Tag: Phil Spector

New Audio: Montreal’s Paupiére Releases a Shimmering Synth Pop Confection

Seemingly deriving their name from the French words for skin peau and stone pierre, the rising Montreal-based indie electro pop duo Paupiére, visual artist Julia Daigle and Polipe’s and We Are Wolves’ Pierre-Luc Bégin, have firmly established a sound that meshes elements of 80s English synth pop and New Wave — i.e., The Human League, Depeche Mode and others — with French chanson through the release of 2016’s Jeunes instants EP, 2017’s full-length debut À jamais privé de réponses and 2019’s Jettatura EP. But just under the breezy pop melodies and catchy hooks, the duo’s work thematically touches upon naive, adolescent and hedonistic romanticism and a contemporary disenchantment.

Slated for a May 7, 2021 release, the duo’s sophomore album Sade Sati continues their ongoing successful collaboration with We Are Wolves’ Vincent Levesque, who produced their previously released work. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Coeur Monarque” is an infectious and sugary sweet pop confection centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, skittering polyrhythmic beats and boy-girl harmonies. Sonically, the song is a playful, hook-driven mix of Phil Spector-era pop and Ace of Base-like synth pop — but thematically, as the duo explain the song is much darker: “‘Coeur Monarque’ is an imaginary tale about a girl, who lives her life according to her moods. Her freedom contributes to her isolation and she loses herself in it. ‘Coeur Monarque’ is a light and poppy piece, just like the protagonist of the story.



Influenced by The Cure, Cocteau Twins and Joy Division and others, the rising Swiss-American shoegaze duo The Churchhill Garden — currently, founding member Andy Jossi (guitar) and Whimsical‘s Krissy Vanderwoude (vocals) — was originally founded as a solo recording project back in 2010 as a way for Jossi to plug into his emotions and to focus on writing music without any pressure.

A friend had showed Jossi how to use GarageBand, which he used for some of his earliest recordings. The Swiss guitarist was determined to become a better guitarist and he learned from his mistakes, which helped his musicianship and songwriting flourish and grow. As he was growing as a musician and songwriter, Jossi discovered Logic, which led to an improved and lusher quality to his recordings.

Jossi began to notice that the songs he was writing became more expansive and while inspired by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, shoegaze, post punk and jangle pop had gradually revealed his own take on the sounds he had long loved. The Swiss guitarist originally posted his instrumental songs on Myspace without expecting much in return but he was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the positive response he received. Although Jossi enjoyed writing the songs he had posted on MySpace, he felt that the material was missing something important — vocals.

Hoping to broaden his musical horizons, the Swiss guitarist and songwriter sought out a few local vocalists to collaborate with: his first collaboration was with The Reaction’s Max Burki, one of Jossi’s local musical heroes. Jossi went on to record two more tracks with Eva Tresch. Technological advances — i.e., home recording studios and programs, as well as file sharing — allowed Jossi to collaborate with vocalists outside of his native Switzerland. His first collaboration with a foreign vocalist, “Noisy Butterfly,” which featured Italian vocalist Damiano Rosetti helped expand The Churchhill Garden’s audience and fanbase outside of Switzerland.

Jossi followed “Noisy Butterfly” with more collaborations with international vocalists including Craig Douglas (USA), Alistair Douglas (AUS) and Hideka (Japan). The Swiss guitarist and songwriter first crossed paths with Whimsical’s Krissy Vanderwoude back in 2016. Vanderwoude had been a fan of Jossi’s music for some time: She commented on Jossi’s “Sleepless,” on Facebook, letting him know that she loved his music, had been a big fan and was deeply moved by the emotionality of his work. Her message went on to say that she could “hear his heart” through his work and that they resonated deeply with her.

Vanderwoude and Jossi had a mutual friend, Kev Cleary, who chimed in the comment thread, that the two should work on a song together. The duo were very excited about the idea but didn’t quite know what to expect. Jossi sent Vandewoude files for a couple of different instrumentals and encouraged her to choose which one she wanted to work on. As the story goes, the Whimsical frontwoman gravitated to one of the tracks in particular and remembers being moved to tears when she first heard it. The end result became their first song together “The Same Sky.”

