Tag: Philadelphia PA

Led by songwriter/producer and founder of Ice Queen Records and founding member Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins back
to when Lekkas lived in Philadelphia. As the story goes, after spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area. Initially began as a solo recording project and creative way for Lekkas to deal with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety after discovering that music was his only way out the mire. So Lekkas spent a long Philadelphia winter recording a batch of introspective songs that he dubbed “sun-damaged American music’ that would eventually become the Palm Ghost debut album.
After a short tour in 2013 to support the Palm Ghost debut album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene. Once he settled in to his new hometown, Lekkas set up a small home studio in the guest bedroom of a rental house on Greenland Avenue in East Nashville, where he eventually wrote and recorded the sophomore Palm Ghosts album, last year’s Greenland, an album that found him employing elements of electro pop, folk and indie rock that was influenced by his new hometown’s long-held song-is-king culture. Last May, the Palm Ghost founding member began working on the third Palm Ghosts album Architecture, an album heavily influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Dead Can Dance, New Order and The Cure among others. The album’s first single “Turn the Knife” is a hook-driven bit of 80s post-punk that will recall New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and others but centered by the two part male/female harmonies, angular guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section and a bitter sense of betrayal and distrust.
As Lekkas told me via email, “‘Turn the Knife’ is basically a song about betrayal in love — or a one sided relationship that ends badly. It was written and recorded in my studio here in Nashville. My influences are all over the map but I’m an enormous fan of 80s post punk and New Wave music, so perhaps that shines through to you in the song? Basically, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Chameleons and The Jesus and Mary Chain are big influences.”

 

 

 

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New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Ron Gallo Returns with a New Wave-like Meditation on Unity

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve written a quite a bit about Ron Gallo, a  Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and JOVM mainstay, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman […]

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Ron Gallo Looks Into Himself — With Weird Results in Visuals for “Do You Love Your Company? “

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve written a quite a bit about Ron Gallo, a  Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and JOVM mainstay, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman of the Philadelphia-based indie act Toy Soldiers. Now, as you recall Gallo was in a long-term romantic relationship with a deeply trouble woman — and once that relationship ended, Gallo relocated to Nashville, where he wrote and recorded material that eventually became his acclaimed 2016 full-length debut HEAVY META. Thematically, the album touched upon a number of themes within his own life, including his own personal ideology of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, self-empowerment, domestication, dead and unhappy love, not truly knowing yourself and the things that could happen to you when you don’t, mental illness from the perspective of both sufferer and close observer, and a burning, misanthropic frustration with humanity and civilization. And yet, there was some level of optimism — that music can wake someone up and get them to change what they were doing. As Gallo said in press notes at the time, “this record comes from my frustration with humanity and myself, and from my wanting to shake us all. At my core, I’m compassionate for humanity and the sickness that we all live with, and from that comes something more constructive.”

HEAVY META’s follow-up Really Nice Guys EP was released earlier this year, and the EP was a concept EP largely inspired by the previous year in Gallo’s life in which he was busy touring and promoting his full-length debut — and the EP’s material wound up being a satirical sendup of the contemporary music industry with the EP featuring songs about rough mixes, broken into three parts — iPhone demo, live band demo and overproduced, autotuned, overproduced to death studio recording; the painfully weird inability for those within the music industry to honestly admit that someone is just an awful musician, so everyone winds up saying “well, they’re really nice guys . . . ,” the number of friends, who will ask to be put on the guestlist so that you can never actually make any money off a show, and more.

Gallo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Stardust Birthday Party is slated for an October 5, 2018 release and the material is inspired by a life-altering, seismic shift in Gallo’s life. Remember the woman who inspired much of the material on Gallo’s critically applauded debut? Well, as the story goes, she had taken a trip to South America, found a healer and miraculously got herself and her life together. Understandably, when Gallo heard the news, his interest was piqued, and he began reading and searching fora  more inward path for his own mental and spiritual development.  Earlier this year, on a whim, the Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist booked a trip to California for a silent meditation retreat. Despite his initial discomfort, Gallo reportedly experienced a profound experience that quickly became the answer for his existential searching — and the thematic core of the album: how inner transformation impacts both the outside world and your perception of it.

