Tag: Crosby Stills and Nash

Interview: A Q&A with The Sighs

Holyoke, MA-based rock band The Sighs can trace their origins back to 1982 when its founding members Robert LaRoche (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals) met and bonded over their mutual of love of acts like The Beach BoysCrosby, Stills and Nash and other that employed the use of multi-part harmonies. Interestingly enough, it helped that while the Holyoke-based band’s founding members were jamming together, they discovered that their own voices blended together beautifully.

Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete the band’s initial lineup. Shortly after the band’s lineup was finalized, they quickly began makin a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explained in press notes, “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As luck would have it, the members of The Sighs crossed paths with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter and producer, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club in 1990. And after meeting DeNicola and Allen, the Holyoke-based band signed with  Charisma/Virgin Records, who released their full-length debut, What Goes On to critical acclaim. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band toured with nationally touring acts like Gin BlossomsDada and others.

The band eventually split up with members of the band pursuing individual creative projects and/or focusing on family life. Interestingly, the material on the band’s third full-length album, 2017’s Wait On Another Day can trace its origins to an unearthed batch of demos that the band’s Matt Cullen stumbled upon. Originally recorded in the early 1990s, and later placed on hard drives, the demos had been forgotten about for the better part of 20 years – until Cullen played them. He was so impressed by what he heard, that he shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola.

Feeling that the band had unfinished business – and that they should continue the collective story they started 20+ years previously, the band decided to reconvene at DiNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio to revise a handful of songs. But as the band’s Tom Borawski explained at the time “. . . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche said of the five-day recording session that produced Wait On Another Day. Borowski added “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” As a result, the material possesses a urgency and vitality to it that many contemporary bands wish they could capture on record. Interestingly, while much of the album’s material focuses on many of the things that they wrote about in their youth – girls, getting kicked around, hopes and dreams and falling in love but tinged with the wistful and aching nostalgia of middle-aged men, who have been forced to accept the passage of time, their impending mortality – and the old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same: no matter how old you are, heartache is heartache and life is ultimately about figuring out how to learn from it and move forward.

Building upon the attention they received from Wait On Another Day, the members reconvened to write and record its highly-anticipated follow-up, the five song Tearing My Heart Again, which OMAD Records released today. The EP’s material finds the band continuing where its predecessor left off but while revealing a band that has grown in the past three years. While they pull in some new ideas to the mix, they do so without straying too far afield from what has been successful – carefully crafted, hook-driven rock paired with earnest songwriting.

I recently exchanged emails with the members of The Sighs for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. World events have found a way to impact all of us – and as a result, they’ve managed to bleed into every aspect of our professional and person lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. With COVID-19 forcing cities and localities across the world to indefinitely shut down bars, restaurants, clubs, music venues and countless other non-essential businesses, the impact on musicians and the music industry will be far-reaching and devastating. Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing how COVID-19 has impacted the careers and lives of artists of all stripes – and the members of the Holyoke-based band openly and honestly discuss where they stand right now and what may be next. Of course, we chat about the recently released EP at length, the band’s tour with The Gin Blossoms and more. Check it out below.

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Support these artists by buying their work. You can order The Sighs EP here:

https://www.omadrecords.com/store/the-sighs-tearing-my-heart-again-ep

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WRH:  Most of the country has been enacting social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are y’all holding up in such a difficult and uncertain time? What are you doing to preoccupy yourself? Anything you’re binge watching? 

Robert LaRoche: Been pretty much staying home. Except to go for a daily run and food shopping.

Working on new songs. Binge watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix.

Tommy Borowski: Been binge watching bad 70’s movies…

WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or canceled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed or rescheduled tour dates, album releases have been rescheduled. I’ve asked this question to a handful of artists already – and I suspect that for some period of time I’ll be asking a lot of bands this: How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career? 

Matt Cullen: Well, we’re all at a standstill. We had a Sighs gig booked in mid-March in our home base of western Massachusetts. Robert flew in from Austin and I flew from Des Moines. After couple of spirited rehearsals, the gig was cancelled. I’m now home and have seen all of my gigs here cancelled for the foreseeable future. I don’t make my living entirely from music but playing roughly 100 gigs a year certainly helps the family kitty. Those lost wages will hurt and the loss of that enjoyment, performing, making music, that hurts equally.

