Los Angeles-based duo Junaco — Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa — derive their name for a term that generally means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, and not just running on autopilot. The act can trace their origins to the duo having a mutual desire to make music for music’s sake, and to write honest songs that meant something for them — and that listeners may be able to have mean something to them, as well. Much like the term that inspired their name, the duo have developed a deliberate creative approach, eschewing the commonly-held attempts to placate the short attention spans of the blogosphere.
The Los Angeles-duo released their Omar Yakar-produced EP Awry last year, an effort that featured the lovelorn “Willow,” which to my ears brought Caveman,Eliza Shaddad and even Fleetwood Mac to mind — and “In Between,” which seemed equally indebted to 70s AM rock and Mazzy Star. Interestingly, Junaco’s latest single “In Between (Reprise)” is a reworking of the successful “In Between.” Collaborating with James McAllister, the reworked song is an ethereal and softer take on the song, evoking the confusing feelings of change, uncertainty and progress with a plaintive slow-burn.
“’In Between’ was one of the first songs we ever wrote, at a time when we both felt a lack of control in our own lives – unsure of how to get to where we wanted to be,” the duo explain in press notes. “Leaving town and writing felt like a step towards something – even though we didn’t know what that was. We didn’t intend to write stories, we just wanted to describe a feeling.” And with the reworked version the song, the band feels the song has come full circle from its original intent, now more than ever.
“There’s something about accepting the unknown that’s very comforting, almost feeling like a surrender. Each time we’ve played the song live, I’ve always felt a relief from just saying ‘i don’t know.’ Now, we’re experiencing a collective feeling of uncertainty – no matter who you are and what you believe. The reprise is a reminder.”
The term ‘Junaco’ means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, not just running, which is what they seem to be doing with “In Between (Reprise).” With lyrics “I know this is the way I have to go, but I don’t know, I’ll be back and I will be what I show, when I go home,” Junaco expresses the conflicting feelings of change and progress through soft and lush vocal
With James McAlister as a collaborator, the expression of emotions in the song began to adapt and change: “Working with James McAlister in revisiting the song has given it a new color; he solidified our intention of creating a mood with our music.”
Interview: A Q&A with The Wild Honey Pie and Welcome Campers Founder Eric Weiner
Eric Weiner was a University of Colorado student, studying in London when he created The Wild Honey Pie (which of course, derives its name from a Beatles’ tune) in 2009 as a way to turn his personal music blog into an accessible destination to find the best emerging music. By the next year, Weiner had relocated to New York where the previously solo project expanded into a collection of music loving creatives, who had a shared passion for and mission of discovering emerging acts and sharing those discoveries with larger audiences. Initially employing humble, DIY methods of covering artists – Flip video cameras and Zoom audio recorders – the Wild Honey Pie team began shooting live music performances with any artists they liked, who would be willing to give them the time. Starting with Freelance Whales, they eventually began filming local and touring artists. And by the end of their first year in New York, the site hosted their first event.
Within the first few years of their founding, Weiner and company began to see that the blogosphere was rapidly shifting: the widespread appeal of heading to your favorite blogs to download free MP3s was quickly supplanted by streaming platforms. To adapt, The Wild Honey Pie began producing more video content, made audio recordings available and refined their events strategy to focus on events that built genuine relationships between artists and fans. Over the past couple of years, The Wild Honey Pie has hosted a curated, monthly Dinner Party series in a handful of cities including New York, Los Angeles and Austin. The Dinner Party series has been specifically designed to change the rock and pop concert experience by offering attendees an opportunity to have a curated three course meal, specialty cocktails and Brooklyn Brewery beers — while enjoying an intimate performance from a buzzworthy artist. Since they started the series, they’ve hosted the likes of Computer Magic,Henry Jamison, Plastic Picnic, Mipso, Zuli, Torres, JOVM mainstays Caveman and a growing list of others.
