Tag: NYU

New Video: Acclaimed Indie Artist Soccer Mommy Goes on a Virtual 8-Bit Tour

Sophie Allison is a Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded indie rock project Soccer Mommy.  Allison first picked up guitar when she was six — and as a teenager, she attended Nashville School of the Arts, where she studied guitar and played in the school’s swing band. By 2015, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began posting home-recorded songs as Soccer Mommy to Bandcamp during the summer of 2015, just as she was about head off to New York University, where she studied music business at the University’sSteinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. 

While she was in college, Allison played her first Soccer Mommy show at Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Silent Barn. She caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed her to a record deal — and after spending two years at NYU, she returned to Nashville to pursue a full-time career in music. Upon her return to Nashville, the acclaimed Swiss-born artist wrote and released two Soccer Mommy albums — 2016’s For Young Hearts through Orchid Tapes and 2017’s Collection through Fat Possum Records. Her proper, full-length debut, 2018’s Clean was released to widespread critical acclaim, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, Alison has wound up touring with Stephen Malkmus, Mitski, Kacey Musgraves, Jay Som, Slowdive, Frankie Cosmos, Liz Phair, Phoebe Bridgers, Paramore, Foster the People, Vampire Weekend, and Wilco.  

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was gearing up to be a massive year for the young and rising singer/songwriter and guitarist: she began the year by playing at one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and had joined a list of contemporary artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. Allison’s highly-anticipated sophomore album color theory was released to critical applause — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Nashville-based artist had been gearing up for a massive year: she was about to embark one a headlining tour with a number of dates sold-out months in advance, along with that, she had lined up appearances across the global festival circuit that included a stop at Glastonbury. Additionally, she was supposed to make her late-night, nationally televised debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

With touring being on an indefinite half for the music industry, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist recognized that this was a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas. Combining her love of video games and performing, Allison held a digital concert on the online gaming platform Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend it. The concert was so popular, that her fans crashed the platform’s servers, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Allison has also performed a number of live streams events, including  NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork’s IG Live Series. And she also recently released her own Zoom background images. 

Recently, Allison and company embarked on a an Bella Clark-directed 8-bit virtual, music video tour in which the band plays some of the cities she was meant to be passing through — Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. Instead of virtually playing at the more common tourist locations or a traditional music venue, the members of the band are mischievously placed in unusual locations: an abandoned Toronto area subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge and more. Interestingly, the video four features the virtual band playing the album’s latest single “crawling in my skin.” Centered around looping and shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line, shuffling drumming and subtly shifting tempos, the track reveals a remarkably self-assured young songwriter, who has an unerring knack for pairing earnest songwriting with an infectious hook. (Oh, and you’ll see the band adhering to social distancing rules while virtually performing!)  

“It’s really hard having our tour be postponed because I was really excited to play all of the songs on color theory for everyone, ‘crawling in my skin’ in particular,” Allison says. “I hope this little 8-bit performance can hold everyone over until the tour can happen.”

New Video: Singer Songwriter Kris Kelly Releases an Intimate Solo Acoustic Performance of “Cracked Porcelain”

Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.

Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco’s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.  The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos. 

Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others. Recently Kelly released a live and very intimate, solo, acoustic session featuring “Cracked Porcelain,” that gently pulls and teases out the song’s gorgeous melody — and forces the listener to pay even closer attention to the song’s lyrics. 

“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.

“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?

“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”

Kris Kelly is an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist  and composer. Kelly relocated to the New York metropolitan area, when he attended my alma mater, NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. For years, he performed his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.

Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America, primarily living in Argentina and Brazil with just his guitar and a suitcase. And while in South America, he met his husband. As a songwriter, his experiences traveling and falling in love have deeply inspired his forthcoming, self-produced album Runaways — and the album thematically touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

Upon returning to the states, Kelly spent time in studios in NYC and Los Angeles recording the album, which is slated for an August 29, 2019 release with an all-star casts of musicians including Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco‘s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey.  The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos

Runaways‘ latest single is the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous “Cracked Porcelain.” Centered around a soaring string arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, shuffling drumming paired with Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of the late (and somewhat under-appreciated) Scott Walker, whose work was imbued with a similar aching longing and sense of loss. But at the core of the song is a narrator, who’s desperately trying to figure what his romantic relationship meant to him and on his own terms. And of course, it means maneuvering the contradictory push and pull we often feel as we enter romantic relationships with others.

