Tag: Oakland CA

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Oakland, CA-based quintet Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for a lush, forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and difficult to pigeonhole sound that seamlessly incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop, experimental pop and soul.  And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based quintet has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and Bermuda Triangle, and they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Slated for release next Friday, the act’s soon-to-be released SALT AND SOAP EP is reportedly inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you;re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Along with that, the band stumbled upon a new and very different creative and songwriting process that incorporated an unusual sampling method: the use of grainy phone recordings of the act’s drumming eventually became the bedrock for each song of the EP — and in turn, their forthcoming full-length album The Mystic. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent. And as you’ll hear on the EP’s latest single “Downpour,” the result is something that manages to be paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lysergic yet groove-driven, lush and enveloping but while revealing a band radically reinvented its sound and approach in a way that recalls (to my ears at least)Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu simultaneously.

As the band says in a statement: “Growing up it seemed like it was important to hold so many things as secrets, some of which are at this point laughable, some still heavier.

These secrets often gave the sense that there was something wrong and unusual about me or that part of my life. They also gave the sense that if there was actually something difficult it wasn’t necessary to let anyone outside of it know.

This led to a lot of creative improvising and getting used to being a little less like myself.

Eventually I started  to ask “what would be the consequence of sharing versus the weight of holding?”

The track Downpour is about at first getting used to living in a secret, but then facing a growing unease of having to continue to tuck yourself away.”

The band will be embarking on a West Coast tour during the fall. Check the tour dates below.

Bells Atlas Tour Dates: 

9/20 Oakland – New Parish w/ Chanti Darling
10/4 Los Angeles – The Satellite
10/6 Joshua Tree, CA – Joshua Tree Music Festival
10/7 San Diego, CA
10/11 Portland, OR Holocene w/ Chanti Darling
10/14 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/ JusMoni
10/16 Boise, ID Neurolux
10/20 Basalt, CO The Temporary
10/21 Denver, CO Globe
10/23 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s
10/24 Chicago, IL Hideout Inn
11/18 Palm Springs, CA Ace Hotel

With the release of her critically applauded full-length debut ABYSS, the Oakland, CA-born, Austin, TX-based electronic music producer and artist Pastel Ghost quickly received attention for an ethereal, genre-defying sound that meshes elements of dream pop, post-punk, EDM and electronica, Building upon a growing profile, the Oakland-born, Austin, TX-based electronic music producer and artist’s sophomore album Ethereality is slated for an October 5, 2018 release through Cleopatra Records and the album’s latest single “Mercury” will further cement Pastel Ghost’s growing reputation for crafting gauzy, shoegazer-like club music that possesses a deeply cinematic bent.

 

OctFest 2018 Preview

Last year, Pitchfork, one of the premier music websites; October, a beer culture-centric website that aims to capture the spirit, ambition, making and drinking of the precious and beloved stuff through essays, travelogues and events; and Bon Appetit, the award-winning food lifestyle brand teamed up for what may arguably be one of the most unique festivals I’ve come across in some time: OctFest, a beer, music and food festival.  2018’s edition of OctFest, which will take place on Governor’s Island on September 8, 2018 and September 9, 2018 will feature a food lineup curated by Bon Appetit , a music lineup curated by Pitchfork that will include Vince Staples, The Flaming Lips and dozens of other music acts, 90+ craft breweries from all around the world – and with arguably some of the most gorgeous views of Manhattan you’ll see in your life.

So let’s talk a bit about each aspect of the festival, huh?

Food

The food program is centered around a Food Village that will offer a number of New York-based quick-serve staples including the Mission Chinese Food, Roberta’s Pizza, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co, Sweet Chick, the STUF’D Truck, Cervo’s, Best Pizza, Oakland, CA-based KronnerBurger and many others preparing specialties to compliment the domestic and international craft beer being sampled.  (Check out the full lineup below.)

FOOD LINEUP

Curated by Bon Appétit

Best Pizza

Cervo’s

Hank’s Juicy Beef

Island Oyster

KronnerBurger

Los Viajeros Food Truck

Mission Chinese Food

Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.

Sweet Chick

STUF’D Truck

Roberta’s Pizza

 

Beer

 OctFest will be hosting 90 breweries from 20 different countries, pouring more than 250 varieties of award-winning craft beer. Several breweries will be making their New York City debut, including Wicked Weed Brewing, DC Brau, Wedge Brewing Co, Four Peaks Brewing Co, Wild Beer Co., and Karbach Brewing, Co. (Check out the full lineup below.)

