Over the better part of the past year, I’ve written a bitt about Raffa Weyman, a Toronto-born and-based singer/songwriter, best known as RALPH. Weyman quickly emerged into both the national and international pop scene with the release of her bittersweet, disco-inspired debut single “Trouble” in 2015. Building upon a rapidly growing profile. Weyman released a series of attention-grabbing singles that found the Canadian pop artist restlessly bouncing around different genres and styles — i.e., the country and western-tinged “Young Hearts Run Free” and “Girl Next Door. ” a radio friendly hip-hop/pop crossover track.
Since then, Weyman received an IHeartRadio’s Much Music Video Awards Best New Canadian Artist nomination and released her RALPH full-length debut A Good Girl. , “I wrote ‘A Good Girl’ over the course of a year, maybe a little more…and a lot happened in that year,” Weyman explained in press notes. “Because I use songwriting as a type of therapy and a way to explore my feelings, the songs naturally began to reflect everything that was happening in my life. Sometimes I was hurting, other times I was the one hurting someone else, and then to make it more complicated, sometimes I’d be both, like in the last song ‘Cereal’. The album name is a tongue in cheek way of reflecting upon the tracks and their stories, because they represent a multi-faceted character who is good hearted but makes mistakes – no one is ever one thing, we’re not good or bad and shouldn’t feel guilty about it. ”
Now, as you may recall Weyman’s highly-anticipated follow-up to her full-length debut is slated for release later this year. And “Gravity,” the first official single off that forthcoming release was a club-friendly and loving house music homage that brings Daft Punk and others to mind. “No Muss No Fuss,” the EP’s second and latest single is a sassy brush off of a creepy ex, whom she can’t seem to get rid off, centered around thumping beats, shimmering and arpeggiated synths an infectious, ear worm of a hook and Weyman’s self-assured and coquettish vocals.
Directed by longtime collaborator Gemma Warren and shot on 16mm film, the video follows RALPH exuberantly singing and dancing along to the song in some 90s-inspired club outfits in a variety of different locations. “We just wanted a feeling of effortless fun to translate. We didn’t overthink the shoot,” Weyman says of the video’s filming. “We scouted the day before and drove through Gem’s favorite neighbourhoods (Atwater Village, Silver Lake, Echo Park), just taking pics of interesting looking spots. We wanted vivid colours and weird landscapes that would pop on film – like the golden yellow straw and the stacks of rubber tires. The song has a bounciness to it that makes you want to move, so we wanted to focus on organic, quirky movements instead of actual choreographed dances — playing with hand motions and kicks and spins. The lyrics in the track aren’t supposed to be mean, they’re just honest and a little sassy, so that was the mood we tried to capture.”
Born Sylvia Gordon, the New York-based singer/songwriter, bassist and producer Sylvia Black may be best known for her work as the frontwoman of the internationally acclaimed electro pop act K.U.D.U, as well as collaborations with the likes of The Black-Eyed Peas, Moby, William Orbit, Kelis, Spank Rock, The Knocks, and Telepopmusik. Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Gordon’s solo side project Betty Black, a project that received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that drew from an eclectic array of genres and sources including garage rock, Southern gothic blues, Ennio Morricone soundtracks and ambient electronica while thematically exploring love, lust, longing and obsession.
The restlessly creative Gordon has also released material as Sylvia Black and her forthcoming Sylvia Black album Twilight Animals (Originals and Covers for Tortured Lovers), which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release find Gordon effortlessly hopping from electro pop, noir-ish jazz, Texan blues and twangy country and the sounds of Morocco and India. The first half of the album reportedly evokes a mysterious scene from a David Lynch film full of hazy and hallucinatory paranoia and unease while the album’s later half evokes the campiness and weirdness of a John Waters film. Overall the album is a mix of unique covers and interpretations of songs from the JOVM mainstay’s favorite artists including Fat White Family, JOVM mainstays The Horrors, Psychedelic Furs, Van Halen and Huey Lewis and the News among others. Of course, there are a bunch of originals — and some of the album’s original tracks finds the New York-based JOVM mainstay collaborating with the legendary No Wave artist Lydia Lunch. (In fact, the duo’s collaboration was so fruitful that they’ve also worked together on a full-length album.)
Twilight Animals (Originals and Covers for Tortured Lovers)’ latest single is the slow-burning and noir-ish “Walking Through Fire,” a collaboration with the aforementioned Lydia Lunch that manages to evoke the work of David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino — or in other words, it’s all doomed detectives, hazy cigarette smoke, femme fatales, double-crosses and triple-crosses and sultry, late night saxophone solos. Unsurprisingly, the recently released video, which was directed and shot by Sylvia Black is an equally sultry and apt take on the song; in fact, it looks like the opening credits for a classic film noir.