Or, as Ron Gallo says in a lengthy written statement about the album:

“Stardust Birthday Party is about human evolution. Specifically, one human’s evolution: mine, Ron Gallo.  That’s the name my parents gave me. Hi.

At one point, I was a very lost mid-twenties person living in Philadelphia, in a relationship with someone struggling with mental health issues and crippling heroin addiction. I was asleep. I didn’t know how to handle my life. I was also writing songs for HEAVY META – my “frustrated with humanity” album. I laugh about it all now, but at the time it all felt like an absolute nightmare. It was the perfect doorway to look inside the place I’d been avoiding forever: myself.

Stardust Birthday Party is about what is happening underneath all of this life stuff. My path inward. The details of my path are pointless because everyone’s path is different. It is about me sitting with myself for the first time and confronting the big question “WHAT AM I, REALLY?” It’s about the love and compassion for all things that enters when you find out you are nothing and everything. I think at one point I wanted to change the world, but now I know I can only change myself, or rather just strip away everything that is not me to reveal the only thing that’s ever been there. And that’s what this album is about, it’s me dancing while destroying the person I thought I was, and hopefully forever.

In the liner notes of John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme (which we pay tribute to on this album) he wrote: ‘During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.’

That’s it.  That is the pure essence of creativity. Someone embodying what they have realized about themselves and the world that surrounds them. That is why this album exists. ”

Stardust Birthday Party’s first single “It’s All Gonna Be Okay,” was an angular ripper centered around two disparate things — the first a relishing of life’s ironies with a bemused yet accepting smile that points out that there’s a larger connection to everyone and everything; and that the only way we can actually change the world is if every individual on this planet began to take a serious and sobering look at their own fucked up shit and then do the opposite. Until then, we’re speeding our way down to hell with explosives and lit matches in the backseat.

The album’s second single “Always Elsewhere” continues in a similar vein of its predecessor, an angular and furious ripper that evokes our age of perpetual and unending fear and anxiety that has most of us running around like the White Rabbit, looking at our watches in panic and saying “There’s not enough time! There’s not enough time!” As Gallo says in press notes, “Most of the time we perceive the world, ourselves and others as ideas we have about them rather than what they really are. All our fear and anxiety stems from speculation about what COULD happen, not what is actually happening here and now. I’ve done this most of my life and still do, and the best way I’ve found is to become aware that you are not being aware or present, and suddenly you become present, that’s what this song is for — a frantic representation of modern life and our inability to live in the moment.”

“Do You Love Your Company,” Stardust Birthday Party’s third and latest single is a tense and anxious New Wave and post-punk take on garage rock, centered around angular blasts of guitar, a steady backbeat and an enormous, shout-worthy hook but underneath the rousingly anthemic nature of the song is something much deeper, more urgent — the very modern anxiousness and uncertainty that comes about whenever we’re left to ourselves. As Gallo says the song is “about self-inquiry. I think a lot of people struggle with being truly alone or fear silence because it forces them to look inward, but ultimately, i think it’s one of the most important things we can do to understand ourselves and others.”

Directed by Horatio Baltz, the recently released video for “Do You Like Your Company” is a companion piece to the video for its predecessor, beginning where the “Always Elsewhere” video left off — with Gallo opening the box labeled “SELF,” that he had been carrying throughout the video. Interestingly, the video captures a fractured and damaged psyche, plagued with an all too familiar self-loathing, uncertainty and boredom. 