“The Same Sky” was released to an overwhelmingly positive response with people generally commenting that they felt a magical chemistry between the two — and after a couple of songs together, they realized that Vanderwoude should be a permanent and full-time member of The Churchhill Garden. Of course, while Vanderwoude is a permanent fixture in The Churchhill Garden universe, Jossi has continued collaborated with other vocalists, including Seashine’s Demi Haynes and Fables‘ and Swirl’s Ben Aylward.

Churchhill Gardens songs were coming together quickly with a new single being released every few months. With every new release, they found their fanbase steadily growing. And although, they were releasing material through Bandcamp and other DSPs, a growing number of people expressed interest in owning a physical copy of the songs — and they started asking if there would ever be an actual Churchhill Garden album.

Last year, the Swiss-American duo released their full-length debut, a double LP album Heart and Soul. Since the release of Heart and Soul, the duo have been busy working on new material, including the album’s follow-up single — and their first single of the year, the slow-burning and swooning “Fade Away.” Centered around layers of reverb-drenched, shimmering guitars, Vanderwoude’s plaintive and ethereal vocals and soaring hooks “Fade Away” will likely draw comparisons to Souvlaki-era Slowdive, So Tonight That I May See-era Mazzy Star, compete with a similar aching yearning at its core.

New Audio: Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan Releases a Strutting and Funky Christmas Tune

Kelly Finnigan (vocals, keys) is best known for being the frontman of the acclaimed West Coast-based soul outfit Monophonics. And since their formation, the act which also features Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), and Max Ramey (bass) has developed and honed a sound and approach that continues the traditions of early Motown Records, Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records.

Earlier this year, Monophonics released their third album It’s Only Us and the album further cements their reputation for being an act that’s particularly keen on crafting and playing a heavier and digger take on classic soul — but while revealing a band gently refining their sound to incorporate warmer textures. Thematically, It’s Only Us may arguably be the hardest hitting of their catalog as it touches upon desperately needed calls for unity, understanding, resilience and acceptance in our fractious and divisive world.

Capping out what has been a busy year, Finnigan’s sophomore album Joyful Sound sees its official release today through Colemine Records digitally. (Holly Berry Red will be releasing the vinyl on December 11, 2020). Produced by Finnigan, Joyful Sound is the third album he’s helmed in the past two years — his solo debut, last year’s The Tales People Tell and Monophonics’ It’s Only Us. While continuing Finnigan’s growing reputation for specializing in the classic R&B and soul production and sound, the new album is imbed with a joyful, holiday spirit.

Featuring members of Durand Jones & The Indications, The Dap-Kings, Ghost Funk Orchestra, Monophonics, Thee Sinseers, Orgōne, Ikebe Shakedown, Jason Joshua & The Beholders, The True Loves, Jungle Fire, Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, The Jive Turkeys, The Ironsides, and The Harlem Gospel Travelers, as well as Ben Pirani, Neal Francis and Rudy De Anda among others, Joyful Sound is inspired by Atlantic Records‘ Soul Christmas, Phil Spector‘s A Christmas Gift For You and Rotary Connection‘s Peace.

“I want people to feel joy and hope. I want the music to remind them what they are thankful for,” Finnigan says in press notes about Joyful Sound. “The songs and mood of the music should spark a feeling that it is a special time of year but also that it can also be a very difficult time for others. Holidays are about bringing people together to celebrate and I want this record to be a soundtrack for those celebrating but also a reminder that a lot of people are still struggling regardless if it’s Christmas or not. Most Importantly, I want them to hear the love and passion that went into the music. I’m lucky to have some incredible musicians and artists on the record and I hope they can hear the joy that everyone put into their performance. There’s a feeling of magic and nostalgia that lives in those classic Christmas songs and I believe I was able to capture some of that on this record. Christmas has become a grand event in most places in the world but we all have to remember that the reason this holiday is special for most is because it brings people together and reminds us that our friends and family are what’s most important.”

