ways To Go." (As part of production team Captain Cuts, Rabin has also produced and/or written tracks for Tove Lo and Jennifer Lopez, among others.) "Most of our best stuff has come from letting the song dictate the moment rather than forcing it into some preconceived sonic space," says Rabin. "We've stuck to that process because we're in love with that spontaneity." Rabin's recording technique -- "using the studio as a writing instrument, to elevate the song to where it couldn't have gone otherwise" -- serves Grouplove perfectly on Big Mess tracks including "Welcome To Your Life" and the anthemic "Do You Love Someone?," among others. But the band also wanted to challenge themselves on this album by working with someone new, and they found the ideal partner in Phil Ek, who produced five Big Mess tracks and whose approach in the studio is the polar opposite of Rabin's. Among indie rock's most beloved producers, Ek has worked on albums by Band of Horses, The Shins, Built To Spill and Father John Misty. "Built To Spill's Keep It Like A Secret -- when that record came out, it hit me so hard," says Zucconi. "And since then I've been a fan of his work. I love the sounds he gets." The band previously teamed with Ek to record a song for the soundtrack to Paper Towns, and embraced the opportunity to return to his Seattle studio. "Few producers care so intimately about every minute sonic element of their production like Phil does," says guitarist Andrew Wessen, "and it shows in the warmth of his tones and the organic clarity of the soundscapes."
"It was fun to explore stuff with Phil that we hadn't done with Ryan," says Zucconi. "Phil is really known for his guitar tones, and he'd spend hours getting the right tone. We started calling it
'Tone Questing.' It became a running joke in the studio. We even bought tunics and swords and made Phil wear a cape, and got a chainmail shirt for his assistant Cameron to wear. We found
this really funny, medieval song we'd play while we were killing time to make everyone laugh." Of the songs recorded in Seattle with Ek, Hooper points to "Traumatized" as her favorite. "It has
kind of a raw, Nirvana feel to it which I really like," says Hooper, who wrote the song with Zucconi in their LA home. "The lyrics discuss realizing what our parents gave up so we could become what we've become, and how much they've sacrificed," she says. "When you're an artist, you're stuck in this interesting, child-like state, but I wrote that song in a moment of understanding that we were gonna have to pull it together to raise a family." Grouplove unanimously cite the haunting, cathartic "Enlighten Me" as a linchpin moment on the album. Lyrics such as "I don't feel my life is real / I'm on the fence with common sense," capture a sentiment all five members of the band felt a personal connection to, even though the words and song were written by Zucconi. Says Wessen: "This album embodies the headspace that we all collectively share as band mates, as new parents and as human beings. I think these songs have a shared consciousness that we've never been able to capture as a band." "It's a real rare thing, how we came together," says Zucconi, reflecting on what keeps Grouplove's outlook so positive, even after all they've experienced and accomplished. "There was this energy we had all been looking for, for years before we met. And it came together so effortlessly with this group of people. It's still totally there and happens whenever we play shows. The energy is even stronger now. We all bring out the best in each other musically, and it helps me to grow and become a better person, being around the vibe of this band."
Big Mess is out September 9 on Canvasback Music/Atlantic.
For X Ambassadors, an unshakable sense of brotherhood has long shaped the sound and spirit of the band. Growing up in small-town upstate New York, frontman Sam Harris, his brother Casey, and childhood friend Noah Feldshuh bonded over an obsessive love for punk, rock & roll, soul, and hip-hop that defied the conventions of their peer group. Forming their first band in middle school, the three channeled their infatuation with artists as eclectic as The Stooges and The Staple Singers into a string of musical projects that sharply clashed with their local scene's favoring of folk and country. After graduating high school and decamping to New York City in search of a greater music community, the Harris brothers and Noah joined up with L.A.-raised drummer Adam Levin—a move that helped X Ambassadors solidify their sound into a groove-fueled take on alt-pop, and ultimately land a deal with KIDinaKORNER/Interscope Records.
Produced in collaboration with KIDinaKORNER founder Alex Da Kid, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds and friend Dan Stringer, X Ambassadors released their major label debut EP Love Songs Drug Songs in May 2013. The set finds the Brooklyn-based foursome building off their singular chemistry to create a collection of songs both stylish and soulful. "They're bringing together alternative and R&B in a way I've never heard before, and at the core of that are these great songs with so much authenticity," says Alex, a Grammy-winning producer hailed for his work with heavyweights like Dr. Dre and Nicki Minaj. "The music comes from a very real place," he continues, "and it's made even more powerful by the deep connection that they have as a band."
Throughout Love Songs Drug Songs, X Ambassadors weave elegant melodies and sweetly smooth vocals into taut arrangements powered by percussion. From the Afro-pop-inspired beats of "Unconsolable" to the fuzzed-out stomp of the title track to the slinky groove of "Stranger," the heady rhythms at the heart of the EP endlessly mesmerize but never overshadow X Ambassadors' graceful musicianship. Still, even on the EP's breezier tracks—such as the shimmering, harmony-kissed "Down With Me"—X Ambassadors flaunt their finely honed pop sensibilities while radiating a raw intensity and darkly moody emotionalism.
X Ambassadors toured in support of Love Songs Drug Songs with a string of dates opening for Imagine Dragons at arenas across the country as well as an opening slot on the Jimmy Eat World tour last summer and a fall tour with the Mowgli's. Life on the road proved productive for chief songwriter Sam Harris and the band released their second EP, The Reason, in January 2014, right before they embarked on a sold out tour with Panic! At The Disco and another run of dates with Imagine Dragons.
A recurring theme of the working class struggle that often inhibits the American dream makes up The Reason EP. Most people will tell you that if you work hard enough at something, you can make any dream come true. But what happens when putting in your hours just isn't enough? On the opening track "Free & Lonely," Harris sings against a stomping rhythm "Get a job, get married, have kids… I left my life behind, but I ain't got time to look back on when I was free." "The Business," is a rock anthem that has Harris singing "So long, so long, going back to nine to five…so much for keeping the dream alive...I'm going to give up the business." "The Reason is our attempt to tell the story of someone who gave up chasing a dream and who had the courage to start over," says Harris. "Sometimes things just don't work out. We're all afraid of failure, but there's bravery in knowing when it's time to move on. You never know what's next."
For X Ambassadors, the passionately charged pop heard all over both Love Songs Drug Song and The Reason EP is the product of a lifetime of sonic exploration. Born into a highly musical family (Mom was a jazz and cabaret singer, Dad once aspired to be a country songwriter), Sam and Casey each began playing instruments before the age of ten. While Casey discovered his love for piano at seven, Sam (who "started singing as soon as I could speak") moved from drums to guitar to piano to bass to saxophone throughout his childhood. In junior high, Sam prompted Noah (his best friend since the first day of kindergarten) to learn guitar so that the two could start a group. "Casey eventually started playing with us too, and ever since then I've only been in bands with the two of them," Sam notes.
In 2006, the three moved from Ithaca to New York City so that Sam and Noah could attend the New School while Casey worked as a piano tuner. Within the first month of college Sam and Noah met Adam in the freshman dorms, learned he was a drummer, and slipped a demo under his door in a successful attempt to lure him into the band. With the lineup complete (Sam on vocals and guitar, Noah on lead guitar, Casey on keyboards, Adam on drums), X Ambassadors began playing local gigs and writing material for their debut album. Then, just before the band was scheduled to begin recording, a lifelong medical condition left Casey in urgent need of a kidney transplant. With both his brother and mother (who volunteered one of her kidneys) recuperating from the transplant, Sam began working on a new batch of songs, including a fierce yet tender ballad that would emerge as the title track on X Ambassadors' debut.
Released in early 2012, Litost soon caught the ear of the program director for Norfolk, Virginia-based radio station 96x. After hearing "Litost" on a friend's Spotify playlist, the PD threw the song into heavy rotation and quickly drew a rabid response from listeners. Beating out heavy-hitters like Fun. and Of Monsters and Men, "Litost" ended up emerging as 96x's number-one song of 2012. In the meantime, X Ambassadors began opening for the likes of the Lumineers and Imagine Dragons, as well as scoring slots on the lineups of such festivals as Lollapalooza.
X Ambassadors' commitment reflects an unfailing belief in the unifying power of music. Noting that the band's small-town beginnings infinitely inform their output, Sam points out that "all those middle-school dances where they played Ginuwine and Ol' Dirty Bastard and all different kids would just come together and dance" have proved to be one of his most formative musical experiences. "It's always been my goal to make music that's unique and personal and completely true to who we are, but in a way that's got a very communal feeling to it, that can be shared with everyone," he says. "If a song's melodies can feel perfectly formed but also natural, where you're feeling it so much that everyone else can't help but feel it too, then that's just beautiful."
A six-time Grammy winner, Emmy Winner, humanitarian, singer, songwriter and producer, Ziggy Marley has released twelve albums t much critical acclaim. His early immersion in music came at age ten when he sat in on recording sessions with his father, Bob Marley. As front man to Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, the group released eight best-selling albums that garnered three Grammys, with such chart-topping hits as "Look Who's Dancing," "Tomorrow People" and "Tumbling Down." Ziggy's first solo album, Dragonfly (RCA Records), was released in 2003. His second solo release, Love is My Religion (Tuff Gong Worldwide), won a Grammy in 2006 for "Best Reggae Album." His third solo album, Family Time (Tuff Gong Worldwide), scored him a 5th Grammy award for "Best Children's Album." In 2011, Ziggy released his critically acclaimed 4th studio album Wild And Free, which earned him a Grammy nomination, as well as his first ever comic book entitled MARIJUANAMAN. Ziggy Marley Organics, a GMO-free product line including flavored coconut oils and hemp seed snacks, was started in 2012. The products are distributed throughout the US and are available in over 1000 stores nationwide. His 2012 live album "Ziggy Marley In Concert," recently earned him his 6th Grammy award for "Best Reggae Album." To coincide with the release of his latest album "Fly Rasta," Ziggy is putting out his debut children's book "I Love You Too," a coproduction of Akashic Books and Tuff Gong Worldwide on April 15th, 2014. The multicultural picture book is based on one of Ziggy's most beloved songs of the same title from his Grammy Award-winning album "Family Time," which explores a child's relationship with parents, nature and the unstoppable force of love.
Jimmy Eat World
Before Jimmy Eat World entered the studio to record their ninth full-length album, Integrity Blues [RCA], the members of the multiplatinum Mesa, AZ rock band did something they've never done in over two decades.
"We took a little break," smiles lead singer and guitarist Jim Adkins.
After a successful 10th anniversary tour revisiting Futures, the musicians briefly went their separate ways at the end of 2014. Adkins released a series of 7" & embarked on his first worldwide solo tour, Lind released an EP and toured with his wife in The Wretched Desert, Linton took up boxing, and Burch opened up CaskWerks Distillery in Arizona.
When the band reconvened in November 2015, they teamed up with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen [Paramore, M83] and began sifting through ideas.
"I came to a realization," admits Adkins. "In the break, writing was a little trickier. I
wanted to change things up. So, instead of writing about a problem, I wanted to write about a solution. If you look at your life for what's going wrong, it won't be too hard to find things. If you start looking at what you have rather than what you're missing out on, you come away from things with a much different perspective that's a lot more grateful and positive. As an album, Integrity Blues is about trying to overcome that personal struggle instead of getting upset with what life could be that it isn't."
They recorded in Los Angeles with Meldal-Johnsen, offering a different setting from their usual Arizona digs.
"We became willing to throw away our default responses to everything and search for
the best answers rather than relying on what was familiar or comfortable. When you're younger and you make music, you do it for discovery. Being in this for a long time, it's
about throwing out all of your expectations and comforts and seeing what you can do without them."
With warm production and a powerful upbeat groove, Integrity Blues first single "Sure and Certain" pairs a buzzing guitar hum with an unshakable chant.
"It's about the idea of having blinders on for what you want to do and achieve," the frontman explains. "Since you're so laser focused on what you think you want, you'remissing out on everything around you. It can be a very limiting way to go about life."
Meanwhile, the gorgeously minimal title track "Integrity Blues" tempers orchestral, cinematic overtones with a stark and striking vocal performance.
Today at age 24, GRiZ (or Grant Kwiecinski, to his mom) is already being hailed as visionary. This spring, he'll release Say It Loud (via his All Good Records imprint), a follow-up to its more funk-step predecessors, Rebel Era and Mad Liberation. With assists from rapper Talib Kweli, Afrobeat-group Antibalas, the L.A.'s Children's Chorus, and others, his new full-length finds a golden mean between an abundance of brass instruments, liberal use of soulful vocals, and shimmering, synth beats.