BREWERY LINEUP

North America – West

10 Barrel Brewing Co. (Bend, OR)
Austin Eastciders (Austin, TX)
Breckenridge Brewery (Littleton, CO)
Elysian Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
FiftyFifty Brewing Company (Truckee, CA)
Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Four Peaks Brewing Co. (Tempe, AZ)
Golden Road Brewing (Los Angeles, CA)
Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, MI)
Karbach Brewing Co. (Houston, TX)
Kona Brewing Company (Kailua-Kona, HI)
Live Oak (Austin, TX)
Monkless Belgian Ales (Bend, OR)
On Tour Brewing Company (Chicago, IL)
Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)
The Shop Beer Co. (Tempe, AZ)
Virtue Cider (Fennville, MI)
North America – East

Blue Point Brewing Company (Patchogue, NY)
Brasserie Archibald (Canada)
Braven Brewing Company (Brooklyn, NY)
Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
Brickworks Cider (Canada)
Circa Brewing Co. (Brooklyn, NY)
Cisco Brewers (Nantucket, MA)
Collective Arts Brewing (Canada)
DC Brau (Washington, D.C.)
Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, VA)
Flying Dog Brewery (Frederick, MD)
Hanging Hills Brewing Company (Hartford, CT)
Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (Framingham, MA)
Keegan Ales (Kingston, NY)
Lamplighter Brewing Co. (Cambridge, MA)
LIC Beer Project (Long Island City, NY)
Lord Hobo Brewing Company (Woburn, MA)
M.I.A. Beer Company (Doral, FL)
Microbrasserie Gainsbourg (Canada)
Mill Street Brewery (Canada)
Narragansett Brewing Company (Pawtucket, RI)
Sand City Brewing Co. (Northport, New York)

Springdale (Framingham, MA)
Stanley Park Brewing (Canada)

Sunday Beer Co. (Brooklyn, NY)
The Bronx Brewery (Bronx, NY)
Veza Sur Brewing Co. (Miami, FL)
Wicked Weed Brewing (Asheville, NC)
Zero Gravity Craft Brewery (Burlington, VT)
Europe
Aktien Brewery of Kaufbeuren (Germany)
Birra del Borgo (Italy)
Brasserie La Binchoise (Belgium)
Brouwerij Bosteels (Belgium)
Brouwerij DeKroon (Belgium)
Camden Town Brewery (UK)
Ginette (Belgium)
Hertog Jan (Netherlands)
Jopen (Netherlands)
La Virgen (Spain)
Laugar Brewery (Spain)
Radeberger (Germany)
Wild Beer Co (UK)
Latin America
Barfuss (Argentina)
Bocanegra (Mexico)
Bogota Beer Co (Colombia)
Cervecería Urbana (Mexico)
Cervecería Wendlandt (Mexico)
Cerveza Patagonia (Argentina)
Colorado (Brazil)
Cucapá (Mexico)
Lohn Bier (Brazil)
Melas Beer (Colombia)
Nicaragua Craft Beer Co. (Nicaragua)
Pratinha (Brazil)
Wals (Brazil)
Asia, Africa, Oceania
Bira 91 (India)
4 Pines Brewing Company (Australia)
Balter Brewing Co (Australia)
Boxing Cat Brewery (China)
Cape Brewing Co. (South Africa)
Good George (New Zealand)
Newlands Spring Brewing Company (South Africa)
Pirate Life Brewing (Australia)
Playground Brewery (South Korea)
Taihu Brewery (Taiwan)
The Hand & Malt Brewery (South Korea)

Music

 While I’ll definitely have interest in the food and beer, my primary interest is the music and I’m looking most forward to catching sets from the following:

Saturday, September 8

 Vince Staples: Staples is a 25 year-old, North Long Beach, CA-born and-based emcee and actor, who first rose to prominence as member of hip-hop collective Odd Future, which also featured Mike G, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler The Creator – and the collaborative Mac Miller-produced Stolen Youth mixtape. October 2014 saw the release of his solo debut EP, Hell Can Wait, which included attention grabbing singles “Hands Up” and “Blue Suede.”