Miss June is an up-and-coming Auckland, New Zealand-based indie rock quartet, comprised of Annabel Liddel (vocals, guitar), Jun Park (guitar), Chris Marshall (bass) and Tom Legget (drums), and in their homeland, they’ve received attention for a jagged, feedback-driven alt rock meets New Wave and No Wave sound that’s been described as “some unholy union between Sonic Youth and Le Tigre” and for a formidable, attention-grabbing live show that has earned them opening slots for Foo Fighters, Shellac, Wolf Alice, Idles and Die! Die! Die!
The Kiwi-based band has recently signed to acclaimed New York indie label Frenchkiss Records, who will be releasing their double A-side 7 inch “Twitch”/”Best Girl” on June 10, 2019. Building upon a growing profile, the band will be playing shows in London, Los Angeles and New York; in fact, they’ll be playing three shows in town: June 17, 2019 at Elsewhere, June 18, 2019 at Berlin Under A and June 20, 2019 at Union Pool with Twen. (You can check out the tour dates below.) The double A side 7 inch’s latest single “Best Girl” immediately recalls riot grrrl-era punk and 90s alt rock, as the track is centered around Liddel’s sultry vocal delivery, fuzzy distortion pedaled power chords, thunderous drumming and and an rousing, arena rock meets mosh pit friendly hook. The song as the band says in press notes “is anthem for anyone, who has been misled from birth, into battle for a spot that doesn’t exist.”
Directed by Chi’lita Collins and shot in the band’s hometown of Auckland, the recently released video for “Best Girl” features the band getting out of a broke down hoopty and passionately performing the song in a wind-swept suburban backyard. But just behind them is some surrealistic, logic-defying action — a man wearing a suit and a tiger face paint pulls a passenger out of the trunk, who begins dancing on top of the car. Their drum kit is set on fire, another older, Rick Rubin lookalike tries to put it out and stands next to the man in the suit, watching dispassionately. Simply put it’s a 120 Minutes-era MTV fever dream.
Interview: A Q&A with Mike Bell Co-Founder of New Colossus Festival
Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Piano’s Steven Matrick, the inaugural New Colossus Festival, which will take place March 7, 2019 – March 10, 2019, will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK and the European Union. Interestingly, the new festival takes place the week before SXSW, and that was by design: the festival’s co-founders view the inaugural run of their festival as a stopover that will give these emerging acts an opportunity to play at curated showcases at 6 different venues across Manhattan’s Lower East Side and East Village (Berlin Under A,Coney Island Baby, Pianos, The Bowery Electric, Arlene’s Grocery, and The Delancey for fans and industry professionals alike.
Additionally, the festival will feature a Kick Off Party at Piano’s that features local shoegazers No Swoon, a full kick off day that features afternoon industry panels and an opening happy hour.
As co-founder Steven Matrick told BrooklynVegan last December, the festival’s co-founders are aiming for a CMJ-like vibe. “CMJ left such a vacuum, not only for independent music venues, but for bands all over the world that used it as a way to play New York City every year,” Matrick told BrooklynVegan. “We chose a very convenient weekend to try to bring back that opportunity. We’d also been discussing a way for these venues to work together again and resurrect the collaborative aspect of Manhattan’s music scene.”
I recently got in touch with New Colossus co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the festival, its timing, what makes it different than SXSW and other festivals and more. Check out a playlist featuring the festival’s artists — and then the interview, below.
WRH: You’re one of the founders of NYC’s newest festival The New Colossus Festival, which begins its inaugural run next week. The timing is interesting because it’s a week before SXSW in Austin. What inspired you and your team to do The New Colossus Festival? How is it different from SXSW or from the countless other festivals that will take place over the course of the calendar year?
Mike Bell: The timing is no accident. I’ve been pretty connected with the international music community for over a decade and felt that NYC could be more “available” to artists as they pass through and head to Austin. Putting international bands together with some great local acts in a showcase set-up seemed to be the best way to be more impactful for the artists vs. booking a show on their own.
The entire idea behind The New Colossus Festival is to present great new music in a live setting. That’s really it. We don’t have brands doing activities or headliners who don’t need to be “discovered”.
WRH: What will the average concertgoer get from the New Colossus Festival and its showcases?