Modern gadgets may bring his creations together, but GRiZ is, at heart, a time traveler. The name Say It Loud is an homage to James Brown's funk-soul spirit and pioneering messages of equality. The horns throughout the album shout-out to GRiZ's favorite albums, Miles Davis' masterpiece, Sketches of Spain. And GRiZ's outsize live shows at local DIY spots such as Scrummage University not only earned him his name and convinced him to drop out of college—it referenced a legacy of Detroit dance pioneers from the Belleville Three to the Detroit Techno Militia. ("They created the opinion and the space for me to be able to come and do my own thing," he says, respectfully.)
More than a year-and-a-half of his life went into writing and recording Say It Loud. GRiZ began, of course, in Detroit, then moved to a remote cabin upstate with Exmag to escape the trappings of city cacophony and cell-phone service. From there, he landed in Brooklyn at Daptone Records' studio, collaborating with Antibalas. And he hit Los Angeles just to work with the Children's Chorus on the album's opener, "The Anthem." The change of scenery is necessary, he insists, "Because seeing a different place, you catch the different vibes, feeling of that place."
Finally, late last year, he dropped the funk-fuzz single "A Fine Way to Die" (co-written with singer-songwriter Orlando Napier) to tease his newly evolved sound. "That song was the atypical GRiZ song. It was the heart and soul of the album and gave you a little of everything: the bass stuff, the rhythm stuff, the horns, the vocals, the guitar," he says, adding: "It is a wild, interesting song with movements to it."
"Stop Trippin," co-written with vocalist Jessie Arlen, advances that sonic dialogue with his fans. "That song is basically where I am right now," he says. "I want to write better songs. I want to write contemporary funk songs. I want to produce an album that kind of has the new James Brown singing on it. You know what I'm saying? Something that sounds like it was made at Muscle Shoals."
If GRiZ sounds wiser than his years to you, you're not the only one. "I remember first meeting Mike Avery who sang on 'The Anthem.' When I met him in person, he was like, 'Holy shit, man, I thought you were going to be a 40-year-old dude! How do you come up with these songs?" As ambitious as Say It Loud may seem, this is a natural next step for GRiZ, who thrives on bending genres. "I could've sampled everything. Most of my music is created for a live experience," he notes. "But now, I really want a body of work that is 100% my own."
Gavin Rossdale is good at giving directions: "The only way out is through," he sings, pointedly, in the first single from Bush's new album. This is far from the only time on the band's sixth release, Man on the Run, that you'll hear him weighing in with tough-minded sentiments that seem alternately confrontational, compassionate and cautionary. Amid the sense of wonder that pervades Man on the Run is also a distinct warning that survival does not come easy. Surveying the record's themes, Rossdale puts it this way: "It's a magical time, but you need a crash helmet. You can fix everything but your head." Of course, any time Rossdale seems to be giving advice, there is a "physician, heal thyself" aspect to what he's talking about. When, at one point on the new album, he sings "Get your center back to wherever it should be," you can rest assured that's counsel that he's already taken, when he picked up the Bush banner again a few years ago after having left it alone for the better part of a decade to pursue a solo career. Fans were receptive to the directions he pursued in the interim, but what they really wanted was to have a chance to welcome back the group that had gone six-times-platinum with their debut album, 1994's Sixteen Stone. The return of Bush with The Sea of Memories in 2011 found an audience eager for that return to one of rock's most distinctive signature sounds, as their comeback single ("The Sound of Winter") reached the top of Billboard's rock and alternative charts. Their second post-reformation project, Man on the Run, continues to find the band no longer running from the sound that made them famous, but embracing it, while adding distinctly 21st century wrinkles. Still, Rossdale is perfectly aware that the pop landscape into which they've returned is not one in which rock is necessarily the dominant cultural force. Which may be why we need Bush now more than ever. "It's a bit heavy for the mainstream and a bit heavy for what's going on, but I think that's exciting," Rossdale says. "There are people like Jack White and Queens of the Stone Age who have a lot of success, but in general, the zeitgeist is so not this," he laughs. "This is so against the tide and flying in the face of everything, it's either a brilliant move or the dumbest ever. But behind it is a record that will stand the test of time, and I think it'll be nice for people to hear it among the white noise that's around us everyday." What Bush Mach II does not represent is the kind of rock & roll that's trapped in amber. "It's difficult to make rock music now and make it Interesting," says Rossdale. "There's always that narrow lane to be amazing in rock, and then a whole area to be completely cookie-cutter and not as innovative as it can be. So I hope we snuck into the realm of the welding of different genres and different styles with some production approaches that were different." Odd as it might seem on the admittedly "heavy" surface, Rossdale "felt really connected to the whole dance movement, and the whole crowd control thing that goes with that, so lots of time I wrote the songs with that in mind. Not in any way was I trying to copy that, and it's not like we're going to go set up a residency in Ibiza. But I was looking at it more from a humanist point of view, asking myself: What's turning people on about it? And it was always the ancient thrill of rhythm. So a lot of the drum rhythms that I tried to use were quite tribal-based from the get-go, even in the writing.And then for me it was just fun to be allowed by my partners in crime to bring as many modern twisted garage electronic elements as I was allowed."
With the first track on the album, "Just Like My Other Sins," Rossdale says Bush "wanted to open the record with a sonic statement of intent to pull you into the record, that steps up the dynamic of these garage electronics with vintage amps and pawnshop guitars. It's really great to find a way to use technology to not be too pristine. What was cool was to start the writing of the songs with these different programs that kept it very much like I was doing it super-DIY in the garage, which gave it a life that we could build on from there to make it more layered and expansive." The album did become "a really collaborative process. I start with very clear concepts of the songs, but then I have to get myself out of the way and let Chris (Traynor, on guitar) come in and be himself, and then the same with Corey (Britz, on bass) and Robin (Goodridge, on drums). There's a really clear road map if anyone gets lost — or, they can remove the road map, chuck it out the window, and show me how they would do it." The new album was helmed by two producers, Nick Raskulinecz (Deftones, Alice In Chains) and Jay Baumgardner (who'd previously mixed a number of Bush and Rossdale projects). "I've never split a record up with two people," Rossdale notes, "but I think the record is quite consistent between both sets of recordings." He'd wanted to work with Raskulinecz on the recommendation of friends like Evanescence's Amy Lee and the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl (whose studio was the setting for a bulk of the new album's recording). When Raskulinecz was delayed in finishing up a Mastodon album, Bush were feeling such urgency to get the sessions underway that Rossdale decided in the meantime to just go with their longtime mixing guy, Baumgardner. "To go in and do songs with Jay was just a really comfortable process," he says, "and then when we got in with Nick, it was a bit like a voyage of madness, just feeding off his energy. He's so contagious and electric and enthusiastic, you want to do good for him." Man on the Run hardly ever slows down to a trot, much less a stroll — it's virtually ballad-free. "Having been inspired by being off the road, I felt that it had to be a high-energy record," Rossdale says. "It has these fantastic crowd moments; it's probably the record where I most considered what the songs would be like in the live arena much as on CD, or on the hard drive or whatever. And that's why going for slightly longer type of songs, not so driven by short attention spans. I wanted to make sure that any of those songs could compete with any of our best songs on the set list in terms of place in the set. It's no use if we just write a song that can't even knock off a ballad that didn't get used as a single from another record. There are couple of songs, 'Surrender' and 'Broken In Paradise,' that have ballad qualities but we ended up doing them in a quite upbeat or powerful way." Thematically, "maybe the whole record is about staying firm and staying true to your path, and to your vocation and your passion and your intention. Perhaps that's starting to become the strongest lesson that I'm learning in reaching this point in my life, realizing that it's about not wavering, and about sticking to your guns, really." Do these lessons really apply to a band with as many miles and platinum albums under their belt as Bush, too? "I think I've had to learn, yeah, on everything, on every level, absolutely, to stay alive," he says. "I mean, we're all in a dance competition, right?"
The formation of The Revivalists was all about chance, but everything since then has been a combination of hard work, awesome music, and friendship. The septet has been playing nonstop since 2007, crafting a genre-hopping sound that rounds out traditional rock instrumentation with horns and pedal steel guitar and mixes the divergent backgrounds of its individual members with the humid, funky undercurrents of the band's New Orleans home. The result is like English spoken with an exotic accent: familiar, yet difficult to pin down.
Religion aside, a revival is all about the tangible electricity that can only be created when enough like minds are crammed under a single roof for a singular purpose. It's a spiritual spectacle, a carnival of the divine, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The same could be said for The Revivalists' searing live performances. The band has a knack for bringing music to life on a stage, and they have tuned their talents to Swiss-watch precision over years of relentless touring. Their bombastic showmanship is the outgrowth of a desire to connect with audiences on a personal level, and that intimate connection is what elevates their shows above simple entertainment.
True to their name, The Revivalists lean more heavily on the older styles and warmer sounds of the golden age of rock 'n roll, but the band isn't afraid to dabble in electronics and sleight-of-studio when it's right for the song. The group tends not to bother with questions like "does this sound like us?" or "does this fit with our other stuff?", instead allowing songs to define themselves and take shape organically, each on its own terms. Is this a dark, heavy rock manifesto driven by a steel guitar line that borders on electronica, or is it an airy, acoustic story about star-crossed lovers, rich in vocal harmony and sparsely arranged until the coda? This one's funky, that one's sweet, this one's heavy….
To The Revivalists, it doesn't matter. They just write songs that they want to play.
"This album is like its own quantum universe," says Silversun Pickups singer/guitarist Brian Aubert. "It's kind of unstable."
Silversun Pickups' first new album in more than three years, BETTER NATURE sees the Silverlake, CA-based band partnering once again with producer Jacknife Lee (U2, Two Door Cinema Club, Crystal Castles), with whom they so successfully collaborated on 2012's visionary NECK OF THE WOODS. Songs like "Friendly Fires" and "Cradle (Better Nature)" were created and crafted in Lee's Topanga studio, the band building out organically from Aubert's spare songwriting demos. The result is fluid and freewheeling, "oozy," in Aubert's words, with heavily cranked guitars, propulsive rhythms, and seemingly infinite textures.
GRAMMY® Award-winning mix engineer Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Royal Blood) brings maximum sonic power to the proceedings, but at the album's beating heart is Silversun Pickups' remarkably intuitive interplay, as ever providing panoramic musical counterpoint to Aubert's incisive, increasingly self-exploratory lyricism. Richer, warmer, and more evocative than anything in their prior canon, BETTER NATURE is Silversun Pickups' most human music thus far.
"I'll tell you something that makes me a little nervous," Aubert confides. "This record, I like it. Usually I'm like, well, we tried! But this one, it's weird – we're all digging on it."
Silversun Pickups is among the most dynamic and creative rock bands of the modern era, hailed far and wide for their inimitable merging of ethereal melodies and pure sonic force. From the indie rock opening salvo of 2005's PIKUL EP to 2012's far-reaching NECK OF THE WOODS, each successive release has seen the Silverlake, CA-based band boldly venture into uncharted terrain, bravely pushing their imagination and ability towards new and surprising summits. BETTER NATURE marks the debut release from Silversun Pickups' own New Machine Recordings. The label – which takes its name from the PIKUL favorite, "…All The Go Inbetweens" – allows the ever-autonomous band to fully determine its own course without any interference from on high.
"This record is as indie as it gets," Aubert laughs. "Maybe we're crazy, but at the end of the day, it's really not that different than before except we have more control."
Silversun Pickups' first decision as label heads was to once again record with producer Jacknife Lee at his nearby Topanga studio, enabling all involved to stay close to home throughout the process.
"People always say, why don't you guys go make a record out of town somewhere," Aubert says, "but then when would we ever live here? This is my only chance to hang in Los Angeles. If I'm not here now, when am I ever going to see these people? We learned early on – we didn't pay attention to our home life and came back from the road to some very broken and tattered universes. We said, right there and then, we have to figure this out, how to do this and still be people. Which is something we eventually did."
Aubert also notes that first time collaborations are always more tentative and introductory, the second go-around allowing the participants to get looser and more inventive. Having already established a creative relationship with NECK OF THE WOODS, Silversun Pickups and Lee were not only comfortable together, they knew what worked.
"It just moves in a way that's so quick and easy," Aubert says. "You have the same discussions and the same battles, but you're friendly, you're closer than you were before. You don't have to explain everything, because they know."
Aubert began writing new songs upon Silversun Pickups' return to California after nearly two years on the road. He prepared for the new album by recording a series of extremely stripped down demos with keyboardist Joe Lester in the band's rehearsal room, mostly wordless, others just hints of melody and sound. Silversun Pickups took those "raw bones" and "used the studio to be creative," Aubert says, "to be improvisational. To not be too locked down." With only the barest hint of a blueprint, the band relied on their already in-sync interactivity in order to create something fully attributable to all members.
"There's a sound that we have that only happens when the four of us get together," Aubert says. "We can push further and further and further because we know that at the end of the day, that's not going to change. It's going to be me and it's going to be them. There's a certain thing that's immovable whether we like it or not."
