Crown Lands is a rising Oshawa, Ontario, Canada-based rock duo — Cody Bowles (vocals, drums) and Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass, synths) — that can trace its origins back to 2014, when the duo met. Bonding over a shared love and passion for music, Bowles and Comeau quickly became best friends and started jamming together in a local barn. And although they switched up instruments, they never strayed from writing, recording and performing as a duo.
The duo’s name manages to be forcefully indicative of their ambitions and intentions. Crown Land is territorial area belonging to a monarch — or as Bowles puts it: “Crown Land is stolen land and we are reclaiming it.” The band’s overall mission is to represent a sense of empowerment for marginalized communities through their music and their work’s thematic concerns and lyrical content. People are going to listen to you, so you may as well say something that matters,” Crown Land’s Kevin Comeau says in press notes.
Since their formation, the band has released three EPs 2016’s Mantra, 2017’s Rise Over Run, this year’s Wayward Flyers, Volume 1 and their Dave Cobb-produced self-titled full-length debut, which was released earlier this month. So far the band has released three singles off the album — “Spit It Out,” ‘Howling Back” and the righteous indignation-fueled, arena rock anthem “End of the Road,” a passionate cry for awareness and action surrounding the status of missing and murdered Indigenous womxn, girls and two-spirits across their native Canada and elsewhere.
Centered around an expansive yet radio friendly song structure, enormous bluesy power chords, thunderous drumming, Bowles’ rock god vocals and a swaggering arena rock friendly vibe, Crown Lands’ latest single is the Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath-like “Leadfoot,” a song perfect for playing as loudly as humanly possible while displaying your own leadfoot. “’Leadfoot’ started as a cautionary tale about speeding but quickly became some sort of song about interstellar love,” Crown Lands’ Kevin Comeau says. “Lots of space and nature imagery keep the song from touching down into reality but the music is quite rooted in blues and glam rock. Is it about aliens? Is it about cars? Is it about aliens driving cars? Maybe. Either way, it’s a lot of fun to play.”
Directed by Blake Mawson, features the Canadian duo as a pair of sultry and badass rock gods, a badass classic car and a celestial chorus of sorts. Shot with COVID-19 restrictions in mind, the visual balances the health of everyone involved with some bold, ass-kicking ambition. “We wanted to get really ambitious and weird with this one, and Blake’s vision was perfect for what we wanted. It was the first post-COVID shoot for everyone involved, so that was interesting to work with those restrictions, but everyone was so happy to be back to work and eager to do a great job,” Cody Bowles recalls. “On set we had this whole warehouse studio booked and subdivided into different sets for the corresponding scenes in the video. My favourite moment would have to be when I was in the blue box room with the TV. It was this little cramped room setup where they told me to play with the space between myself and the fisheye lens, so I kinda went wild with it and of course I thoroughly enjoyed that, aha!”
Lucias Tadini is an Italian-Brazilian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, where’s he best known for his solo recording project Tadini. The Italian-Brazilian singer/songwriter and musician, studied at Boston‘s Berklee College of Music— and after completing his studies, he wound up playing in a number of bands and projects, which have allowed him to hone his skills as a singer, keyboardist and guitarist, as well as producer and arranger.
Upon graduation, Tadini relocated to Los Angeles, where he started crafting arrangements centered around guitar, a collection of Moog synths, a Mellotron or two and a theremin that drew from Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the rhythms and melodies of his native Brazil in a genre-blurring fashion. That material wound up becoming the Brazilian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s forthcoming, full-length debut Collective Delusion.
Last month, I wrote about “The Arsonist,” Collective Delusion‘s first single. Centered around explosive power chords, thunderous drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook, the song is full of arena rock friendly bombast and swagger paired with an incredibly self-assured performance that belies his relative youth. Written as he was relocating from Boston to Los Angeles. the song is a message about accepting and embracing change as a universal part of life. Continuing upon a similar vein as its immediate predecessor, Collective Delusion‘s second and latest single “Welcome Back to Freedom” is a slow-burning, bluesy dirge, centered around an enormous, power chord-driven hook, thunderous drumming and some explosive guitar soloing. Sonically, the song will likely draw comparisons to The Blue Stones, Reignwolf and several others.
“‘Welcome Back to Freedom’ is a song about surpassing your inner struggles (mental health) to win back your freedom, and the message is delivered through electrifying guitar riffs, a wall of synths and an arena ready catchy chorus, ” the emerging Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist explains in press notes.