Last month, I wrote about the lush Motown Records-like “No Time To Be Sad,” a classic make-up song that finds the song’s narrator pleading to his lover that they should stop their quarreling and make it a romantic Christmas — because that’s not the season to be bitter or breakup. “Santa’s Watching You,” Joyful Sound’s latest single finds Finnigan giving a strutting gospel burner by The Sacred Four “Somebody’s Watching You” a playful Christmas take in which Santa is now looking at all of us in judgement of our behavior, actions, words and deeds. So you better get your act straight and fly right — or Santa will make sure you get coal and fiery, eternal damnation.

New Audio: Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan Releases a Gorgeous and Soulful Christmas Song

Over the past year or so I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed West Coast-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) – and since their formation, the members of the band have developed a sound and approach that continues in the tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records. Much like their influences, the Bay Area-based soul outfit’s material is generally centered round a lush, cinematic sound that draws from classic soul, heavy funky and psych rock, recorded on vintage analog gear to give it that period specific sound. Naturally, they’ve paired that with a healthy amount of old-fashioned woodshedding, crafting and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band said in press notes.

Earlier this year, Monophonics released their third album It’s Only Us earlier this year. The album further cements their reputation for being an act that’s particularly keen to creating and playing a heavier and edgier take on classic soul, while revealing a band that gently refining their sound to incorporate some warmer textures. Thematically, the album’s material focuses son much-needed messages of unity in our fractious and divisive world and of strength, resilience and acceptance.

Capping off a very busy year, Monophonics’ frontman Kelly Finnigan will be releasing his full-length album Joyful Sound through Holly Berry Red (vinyl) and Colemine Records (digitally and CD) on November 24, 2020. Produced by Finnigan, the album will be the third album he’s helmed in the past two years, including his solo debut effort The Tales People Tell and Monophonics aforementioned It’s Only Us. Interestingly, Joyful Sound finds Finnigan crafting and production an album with the elements of a classic R&B record — but with a joyful, holiday spirit.

Featuring members of Durand Jones & The Indications, The Dap-Kings, Ghost Funk Orchestra, Monophonics, Thee Sinseers, Orgōne, Ikebe Shakedown, Jason Joshua & The Beholders, The True Loves, Jungle Fire, Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, The Jive Turkeys, The Ironsides, and The Harlem Gospel Travelers, as well as Ben Pirani, Neal Francis and Rudy De Anda among others, Joyful Sound is inspired by Atlantic Records’ Soul Christmas, Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You and Rotary Connection’s Peace.

“I want people to feel joy and hope. I want the music to remind them what they are thankful for,” Finnigan says in press notes about Joyful Sound. “The songs and mood of the music should spark a feeling that it is a special time of year but also that it can also be a very difficult time for others. Holidays are about bringing people together to celebrate and I want this record to be a soundtrack for those celebrating but also a reminder that a lot of people are still struggling regardless if it’s Christmas or not. Most Importantly, I want them to hear the love and passion that went into the music. I’m lucky to have some incredible musicians and artists on the record and I hope they can hear the joy that everyone put into their performance. There’s a feeling of magic and nostalgia that lives in those classic Christmas songs and I believe I was able to capture some of that on this record. Christmas has become a grand event in most places in the world but we all have to remember that the reason this holiday is special for most is because it brings people together and reminds us that our friends and family are what’s most important.”

“No Time To Be Sad,” Joyful Sound’s latest single finds Finnigan firmly establishing himself as key producer, songwriter and producer in the contemporary soul scene. Centered around a lush, Motown Records-inspired arrangement, complete with soaring strings and brooding horns paired with Finnigan’s achingly tender falsetto and a gorgeous melody “No Time To Be Sad” is a classic, make-up tune in which the song’s couple finds a way to make up and have a romantic Christmas — but interestingly enough, the song is the sort of makeup song that can be played almost any time because the sentiment at its core is so deeply universal and so heartfelt.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

New Audio: Los Angeles’ The Know Covers The Jesus and Mary Chain

Los Angeles-based dream pop/shoegaze duo The Know, married couple and collaborators Daniel Knowles and Jennifer Farmer, can trace their origins to late 2018, when Knowles suggested to Farmer that instead of traveling home for the holidays — the UK and Texas respectively — that they stay put in Los Angeles and try to write music together, just the two of them. And the material they would write would be their gift to themselves.

