Live footage of JOVM mainstays Black Pumas performing “Fire” at Arlyn Studios in Austin.
I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed and rapidly rising Austin, TX-based soul act, Black Pumas throughout the course of this past year, and as you may recall, the act which is led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist drian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton and features a cast of collaborators can trace its origins to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he met Quesada.
Black Pumas released their self-titled, full-length debut earlier this year, and since its release the act has been on a relentless touring schedule that has included three separate stops in New York alone: The Knitting Factory, back in May; Mercury Lounge, back in July; and Brooklyn Bowl last month. Album single “Colors” exploded nationally when a live version of the song amassed over 4 million YouTube views — and since then, the song has become the most added song to Adult Album Alternative (AAA) radio. None of that should be surprising as the song is a decidedly old school singer/songwriter soul-inspired track centered around a looping 12 bar blues guitar line, twinkling Rhodes, some gospel-like backing vocals and Burton’s incredibly soulful and expressive vocals, which manage to express hurt, yearning, pride and awe simultaneously. As Burton, Quesada and company explained to The Fader by email, “‘Colors’ was written while the sun was going down on a rooftop in New Mexico. Finding inspiration in the multicolored hues of the night sky. The song is a message of togetherness, but there’s awareness of mortality mixed in . . .”
Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band made their nationally televised debut last night, performing “Colors” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer Kris Kelly. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, […]
Throughout the course of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed Austin, TX-based soul act, Black Pumas. And as you may recall, the act which is led by Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton and features a cast of collaborators can trace its origins to when Burton, an attention-grabbing street perform busked his way to Los Angeles to Austin, where he met Quesada.
Black Pumas released their self-titled debut effort earlier this year, and building upon the rapidly growing buzz surrounding them. the act has been relentlessly touring, winning fans and critics over with a powerhouse live show. Interestingly, The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” has become both a staple of their live set and a fan favorite — and while their rendition turns the song into an expansive bit of bluesy, psych soul, it plumbs the depth of the original’s existential despair.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Kris Kelly, an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer. Kelly relocated to New York in order to attend my alma mater NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. After graduation, he spent several years performing his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.
Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America with just his guitar and suitcase, spending most of his time residing in Argentina and Brazil. While traveling and living in South America, Kelly met his husband. Unsurprisingly, his experiences traveling and falling in love informed and inspired his recently released self-produced album Runaways. Thematically, the album touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth among other things.
As the story goes, upon returning to the States, Kelly holed up in studios in New York and Los Angeles recording the album’s material with an all-star casts of session and backing musicians that include Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco‘s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey. The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos. Now, as you may recall, earlier this summer I wrote about the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous, Scott Walker-like single “Cracked Porcelain.”
Runaways’ latest single continues a run of gorgeous material. Centered around a shimmering string arrangement, an ethereal flute line, strummed guitar, a soaring hook and Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song is a deliberately crafted, 70s AM rock-like gem that’s rooted in deep and hard-fought introspection and longing for someplace and something stable, after a lengthy period of being a restless wanderer.
“’Birthplace’ for me is about our relationship with home. I start writing it while traveling around South America, wandering without a plan, without any expectations or any attachments,” Kelly says of Runaways’ latest single. “I had left everything I knew: friends, family, my band, work, my apartment, all my stuff, everything but some clothes and my guitar. I was drifting from city to city, staying on random people’s couches, and for a period of time I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. I felt alive and I loved the idea of our birthplace being now and that we have always been here, now in an eternal moment, and any relationship with the past or future only really exists in our head. We’ve always been and always will be here in this moment. And I thought how beautiful it is to surrender to that without wanting more. So the beginning of the song is kind of a representation of that feeling. But toward the end, there is a longing for home, for attachment, to be firmly rooted … to be able to hold onto something. The truth is, I ended up feeling very lost after a while. That dynamic between freedom and attachment runs throughout all the songs on the album.”
“For the ‘Birthplace’ video I explained to video director Adi Halfin what the song meant to me, and she came up with a beautiful concept for the video that I think worked very well,” Kelly adds. “The idea was for the video to unfold like a dream. There is me, the narrator, in a room, away from the outside world, and then we also see these different characters, each one very different from the other, in different emotional states, relating to the environment in different ways. There is struggle, peace, conflict, harmony. There is definitely an element of surrealism and there is not a linear storyline or sense of time. It’s a dream. And like in a dream, to me anyway, the characters all represent different pieces of the main character. I ended up relating to each character in my own personal way, and I think the viewer will have their own experience as well.”
