Tag: John Agnello

New Video: Drew Citron Releases a Cinematic Ode to “King of New York” for Gorgeous Solo Debut Single “Summertime”

Drew Citron is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and music venue owner who’s been a New York indie scene mainstay. She can trace the origins of her professional career to being a touring member of Frankie Rose’s backing band and with The Pains of Being Pure of Heart. Along with Class Actress’ Scott Rosenthal, she formed acclaimed act Beverly and opened Bushwick, Brooklyn-based music venue Alphaville. 

Citron’s solo debut Free Now is slated for an October 9, 2020 release through Park The Van — and the album reportedly finds Citron rediscovering herself as an artist, following the break up of her longtime relationship with her bandmate and business partner Scott Rosenthal. And as a result the album’ material is a roadmap to the evolution of a performer taking complete ownership of her craft and work in every element of the creative process with Citron engineering, producing and playing most of the instruments on an album that finds her collaborating with Rosenthal, Sam Owens (a.k.a Sam Evian), Ash’s Tim Wheeler, Danny Taylor and John Agnello. 

Free Now’s first single is the slow-burning “Summertime.” Featuring  a gorgeous and atmospheric arrangement featuring shimmering guitars, a soaring string arrangement, shuffling drumming and Citron’s achingly plaintive vocals, the track manages to sound both anachronistic and cinematic — while being centered around earnest yet ambitious songwriting. Sonically, the track reminds me a bit of Amber Arcade’s Cannonball EP– specifically “Wouldn’t Even Know” — but at its core its a sweet and much-needed hopeful song about new love with the wistful ache of knowing that too will fade. “A nostalgic song about summer feels more prescient than ever,” Citron explains. “Missing summer, loving it, living for late afternoon beach beers, god I’m missing summer already and it’s barely started. This is a sweet little song about new love in summer, not wanting it to end, wanting to hold on to that feeling.”

The recently released video for “Summertime” is a cinematically shot and deceptively mischievous homage to King of New York that has a wistfully nostalgic ache for all of the things we can’t quite have right now as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns. 

New Video: The Dream Syndicate Releases a Hallucinogenic Visual for Sprawling and Mind-Bending “The Regulator”

Throughout the course of last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate. The act, which is currently comprised of founding members Steve Wynn (guitars, vocals), a critically applauded singer/songwriter and solo artist and Dennis Duck (drums), along with the band’s most recent members Mark Walton (bass) and Jason Victor (guitar) can trace its origins back to the early ’80s. At the time Wynn along with fellow Dream Syndicate founding member Kendra Smith and future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair founded and played in one of  Davis, CA’s first New Wave bands — The Suspects, Wynn also recorded a single with another band 15 Minutes, which featured members of Alternate Learning. 

After returning to his hometown,. Wynn spent a brief stint researching in another local upstart band, Goat Deity with future Wednesday Week members Kelly and Kristi Callan. And while with Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Precoda, who had answered an ad seeking a bassist. The duo of Wynn and Precoda started a new band with Precoda switching to guitar.  Wynn’s college pal and former bandmate Smith, along with Duck, who was then a member of Pasadena-based act Human Hands joined the band, completing The Dream Syndicate’s first lineup. (Interestingly, as the story goes, Duck suggested the band’s name as a reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York-based experimental ensemble, best known as the Theatre of Eternal Music, which featured John Cale.)

With the release of their Paul B. Cutler-produced debut EP, The Dream Syndicate received attention locally for a sound influenced by The Velvet Underground, Neil Young and Television, with aggressively long, feedback-filled improvisations. In 1982, The Dream Syndicate signed to Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records, who released the band’s 1982 full-length debut, the attention-grabbing and influential Days of Wine and Roses. Building upon a growing profile. Rough Trade Records released Days of Wine and Roses’ lead single “Tell Me When It’s Over” as the A-side of a UK EP, which included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” that was released in early 1983. Shortly, after that Smith left the band and joined the David Roback (best known for his work in Mazzy Star) in Opal. Smith was released by David Provost.

Their Sandy Pearlman-produced sophomore effort Medicine Show was recorded and released through A&M Records in 1984 — and as a result of being on a major label, the band opened for R.E.M. and U2. Attempting to build on a growing profile, the members of the band released a five song EP This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album . . . Live!, which was noteworthy as it was the last recorded effort to feature Precoda, who left soon after to pursue a career in screenwriting — and it was the first to feature Mark Walton on bass. The EP’s commercial failure led to the band’s first breakup — although a temporary one. The band was then dropped by A&M Records after the label rejected the band’s demo for “Slide Away.”

During the band’s first break up, Wynn along with Green on Red’s Dan Stuart wrote and recorded 10 songs with Duck and a number of other musicians, which was released by A&M Records in 1985 as Danny and Dusty’s The Lost Weekend. After the release of Lost Weekend, Wynn, Duck and Walton teamed up with Paul B. Cutler to form a then-newly reunited iteration of The Dream Syndicate that recorded two full-length studio albums — 1986’s Cutler-produced Out of the Grey and 1988’s Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories. The band recorded a live album Live at Raji‘s which was recorded in 1988 before the release of Ghost Stories but released afterward.

The band broke up for the second time in 1989 — and a batch of previously unreleased material was released that included 3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988), a compilation of studio sessions and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live KPFK radio session, recorded just before the release of the band’s applauded debut album were released. After the breakup,  Walton went on to play bass in the Continental Drifters while Wynn went on to become an acclaimed singer/songwriter, who restlessly explored a variety of different styles and sounds while leading a number of disparate projects including Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3, The Baseball Project and others.

Wynn led a reunited Dream Syndicate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut that featured Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn’s longtime Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 guitarist at an appearance at 2012’s Festival BAM in Barcelona Spain. The reunited band went on to play a handful of other live sets, including two 2013 Paisley Underground reunion shows that included The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade. September 2014 saw the band playing a handful of shows in which they played their first two albums in their complete entirety — and those shows marked the band’s first shows in the Southeast in almost 30 years.  Between their first reunion show and 2017, the band played more than 50 shows together.

2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here was the band’s first reunion-era effort and the band’s fifth full-length album overall. Recorded at Montrose Studios, the album featured a lineup of Wynn. Walton, Duck, Victor and Chris Cacavas (keys) with Kendra Smith contributing lyrics and vocals to the album’s final track “Kendra’s Dream.” The band closed out that year with three songs, which landed on the 3 x 4 compilation, a collection of tracks that featured new material from their Paisley Underground counterparts — the aforementioned The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade with each of the four bands also covering songs by the other bands. 