Comprised of Matt Cusack, Vince Federici, Charlie Heim and Will Tobin, the Philadelphia, PA-based indie act Batting Cages formed last year — and interestingly, the up-and-coming band’s latest single “Feels So Good” is an anthemic synth pop/synth rock single that draws from classic 80s synth pop while also bringing St. Lucia and countless others to mind, as the song is centered around some arena rock-like bombast, earnestly swooning emotionality, soaring hooks and shimmering and arpeggiated synths.  And naturally, the song sounds as though it should be part of a soundtrack to a Breakfast Club-like movie.

 

New Audio: Ron Gallo Returns with an Ironic Yet Contented Philosophy on Life in New Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about Ron Gallo, a  Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman of Philadelphia-based band  Toy Soldiers, an act that initially began as a guitar and drum duo that at one point featured 12 members, before ending as a quintet. Gallo’s 2016 full-length debut HEAVY META was largely inspired by the end of romantic relationship with a deeply troubled woman. Once that relationship ended, Gallo moved to Nashville, recorded an album’s worth of material during a period that he has since considered a deeply transformative period of his life. Interestingly, Gallo initially wrote and recorded the album’s material in small batches without the support of a label — and without the intention of even making an album; however, the material he wrote wound up touching upon a number of themes within his life, including his own personal ideology on abstaining from drugs and alcohol, self-empowerment, domestication, dead and unhappy love, not truly knowing yourself and the thing that could happen to you when you don’t, mental illness from the perspective of a sufferer and an observer, and a burning almost misanthropic frustration with humanity and civilization. And yet, there’s some level of optimism.  As Gallo said in press notes at the time, “this record comes from my frustration with humanity and myself, and from my wanting to shake us all. At my core, I’m compassionate for humanity and the sickness that we all live with, and from that comes something more constructive.”

HEAVY META’s follow-up Really Nice Guys EP was released earlier this year, and the EP was a concept EP largely inspired by the previous year in Gallo’s life in which he was busy touring and promoting his full-length debut with the material being a satirical commentary on the contemporary music industry; in fact, the EP featured songs about rough mixes, (broken into three parts — iPhone demo, live band demo and overproduced, autotuned to death studio recording), the weird inability for those within the music industry to honestly admit that someone is just awful at music, so everyone winds up saying, “well, they’re really nice guys . . .” and the number of friends asking to be put on the guestlist so that you can never really make money off a show.

Slated for an October 5, 2018 release, Gallo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Stardust Birthday Party is largely inspired by a life-altering, seismic shift in Gallo’s life: as the story goes, the deeply troubled women he was with and left before writing his solo debut, had taken a trip to South America, found a healer and miraculously got herself and her life together in 2016. Understandably, such news had piqued Gallo’s interest and he began reading and searching for a more inward path for his own mental and spiritual development. Earlier this year, on a whim, he booked a trip to California for a silent meditation retreat. Despite his initial discomfort, Gallo reportedly experienced a profound experience that quickly became the answer for his existential searching — and the thematic core of the album: how inner transformation impacts both the outside world and your perception of it.

Or, as Ron Gallo says in a statement about the album:

“Stardust Birthday Party is about human evolution. Specifically, one humans evolution: mine, Ron Gallo.  That’s the name my parents gave me. Hi.
At one point, I was a very lost mid-twenties person living in Philadelphia, in a relationship with someone struggling with mental health issues and crippling heroin addiction. I was asleep. I didn’t know how to handle my life. I was also writing songs for HEAVY META – my “frustrated with humanity” album. I laugh about it all now, but at the time it all felt like an absolute nightmare. It was the perfect doorway to look inside the place I’d been avoiding forever: myself.
Stardust Birthday Party is about what is happening underneath all of this life stuff. My path inward. The details of my path are pointless because everyone’s path is different. It is about me sitting with myself for the first time and confronting the big question “WHAT AM I, REALLY?” It’s about the love and compassion for all things that enters when you find out you are nothing and everything. I think at one point I wanted to change the world, but now I know I can only change myself, or rather just strip away everything that is not me to reveal the only thing that’s ever been there. And that’s what this album is about, it’s me dancing while destroying the person I thought I was, and hopefully forever.
In the liner notes of John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme (which we pay tribute to on this album) he wrote: ‘During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.’
That’s it.  That is the pure essence of creativity. Someone embodying what they have realized about themselves and the world that surrounds them. That is why this album exists. ”