Over the past few months I’ve written a bit about Black Pumas, an acclaimed Austin, TX-based soul act, comprised of Grammy-winning producer and guitarist Adrian Quesada, 27-year-old singer/songwriter Eric Burton and a cast of collaborators. The act can trace its origins to when Burton, a street performer, who busked his way from Los Angeles to Austin, where he met Quesada.
Building upon the rapidly growing buzz surrounding them, the Austin-based soul act released their self-titled debut earlier this year. And as you may recall, album single “Colors” is ad decidedly old-school singer/songwriter soul-inspire track centered around an anachronistic arrangement and production featuring a looping 12 bar blues guitar, twinkling Rhodes, some gospel-tinged backing vocals and the superstar of the show — Burton’s soulful vocals and incredible vocal range, as his vocal delivery in “Colors” evoke hurt, yearning, pride and awe simultaneously. The act recently spoke to the folks at The Fader by email, explaining that “‘Colors’ was written while the sun was going down on a rooftop in New Mexico. Finding inspiration in the multicolored hues of the night sky. The song is a message of togetherness, but there’s awareness of mortality mixed in . . .”
The band has been relentlessly touring over the past months and recently, they had an opportunity to spend a few days in Austin’s legendary Arlyn Studio, where they decided to run through a handful of songs that have become fine-tuned as a result of being on the road for the past few months. Amos David McKay shot the live session with a noir-ish sensibility, and during that session they performed a jam-like and sprawling rendition of “Colors” that retains the song’s soulfulness and message, while being an accurate representation of their live sound.
Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.
Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.
Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco’s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey. The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos.
Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others. Recently Kelly released a live and very intimate, solo, acoustic session featuring “Cracked Porcelain,” that gently pulls and teases out the song’s gorgeous melody — and forces the listener to pay even closer attention to the song’s lyrics.
“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.
“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?
“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin, TX-based dream pop/shoegaze quartet Blushing and the act — comprised of two married couples — Christina Carmona (vocals, bass) and Noe Carmona (guitar, keys) and Michelle Soto (guitar, vocals) and Jake Soto (drums) — can trace its origins back to 2015, when after spending several years of writing material on guitar, Michelle Soto recrutied her classically trained friend Christina Carmona to join her new project. Shortly after the band’s founding duo started the band, they recruited their spouses to complete the band’s lineup.
The then-newly formed quartet spent the next year writing and revising material Bad Wolf Recordings to record their debut EP Tether, which was released to positive reviews across the blogosphere, including this site. Building upon a growing profile, the Austin-based shoegazers returned to the studio to record their sophomore EP Weak, an effort that further cemented their reputation for crafting material indebted to Lush, Cocteau Twins and The Sundays — while revealing a gentle refinement of the sound that first caught the attention of this site and the rest of the blogosphere.
The Austin-based JOVM mainstays ended last year with the release of the Elliot Frazier-produced and mixed “The Truth”/”Sunshine” 7 inch, which was released both digitally and on colored vinyl through The Nothing Song Records. That single found the band further expanding upon their sound with “The Truth” being one of the more muscular songs of their growing catalog while retaining a hazy vibe. Adding to a growing profile, the members of Blushing have shared stages with the likes of Snail Mail, Sunflower Bean, La Luz, BRONCHO, Illuminati Hotties, Yumi Zouma and others.
Now, as you may recall, this year may arguably be one of the biggest years of the band’s relatively short history: they made their second SXSW appearance this year, and the band’s highly-anticipated, self-titled full-length debut is slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Wallflower Records here in the States and on CD through Hands and Moment Records in Japan. “Dream Merchants,” the album’s first single was a woozy and swirling track that continued in a similar vein of “The Truth” — and while centered around the dual, ethereal harmonizing of Christina Carmona and Michelle Soto, the track evokes the sensation of a vivid yet half-remembered dream.
“So Many,” the debut album’s latest single begins with a brooding and wistful intro centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars and the dual, ethereal harmonizing of Christina Carmona and Michelle Soto before turning into a turbulent and towering storm, revealing a band that can balance explosive noise with gorgeous melodicism. Interestingly, the song lyrically was inspired by the vicious cycle of frustration and defeat that Michelle witnessed her son go through while dealing with attention and concentration issues in school. Her son’s struggles forced her to realize that she also struggled through many of the same obstacles in her own daily life.
