Tag: Cincinnati OH

New Video: Heartless Bastards Release a Surreal and Gorgeous Visual for Cinematic “You Never Know”

Deriving their name from a hilariously incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game (the question was: “What is the name of Tom Petty‘s backing band?”), the acclaimed indie rock act Heartless Bastards  was founded in by Dayton, OH-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and founding member Erika Wennerstrom in Cincinnati back in 2003. Initially started as a solo recording project, Heartless Bastards quickly evolved into a live band featuring a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators that regularly played throughout the Midwest.

The Black Keys‘ Patrick Carney caught the band and was so impressed by what he had heard, that he passed along a copy of their demo to Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and then released their first there albums — 2005’s Stairs and Elevators, 2006’s All This Time and 2009’s The Mountain. Between the writing and recording of All This Time and The Mountain, Wennerstrom relocated to Austin. And around that time, the band’s touring lineup featured David Colvin (drums) and Jesse Ebaugh (bass), who both played on the Heartless Bastard demos recorded six years prior. The band expanded into a quartet with the 2009 addition of Mark Nathan (guitar).

The band signed to Partisan Records, who released the band’s last two critically applauded albums — 2012’s Arrow and 2015’s Restless Ones. Wennerstrom stepped out from behind a band and released her solo debut, 2018’s Sweet Unknown to critical applause. “It was a deeply personal album and it just felt fitting to use my name,” Wennerstrom says of her solo debut. “It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed, and stand on my own two feet. I feel like I’ve grown so much creatively and personally through this process.”

Since release of Sweet Unknown and a tour to support it, Wennerstrom, along with a powerhouse backing band featuring Okkervil River’s Lauren Gurgolo (guitar), White Denim’s Greggory Clifford, Mercury Rev’s and Midlake’s multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler, My Morning Jacket’s Bo Koster (keys), Patty Griffin’s David Pulkingham (guitar) and longtime Heartless Bastards bandmate Jesse Ebaugh (bass) went into the studio to write and recorded their Kevin Ratterman co-produced sixth album A Beautiful Life, the band’s first full-length album of original material in over five years.

Although Wennerstom first considered releasing A Beautiful Life under her own name as the follow up to her solo debut, she ultimately came to view the album’s material as the continuation of the journey begun on the band’s 2005 full-length debut. Sonically, the album’s material reportedly is a coalescence of a number of eclectic influences and references including French pop, Celtic folk, space rock. Disney film scores and post punk. And as a result, A Beautiful Life may arguably be their most expansive and elaborate batch of material in their catalog to date while still being centered around Wennerstrom’s lyrics, which inspire contemplation, joyful defiance, catharsis, and empathy. “For me music is a gift,” Wennsterstrom says in press notes. “I do it because I love it, and because it helps me feel more connected to the world. I think we all long for a deep connection, and I hope this record adds to the conversation on how we as a species can stop seeing ourselves as separate. I hope it helps everyone to think about how we can look out for each other, take care of each other, and lift each other up.”

Slated for a September 10, 2021 release through Sweet Unknown Records/Thirty Tigers, A Beautiful Life will feature “Revolution,” an incisive and urgent song featuring an expansive song structure that meshes elements of psych rock and blues, that that calls upon the listener to get their shit straight and make the world a better place before it’s too late.

The album’s latest single “You Never Know” may be the most cinematic songs of their entire catalog. Featuring a soaring string arrangement, flamenco-like guitar playing paired with Wennerstrom’s plaintive wailing, the song is a sweet reminder that life is short and sometimes in love and in countless other things, we should take a chance. You’ll never know what will happen, until it actually happens.

“When I wrote “You Never Know,” I imagined it being in Moonrise Kingdom, the Wes Anderson film, even though the movie has already been made. There’s a sense of adventure and innocence that youth embodies whether it’s with love or goals and dreams. This song is a reminder to stay open. Life is short. Take chances.”

Directed, shot and edited by Vanessa Pie, the recently released video stars Kaylyn Mae McClellan and Tiel Ann Larson in a surreal and cinematically shot fever dream with a sailboat to nowhere, a zebra, some expressive face paint, a doorway to another dimension. But at its core is a sweet and tender love story of two people who will be companions through some zany adventures — perhaps because they both took a chance and were open.

Lyric Video: Cincinnati’s Sungaze Releases a Lush and Anthemic New Single

Cincinnati-based dreamgaze married duo Sungaze — Ian Hilvert and Ivory Snow — can trace its origins back to rather humble origins as Hilvert’s solo recording project: After leaving his long-time gig in a metal band, Hilvert wanted to try his hand at writing more dreamy and introspective material. Snow initially joined the band as a temporary keyboardist, but as the act began to play more shows, her influence on the band grew, helping lead to stronger and more confident songwriting — and eventually to the couple writing much more collaboratively and sharing vocal duties. The end result is a unique sound and songwriting approach that mixes each individual member’s artistic influences and passions. Interestingly, their sound features elements of shoegaze, psych rock, dream pop and a tinge of twang.