WRH: Who’s the funniest guy in the band? 

RLR: It depends on the given day I suppose! We all have our moments. [But] I’m going to go with Tommy Pluta on this one 💙

MC: If you asked Tommy Pluta……..😎

WRH: Who are your influences?

Tommy Pluta: Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Shoes, Foo Fighters.

RLR: I was heavily influenced by The Everly Brothers. And tried to incorporate their two-part harmony style into The Sighs music. Also love early American Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. And, of course The Beatles and Beach Boys were a big influence.

MC: Too many to name. The typical ones. The British Invasion bands, particularly The Beatles. A lot of 70’s rock and pop rock: Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, Raspberries, Queen, The Cars. I could go on…….

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

TP: Fountains of Wayne.

RLR: Jenifer Jackson, a local singer/songwriter here in Austin

MC: My current go-to is a live record by Bo Ramsey and the Backsliders. Bo is a spooky, great player, known for his work with Lucinda Williams and Greg Brown. He’s an Iowa guy and I’ve opened for him here and have gotten to know him a little. I’m crossing my fingers to do some playing with him. Also, and sadly, I’ve been revisiting Fountains of Wayne since the news of Adam’s death.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with The Sighs? 

TP: Classic Power Pop / Rock sound. Two guitars, bass, drums, melodic with three part harmony.  The Smithereens, Gin Blossoms

WRH: The band can trace its origins back to when its founding members – Robert LaRoche and Tommy Pluta – met back in 1982. Tom Borawski and Matt Cullen were the recruited and the band then spent next eight years gigging around Western Massachusetts. In 1990, the members of the band crossed paths with John DeNicola, who became your producer and you signed with Charisma/Virgin Records. So, the band went from playing the college circuit to touring with the Gin Blossoms, who were selling millions of records and being played on the radio every single day. How was that experience like? 

TP: We always tried to make the most of every opportunity.

We had been on the road for months prior to touring with the Gin Blossoms so we were ready to take the next step.  Getting the chance to perform our music to their fans night after night was a terrific experience.  They were especially nice to us, and we found a lot of commonality with our music and influences. It would be great to do some dates with them again. . .

WRH: The band eventually split up after the release of their sophomore album with each of the individual band members focusing on other creative projects, on raising families and working day jobs. 20 years pass and as the story goes, Matt Cullen stumbles upon some demos that the band recorded in the early 90s. What was the experience of hearing the demos for the first time in so long like? 

MC: It was really cool to find the old recordings. I had transferred a boxful of 1/4 tapes to a hard drive, without listening to them. That was in 2010. It was 6 years later that I opened the folder labeled Sighs. We had been cranking out demos from 90-93 (?), both for the Charisma album and also for what we hoped would be a follow up with them. None of us recalled recording a few of them. You’d finish a song and move on. I got goosebumps when I realized what I had stumbled upon. I did rough mixes and sent unnamed mp3s to the guys. They were really surprised, and we were all excited by how well the home recordings had held up.

WRH: How was it like to revisit material that you wrote some 20 years prior? How were the first writing sessions for Wait on Another Day? Did your songwriting process change between your sophomore album and 2017’s Wait on Another Day?

RLR: The WOAD songs were written before, during, and after the recording of our debut CD What Goes On, during the period between 1987 and 1993. We had a lot of songs to choose from at that time. And only a dozen were chosen for What Goes On. The tracks on WOAD were songs already included in our live performances. We were a pretty well-oiled machine by then. Revisiting and re-recording this material over 20 years after their inception was great fun! And genuinely satisfying.

WRH: The five song EP, Tearing My Heart Again was recently released. In some way the EP finds the band continuing where they left off, as though the lengthy hiatus had never happened. While the material is centered through some passionate performances as collective whole, the EP – to my ears – reveals quite a bit of growth. It seems to capture old, wizened pros, who have gotten back on the proverbial horse but with some new ideas. How does Tearing My Heart Again differ from your previously released work? Was that intentional? What inspired it? 