Building upon a growing profile, Staples’ full-length debut 2015’s Summertime ’06 was released to critical applause – with Staples being featured as part of XXL’s 2015 Freshman Class. Staples’ critically acclaimed sophomore album, 2017’s Big Fish Theory found the acclaimed, young emcee expanding upon his sound as the album’s production incorporated avant-garde, dance and electronic influences. Additionally, Staples’ made a guest appearance on Gorillaz’s latest effort Humanz.

Staples is headlining Saturday night and I’m looking forward to hearing material off both Summertime ’06 and Big Fish Theory live.

BADBADNOTGOOD: Currently comprised of founding members Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums) with newest member Leland Whitty (saxophone), the Toronto, Ontario, Canada instrumental act BADBADNOTGOOD derive their name from an abandoned comedy TV project that Tavares was working on before the band formed – and whether as trio or a quartet, the band has developed a reputation for a sound and compositional approach that draws from hip-hop, electronica, jazz, prog rock; but they’re perhaps best known for their jazz-based interpretation of hip-hop tracks, which have allowed them to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Denzel Curry, Danny Brown, Mick Jenkins, Ghostface Killah and others. Interestingly, the band can trace its origins to when the band’s founding trio bonding over a mutual love of hip-hop – in particular MF Doom and Odd Future.

As the story goes, the then-trio played a piece based on Odd Future’s music for a panel of their jazz performance instructors, who didn’t believe it had much musical value – but interestingly enough, after they released the track as “The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1,” the track caught the attention of Tyler The Creator, who helped the video go viral. The Canadian act followed that up with the 2011 release of their full-length debut BBNG, which featured interpretations of A Tribe Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame and Odd Future. Building upon a growing profile, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD recorded a live jam session with Tyler The Creator in Sowinski’s basement, with videos from the session amassing more than a million views each.

2012’s sophomore effort BBNG2 was recorded over the course of a ten-hour studio session and featured Leland Whitty (saxophone) and Luan Phung (electric guitar) and featured their own original material, as well as renditions of sons by Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt and Feist. That year, the band was the official Coachella Festival house band, backing Frank Ocean and Odd Future over the course of its two weekends.

2013 saw the release of III, which featured “Hedron,” a track that was also featured on the compilation album Late Night Tales: Bonobo; “CS60” and “Can’t Leave the Night,” which was released with the B-side “Sustain,” and they were involved on the soundtrack for The Man with the Iron Fists, assisting with the production and composition.

2015 saw the release of the band’s fourth, full-length album Sour Soul, and the album found them collaborating with Ghostface Killah – and interestingly, the album is more of a hip-hop album that nods at jazz. They ended the year with covers of a handful of holiday standards, including “Christmas Time Is Here” with Choir! Choir! Choir!

Leland Whitty joined the band as a full-time member in early 2016, and followed that up with producing “Hoarse” off Earl Sweatshirt’s full-length debut Doris and “GUV’NOR,” a remix, which appeared on JJ DOOM’s Keys to the Kuffs (Butter Edition). By the middle of that year, BADBADNOTGOOD released their fifth full-length album IV, an album that featured guest spots from Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada, Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson, and was named BBC Radio 6’s #1 album of the year.

Live the act, which also includes keyboardist James Hill can easily shift between jazz, acid jazz, jazz fusion, hip-hop, prog rock, advant-garde jazz, funk and rock with an effortless and seamless fashion – and seemingly at will. I saw them earlier this summer at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at the Prospect Park Bandshell  and they are a must see.

Preoccupations: Now throughout the past handful of years of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about Canadian post-punk act and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and as you may recall, the band which is comprised of Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar) initially formed under the highly controversial name Viet Cong – and as a result of their original name, the members of the band found themselves in the middle of a furious and frenzied debate around cultural appropriation and the usage of terms, names and symbols closely associated with historical groups and actions that evoke the horrors and brutality of despotism, fascism, war, genocide and so on. Ultimately, the band decided it was best to change their name before the release of their sophomore album, an effort that found each of the individual members of the band in unsteady and uncertain positions – at the time, each of the individual members of the band had relocated to different cities across North America, which forced the band to change their long-established creative process.

Unlike their previously recoded material, the band went into the writing sessions without having a central idea or theme to consider or help guide them along, essentially making the recording sessions a collective, blind leap of faith. Interestingly, the band’s sophomore, self-titled album wound up drawing from that mix of anxiety, despair and regret that creates sleepless nights. New Material, the band’s third full-length album was released earlier this year, and the album builds upon the Canadian post-punk act’s growing reputation for crafting dark and moody post-punk centered around themes of anxiety, uncertainty, futility, frustration, creation and destruction but as the band’s Matt Flegel says of the self-recorded album, the album is “an ode to depression. To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.”  And while the material is dark, murky and deeply introspective, the members of Preoccupations have developed a reputation for having an intense and energetic live show, which reveals the material’s anthemic nature.