Stardust Birthday Party’s latest single “It’s All Gonna Be Okay,” is an angular ripper centered around two disparate things — a relishing of life’s ironies with a bemused yet accepting smile, as though saying “well, we’re all small, ridiculous and powerless to the larger forces in the universe that will kill us eventually and that’s okay.” But along with that the song points out a larger connection to everyone and everything, suggesting that the only way the world can even begin the change is if every individual seriously take a look at their own fucked up shit. Until then, well — more of the same, I guess?

Over the last half of 2016, I had written quite a bit about the Philadelphia, PA-based indie rock quartet Oldermost, and as you may recall, the band led by its creative mastermind and primary songwriter Bradford Bucknam received attention from this site and elsewhere for a 70s AM radio rock sound that immediately brought to mind  Nick Drake, and Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd with the release of singles like “Honey With Tea”  “Finally Unsure” and a gorgeous cover of  Graham Nash’s I Used To Be A King,” that emphasized the song’s bittersweet nature.

Now, up until recently, some time had passed since I had written about the band, which had spent the better part of last year writing and recording their fourth, full-length album, How Could You Ever Be The Same?, which is slated for a July 13, 2018 release through AntiFragile Music. Reportedly, the album finds the band continuing to move towards more complex sonic territory while the material carefully blends neuroticism and mysticism. Album single “The Danger of Belief” was a rollicking and anthemic track centered around a twangy guitar line, a propulsive bass line and shuffling drumming that seemed to draw from Tom Petty while possessing the intimacy of old friends, who have the same arguments, know how to needle each other, and yet they wouldn’t have it any other way. “Same To Me,” the album’s second album is a wistful track that brings to mind, a dusty, beer soaked honky tonk at 3am or so, when you’re left with that last half pint of beer, that last bit of whiskey and the lingering ghosts of regret; in this case, the song focuses on how relationships subtly change as the people within them change — but oddly enough, they’re rooted in a comfortable routine, and old memories.

 

Live Footage: Hot Snakes Performing Material from Their First Album in 14 Years at The Troubadour on “Last Call with Carson Daly”

Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about Hot Snakes, and as you may recall the band, which was led by its then-San Diego, CA-based founding duo of Swami John Reis and Rick Froberg formed in 1999 when Reis’ primary band Rocket from the Crypt went on hiatus after the departure of long-time drummer Atom Willard and when they were in between labels. And while searching for a new label and drummer, Reis started his own label Swami Records and began experimenting with other musicians, which resulted in the formation of Hot Snakes and Sultans. Hot Snakes in particular, can trace their origins to when Reis recorded a batch of material with Delta 72‘s Jason Kourkounis, and then contacted his former bandmate and collaborator Froberg to contribute vocals, and most of those recording sessions eventually comprised their full-length debut Automatic Midnight.

Although Reis and Froberg collaborated together in Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes proved to be a logistical challenge as Reis was in San Diego, Froberg had relocated in New York to start a career as a visual artist and illustrator, and Kourkounis was based in Philadelphia. Naturally, this resulted in sporadic and intense recording and touring schedules that frequently included bassist Gar Wood, best known for his work in Beehive and the Barracudas, Tanner and Fishwife. And while Hot Snakes shares some musical similarities to Reis’ and Froberg’s previous projects, they developed a reputation for a much more primal, garage punk sound influenced by Wipers, Suicide, and Michael Yonkers Band — and for a completely DIY approach to recording, touring and merchandise with the band releasing material through Reis’ Swami Records. (Unsurprisingly, Hot Snakes’ debut Automatic Midnight was the first release through Reis’ label.)