TP: We drew inspiration from the fun we had recording WOAD in the Fall 2016. Recording new Sighs music (20+ years later) was something we discussed a couple times, and the possibility came around again in August of 2019.  We had a couple songs and several ideas, we just had to find the time to all be in one place to record which ended up being 3 days starting New Years’ Day 2020. The process of writing was the same in some ways and very different in other ways. We always shared ideas to see which ones we though would fit, and then developed them, but sharing ideas is so much easier with technology. A lot of text and email.

 WRH:  What does the EP touch upon thematically?

RLR: The five songs on “Tearing My Heart Again” deal with personal relationships.
In the title track, the protagonist is involved in an unhealthy love affair. Where heartbreak is an ongoing concern, and dark attraction becomes a fatal flaw.

WRH: “Over the Line” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. It’s probably the most Smithereens-like on the five songs. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s about?

RLR: “Over the Line” is about the near hopelessness and futility of caring for someone in active addiction. With the resignation that although you cannot judge the person you care for, and will continue to be there for them, the possibility of the active addict to cross over the line and become another fatality statistic, is forever present.

WRH: Oddly enough, there are sections of EP closing track “Rise” that somehow reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” Maybe I’m hearing thing but, did that influence the track at all about 

RLR You’re spot on with the Pink Floyd reference on the EP’s closing track “Rise.” Tommy Pluta initially sent me the guitar riff and chord changes. Which were already quite psychedelic sounding. We put a two-part harmony over the music in the vein of Waters and Gilmour. Our producer John DeNicola used an old school tape echo on the vocals. This gave the track the retro feel we were striving for.

WRH: What advice would you give to bands/artists trying to make a name for themselves thematically

 MC: I don’t know that my track record qualifies me to give advice but I will say that you must absolutely love what you do. There are many obstacles and it’s a long road. In today’s music world, I’d say you need to have a strong presence online. Sales are a different animal than what I grew up with. Touring is always helpful in spreading the word but can be financially daunting. CD mailers to college or community radio in your area are helpful. Try to grow it steadily. Again, you better love it!  :/)

WRH: What’s next for the band

MC:  It’s hard to say what is next for us. I’m not sure anyone of us would have guessed that we would have released a full-length record and an EP in the last three years. We never say never and leave ourselves open to all possibilities.  We have a strong personal relationship which leaves the musical door open at all times.

  

New Video: Berlin’s Mighty Oaks Release a Hazy and Nostalgic-Tinged Visual for Contemplative “Lost Again”

Mighty Oaks is a Berlin-based indie folk/folk rock act comprised of American-born Ian Hooper (vocals, acoustic/electric guitar, mandolin and ukulele), Italian-born Claudio Donzelli (vocals, acoustic/electric guitar), piano, mandolin, banjo) and British-born Craig Saunders (vocals, bass, mandolin).  The act can trace its origins back to early 2010.  As the story goes, after completing college, Ian Hooper relocated to Hamburg,  where he had begun working on material as a solo artist. While in Hamburg, Hooper met and befriended Craig Saunders, who was also working on material as a solo artist. Several months later, Hooper and Saunders met Claudio Donzelli at a small, acoustic music festival and the trio managed to keep in touch, bonding over a mutual interest in indie rock and folk rock. 

The members of Mighty Oaks wrote, recorded, produced and self-released their 2011 self-titled, debut EP. Recorded in Donzelli’s apartment, the EP eventually amassed several hundred thousand hits on SoundCloud.  Building upon a growing profile, the trio self-released their first studio recorded EP, 2012’s Just One Day, which was distributed by Rough Trade Records. The band supported the EP with a busy touring schedule that included — a European tour, opening for Shout Out Louds; opening for Kings of Leon at the Waldbuhne in Berlin; and joining acts like CHVRCHES on Intro Magazine’s “Introducing!” tour of Germany. By the all of 2013, Mighty Oaks played a sold-out, headlining tour of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. 

