Christopher The Conquered

Christopher The Conquered

Christopher the Conquered wants you to read between the lines. That said, he's got a damn good reason for naming his full-length debut album, I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll [Maximum Ames Records].

"I'm not referring to music," he explains. "It's the idea of Rock & Roll as a metaphor for misrepresenting yourself. Living behind a mask or a façade is not a healthy way to live. That's what I'm giving up on. People love Rock & Roll, and I love Rock & Roll. However, the person I am onstage is also the person I am offstage."

It's this sort of pure honesty that defines the album's nine tracks, and it's also why Christopher made some serious waves in 2015. The Iowa singer, songwriter, and performer has crafted a declaratory musical statement that's impossible to ignore. In the summer of 2015, he shared the stage with Natalie Prass and handed her an early copy of I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll. She in turn passed it on to Ryan Adams who took to Twitter and Instagram calling the album, "Crazy and incredible." Soon after, Christopher landed on the front page of Reddit and in Billboard as the title track and single "I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll" quickly passed 60,000 plays on Soundcloud. This properly set the stage for the album's 2016 release.

"I wanted this to be a cohesive experience that takes listeners on a journey," he goes on. "This album strips everything back; this is me."

Mapping out the skeleton of the record from the piano melodies to the horns in his Iowa basement, Christopher had architected a clear vision by the time he entered Ardent Studios in Memphis with producer Patrick Tape Fleming. As a result, they cut the entire album to tape in just nine days.

The music segues from pensive lyricism to heavenly horns and resounding keys on the likes of the elegiacally gorgeous "On My Final Day."

"I always want people to really focus on the lyrics," he says. "The song is about contemplating the way you spend your time and the one life you have. It comes out in a positive light asking the question, 'What impact did I make?'"

Everything culminates on the delicate strings and guitars of "I'm Not That Famous Yet" where Christopher's self-effacing philosophizing reaches divine heights as expansive as his vocal range.

"I was in a bit of a jealous mood," he admits. "I was watching a band, and I wrote this in response to the silliness of the interplay between the audience and the artist. After I wrote the song, I sorta snapped out of it and realized that group worked their asses off up to that point and brought joy to every person in the room. Now, I get excited for another artist's success because it means there are opportunities for me to do what I want to do."

Christopher has known what he wanted to do since growing up in an Iowa town of just 1,300. Without even an antenna for the family TV let alone cable, he became obsessed with music through listening to Motown and classic rock & roll with his parents and repeatedly watching Disney classics like The Lion King and The Jungle Book on repeat. He taught himself drums, trumpet, piano, and guitar, even auditing a college Jazz History class at just 12-years-old alongside his dad. He also found music via faith. Living in a devoutly religious home, he spent a lot of time in church.

"Our church was full of music, and I even played for a while as part of a worship group there. The experience taught me the power of music to connect with people on an emotional level. That spiritual feeling is something that has stuck with me, and that I try to inject into my performances."

Throughout, Christopher architected a sound that's both poetically ponderous and theatrically bombastic. Now, he's officially sharing it.

"This album isn't for me," he leaves off. "The art happens when you're alone at the piano. I got my satisfaction from that part of the process. Now, I've created something for the world. I want people to reflect on their lives and what they're doing when they listen to this and feel happy. There's no reason to live under any pretense or obligations other than your own passion and love. The album is about that."

The Cowards Choir

After ten years on the road, Andy Zipf is taking a new name: The Cowards Choir.

It took me a few years to figure things out. I'm grateful for the time I've had to chip away at some edges. Now I'm ready to begin again."

This spring, The Cowards Choir will release NAME THE FEAR, featuring the talents of Ryan Walker, Alissa Moore and Dayana Yochim. Produced by Jeremy S.H. Griffith (SUNBEARS!, Johnnyswimm) Name The Fear will be the first full length effort since Zipf took the new moniker. In addition to the album, there will be an accompanying visual score by William S. Davis of Small Creatures.

Upon completion of this project, The Cowards Choir will be performing Name The Fear – with the visual score as a back drop – in NYC, DC, Charlotte and other locations across the U.S.

The Pinkerton Raid

Time was, The Pinkerton Raid's Jesse James DeConto would spend his days writing about murder and mayhem as a newspaper reporter. Almost every day, he'd drive from his former home in Carrboro to the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough, N.C.

Driving north on Highway 86, he'd pass a traffic sign that said "TOLERANCE ENDS." It was meant for big-rig truckers, to tell them to detour off the country road and get on the sturdier Interstate 85.

Something about crime reporting that most people don't know: There's a lot of waiting around. You sit there in court, waiting for a judge to make a ruling, waiting for a lawyer to show up, waiting for a defendant to be brought over from the jail.

"I'd be watching people's lives falling apart – or already having fallen apart – and I was watching a seven-year relationship falling apart in my own life, thinking about what went wrong, what was next for me," Jesse says. "I'd just sit there writing lyrics in my reporter's notebook."

Out of those vulnerable moments sprang the songs from Tolerance Ends, Love Begins, The Pinkerton Raid's third full-length album.

What started with intimate, personal storytelling became a communal experience with instrumentation evolving over the next seven years, as Jesse handed off songs like "Tolerance Ends," "Hollywood," and "Deeper Than Skin" for his sister Katie to take lead vocals.

The siblings built many of the arrangements around their brother Steven's acoustic guitar, layering Eric Johnson and Michael DePue's electric guitars with the expansive drumming of Steve Anderson (Kamara Thomas & The Night Drivers) and the twee textures of Chimeatron, ukulele and brass. Wilson Greene (Look Homeward, Mipso) added guitars and banjo.

Recorded with Mark Simonsen (The Old Ceremony, Dead Tongues) and Thom Canova at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium and at Studio M in the spring of 2016, Tolerance Ends, Love Begins is a story of broken love and resurrection, their most hopeful collection to date.

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