Where NECK OF THE WOODS was "purposely nostalgic," BETTER NATURE was designed as a snapshot of Silversun Pickups smack dab at this particular moment in time.
"This all felt very current," Aubert says. "Very right now. Everything is super-happening. We've been doing this awhile now and this time I wanted us to really enjoy the process, to just laugh about it, to really feel…oozy. I just wanted it to come out, without thinking about it. I just wanted to exist."
Silversun Pickups maintained a similarly Zen approach to the sessions themselves. The band had heretofore rehearsed new songs to perfection before getting near the studio, allaying their own jitters by locking everything into muscle memory before the record button was pushed. This time, that sort of safety net was off the table.
"We never played these songs straight through, all together," Aubert says, "but it's even more organic in a way, because we were all creating it together. How these songs come to be is in our hands. We have the bone, how do we put some meat on this thing?"
The sessions were unstructured by design, which isn't to say the band didn't apply considerable forethought to the process. Aubert cites influences on the album spanning Sparklehorse to NPR's much beloved Radiolab, the band's goal up front to create "a non-existent thing that sounds like it really exists."
"We wanted it to be big and bombastic," Aubert says. "We wanted there to be weird moments – Double time! Bar chords! Screaming! Monkey sounds! The guitars were going to be swelling again, there were going to be loud solos. Things needed to be coming at you."
The band worked fast despite the lack of prep, spending a grand total of 30 days recording the album between October 2014 and the start of the New Year, banging out finished track after finished track in short, sharp sessions.
"It was weird," Aubert says. "it was as intense to make as all the others, but it was also very focused. I think we've learned over the years how much time we waste. Back in the day we didn't care, but now we're all like, let's go in, do five solid hours, and go home. We want to live. We need to do this one thousand percent, but not only this. We don't want to be completely absorbed by this."
A vibrantly creative groove was established in which "no one knew who was going to be doing what at any time." Instruments were set up and ready to go at all times, Aubert even tracked vocals sans headphones, using a multi-directional microphone to "just sing to the room."
"As tight as the last one was," Aubert says, "this one needed to be loose."
BETTER NATURE is indeed Silversun Pickups at their most supple; "Pins and Needles" is all loping riff and kinetic beats while "Friendly Fires" slow jams as much as it slow burns. Co-written and sung by Monninger, "Circadian Rhythms (Let's Dance)" is audaciously imagined modern pop, "the kind of song we would have tried to steer away from in the past," Aubert says. "We had to be reminded that that was what we were going for, that we weren't afraid of anything."
A number of roads are first taken on BETTER NATURE, the band allowing themselves to tackle tunes that once would have been anathema to the Silversun aesthetic. "Nightlight," the album's incandescent first single, is lifted aloft by a sing-along chorus unprecedented in the band's undoubtedly hook-heavy canon.
"I remember thinking, we should not do this," Aubert says, "But then I thought, why not? Let's do it, who cares?"
The band's openness informed every move, from incorporating elements from Aubert and Lester's very lo-fi demos to switching out tried and true instrumentation with invention and remarkable spontaneity. Silversun Pickups went with the flow at all turns, letting songs shift and take new shapes as events warranted. Recording "Tapedeck" proved as much "a wild ride" as the relentlessly veering song itself.
"We were working that one and that same day, Jacknife bought a vibraphone," Aubert says. "We said, Nikki, why don't you learn to play it? We've never done that before. So Nikki goes off for an hour or two and next thing you know, she's playing the vibraphone. Those are the moments that were never available to us before because of our own closed-in mindset, we would never have taken those opportunities before."
Harmonious and intimate, high-flying and deeply personal, BETTER NATURE is a revelatory manifestation of a great band entirely in touch with the muse and each other. Silversun Pickups have once again managed the tricky task of being completely contemporary while also full on forward thinking, now as ever, existing more than a few steps ahead of the curve.
"The people who are invested in us generally like the last record we made every time we put out a new one," Aubert says. "PIKUL was this really low budget EP and then with CARNAVAS, everyone was like, 'whoa, this is sharp!' SWOON came out and it was all dreamy so people went 'well, this is no CARNAVAS.' And then with NECK OF THE WOODS, it was, 'this is nothing like SWOON.' We can't wait to put this record out so people can tell us how much they liked the last one."
When a crowd is feverishly singing along with the last chorus upon first listen, you
know it's a song that connects. This is what happens when The Strumbellas play
'Spirits' live for the first time, the first single from their new album, Hope (released
April 22nd). That experience embodies the essence of what has been attracting fans
from across North America to this six-piece Lindsay, Ontario-bred band.
The Strumbellas got their start in 2009 with their eponymous EP release, which was
peppered with accolades from Toronto weeklies and prompted a proclamation from
the CBC that they are a "band to watch." Since then, the group has been on the road
earning their stripes through sold-out residencies at different clubs in Toronto, as
well as several cross-country tours and summer festivals.
In 2012 the band released their debut album My Father And The Hunter, an album
full of haunting lyrics fused with infectious and danceable melodies that won them
both fans and critical recognition across multiple genres of music. Earning them a
coveted JUNO nomination, the album offered a beautiful, harmonious dichotomy
between melancholy heartbreak and blow-the-barn-doors-off spunk, a sound that
would become synonymous with their music.
A year later, The Strumbellas followed-up with their sophomore album We Still Move
On Dance Floors, which earned them six awards, including their first JUNO award. In
May 2014 they laid claim to the SiriusXM Indies award for Folk Group Of The Year
and in June they earned the title, Polaris Music Prize nominee, when the album
nabbed a spot on the prestigious prize's coveted Long List. Later that year they won
the Ottawa Folk Festival's Supernova Rising Star Award and nabbed the Canadian
Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album Of The Year. They capped off the year by
winning CBC Music's Rising Star award in December.
2014 was a year of touring. There was no fixed address for the six-piece as they
crisscrossed North America from New York to Austin to Vancouver Island, up to the
Northwest Territories, across the prairies and beyond!
In early 2015, The Strumbellas, off the road and ready to go into the studio again,
set up shop at downtown Toronto's Lincoln County Social Club to record the new
album with LA Producer/Engineer Dave Schiffman (Johnny Cash, Haim,
Weezer). During three recording sessions in the first half of 2015, Schiffman and
the band harnessed a vivid alternative rock sound that was itchin' to get out of
them. Bigger. Bolder. Beckoning.
It's a two cents democracy when it comes to The Strumbellas. Case in point - there's
always one line in a Strumbellas' song that causes an internal crisis. It's the way in
which these six winds blow in from different directions that make the discussion
most interesting. It doesn't really matter what the line of the song actually is. Simon
will bring forth to the band his Simonisms as the band has come to call them. The
line makes sense to him because it sounds pleasing to his ear. That's what he'll use
to plead his case, "it sounds good". David generally puts on his English Masters
Degree hat and takes Simon to task on whether or not the line will make sense to
anyone other than Simon. Usually he stands on principle when making his
argument. Isabel will ruminate and use another artist's work as a reference to
decide if she will stand on Simon's side of the line, or David's. Jeremy will usually
suggest everyone take a break and talk about something else. Jon will put his finger
in the air in an attempt to try to figure out which way the wind is actually blowing.
And Darryl, he'll consult with everybody individually and come back to the band with
a detailed pie chart of some sort that comes up with the best scenarios.
No one is ever really sure which wind is going to prevail but they each end their
argument with 'that's just my two cents' and whether everyone agrees or learns to
live with the disagreement, at the end of the day they ride on together.
Simon Ward – vocals, acoustic guitar
David Ritter – piano, percussion, vocals
Jeremy Drury – drums, percussion
Isabel Ritchie – violin, vocals
Jon Hembrey – electric guitar
Darryl James – bass
Taking Back Sunday
In case you don't know us, here are some words from a long-time friend andjournalist, Jonah Bayer, about our new album, Tidal Wave...
It's difficult to believe that Tidal Wave is Taking Back Sunday's seventh album. While most of their peers have either broken up, faded away or reunited to capitalize on the emo scene's wildfire revival, Taking Back Sunday have always been the Pearl Jam of the scene in the sense that they've consistently plugged along and continued to reinvent themselves regardless of what was trendy at the time. "By the time most bands get to this point in their career they are pretty set in what they do but we were really mindful about approaching our musical ideas differently this time around and staying true to where the five of us are in our lives right now," frontman Adam Lazzara explains. "This album is truly an expression of what Taking Back Sunday is during this snapshot in time as opposed to what we think people expect from our band."
This ethic is nothing new for Taking Back Sunday who started out playing basements at VFW halls in 1999 in Long Island alongside acts like Thursday and Midtown before transitioning into mainstream icons via hit singles such as "MakeDamnSure" and "Set Phasers To Stun." After losing a few members following the release of their breakthrough debut album Tell All Your Friends, the group reunited with their original lineup of Lazzara, guitarists John Nolan and Eddie Reyes, bassist Shaun Cooper and drummer Mark O'Connell six years ago shortly before the creation of 2011's self-titled album. Correspondingly Tidal Wave is not only the follow-up to 2014's Happiness Isbut also marks the first time the group have ever made three consecutive albums with the same lineup. For Tidal Wave,theband also brought back producer Mike Sapone and mixer Claudius Mittendorfer,who both worked on Happiness Is. "I think with this album we all really learned to trust each other with our ideas and that'ssomething that took a while to cultivate when we first got back together," Nolan admits. "There is no way these songs would have come out the way it did if we didn't believe that each member's ideas were worth bringing to the table."
Tidal Wavealso marks the first time that Taking Back Sunday wrote in the studio as they recorded and having that type of fluidity when it came to the songwriting also lent itself to heightened collaboration and creativity throughout the process. "It was really amazing to beable to write in the studio because we could come up with an idea, perform it and then listen back to it immediately instead of feeling boxed in by what we did on demos," Lazzara explains. "Every song was up for being changed or rewritten when we were in the studio, which was an approach that Adam really encouraged, and nothing was ever set in stone in the sense that if someone had any idea for how to make a song better we would give it a shot," Nolan adds. "That approach has potential to be really disastrous but we were fortunate enough to see everything through and use our collective judgment to take things to the next level." Nolan specifically cites 'Homecoming' as a song the band constantly kept returning to in order to finally achieve the version that's present on Tidal Wave.
In many ways the album showcases the strengths of Taking Back Sunday's musical evolution from the blazing opener "Death Wolf" to the orchestrally tinged ballad "Fences" and syncopated anthem "Call Come Running." However as stated earlier there are also plenty of surprises on Tidal Wavesuch as the four-on-the-floor title track which sees them channeling the Clash both sonically and energetically. "I think this idea of making songs that we wrote for ourselves started with Happiness Is and since the reaction to that album was so positive it really encouraged us to take that a step further with this album," Nolan explains. Furthermore songs like "You Can't Look Back" see Lazzara taking his vocals to stratospheric new levels in order to elevate these songs to a whole other plane of existence. "In the same spirit of being fearless when it came to the music, I tried to lean on the influence of some of my favorite singers on this album," Lazzara explains. Case in point, during "Holy Water" it seems as if he is digging so deep that the song is the sonic equivalent of a bittersweet punch to the gut.
Admittedly the process of making Tidal Wave wasn't easy but ultimately the best art doesn't come out of stagnancy and the band couldn't be happier with the final product. "We pushed ourselves so hard that when I listen back to this album now I don't second-guess any of it," Lazzara explains. "I just sit back and think about how glad I am that we put ourselves through that because without that persistence thisrecord never would have evolved to what it eventually became." Sure, it may seem ironic that Taking Back Sunday have transcended the emo tag right when the genre is undergoing a resurgence –but if you really think about it, those types of decisions are exactly what have kept the band relevant. "I do so many interviews now where I get asked about the emo revival and I'm like, 'whatare you talking about? We never slowed down and we never quit," he summarizes. "I think this record is going to help us reconnect with our old fans as well as cross paths with some new ones but in the end we wrote it for ourselves sand we couldn't be happier with it."
In other words when Lazzarasings, "It's taken me all this time to see... I'm coming home" on the acoustic showstopper "Homecoming" it's not just about geography, it also parallels the next exciting chapter in Taking Back Sunday's career. Welcome back, guys.
Passion. Emotion. Melody. Aggression. These are the hallmarks of Alter Bridge, one of the most routinely acclaimed and adored hard rock bands on the planet. Formed in 2004 in Orlando, Florida, the band comprising guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall, drummer Scott Phillips and vocal powerhouse and guitarist Myles Kennedy have steadily but purposefully risen to the upper echelons of the rock world thanks to a mixture of supreme songwriting talent and musicianship and an unerring collective belief in the power of music. The band's first three albums – One Day Remains, Blackbird and 2011's ABIII – have helped Alter Bridge to accrue a huge international fan base, all of whom will be thrilled by the prospect of hearing the band's fourth album, Fortress, for the first time. A bold, ambitious and exhilaratingly powerful collection of freshly-minted anthems that refines and redefines its creators' trademark sound while simultaneously raising the bar in terms of speaker-melting, state-of-the-art sonic values.