Over a couple of weeks, they isolated themselves in their home studio with no real plan but they shared a mutual love of Beach House, Julee Cruise, ye ye, The Jesus and Mary Chain, 60s girl groups, Patsy Cline and The National. Interestingly, the first batch of material they wrote together, included their debut single “143.” Inspired by Tom Waits‘ “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night,” “143” found the duo meshing the autobiographical with the fantastic: focusing on the hazy half-remembered recollections of a wild night out paired with an instrumental arrangement that seemed indebted to Beach House and 60s girl groups.

Their second single “Hold Me Like You Know Me,” a personal account of the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation that the band’s Farmer felt over the past year, received favorably comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound production.

Both of those singles will be included on the duo’s forthcoming debut EP, wearetheknow. Slated for a May 18, 2020 release, the EP finds the duo fully embracing a DIY ethos: the EP was produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s Knowles with Farmer handling the band’s visual side, including their videos and visual content. And as a result, the duo ensure that they have complete creative control over what they do. Thematically, the EP delves into the duo’s personal lives with the material touching upon their relationship and their experiences  — paired with a kaleidoscopic soundscape. 

Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about “Someday Maybe,” a track that continued a run of material based on their personal experiences while sonically meshing Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with The Stone Roses and others as it featured swooning boy-girl harmonies paired with layers of swirling and buzzing guitars and pedal effects.  Interestingly, the duo’s latest single, a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always” was inspired by quarantine-induced boredom — and was initially just intended for their own amusement and ears. After completing the track, the duo liked the way it came out, so they sent it to their CLUB 143 fan club an exclusive listen and feedback. The feedback was so positive that the and decided to squeeze in another single before the release of their debut EP. 

The Know’s cover of “Sometimes Always” the first song in which Knowles takes on lead vocal duties — but the cover is a deceptive, sonic detour with the duo taking one of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s more pop-leaning songs and playing it in the style of the influential act’s psychedelic leaning material.  And yet, it still manages to hew closely to the spirit and overall vibe of the original. 

New Video: The Know Releases a Wistful and Nostalgic Visual for Swooning “Someday Maybe”

Los Angeles-based dream pop/shoegaze duo The Know, married couple and collaborators Daniel Knowles and Jennifer Farmer, can trace their origins to late 2018, when Knowles suggested to Farmer that instead of traveling home for the holidays — the UK and Texas respectively — that they stay put in Los Angeles and try to write music together, just the two of them. And the material they would write would be their gift to themselves. 

Over a couple of weeks, they isolated themselves in their home studio with no real plan but they shared a mutual love of Beach House, Julee Cruise, ye ye, The Jesus and Mary Chain, 60s girl groups, Patsy Cline and The National. Interestingly, the first batch of material they wrote together, was their debut single “143.” Inspired by Tom Waits‘ “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night,” “143” found the duo meshing the autobiographical with the fantastic: focusing on the hazy half-remembered recollections of a wild night out paired with an instrumental arrangement that seemed indebted to Beach House and 60s girl groups. 

Their second single “Hold Me Like You Know Me,” a personal account of the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation that the band’s Farmer felt over the past year, received favorably comparisons to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production. 

Both of those singles will be included on the duo’s forthcoming debut EP, wearetheknow. Slated for a May 18, 2020 release, the EP finds the duo fully embracing a DIY ethos: the EP was produced, mixed and mastered by the band’s Knowles with Farmer handling the band’s visual side, including their videos and visual content. And as a result, the duo ensure that they have complete creative control over what they do. Thematically, the EP delves into the duo’s personal lives with the material touching upon their relationship and their experiences  — paired with a kaleidoscopic soundscape. 

Interestingly, the EP’s third and latest single “Someday Maybe” finds the duo continuing  a run of material that thematically is based on their personal experiences — while sonically meshing Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with The Stone Roses and others. In other words, swooning melodies with layers upon layers of swirling and buzzing guitars, and pedal effects. As the duo explains the song “is about the potential you feel when you first meet someone you connect deeply with.” 