MB: This festival has been fully curated in-house and we truly feel the quality of the handpicked line-ups will speak for themselves.
WRH: From the flyer, there looks to be about 100 bands playing showcases during the festival’s three days. A lot of those bands are American or Canadian but there’s a fair amount of international representation. How were the participating bands chosen?
MB: We have a lot of Canadian acts! Speaking of which, we are doing an event Thursday night at Coney Island Baby featuring an all Canadian line-up headlined by Dusted (Brian of Holy Fuck).
Mostly, the booking decisions were based on bands we like and had relationships with their teams.
WRH: Everyone who has gotten into music is a fan of someone. As a fan, is there anyone that you’re looking forward to see at New Colossus? Are there any dream bands you’d love to have play the festival, if you had unlimited money, etc. etc.?
MB: There are some bands I’m absolutely planning on catching. In the spirit of creating a level playing field for all the bands who are performing, I’d really rather not call any out by name publicly. Come find me and I’ll tell you who I’m going to see. 🙂
WRH: There are also a number of interesting panels during the afternoon, covering a number of topics including the importance of an indie label, finding your own formula in changing landscape, obtaining a visa to work and play gigs in the States, and mental health in music. How did you and your fellow founders find the speakers?
MB: We decided to do the panels as a way to offer the bands something more than just a stage to play on. This is for them to learn, network, and grow. The topics were chosen based on input from the industry and the panelists are mostly all friends of ours.
WRH: There are a lot of moving parts in a festival, especially one that features as many bands as yours. How long did it take for you and the team to plan, book and promote it? When will you begin work on the 2020 festival?
MB: I teamed up with Lio [Kanine] and Steven [Matrick] fall of 2017 to do a TNC day party at Pianos which happened almost exactly a year ago. This was more or less a soft launch. The event we put together went very well and so we decided to go all in for this year. Planning for 2019 began pretty soon after our 2018 event ended in March. 2020 planning has already begun.
WRH: Venues like Piano’s, Arlene’s Grocery, Berlin Under A and others will be hosting showcases. How did they get involved? With the Sidewalk Café closing, is there an even bigger impetus for keeping the festival in the Lower East Side? Do you foresee participating venues in Brooklyn or elsewhere, like what eventually happened with CMJ?
MB: We started with Pianos and went to venues who were nearby with the idea that we wanted to present great new music from around the world. We do not plan to expand beyond a walkable distance and plan to keep everything as tight as possible.
The idea with doing this on the Lower East Side made the most sense to us. It’s the most music friendly neighborhood in the city even though venue closings have been happening. Historically, this is where many people from around the world came to and lived when starting out the US. There are so many creatives who got their start there from the mid-19th century on the Bowery to today.
WRH: Where do you see the festival going in the 3-5 years?
MB: Hopefully still going! We want to grow and are looking at ways of expanding in ways that make sense while maintaining our goal of putting the music first.
WRH: What’s next for you and your colleagues?
MB: A little rest a little reflection… then onto 2020 planning\
Founded in 2016 by founding members David Plakon (production) and Peter Baldwin (vocals), along with newest member Ranson Vorpahl (drums), the Brooklyn-based electro R&B/electro soul act Bedstudy can trace their origins to when the act’s founding duo met at Plakon’s Florida studio, where Baldwin was working on his debut album. After independently moving to Brooklyn, Baldwin and Plakon reconnected at a Tall Juan show at Berlin Under A and decided they should start a band together.
Within their first year together, the duo quickly wrote and released four singles, including “Arms Away,” which Paper Magazine called “gorgeously woozy.” Vorphal joined the band in 2017 to complete the band’s lineup. The newly constituted trio then spent another year writing and revising their sound before signing to Grand Jury Music, who will be releasing their highly-anticipated EP dot wave on February 15, 2019. Primarily recorded at David Plakon’s Crown Heights home studio with some additional sessions at Braund Studios and Black Rock Studios, the effort reportedly finds the act expanding upon the sound that first won them attention. Interestingly, the EP’s latest single “12” is centered around twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, thumping drumming and Baldwin’s plaintive vocals, the track is a shimmering and woozy take on contemporary electro pop that brings to mind JOVM mainstays Beacon and No Kind of Rider’s Savage Coast but with a decidedly hip-hop swagger.
Directed and edited by Tess Lafia, starring Riley Cedar and Sebastian Borberg and featuring animation by David Herrera, the recently released video for “12” features some incredibly hallucinogenic visuals that nod at several different decades at once that to my eyes evoke a trip that’s disorientating and woozy.