"Fortress is a musical snapshot of a specific period of time," explains Myles Kennedy. "We didn't allow ourselves the luxury of over-thinking and overanalyzing. That is what makes this record so special to me. When I listen to these songs everything sounds fresh and unencumbered by the sound of beating arrangements into the ground. There is spontaneity. We try to push ourselves musically with each record, but we opted to veer further from some of the standard approaches we'd used for writing and arranging songs in the past. That said, we still tried to maintain the Alter Bridge sound."
Drive By Truckers
It seems a paradox that while the Drive-By Truckers' sound is so unique; it is still part of a greater and larger family. Some of the other greats - particularly in the South - were spawned from their culture, while others came from the deeper rootstock of the southern landscape itself. Of course in the long run the landscape has a significant say in what kind of culture develops; it's all tangled together, all connected, and everything shares bits and strands of those fragments, again like a pastiche of random and beautiful genomes. Each of the three vocalists - Cooley, Patterson, Shonna - is distinct; each aches in its own way with sometimes gravelly and other times smooth sweet wistful broken-glass hurt and yearning and reluctant. Patterson's songs, of course are almost always willing, in the great Southern tradition, to take on the Man - or anyone else - as are Cooley's, when the cause is big and just.
Their sound - so distinctly theirs - comes nonetheless from history and the past. It's all a big tangled beautiful mess, and it all comes out of Muscle Shoals, where, as Patterson's father, legendary bassist David Hood, astutely notes, the South once did something right with respect to race relations, once-upon-a-time, and when it most mattered.
In their documentary, The Secret to a Happy Ending, Patterson speaks of the South's "duality thing." Visually, the documentary shows a symbolism of this duality nicely: the fecund green clamor of summer (play it loud), insects shrilling high in the canopy as if giving voice to a fever in the land that may or may not be a madness; and in winter, the bare raw limbs, the signature of a thing - things - going away. Similarly, the Truckers, while walking on the dark side of the street in their songs, seem, despite it all, unable to avoid stumbling into cathedrals and columns of light, as in Mercy Buckets.
A little about Go-Go Boots: it doesn't make a lot of sense for me to wax long about what you're going to hear. The incantatory, almost child-like refrain of clamant happiness, "I do believe/I do believe," with its big-band rock-chord super-anthem kicking in, then - a song about family, and the memory of being loved - a rock song about one's grandmother! - sets the tone for all that is to follow, fireplace poker bludgeoning be damned.
You hear the bona fide country in Cooley's Cartoon Gold, complete with rambling banjo run, and the undefinable ache and wonder at life, in the vocals - and you hear the I've-been-done-wrong-by-life-bit-am-still-here, still-hurting, hurting-so-good slowing- down soul sound.
So many of the songs on this album will end up being favorites, and anyway, it's not fair to say one song's better than any other - but damn, the first Eddie Hinton song on this album - Everybody Needs Love - is awfully fine. The Truckers hardly ever cover anyone else's songs, but here they've chosen two by their late friend, Hinton. This is a big deal and when you hear the two songs you'll understand what a good idea it is. You'll also see how directly their country-soul sound resonates with his.
What is country-soul? The glib description, "You can't pin it down but you know it when you hear it," isn't very satisfying. It's not enough to say it's funky, or has "that slow steady soul beat, that drive." It's not enough, technically, to say it places John Neff's pedal steel with Jay Gonzalez' B-3 and piano, or, on other songs, his Wurlitzer - but that's true enough, too. Maybe the best way to understand what country-soul is is to listen to Everybody Needs Love again. It's got a great vocal reach - a beautiful, no-holds-barred straining greatness - mixed with the Memphis backside style of drumming-compliments of Brad Morgan - that Al Jackson made famous on Wilson Pickett's Midnight Hour. Here, it's perfectly in sync with the story, and the mood, the message. It's got the great back-up chorus coming in, the piano and Hammond B-3 assuming greater authority, the farther into the song you go. We could be talking about genetic strands being inlaid, so deeply and intensely does this sound take over a listener. After only a couple of playings, it seems like the song inhabits you, has always been in you. This is what constitutes a classic.
Greensky Bluegrass is Anders Beck (dobro), Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), Mike Devol (upright bass) and Paul Hoffman (mandolin).
"There's this great duality to our band," reflects Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist, vocalist, and songwriter Paul Hoffman. "We're existing in a few different places at once: we're a bluegrass band and a rock band, we're song-driven and interested in extended improvisation."
"We play acoustic instruments," adds dobro player Anders Beck, "but we put on a rock'n'roll show. We play in bigger clubs and theaters, there's a killer light show, and we're as loud as your favorite rock band. It's not easy to make five acoustic instruments sound like this – it's something we've spent years working on."
From these seemingly irreconcilable elements, the five members of Greensky Bluegrass have forged a defiant, powerful sound that, while rooted in classic stringband Americana, extends outwards with a fearless, exploratory zeal. The tension and release between these components – tradition and innovation, prearranged songs and improvisation, acoustic tones and electric volume – is what makes them so thrillingly dynamic, in concert and on record. "In theory," Hoffman explains, "greensky is the complete opposite of bluegrass. So, by definition, we are contrasting everything that isn't bluegrass with everything that is."
That their sound is so seamless, so organic, is testament to Greensky's enduring vision and tireless dedication. Since their first rumblings at the start of the millennium, they have emerged as relentless road warriors, creating a captivating live show while at the same time developing a knack for evocative, disarming songcraft.
Their fifth studio album, If Sorrows Swim – available September 9, 2014 and distributed by Thirty Tigers – is their most riveting yet, balancing gripping songs (by Hoffman and guitarist Dave Bruzza) and remarkably thoughtful, tight arrangements with an instrumental fluidity born of countless hours playing together – on stage and off.
From their unlikely base of Kalamazoo, Michigan (home of the original Gibson Mandolin-Guitar factory), Greensky – which also includes banjoist Michael Arlen Bont and bassist Michael Devol – arrived at their unique take on the bluegrass tradition by working from the outside inward. "I found bluegrass through the back door," Beck says, "through the Jerry Garcia route. That's how I got to listening to Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. It's really interesting how many people in our generation got into acoustic music through that channel."
Approaching their instruments from an open-ended, rock perspective gave them the freedom to create their own rules. "We were always coming at bluegrass backwards," Hoffman says. "We were better musicians than we were bluegrass musicians. I mean, I didn't buy a mandolin until I was 18. Dave didn't start playing acoustic guitar until he was 18. Bont got a banjo when he was 20. We discovered that, when it came to learning these instruments, we preferred to do so by improvising and writing our own songs, instead playing standard material and fiddle tunes."
The roots of Greensky Bluegrass lay in the friendship of Bruzza and Bont. While nurturing a nascent interest in acoustic music, they were joined by Hoffman. The trio shedded intently, playing informally in living rooms and at open mics for years before setting out as a band. Devol, a classically trained cellist, was added in the fall of 2004, and in 2006 Greensky Bluegrass won the coveted band contest at Colorado's forward-thinking Telluride Bluegrass Festival. At that point, the members dedicated themselves to Greensky full-time and began widening their touring radius.
In 2007, dobroist Beck came aboard. From the sidelines, he was quick to pinpoint the band's appeal. "It was all about the songs," he says. "You can be the best pickers in the world or the most educated musicians, but, all in all, the things that connect with people are songs, lyrics, and melodies. That was the real kicker."
By playing up to 175 shows a year, mostly in rock clubs and more open-minded festivals like Telluride, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Greensky Bluegrass became a word-of-mouth underground sensation, cultivating a devoted legion of fans entranced both by the band's improvisational acumen and the quality of their songwriting. Then and now, despite their wide-ranging musical interests, Greensky continues to work within the structure of a classic five-man stringband. "The cool thing about a bluegrass band or, really, any drummerless band," Hoffman explains, "is that it's like acoustic chamber music — challenging, exciting, and fun to play."
"While there are potential limitations because of our instrumentation," Beck adds, "a really big part of what is Greensky Bluegrass is about is to essentially ignore those limitations."
The depth and sophistication of the band's interplay is showcased throughout If Sorrows Swim, across a program of stirring, resonant original songs. Recorded over ten days, the album was tracked to two-inch tape. "The decision to use tape over digital recording is basically the decision to use less," Hoffman explains. "It's not about everything being perfect, it's about capturing a moment in time."
the album mixes previously unrecorded, road-tested concert staples with new material carefully honed with the sort of razor's edge focus that the recording studio inspires.
If Sorrows Swim opens with "Windshield," a haunting rumination that slowly builds in emotional and musical intensity around an an insistent pulse from the bass. The desperation in Hoffman's increasingly anguished vocal is slowly surrounded by churning rhythm guitar and incessant banjo before the tension is dispersed by a plaintive dobro solo. A brooding cello line deep in the mix adds an ominous undercurrent, and underpins the group's swirling counterpoint as the track fades.
The album's title derives from "Burn Them," a minor key reflection set to a more straight-ahead, driving bluegrass rhythm. "There was something on This American Life," Hoffman recalls. "Someone was talking about just how upset and sad they were. They were drinking a lot, but they just couldn't drink that pain away. When I heard that, I thought to myself, 'What if sorrows swim?' I couldn't get that thought out of my mind." Tightly orchestrated, the performance is marked by ingenious touches. The transitions between the guitar and mandolin solos are delineated by a quick unison passage played by both instruments, and Bont contributes an especially nimble, melodic break.
Having two distinct songwriting voices further enriches If Sorrows Swim, with Bruzza contributing a quartet of varied, insightful songs featuring his burnished, soulful vocals. "Worried About the Weather" moves between a swinging half-time feel and a breezier, bluegrass tempo – reinforcing the contrast between relief and uncertainty embodied in the lyric. Bruzza's brisk "Kerosene" features some of the album's more daring improvisational passages, and highlights the band's gift for electrically processing their acoustic instruments to emphasize the emotion behind their playing. Hoffman's mandolin solo is colored by subtle delay, while Bruzza's spacious, inquisitive break finds him employing a slightly distorted tone to further escalate the song's intensity.
"What makes this album different from the last," Hoffman explains, referring to 2011's accomplished Handguns, "is that we paid so much more attention to what the song needs. At every juncture, we would ask, 'Does it serve the song?' We ask that a lot." Throughout If Sorrows Swim, Greensky's playing and arrangements are impressively intricate – and showcased in a rich, spacious sound that lets each note and accent sing and decay as if in slow motion.
The taxing yet rewarding process of recording now behind them, Greensky Bluegrass is anxious to unveil If Sorrows Swim's unheard material in concert. "The live experience is this springboard," Beck muses. "You just see what happens. When you're improvising every night and taking risks, it becomes a very circular thing with the audience — the audience feeds off the energy of the band and the band feeds off the energy of the audience and it becomes a much bigger thing."
With the release of their first nationally distributed album and a busy touring season ahead of them, Greensky Bluegrass are facing a new level of exposure. It's a challenge they are up to, that they embrace. As their music and their audience has grown, so have they, and their sites are set ever-higher.
"When we were doing our first shows and making those early records," Hoffman concludes, "it was stressful because we wanted to hit the right notes. We just wanted it to be good enough. But now, we want it to be great."
It happened in Brooklyn. In 2011, the members of Highly Suspect arrived in the borough from their native Cape Cod, MA. The next four years became a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and more rock 'n' roll than most people could ever handle. Then again, Johnny Stevens [vocals, guitar] and twin brothers Rich [bass, vocals] and Ryan Meyer [drums] aren't "most people." Those chemically-soaked nights, hazier mornings, broken relationships, and cathartic realizations leave residue across Highly Suspect's full-length debut album, Mister Asylum [300 Entertainment], and it's inebriating in the best way possible.
The boys moved into a studio apartment with "no electricity yet," getting a cheap rate as Rich promised to add an elevated loft with five bedrooms. He made good on his promise and even launched his own contracting company that would fuel the band's exploits for the foreseeable future. As they slowly but surely made a name for themselves locally, Johnny cataloged experiences in the moment, either putting pen to paper in his notebook or using his phone's memos.
"This album is a collection of everything that happened from the time I moved to Brooklyn onward," says Johnny. "I met Lydia the first week we were here. She was the only girl in the building. It was Lydia and her roommates and us. She kicked everything off for me. The album is a reflection of our experiences. Shit, New York is the dream. On Cape Cod, I'd wake up at five in the morning, work out, surf, and smoke a ton of weed. In New York, you're staying up until five in the morning, and the weed is now cocaine. It's a nocturnal life and a totally different thing. I lived it pretty fucking hard and had to write about it."