Born in Brazil to Italian parents, Lucias Tadini is an Italian-Brazilian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, best known as Tadini. As a child, he attended a Chinese school, where he learned how to speak and read Mandarin. Eventually he relocated to Boston, where he studied at Berklee College of Music— and after completing his studies, he wound up playing in a number of bands and projects, which have allowed the Italian-Brazilian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to hone his sills as a singer, keyboardist and guitarist, as well as a producer and arranger.
Relocating again to Los Angeles, Tadini began crafting arrangements centered around guitar, a collection of Moog, a Mellotron or two and a theremin that drew from Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the rhythms and melodies of his native Brazil in a genre-blurring fashion. The end result is the emerging artist’s forthcoming, full-length debut Collective Delusion.
Interestingly, “The Arsonist” is the Los Angeles-based artist’s debut single — and the first official single off his full-length debut. Centered around explosive power chords, thunderous drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook, the song is full of arena rock friendly bombast and swagger paired with an incredibly self-assured performance that belies his relative youth. Written as he was relocating from Boston to Los Angeles. the song is a message about accepting and embracing change as a universal part of life.
“It’s the first song I wrote for the album,” Tadini says in press notes. “It is about setting one’s old self on fire (therefore the arsonist) in order to start fresh, kind of like a Phoenix. It symbolizes the beginning of my solo career”.
Helene Alexandra Jæger is a Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the rising recording project Holy Boy. Recorded at Ben Hillier’s London-based Pool Studios, Jæger’s 2017 Holy Boy self-titled debut was released to widespread critical acclaim with EP single “The Blood Moon” receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1 while establishing her sound – a sound that takes cues from The Velvet Underground and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Suicide, the dark side of the 60s, vintage girl bands and West Coast hip-hop and she has dubbed “neon gothic.” Thematically, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s work focuses on “explorations in consciousness,” she explains in press notes.
Building upon a growing profile, Jæger performed sets at that year’s CMJ, NXNE and SXSW. She followed that up with the critically applauded single “Elegy,” which The Line of Best Fit described as being “at once eclectic and utterly immersive; smoky and classic, yet simultaneously futuristic.”
Much like the countless emerging artists I’ve covered on this site over the past decade, Jæger began the year with big plans to boost her profile and her career that included booked sets at this year’s SXSW, which would have corresponded with the release of the first single off her forthcoming 11 song, full-length debut, which is slated for release this summer. Of course, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was cancelled while countless other festivals, tours and shows were postponed until later this year. Interestingly, the album’s first single was released last month – and it turns out to be an eerily fitting and timely cover of The Doors’ classic “Riders On The Storm.” Centered around layers of shimmering organs, including Hammond, Rhodes, Optigan and Vox Continental, vintage 70s drum machines and 80s Casio synths, along with Jæger’s dusky vocals drenched in gentle reverb, delay and other ethereal effects, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s haunting and cinematic rendition retains the somber and brooding tone of the original while adding that seemingly unending sense of dread and uncertainty that we’ve all felt in our lives over the past month or so.
The accompanying video is fittingly creepy and yet highly symbolic: it features a lo-fi, computer generated skeleton in space, walking up a never-ending staircase.
I recently exchanged emails with Jæger for this Q&A. Current events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found a way to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will likely reverberate for some time to come. Because she had plans to play at SXSW until it was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chat briefly about how the pandemic has impacted her and her career. But the bulk of our conversation, we chat about her attention- grabbing cover of The Doors’ classic tune, and what we should expect from her forthcoming debut. Check it out below.
___ WRH: Most parts of the country are enacting social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in-quarantine for the better part of three weeks. It’s been tough – but it’s for the greater good. How are you holding up?
Helene Alexandra Jæger: I love New York, and it’s crazy what’s happening right now. I hope it turns around and that we all learn something from this that can save lives in the future and now. Here in L.A., we’ve been at home for three or four weeks — I can’t even remember — and most things have been shut since then. It’s been strict, but I’m grateful for that – better safe than sorry in this type of a situation.
I’m lucky as an introvert, I’m quite comfortable spending time on my own reading, exploring info online, creating and listening to music.
WRH: You were about to release new material at around the time that SXSW had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career at the moment?
HAJ: The cancellation came so suddenly; the whole festival was shut down less than a week before I was headed there to showcase my album live for the first time. I feel the cancellation of SXSW was a turnaround, for the first time people started to realize how serious this outbreak might get…
Until that, most people I heard from thought the danger was exaggerated, and so I’m really glad the city of Austin made a firm decision, because I don’t know what the situation would have been like if 60,000 people had gathered for SXSW as planned, just a few weeks back.