Last year saw the release of the John Agnello and The Dream Syndicate co-produced These Times, the band’s second reunion-era effort and sixth overall. Interestingly, the album’s material is a noticeable sonic departure for the band.  “When I was writing the songs for the new album I was pretty obsessed with Donuts by J-Dilla,” the band’s Steve Wynn explained. “I loved the way that he approached record making as a DJ, a crate-digger, a music fan wanting to lay out all of his favorite music, twist and turn the results until he made them into his own. I was messing around with step sequencers, drum machines, loops—anything to take me out of my usual way of writing and try to feel as though I was working on a compilation rather than ‘more of the same.’ You might not automatically put The Dream Syndicate and J-Dilla in the same sentence, but I hear that album when I hear our new one.” Additionally, Wynn changed his process for writing lyrics. Instead of the song’s sound being dictated by previously written lyrics, he wrote all of the album’s lyrics after the band finished instrumental tracking, so that the lyrics were influenced by the sounds being played. 

Slated for an April 10, 2020 release through Anti- Records, The Dream Syndicate’s third reunion-era album and seventh overall The Universe Inside will reportedly be one of the most mind-bending efforts they’ve released to date — and for the first time in their lengthy history, every song on the album is a group songwriting effort. Musically, the material draws from each individual member’s eclectic interests and passions — Dennis Duck’s love and knowledge of European avant garde music, Jason Victor’s love of 70s prog rock, Mark Walton’s experience in Southern-friend music collectives, Chris Cacavas’ interest in sound manipulation and Wynn’s love of 70s jazz fusion. Recorded in one session, the band recorded 80 continuous minutes of soundscapes. “All we added was air,” Wynn explained. So, aside from vocals, horns and a touch of percussion here and there, every instrument is recorded live as it happened. 

Interestingly, the album’s first single is the sprawling and epic “The Regulator.” Clocking in at just under 21 minutes, the track sonically is a a sort of seamless synthesis of Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson-era Miles Davis, motorik groove-driven prog rock and 60s psych rock as the track features droning eclectic sitar played by The Long Ryders’ Stephen McCarthy, a sinuous bass line, soulful sax flourishes by Butcher Brown’s Marcus Tenney, Wynn’s vocals fed through vocoder and ghostly effects buried within the trippy and funky mix. 

“’The Regulator’ is a microcosm of the entire record,” Wynn explains in press notes. “It was just a formless, trippy mass as we all started playing together. There was an early 70’s drum machine—a Maestro Rhythm King, the same model used on There’s A Riot Goin’ On—with Dennis locking in and setting the pace. Stephen grabbed an electric sitar because it was the first thing he saw. Jason and I were kicking pedals on like lab monkeys in a laboratory and Mark was a lightning rod, uniting all of those elements into one tough groove. I collected a list of random, unconnected lyric ideas that I kept on my phone. I tried them all out in random order in my home studio just to see how they would feel and that one-take test run is the vocal you hear! There’s just so much lightning-in-a-jar, first take excitement on this record.”

Directed by David Daglish, the recently released video for “The Regulator” is a psychedelic journey through New York that’s equal parts panoramic, somnambulistic, political and hallucinogenic. Throughout, the video accurately captures the city’s frenetic and maddening energy, its lunatics and crackpots, its bold dreamers and hustlers, its sublime beauty and its gritty soul — it’s essentially a microcosm of our world. 

Lyric Video: The Dream Syndicate Release Trippy Visuals for Motorik Groove-based “The Way In”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about  Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate, and as you may recall the act, which is currently comprised of founding members Steve Wynn, an accomplished and critically applauded singer/songwriter, guitarist and solo artist and drummer Dennis Duck, along with bassist Mark Walton and guitarist Jason Victor, can trace its origins back to the early 80s when Wynn along with fellow Dream Syndicate founding member Kendra Smith and future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair founded and played in one of the area’s first new wave bands in the Davis, CA music scene, The Suspects. Wynn also recorded a single with another band, 15 Minutes, which included members of Alternate Learning.

After returning to his hometown, Wynn spent a brief stint of time rehearsing in another local band, Goat Deity with future Wednesday Week members, Kelly and Kristi Callan — and while with Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Precoda, who had an answered an ad seeking a bassist. The two started a new band with Precoda switching to guitar. Wynn’s college pal and former bandmate Smith and Duck (Mehaffey), who was a member of Pasadena-based act Human Hands joined the band to complete The Dream Syndicate’s initial lineup. (Interestingly, as the story goes, Duck suggested the band’s name as a reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York-based experimental ensemble, best known as the Theatre of Eternal Music, which featured John Cale.)

With the release of their Paul B. Cutler-produced debut EP, The Dream Syndicate received attention locally for a sound influenced by The Velvet UndergroundNeil Young and Television, complete with aggressively long, feedback-filled improvisations. The members of the band signed to Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records, who released the band’s 1982 full-length debut, the attention-grabbing and influential Days of Wine and RosesRough Trade Records released their debut’s lead single “Tell Me When It’s Over” as the A-side of a UK EP, which included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” that was released in early 1983. Smith left the band and joined David Roback in Opal — and she was replaced by David Provost.

Their Sandy Pearlman-produced sophomore effort Medicine Show was recorded and released through A&M Records in 1984 — and as a result of being on a major label, the band opened for R.E.M. and U2. Attempting to build on a growing profile, the members of the band released a five song EP This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album . . . Live!, which was noteworthy as it was the last recorded effort to feature Precoda, who left soon after to pursue a career in screenwriting — and it was the first to feature Mark Walton on bass. The EP’s commercial failure led to the band’s first breakup — although a temporary one. The band was then dropped by A&M Records after the label rejected the band’s demo for “Slide Away.”

During the band’s break up, Wynn along with Green on Red’s Dan Stuart wrote and recorded 10 songs with Duck and a number of other musicians, which was released by A&M Records in 1985 as Danny and Dusty’s The Lost Weekend. After the release of Lost Weekend, Wynn, Duck and Walton teamed up with Paul B. Cutler to form a then-newly reunited iteration of The Dream Syndicate that recorded two full-length studio albums — 1986’s Cutler-produced Out of the Grey and 1988’s Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories. The band recorded a live album Live at Raji‘s which was recorded in 1988 before the release of Ghost Stories but released afterward.