"It all felt meant to be in a weird way," adds Rich. "We moved into the first building we looked at, and there was this plane flying overhead that said, 'Last Chance.' There were homeless people everywhere and a broken down minivan. We weren't on Cape Cod anymore."
While busking in the subway, Johnny caught a woman's attention who introduced the band to producer Joel Hamilton [Black Keys, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello]. After hitting it off with the band, and interested to hear more, he hooked the band up with some studio time, recording their new EP as a passion project.
"We didn't have a genre or aesthetic we were going for," explains Ryan. "We simply wrote what we liked. It was really natural, and Joel captured that on our first EP."
Their D.I.Y. music video for the drowsy, dirty, and dirge-y blues rocker "Bath Salts"—which Johnny penned after "overdosing on a huge combination of shit"—drummed up a major buzz online and attracted the band's current management. They cut another independent EP with Gojira singer and guitarist Joseph Duplantier behind the board. Continuing to slug it out live, they eventually caught the attention of 300 Entertainment in 2014 who signed the trio as its flagship rock outfit.
Following the signing, Highly Suspect entered Studio G in Brooklyn with Hamilton and cut Mister Asylum to tape. They tapped into something real, rigid, and raw that instantly resonated.
Upon release, the record debuted at #22 on the Billboard Top 200, selling over 9,100 copies and making it one of the "top three biggest selling rock debuts by a new act in 2015." Rolling Stone,Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, The Fader, and more praised the group, and they shared stages with the likes of Faith No More, Jane's Addiction, Deftones, Eagles of Death Metal, My Morning Jacket, Grizzly Bear and more and lit up festivals such as Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.
The infectious grit and grime of songs like the single "Lydia" heralded the band's presence. Ryan and Rich lock into a creeping rhythmic stomp as Johnny's eternally haunted vocals transfix.
"It's about my ex-girlfriend," Johnny continues. "It displays what it feels like to know you're ending something good because you have other things to do. Lydia and I were very much in love, but our lives were leading us in different directions. There was nothing wrong with her. We would've been holding each other back. We were in our early twenties in New York City, trying to do important things and follow our dreams. I pushed her away, and she pushed me away."
The swaggering riffs of "Mom" belie a darkness as Johnny address his mother who "has some personal issues she could never deal with that wound up taking her out of my life as a baby."
"23" rolls from thick guitars into a hypnotic chant just before a howling lead. He remarks, "We left when I was 23-years-old. We're saying, 'Fuck it and fuck you if you don't want to get behind what we're doing.' It's an empowering song about getting up and out of your home town and making something happen."
Meanwhile, Rich penned the upbeat "Lost," which veers between a bombastic drum beat into a magnetic refrain. Rich says, "It's one of those relationships where you love each other, but it's just not going to work out. I think everyone's been there."
In many ways, Highly Suspect's wonderful danger stands encapsulated in the name of the album, Mister Asylum.
"Asylum can be a place of safety, and it can also be a place that's scary, like a mental institution," Johnny leaves off. "Mister Asylum embodies both of those things all at once—safety and craziness. It's organization and chaos. It's Yin and Yang. It's losing your mind and finding yourself. That's us. When people listen to our music, I want them to feel like they're not alone in their thoughts. At the same time, we're just regular dudes. We want to meet everyone and have a good time when we play."
Multiplatinum rock outfit Sum 41 wrapped its final tour supporting 2011's Screaming Bloody Murder in April 2013. It was one of the band's longest and most attended touring cycles in its 20 year career, and they found themselves nominated for a Grammy for the first time ever. However things were not as perfect as they seemed, as vocalist, guitarist, and producer Deryck Whibley found himself on the brink of destruction.
"I can't pin-point one exact moment that put me over the edge, it was more of an accumulation of many things when I slipped into a fog of partying and booze. I tried to detach myself from any and all responsibility whatsoever," Whibley reflects. He spent the next year doing just that, and at the end found himself in a Los Angeles hospital fighting for his life.
Whibley spent most of April and May 2014 in and out of the ICU with his mother and fiancée by his side. When he was finally released as an outpatient he realized that his journey was just beginning, and it was then that he began to write while simultaneously going through intense physical therapy. "Being sober and out of the fog made me realize that the only things I really cared about were music, making a record, and getting better so I could get back on stage again."
The music came together in tandem with Whibley's health; he recalls: "Due to neuropathy, muscle atrophy and medication that caused permanent nerve damage in my legs and feet left me unable to walk and in excruciating pain for months. I had to learn how to do everything again—my motor skills, learning how to play guitar. It was really difficult, but at the same time if I didn't have a record to make, I don't think I would have recovered as quickly, or even at all."
He continues, "Writing music gave me a purpose and I started from scratch with absolutely nothing to work with. I would put on movies with no sound and start writing guitar riffs and music to the images. Mostly movies from Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino like Edward Scissorhands, Sweeny Todd, Kill Bill and Inglorious Bastards. The process led me in a direction that I had never gone in before which made me feel like I was writing a theatrical score called "hard-score punk".
Soon, he was gathering his bandmates at his home in Los Angeles to begin laying down tracks for what would become the group's sixth full-length album, 13 Voices. The record includes a surprise return from original guitarist Dave Brownsound, who parted ways with the band a decade prior. The first song Dave played guitar on was "Goddamn I'm Dead Again" a track that proves that the fiery guitar riffs that came to define SUM 41 are back.
In addition to bassist Cone McCaslin and lead guitarist Tom Thacker, Sum 41 would also formally welcome Frank Zummo (Street Drum Corps, Krewella, Thenewno2, Dead By Sunrise) behind the kit.
Whibley produced and engineered 13 Voices entirely on his own in his house. Drums were set up in the living room, guitar amps in the bedrooms. The end result stands tall as SUM 41's most intense, cathartic and all-around finest work in years.
The album was written from a place of optimism, and speaks to the necessity of Whibley's drastic fall before he was able to rise again. Opener "A Murder Of Crows," the first track written upon the frontman's release from the hospital, is about how those closest to Whibley quickly
abandoned him when things got bad. The song's haunting refrain ("You're all dead to me"), repeated over bombastic percussion and steadily building guitars, is Whibley's rallying cry; he's letting go of the past in order to salvage his future.
He touches upon the theme of letting go further in "Fake My Own Death," the fan track being released first from the record. "I just wanted to get away from everything that I had been doing. I needed to start a new life—like faking my own death."
With the upcoming release of this album we see SUM 41 as an impenetrable unit putting everything they've got out into 13 Voices. The result is a dynamic, impassioned collection of melodic, guitar wielding, rock songs. "I can't say whether this is our best record or not, as I don't know if it is," states Whibley. "All I can say is I did the best I possibly could during the toughest period of my life".
Machine Gun Kelly
There's nothing like someone who has lived your story and Ohio's MC MGK resilience has become a beacon of hope for thousands of kids across America. Penning rhymes about everything from addiction to family issues, MGK is a symbol of relentless perseverance to his fans and the MC is about to begin the next chapter of his already successful career.
Born Colson Baker in Houston, Texas, MGK lived almost a dozen places, including Egypt, before moving to Denver, Colorado with his father after his mother began a new life with a new man.
"I don't have a relationship with my mom, she left when I was nine years old," says MGK.
In Denver, the Bakers lived with MGK's aunt. Though the father and son had each other, they couldn't lay claim to much else. As his dad fought depression and unemployment, the young MC split his time between wearing two school outfits and being bullied by the neighborhood kids.
"I used to stand out because I was tall and I couldn't really fight back then," says MGK. "Then I got tired of getting beat up so I started fighting people with my words instead."
In seventh grade, MGK found solace in rhyming after watching DMX's "We Right Here" video.
"DMX is a huge influence on me because neither of us have siblings so we had to fight a lot of dark shit by ourselves," says MGK.
And though he "wasn't popular at all," the lanky kid was good at battling his middle school challengers. Later, while attending Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School, his father moved to Kuwait to work for the army and left MGK behind to live in a neighbor's basement. It was then the teen began experimenting with drugs and recorded his first demo tape.
"It was terrible, but I thought it was cool," says MGK, with a smile.
Without supervision, MGK stopped attending school and like 50 Cent, the high school freshmen, made a name for himself by calling out elder classmates. In 2005, his father moved MGK to Kuwait, where the teen got into even more trouble. Eventually, the pair were forced back stateside and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. While attending Shaker Heights High on the city's east side, MGK convinced a local t-shirt shop owner, who doubled as an MC manager, to take him under his wing.
"I got the name Machine Gun Kelly because of my rapid-fire delivery when I was 15 and started doing shows," says MGK.
Nicknamed MGK by his fans, the MC released his first mixtape Stamp of Approval in 2006 and built a local fan base performing at Cleveland venues like Hi-Fi. But it was a trip to New York's famed Apollo Theater in 2009 that really gave him his start.
"We drove straight from Ohio and stood in line for ten hours," recalls MGK. "I got boo'd as soon as I walked on the Apollo stage and then I won ... twice."
The energetic performer became the first rapper in history to win the Apollo's talent show. MGK's mixtape 100 Words And Running came shortly after and he created a high school promotional tour, where he performed to such excited crowds that school security teams began turning him away to keep the peace. And while the MC's catchphrase, "Lace up," which started as a mixtape interlude, became a call to arms for fans, their leader was still flipping burritos at Chipotle to pay his rent. After graduating high school, MGK's father kicked him out of their home and forced the young MC to fend for himself. Not long after, an 18 year-old MGK welcomed his own child, a daughter named Casie. The infant gave the rapper new incentive to work even harder and he soon earned a nod for Best Midwest Artist at the 2010 Underground Music Awards and his "Alice in Wonderland" clip won Best Music Video at the 2010 Ohio Hip-Hop Awards.
But just as his star began to rise, MGK suffered a new setback. A polyp developed on his vocal chord which kept him offstage and out of the studio for six months. Without health insurance for surgery, MGK worked off the polyp by himself with tireless vocal exercises.
"Every night I'd wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning wanting to blow my brains out," says MGK. "That was one of the most depressing periods of my life."
But the sun shone again with the 2010 release of MGK's Lace Up mixtape. The project not only earned the local favorite more fans baring their own "Lace Up" tattoos but a national audience. In 2011, the Ohio rapper secured a label deal with Diddy's Bad Boy Records/ Interscope Records as well as a marketing partnership to score a spot for HTC's Rezound Beats By Dre phone. Machine Gun MGK's "Invincible" track plays during the electronics commercial, the release of which coincided with the song's sale on iTunes.
In October, the Rage Pack mixtape, inspired by his energy on stage and a love for his fans, hit the web. A video for MGK's single "Wild Boy" featuring Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame and produced by GB Hitz followed, leading MGK to win MTV's Hottest Breakthrough MC for 2011.
"To be considered for the hottest breakthrough MC of 2011, it's obviously an honor, but I want to be the hottest," he told MTV News. "I've never been comfortable with sharing anything."
Gearing up for his mainstream spotlight, MGK is currently prepping his official EP via Bad Boy/ Interscope entitled Lace Up. Slated to hit shelves in March, the Ohio native will take his new music across the United States during the record-breaking "90 Cities in 99 Days" tour with Midwest MC Tech N9ne also beginning that month. In addition, MGK's secured a performance on this summer's Vans Warped Tour line-up.
Already acknowledged by cultural gatekeepers like The New York Times, MTV, The FADER and Nah Right, MGK is ready to devour the next phase of his career. Lace up
As a singer, songwriter, activist and independent entrepreneur, Ani DiFranco has been setting her own pace—and encouraging countless admirers to do the same—for more than 20 years. But while she has been known as the "Little Folksinger," her music has grown far beyond her acoustic solo roots in cozy venues to embrace jazz, soul, electronica and even more distant sounds. All of which are featured in DiFranco's new Righteous Babe release, Allergic To Water, where she also blends abstract imagery and deceptively understated melodies with personal reflections on her life in New Orleans where she is now raising her two children with her partner, producer Mike Napolitano.
"It's such a humbling, and grueling, thing to raise children," DiFranco said. "And that makes playing music more precious and makes me more grateful. It's a real balancing act, but it also has a balancing effect."
DiFranco adds that becoming a mother has brought her closer to listeners who have followed her music since she began performing in New York City during the early 1990s. But widespread attention never prevented her from holding on to her integrity, and independence. A strong belief in human rights has run throughout her work, including when she played at numerous benefit concerts around the world. At a time when record labels still held an oversized influence, DiFranco stood ahead of the curve in launching her own Righteous Babe Records. The company has released more than 20 of her albums to date, ranging from the popular two-disc live album, Living In Clip (1997), to the expansive To The Teeth (1999), which included such guests as legendary R&B saxophonist Maceo Parker and Prince. Journalist Sylvie Simmons wrote in the British music magazine MOJO in 1998, "Even if her overt politicism and her 200-shows-per-year tours with an acoustic guitar place her in the Woody Guthrie tradition, her music—which has boldly plundered funk or punk, hip hop, rock—doesn't."