Directed by the band’s Jennifer Farmer, the recently released video stars Los Angeles music scene personality Howard Mordoh as The LA Rocker, along with the members of The Know as themselves, Kris Correa, Lauren Womack, Skylar Francise and Colin Coleman — and is set at barbecue/backyard party.  Of course, the video has me dreaming of the day that we all can get together at a party, drink tons of cheap beer, dance and listen to music all day and night. 

A Q&A with Donna Blue’s Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen

Donna Blue is a rising Amsterdam-based indie act centered around its core duo, romantic couple Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. Creatively, they’re each other’s muse. And with the release of their debut 7 inch EP, which was released in 2017, the Dutch indie act quickly established a unique and dream-like sound seemingly influenced by Phil Spector, Wall of Sound-like pop, Pasty Cline, yè yè and the work of David Lynch – in particular, Twin Peaks. “Sunset Blvd,” which appeared on that 7 inch was played on Elton John’s Apple Music radio show Rocket Hour.

Building upon a growing profile, the Dutch duo released the yé yé inspired single “1 2 3.” Sung in French, the song describes the lack of a passion within a romantic relationship. And instead of making a standard music video for the song, the duo chose to create an audiovisual monologue conveying the narrator’s longing that’s visually inspired by the nouvelle vague movement.

Released last month through Dutch indie label, Snowstar Records, the self-recorded and self-produced 5 song EP Inbetween finds the act continuing to draw from and seamlessly mesh Roy Orbison, Julee Cruise, Nancy Sinatra, Patsy Cline and yé yé into a unique sound that evokes late nights wandering around narrow European streets, smokey cafes and swooning Romanticism. Personally, listening to the EP reminds me of late nights walking through Amsterdam’s Centrum and the Red Light District and of walking down Frankfurt-am-Main’s Haupwatche and Romer Districts with the aching loneliness of being a foreigner, of being a Black man in Northern Europe. And although that’s a deeply personal lens, the material overall is smoky, cinematic and absolutely gorgeous.

Persfoto 2019-1 (Satellite June)

Persfoto 2019-5 (OAK & FIR)

Inbetween

I recently exchanged emails with Donna Blue’s Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. Current world events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found ways to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the rising Dutch act was here in New York, playing the second annual New Colossus Festival. Shortly after their New Colossus Festival sets, the world as we know it has been at an uncomfortable and indefinite pause. While we do chat about their excellent new EP, we do talk seriously about the impact of the pandemic on their careers, how much Twin Peaks has influenced their work and we reminisce about beautiful Amsterdam. Check it out below.

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WRH: Donna Blue is centered around core duo and romantic couple Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. How is it like to collaborate and tour with your partner?

 

Danique van Kesteren: Thatʼs a big question to start with. Itʼs hard to explain well, but itʼs very special. I believe thereʼs a certain energy and creativity that only sparks when youʼre completely on the same wavelength as the person you are collaborating with. We work together so intimately that our ideas can flow without speaking.

Bart van Dalen: That being said, working closely together on a project blurs the lines between work and personal life. Itʼs all about keeping a good balance and that takes work. But most of the time itʼs very good. And touring together is super nice. Sharing experiences, traveling to all those places with her, performing and seeing Danique next to me on stage. I like how we can always feel what the other person is feeling on stage and feed off each otherʼs energy during a show.

WRH: Most of the known world has been in quarantine in some fashion since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic last month. How have you been holding up? What have you been spending your time doing? Binge watching anything interesting?


DVK: We mainly have been resting a lot, staying at home reading and cooking healthy food. We did set up a studio at home, so we can record ideas for new songs whenever we want.

BVD: Itʼs a weird time. We wouldʼve been in the US right now taking some time off after a tour. So weʼve been adjusting and taking time to think about where we are going from here. And weʼre binge watching a lot of Mad Men.

WRH: Donna Blue played this yearʼs New Colossus Festival. How did it go? Did you get a chance to take in any local food or bars or anything? Did you have a chance to see anyone play while you were in town? If so, who?

BVD: We had such a good time performing at the New Colossus; itʼs a really good memory. We played 4 shows and met some amazing people. We saw a couple of other artists perform at the festival, like Luke De-Sciscio, Kirsten Knick and Ghost World, which was very fun. And we got to play a Paste Magazine session while we were in town. But every day felt more uncertain as COVID-19 was really hitting Europe hard. So, it was a strange time.