Early 2014 saw the release of their full-length debut Howl through Universal Records in Europe. The album was a critical and commercial success with the album peaking at #10 on the German and Swiss charts. The album also landed on the charts of several other countries. Additionally, several singles off the album charted. The band also made the rounds across the international festival circuit, playing sets at Melt! Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Latitude Festival, Way Out West Festival, Exit Festival and Valkhof Festival. 

The band closed out 2014 with  the release of the Brother EP in the States, as well as a headlining European tour. And by the beginning of 2015, Howl was released in the States. The members of Mighty Oaks went on to play SXSW — and then followed that up with a Stateside tour with Milky Chance. 

After spending almost two years of uninterrupted touring, the members of the band took the bulk of 2016 off, with each individual member temporarily returning to their home countries. They eventually reconvened at Ryan Hadlock’s Washington State-based studio to write and record their sophomore album, 2017’s Dreamers. The band supported Dreamers with a sold-out European tour during that spring, a fall North American tour and a follow-up, sold-out winter European tour. Interestingly, just before their winter European tour, the band self-released the four song Storm EP. 

2018 was rather busy for the band: that summer, they played a number of major European festivals including Hurricane Festival, Southside Festival, Traumzeit Festival, Zermatt Unplugged and Milky Chance and Friends Open Air. They closed out the year by returning to the studio to write and record their third full-length album, All Things Go, which is slated for a February 2, 2020 release through BMG. 

Last year saw the release of two album singles — album title track “All Things Go” and “Forget Tomorrow,” and building up buzz for the album, the band’s third and latest single is the contemplative  “Lost Again.” Centered around gently strummed acoustic guitar, swirling and atmospheric electronics, Hooper’s plaintive vocal delivery and a gorgeous bit of harmonizing that recalls Crosby Stills and Nash, the song focuses on a narrator, desperate to turn back back the clock a bit and iron out the wrinkles, mistakes and bad decisions he made when he was younger. “If I had known then, what I know now,” the song’s narrator seems to say in a moment of reflection. At the same time, the song and its narrator seem to acknowledge that he wouldn’t be the person he is right now, if it wasn’t for those mistakes and missteps. Things happen for a reason. And hopefully you learn from it and move forward with some wisdom. 

The recently released video by Andrew Saunderson and no.odds features the members of Mighty Oaks performing the song, but superimposed over them are images of their past — mainly places they’ve seen and been, along with some beautiful shots of nature, which help create a sense of time flashing by. It’s as contemplative as the song while adding a hazy sense of nostalgia to the proceedings. 

New Video: Follow an Astronaut in Search of the Happiest Planet in the Galaxy in Adorable Animated Video for Mind of Max’s “Lost in My Love”

Max Weiner is an American-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist. His visual art is influenced by the folk and psychedelic movements of the 60s and 70s, as its centered by a bold and trippy vibrancy, while his music with his solo recording project Mind of Max has been comparably to the likes of Fleet Foxes, Paul Simon, and Bon Iver.

Following the release of his second EP, 2013’s Seasons, Weiner was invited to The Netherlands to open for Dutch folk rock act AlascA on a two-week tour of Germany and Holland. While driving to Amsterdam, AlascA’s Frank Bond played an album by the country folk act Plainsong. And as the story goes, Weiner was hooked by the melodic bend of the pedal steel, the delicate slide of the dobro and the close knit vocal harmonies of the band.

Returning home from the tour, Weiner began writing and recording demos influenced by the sounds he’d heard while on tour; in fact, he purchased a pedal steel guitar and taught himself how to play in a style that he felt would compliment his new sonic direction. Those demos would eventually inform the material on his full-length debut The Key.

Unable to secure a producer that felt right for the album, Weiner produced and performed the songs on the album by himself. Four years later, the album was finished. “Recording an album on your own can be a brutal process,” Weiner says in press notes. “At times, I felt like I was losing my mind and I wanted to call it quits. But I’m so proud of the work I’ve done on this record. I’ve grown in my ability to serve the song and not my ego. Above all else, I’ve learned to believe in and trust myself as a musician and producer. I’d like to feel that everyone can find something within these songs that identifies with their struggles as well as their triumphs. We’re all on a similar path in this world, and I hope you feel a bit of peace knowing you’re not alone on your journey.”