If art aims to capture those childlike epiphanies we all had after discovering something new about the world, then the best and most-enduring music comes from somewhere near that place. When a song captures in just three-and-a half minutes, that feeling of awe at everything, then the music—the art—has done its job. It is this "vital" place MUTEMATH needed find again. And they needed to find it on their own. The greatest gift to MUTEMATH might just be that this time out, there is no label, there was no management, no producer. There was no "executive opinion" before the music was fully formed.
"You want to always rediscover the reason you started doing this in the first place," says MUTEMATH's singer and primary songwriter Paul Meany. "This album is the one we've been dying to make all along. We found the album that is right for this band and for this band now."
"We knew we had to self-produce this one," says Darren King, the band's drummer. "This was an album for us that couldn't happen properly unless we were willing to roll up our sleeves and dive into all of the creation and sculpting that comes with bringing an album from its inception to the very end. It was really important for us to give ourselves a chance to find the sounds and songs that represent where we are right now."
"Now" is a word that comes up again and again when speaking with the four members of MUTEMATH. Now, if you ask any one of them, is precisely where they've been reaching for all along.
"I feel it's a rebirth, for sure", says Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas, the band's guitarist, and most-often bassist. "I'm extremely excited and proud of how Vitals came out. It's some of our best songwriting. We're really shooting for a higher level with this record."
But with MUTEMATH, this genuine all-or-nothing approach is so abundant everywhere on this, the band's fourth full-length, that even a newcomer to the band will sense the urgency and the high stakes. You don't even have to take their word for it. You can hear it in every single note of the songs they've made.
Nothing has been particularly easy on the band these past four years since 2011's Odd Soul. They parted ways with their label, they changed management, and replaced a band member. Add to that the marriages, births, deaths, and an eventual panic attack that had Meany hiding in the bathroom of his own home as his wife and newborn daughter slept. Thankfully, that night led to a song instead of a hospital visit.
Meany sings above thick, oceanic synth swells of "Composed" sounding every bit like the undulating undertow he fought off that evening to swim and find the far shore: "I have said to myself in a mirror's company/Who's that panicked stranger on his knees?" He arrives at gratitude and awareness for the thing's he has and pledges, finally, to keep moving forward: "You keep my head composed/You keep my head afloat."
Whether he is addressing his wife and daughter, or the music that has provided him his life's purpose for so many years (or all three) the evidence of triumph is all over Vitals, an album of stadium-sized hooks designed to reach rafters, yet delivered from deep within the smallest caverns of this band's very soul.
"I feel completely drained and completely relieved," Meany says, with Vitals completed and on its way out into the world. "It's an extremely rewarding experience. We don't take this lightly and I don't think we're very flippant with what it means for the people that want to hear this music. We try to deliver our best. We put our all into it. And even though this record takes a chance for us, it stays true to where and why we started".
Everyone in the band agrees that Vitals became an album the day they wrote "Monument." It's a song that rejoices in the present, refusing to wait for something to be gone in order to celebrate it. It is the center that holds this ambitious collection together.
"A monument usually signifies a memorialization for what is no more," Meany explains. "This song is about taking control of the moments we still have, while we still have them together. The threat of an ending is nothing to be afraid of, but something that can be turned into beauty and serve as a vibrant means to keep moving forward."
MUTEMATH's Vitals is the sound of a band reborn, rediscovering just why they must make music by making it for themselves, above and beyond the interference of anyone (or anything) else. A collection of songs that would not exist if it were not for the four members of the band demanding only the best of themselves so that what they deliver to the world isn't just more noise, but something that does nothing less than find a certain harmony in the world and in themselves.
The only thing left is for you to hear it, knowing that you provide the final piece that completes this long labor of struggle and eventual triumph. All art is a gift. Vitals by MUTEMATH is for you, me, everyone. This time out, the band is unafraid, refusing to hide behind unnecessary subtleties and striving for that universal chord that resides in us all. Sometimes it takes a decade. Sometimes it never happens. For MUTEMATH, it happens now.
Mayer Hawthorne has over 100 million plays on YouTube, Spotify and all those other Internet sites. His sophomore album How Do You Do earned him a Grammy nod. And if he got a vote for every SoundCloud follower he has (five million), he could get elected Senator somewhere. But he's not some piece of shit politician; he's a musician who writes songs from the soul.
Here's some stuff you can't find on Wikipedia: Mayer Hawthorne starts his day off with waffles and The Whispers or turkey sausage and Steely Dan. Sometimes it's punk rock and pancakes for dinner. It doesn't matter as long as it's breakfast food and music.
Raised by hippie parents in Ann Arbor, Michigan, smack between the Hash Bash and the car factories – Hawthorne's old man taught him to play bass guitar at age five. He would play records in the house all while Mayer was growing up. He put him up on game. He'd say, "You hear him singing there? That's David Ruffin." Or, "You hear that guitar solo? That's Stephen Stills." And young Hawthorne would sit there, with his bowl of cereal, soaking it up.
Mayer DJed in Michigan at the height of Detroit hip-hop. He was there. Before Em blew, when Dilla was still alive. He was spinning records and making rap beats. Now he's making soul records and rappers are sampling him. Circle of life.
Mayer's been digging in the crates and you can hear the influences in his music. A touch of Shuggie Otis here, some Bob Marley there, a sprinkle of Sly Stone…
On his fourth full-length album, due out this spring, Hawthorne is back to handling the lion's share of production. He also played damn near every instrument on the album and penned every track. His songwriting pulls from his life and observations; his heartache and joy. Sometimes it's groovy, other times he's vulnerable and sincere.
It's the shit people listen to when they wanna get drunk and stoned and sentimental. The reason? Mayer Hawthorne stays making that timeless, soulful, baby-making music.
"And may all your favorite bands stay together," sings Taylor Goldsmith on the title track to Dawes' fourth album, All Your Favorite Bands, on their own HUB Records, harking back to a time when that very
special rock group helped define who you were, expressing the joy and passion the foursome put into
"Your favorite band can identify you, express how you see yourself," explains Goldsmith, who co-wrote
the song with Jonny Fritz and is the sole author of the album's other eight tracks. "They enable you to
articulate your feelings through the way they play their instruments and the lyrics."
On All Your Favorite Bands, Dawes manage to transcend their well-documented Southern California influences to establish their own sound and themes, which range from the glass half full optimism of the
first single, "Things Happen" and the minor-chord tension of "I Can't Think About It Now" (featuring
background vocals from Gillian Welch and the McCrary Sisters) to the soulful gospel of "Waiting for Your Call," the rocking tongue-in-cheek lyrics of "Right On Time" and the epic, Dylan-esque set piece, "Now
That It's Too Late, Maria."
Produced by David Rawlings (Dave Rawlings Machine, Gillian Welch, Robyn Hitchcock, Old Crow
Medicine Show, Willie Watson) at Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville, Dawes recorded these new
songs after they had already been road-tested in front of live audiences in intimate venues from
Sonoma to Santa Barbara, with Rawlings in tow. The producer even played guitar solos on two of the
tracks (including that jangling noir Epiphone acoustic on "Somewhere Along the Way"), with Richard
Bennett on acoustic guitar and Paul Franklin on pedal steel, also contributing.
"We played and recorded the songs as a band, with very few overdubs," explains Taylor. "It was a real
joy to work with Dave, who is such an incredible musician with a deep understanding of what goes into a
song. We found ourselves immediately speaking a language we both understood."
Rawlings originally jammed with the band when they were Simon Dawes in their North Hills, CA, rehearsal space around seven years ago, then joined the group on one memorable occasion at the tiny
Crepe Place in Santa Cruz for a raucous encore after one of his own shows down the street. Dave threw his hat in the ring to produce them, mutually agreeing on the goal of making their recordings sound more like they do live.
"I was always a big supporter of the way they went about things, and how hard they worked," said
Rawlings. "I was also impressed with their growth as musicians."
The pairing of Dawes with Rawlings couldn't have been a more perfect match of band and producer.
"Playing these songs with them in a live setting in front of an audience before we ever set foot in the
studio was a lot of fun," enthused Rawlings. "I was really pleased to see the new material not just
holding its own with the older stuff, but in some cases sound even better and fresher."
Fresh from his game-changing experience working on the New Basement Tapes with producer T Bone
Burnett and bandmates Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Jim James, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor took the
spontaneity and organic interaction of those sessions – along with a newfound self-confidence – into recording the new album.
"We didn't get super-precious about it," he said. "The rest of the band were able to react and respond in the moment, so even during the guitar solos, you can hear everyone else expressing themselves as
The first single, "Things Happen," is accompanied by a video that expresses Dawes' joie de vivre, a bittersweet tale of a Beatles busker (played by their actor friend Nate Michaux) who works Hollywood
Blvd., where he meets fellow street performers Charlie Chaplin (Taylor), Elvis Presley (Gelber) and Marilyn Monroe (Strathairn in drag).
"In a literal way, I'm singing to a friend, but I'm also giving myself a pep talk," said Taylor. "Things might
be bad, but the only thing you can do is shift your perspective to deal with it. Hoping it will go away by itself is a little unreasonable."
There are also glimpses of past relationships in "Somewhere Along the Way" and "Waiting for Your Call,"
while "I Can't Think About It Now" offers a disquieting view of how repressing your problems ends up
making things worse, and "Right on Time" describes the serendipity that makes up a long-lasting
romance, posing a dichotomy between the dramatic music and the blatantly over-the-top lyrics. The
sprawling, nine-minute-plus "Now That It's Too Late Maria" was the first song the band recorded in the
studio, and set the template for the album's loose-limbed, yet deliberate approach.
"Griffin played a relaxed, mid-tempo beat and I just started singing it that way," recalls Taylor. "Dave
just told us not to think about what we were doing, just do it, and that's what we did. It was a very
special moment for us as a band. It really set the mood and made us confident and comfortable in our
own skin, helped us embrace ourselves as a band. We realized nobody could do what the four of us do
Making the new album helped Dawes realize just how special – and unique — they were as a unit. It's a
worthy addition – and a noticeable advance – on their three previous albums, 2009's debut North Hills,
2011's Nothing Is Wrong and 2013's Stories Don't End.
"They are a tremendously talented group of guys focused solely on the music as part of their lives," offered Rawlings. "I remember sitting in the control room with Taylor and Griff as they went through
their iPods and pulled out pieces of songs, swapping ideas back and forth over a great breadth of different styles from all different eras. There's a good level of passion and friction, and there was a
healthy give-and-take, of questioning things, then coming to an informed decision in the studio. I certainly learned a great deal working on this album."
Taylor suggested the energy of All Your Favorite Bands matches that of their very first album, though
this time the spontaneity was part of a concerted plan rather than the necessity of budgetary
"There is so much joy in these songs, they make me smile when I hear them," he concluded. "We woke
up every day looking forward to the fact we would be playing together in the studio. That's all we ever
care about doing."
All Your Favorite Bands is the kind of album that could well make Dawes your favorite band.
The brothers KONGOS -- multi-cultural, multi-faceted, multi-instrumentalists -- craft a unique and irresistible sound spawned from shared DNA, diverse influences and spot-on melodic and lyrical sensibilities. On "Lunatic," their 12-song Epic Records debut, the band's talent shines on "Come With Me Now"; the title an impossible-to-resist aural summons, the rock-alt crossover tune kicking off with the accordion, jumping into foot-stomping, staccato rhythms, slide guitar, and soaring epic soundscapes reminiscent of U2. "I'm Only Joking," whose lyrics hint at the album's title, hits the mark with decisive tribal rhythms and Pink Floyd-esque mysterious modern rock. Thanks to an earlier self-release of "Lunatic," KONGOS are already stars overseas, playing their numerous hits off "Lunatic" for crowds of up to 65,000 at South African festivals and touring the Republic with Linkin Park, and the UK and Europe with AWOLNATION and Dispatch. With a Feb-March North American tour with Airborne Toxic Event and alternative and rock radio hot on "Come With Me Now" and "I'm Only Joking," (not to mention "Come With Me Now" in promos for NFL, NBA and ESPN), 2014 is quickly shaping up as the year the U.S. catches KONGOS fever.