The band broke up in 1989 — and a batch of previously unreleased material was released that included 3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988), a compilation of studio sessions and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live KPFK radio session, recorded just before the release of the band’s applauded debut album were released.  After the breakup, Walton went on to play bass in the Continental Drifters while Wynn went on to become an acclaimed singer/songwriter and solo artist with a reputation or restlessly exploring a variety of different styles while leading a number of different projects including Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3The Baseball Project and others.

Wynn led a reunited Dream Syndicate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut that featured Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn’s longtime Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 guitarist at an appearance at 2012’s Festival BAM in Barcelona Spain. The reunited band went on to play a handful of other live sets, including two 2013 Paisley Underground reunion shows that included The BanglesThe Three O’Clock and Rain Parade. September 2014 saw the band playing a handful of shows in which they played their first two albums in their complete entirety — and those shows marked the band’s first shows in the Southeast in almost 30 years.  Between their first reunion show and 2017, the band played more than 50 shows together.

Anti-Records released the band’s fifth full-length album How Did I Find Myself Here in 2017, which featured a lineup of Wynn, Walton, Duck and Victor with keyboardist Chris Cacavas. Recorded at Montrose Studios, the album’s notable final track “Kendra’s Dream” featured vocals and lyrics from Kendra Smith. Building upon the growing attention around the reunited band, the members of The Dream Syndicate recorded three songs, which were included on the compilation 3 x 4, a collection of tracks that featured new material from their Paisley Underground counterparts, The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade with each of the four bands covering songs by the other bands.

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Anti-Records, the John Agnello and The Dream Syndicate co-produced These Times will be the second full-length studio album since the band reunited, and the album’s material is reportedly a subtle yet noticeable departure for the band sonically. “When I was writing the songs for the new album I was pretty obsessed with Donuts by J-Dilla,” lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn explained. “I loved the way that he approached record making as a DJ, a crate-digger, a music fan wanting to lay out all of his favorite music, twist and turn the results until he made them into his own. I was messing around with step sequencers, drum machines, loops—anything to take me out of my usual way of writing and try to feel as though I was working on a compilation rather than ‘more of the same.’ You might not automatically put The Dream Syndicate and J-Dilla in the same sentence, but I hear that album when I hear our new one.” Additionally, Wynn also changed up his lyric writing process for the album — instead of the song’s sound being dictated by previously written lyrics, he wrote all the material’s lyrics after the band finished instrumental tracking, so that the lyrics were influenced by the sounds.

The album’s first single was the atmospheric and surrealist dream, “Black Light,” a track built around a looped arpeggiated key and congo sequence, shimmering bursts of guitar, and a motorik groove comprised of a propulsive and sinuous bass line and a backing vocal section that sings “aaah” while Wynn’s vocals sing surrealistic and symbolic lyrics about how the night exposes our darkest and deepest inhibitions and fears. “Put Some Miles On,” the album’s second single continued in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor with the track featuring a chugging, motorik groove, blasts of feedback driven guitar, twinkling synths and Wynn’s languid, speak-singing vocals delivering surrealistic lyrics with a profound double meaning — with the song making references to getting older while being on the road and actually playing the influential work of Miles Davis.

“The Way In,” These Times‘ third and latest single is the album’s lysergic, Starfish-era The Church-like opening track. Centered around a chugging, motorik-groove, looping, feedback and distortion pedaled guitars, the song as the band’s Steve Wynn says in press notes is “the leadoff track, kind of a Rosetta Stone, decoder ring, instruction manual to light the way,” the band’s Steve Wynn says of the album’s new single. “It’s all about clearing the decks, dusting off, fastening the spacesuit and bracing yourself for what might come next.  It sounds like something we might have heard on the radio in 1981 when we were forming the band thinking, ‘Maybe we ought to sound like that.’”

Filmed on the vibrant streets of Madiera, Portugal, the recently released lyric video for “The Way In” is an aptly hallucinogenic visual that feels like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Earlier this year, I wrote about J. Hacha De Zola, Rahway, NJ-born, Jersey City, NJ-based singer/songwriter and musician, who became a scientist and musician because of his father’s massive influence on his life. About a year within his Biochemistry, Ph.D. program, Hacha De Zola’s father died. Unfortunately, he had to quit school in order to support his mother and the rest of his family, but the situation presented him an opportunity to pursue his life long passion — music.

With the release of 2016’s Picaro Obscuro, the second of his two “urban junkyard” albums of that year, Hacha De Zola publicly insinuated that he might not continue on to make a third and that if he did, his plan was to “lighten up” the sound that he has previously described on some occasions as “boozegaze.” 2017’s Antipatico was the third album Hacha De Zola and his backing band had written and recorded in over two years — and with each successive album, Hacha De Zola increasingly found his own voice.

Hacha De Zola’s  John Agnello-produced fourth full-length album Icaro Nouveau is slated for a March 29, 2019 release through Caballo Negro Records and much like his previously released material, the New Jersey-born and-based singer/songwriter and his backing band employ his “reductive synthesis” method which involves,  “shooting the arrow and painting the bullseye around it.” Interestingly, the album’s material is also deeply influenced by the life and death of longtime collaborator, Ralph Carney, a saxophonist best known for working with the legendary Tom Waits. Carney not only served as a player but a spiritual guide and mentor for Hacha de Zola. “He was an integral part of this sound. He was my secret weapon,” Hacha de Zola says. “His horns were ever–present, as was his input. Not having him around for Icaro Nouveau was unsettling for me.”

Now, as you may recall, “On A Saturday,” found Hacha De Zola and his backing band drawing from old school barrio salsa but with a drunken wobble. Interestingly, Icaro Nouveau‘s latest single is the boozy and slow-burning blues, “Super Squeaky,” a track that sounds deeply indebted to Tom Waits and Bob Dylan among others.

I recently chatted with the Rahway-born, Jersey City-based singer/songwriter in an extensive and thoughtful email exchange about his science background, his eclectic influences, the “Urban Junkyard” sound, Ralph Carney’s influence on him and his work, the new single and much more. Check it out. 

 

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Photo Credit: Robin Souma

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WRH: If I remember it correctly, your father had a massive impact on your life, as he had a key role influencing your decision to study Biochemistry – and that music has been a lifelong passion for you. Have your studies influenced your work and approach at all? How?