Sunday, September 9

 

The Flaming Lips: Currently comprised of founding members Wayne Coyne (guitar, vocals) and Michael Ivins (bass), with Steven Drozd, Derek Brown, Jake Ingalls, Matt Duckworth and Nicholas Ley, the Norman, OK-based psych rock/psych pop/indie rock act The Flaming Lips formed back in 1983 with Coyne (guitar), Coyne’s brother Mark (vocals), Ivins (bass) and Dave Kotska (drums). Interestingly, after Kotska joined the band, Richard English joined the band – and that year, they recorded the only full-length album with Mark Coyne, the band’s self-titled effort.

After Mark Coyne left the band, Wayne assumed vocal duties and the and released their 1986 full-length debut Hear It Is on Pink Dust Records, a psych rock imprint of Engima Records. With that initial lineup, the band released two more albums, 1987’s Oh My Gawd!!! and 1989’s Telepathic Surgery, which was originally planned to be a 30-minute sound collage. From that point on, the band has gone through a series of lineup changes – 1989’s Dave Fridmann-produced In a Priest Driven Ambulance featured Nathan Roberts (drums) and Mercury Rev’s Johnathan Donahue (guitar), and saw the band expanding upon their sound with further experimentation with tape loops and effects, as well as Coyne making a transition to vocal style inspired by Neil Young.

Back in 1990, the members of The Flaming Lips caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records and were promptly signed when an AR rep witnessed a show in which the band almost burned down the American Legion Hall in their hometown with the use of pyrotechnics. In 1991, the members of the band started recording their major label debut Hit to Death in the Future Head, which was delayed for nearly a year because of their use of a sample from Michael Kamen’s score from the major motion picture Brazil, which had a lengthy clearance process. After the recoding of the album, Donahue left the band to focus on his work with Mercury Rev and Roberts leaving the band, citing creative differences.

Ronald Jones and Steven Drozd joined the band and with that lineup they released Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, their only full-length album in which their longtime producer and collaborator Fridmann wasn’t involved; however, because of the success of album single “She Don’t Use Jelly,” the band was featured on Beverly Hills 90210, Late Show with David Letterman, Charmed and Beavis and Butthead. Building upon a growing profile, the band went on a lengthy stint of touring opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Candlebox.

1995’s Clouds Taste Metallic was released to critical fanfare in 1995 although it didn’t achieve the same commercial success of its predecessor. In 1996, the band went through another lineup chance with the depature of Ronald Jones. The three remaining members of the band felt a growing dissatisfaction with stand rock music, led to the extremely experimental Zaireeka, a four CD album intended to be heard by playing all four CDs in four separate CD players simultaneously. Sonically, the material incorporated traditional musical elements, found sounds often manipulated by contemporary recording studio techniques and electronics.

And while their experimental efforts received, the band received mainstream success with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, which meshed catchy melodies with synthetic strings, hypnotic and carefully manipulated beats, booming cymbals and weird but deeply philosophical lyrics. Critically, the album has been compared to The Beach Boys’ Pet Soundsas it featured the entire studio as an instrument to be manipulated. The Soft Bulletin’s critically applauded follow-up, 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots featured guest musician Yoshimi P-We and found the band incorporating the increasing use of electronics and computer manipulation – and the album is generally considered their first critical and commercially successful album after 20 years as a band; in fact, “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)” won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and the album was certified Gold in 2006. Since then the band has been considered one of those must-see acts, thanks in part to a show that has largely been described as a pure spectacle.  

Nile Rodgers & Chic: Nile Rodgers is a New York-born and-based songwriter, guitarist, composer, arranger and producer, who is best known as a co-founding member of smash-hit disco act Chic and for his work as a producer and collaborator with the likes of Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Philip Bailey, Thompson Twins, Sheena Easton, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Madonna, INXS, Britney Spears, Spoons, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Avicii, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Max Pezzali, Nervo, Laura Mvula, Sigala, Keith Urban, Christina Aguilera and George Michael among a growing list of artists.