DVK: We were in New York for 5 days, so we tried to explore some of the city, even though it felt like we shouldnʼt. In the mornings we got bagels and we walked around the neighbourhood a little. Some of our band went to MOMA the last day before it closed. But mostly we stayed indoors until it was time to head off to our show. We all shared a big loft, so we just chilled in the living [room] and tried to stay calm and positive.

WRH: You were supposed to head down to Austin for SXSW after New Colossus Festival and unfortunately while you were in town COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Shortly after that festivals were postponing and canceling left and right, including SXSW. How has COVID-19 currently impacted you and your career?

BVD: Yes, that was a hard pill to swallow for everyone. Of course, weʼve worked very hard to get to SXSW and set up a tour around it. And thereʼs a huge financial investment that comes with touring the US. So not being able to play an important festival like SXSW and cancel all upcoming shows does impact our career. But weʼll carry on and keep making music, weʼll just have to wait and see what the scene is going to be like when we can go back out.

DVK: I think it will impact our career the same way it does any artist at the moment. Itʼs all very uncertain when we are going to be able to bring people together for live performances again, and if they even want to come out again when itʼs allowed. Small venues will collapse, international touring will be impossible for a while and it might be a lot harder to get our music in front of interesting parties.

WRH: Youʼre from one of my favorite cities in the entire world –- Amsterdam. I was in the Netherlands three years ago and I miss Amsterdam and the country. So say, Iʼm a tourist and itʼs my first time in Amsterdam, where would I go to get a taste of local life?

DVK: Amsterdam is a really special place. I still canʼt decide whether I love it more when the city wakes up in spring or when itʼs quiet in winter, the narrow streets and bridges covered in snow. It just feels so old and magical. I would recommend just walking past the canals just outside the busy city center. Have a little picnic on the waterfront, maybe smoke a funny cigarette and donʼt forget to look up to stare at the beautiful facades. Go through the ‘9 straatjesʼ or down Haarlemmerstraat for some nice local shops and vintage stores.

BVD: If you like movies, visit LAB-111 (best programming), beautiful art deco cinemas The Movies or Tsuchinsky, or the EYE film museum.

WRH: Whatʼs your favorite spot in Amsterdam to catch live music? Why?

BVD: We have a beautiful venue called Paradiso, itʼs in an old church and saw some real underground action in the 60s. Now itʼs one of the most important concert venues in our country, and still a magical place.

DVK: Bitterzoet is also a venue I really like, itʼs smaller but very cool, and it has a little red light district vibe going on.

WRH: Are there any Dutch acts that should be blowing up that havenʼt yet?

BVD: Definitely. Look up a band called Lewsberg, and Eerie Wanda.
DVK: And a band we love that make[s] awesome music to dance to is called Yin Yin.

WRH: I understand that Elton John played “Sunset Blvd” during his Apple Music radio show Rocket Hour. How did it feel to receive a co-sign from someone as legendary as him?

DVK: So unreal. I never thought in a million years I would hear Elton John say my full name.
BVD: Weʼve also been getting a lot of attention and radio play through it, so itʼs been very helpful.

WRH: I was first introduced to you and your sound through the Paste Session you did last month. So how much has David Lynch and Twin Peaks influenced the band and its aesthetic?

DVK: A lot, especially at the start. The way David Lynch plays with mystery and beauty is something we find really inspiring and try to incorporate in our own music. And visually too, we get inspired by his films for our music videos.

BVD: And of course, the soundtrack and music of Twin Peaks are so good. Being one of the bands playing at the Roadhouse is one of our musical dreams. We try to capture some of that Roadhouse-feeling in our own live performances.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those who would be initially unfamiliar with you and your sound?

BVD: We usually describe it as sultry indie pop under the influence of 60s yé yé, Lynch movies and old Hollywood romance.

WRH: Who (and what) are your influences?

BVD: Musically our influences are mainly artists from the 50s/60s. Think of Serge Gainsbourg, Roy Orbison, Nancy Sinatra, Link Wray. And as mentioned before, so is the mystery from the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

DVK: Next to that we get inspired lyrically and visually by things like our own relationship and stuff we go through, cult movies from the 70s, Jean-Luc Godard, old Hollywood glamour, books and big questions like is there a heaven and would it be fun to go there for all eternity?