The Key’s latest single is the breezy, Crosby Stills and Nash-like “Lost in My Love.” Centered around twangy, country folk-like guitars paired with some gorgeous layered harmonies, the song is a tale of being so infatuated with the idea of having someone in your life that you miss the obvious red flags — and learning from it so that the next time you’re in that situation, you see it with clear eyes.

Featuring bold and colorful animation from Aishwara Sadasivan, who wrote the video’s story in partnership with the folks at The Wild Honey Pie, the recently released and adorably sweet video follows an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest planet. “We pulled from design elements used on my album cover and Aish’s vibrant, colorful creatures and world building brought a real sense of whimsy and magic. Her unique narrative of an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest player was a fresh approach and I’m thrilled to see it all come together so well.”

New Video: The Lush Swooning and Psychedelic Visuals and Sounds of Jonathan Wilson’s “Loving You”

Jonathan Wilson is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who has collaborated with the likes of Father John Misty, Lucius, Karen Elson and Conor Oberst, contributed guitar and vocals as a member of the backing and touring bands for Roger Waters‘ Grammy nominated Is This The Life We Really Want?, and throughout that same period, the highly sought after Wilson has released two albums which have garnered comparisons to the Laurel Canyon troubadours of the 1960s and 1970s — in particular Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Dennis Wilson, Tom Petty and others; however, Wilson’s third and forthcoming album, Rare Birds, which is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through Bella Union Records is reportedly one of the singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s most ambitious, “maximalist” works to date featuring contributions from collaborators Father John Misty and Lucius, as well as Lana Del Rey and New Age musician Laraaji.

While much of the album’s material thematically and lyrically find Wilson meditating on a failed relationship and its aftermath, he has insisted in press notes that it’s not meant to specifically be a concept album. “It’s meant more as a healing affair, a rejuvenation, a reconciliation, for others, and for me. I wanted to balance personal narrative with the need I feel for calming, healing music. I think we need journeys in sound, psychedelic gossamer-winged music, to incite hope, positivity, longing, reckless abandon and regret. It’s all in there.” Late last year, I wrote about the album’s first single “Over The Midnight,” which brought to mind Peter Gabriel 3, Security and So-era Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Tears for Fears  while nodding at the lush psych pop of Tame Impala; but the song is underpinned by a swooning Romanticism, as it’s about a sacred and profoundly safe space where lovers could exist and freely be in love, escaping a world on the verge of collapse.

Rare Birds’ latest single “Loving You” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its a lush yet deeply meditative track with the bittersweet tinge of regret of someone, who’s looking back at a major relationship in his life, and of all the things he felt and believed that he should have or could have done. And as a result, it evokes the lingering ghosts of a man, who’s lived a messy and complicated life. Wilson says in press notes about the song, “One day, one of my musical heros Laraaji came into my studio to just experiment and record some music. I had the ditty ‘Loving You’ lying around, (it was a song I wrote from a feeling or inflection of a word I heard John Lennon emote in one of his songs) and I then put down a simple little drum machine beat along with the piano and vocal that you hear now. Laraaji then beautifully chanted over the song, one take … then he played his cosmic zither, undulated gracefully with his ipad, and truly shaped the scope of the track. I then added a specific drum/cymbal treatment used throughout Rare Birds, my funky Crumar bass, Lana Del Rey, a few other things and boom that was the genesis of the new album Rare Birds, that song set the tone.”

Directed By Matthew Daniel Siskin, the recently released video for “Loving You” will also continue Wilson’s run of pairing trippy and beautiful visuals to lush instrumentation. In this case the video features the renowned New Age multi-instrumentalist Laraaji floating over some gorgeous natural scenery — at points holding an old TV monitor that features a meditative Wilson singing the song. Later on, Wilson’s face and on that old TV monitor is seen in a number of New York locales, including an airport, a train station, a Manhattan intersection and so on. And interestingly, the visuals manage to further emphasize the swooning nature of the song.