Additionally, over the past few years, The Wild Honey Pie has hosted their own music festival Welcome Campers. Typically taking place during Memorial Day Weekend at Camp Lenox in the bucolic Berkshires, Welcome Campers is an adult summer camp meets music festival that brings together 400 people for three days and two nights of summertime nostalgia with food, drinks, communal accommodations and live music.
Late last month, I had interviewed the Wild Honey Pie and Welcome Campers founder Eric Weiner about this year’s festival with the intention of posting the interview after I had finished my coverage of this year’s New Colossus Festival. When the World Health Organization declared COVID 19 a pandemic, the world was turned on its head: New York State, California, Illinois, the UK and The European Union have forced bars, clubs, restaurants, theaters to closed to help prevent COVID-19’s spread. Naturally, this has had a devastating impact on the music industry: festivals have been canceled or postponed, and the same goes for tour dates for artists of all stripes. The first part of interview Weiner talks about the inspiration behind Welcome Campers, how it differs from the prototypical festival experience, the other activities they offer – it’s an adult summer camp after all! – and more.
The other day, I followed up with Weiner. Because he runs a company with a significant focus on live events, I asked him how COVID-19 will impact his business, his thoughts on how the virus will impact live music and events and the immediate future of Welcome Campers.
Let’s not pretend that things are rainbows and flowers. Admittedly, things are dire – and they will be for some time. But we will get through this. In the meantime, we can all dream of our childhoods when things seemed so much simpler, so much more certain. Hopefully, we can get some of the back.
Check out the interview below.
WRH: What inspired the creation of Welcome Campers?
Eric Weiner: I’m a camp kid! I went to summer camp growing up and then went back as a counselor and even through the homesickness found myself absolutely in the love with the community I was surrounded by. I played baseball, I was Snoopy in a musical, I competed in color war, I went all out as a camper. The carefree love of that energy is what we always hope to harness with Welcome Campers.
WRH: How did The Wild Honey Pie find Camp Lenox?
EW: One of our team members at the time went there as a kid and the rest is history. We hosted Welcome Campers there in 2014 then went to Camp Champions near Austin, Texas in 2015 and have been at Camp Lenox again ever since. They are like family at this point.
WRH: The Wild Honey Pie can trace its origins back to being a humble blog. Over the years, it still retains elements of the blog, through curated playlists and live sessions, and curated events – like your ongoing dinner party series and the aforementioned Welcome Campers. From hosting and sponsoring your own events, this will may be an obvious question: How does Welcome Campers differ from the countless other festivals on the packed calendar year?
EW: A humble blog! We love the fact that we were not founded as a business but as a passion project that has grown to mean so much to so many people. Welcome Campers is an adult summer camp music festival and the order of those words means a lot. We offer a combo of activities that no other festival does. We bring together an incredibly unique community of music lovers for a weekend that incubates love and positive energy. You can party if you want at camp, but that’s not what the weekend is about. We have the curation of the music to thank for that—artists who embody the sort of vibe we want to spread throughout the weekend.
You watch from just feet away from the performer instead of hundreds of yards. It’s not about the spectacle, it’s about the community and people you meet, artists included. It’s about feeling comfortable and safe and not being surrounded by tens of thousands of people. We cannot say it enough, we look to break down the barrier between artist and fan—and that impossible at cookie cutter music festivals as we know them. We have created an inclusive weekend where the nostalgia of summer camp collides with emerging artists who we love.
WRH: How does this year’s Welcome Campers differ from last year’s and its predecessors?
EW: We are pretty damn happy with the model we’ve worked on for the last 8 years but have a few tweaks we’re making. We are expecting more people this year than any other year, so we do need to prepare for that to avoid any lines at the bar or for food. Lines suck! We are making sure the check-in process is more seamless than ever, that everyone has camp maps anytime they need them. We’re coming up with some wild and creative food upgrades with our grilled cheese food truck partner, vegan options included of course. Speaking of which we will have more plant-based options than ever before.