Rodgers is arguably one of the more influential and important figures of pop music and dance music of the past 40+ years, and he’s had a role on some of the most beloved albums and singles, and I gotta admit I’m looking forward to hearing all of those old Chic songs live.

 Yo La Tengo: Yo La Tengo is Spanish for “I have it” — referring to a female-gendered object or person, in which it would be “I’ve got her,” but the Hoboken, NJ-based indie rock band actually derive their name from an old baseball anecdote. During the New York Mets‘ inaugural season in 1962, centerfielder Richie Ashbury and Venezuelan-born shortstop Elio Chacon found themselves colliding in the outfield. As the story goes, whenever Ashbury went for a catch, he wold scream “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” but Chacon spoke Spanish and had a limited understanding of English. During a game later that year, Ashbury yelled “Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!” instead and saw Chacon backing off on the play, avoiding further collisions; however, left fielder Frank Thomas, who didn’t understand Spanish and missed the team meeting that proposed using “Yo la tengo!” to avoid outfield collisions, collided into Ashburn. After getting up from their collision Thomas reportedly asked Ashburn, “What the hell is a Yellow Tango?”

As far as the band, the New Jersey-based indie rock band, which is currently comprised of founding members Ira Kaplan (guitar, piano, vocals), and Georgia Hubley (drums, piano, vocals), along with James McNew (bass, vocals) can trace their origins back to 1984. When Kaplan and Hubley formed the band, they played an advertisement to recruit other musicians, who shared their mutual love of The Soft BoysMission of Burma and Arthur Lee and his band Love, and as a result, the band’s first lineup featured Kaplan, Hubley, Dave Schramm (lead guitar) and Dave Rick (bass) with whom they released their debut 7 inch “The River of Water,” which featured a cover of Arthur Lee’s “A House Is Not a Motel.” After the band recorded “Private Doberman” for the Coyote Records compilation Luxury Condos Coming to Your Neighborhood Soon, the band went through a number of lineup changes before settling on their current lineup in 1992 — although the band’s original guitarist Dave Schramm joined the band during the sessions for their 14th record, Stuff Like That There.

Despite achieving limited mainstream success, Yo La Tengo have developed a reputation for being a critically applauded act while maintaining a devoted cult following, thanks in part to their live shows, which reveal an almost encyclopedic repertoire of covers — their SummerStage set last year began with a cover of Ace Frehely‘s “Back in the New York Groove“– and for their annual Hanukkah residency at Maxwell’s that featured a shit ton of covers and special guests, including their parents. Live, they manage to walk a tightrope between power and lush beauty, irony and sincerity within the turn of a phrase.

 

No Age: Comprised of Randy Randall (guitar) and Dean Allen Spunt (vocals, drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based noise rock duo No Age can trace their origins to the breakup of their previous band Wives, in which Spunt played bass and sang while Randall played guitar. The duo’s first official release was an extremely limited release collection of 5 vinyl singles  and Eps that they released on 5 different labels on or around the same day – March 26, 2007. Designed by Brian Roettinger and the members of No Age, the back of each record’s sleeve was a different color and had a different letter that when put together spelled out the band’s name. Half of the songs on the singles and EPs wound up comprising their full-length debut Weirdo Rippers.

Since the release of Weirdo Rippers, Randall and Spunt have developed a reptaution for relentless touring, frequently playing shows at unusual locations – they once played a show at the Los Angeles River and they famously accompanied video artist Doug Aitken and Chloe Sevigny to Athens, Greece and Hydra Island, Greece to perform a multimedia piece “Black Mirror.” The performances took place on an old Greek barge at the Port of Piraeus, off the Island of Hydra and a final performance with the barge driven to the middle of the ocean. Additionally, they’ve found new and interesting ways to pair art around the release of their music – 2009’s Losing Feeling EP was released with a limited edition “Losing Feeling” companion zine; 2012’s “Collage Culture” 12 inch was a soundtrack to readings of excerpts of Aaron Rose, Mandy Kahn and Brian Roettinger’s Collage Culture, split in two channels – one side with readings from the book, the other side with No Age music written specifically for the release.

The acclaimed noise rock act is currently touring to support their latest effort Snares Like a Haircut, which was released earlier this year through Drag City Records.

 

Check out the full musical lineup below.