J. Hacha De Zola: My old man was both a terrifying and wonderful kinda guy. He inspired a lot of different vibes in me – some good – some not so good. But a couple of the core values he instilled in me as part of living an “observed life” is to be informed and always ask questions. To observe, learn and question everything. To think critically about things that matter to you such art, music, science, life, etc. To me these things are all part of the same cloth; the arts and sciences. Music is truly a science in of itself. The opposite is also true; science can be quite musical, particularly biochemistry, where you have this orchestrated dance of biomolecules, such as helicases, polymerases and ligases as in the example of DNA replication, all working together in a very methodical way, every component doing its own part for the benefit of the whole – in a way that’s very musical. While my music may seem to be fairly chaotic at times, there is a real methodical approach that I follow to create it. It’s the same way with approaching any kind of science where you have an idea or a question you want to flesh out, so you follow a thought-out plan to execute it as elegantly as possible. It’s a bit like playing chess at times, the fewer moves you make to reach a checkmate, and then the more elegant you are in your methods.

 WRH: Who are your influences?

Hacha De Zola: I love everything – I have spent a life time studying and listening to everything that has ever passed by my ears. I felt I had to truly understand music, its place in time, and where I could possibly take it with my own approach. To me everything is relevant and possibly even useful to me in terms of musical ideas I may want to pursue. I don’t like to limit myself in any way in terms of musical styles so I have always kept my ears open to new experiences. However, the first music I ever heard as a child was Latin music, particularly Afro-Cuban music, guys like Perez Prado, Benny More, and Arsenio Rodriquez. At one point as I grew older, I started to listening to what most teens who wanted nothing to do with their parents, would listen to; rock, punk, pop, or even metal which I eventually grew out of as I wanted to learn more about music itself. I wanted to understand the most fundamental roots of all those forms and arrived at the blues. I started out as a guitar player with no interest in being a “vocalist” at all. I started lifting licks off guys like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Junior Kimbrough and others. From there I started getting into R&B (Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Ruby & the Romantics), soul music (Al Green, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway), funk (Sly Stone, Parliament Funkadelic) and eventually jazz (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Moondog, etc). Later on in life, as in most recently, I have started noticed the Latin music influence on just about every genre of music today, and this has bought me back to appreciate the music of my parents, the first music I have ever heard. Taken all together, I feel that in not limiting my musical tastes has led me to be a better songwriter, musician and artist as a whole. As a vocalist and/or performer, I have some very specific influences or folks that I admire and incorporate a bit of who they are into what I do. Folks like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Captain Beefheart, Nick Cave, Eric Burdon, Lee Hazlewood, Serge Gainsbourg, Leonard Cohen and of course, Tom Waits. The guys are all very strong leading men. I hope to be one as well one day when I grow up! (ha!). Lyrically I borrow (or steal) from the greats! Poets and writers like Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Coleridge, Daniil Kharms, William S, Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, and so many others… 

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

Hacha De Zola: Let’s see what’s on my record player at the moment…

Just last night it was: Lucha Reyes, Stelvio Cipriani, Juan d’Arienzo, Kris Kristofferson – Oh and Princess Nokia – I love her – I think She’s great….

WRH: Over the course of a couple of albums and EPs, you’ve established a sound that you’ve dubbed “Urban Junkyard.” How would you describe that sound to someone, who’s completely unaware of you and your work?

Hacha De Zola: I feel fortunate to have been born and raised in a very diverse urban environment where I was exposed to many cultures and musical traditions/styles. Growing up in an “Urban” environment has enriched my life as an artist and has been a huge part of my musical journey. Cities, at least in my experience, are the most diverse of places where many different cultures, art, music and food collide to weave a truly rich tapestry. “Junkyard” because I am often selecting utilitarian forms or fragments or bits of music and disrupting them and re-constituting them in some way. Kind of like what Marcel Duchamp did with his “ready-mades” where an ordinary object is taken, reconfigured and elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist. These are composite structures or as in my case, musical compositions derived from existing musical forms – hence “Urban Junkyard.”

I like to think Urban Junkyard as my own musical movement. It’s a deconstructionist approach to not just music but also of poetry and lyricism, where I draw from the past, from existing musical or even lyrical forms, and then blow them up or break them down to their most basic forms. The resulting fragments are allowed to spontaneously or semi spontaneously re-form in order to create my own musical language. The result hopefully has a vibe, a look, a sound and a feeling that hopefully sounds uniquely like me. It’s a feeling that I have built “brick by brick”. On Icaro Nouveau, you may hear a Cha-Cha-Cha track at one moment and then a Spaghetti western-ish track to a bolero in the next. I am more interested in musical ideas than merely musical genres. This “Urban Junkyard” approach creates a new vocabulary from an older one which has lead me to another way to make records. I have always wanted to dismantle any excessive loyalty to any particular musical idea and look for the more fundamental or primal aspects that might lie just below the surface – to me that’s what “Urban Junkyard” is all about.

 

WRH: For the bulk of your Urban Junkyard work, you collaborated with the late Ralph Carney. How did that come about? How influential was he on you and your work? Was it difficult to continue without someone who played such a massive role in your creative process?


Hacha De Zola: I love and miss Ralph…

It was just after the release of my first record Escape From Fat Kat City, when I found myself writing furiously, losing my mind and holed up in some downtown Los Angeles motel for several weeks. The plan was to do all the writing in LA, and then meet up with a bunch of friends up in Portland, Oregon to start recording the new record which would become Picaro Obscuro. I had recently read that Ralph had just moved to PDX at the time and I thought “let me shoot him an email!” I grew up listening to Ralph’s playing, particularly on the Tom Waits records he played on, namely Rain Dogs. I also had Big Time on [a] cassette tape which I had absolutely worn out. I wanted to send him a well-placed, polite email in hopes he would actually work with me. I knew that Ralph had a particular love for bass saxophone which was all over several choice cuts on my first record. I had sent him one of those tracks to which he immediately responded via email with a single line “Is that a bass sax?!” – It was at that point I knew I had Ralph’s attention and before long we were in correspondence back and forth. A couple of weeks later, I found myself in a studio with Ralph and another longtime Tom Waits collaborator, musical saw player/multi-instrumentalist David Coulter. I was totally star struck by the experience and got a little “fanboy-ish” on Ralph who instantly made fun of me for it! Ralph didn’t like anyone making a fuss over him – He was so down to Earth and was always quick with a joke and a laugh. It was great fun meeting, working and hanging out with two brilliant musicians like Ralph and David. Ralph and I continued to become friends and got to know each other, talking online, writing and trading tracks via email over the course of the next few years. We would share a lot of our personal woes and artistic/musical frustrations. He became a bit of a mentor to me and I would always go to him when I was stuck or unsure about a particular piece of music. Ralph was my secret weapon. I could always trust him to take a track up a quantum level. I never told him what to do, he immediately knew what the track needed to truly elevate the music. There were many moments where my confidence was shaken, and Ralph would always be there to remind me to trust my instincts. “When the going gets weird – the WEIRDO gets WEIRDER!” which was something he would always tell me. He bought the best out of me and would always tell me to never be afraid of being who I am. He loved what I was trying to accomplish with this whole “Urban Junkyard” thing, he understood it and he was truly at the core of helping me develop what that idea means to me and its overall sound. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken when I heard of his untimely passing. I lost my dear friend, collaborator and mentor. It was unsettling for me to even attempt to make a new record without his guidance. There were moments in the studio when I felt uneasy, shaken, and unsure but then I could feel him in the room. I could hear him in my head saying “Dude! Don’t be afraid to be weird! Just be yourself and the rest will come!” – The last thing he told me the last time we spoke was “Keep working on your bad self, never stop. Good things will come if you let it, keep showing up and keep doing the work! I love you Brother!” – I love Ralph, I’ll never forget him, and I think of him every day.