Interestingly, the recently released video is hazy, Memento-like visual in which the timeline at points run forwards and backwards, as it focuses on the Polaroid pictures of several mundane, daily moments in the life of its protagonist. Underneath the photos, someone has written a line of the song’s lyrics — and we see them thrown into a metal bowl, as someone lights them on fire. The video manages to evoke the sense of frustration, defeat and procrastination that frequently affects those who have trouble focusing on one thing at a time.
Deriving its name from Sam Cooke’s Night Beat album, the Seattle, WA-based psych rock/garage rock act Night Beats was formed by its Dallas, TX-born, Seattle, WA-based founding member and creative mastermind Danny “Lee Blackwell” Rajan Billingsley back in 2009 when Billingsley relocated to Seattle to study comparative religion at the University of Washington. That same year, Billingsley self-recorded the Night Beats debut EP, Street (Atomic), which was released through Holy Twist Records.
After trying out a couple of different lineups, Billingsley recruited his high school friend and former B.B. Mercy drummer James Traeger to join the band. Traeger relocated from Austin, TX, where he was studying at the time to join Billingsley. The band played for a while as a duo before recruiting Tacoma, WA-born Tarek Wegner (bass), who once played with The Drug Purse and Paris Spleen to join the band. Early in their history, the band toured across North America extensively — and within weeks of releasing the H-Bomb EP the band was signed by Chicago-based label Trouble in Mind Records, who re-released the album in the fall of 2010. The re-released EP wound up topping several college radio while helping the band develop a reputation for a sound that incorporates elements of early R&B, psych rock, blues rock, funk and soul. (Unsurprisingly, the band has toured with the likes of The Black Angels, Roky Erickson, The Zombies, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Strange Boys, Black Lips, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Growlers.)
The following year, the band released a split EP with The UFO Club through Austin-based label The Reverberation Appreciation Society, which they followed up with their self-titled debut album. They also released a 2012 split single with TRMRS, which was released through Volcom Vinyl Club. 2013 saw the release of their sophomore album Sonic Bloom through The Reverberation Appreciation Society. The band supported the album with touring across North America, Europe, Israel, South Africa and Australia.
2014 saw the band go through the first of a series of lineup changes. Tarek Wegner left the band and eventually released an EP What Colors Last, as well as a full-length effort Soul Fuckers, which was supported by a West Coast tour with Tomorrow’s Tulips. Meanwhile, Night Beats signed to London-based label Heavenly Recordings, who released the band’s acclaimed Robert Levon Been co-produced third album Who Sold My Generation in 2016. The album also featured Been, who’s best known for his work with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club contributing bass. Jakob Bowden was recruited to tour in support of the album.
The last half of 2016 saw the band go on an UK and European Union tour without James Traeger. Throughout 2017, Evan Synder toured with the band. During a 2018 US tour opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jonah Swilley sat in on drums with the band. Last May saw the band touring Spain with Evan Synder playing drums. Bowden wasn’t with the band either.
This year has been a rather busy year for Billingsley. Night Beats’ Dan Auerbach-produced Myth Of A Man was released in January — and the album found the band’s founder playing with a backing band of session musicians, who had worked with the likes of Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin. Perhaps as a way of explaining Traeger’s and Bowden’s absence from the album, the official press release simply said that the album was “written during a particularly destructive period of the band.” Additionally, Billingsley along with an all-star backing cast featuring The Mystery Lights’ Mike Brandon, Black Lips’ Cole Alexander and Warbly Jets’ Julien O’neil recorded and released a Record Store Day album, Night Beats Perform The Sonics’ Boom, an exact track-by-track over of The Sonics classic (and beloved) 1966 album Boom.
Night Beats Perform The Sonics’ Boom finds Billingsley and an indie rock All-Star backing band treading a line between faithful cover meant to keep the legacy of The Sonics’ classic album alive for contemporary listeners while imbuing the material with a fuzzy and soulful take. Album single “Let The Good Times Roll” manages to sound almost like it were released sometime between 1966-1968 but with a gritty, mod rock vibe reminiscent of The Who Sings My Generation-era The Who.
Directed, shot, and edited by James Oswald on what looks like grainy Super 8mm film, the recently released video follows Billingsley and his backing band on tour, split between the yellow and white lines of endless blacktop, the band playing sweaty and passionate shows in front of rapturous fans, and intimate backstage footage featuring the band getting themselves together before playing. As someone, who has covered and seen thousands of shows, the video captures the spirit and soul of a show in a way that feels warmly familiar.