New Video: The Trippy Psychedelia Meets New Age Visuals for Jonathan Wilson’s Lush New Single “Over The Midnight”

Jonathan Wilson is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who has collaborated with the likes of Father John Misty, Lucius, Karen Elson and Conor Oberst, contributed guitar and vocals as a member of the backing and touring bands for Roger Waters’ Grammy nominated Is This The Life We Really Want?, and throughout that same period, the highly sought after Wilson has released two albums which have garnered comparisons to the Laurel Canyon troubadours of the 1960s and 1970s — in particular Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Dennis Wilson, Tom Petty and others; however, Wilson’s third and forthcoming album, Rare Birds, which is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through renowned indie label Bella Union Records is reportedly one of the singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s most ambitious and downright “maximalist” works to date featuring contributions from collaborators Father John Misty and Lucius, as well as Lana Del Rey and New Age musician Laraaji.

While much of the album’s material thematically and lyrically find Wilson meditating on a failed relationship and its aftermath, he has insisted in press notes that it’s not meant to specifically be a concept album. “It’s meant more as a healing affair, a rejuvenation, a reconciliation, for others, and for me. I wanted to balance personal narrative with the need I feel for calming, healing music. I think we need journeys in sound, psychedelic gossamer-winged music, to incite hope, positivity, longing, reckless abandon and regret. It’s all in there.” And interestingly enough, the album’s first single “Over The Midnight” finds Wilson pairing British, early 80s synth pop with layered instrumentation that may bring to mind Peter Gabriel 3, Security and So-era Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Tears for Fears but while nodding at the lush psych pop of contemporaries like Tame Impala — but with a swooning romanticism; after all, the song is about a sacred and profoundly safe space where lovers could exist while escaping a world on the verge of collapse.

Directed by Andrea Nakhla and featuring animation by Clara Luzian, the recently released video for “Over The Midnight” draws from New Age concepts of consciousness and awareness of one’s connectedness to the larger universe around them and to others.

 

With the release of 2004’s, critically applauded sophomore effort Totobonalokua, the collaborative trio Toto Bona Lokua, comprised of French singer/songwriter Gerald Toto, Cameroonian jazz musician Richard Bona and Congolese singer/songwriter Lokua Kanza received international attention in world music circles for a sound that effortlessly blended traditions, cultures and languages  — and interestingly enough, the album was a commercial success in France, despite little promotion and no tour dates.

Since the release of Totobonalokua, the members of the trio have pursued a series of diverse solo projects, which kept them incredibly busy but throughout that period of time, each member of the trio would be regularly be asked by fans and the press when they would reunite to make a new album — or if they were plans to do so. Interestingly enough, although the trio’s paths seldom crossed, they managed to keep in touch, and as as the story goes, Gerald Toto eventually suggested that it might be time to get together and write new album. Of course, his collaborators and friends Bona and Kanza readily agreed. Understandably, it took some time to synchronize the schedules of three very busy people but eventually they found some time to write and record their forthcoming effort Bondeko, which derives its names from the Lingala word for “friendship” or “fraternity.”

Slated for a January 19, 2018 release through French record label Nø FørmatBondeko reportedly picks up where its predecessor left off but with the material managing the delicate balance of being nuanced and finely crafted, virtuosic yet spontaneous, playful yet profound — and they do so while retaining the gorgeous layered harmonizing and boundary blurring sound that won them international attention. In fact, Bondeko‘s first single “Ma Mama” finds the trio meshing the breeziness of Bossa nova with traditional African vocal chants in a way that will remind some listeners of Bobby McFerrin and of Crosby Stills and Nash; but perhaps more importantly, the trio manage to bridge the African Diaspora with a unique vision that’s both playful and compellingly profound.

 

 

 

 

Earlier this summer, you may have come across a post featuring the Western Massachusetts-based indie rock band The Sighs, and as you may recall, the band can trace its origins back to 1982 when its founding members Robert LaRoche (lead vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals), bonded over their mutual love of The Beach BoysCrosby, Stills and Nash and other acts that employed the use of multi-part harmonies; of course, it also helped that while jamming together, LaRoche and Pluta quickly learned that they own voices blended together beautifully. Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (lead vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete their initial lineup, and as a quartet the band quickly made a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explains in press notes “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As luck would have it, the members of The Sighs crossed pants with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and producer, and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club, and they then signed with Charisma/Virgin Records, who eventually released  What Goes On to critical acclaim. And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band went on tour with nationally touring acts like Gin BlossomsDada and others. But after a number of lineup changes the band eventually dissolved with members of the band pursuing individual creative projects or focusing on family life, and so on — and the result was that The Sighs became less of a focus for its members.

