Horsehead, Kenneka Cook


Casual Dracula, the 5th full-length release by Richmond, VA's Horsehead is a concise and exciting new effort that finds the group rejuvenated and firing on all cylinders.

After the group's 4th album, 2013's "Sympathetic Vibrations," was backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign, took almost a year to record and was placed on the ballot for a 2014 Grammy nomination, they were determined to capture the sound of the band as it is; 5 people playing Rock&Roll in a room, together.

With Casual Dracula, the entirety of the collection's 11 new songs, penned by singer-guitarist Jon Brown with writing help on 3 songs by longtime friend and band mate of 17 years, guitarist Kevin Wade Inge, were recorded in just 4 days at Richmond's Scott's Addition Sound by engineer Kevin Willoughby.

"Just as our fourth record was being released, my mother passed away and I couldn't function. Suddenly, there's this giant hole in the universe," Brown says. "As a person who writes songs almost daily, I found myself directionless and uninspired, except that I knew I wanted to write a song in her honor. I kept having a very vivid, recurring dream about her for months that lead to the writing of "I Built A Bridge," the final song on the record. In a way, it helped me get back on my feet again. It was rewritten about 15 times before I was satisfied. With that song done, I felt a little lighter and able to begin writing again."
After that initial jolt, the writing really began to take a somewhat political slant, exemplifying the division of wealth in America in "Last Word Wins" and "Border Living", while also touching on subjects like depression in "Feel Too Good To Cry."

While preparing to record the album, Jon, Kevin, drummer Gregg Brooks and bassist Randy Mendicino enlisted the help of talented keyboardist, Ben Willson. This addition of Willson to the band really allowed them to get a succinct, stripped-down sound, being able to record mostly live in the studio. "The experience of making this record was such a cleansing and positive one for me," says Brown. Inge adds, "It just feels immediate, real, and right."

Casual Dracula is a dynamic, unapologetic love letter to American Rock and Roll.

Kenneka Cook

Kenneka Cook has always loved outer space.

Growing up in Richmond, VA, she was obsessed with the moon, staring out her window at the night sky in awe of its mystery. The title track on Cook’s debut record Moonchild, set for a February 23rd release on American Paradox, is both a product of her intense connection with the cosmos, as well as a tribute to the embracing of celestial feminine energy. Musically, Cook bridges the gap between beat-driven sonics and melodic jazz in a brazenly colorful and tonally rich debut album.

Cook’s early training took place in her church choir and school chorus. Her tastes eventually shifted towards heavyweights like Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu, and The Cardigans, informing her confidently playful, harmony-heavy, atmospheric style. Initially she was making acapella songs with a microphone and laptop during the end of her college career out of necessity, describing her voice as “the only instrument I truly had access to” at the time.

She discovered the process of live looping through Reggie Watts, who sometimes uses looping techniques in the songs found in his comedy acts. She covered the jazz standard “Night and Day” using the technique and it turned out better than she ever could have hoped. From there, she began to fully explore creating music and on the new album, she welcomes a variety of live players into the fold to flush out and widen the unique sound she created on her own.

Moonchild is a glimpse through Cook’s lens, exhibiting heartfelt lyrics and melodic themes on spirituality, technology, and social interaction. The album opens with serious meditations on the state of human connection (“My Universe”, “Don’t Ask Me”) and finds its way to a fun-as-hell-take on the now-classic “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” by Vampire Weekend. “Please” transforms a conversation between Cook and her mother into a soft hymn, and “Brings Me Back (111)” depicts the mutual beckoning of soulmates.

There’s a DIY backbone here too, as the album was recorded entirely in producer Scott Lane's living room, transformed into a makeshift studio that was regularly set up and torn down. It was recorded this past summer over 3 months time, and features players Devonne Harris (piano/Butcher Brown), Kelli Strawbridge (drums/Kings), Caleb Knight (drums/Sammi Lanzetta), Chris Speasmaker (piano/The Congress), Andrew Sisk (drums/Angelica Garcia), Marcus Tenney (trumpet/Foxygen), Russell Lacy (guitar/Mikrowaves), Sid Kingsley (saxophone/Sid Kingsley), Jared Pool (mandolin/Larry Keel), and Scott Lane (production/engineering).

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