Generally, their material is written from personal experience and thematically focuses on human nature, while occasionally touching upon the metaphysical and spiritual. But much of their inspiration comes from a sense of place and a desire to capture the landscapes and spaces they both find enchanting.

The Cincinnati-based duo’s full-length debut, 2019’s Light In All Of It was released to praise from The 405, Austin Town Hall, Cincinnati CityBeat and others. The album eventually landed at #91 on the North American College and Community Radio Charts (NACC), remaining on the charts for more than six consecutive weeks. Building upon a growing profile, Sungaze’s sophomore album This Dream is slated for an August 13, 2021 release.

This Dream’s second and latest single “Body In The Mirror” finds the duo further establishing their sound. Centered around lush layers of shimmering and jangling guitars, a rousingly anthemic hook and Snow’s breathy cooing, “Body In The Mirror” is a seamless synthesis of Slowdive-like shoegaze and Mazzy Star/Still Corners-like dream pop — but while lyrically and thematically focusing on the hard self-reckoning that many of us battled with during the height of the pandemic.

New Video: Heartless Bastards Release a Surreal and Urgent Visual for Politically-Charged and Uplifting “Revolution”

Deriving their name from a hilariously incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game (the question was: “What is the name of Tom Petty’s backing band), the acclaimed indie rock act Heartless Bastards was founded in Cincinnati by Dayton, OH-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom back in 2003 in Cincinnati. Starting out as a solo recording project,. Heartless Bastards evolved into a live band with a revolving cast of musicians that regularly played throughout the Midwest.

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney caught the band and was so impressed by what he had heard, that he passed along a copy of their demo to their label at the time — Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and released their first three albums: 2005’s Stairs and Elevators, 2006’s All This Time and 2009’s The Mountain. In between the writing and recording of All This Time and The Mountain, Wennerstrom relocated to Austin, TX. Around the time that Wennenrstrom relocated to Austin, the band’s touring lineup featured David Colvin (drums) and Jesse Ebaugh (bass), who both played on the Heartless Bastard demos recorded six years prior. The band expanded into a quartet with the 2009 addition of Mark Nathan (guitar).

The band signed to Partisan Records, who released the band’s last two critically applauded albums — 2012’s Arrow and 2015’s Restless Ones. And after 15 years of fronting the band, Wennnerstrom released her solo debut, 2018’s Sweet Unknown. “It was a deeply personal album and it just felt fitting to use my name,” Wennerstrom says of her solo debut. “It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed, and stand on my own two feet. I feel like I’ve grown so much creatively and personally through this process.”

Recently, the band returned to the studio to work on their long-awaited Kevin Ratterman-produced fifth album. The album reportedly will find the band continuing the late night, bluesy rock vibes that have won them praise and attention. The band’s latest single “Revolution” is their first bit of original material as a band in five years. The track was initially released on Bandcamp with proceeds donated to the ALCU — with the track no being available on all DSPs.

“Revolution” begins with a slow-burning and atmospheric ballad introduction that slowly builds up in intensity before turning into an anthemic, bluesy rocker around the three minute mark. Centered around Wennerstorm’s bluesy wail and some dexterous guitar work, including a blazing solo, the track is an incisive and urgent message that says we need to get our shit straight and make the world a better place before it’s too late. “’Revolution’ is about self love,” Wennerstrom explains in press notes. “I think if people loved themselves more there wouldn’t be racism, bigotry, and classism. Some people are so worried that there is not enough pie to go around, and that lifting up others limits their own opportunity. There is mass misinformation and manipulation to peddle this narrative. Money, materialism, privileged access to better education are things people constantly measure themselves with. The need to feel better than someone in order to feel good about oneself is an age old insecurity. The planet really can’t sustain everyone having more. Everything is made to fall apart, like cars and $1100 cell phones. I think humanity needs to learn how to have less, and not play into the commercialism that constantly sends the message we lack things that we don’t really need.

“Revolution is a mantra, and reminder to myself to avoid playing the game as much as I can. I don’t need this, and I don’t need that. I don’t need to compare myself to others. This marathon everybody is running is exhausting. There is so much true suffering in this world with a lack of food, shelter, and basic running water. The more man attempts to look at the world from another man’s perspective it becomes apparent how connected we all really are. I think giving and receiving love is really what we need the most. All the rest is just a bunch of noise.”

Directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hartstein, the recently released, incredibly surreal video features an elegantly dressed Wennerstrom sitting crossed legged in the salt flats of Utah watching advertisements and imagery that people to be blindly greedy, selfish consumers and brutally racist.But during the song’s anthemic second half, we see nature overcoming all, and eventually Wennerstrom coolly floating through space.

“I wanted to release ‘Revolution’ before the election, to serve as a reminder of what’s important in life: love and compassion for yourself and your fellow man,” Wennerstrom says of the video’s release. “We have to fight fear with love. I think there’s a lot of bullshit out there that is peddled to sway people one way or the other. I feel people know what’s right in their hearts. It’s a call to not look the other way.

“For the video, I had an idea of having a surreal living room image in the salt flats,” Wennerstrom adds. “It’s a statement on how our excess commercial culture and system create a competitive climb to the top. We all struggle to get ahead so we don’t get left far behind. Very little life can live in the salt flats and I thought it helped symbolize the direction of environment if we don’t come together and wake up. I couldn’t get to the salt flats and the idea of a green screen came to mind. Sam Douglas and David Hartstein took this idea to a whole other level. The green screen went from what was initially just being unable to get to the salt flats to far beyond what I’d imagined. It really captured the song so much more.

There is so much beauty in this world, and in each other. Sometimes it is underneath the surface, but it’s always there. Let’s lift each other up.”

 

Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day,  Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, June 19, 2020 commemorates the 155th anniversary of Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, TX with his troops and announcing federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. In reality, those held as slaves in Texas were technically freed two and a half years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery across Confederate territories.

Although Juneteenth is commonly thought as celebrating the end of slavery in the US. it  was still legal and practiced in Union border states until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished non-penal, chattel slavery across the country.

Officially celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, initially involving church-centered community gathering across Texas. It spread rapidly across the South becoming much more commercialized, centering around food. Regardless of how you celebrate it, today should be America’s real independence day —  the day in which all Americans were made free. There’s still a lot of work to be done by all of us for all of us to truly be free from fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy and other oppressive human systems. Let’s keep pushing on.

In the meantime, I wanted to spend today celebrating Black people and Black art. Being Black has truly been the best thing to ever have happened to me. Black is multifaceted. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful and righteous. Black is brotherhood and sisterhood. Black is swagger and flavor. Black is joy in the face of terror, horror and injustice. Black is survival and pride. Black is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

If you’re Black and gay. I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and trans, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black woman, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black man, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and non-binary, I love you, you matter to me.

Because of the occasion, I had been thinking of Syl Johnson‘s 1969 full-length album Is It Because I’m Black? Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS, Johnson and his family relocated to Chicago in 1950. Acclaimed bluesman Magic Sam was his next-door neighbor — and Johnson quickly developed a reputation as a go-to guitarist and vocalist, playing with Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf throughout the 50s. He recorded with Jimmy Reed in 1959 and made his solo debut with Federal Records, a subsidiary of legendary Cincinnati blues label King Records that year.

Personally, I find Johnson to be interesting because he’s part of that last wave of the Great Migration — and because his work comfortably sits in between blues, R&B and soul.  As for Is It Because I’m Black? It’s a great album that deserves more love and greater attention for its observations and thoughts on being Black in America, Black unity and more — plus it features a Southern fried cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together” that’s worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

New Video: Carriers Releases a Hallucinogenic VHS-Styled Visual for “Another Guy”

Over the past handful of years, Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Curt Kiser played in a number of national touring bands while meticulously crafting his own work as a songwriting and solo artist — in step with his own development as a person. Kiser’s latest project Carriers can trace its origins back to 2014 — and since then, he has collaborated 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 released his Carriers full-length debut Now Is The Time For Loving me, Yourself & Everyone Else was released last year through Good Eye Records, and the album thematically found Kiser taking stock of life, death and his relationships — all 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 explained 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.”

Album single “Another Guy” is a shimmering, brooding and hook-driven bit of guitar pop, centered around a deceptively uptempo arrangement, and deeply personal, confessional songwriting — and in a way that recalls Dire Straits and Tom Petty but with an aching sense of heartache and loss. 

“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.”

Directed by Polish filmmaker Sztuka Naiwna, the recently released video for “Another Guy” was filmed on fuzzy, VHS-styled visual that’s hallucinogenic and feverish while possessing a wistful air.  “The idea of a video began in August, a fews days before the song’s premiere,” Kiser recalls in press notes. “I received a message from an Instagram user in Poland, Sztuka Naiwna, offering to create a video for the song. He said he’d heard it on David Dean Burkhart’s playlist and was really moved by it. I was cautious since I wouldn’t be able to work very closely with him, but after a couple months he sent over an edit and I loved it. I think he really captured something special for Carriers’ first music video.” 

New Audio: Carriers Returns with a Deeply Personal, New Single

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.”

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.