Interestingly enough, the band’s third full-length effort Wait On Another Day can trace its origins to recently unearthed batch of demos recorded on analog tapes back in the 90s that the band’s Matt Cullen recently stumbled upon.  Once Cullen had shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola, the members of the band decided to reconvene at DeNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio and revise a handful of songs; however, as the band’s drummer Tom Borawaski explains “.  .  . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche says of the album, which occurred over a spontaneous five-day recording session. As Borawski adds, “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” And as a result, the material possesses an urgency and vitality that most bands wish they could capture on record. And while the material of Wait On Another Day thematically focuses on many of the things the band’s members wrote about in their youth — the prototypical rock related subjects of girls, getting kicked around, hopes and dreams and falling in love; but perhaps because the members of the band are now middle-aged men, the material unexpectedly possesses a wistful ache of someone who has been forced to accept the passage of time, and the strange realization that the moe things change, the more things manage to remain the same.  Heartache is heartache, no matter how old you are or what you’ve done and seen, and hell, at some point life is ultimately about having the courage to go on towards what’s next after life has broken your heart.

Wait On Another Day‘s first single “It’s Real” was jangling guitar pop with gorgeous harmonies, impressive guitar work and the sort of anthemic hooks reminiscent of f The SmithereensStarfish, Gold Afternoon Fix and Forget Yourself-era The Church with a swooning, urgent romanticism. That shouldn’t be surprising as the song focuses on being desperate, youthful love with that pretty young thing you can’t get off your mind and the anxious excitement that comes about as you wonder aloud to yourself  “Can this be real. Is this what I’ve been seeking and desiring for so long?” But it’s unde-pinned for the hope of finally achieving something you’ve dreamt of for as long as you could remember.  And while album title track and latest single “Wait On Another Day” continues in a similar vein as its preceding singles — in other words, deeply heartfelt, jangling and anthemic guitar pop, the band manages to capture something timeless within the material. After all, rock is ultimately about the connection between a group of friends and musicians with big dreams and something to say about their lives and experiences but interestingly enough the material manages to sound as though it could have been released sometime between 1988-1993 — or well, yesterday. And what this song managed to remind me of today was the fact that when the world seems on the verge of complete collapse there’s always the comfort and hope of love and of music.

 

 

 

Formed in Western Massachusetts back in 1982, The Sighs initially began with its founding members Robert LaRoche (lead vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals), two lifelong musicians, who had bonded over their mutual love of The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills and Nash and other acts that employed the use of multi-part harmonies — and the duo of LaRoche and Pluta quickly learned that they own voices blended together beautifully.  Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (lead vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete their lineup, and as a quartet the band quickly made a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explains in press notes “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As the story goes, the members of The Sighs crossed pants with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and producer, and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club, the band signed with Charisma/Virgin Records and released What Goes On to critical acclaim; in fact, the band built upon a growing profile with tours with Gin Blossoms, Dada and others.

The Sighs third full-length effort Wait On Another Day is the first release from the Western Massachusetts-based indie rock quartet in over 20 years, and the material on the album can trace its origins to a recently unearthed batch of demos recorded on analog tapes back in the 90s that the band’s Matt Cullen stumbled upon. Once Cullen had shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola, the members of the band decided to reconvene at DeNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio and revise a handful of songs; however, as the band’s drummer Tom Borawaski explains “.  .  . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche says of the album, which occurred over a spontaneous five-day recording session. As Borawski adds, “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” And as a result, the material possesses an uncommon urgency and vitality — of the sort the most bands wish they could capture on wax; but interestingly enough, as Pluta notes, the material on the album focuses on many of the things they had written about in the past: girls, getting kickedd around, hopes and dreams and falling in love. And perhaps because of the band’s age and experience, the material possesses the wistful tone of one, who has accepted both the passing of time, and the strange sense that the more things change, the more they manage to remain completely the same. So what if you’ve traveled the world, read the great novels, seen and done all that’s needed to be seen? Heartache is heartache and everyone knows it at some point, and life is about knowing what to do once your heart is broken again and again and again and again . . .