Since this outbreak, I’ve been trying to manage the “Riders On The Storm” release that was too late to cancel — and somehow turned out to be more poignant right now than I’d ever expected.
I was planning to release my debut album this spring, was working on music video plans, and had live shows in the pipeline around the release, but that’s all on ice now. The good thing is, I get to create more and spend time making more music. I also have a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s given me time to focus on that and prepare for that release.
WRH: How would you describe your sound, for those unfamiliar to you and Holy Boy’s sound?
HAJ: This is always tricky. I feel like it’s a world where it’s dark, but there are neon lights on, and you can see the stars and the moon. There’s a dreamy quality to it, but it can also get gritty and sensual. I sometimes think of it as Moon in Scorpio, 5th house, that’s my placement. It’s a dark and deep place where there’s sometimes a feeling of being closer to space than earth. Musically, I call it Neon Gothic or LA noir, organ rock.
WRH: Who are your influences?
HAJ: I love all kinds of music, but for this coming album, I’ve been immersing myself in what felt like it resonated with the emotions in those songs. Songs like “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, David Bowie’s Blackstar album, “Nikes” by Frank Ocean, Suicide and songs by The Shangri-La’s, Johnny Jewel’s work . . .
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
HAJ: I’m really enjoying the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist where the algorithm presents you with music it thinks you’ll like, and I’ve been going on a deep dive based on doing research for a TV idea I’ve been working on… A beautiful and uplifting raw song I think everyone could benefit from right now is an old gospel type recording “Like A Ship” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and The Youth for Christ Choir… I think it’s a really inspiring song for this time.
I’ve also been listening to demos and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions and it’s been such a revelation to hear how incredibly different the other takes were… To see how fluid his process was, that a song like “Like A Rolling Stone” ended up the way we know it, when the other takes were so different… There’s a real magic to it. Like listening into an alternate reality.
WRH: You recently released an eerie and ominous cover of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” I think if Jim Morrison was alive today, he would have really dug what you did with the song. What drew you to the song? Have the living members of The Doors heard the song? If they did, what did they think of it?
HAJ: That means a lot to me, thank you so much. I know he had an interest in the worlds beyond and the nature of life and death, which I personally resonate with, so it was a great experience to channel one of his/their songs . . .
One of the reasons I was drawn to making a cover of “Riders On The Storm”, besides being a huge fan of The Doors, is it feels like a seeker’s song, and it felt like a kindred spirit to the way I look at the world. A sense of not quite being at home and not quite belonging on earth.
From what I know, they haven’t heard it, but I really hope they would enjoy my version. I hope they are all safe and well, all four of them in this world and the other.
WRH: The recent video for “Riders on the Storm” features a computer-animated skeleton in space, walking up an infinite staircase. It’s fittingly ominous and as eerie. How did you come about this treatment – and what is it supposed to represent?
HAJ: When I saw Andrei/@dualvoidanimafff’s lofi retro futuristic animations online, I knew I wanted to work on something with him. For “Riders On The Storm”, I just saw this idea of a skeleton walking up a never-ending staircase in space… Like man’s ascension, our eternal human quest to become more or to rise out of the limitations of physical life, to reach this idea of heaven or perfection… It felt to me like a logical depiction of the song’s theme, “Riders On The Storm”… The impossibility of our pursuit, but also the beauty – that throughout history we’ve never stopped trying.
WRH: You have an album slated for a late August release. What should we expect from the album?
HAJ: My version of “Riders On The Storm” is definitely in the same world that the record takes place in. An otherworldly atmosphere built around Hammond/Rhodes/Optigan organs, Vox Continentals, vintage 70s drum machines and obscure 80s Casio synths. It’s definitely a nighttime record, it’s happening in the dark, songs that I hope can be cathartic in a time like this and what most likely lies ahead.
Ollie Trevers is an emerging London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who started writing and performing music when he was 14. Like countless other young people, Trevers harbored artistic aspirations from the very beginning.
While studying at Leeds College of Music, Trevers joined a band then known as The Doldrums — they’re now known as Velvit — as the band’s lead singer and rhythm guitarist. The band wound up playing gigs in and around the Leeds area but while earning a masters at ICMP, Trevers decided it was time to spent out into the limelight as a solo artist, writing and recording his solo debut, last year’s Saucy NaughtyRubbish EP, an effort that found the London-based singer/songwriter crafting a sound that drew equally from classic rock and post-punk.
