Max and The Moon, Harper Blynn

Max and The Moon

Emerging out of the combustive indie music scene of southern California in 2009, Max and the Moon and their relentless gig-playing have created a buzz that rides on its own frequency. The three-piece band, on the verge of officially releasing their second EP titled "The Way I See," display a talent for intricate songwriting and sounds ranging in resemblance to early Coldplay and the dancy catchiness of Passion Pit. Substance magazine writes, "their music has a way of pulling you in with their starry guitar echoing in combination with John’s soothing vocals and superb upper register."

On their first release, a self-titled EP (2010), Max and the Moon laid the foreground with a straight-up indie album. Laden with strong guitar licks, steady piano and punctuated vocal harmonies—the band makes full use of two primary vocalists—the EP affirmed the band as a group to pay attention to. Max and the Moon's follow-up, "The Way I See," shows the band's maturation into stronger songwriting and experimentation with new sounds, expanding their scope and offering a significant contribution to the ever-changing music scene in the wake of fellow Los Angeles-based band Local Natives.

Guitarist John Velasquez earned a degree in music at Cal State University, Fullerton, and began collaborating with longtime friends Matt and Dillon Couchois in the two brothers' small garage studio. The three-piece has come a long way in the few short years since their formation, challenging themselves everyday with booking shows or heading back to the drawing board on a new song that doesn't quite capture the right vision. In the present age of endless hype around new music, Max and the Moon stay true to passionately personal songwriting. That isn't to say these guys are low-key, though; the band revels in putting on energetic rock shows.

Harper Blynn

Hot on the heels of a move to Los Angeles from their former home of Brooklyn, Harper Blynn continue to turn heads with their soaring brand of rock. Bucking a growing trend in modern live music, the band avoids the use of prerecorded tracks and auto-tuned vocals, instead relying on their instruments and voices to generate their epic soundscapes. After making albums with legendary producers David Kahne (Paul McCartney, The Strokes), Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris) and John O’Mahony (Metric, Coldplay), Harper Blynn have been busy working on their forthcoming full-length, as well as cowriting and playing on Sara Bareilles’ new album The Blessed Unrest. TV shows like Revenge, The Vampire Diaries, House of Lies and Pretty Little Liars have all taken note and featured the band’s music in the past year. Rounded out with upcoming tour dates in the fall of 2013 with Bareilles and One Republic, Harper Blynn show no signs of slowing down.