The album’s latest single “It’s Real” is jangling guitar pop paired with gorgeous harmonies, impressive guitar work, and the sort of anthemic hooks reminiscent of The SmithereensStarfish, Gold Afternoon Fix and Forget Yourself-era The Church but with a swooning and urgent romanticism; after all, the song is about some of the classic rock ‘n’ roll tropes: wildly passionate love with that pretty young thing and the desperate excitement of it being real, for perhaps the first time and of finally achieving something that you’ve dreamt of for such a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: The Dream Eaters “Neanderthals” in Studio

If you were frequenting this site earlier this year, you may recall a couple of posts I wrote about New York-based dream pop duo The Dream Eaters. Comprised of  Boston, MA-born, New York-based composer and songwriter Jake Zavracky and Vancouver Island, BC-born, New York-based vocalist and musician Elizabeth LeBaron, the New York-based dream pop duo can trace their origins together back to 2015. After playing and touring in obscurity both in his hometown and New York, Zavaracky had decided to give up music and for a period of time he was working in a Brooklyn dive bar, where he met LeBaron, a fellow bartender and musician, who had recently relocated to New York. When they both discovered that they were musicians, they found an instant connection and began collaborating together — although the initial arrangement was that Zavaracky had written songs for LeBaron. However, when they realized that their harmonies helped create a truly unique sound, they recognized that the best thing would be to write, record, and perform together. 

Initially writing and performing as Jake and Elizabeth, the duo saw a rapidly growing profile; however, as they began to further refine their sound, they felt that it was necessary to rebrand themselves, eventually taking up the name The Dream Eaters. And as The Dream Eaters, Zavracky and LeBaron released their self-produced debut EP Five Little Pills, an effort which has proven to be the precursor of the bare-bone production and sparse yet hauntingly gorgeous sound of their full-length debut, We Are A Curse and its first single “Dead On The Inside.” Sonically speaking, the duo pairs LeBaron’s lilting and effortless vocals with gently strummed folk-like guitar and chiming percussion with a soaring hook which displays the duo’s stunning harmonizing. And while bearing a resemblance to Moonbabies’ Wizards on the Beach, the song manages to sound as though it nods at Nick Drake and Crosby, Stills, and Nash-era folk. Thematically speaking, the song as the duo explained focuses on becoming unmoored and getting lost, and walking around with the realization that you’re living in a murky, anxious and unforgiving dream, evoking what many of us feel living in this surreal political climate; and while being a gorgeous and understated protest song, there’s an underlying sense of resolve and determination to survive and overcome the dark days ahead.

Interestingly, “Neanderthals,” We Are A Curse‘s second and latest single wasn’t originally meant to be on the album — and according to Zavracky is a revised and altered version of a song that he had originally written towards the end of the Bush Administration. After the 2016 presidential election the song seemed sadly relevant again, and ultimately came together very quickly. As Zavracky explains the song starts with a very pessimistic us vs. them mentality but takes on an optimistic, sort of “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” type of sentiment. “It’s mean to be more inspirational than negative by the end,” Jake Zavracky says. Elizabeth LeBaron adds that over the past couple of months, the song has grown and developed a much deeper meaning, even after they had finished it. “When we decided to record this song, the Women’s March was breaking records all over the world and this song felt like an anthem. ‘They won’t make us crawl / They’re all neanderthals’ are words that I think will resonate with anyone who is against the ‘archaic’ ideologies being pushed by the new administration,” LeBaron says. Sonically,   the duo pairs shuffling, trip hop-inspired beats with their gorgeous harmonies, twinkling keys and a soaring, anthemic hook to craft what may be the most strident and forcefully political song they’ve released to date.

With the assistance of their PR firm, Behind the Curtains Media, the New York-based dream pop duo recently released live footage, performing “Neanderthals” in the studio. Check it out.