MUSICAL LINEUP

Saturday, September 8

Vince Staples

BADBADNOTGOOD

NAO

Saba

Preoccupations

Vagabon

Standing on the Corner

Hatchie

Flasher

Madison McFerrin

 

Sunday, September 9

The Flaming Lips

Nile Rodgers & CHIC

Yo La Tengo

Girlpool

Hop Along

No Age

Kamaiyah

Shopping

Julie Byrne

The Courtneys

Tickets are still available, please check out OctFest.co for information.

You can check out information and updates on the festival at Oct.co, and on Twitter by following @Pitchfork and @ReadOctober.

 

I’ll be covering the festival through my various social accounts, so feel free to check me out through the following:

Twitter: @yankee32879

Twitter: @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

 

New Video: Bells Atlas Releases Gorgeously Cinematic Yet Surreal Visuals for “Be Brave”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Oakland, CA-based soul pop quintet Bells Atlas, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) specializes in a forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic, lush and difficult to pigeonhole sound that frequently incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based act has opened for the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle. the side project of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.
“Be Brave” is the first bit of new material from the band in about a year, and  the track reveals a band that has further experimented and expanded upon their sound and songwriting. Centered around incredibly dexterous and percolating bass lines, driving percussion and Lawson-Ndu’s sultry cooing, the track shifts and morphs between time signatures and tone in a sinuous and fluid fashion. And yet the song is underpinned by a resilient, life affirming spirit that seems to say, “When the shit hits the fan, be like a shark. Keep on swimming.” As the band’s Lawson-Ndu explains in press notes, “This song, in a way, is a chant and reminder that we have our own set of super powers and a pool of instincts to lean on. I’ve had instances of loss or fear in my life that hold the kind of weight that, in those exact moments, have felt impossible to navigate out of. At times I’ve felt it’s luck that eventually pulls me out, and in other cases I’ve realized that I’m actually rarely helpless; that just by actively moving through life, I’ve collected survival tools along with a growing sense that I’m not alone. It’s often a wonder to have felt something so strongly, but to eventually make it to the other side and know that you’re ok.”

Directed by San Francisco-based filmmaker Dominic Mercurio, the recently released and cinematic visuals for “Be Brave” follows the band’s Sandra Lawson-Ndu alone in a desert landscape and out of water. After finally succumbing to extreme dehydration, she is abducted and revived by strange, fuzzy Jim Henson-like creatures that perform a ritual to revive her — with a major consequence. And while surreal and almost dreamlike, the video thematically focuses on empathy, sacrifice and communal exchange, reminding the viewer that while things seem incredibly bleak that its those deeply human traits that will win out in the end; they always do.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay The Soft Moon Returns with Stark and Unsettling Visuals for “Like A Father”

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based singer/songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist Luis Vasquez and his solo industrial/darkwave/post-punk recording project The Soft Moon, and as you may recall Vasquez’s latest Soft Moon album, Criminal is arguably one of the most confessional and deeply personal albums he has written and released to date, as the album’s material thematically focuses on a man at war with himself, battling with self-hatred, insecurity and self-entitlement — with an underlying fear that he’s quickly transforming into the type of person he despises. Now, back in March, I wrote about the brooding and starkly atmospheric “Give Something,” a track that Vasquez explained in press note sis about his inability to reciprocate love and tenderness to another person. “Having no control over the constant urge to sabotage all things that are good for me, there is irony and frustration in knowing that in the end, the impossibility of love is what ultimately will save me from myself,” the Oakland-based singer/songwriter, electronic music producer and multi-instrumentalist says in press notes.

Criminal’s latest single “Like A Father” is centered around an abrasive and murky industrial production that brings Pretty Hate Machine and Downward Spiral-era Nine Inch Nails and Ministry to mind, as it features thumping, tweeter and woofer rattling beats, industrial clang and clatter, thick and arpeggiated synths and strummed guitar chords played through distortion and other effects pedals, and while the song is dance floor friendly, it churns with the inner turmoil of  man figuratively — and perhaps at points, even literally — wrestling with himself and his own demons, and losing quite badly.