We have a special focus this year on mindfulness and will have a sound bath, mediations, yoga and tarot card readings. Welcome Campers is meant to be a vacation, not a festival you need a vacation after. The same cannot be said for most large-scale music experiences.
WRH: I went to one of the Wild Honey Pie Dinner Parties and I know that you’re quite the foodie. I happen to enjoy food as much as I enjoy music. So, two related questions: How did you come up with this year’s music lineup? What’s the food situation like? What would attendees expect in terms of food and drink?
EW: We go with artists who truly inspire us. Artists like Vagabon and SASAMI as well as Ayoni and Sir Woman. We try to work with artists we’ve collaborated with before and have a bunch of artists on the bill that have been involved with us multiple times in the past.
Food and drink are complimentary all weekend long with the exception of the food truck. It is camp food so expect fries and a massive salad bar, burgers, pasta dishes and more. Our campers are always satisfied but we are striving to make some major upgrades here this year. We are excited to announce that it will be a fully vegetarian festival as well. We have White Claw as a partner so there is that to be excited about. Beer and other spirits will be on the house as well.
WRH: Besides live music, there are other campground activities like kayaking, swimming, basketball, ping pong, dodgeball, volleyball, a nature hike, trivia and yoga among others. There’s also meditation this year, which seems to be a first. How did yoga and meditation wind up being included with the more nostalgic and playful activities?
EW: I started doing TM this year after years of my dad trying to get me into it. Meditation and mindfulness in general are so key to the future of what we plan to do and we think Welcome Campers is a great place to see if our community is into it. We did a sound bath at our office the other day and it was incredible. People are gonna freak out. These activities are also found at more and more summer camps for kids too. Meditation is for everyone!
WRH: When the festival ends, what will be next for you and The Wild Honey Pie?
EW: We have some big plans for the summer and will continue to expand our dinner party series to more cities. We are also working on a music podcast about food. Honestly once Welcome Campers is over, we will start working on Campers 2021 and talking to companies who believe in our mission and vision and want to support us into the future. We have a ton of video products in the works as well coming off the heels of our collaboration with Eric Clapton last December. Stay tuned.
WRH: I was covering The New Colossus Festival last weekend when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Understandably, that announcement had a major impact on attendance. Festivals have rescheduled or cancelled. Shortly after that, several states — including New York – have forced bars, clubs and restaurants to close. How has this impacted you and the events end of Wild Honey Pie’s business?
EW: Like everyone in the world, we have been affected. Luckily our team can work remotely, as they largely already do, but we’ve had to cancel all our upcoming dinner party concerts. We are putting more of an emphasis than ever on our Buzzsession videos, which artists across the world are self-producing, and we have a podcast in the works. We will also be relaunching our website next month. We’re being very precautious about Welcome Campers.
WRH: Do you anticipate COVID-19 changing how people enjoy and consume live music?
EW: We’re seeing a huge explosion in live streams which is amazing. So many concerts you can see from your couch! I’m expecting artists will be releasing more video content than ever and doing more interviews. Merch sales will hopefully go up as artists are in dire need to support themselves and a huge chunk of their revenue has been wiped out with the cancellation of tours.
WRH: In light of everything, what are your plans with Welcome Campers? When things get back to normal, what would the festival do to alleviate people’s fears of contracting virus like COVID-19?
EW: We’re absolutely still planning on hosting Welcome Campers this summer but are considering all our options. It’s about as intimate of a festival as they come with only 300 attendees and from my perspective seems like a safer bet than a 100,000 person festival. That’s up to attendees to decide. We will take every precaution to make sure camp is as safe as possible with endless sanitation stations, cleaning crews constantly wiping down surfaces, not allowing self-serving of food, less campers per bunk and more. If we can’t make it safe, we won’t do it. The safety of our campers, team and the artists is our top priority. Right now, it’s just too early to say with everything going on and, to be frank, hard to think about with the severity of everything going on. We’re deeply concerned about the state of the world and what this means for musicians and the arts more specifically. If you have the means, please consider donating to an artists’ fund or your local food bank.