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

DVK: For Donna Blue, we try to listen mostly to ‘oldʼ music, but of course so much modern music is great too. Weʼve been listening to Alexandra Savior, Hayley Hendrickx, Babe Rainbow, Kevin Morby, Jess Williamson, Yo La Tengo, SadGirl.
BVD: And I just got a Velvet Underground vinyl for my birthday that weʼve been spinning on repeat.

WRH: Your latest effort Inbetween EP was released last month. Itʼs a gorgeous and cinematic effort that evokes film noir, smoky cafes and bars, strolling down narrow European streets, swooning love – and to my ears, I hear quite bit of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Phil Spectorʼs girl groups in the overall production. Iʼve managed to play the EP quite a bit late at night and for some reason, it reminds me so much of wandering around Amsterdam Centrum and the Red Light District. Is there a unifying theme that holds the EPʼs five songs together?

DVK: Itʼs not so much a theme as it is a feeling. Weʼve tried to translate that place between waking and sleeping into songs. Strange things happen there. Sometimes literally, like in title track Inbetween. But sometimes itʼs more figuratively, like waking up to what love really is.

WRH: “Desert Lake,” “Billy” and “Fool” are among my personal favourites on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about what that songs are about?


DVK: Yes of course, “Desert Lake” is about the badlands every artist needs to cross while they do their work. Right between dreaming up a song and finishing it, a fear always creeps in: is it good enough? No matter how beautiful it is to create things, it will forever come with doubt. For the song we made up a cinematic story about someone getting lost in that madness of art. “Billy” is a song about l’amour fou gone wrong. We wanted it to sound like a sweet little 50’s heartbreak song at the start, but it ends like an eerie nightmare. It leaves you wondering what happened to the person not picking up the phone. And “Fool” is a song about the moment in a relationship you realise there is no such thing as perfect love, even though you thought you had it figured out. Itʼs a personal testament to losing some of that beautiful, open innocence of childhood love when transitioning into an adult relationship. Like an awakening.

WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?

DVK: I think for a big part itʼs a feeling, you just know when thereʼs something still missing from the song.
BVD: Usually when we think a song is complete, we let it sit for a while. Then we listen to it again after a week or two, if it still feels good, itʼs finished.

WRH: Whatʼs next for you?

DVK: Weʼll be working on new music, maybe even a full-length album . .  .
BVD: And of course making plans to set up another tour as soon as we can.

New Audio: Rising Aussie-born Los Angeles-based Singer-Songwriter Hazel English Releases a Woozy 60s Inspired Pop Tune

Hazel English is a rapidly rising Australian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician. Her Justin Raisen and Ben H. Allen co-produced full-length debut Wake UP! is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through Marathon Artists/Polyvinyl Records. Recorded in Los Angeles and in Atlanta, English hopes the album will serve as a klaxon, a sort of warming horn that will give the listener a meaningful shake from their doldrums — and to encourage the listener to become more present in their own lives. “Sometimes, I feel like we’re just sleepwalking through our lives,” English says in press notes. She goes on to say that she hopes the album helps “make people become more aware and mindful.” 

Wake UP!’s fourth and latest single, “Five and Dime” is a woozy, mid-tempo track that sounds indebted to late 50s country and Phil Spector-produced 60s girl group pop. Centered around reverb drenched guitars, finger snap-led percussion, twinkling Rhodes, English’s expressive vocals, some twangy pedal steel and a rousing hook, the track is part playful love song and part bitter lament, as the song’s narrator muses on a love interest, who has become so consuming to her that she’s distracted.  Ah, to be that infatuated! 

“It’s about the desire for space and independence when feeling stifled in a relationship,” English explains in press notes. “I wrote it about a trip I took to Oakland when I just needed to get out of LA for a bit. ‘Five and Dime’ is actually an old slang term for the area code 510 which covers the East Bay, so I thought it would be a fun way to refer to the place that once used to be my home, while also invoking a sense of nostalgia for a time when a phrase like five and dime was very common.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times.