Around the same time, Trevers started to receive film industry work, eventually writing period specific songs for the feature film Funny Cow and publishing music to be used in the feature film Burning Men. Since then he was commissioned to write the score and the soundtrack album for the upcoming feature film Cordelia. And after completing his masters, Trevers has begun to refocus his efforts into his solo career, including recruiting a backing band, which has started to play gigs in and around London.
Trevers’ recently released, five song EP Cordelia finds the emerging British singer/songwriter and guitarist expanding upon the sound of his debut, with the new EP’s material inspired by Led Zeppelin, Ella Fitzgerald,Edith Piaf, Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley,Pink Floyd, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and David Bowie among others. And as a result, the material’s overall sound touches upon punk, alt rock, prog, blues, folk and psych rock. Thematically, the material touches upon heartache, melancholia, catharsis and emotional claustrophobia — and the feelings which often transcend our ability to accurately describe them. Additionally, the material finds the emerging British singer/songwriter and guitarist exploring unrequited love and its causes and effects — depression, addiction, disillusionment and longing.
The EP’s latest single is the oceanic “Can’t Make It Up.” Centered around fuzzy power chords, Trevers plaintive and expressive vocals and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook, the expansive song sonically nods at alt rock, the blues, psych rock, folk and Brit Pop in a way that reminds me of Love Is Here-era Starsailor and The Verve. “‘Can’t Make It Up’ was written as a result of a rather turbulent period in my life,” Trevers says in press notes. “I think a lot of people have expressed a similar despondency, and I’m really happy that I managed to find a way to share that in my music . . . especially as I sometimes find it too hard to write about things that are personal.”
Matt Koenig is a Pittsburgh-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has navigated his career as a completely independent act, never signing to a label. Citing a diverse and eclectic array of artists as influences, including the likes of of Tame Impala, The Beatles, Parcels, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Daft Punk, Koenig views his work with his (mostly) solo-recording project The Undercover Dream Lovers as bridge between different eras, combining themes and techniques from the past with those pointing the way toward out future.
Interestingly, without the machinery of a label, Koenig has built up a profile for himself and his work: so far, tracks like “Good Luck” and “Come Home” have gone viral — with “Good Luck” amassing over 11 million streams and charting on the Canadian andUS Viral 50 lists, and “Come Home” amassing over 14 million streams, landing on the New Music Friday playlist and the US Viral 50. Additionally, Koenig’s work has appeared in a number of TV shows, including VICE’s Fuck That’s Delicious, NBC’s Good Girls and ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier. Additionally, Fender featured Koenig on their Instagram story.
Koenig’s Undercover Dream Lovers full-length debut It’s All In Your Head is slated for a February 2020 release. Recorded at Koenig’s Los Angeles-based home studio, the album features a collaboration with Dent May. Interestingly, the album’s first single, album opening track “A Way Out” is centered around a disco-influenced groove, shimmering synth arpeggios and Koenig’s plaintive vocals. And while seemingly drawing from dance floor friendly sounds like Tame Impala, Neon Indian, Oracular Spectacular-era MGMT and theBee Gees among others, the track also reveals some (subtly) ambitious songwriting, with the intention of being part of an energized, ass-shaking live show.
Directed By Otium, the recently released video follows Koenig on a wild night and day that includes strange happenings, a chance, seductive meeting with co-star Michelle Saur, a fight that leaves Koenig’s character with an enormous black eye. Throughout the video has the feel and tone of a drunken fever dream with odd imagery and events that barely make sense — but are taken with a c’est la vie sort of acceptance.
Melbourne, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Harmony Byrne grew up in a Mormon family, the third of seven children. Early on, she was instilled with a love for church hymns and rock ‘n’ roll, both of which would heavily inform her own life and later, her own music. After enrolling into Melbourne’s Waldorf School of the Arts, Byrne devoted her time to learning guitar and piano, eventually developing her own original material.
Slated for a Spring 2020 release, the Melbourne-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s Jim Eno-produced, 10 song full length debut Heavy Doors reportedly features material that evokes the work of Jeff Buckley,Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. Although to my ears, the album’s latest single, the incredibly cathartic “Come Down vs. Calm Down” manages to bring John Lee Hooker, The Black Keys, PJ Harvey and Heartless Bastards‘ Erika Wennerstrom to mind, as the track is centered around a looping and shimmering 12 bars blues guitar line, simple yet forceful percussion and Harmony’s expressive and searing wailing, which effortlessly evokes heartache and triumph within the turn of a phrase. It’s a song that comes from lived-in experience, so the hurt and the catharsis at its core are familiar and real.