“‘Cracked Porcelain’ is a story about two gay men who find freedom in defining their relationship in an unconventional, ‘open’ way but who end up getting lost in the revelry and ultimately drive each other apart,” Kelly explains. “I think the LGBTQ community has a unique opportunity to redefine our relationship with sex within our partnerships. Not having forced onto us the traditional ways of defining a healthy partnership gives us the freedom to discover it for ourselves, but it also comes with a great responsibility, and I think we often fail. I failed at least. And that’s ok, because I realized if I wanted to be happy, I had to make a change. I’ve been forced to reevaluate constantly my relationship with my partner and to figure out how to respect each other while maintaining a healthy individuality, and we’re still navigating it to this day.

“The song definitely has an element of the sacred vs. the profane in it. The spiritual vs. the carnal. Monogamy and commitment vs. free love and the expression of uninhibited sexual desire. Attachment (the couple) vs. freedom (the individual), which is a theme that runs throughout the album. In the song, the two men fulfill all their personal desires, and get lost with the help of alcohol and drugs, but forget to care about each other, neglecting the needs of their relationship. In that seductive lifestyle, it’s easy for them to use sex, drugs, and alcohol to cover up a lot of issues they just don’t want to deal with. And it feels like ‘freedom’ but are they really in control? What are the boundaries that protect the relationship? What is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for them?

“In In the end, like everything, I find it all about balance,” Kelly adds. “Yes, gay men pride themselves on being able to separate love and sex, but do we slip into the trap of serving only the quick-fix, instant gratification of anonymous sex, sacrificing the part about ‘love’ and the fulfillment of a deeper, long-term relationship with someone? It’s easy to go unconscious and do whatever feels good in the moment, but without consciously, intentionally taking care of the relationship, it falls apart. There has to be a balance in order to nurture both carnal desires and the spiritual connection with another human being (if that’s something that you value). And when things are out of balance, suffering is inevitable. That’s what happens in ‘Cracked Porcelain’.”

Raymond James Mason is a Long Island, NY-born, Brooklyn-born trombonist and singer/songwriter. As the story goes, Mason picked up the trombone at a very young age, and as a teenager, he studied classical performance and jazz studies at my alma mater NYU, where he studied with Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber and Elliot Mason. Upon graduating, Mason quickly became an in-demand musician, playing across a wide variety of genres; but he’s best known for being a member of renowned local Afrobeat act Antibalas, which eventually led to him becoming a member of the Daptone Records/Dunham Records in-house band, playing with the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields and the The Expressions and many others. Additionally, Mason has performed and or recorded with the likes of Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Tame Impala, Maren Morris, Earth Wind and Fire, Mark Ronson and and more. Unsurprisingly, he very busy Mason learned from these artists while honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.

Back in October 2016, Mason reached out to Daptone Records house band member, longtime friend and Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik to set up at a casual recording session. At the time, Aukstik was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped with only a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Aukstik and Mason assembled an all-star squad of local soul musicians, including Alex Chakour, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Freddy DeBoe, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Joe Harrison, who has played with Nick Hakim and Charles Bradley; and Morgan Price, who has played with Antibalas to record a couple of Mason’s compositions — two of which wound up becoming the A and B sides of Mason’s solo debut, “Back When”/”No Clue.”

A side single “Back When” is a strutting and swaggering bit of a soul pop centered around an arrangement of Arp Omni bass synth, fuzzy guitar lines and a steady backbeat — and while thematically the song is a universal tale of lost opportunity and what could have beens, it’s a decidedly contemporary take on the Dala Records sound, as it nods at contemporary soul, hip-hop and psych pop in a way that brings Tame Impala, Nick Hakim and others to mind. “No Clue,” the B side single is centered around fuzzy power chords and a garage rock vibe, while thematically the song focuses on a dysfunctional and confusing relationship. Both singles reveal an an up-and-coming artist, who’s actively and earnestly pushing the sonic boundaries of soul.