KONGOS' life story is as cinematic and captivating as their songs. The siblings, who range in age from 25 (Danny) to 32 (Johnny), were born to popular '70s South African/ British singer-songwriter John Kongos ("He's Gonna Step On You Again," "Tokoloshe Man"). Spending their early childhood in London (all were born there except Danny), then South Africa before settling in Phoenix in the mid-90s, the boys were exposed to a wide variety of sounds. "We listened to everything from classical and opera like Puccini to African tribal music to 60s and 70s pop and rock," says Dylan, who cites African bassist Richard Bona, Béla Fleck's Victor Wooten, and singing players like Sting and Paul McCartney as influences. His rhythm section partner, Jesse, who studied Jazz at ASU (as did Johnny), remembers learning boogie-woogie and classical piano as a child before getting into African drums, then jazz greats like Jack DeJohnette. As KONGOS grew together as a rock band, Jesse loved the vibe and feel of Zeppelin's John Bonham, and currently admires gospel and hip hop drummers like Aaron Spears and Carlos McSwain. Danny also boasts a myriad of influences, ranging from Jeff Beck to Mahmoud Ahmed -- "the James Brown of Ethiopia" -- for his use of unconventional pentatonic scales. Johnny, who is a student of jazz and classical piano, cites Keith Jarrett as a hero, while his accordion playing draws from various world styles, including South African maskandi and Qawwali music.
Despite the immense and wide-ranging familial talent, the brothers were never groomed to be a "family band," and as Jesse notes, "our parents wanted us to learn music like you do Math or English." But the siblings joke, "we got to a point where we didn't want to get a real job so we stuck with music." Johnny adds, "Hey, most of the family bands everyone knows have been hugely successful!" Of course, the Jackson 5, Beach Boys, the Osmond Brothers and more recently minted family bands like Kings of Leon do seem to have an advantage inherent in the DNA. That said, despite inborn talent, KONGOS are all about hard work and humility. Interestingly, each brother writes separately and brings completed songs to the group. Additionally, they don't necessarily sing their own songs. Live, Jesse and Dylan share lead vocals, while on "Lunatic," Johnny and Danny also sing: "It depends on whose voice works for that song," says Dylan. "It's a lot of rehearsing to find where each voice fits; like Danny has a high register that's nice." To make the family and musical dynamic smooth, Johnny notes with a laugh: "We are a democracy with an occasional dictator. Everything band-wise is done together, but recording we give the power to the songwriter. As for the day to day organization and business, it's a total democracy."
Clearly, it's a formula that works, and on "Lunatic," they put all the pieces together into a cohesive whole. The brothers use a family recording studio -- Tokoloshe Studios -- named after their father's hit song. Completely self-contained, they write, produce, engineer and mix/master their music as well as direct, shoot and edit all their own music videos. Hardly hermits, since debuting at a high school talent show in 2003 (covering "Eleanor Rigby"!), beginning in 2007 KONGOS played out incessantly, focusing on building a following in Phoenix, garnering local airplay, West Coast tours, and eventually coveted slots at SXSW and CMJ. The years of dedication paid off: In 2011, hanging in the studio, the brothers decided to email a few songs to South African radio stations. 5FM, the biggest Top 40 station in South Africa, playlisted "I'm Only Joking," which hit No. 1 on the rock chart and was the most requested song for 11 weeks in a row. "In retrospect it was one of those crazy stories; the guy opened the email and played it on the radio and it changed everything for us in South Africa," recalls Johnny. "We didn't expect anything like what happened."
While live is where KONGOS' uplifting, universal musicality reaches the masses, the studio is indeed a second home for the brothers -- as kids, at their father's home studio in London, Elton John's or Cat Stevens' group was often the house band, while the elder Kongos worked with Mutt Lange to program Def Leppard's drums for "Pyromania." The total lifelong musical immersion makes "Lunatic" -- and KONGOS -- a rare breed of band. Fluent in numerous styles and eras, still, at the end of the day, a rock band. "We're making rock and pop music and our more obscure influences may only come out when we are attacking an extended solo," they explain. "But we definitely relate to bigger bands like Daft Punk, Coldplay and Queens of the Stone Age."
The band also agreed that they were happy with "Lunatic" being a diverse record: "We each have different styles and personalities, so we embrace that. We have a KONGOS sound which is not exactly assigned, but we have an essence, a picture in our mind of what it will sound like." The press concur, praising the band's "classic rock elements, African rhythms and Balkan beats" and their "incontestable youthful talent...[and] emotional outpourings." The bottom line? KONGOS "want to write music that we like listening to." Fortunately, with tastes as diverse as theirs, that's a winning proposition for fans of all ages and predilections.
John McCauley and Deer Tick have long walked a tightwire between total despair and fractured resilience, but Negativity represents a heroic leap forward on virtually all fronts for the Providence, Rhode Island-based band. Recorded earlier this year in Portland, Oregon with legendary producer/musician Steve Berlin (The Blasters, Los Lobos, and last year's McCauley side project, Diamond Rugs), the album –Deer Tick's fifth full-length studio release, and follow-up to 2011's acclaimed Divine Providence – is McCauley's most personal work thus far as well as the band's most undeniable and universal, their famously freewheeling musical approach refined here into a gloriously cohesive whole.
Deer Tick – sounding as sure-footed as one would expect from a band who have spent a couple of hundred nights each year on stage for more than half a decade – more than match the strength of the songs by taking a more detailed approach than on some of the breakneck recordings of their past. From the sparkling baroque pop of "The Dream's In The Ditch" (penned by guitarist Ian O'Neil) to the full-blown Memphis showstopper, "Trash," Negativity sees the Tick bridging boozy punk, AM gold, bar band blues, country soul, and whatever else catches their fancy into their own profoundly American rock 'n' roll. Additional sonic color comes courtesy of magnificently arranged brass accompaniment by Austin, Texas's GRAMMY®-winning Latin fusion collective, Grupo Fantasma.
While Deer Tick have been rightfully hailed for their raucous rave-ups and substance-fueled fervor, Negativity places considerable focus on the band's nuanced and tender side, with notable highlights including the wrenching breakup ballad, "Hey Doll," and the stunning "In Our Time." Written from his father's perspective, the song is a timeless country tearjerker featuring McCauley's good friend, singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton singing duet vocals in the "role" of his mom.
"I guess I'll catch you on the other side," McCauley sings in the album's final moment, a promise that, despite the pain and fatalism and yes, negativity, he's here for the long haul. Heartbreaking, fist-pumping, and ultimately life-affirming, Negativity stands as an indisputable high water mark for Deer Tick – a defining collection from a rock 'n' roll band driven by an undying faith in the power of redemption and transcendence.
Charles Bradley has made a name for himself as a riveting live performer and was named to the top spot on Paste Magazine's Best Live Acts of 2015. He has taken his show to venues and festivals across the globe including Coachella, Glastonbury Festival and Primavera Sound. The Brooklyn-based 67-year old will release his third album Changes on April 1 via Daptone Records, which Rolling Stone calls one of the "Most Anticipated Albums of 2016." The remarkable against-all-odds rise of Charles Bradley since the release of his 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming has been well documented. He transcended a bleak life on the streets and struggled through a series of ill-fitting jobs before finally being discovered by Daptone's Gabriel Roth. The year following the release of No Time For Dreaming was one triumph after another including a breakthrough performance at SXSW, several television performances and having the album named to many year end "best of" lists. The soul singer's ascent continued with the 2013 release of his triumphant second album Victim of Love, which saw Bradley emerging from his past heartaches stronger and more confident, overflowing with love to share.
Booker T Jones
It can be argued that it was Booker T. Jones who set the cast for modern soul music and is largely responsible for its rise and enduring popularity. On classic Stax hits like "Green Onions," "Hang 'Em High," "Time Is Tight," and "Melting Pot" the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Musicians Hall of Fame inductee and GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient pushed the music's boundaries, refined it to its essence and then injected it into the nation's bloodstream. Sound the Alarm, the new album from Booker T, finds the Hammond B3 organ master looking ahead yet again, laying down his distinctive bedrock grooves amid a succession of sparkling collaborations with some of contemporary R&B's most gifted young voices.
Sound the Alarm also marks Booker T's historic return to Stax Records, the Memphis soul label the instrumentalist, bandleader, producer, and songwriter helped put on the map during the 1960s, along with his brilliant band, the MGs.
Creatively, it's another bold new step in a career that has witnessed a striking resurgence in recent years. Booker T took home Best Pop Instrumental Album GRAMMY Awards for both 2010's Potato Hole, his head-turning collaboration with The Drive-By Truckers and 2012's The Road From Memphis, his critically acclaimed album with The Roots.
He is not resting on those laurels. For Sound the Alarm, Booker T shares production chores with brothers Bobby Ross Avila and Issiah "IZ" Avila, who co-wrote eight songs and serve as the rhythm section on most of the album's 12 tracks. The highly sought after siblings have worked with such top acts as Usher, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot, Chaka Khan and Earth, Wind & Fire.
"Bobby and I had previously done a little impromptu gig with El Debarge – that was the turning point when I decided to work with him," Booker says. "They have a different perspective about the musical palette," he adds regarding their approach. "Their attitude is quite unique and quite innovative. That's something I've looked for since I was maybe 13 or 14 years old and had figured out a little bit about music. It can be very predictable or it can be exploratory. I'm always looking for something new to do."
For the tracks "All Over the Place" and "Broken Heart," the Avila Brothers were joined behind the board by the legendary Twin Cities production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. "Bobby was instrumental in bringing them to California when they left Minneapolis," Booker says. "Terry also contributed music and lyrics and vocal production on this album. He was very instrumental in helping choose many of the singers and direction of the songs."
Sound the Alarm is graced with soulful guest performances by R&B stars Anthony Hamilton (on "Gently") and Estelle (on "Can't Wait"). Another dynamic talent, Raphael Saadiq, contributes guitar work on "Broken Heart" and "Feel Good." Says Booker of the neo-soul star, "He's been an inspiration for the album."
The set also showcases a number of exciting singers who are just beginning to make their mark on contemporary R&B, including Mayer Hawthorne ("Sound the Alarm"), Jay James ("Broken Heart") and Luke James ("All Over the Place").
"Your Love is No More," features the Los Angeles-based group Vintage Trouble, who also co-wrote the number with Booker T. "John Burk, the co-executive producer of the album, took me to see them opening for Joss Stone at the Wiltern Theatre in L.A., and I just loved them," he says. "They don't have a keyboard, and they always say that I'm the only guy they're going to play with."
Sound the Alarm also features some top-flight instrumentalists from outside the soul/R&B sphere. "Austin City Blues" is a showpiece for the stunning Texas blues guitarist Gary Clark, Jr. "Gary and I have a real thing going on mentally, kind of like what I had with Steve Cropper in the MGs, really understanding each other," says Booker. "He really is in my corner."
"66 Impala," a largely instrumental Latin jazz outing features two of the genre's top percussionists, Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E. "He's holding the line there as far as Latin jazz-pop rhythm goes," Booker states. "And Sheila has an amazing family history, with Coke Escovedo, who was with Santana, and her dad Pete. That's the tradition that she is carrying on. She has that Escovedo thing."
Family plays a role in a couple of other tracks on Sound the Alarm. On "Watch You Sleeping," Booker T shares the vocals with Kori Withers, daughter of Bill Withers, whose first hits "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands" Booker produced. "When I came out to California, her dad was the first person I produced out here. I went to a 50th anniversary celebration for him in West Virginia. They had a film of his life, and Kori was singing on the film. John Burk suggested that we use her on the song. Kori is very expressive. She's her own person, and she's a beautiful singer."
The family tradition is also apparent with the appearance of Booker T's 22-year-old son Ted on guitar for a gorgeous duo track, aptly titled "Father Son Blues." After hearing Ted's accomplished playing in his home's family room and mistaking it for the work of blues hotshot Joe Bonamassa, Booker says, "I thought, 'This is amazing – you can have something right in front of your own nose and you don't see it!'"
Flush with new ideas and young talent, Sound the Alarm is also an exciting reconnection to the Stax Records tradition, which began for Booker T as a teen, when the Bluff City label was founded out of McLemore Avenue's Satellite Record Shop. "I found the music that I loved for the rest of my life at Satellite Records, while I was on my bike soliciting customers on my paper route," he recalled. "I walked into the lobby of the Capitol Theater, and it had been transformed into a record store, and there was Steve Cropper playing records for me there when I was in ninth grade. That legacy is my heart and my life. That's where I come from." And, Booker adds, "I have music inside me, and I'm looking forward to the future. I'm very excited about making some things happen."
John Paul White
Beulah. It's a small, complicated word with a tangle of meanings.
It's the title of John Paul White's new album, his first in nearly a decade, a remarkably and assuredly diverse collection spanning plaintive folk balladry, swampy
southern rock, lonesome campfire songs, and dark acoustic pop. Gothic and ambitious, with a rustic, lived-in sound, it's a meditation on love curdling into its opposite, on recrimination defining relationships, on hope finally filtering through doubt.
Beulah is also a White family nickname. "It's a term of endearment around our house," White explains, "like you would call someone 'Honey.' My dad used to call my little sister Beulah, and I call my daughter Beulah. It's something I've always been around."
Beulah is also something much loftier. For the poet and painter William Blake, Beulah was a place deep in the collective spiritual unconscious. "I won't pretend to be the smartest guy in the world," says White, "but I dig a lot of what he's written. Beulah was a place you could go in your dreams. You could go there in meditation, to relax and heal and center yourself. It wasn't a place you could stay, but you came back to the world in a better state."