El Sportivo & The Blooz

When you're seeking out powerful rock n' roll, you search below the surface.
There is the shiny and pristine and then there is the subterranean and the
primitive. The latter journey will take you across tequila-tangled guitar lines
bashed out in basements all across America. This is where you'll find El Sportivo
& The Blooz, a crew who understand the necessity of rawness, urgency, and the
sacral strength of working under dim light.
"We wanted to let things be loose and about inspiration, not about trying to hide
the imperfections," says Daron Hollowell, A.K.A. El Sportivo, about his LP debut
Nights and Weekends, released on White Iris on Feb. 26. "We were just trying to
capture ourselves in the room, in the moment, no over-thinking the performances
or the mixes."
The original room was a dingy basement practice space in Brooklyn, covered in
wall-to-wall cut outs of 70s rock magazine covers. Neil Young. Dylan. The Band.
This is the spot that Hollowell rented in the dead of winter, to record the demos
that he brought to the LA-based producer Lewis Pesacov. When you hear the
record, you can hear these heroes breathing in the steel guitar and the searing
guitar lines. Don't mistake it for some hastily conceived, crudely cut record that
you'll forget about five minutes after it stops spinning. There are also subtle
hallmarks of deep thought and consideration—deliberation that gets discarded at
the moment of recording, allowing for inspiration and improvisation.
You might have initially caught the boozy vapors of El Sportivo & Co. two years
ago. They released an eponymous EP on White Iris, the imprint that Hollowell coowns—
one of the first to release records from Best Coast, Fidlar, Fools Gold and
Foreign Born. Lewis Pesacov, the lead guitarist of the latter two bands, produced
the entirety of El Sportivo's sessions. The other proprietor of White Iris, Pesacov
was instrumental in the sculpting of El Sportivo's sound, overseeing everything
from equipment set-up to the right alchemy of alcohol.
Despite the rollicking country saloon vibes, you can sense a deeper musical
understanding. Hollowelll has spent the last several years building Black Iris, his
premier agency at creating music for film, television, and advertising. Before that,
he spent his late teens and early 20s gigging in various hardcore bands that
toured the world. His players, The Blooz, boast a sonic agility that can only come
from years of mastering their instruments.
"Being involved with music on a day-to-day level can get detail-oriented,"
Hollowell says. "This was the opposite, five or six musicians playing together—
whatever came out, we captured and documented."
You can hear it in the first single, "Waking World," a hazy and romantic odyssey
of the broken promises, big dreams, and words left unsaid that haunt most
relationships. Backed by the beautiful vocals of Nashville songstress Nikki Lane,
El Sportivo thrust you into a world of all-night drives, frantic door knocks,
desperate longing, and eventually, a bittersweet resolution.
Or submerge yourself in the bad trip blues of "Darkening My Door," a track that
channels '70s Neil Young at his most bleak and beached. " "Along the Way"
matches the pain-wracked vocals of the Country & Western side of the Rolling
Stones, to lyrics that examine the ambuiguity and regrets of everyday life. "The
Night's So Cold" taps into the fatalistic desperation of The Band's "The Night
They Drove Old Dixie Down.'
The band recorded in Los Angeles, seeking to capture the dark Santa Ana
vibrations that sweep through the eastside hills every fall. Like many great
records, it attempts to understand the feeling of both being trapped and being
free. It wants to know what's beneath the crust and mantle.
"I found what I was looking for—a way to balance all my feelings and thoughts
about music," Hollowell said. "Making this album reminded me why I started. It
was about holding a guitar, writing songs, and playing them in a room with people
who understood.

Line & Circle

Line & Circle was born of the collaboration between Brian J. Cohen & Brian Egan, friends and bandmates who met at college in the Midwest. Cohen was from Akron, Ohio, pre-med and penny-loafered and overtly Anglophilic. Egan was the quiet guy down the hall, the classically trained pianist, born and raised in Dayton, with Guided by Voices playing through his ever-shut door.
So…two guys named Brian from the Midwest.
But also, lines and circles are the elements of, well, everything. The shapes that formed the essence of the very first cave paintings. The forms that make up every letter of every alphabet in every language. And now, the ones and zeros that make up binary code. An entire history of communication, stripped back to its essence, leads to these two simple shapes.
Yes, everything. For as long as we’ve been here.
The two Brians moved to California. Their lives were binary now too, divided into before and after. Before was the place they came from–––Ohio, with its blue-collar spirit, familiar apple-cheeked faces, and long cold winters–––and after was the place they went to–––Los Angeles, with its jammed freeways and long-haired girls and relentlessly good weather.
They had no choice but to buy sunglasses and write songs.
Their new material was leaner than their previous collaborations, and yet somehow bigger. Less trees, more sky. Their early demos caught the ear of White Iris’ Lewis Pesacov, who previously produced debut albums for Best Coast and Nikki Lane. They took to the studio, along with a newly formed band, including guitarist Eric Neujahr, bassist Nathan Gammill and drummer Nick Cisik. There, with nods to early 4AD dream pop and chiming I.R.S. Records-era guitar rock, the group pared the songs to their essence–––there’s that word again–––simple melodic phrases and hooky ostinatos that subvert the complications of the lyrics. The result is this first release, a 7” on White Iris Records. Recorded live, Roman Ruins (side A) and Carelessness (side B) are soaring and dark and glittering and nostalgic, like the soundtrack to an epic coming-of-age story.
So, two songs. Two guys named Brian. Two shapes. Ohio and California.
Cave paintings. Line & Circle. Everything, forever.
Debut 7” single Roman Ruins / Carelessness out 7/10/12 on White Iris.
*Photo by Megan Kathleen McIsaac

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