Directed by Kelsey Henderson, the recently released video for “Like A Father” is comprised of a series of rapid-fire edits that shift from a brooding and angry man looking at himself in a carnival mirror before switching to the same man in a garage bag struggling to break free from his physical (and emotional) confines. Much like the accompanying song, the video is unsettling and leaves a lingering presence.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Sugar Candy Mountain Offer Empathy as a Weapon of The Resistance

Currently comprised of founding member Will Halsey (vocals, drums), Ash Reiter (vocals, guitar), Sean Olmsted (guitar, synth) and Jeff Moller (bass), the Oakland, CA-based psych rock act and JOVM mainstays Sugar Candy Mountain can trace its origins to when Halsey, who had had stints drumming in several different Bay Area-based bands including The Blank Tapes, fpodbpod and Ash Reiter‘s backing band began the project as a bedroom recording project in which he initially wrote songs in the vein of of Montreal and The Beach Boys. Shortly after Halsey began the project, he recruited Ash Reiter, and the duo began writings songs together — with the duo writing decidedly psychedelic material, inspired by Reiter’s obsessive collecting of various effects pedals. Since the release of their earlier material, there has been a series of lineup changes with the band adding Olmsted and Moller, as its newest members, allowing Halsey to return to drum duties.
 
Sugar Candy Mountain’s latest album Do Right was released earlier this month and the album is deeply influenced by our outrageous and infuriating sociopolitical moment. Written as part travelogue and part response to the moment, the album’s material is also an attempt to offer a much needed balm that says “come on outside and daydream a bit; look at the sky; look at the flowers; enjoy a moment of necessary peace — because it’s so rare.” With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that the band has noted that nature is where they often go to re-calibrate their moral compass, when it’s been frequently upended by the demoralizing and maddening daily news cycle. Sonically speaking, Do Right finds the band retaining elements of the 60s and 70s rock and psych rock inspired sound, centered around Reiter’s ethereal vocals; however, the album finds the band adding synths, which will subtly modernizing their sound also gives it a slightly retro-futuristic sound similar to
Pavo Pavo and Drakkar Nowhere.
 
Now, as you may recall album single “Split in Two” was a hazy and mesmerizing track in which the band invites the listener to join them as they had to a quiet, beautiful place to escape this mad, mad, mad, mad world. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Mar-a-Lago” as the band’s Reiter explains in press notes was written from the perspective of a Trump supporter, of someone who feels voiceless and vaguely unsatisfied with life and who desperately wants to matter, to belong to something bigger than themselves, to be lead by someone who can get them what they think they need in their lives — and as a result, it’s arguably one of the more empathetic portrayals of desperately lost, desperately stupid people I’ve heard in some time, as it suggests that desperation the Trump supporter has felt is a familiar one. 
 
Directed by Arsenii Vaselenko, the recently released video for “Mar-a-Lago” features the band’s Reiter and Halsey dressed as astronauts (sort of), and playing in front of psychedelic-tinged visuals.
 
 
 

New Video: Introducing the Soulful and Bluesy Sounds of Pete Wilde

Pete Wilde is a Oakland, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, whose life and experiences have deeply influenced his own creative work. And as the story goes, although he was raised by a loving mother, his childhood was defined by a distant father, tormented by his own demons. Years later, after witnessing the murder of his best friend, the only thing that seemed to evoke and capture his own anger was rock ‘n’ roll — and although his stepfather, the saxophonist Eddie Minifield (he once played with Sheila E. and Kat Dyson) encouraged him to seek solace in music; however, a young Wilde was  also fueled by drugs and alcohol, and he eventually wound up in prison.

While serving his sentence, Wilde feverishly wrote songs influenced by black history and black artists, the emotions of his childhood, the feminism that his mother ingrained in him — and he quickly recognized that he had an urgent purpose: to make rock ‘n’ roll black again.  As Pete Wilde explains “I’m making rock music with groove and a ‘black’ sound that just isn’t funk or pop, but real, original rock ‘n’ roll.” And from the sensual and funky “Lucy,” Wilde’s sound brings to mind the bluesy stomp of Howlin’ Wolf and Sister Rossetta Tharpe with a good mixture of the swaggering soulfulness of black folk  paired with power chords and an anthemic hook. It’s a powerful and necessary reminder that black culture is American culture, that the primordial essence of rock is from the blues — and most important that rock is desperately in need of brothers and sisters to bring soul back into it. 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Wax Idol Release an Anthemic Power Ballad

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the  Oakland, CA-based indie rock act Wax Idols, and as you may recall that after 2013’s critically applauded album Discipline + Desire, the band went on hiatus as the band’s founding member, primary songwriter and frontperson Hether Fortune joined the equally acclaimed punk rock band and JOVM mainstays  White Lung. That was followed by a heartbreaking and life-altering divorce, which informed much of the material on the band’s critically applauded, third album, 2016’s American Tragic.