Curt Kiser is a Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter, who skipped college and spent the past few years playing in a number of nationally touring bands, and during that same period of time, Kiser has been meticulously crafting his proper debut as a songwriter and solo artist — in step with his own personal development. Kiser started his latest project Carriers back in 2014 and the project found him working with a collection of friends and associates including The National‘s Bryan Devendorf and The Afghan Whigs‘ John Curley, who have helped him bring his sound and vision to life.
Kiser’s Carriers full-length debut Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else is slated for an August 23, 2019 release through Good Eye Records, and the album thematically speaking finds Kiser taking stock of life, death and his relationships — while being grateful for being around another day. “Overall it’s about what we have and remaining present, while still being able to have an honest perspective of the past and our future,” Kiser explains in press notes. “I’ve personally found a lot of peace in just working hard and staying focused on what I’ve got going on, trusting, rather than being consumed with striving. This record process has taught me a lot about patience. Life will continue to teach me to have more. I’m just trying to accept what happens and handle it the best I can. Patience is forever.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about album track “Patience” an anthemic and brooding track that sonically brought Springsteen and JOVM mainstays Caveman, while focusing on finding peace and calm in trusting the natural rhythms of life, rather than being consumed with relentless striving; of focusing on the fact that things sometimes happen within their own time and pace. Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else’s latest single, the Dire Straights-like “Another Guy” is a shimmering and brooding bit of pop centered around an uptempo arrangement, a soaring hook and deeply personal, confessional songwriting.
“When you’re writing a song and in the midst of capturing what is inspiring it, you usually don’t think about anything else but just staying focused on that moment and letting the song appear and become realized. At least, that’s how it happens for me,” Curt Kiser says in a lengthy statement.
“‘Another Guy’ is a song that I knew I needed to write but I never knew if anyone else would really hear it beyond some close friends and family. It’s a song about a dream I had that holds a lot of weight and significance for me. While trying to tell the story of this one, I’ve had trouble coming up with the right words to do so. How do you explain a spiritual encounter and fully convey what it meant for you?
“I was lifted into the air, saw a statue of Jesus break apart, come to life and we had a conversation. It was pretty weird. I think I’m okay with letting this song speak for itself. It was a dream. It was extremely vivid. It changed my life & my overall outlook of myself and the depths of the supernatural realm. It opened me up to new possibilities and something I had never been shown before while also confirming some things I’ve held as truth.
I know what it means for me and when people hear this song, I hope that you can feel something similar to what I felt while having the encounter and that it changes the atmosphere wherever you are.”
“All the drum parts were worked out in a series of rehearsals with Curt in an old crumbling factory over the course of one winter,” Bryan Devendorf says of the song’s creation. “I didn’t know it at the time but we were a couple buildings up from a locally important studio where we would eventually record the drums for Carriers the next summer.
“My first drum teacher, Steve Earle (not the singer-songwriter), had recorded at Ultrasuede many years before with the Afghan Whigs. I was fortunate to get in there too before it closed. Shag carpet, parquet floor, and cedar paneling defined the live room whose centerpiece was the studio’s original name — QCA STUDIOS — emblazoned on wall-mounted shag. Nice, warm, and low lit.
“Adding to the cosmic ‘circularness’ of the situation, the bassist on the Carriers sessions John Curley, bassist in the Afghan Whigs. It was pretty wild for me there, setting up drums while John set up mics, me thinking back to my early days, seeing Whigs shows and practicing drums in my parent’s basement and suddenly there I was….
“‘Another Guy’ like all the Carriers tracks I worked on was a really fun challenge — I really had to work hard to get all the forms down, half bars, etc. Curt, why do you need half bars?!!!
“The demo version of “Another Guy” was recorded in the control room at Ultrasuede in July of 2015.,” John Curley adds. “It was just Curt playing acoustic guitar and singing. The demo is slower than the version on the record and it has an almost melancholy vibe to it.