 WRH: Your forthcoming album Icaro Nouveau finds you working with acclaimed producer John Agnello. How did that come about? How was it like to work with him?

Hacha De Zola: Oh, John’s a local guy! He’s originally a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn guy, but transplanted himself and the family over in Jersey City many years ago. The Jersey City arts and music community/scene is very close knit. Everyone knows each other, parties, and hangs out together fairly often. I remember seeing John around many of the art events in town but was always a little too shy to say hello. After my third LP, Antipatico, I wanted step up the effort production wise and thought to myself “Hell! Let’s write “Don Angello” a nice email and see if he would be interested in sitting in the producers chair for this next one!” which would eventually become this record “Icaro Nouveau”. I figured what do I have to lose? What’s the worst he could say?! No!? – To my delight, John hit me right back and was so generous with his “Sure – let’s talk!” response! John Agnello is a lovely wonderful man, to know John is to love him. He’s a real community guy, always there to lend a hand or sage advice or even rattle your cage a bit if ya need to get it together! I was pretty floored to think that the same guy who produced so many of my favorite records that I listened to during my formative years as a kid, is now producing my new record!Working with John was great! His attention to detail is amazing, I remember laying down some vocals for a particular track and he was in the control room writing down all the lyrics just for the sake of trying to get the best performance out of me as possible. He would really push me to work hard as well as all of the session guys in order to get the best out of us. He motivated us big time and in a way, you really wanted to give John the best because of the kind way he would motivate you – ya just didn’t want to let him down. After seeing the way he ran the sessions, I knew without a doubt that we were going to walk away with something truly special. Working with him was so much fun – there was never a dull moment! We have become really good friends since and go bowling on a fairly regular basis! I love the guy and lemme tell ya, the dude can roll!!

 

WRH: You have a unique songwriting process that you’ve referred to “reductive synthesis” in which songs aren’t fully written before you and your backing band arrive at the studio; instead, there seems to be a lot of improvisation and you kind of let the tape run, allowing the musicians (and presumably yourself) quite a bit of creative leeway. You go on to say that you’ll then peel back the various layers to fashion a song from what was recorded. How do you know when you have a finished song? And considering the unique creative process, how do you recreate that live?

Hacha De Zola: I like to inject a certain amount of uncertainty into my song writing process which can be a little risky at times because you never know what you are going to end up with. I never sit down and tell myself, “I’m going to write a song about this” or “I’m going to write a rock or a folk song.” That sort of approach bores me to be quite frank. I am more interested in musical concepts or ideas. I would rather borrow or steal a structure from an existing musical form of interest, break it up and then recombine it. I’ll sit at the board next to a producer like John Agnello and then bring in my cabal of musical associates. I honestly let the session players do whatever they want over these structures and just have them all throw the kitchen sink at it. Allow them to take ownership of the track for a moment. I am an enabler and enjoy that role! Maybe I’ll have a Jazz bebop trumpet player come in, I’ll have a Bulgarian folk music player or tuba player or a rock guitarist come in and just let ‘em go for it. While it may not sound like the most efficient way to run a recording session, efficiency is not what I’m worried about here. I never know what we will end up with and that’s part of the “voodoo” behind this approach. Sometimes you just might stumble across something special that was totally unexpected. So how is it a “reductive synthesis”? Once everyone is finished recording their parts, I’ll go back and listen. It is said that sculpture is a reductive art form where a large mass of stone is reduced or carved down to form a structure or form that is aesthetically pleasing. “I saw the angle in the marble and carved until I set her free” – I use a very similar approach when forming the “music” that will make up the “song”. Somewhere in that tangled mass of tracks, I will hear a song that wants to be set free. I don’t get to decide when a song is “done” but rather the song itself will tell me exactly what it needs – it tells me when its done. I never write a song about a subject but rather, the song itself tells me what it’s about. I will take a raw track, just full of noise and sound, and peel away the layers until the song is free to take on a life of its own. The music gets put together first, then the lyrics are completed next. I usually form the words to the harmony and melody later. In terms of the live show, most bands or musicians often have a set- live repertoire of songs that they have been playing for a long time that eventually will be taken into the studio to be recorded. I actually work in the opposite direction, the songs are formed in the studio first and from there the finished, “freed” song is then charted out and handed over to the folks in the band for the live show. I have developed two different kinds of the “live” show, solo J Hacha, which is an acoustic solo type thing performing songs that lend themselves to that kind of format, and then there’s the theatrical, full big band live show, complete with horn sections, percussive elements, live singers, etc.

 WRH: Icaro Nouveau’s latest single is this slow-burning Bob Dylan meets Tom Waits-like “Super Squeaky.” Can you tell us a bit about what inspired the song and what it’s about?

Hacha De Zola: To be honest, I am never really sure what a song is about going in. I only get to know what a song is about once I begin to write it which is when it tells me what it is about. As far as im concerned, songs should always be open to interpretation. But if I had to take a guess, this is a song about being at the end of your rope. It’s about being resigned to one’s fate for better or worse. It’s a song about compunction, owning up to your own hubris, and about coming “clean” hence the title “Super Squeaky”. I have suffered a number of failed bad relationships perhaps (story of my life). I’ll go ahead and say I’m likely to blame for all of it. Ok I’m definitely to blame for all of it (lol). This song contains many of those kind of themes — heartbreak, hangovers, loss, moving on and hopefully redemption.