Informed by the one of the saddest and most difficult experiences of Fortune’s life, as Fortune explained that American Tragic wasn’t “. . .a sad album.The whole spectrum of grief is represented here — shock, pain, anger, loneliness, and then finding a way to work through all of that, and not only survive, and thrive. That’s what I was going through. I was kind of trying to save myself.” Fortune wrote and recorded every note and every single chord on the album, and as a result, it gives the album a deeply personal vision and point of view in which the heartbreak and grief at the core of the album is visceral and haunting — especially if you’ve ever experienced the dissolution of a long-term romantic relationship, as it evokes the lingering ghosts and resentments, the push and pull of longing, confusion and hatred towards that person, who may well never be in your life again; but it’s all underpinned by the recognition that if you’ve known love, you may know it again and again and again, and that somehow you’ll pick up most of the pieces and move forward. And while thematically being among the most soberING and thoughtful material Fortune has written, the material sonically is reminiscent of Too True-era Dum Dum Girls, Concrete Blonde, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others.

Slated for a May 16, 2018 release through Etruscan Gold Records, Wax Idols long-anticipated forth Monte Vallier-produced album Happy Ending finds the band heading towards new thematic territory as the album finds the band exploring the abstraction and finality of death from philosophical, political and personal perspectives, continuing on the deeply personal tone and vibe of their critically applauded American Tragic. Additionally, the album finds the band continuing onward after a series of lineup changes with the band’s founding member and primary songwriter Fortune backed by Peter Lightning (guitar, bass, organ, piano), Rachel Travers (drums) and Marisa Prieto (bass, backing vocals) and The Mallard’s Greer McGettrick joining the band after the album was recorded. 

Now, as you may recall Happy Ending’s first single “Scream” was a rousingly anthemic, 80s-inspired post punk track with with a deeply personal, idiosyncratic vision, complete with some impressive guitar pyrotechnics that make the song seem as though the band drawing influence from Boy and October-era U2.  As Fortune told NPR, “Finding inspiration in one of my favorite poems, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas, I used this song as a vehicle to meditate on the concept of free will & how one could choose to exercise it even at the brink of death.” She adds, “The protagonist is someone who is young, madly in love AND desperately wants to live — though they know that they will not. They have chosen to use their final seconds, the only breath in their lungs, to scream out the name of the one that they love.” Interestingly, the album’s latest single  the mid tempo power ballad, “Crashing” continues on a similar vein as its predecessor as it’s a swooning and urgent ballad centered around twinkling piano, propulsive drumming and an anthemic hook with some gorgeous guitar work. Much like Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” and others, “Crashing” is the sort of song you can envision earnestly shouting along with a beer held aloft, with the knowledge of life’s fleeting nature.

New Video: The Stark Sounds and Visuals of The Soft Moon’s “Give Something”

Luis Vasquez is an Oakland, CA-based singer/songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the critically applauded industrial/dark wave/post-punk recording project The Soft Moon. Vasquez’s latest Soft Moon album, the recently released Criminal is reportedly one of his most confessional albums he has released to date, as the material is written through a stark lens of shame and guilt, in which the material thematically focuses on a man at war with himself, battling with self-hatred, insecurity, self-entitlement paired with the fear of those things transforming him into the type of person he normally despises.

Criminal’s latest single is the broodingly stark and atmospheric “Give Something,” a track that pairs his falsetto with thumping beats, razor sharp synths and industrial clang and clatter. Interestingly, as Vasquez explains in press notes, the track focuses on his inability to reciprocate love and tenderness to another person. “Having no control over the constant urge to sabotage all things that are good for me, there is irony and frustration in knowing that in the end, the impossibility of love is what ultimately will save me from my myself.” It’s a plaintive and gut wrenchingly urgent call for help from a deeply troubled, emotionally damaged yet incredibly self-aware person.

Directed by Kelsey Henderson and featuring video effects and color by Victoria Keddie, the recently released video for “Give Something” focuses on a split screen throughout — one the left, a topless woman with her back to the screen and a couple seemingly in the middle of intense coitus, with the same woman from the left hand side grabbing and scratching the back of her lover with a desperate, painful grip that leaves marks. At points the visuals go through stuttering visual effects that on one level makes it look as though the woman may be abusing herself  — or her lover — out of selfish motivations.