“As I remember it, the song began to grow into its current form when we recorded it with Bryan. It became more of a pop song. The tempo picked up and we changed the arrangement somewhat. The bass part I was hearing in my head came together for me when we played it with drums. I really like the tight snare fills that he throws in.
“It was cool to see how the songs on this record evolved from the early demos into what you hear on the record. Curt encouraged everyone involved to contribute something unique and gave us the space to do that.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based duo Junaco, and the act — Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa — can trace their origins to the duo’s mutual desire to make music for music’s sake, and to write honest songs that meant something true for themselves — and that someone else may be able to make something true for them as well. Interestingly, instead of rushing through songs in an attempt to placate the attention-starved blogosphere, the duo have a developed a rather deliberate creative approach, which has resulted in a moody yet anthemic sound.
Now, as you may recall, Jaffer and LaRosa’s forthcoming Omar Yakar-produced is slated for release sometime last this year, and the EP’s first single was the lovelorn “Willow,” a track that sonically brought Caveman,Eliza Shaddad and even Fleetwood Mac to mind, as it was centered around a cinematic arrangement consisting of jangling guitar chords, Jaffer’s gorgeous and lilting vocals, jazz-like drumming within a expansive song structure. The EP’s second and latest single “In Between” will help to further cement the duo’s growing reputation for crafting gorgeous yet brooding indie rock that’s equally indebted to 70s AM rock and Mazzy Star, complete with a soaring hook. Interestingly, the track is a perfect vehicle for Jaffer’s achingly gorgeous vocals, which seem to float over the song’s twangy arrangement — and much like its predecessor, and expansive song structure. And at its core, is a bitter heartache that sounds lived-in and familiar.
Fat Pablo’s latest single “Ganki” is a gauzy and woozy bit of psychedelia centered around a propulsive bass line, layers of shimmering guitars within an expansive song structure that finds the band carefully walking a tightrope between anthemic urgency and slow-burning pensiveness in a way that reminds me of JOVM mainstays Caveman. “Ganki took a good while for us to write. We went back to the drawing board a few times with this one as it was tough to merge the urgency at the beginning of the song with the mellowness of the latter half,” the band explains in press notes. “We think we’ve found a nice balance where you get the best of both worlds. We try not to act as a one trick pony, but rather an acre of unicorns.”
Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter Curt Kiser skipped college and has spent the past few years playing in a number of bands that have toured across the US — and during that time, Kiser has been meticulously crafting his proper debut as a songwriter in step with his own personal development. In 2014, Kiser started his latest project Carriers, which found him working with a collective of friends and associates including The National‘s Bryan Devendorf and The Afghan Whigs‘ John Curley to bring his sound and vision to life.
Slated for an August 23, 2019 release through Good Eye Records, Kiser’s Carriers’ full-length debut Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else thematically finds Kiser taking stock of life, death, his relationships — while being grateful for being another day. “Overall it’s about what we have and remaining present, while still being able to have an honest perspective of the past and our future,” Kiser explains in press notes. “I’ve personally found a lot of peace in just working hard and staying focused on what I’ve got going on, trusting, rather than being consumed with striving. This record process has taught me a lot about patience. Life will continue to teach me to have more. I’m just trying to accept what happens and handle it the best I can. Patience is forever.”
“Patience,” Now Is The Time For Loving Me, Yourself & Everyone Else‘s latest single is an anthemic and brooding track, centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, a propulsive bass line and some mesmerizing percussion — and while to my ears, bearing a resemblance to Springsteen and JOVM mainstays Caveman, the reflective track focuses on finding peace and calm in trusting the natural rhythms of life, rather than being consumed with striving; things take their own time — with the recognition that sometimes that’s best.
Comprised of founding members Andy Peña (vocals) and Devin Garcia (bass), along with David Ramirez (keys) and Adrian Loera (drums), the McAllen, TX-based dream pop act Quiet Kids can trace their origins to the breakup of Peña’s and Garcia’s previous band Dignan. Once the dust settled, Peña and Garcia began writing new material together, before recruiting Ramirez and Loera to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete its lineup. The quartet quickly earned attention-grabbing opening slots for the likes of Angel Olsen, Mitski and Miniature Tigers.