And perhaps the music on this album originated in that "pleasant lovely Shadow where no dispute can come." According to White, the songs came to him unbidden—and not entirely welcome. "When these songs started popping into my head, I had been home for a while and I was perfectly happy. I wasn't looking for songs. I didn't know whether any would pop back in my head again, and I was honestly okay with that. I'm a very happy father and husband, and I love where I live. I love working with artists for a label that I think is doing good work."
Far from the grind and glamour of Nashville—where he worked for years as a working songwriter before stepping into the spotlight himself—White settled in his hometown of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a wellspring of gritty Southern rock and soul since the 1960s. Together with Alabama Shakes keyboard player Ben Tanner and Shoals native Will Trapp, he founded and runs Single Lock Records, a local indie label that has released records by some of the Magnolia State's finest, including Dylan LeBlanc, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and legendary songwriter and keyboard player Donnie Fritts. The label is based in a small ranch house a stone's throw from White's own home, which would come in handy when those songs started invading his head.
"Honestly, I tried to avoid them, but then I realized the only way I was going to get rid of them was if I wrote them down. I got my phone out and I'd sing these little bits of melody, then put it away and move on. But eventually I got to a place where it was a roar in my head, and that pissed me off." Due to his experiences as a gun-for-hire in Nashville, White was reluctant to romanticize the creative process, to turn it into a spiritual pursuit. "Then one day I told my wife I think I'm going to go write a song. She was as surprised as I was. I went and wrote probably eight songs in three days. It was like turning on a faucet."
Most artists would kill for such a downpour, but White was wary of the consequences. He knew that writing songs would lead to recording them, which would result in releasing them, and that means touring and leaving home for weeks at a time. "As soon as I write a song, I start thinking what other people might think of it. I've talked to friends about this: What is it about us that makes us do that? Why can't I just sit on my back porch and sing these songs out into the ether? I don't have an answer for it yet, but I think it's just part of who I am. I need that reaction. I need to feel like I'm moving someone in a good way or in a bad way. I need to feel like there's a connection."
White threw himself into the project, no longer the reluctant songwriter but a craftsman determined to make the best album possible—to do these songs justice. He cut several songs at the renowned FAME Studios in his hometown, where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, the Allmans, the Osmonds, Bobbie Gentry, Arthur Conley, and Clarence Carter recorded some of their most popular hits.
One product of those sessions is "What's So," which introduces itself by way of a fire-and- brimstone riff, as heavy as a guilty conscience—the kind of riff you wouldn't be surprised to hear on a Sabbath album. But White's vocals are gritty and soulful, a product of the Shoals, almost preacherly as he sings about earthly and eternal damnation: "Sell your damn soul or get right with the man, keep treading water as long as you can," he exhorts the listener. "But before you do, you must understand that you don't get above your raisin'." It's the heaviest moment on the record, perhaps the darkest in White's career.
At the other end of the spectrum is "The Martyr," one of the catchiest tunes White has ever penned. The spryness of the melody imagines Elliott Smith wandering the banks of the Tennessee River, yet the song is shot through with a pervasive melancholy as White wrestles with his own demons. "Keep falling on your sword, sink down a little more," he sings over a dexterous acoustic guitar theme. This is not, however, a song about some unnamed person, but rather a pained self-diagnosis: "These are the wounds that I will not let heal, the ones that I deserve and seem so real." White knows he's playing the martyr, but he leaves the song hauntingly open-ended, as though he isn't sure what to do with this epiphany beyond putting it in a song.
The rest of Beulah was recorded in the Single Lock offices/studio near White's home. "I can be more relaxed about the process. We can all just sit there and talk about records or baseball without feeling like someone's standing over our shoulders. That's a big deal to me, not to feel pressured. And I'm only about twenty yards away from home, so I can walk over and throw a baseball with my kids or make dinner with my wife."
Some of the quieter—but no less intense—songs on Beulah were created in that environment, including the ominously erotic opener "Black Leaf" and the Southern gothic love song "Make You Cry." As he worked, a distinctive and intriguing aesthetic began to grow clearer and clearer, one based in austere arrangements and plaintive moods. These are songs with empty spaces in them, dark corners that could hold ghosts or worse. "There were certain moments when Ben and I would finish up a song, listen back to it, and think how in the world did we get here. But that's just what the songs ask for. These are the sounds in my head. This is the sound of me thinking and living and breathing and doing."
Once White had everything assembled and sequenced, it was time to give the album a title, to wrap everything up for the listener. Beulah stuck—not only because of family history or Blake, but because White realized that making music was his own trip to Beulah. "If you had to sum up what music is for most people in this world, it's that. It's that escape. It's that refuge. You go there and you come back and you use that to help you with your life. You always have that as a place to go."
A digital download of Peter Wolf's forthcoming album, "A Cure For Loneliness" (available April 8), is included with every ticket you order for this show. You will receive an email with instructions on how to receive your download following your purchase.
"A Cure for Loneliness" manifests the same vibrant passion for music that's motivated Peter Wolf for most of his life. Growing up in an artistic, politically engaged family in the Bronx, he became an early rock 'n' roll convert after attending an Alan Freed rock 'n' roll revue that included performances by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Frankie Lymon. His thirst for new and old sounds drove him to exploring blues, soul, country, folk and jazz, inspiring weekly visits to Harlem's Apollo Theatre and leading to acquaintances with many of the music's surviving originators.
Wolf's talent as a painter won him a grant to study at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. While a student there, he experienced a life-changing epiphany after jumping on stage to sing with a blues band at a loft party. He soon talked himself into membership in that band, The Hallucinations.
"I didn't join a band to meet girls," Wolf recalls. "I joined my first band to meet musicians. Painting was a fascination for me, but I was a music fanatic, and sitting in with that band was a born-again type of experience for me. I was transfixed, and myself and some of the guys in the band would check out performances by the musicians we admired so much, like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and John Coltrane and Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers. Those roots stayed with me."
Wolf's natural loquaciousness won him a job as an all-night DJ on the fledgling FM rock station WBCN. Adopting the persona of "the Woofa Goofa," he spun raw rock 'n' roll and rhythm 'n' blues, channeling the spirit of the flashy, fast-talking DJs he'd grown up listening to.
Wolf's encyclopedic musical knowledge came in handy when he and some like-minded Boston players formed the J. Geils Band, much of whose early repertoire was drawn from Wolf's vast record collection. The band soon became a local favorite injecting a much-needed jolt of raw, uninhibited rock 'n' roll into the '70s scene and was soon signed by Jerry Wexler for Atlantic Records. Between 1970 and 1983, the J. Geils Band released 13 influential albums, topped the pop single charts with 1981's "Freeze Frame," "Love Stinks," "Centerfold," and earned a reputation as one of rock's most exciting live acts, thanks in large part to Wolf's flamboyant, hyperactive stage presence.
After going solo with 1984's Lights Out, Wolf continued to stake out new musical territory with the subsequent releases Lights Out, Come As You Are, Up to No Good, Long Line, Fool's Parade, Sleepless and Midnight Souvenirs. His solo work has seen him collaborate with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Merle Haggard, John Lee Hooker, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Little Milton, Wilson Pickett, Shelby Lynne and Neko Case. Wolf temporarily reunited with his J. Geils Band cohorts for live shows on several occasions between 1999 and 2015, but his solo career has remained his creative focus, as A Cure for Loneliness makes clear.
The Record Company
L.A.-based buzz band The Record Company has signed with Concord Music Group, which is releasing its debut album Give It Back to You on February 12, 2016.
The rock/roots trio of Chris Vos (guitar, lead vocals, harmonica), Alex Stiff (bass, guitar, vocals) and Marc Cazorla (drums, piano, vocals) has already been hailed by LA Weekly for "making bluesy music that would sound more at home in a sweaty, backwoods Mississippi juke joint," while Time Out Los Angeles has described their sound as "reminiscent of some of the best acts of the '50s and '60s—like if John Lee Hooker and the Stooges had a well- behaved love child."
The comparisons are apt.
"We have been influenced by early electric blues, so some of that influence certainly shows," acknowledges Vos. "But we're just as influenced by bands like the Stones and The Stooges as we are by blues legends like Hooker, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed."
Wherever it comes from, Vos, Stiff and Cazorla have clearly come up with a fresh take on classic rock 'n' roll that has proven appeal: Their music, well ahead of a record deal, has been featured in over 30 commercial, film, and television placements including the theatrical trailer for Last Vegas and ads for Coors Light, Subaru, Showtime's Shameless,
ABC's Nashville, CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and a current ad for Miller Lite.
Meanwhile, The Record Company has developed a reputation as a live act worthy of sharing the stage with such top attractions as B.B. King, Grace Potter, Trombone Shorty, Buddy Guy, Charles Bradley, Robert Randolph, The Wood Brothers, Social Distortion, and Blackberry Smoke—with whom they toured the U.K. and Europe. On the strength of two EPs (Superdead, released in 2012, and Feels So Good, in 2013), the band received strong college and Triple A radio format airplay and performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Milwaukee's Summerfest, NAPA Valley's Bottlerock, Ottawa Folkfest, the Quebec City International Summer Festival and the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.
"Our sound has a lot of early rock n' roll but with a greater emphasis on the drums and bass," says Vos. "We aim to make the speakers move with our recordings."
The group writes, rehearses, records and mixes all of its music in the same living room in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz where it originated.
"It all comes from our desire to write the best songs we can–and the most honest music that we can," says Vos. "We try to mix in different elements to keep it fresh. For example,
our song 'On the Move' has just harmonica, bass, and drums with no guitar. 'Don't Let Me Get Lonely' has all acoustic instruments–including acoustic bass–to capture more of
the rockabilly vibe that we dig, that is in so much of the stuff we listen to."
The themes and stories in the lyrics of the songs are all draw from the threesome's collective experiences.
"They are just stories we wanted to tell," Vos continues. "They can be simple or complex, depending on what the music is calling for. Music and melody usually precede the lyric for us."
He notes, too, that each of The Record Company members play several instruments both live and on record.
"We work hard to incorporate them into the music as creatively as possible," he says. "So besides the typical guitar, bass and drums, we also mix in harmonica, dobro slide, lap slide, pedal steel, piano, etc. It's about making the right choices for the songs and keeping things as engaging as possible throughout the album–without compromising the integrity of the song."
"Off the Ground" is the first single from Give It Back to You.
"It was one of the last songs we wrote for it," continues Vos. "The opening riff is Alex playing slide on a bass with a little delay on it, then Marc comes in with the drums, and I come in with my old junky lap steel guitar that I love so much. I was trying to capture a Hound Dog Taylor-esque sound on the slide guitar. We wanted to give the bass a fresh approach so Alex started playing the riff with a slide and we loved the way it sounded."
The song is already making noise, thanks to a music video and its usage in the Miller Lite commercial.
"It's cool to have a song in a commercial for my dad's favorite beer!" says Vos, who like Miller beer, hails from Wisconsin.
"I grew up on a working dairy farm in Wisconsin that my family still owns and runs. It is something I am very proud of: I grew up milking cows, driving tractors, and bailing hay. Then I moved out to L.A. in 2010 to chase the dream of writing and playing music full-time."
Not knowing anyone in his new hometown, Vos started jamming around.
"I was jamming with some good people but I wanted a full-time thing, and ended up getting in touch with Alex. We hit it off as friends and he invited me to his pad to listen to some old vinyl records and hang out. It was there that I met Marc."
They immediately recognized that they shared the same music tastes, and enjoyed jamming together. One night they listened to the classic John Lee Hooker-Canned Heat
album Hooker N' Heat, and were galvanized.
"Later that week I came back to Alex's with an amp," Vos recalls. "The three of us set up some microphones in the living room and recorded ourselves running through some songs. We were listening to the playback and decided right then and there that we had to be a band."
After recording a few tunes, "we hunted down every email address we could and started mailing stuff out to everybody basically saying, 'Hey! We just formed this band in our living room. Listen to this for five seconds.' Out of those first recordings we got booked into the Montreal Jazz Festival and Harvest Festival in Canada, and got on our first tours."
They settled on the band's name after discovering that The Record Company was somehow available.
"We all agreed right away that it had to be the name," says Vos. "Given the way we started, where we are from, and what we love to play, it makes perfect sense."
But making records notwithstanding, it's playing live that sets this Record Company apart.
"I always think of a performance as one less time on stage–not one more," Vos concludes. "Nobody can say how many shows you get to play in your life. So we try to play our guts out, leave it all on the table, and have fun doing it."
$95.00 - $150.00
The Beale Street Music Festival will take place rain or shine. Performances may be postponed or canceled if weather conditions are deemed unsafe. Performers and performance times are subject to change without notice. All guests must have tickets, no age restrictions.