After releasing two more full-length albums, 2002’s Suicide Invoice and 2004’s Audit in Progress, the band called it a day in 2005 but they reunited for a world tour in 2011 which reportedly set the stage for the band’s fourth, full-length album Jericho Sirens, the band’s first album in 14 years, which was released earlier this year through Sub Pop Records. Recored in short bursts over the past year in San Diego and Philadelphia, the album features Reis and Froberg collaborating with Wood and drummers Kourkounis and Mario Rubalcaba — both of whom have been on prior Hot Snakes albums but never on the same one until now. And as Reis explained in press notes for the album, one of the most rewarding aspects was continuing his  collaboration and creative partnership with Froberg. “Our perspectives are similar. Our tastes are similar. He is my family. And more is there to say? My favorite part of making this record was hearing him find his voice and direction for this record. I came hard,” Reis says.

Reportedly, the material thematically commiserates with the frustration and apathy of our daily lives while pointing out that generally we don’t have a fucking clue. As Froberg says of the album, “’Songs like ‘Death Camp Fantasy’ and ‘Jericho Sirens’ are about that. No matter where you look, there’re always people saying the world’s about to end. Every movie is a disaster movie. I’m super fascinated by it. It is hysterical, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It snowballs, like feedback, or my balls on the windshield.” Sonically, the album reportedly finds the band incorporating some of the most extreme fringes of their sound while staying true to their long standing influences — but interestingly, some songs feature nods to AC/DC and others. As Reis says in press notes, “It sounds like panic and chaos. Restlessness and unease. That’s a sound that I would ask for. I want that record. The inspiration would be simple, maybe even kind of straightforward. Very early rock ‘n’ roll DNA with lots of rules. I would find some note or rhythm in it that captivated me and I dwelled on it and bent it. That’s where I found dissonance. Bending and rubbing against each other uncomfortably. Marinate and refine. A lot of the other Hot Snakes records always had tension and release, but this one is mainly just tension.”

Recently, the member of Hot Snakes made their national, late night TV debut on Last Call with Carson Daly, which filmed the band performing three mosh pit friendly album singles — the anthemic and furious Curses-era Rye Coalition-like “Six Wave Hold-Down,” the blistering and “I Need a Doctor” and “Having Another?” And obviously, the live footage should be a ample taste of what to expect for the latest leg of the band’s tour that will include two NYC sets — a sold out June 4, 2018 stop at the Bowery Ballroom and a June 5, 2018 stop at Elsewhere.

 

Over the last half of 2016, a lifetime and a half ago, based on our current sociopolitical climate, I had written about the  months, Philadelphia, PA-based indie rock quartet Oldermost. And as you may recall, the band led by its creative mastermind and primary songwriter Bradford Bucknam received attention from this site and elsewhere for a 70s AM radio rock sound that immediately brought to mind  Nick Drake, and Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd with the release of singles like “Honey With Tea” and “Finally Unsure” and a gorgeous cover of  Graham Nash’s “I Used To Be A King,” that emphasized the song’s bittersweet nature.

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the band; but as it turns out they’ve spent some time writing and recording their fourth full-length album How Could You Ever Be The Same?, which is slated for a July 13, 2018 release through AntiFragile Music, and interestingly enough the album reflects the band’s continuing move towards more complex sonic territory while thematically walking a tightrope between a blend of neuroticism and mysticism. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “The Danger of Belief” is a rollicking and anthemic track centered around a twangy guitar line, a propulsive bass line and shuffling drumming — and while seemingly drawing from Tom Petty, the song possesses the intimacy of old friends, who have the same arguments and know how to needle each other, and they couldn’t have it any other way. But underneath that is a bittersweet meditation on belief and in believing in anything too much; it’ll break your heart, just like everything else will.