Now, as you may recall, the McAllen-based dream pop act’s self-titled debut EP is slated for release later this week through Good Eye Records, and the EP’s material finds the act firmly establishing their sound, which is centered around dreamy synths, sinuous bass lines and tight drumming while the material’s lyrically touch upon everyday themes — with a particular focus on the places and relationships of one’s life.
Earlier this month, I wrote about the slow-burning, Quiet Storm R&B meets Caveman-like “My Moon,” a love song inspired by Peña’s wife. Interestingly, the EP’s latest track, “Tidal Wave” finds the McAllen dream pop act picking up the tempo a bit, for a dance floor friendly anthem that recalls Simple Minds, Thompson Twins and others, as the track is centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a soaring hook, Peña’s plaintive vocals, and a soulful horn solo; however, as Peña explains in press notes, the song is ultimately about crippling insecurity and anxiety. “Throughout my life as an artist, I’ve always questioned what I put out there. Nothing I wrote ever felt ‘good enough,'” Peña says. “It’s only in the stability of my relationships that I realized I can write about whatever I feel. My art is me, and my family, and friends. ‘Tidal Wave’ came about when I was having a rough patch writing. I was overthinking everything and just worrying about the most minute things.”
Comprised of founding members Andy Peña (vocals) and Devin Garcia (bass), along with David Ramirez (keys) and Adrian Loera (drums), the McAllen, TX-based dream pop act Quiet Kids can trace their origins to the breakup of Peña’s and Garcia’s previous band Dignan. Once the dust settled, Peña and Garcia began writing new material together, before recruiting Ramirez and Loera to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete its lineup. Eventually, the band earned attention-grabbing opening slots for the likes of Angel Olsen, Mitski and Miniature Tigers.
Slated for a March 29, 2019 release through Good Eye Records, the McAllen-based dream pop act’s self-titled debut EP finds the band’s sound centered around dreamy synths, sinuous bass lines and tight drumming while the material’s lyrically touch upon everyday themes — in particular, the EP’s material focuses on the places and relationships of one’s life. As the band’s Andy Peña explains in press notes, “People, places and things pull you in every direction, and it’s easy to please any and everyone. If we all just said what was on our minds we’d have much more of an understanding of who we are, and what we’re looking for… It’s only in the stability of my relationships that I realized I can write about whatever I feel. My art is me, and my family, and friends.”
Interestingly, the EP’s latest single is the slow-burning, Quiet Storm meets Caveman-like “My Moon,” a track built upon shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook paired with Peña’s achingly plaintive vocals, expressing gratitude with a sort of thoughtful, contemplative sigh — and while sounding indebted to classic 80s pop, the song as Peña explains “is a love song to my wife. No matter what our lives through at us, she’s always there, like the moon, leading me in a calm way. I started writing that song when we were in between homes, trying to figure out where we wanted to settle. I realized we were each other’s home, and we didn’t really have to worry about finding a place for ourselves.”
Comprised of Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa, the Los Angeles-based duo Junaco can trace their origins to a mutual desire to make music for music’s sake — and to write honest songs that meant something true for themselves, that someone else may be able to make something true for them, as well. Instead of rushing through songs, the duo have a rather deliberate creative approach hat has resulted in a sound that’s moody yet anthemic.
The duo’s forthcoming Omar Yakar-produced EP is slated for release sometime later this year, and the EP’s first single — and the band’s debut single, as well, is the stunning and and cinematic “Willow.” Centered around layers of shimmering and jangling guitar chords, Jaffer gorgeous and lilting vocals, jazz-like drumming and an expansive song structure that features a sweeping, widescreen coda, the song will likely bring comparisons to Caveman,Eliza Shaddad and even Fleetwood Mac — all while possessing a swooning and lovelorn quality.