“In essence it’s a song about mental health,” Harmony says of the track. “It started as a cathartic vocal improvisation, allowing whatever came to mind to be sung. Through this process, words that kept reoccurring later became lyric. I feel there is darkness hidden in our minds that often engulfs us, which although hard to talk about, is important to express.
“I wanted to convey this in the song and for it to feel like a victorious roar of will, showing that through really digging in and knowing who we are and how we deserve to be treated, that we can overcome our monkey minds. It may seem like it’s an angry break up song, but really it’s about the different voices in our heads that we battle with every day.”
I’ve written quite a bit about the internationally acclaimed Algerian Tuareg pioneers of Desert Blues and JOVM mainstays Tinariwen over the past handful of years. And as you can recall, the act can trace its origins back to the late 1970s when the band’s founding member, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (guitar) joined a small group of Tuareg rebels living in refugee camps in Libya and Algeria. The rebels Ag Alhabib hooked up with had been influenced by radical chaabi protest music of groups like Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala, Algerian pop rai, and western artists like Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Boney M, and Bob Marley — and they started writing music that meshed the traditional folk music of their people with Western rock, reggae and blues-leaning arrangements.
Despite a series of lineup changes since their formation, the act has toured regularly across the European Union, North American, Japan and Australia, playing some fo the biggest festivals of the international touring circuit — and at some of the world’s biggest clubs and music venues. But one thing has been consistent: they’ve firmly established a sound that evokes the harsh and surreal beauty of their desert homeland, centered around the poetry and wisdom of a rough and tumble, proud and rebellious people, whose old-fashioned way of life is rapidly disappearing as a result of increasingly technology and encroaching Westernization and globalization. And while 2017’s Elwan (which translates into English as “The Elephants”) thematically touches upon on the impact that Westernization and technology has had on the lives of their people, their exile from their homeland as result of religious and ethnic infighting, the uncertain future of their homeland and their longing to be back in their homeland — with the tacit understanding that many within the band may never see their homeland ever again.
Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through Anti- Records, the acclaimed JOVM mainstays’ forthcoming album Amadjar reportedly is as close as listeners can get to the proverbial soul of the band as it was recorded in a natural setting. Accompanied by their French production team, who arrived in an old camper can that has been converted into a makeshift studio, the Saharan Africa JOVM mainstays’ journey to the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott takes about 12 days or so. Every evening, the caravan stopped to set up camp and the band went to work under the stars to prepare for the recording sessions, talking through things, and letting their guitar motifs, thoughts and long buried songs come. Then, during a final two-week camp in the desert around Nouakchott, the band, joined by The Mauritanian griot Noura Mint Seymali and her guitarist husband, Jeiche Ould Chigaly, recorded their songs under large tent in a few live takes, without headphones or effects.
Once recorded, a host of Western musicians added additional instrumentation including the Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis, who contributed violin; Micah Nelson, the son of the legendary Willie Nelson and a member of Neil Young‘s backing band, contributed mandolin and charango; Sunn O)))‘s Stephen O’Malley contributes guitar; Cass McCombs, who contributes guitar; and Rodophe Burger.
Lyrically and thematically, the album explores the continuing political, social, humanitarian and environmental problems faced in their home country of Mali and continues Tinariwen’s pursuit to highlight the plight and issues of their people through their music. The album continues the band’s ongoing work of highlighting the plight of the Tuareg community — from the collapse of infrastructure and public services, climate change and the ongoing political and military conflicts that have plagued their homeland since it gained independence in 1960.
Interestingly, “Kel Tinariwen” Amadjar’s latest single continues in a similar path of its predecessors as its centered around shimmering and looping acoustic guitar, call and response vocals, handclaps and drums and while the addition of a sinuous electric bass line helps to modernize the song, the song feels as though it’s an effortless synthesis of the ancient and the modern. Thematically, the song touches upon two ancient things: the treacherousness of those power mad and greedy sorts, who will sell out their people — and a triumph of the righteous over them. Cass McCombs contributes some trippy vocals towards the song’s coda and his guitar work.
Directed by Celidja Pornon, the recently released video for “Kel Tinariwen” is a cinematic and intimate shot visual that follows the band and their crew as they travel through the desert with their makeshift recording studio. We see tons of earthy browns and oranges, eerily beautiful landscapes, enormous and seemingly endless skies, and Van Gogh-like suns. Over the course of their journey, they stop for the night, set up camp, play dominoes, joke and chat and at night, they jam and write songs — the songs that represent the struggles and concerns of their people and of their homeland. We also get glimpses of the band performing for an ecstatic group of Tuaregs, who cheer them up and record every moment.