WRH: What’s next for you?

Hacha De Zola: I’ll never know! I take it day by day mostly! But I must say that it will likely involve developing this “Urban Junkyard” thing even further- perfecting it – honing it. I have so many artistic aspirations that I would love to explore. Some of these include film, theatre, and performance art. The music will always play a central role which comes first and foremost but I would like to do more. I am constantly writing new songs and thinking of new directions to take the music. Not too long ago I released a synthy- All Spanish dream-pop EP Syn Illusión. Maybe I’ll make a mumble rap-trap EP (lol) next or maybe even a reggaeton record (???). One of the best things about being an independent artist is that I can do whatever I damn well please! Not everyone will understand it but I’m ok with that! After the last few years, making these records and meeting so many spectacular players and artists, I have been really blessed with so many opportunities to take the art up to a new level. I would really love to take the live show on the big road, develop it further and make it as theatrical as possible. I would love to write an opera or a play/theatre piece. I would love to direct or have a hand in directing a film.  As an artist, the sky is the limit, I love pushing boundaries and will keep doing so till I can’t anymore. All I can say is that I am excited about art, music and what is to come. Life is good and I’m blessed to be able to be doing this right now. Thank you!

 

New Video: The Dream Syndicate’s Lysergic Ode to Getting Older and Miles Davis

Currently comprised of founding members Steve Wynn, an accomplished and critically applauded singer/songwriter, guitarist and solo artist and drummer Dennis Duck, along with bassist Mark Walton and guitarist Jason Victor, the Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate can trace its origins back to the early 80s when Wynn along with fellow founding member Kendra Smith and future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair founded and played in one of the area’s first new wave bands in the Davis, CA music scene, The Suspects. Wynn also recorded a single with another band, 15 Minutes, which included members of Alternate Learning.

After returning to his hometown, Wynn spent a brief stint of time rehearsing in another local band, Goat Deity with future Wednesday Week members, Kelly and Kristi Callan — and while with Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Precoda, who had an answered an ad seeking a bassist. The two started a new band with Precoda switching to guitar. Wynn’s college pal and former bandmate Smith and Duck (Mehaffey), who was a member of Pasadena-based act Human Hands joining the band to complete The Dream Syndicate’s initial lineup. (Interestingly, as the story goes, Duck suggested the band’s name as a reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York-based experimental ensemble, best known as the Theatre of Eternal Music, which featured John Cale.)

With the release of their Paul B. Cutler-produced debut EP, The Dream Syndicate received attention locally for a sound influenced by The Velvet Underground, Neil Young and Television, completely with aggressively long, feedback-filled improvisations. The members of the band signed to Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records, who released the band’s 1982 full-length debut, the attention-grabbing and influential Days of Wine and Roses. Rough Trade Records released their debut’s lead single “Tell Me When It’s Over” as the A-side of a UK EP, which included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” that was released in early 1983. Smith left the band and joined David Roback in Opal — and she was replaced by David Provost.

Their Sandy Pearlman-produced sophomore effort Medicine Show was recorded and released through A&M Records in 1984 — and as a result of being on a major label, the band opened for R.E.M. and U2. Attempting to build on a growing profile, the members of the band released a five song EP This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album . . . Live!, which was noteworthy as it was the last recorded effort to feature Precoda, who left soon after to pursue a career in screenwriting — and it was the first to feature Mark Walton on bass. The EP’s commercial failure led to the band’s first breakup — although a temporary one. The band was then dropped by A&M Records after the label rejected the band’s demo for “Slide Away.”

During the band’s break up, Wynn along with Green on Red’s Dan Stuart wrote and recorded 10 songs with Duck and a number of other musicians, which was released by A&M Records in 1985 as Danny and Dusty’s The Lost Weekend. After the release of Lost Weekend, Wynn, Duck and Walton teamed up with Paul B. Cutler to form a then-newly reunited iteration of The Dream Syndicate that recorded two full-length studio albums — 1986’s Cutler-produced Out of the Grey and 1988’s Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories. The band recorded a live album Live at Raji‘s which was recorded in 1988 before the release of Ghost Stories but released afterward.

The band broke up in 1989 — and a batch of previously unreleased material was released that included 3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988), a compilation of studio sessions and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live KPFK radio session, recorded just before the release of the band’s applauded debut album were released.  After the breakup, Walton went on to play bass in the Continental Drifters while Wynn went on to become an acclaimed singer/songwriter and solo artist with a reputation or restlessly exploring a variety of different styles — and leading a number of different projects including Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3, The Baseball Project and others.

Wynn led a reunited Dream Syndicate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut that featured Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn’s longtime Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 guitarist at a festival appearance at 2012’s Festival BAM in Barcelona Spain. The reunited band went on to play a handful of other live sets, including two 2013 Paisley Underground reunion shows that included The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade. September 2014 saw the band playing a handful of shows in which they played their first two albums in their complete entirety — and those shows marked the band’s first shows in the Southeast in almost 30 years.  Between their first reunion show and 2017, the band played more than 50 shows.

Anti-Records released the band’s fifth full-length album How Did I Find Myself Here in 2017. The album which featured a lineup of Wynn, Walton, Duck and Victor with keyboardist Chris Cacavas was recorded at Montrose Studios — and notably the album’s final track “Kendra’s Dream” featured vocals and lyrics from Kendra Smith.  Building upon the growing attention around the reunited band, the members of The Dream Syndicate recorded three songs, which were included on the compilation 3 x 4, a collection of tracks that featured new material from their Paisley Underground counterparts, The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade with each of the four bands covering songs by the other bands.

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Anti-Records, the John Agnello and The Dream Syndicate co-produced These Times will be the second full-length studio album since the band reunited, and the album’s material is reportedly a subtle yet noticeable departure for the band sonically. “When I was writing the songs for the new album I was pretty obsessed with Donuts by J-Dilla,” lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn explained. “I loved the way that he approached record making as a DJ, a crate-digger, a music fan wanting to lay out all of his favorite music, twist and turn the results until he made them into his own. I was messing around with step sequencers, drum machines, loops—anything to take me out of my usual way of writing and try to feel as though I was working on a compilation rather than ‘more of the same.’ You might not automatically put The Dream Syndicate and J-Dilla in the same sentence, but I hear that album when I hear our new one.” Additionally, Wynn also changed up his lyric writing process for the album — instead of the song’s sound being dictated by previously written lyrics, he wrote all the material’s lyrics after the band finished instrumental tracking, so that the lyrics were influenced by the sounds.

The album’s first single was the atmospheric and surrealist dream, “Black Light,” a track built around a looped arpeggiated key and congo sequence, shimmering bursts of guitar, and a motorik groove comprised of a propulsive and sinuous bass line and a backing vocal section that sings “aaah” while Wynn’s vocals sing surrealistic and symbolic lyrics about how the night exposes our darkest and deepest inhibitions and fears.  These Times’ second and latest single “Put Some Miles On” continues a on a somewhat similar vein as its immediate predecessor as it’s centered around a chugging, motorik groove, blasts of feedback driven guitar, twinkling synths and Wynn’s languid, speak-singing vocals singing surrealist lyrics with a profound double meaning — after all, the song and its title refers to getting older while on the road and actually playing the work of Miles Davis. 

“This is our third video directed by David Dalglish, a Scotsman who is gradually becoming the official visual interpreter of our music,” the band’s Steve Wynn explains in press notes. “And I love the way he captured the triple meaning of “Put Some Miles On”—actual road miles logged, the ensuing experience and wisdom of the turning of the calendar pages and, of course, our love of Miles Davis himself. It’s truly a zig zag marathon!”

New Video: The Dream Syndicate Release Lysergic Visuals for J-Dilla Inspired “Black Light”

Currently comprised of founding members Steve Wynn, an accomplished and critically applauded singer/songwriter, guitarist and solo artist and drummer Dennis Duck, along with bassist Mark Walton and guitarist Jason Victor, the Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate can trace its origins back to the early 80s when Wynn along with fellow founding member Kendra Smith and future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair played in one of the area’s first new wave bands in the Davis, CA music scene, The Suspects. Wynn also recorded a single with another band, 15 Minutes, which included members of Alternate Learning. 

After returning to his hometown, Wynn spent a brief stint of time rehearsing in Goat Deity with future Wednesday Week members, Kelly and Kristi Callan — and while with Goat Deity, Wynn met Karl Karl Precoda, who had an answered an ad seeking a bassist. The two started a new band with Precoda switching to guitar. Wynn’s college pal and former bandmate Smith and Duck (Mehaffey), who was a member of Pasadena-based act Human Hands joining the band to complete The Dream Syndicate’s initial line up. (Interestingly, as the story goes Duck suggested the band’s name as a reference to Tony Conrad’s early 1960s New York-based experimental ensemble, best known as the Theatre of Eternal Music, which featured John Cale.) 

With the release of their Paul B. Cutler-produced debut EP, The Dream Syndicate received attention locally for a sound influenced by The Velvet Underground, Neil Young and Television, completely with aggressively long, feedback-filled improvisations. The members of the band signed to Slash Records subsidiary Ruby Records, who released the band’s 1982 full-length debut, the attention-grabbing and influential Days of Wine and Roses. Rough Trade Records released their debut’s lead single “Tell Me When It’s Over” as the A-side of a UK EP, which included a live cover of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” that was released in early 1983. Smith left the band and joined David Roback in Opal — and she was replaced by David Provost. 

Their Sandy Pearlman-produced sophomore effort Medicine Show was recorded and released through A&M Records in 1984 — and as a result of being on a major label, the band opened for R.E.M. and U2. Attempting to build on a growing profile, the members of the band released a five song EP This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album . . . Live!, which was noteworthy as it was the last recorded effort to feature Precoda, who left soon after to pursue a career in screenwriting — and it was the first to feature Mark Walton on bass. The EP’s commercial failure led to the band’s first breakup — although a temporary one. The band was then dropped by A&M Records after the label rejected the band’s demo for “Slide Away.”

During the band’s break up, Wynn and Green on Red’s Dan Stuart wrote and recorded 10 songs with Duck and a number of other musicians, which was released by A&M Records in 1985 as Danny and Dusty’s The Lost Weekend. After the release of Lost Weekend, Wynn, Duck and Walton teamed up Paul B. Cutler to form a then-newly reunited iteration of The Dream Syndicate that recorded two full-length studio albums — 1986’s Cutler-produced Out of the Grey and 1988’s Elliot Mazer-produced Ghost Stories. The band recorded a live album Live at Raji’s which was recorded in 1988 before the release of Ghost Stories but released afterward. 

The band broke up in 1989 — and a batch of previously unreleased material was released that included 3½ (The Lost Tapes: 1985-1988), a compilation of studio sessions and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live KPFK radio session, recorded just before the release of the band’s applauded debut album were released.  After the breakup, Walton went on to play bass in the Continental Drifters while Wynn went on to become an acclaimed singer/songwriter and solo artist with a reputation or restlessly exploring a variety of different styles — and leading a number of different projects including Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3, The Baseball Project and others. 

Wynn led a reunited Dream Syndicate to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their full-length debut that featured Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn’s longtime Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 guitarist at a festival appearance at 2012’s Festival BAM in Barcelona Spain. The reunited band went on to play a handful of other live sets, including two 2013 Paisley Underground reunion shows that included The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade. September 2014 saw the band playing a handful of shows in which they played their first two albums in their complete entirety — and those shows marked the band’s first shows in the Southeast in almost 30 years.  Between their first reunion show and 2017, the band played more than 50 shows. 

Anti-Records released the band’s fifth full-length album How Did I Find Myself Here in 2017. The album which featured a lineup of Wynn, Walton, Duck and Victor with keyboardist Chris Cacavas was recorded at Montrose Studios — and notably the album’s final track “Kendra’s Dream” featured vocals and lyrics from Kendra Smith.  Building upon the growing attention around the reunited band, the members of The Dream Syndicate recorded three songs, which were included on the 3 x 4 compilation. The compilation also featured new material from The Bangles, The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade with each of the four bands covering songs by the other bands. 

Slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Anti-Records, the John Agnello and The Dream Syndicate co-produced These Times will be the second full-length studio album since the band reunited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut and the album’s material is reportedly a subtle yet noticeable departure for the band sonically. “When I was writing the songs for the new album I was pretty obsessed with Donuts by J-Dilla,” lead singer and songwriter Steve Wynn explained. “I loved the way that he approached record making as a DJ, a crate-digger, a music fan wanting to lay out all of his favorite music, twist and turn the results until he made them into his own. I was messing around with step sequencers, drum machines, loops—anything to take me out of my usual way of writing and try to feel as though I was working on a compilation rather than ‘more of the same’. You might not automatically put The Dream Syndicate and J-Dilla in the same sentence, but I hear that album when I hear our new one.” Additionally, Wynn also changed up his lyric writing process for the album — instead of the song’s sound being dictated by previously written lyrics, he wrote all the material’s lyrics after the band finished instrumental tracking, so that the lyrics were influenced by the sounds.  

The atmospheric and surrealistic dream Black Light,” is These Times’ first single and the track is built on a looped arpeggiated key and congo sequence, shimmering bursts of guitar, and a motorik groove centered around a propulsive and sinuous bass line and a backing vocal section that sings “aaah” while Wynn’s vocals sing surrealistic and symbolic lyrics about how the night exposes our darkest and deepest inhibitions and fears.  Directed by David Dalglish, the recently released video is an appropriately surrealistic and lysergic fever dream set during a desert night. 

 

J. Hacha De Zola is a Rahway, NJ-born, Jersey City, NJ-based singer/songwriter and musician, who became a scientist and a musician because of his father: a year within a Ph.D. program in Biochemistry, Hacha De Zola’s father died. He had to quit school to support his mother and the rest of the family, but the situation presented another life change that pushed him into pursuing a life long passion — music.

With the release of 2016’s Picaro Obscuro, the second of his two “urban junkyard” albums of that year, Hacha De Zola publicly insinuated that he might not continue on to make a third and that if he did, his plan was to “lighten up” the sound that he has previously described on some occasions as “boozegaze.” 2017’s Antipatico was the third album Hacha De Zola and his backing band had written and recorded in over two years — and with each successive album, Hacha De Zola increasingly found his own voice.

Hacha De Zola’s  John Agnello-produced fourth full-length album Icaro Nouveau is slated for a March 8, 2018 release through Caballo Negro Records and much like his previously released material, the New Jersey-born and-based singer/songwriter and his backing band practice his “reductive synthesis” method of what he has called “shooting the arrow and painting the bullseye around it.” Hacha De Zola explains, “I never go to the studio with songs written. I allow the musicians to be themselves and throw all they got at it. Then I’ll go and peel back the various layers to fashion a song from it all. It’s a pretty risky way of making an album because when it’s all done, you may have something that isn’t agreeable to you. Other times, you arrive at something truly magical and the songs take on a life of their own. There’s a certain kind of voodoo there that could not be planned.”

Interestingly, the album’s material is also deeply influenced by the life and death of longtime collaborator, Ralph Carney, a saxophonist best known for working with the legendary Tom Waits. Carney not only served as a player but a spiritual guide and mentor for Hacha de Zola. “He was an integral part of this sound. He was my secret weapon,” Hacha de Zola says. “His horns were ever–present, as was his input. Not having him around for Icaro Nouveau was unsettling for me.” But his spirit was still in the room while they were writing and recording the album.The album’s latest single “On A Saturday” finds Hacha De Zola and his backing band, sonically drawing from classic, barrio salsa — but seemingly played through rusty and busted instruments and with a drunken, lilting wobble.

If you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of this year, you’ve come across a couple of posts featuring the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock/dream pop duo Alyeska, and as you may recall the duo, which is comprised of Montana-born, Los Angeles-based frontwoman Alaska Reid and Ben Spear derive their name from an archaic spelling of the state of Alaska — and of course, Reid’s first name.

With the release of “Tilt A Whirl,” the first single off their John Agnello-produced debut EP, Crush, the duo began to receive attention across the blogosphere — as well as this site — for a sound that draws equally from 80s post-punk and New Wave, as it did from contemporary indie rock. The EP’s second single “Motel State of Mind,” as a moody and dramatic song that while meant to be a “rip off “rip off The Replacements” as Reid explained in an interview with Billboardmanaged to remind me quite a bit of Concrete Blonde‘s “Joey,” complete with a swooning heartache at its core. “Sister Buckskin,” the EP’s third single continued in the 80s post-punk/New Wave/college radio vein, as it managed to remind me of The Pretenders; but underneath the shimmering guitar work and anthemic hooks was a bitter sense of nostalgia over what could have have been — and just didn’t happen.

Since the release of Crush, the duo have gone on to open for the likes of Middle Kids, Frankie Cosmos and Blitzen Trapper but interestingly, the band recently released the EP’s latest single “Stones,” the last bit of music recorded at The Magic Shop, where David Bowie, Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, Norah Jones, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters once recorded albums. And while further cementing their reputation for crafting hook-laden, anthemic 80s-inspired rock, the “Stones” manages to make a subtle nod to Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as the song features some of the most impressive guitar work on the EP while bristling with a feral sensuality.

 

 

 

 

Comprised of founding members and primary songwriters Debbie Andrews and Mike Blaxill, the New York-based indie rock act Gladshot can trace their origins to when the duo met at a songwriter collective in which individual members performed and critiqued each other’s material. And at the time, Blaxill was writing roots rock-leaning material while Andrews work drew from pop and jazz; in fact, Andrews received a National Endowment of the Arts nod and had lessons with Joanne Brackeen, a session and touring pianist, who backed the likes of Ornette Coleman, Art Blakey and Stan Getz. Since their formation, the duo have developed a reputation for being uncompromising and restlessly creative as they’ve worked on a dystopian rock musical and writing songs that have appeared on TV shows on TNT, ABC and MTV.

Interestingly, the duo’s soon-to-be released, John Agnello-produced album These Are Vitamins find the band collaborating with a backing band — Jesse Murphy (bass), who’s best known as a member of Brazilian Girls; Tony Mason (drums), who’s played with Norah Jones and The Meters‘ Leo Nocentelli; and Tim Bright (guitar).  And the three new collaborators reportedly add to the push-and-pull dynamics that Blaxill and Andrews developed and perfected on the Maxwell’s Cool Demon EP — all while finding the band’s sound moving towards 90s alt rock-inspired garage rock, complete with buzzing power chords as you’ll hear on “Simulation” the latest single off the duo’s soon-to-be released album; in fact, the new single manages to remind me of 90s era Sonic Youth and 120 Minutesera MTV.

You can catch Gladshot playing their album release show at Trans-Pecos on October 28, 2017.

 

 

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