Tag: Prince

Deriving their name from a playful, Anglophile nod towards the famed physicist Issac Newton, the Paris-based electro pop act Isaac Delusion —  founding members and creative core Loïc Fleury (vocals, guitar) and Jules Paco (keys) — was formed back in 2010. With the release of 2014’s self-titled debut effort, the act received attention for a sound and approach that meshed the acoustic instrumentation with a bold use of electronics — while nodding a bit at dream pop.

The duo then toured exclusively across France and the rest of the European Union to support their full-length debut. Interestingly, 2017’s sophomore effort Rust & Gold found the duo’s sound shifting from the ethereal and atmospheric dream pop of its immediate predecessor with the material focusing on tangible emotions, soulful rhythms and insightful observations on one and the human condition.

The Paris-based electro pop’s first two albums have managed to amass over 500,000 Spotify streams a month. Building upon a rapidly growing profile across their native France and elsewhere, the act played Pitchfork Paris, as well as sold-out headlining shows at venues like  L’Olympia and Elysee Montmarte.

Microqlima Records released the French duo’s third album uplifters last year. Thematically, the album was centered around misplaced nostalgia for one’s long-passed youth, As a result the album’s material is imbued with a longing for the freedom, simplicity and unguarded honesty of their younger selves — and regret for the missed opportunities you can never get back. And much like its predecessors, uplifters‘ material was written and sung primarily in English with a handful of songs written and sung in their native French.

Album single “pas l’habitude” was one of the few album tracks written and sung in French. While the song is a breezy synth pop song, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, plaintive and dreamy vocals, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook — but the song’s breezy and easygoing nature is superficial: the song is actually an achingly bittersweet ode to the proverbial loss of innocence and getting older. Life and its ambiguity after all, will break your heart countless times over. It’s up to you to pick up the pieces and move forward.

Franc Moody is a London-based electro pop collective, centered around its core duo and creative masterminds Ned and Jon. Jon comes from a family of classical musicians and as  result, he grew up surrounded by oboes, cellos and violins. Ned grew up listening to the music that his parents played on car trips — classic soul, 50s/60s New Orleans music, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Eddie Cochran. “I loved the melody and the groove of that music, but I think really I loved the energy of it as well,” Ned explains in press notes.

The London-based collective’s core duo met when they ere part of a a collection of bands and musicians, who took over an abandoned warehouse in North London back in 2014. “It was called the Arch,” Jon recalls. “When we moved in, it was bare bones concrete walls. A horrible place basically. We built these two analogue recording studios. There were old microphones, hammered organs, and beaten up guitar amps. It was quite craggy.”

The Arch quickly became known for raucous and packed live shows and parties that went well into the night, with live bands frequently getting on around 3am. We’ve all been to similar parties: there’s no bouncer, one port-a-potty with a line of being desperately waiting to pee but the vibe is amazing. Interestingly, Ned and Jon cut their teeth as live musicians in that environment. “We learned to love performing music that made people dance, in the same way those old funk and soul artists used to,” Ned explains. “In fact, what we were doing at the warehouse was sort of in a similar tradition to the Zydeco sessions and crawfish boils around South Louisiana, purely focused around dancing. It was quite simple.”

Franc Moody started in earnest when the duo moved out of The Arch and began to focus on a project that meshed their various influenced. No longer living in the warehouse, they struggled to find a space big enough to fit a drum kit. Instead, they stated programming drums and an electronic aesthetic began to permeate through their older influences.

Their debut effort, 2016’s self-titled EP consisted of a series of Giorgio Moroder-like instruments; but their breakthrough single, the critically applauded “Dopamine” found the band truly establishing their sound: a disco-tinged sound that was subtly indebted to Prince. Building upon a growing profile, the duo released their sophomore EP, 2018’s Dance Moves which eventually amassed over 20 million streams.

They’ve also developed a mesmerizing live sound, inspired by the warehouse rave scene that they came up in — and those live shows find them surrounded by a cast of collaborators and friends as their backing band. In fact, they’ve opened for Friendly Fires  and a number of other acts. Recently, the London-based electro pop collective remixed “pas l’habitude.” And while they retain Loïc Fleury’s achingly plaintive French vocals, they turn the song into Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk like club banger, centered around a sinuous bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios and four on the floor drum programming.

A Q&A with San Mei’s Emily Hamilton

I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual covering the Gold Coast, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Emily Hamilton, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and rising indie rock act San Mei over the years. Beginning as a synth pop-leaning bedroom recording project, Hamilton’s earliest material received attention from this site and major media outlets like NME, Indie ShuffleNYLON and Triple J. Her debut EP Necessary found the Aussie singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving towards a much more organic, guitar-led sound inspired by Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubCat Power, Feist and others.

A couple of years ago, Hamilton met acclaimed producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, and the pair immediately hit it off.  According to Hamilton, taking Dawson on as a producer and collaborator found the duo refining ideas, exploring different soundscapes and laying down the foundation for her — and in turn, San Mei’s — sonic progression. As Hamilton explains in press notes “[Dawson and I] hit it off straight away and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from, even if I had trouble conveying certain ideas in the demos I made at home.” Hamilton’s Dawson-produced sophomore EP Heaven was a decidedly shoegazer-like affair, featuring arena rock friendly hooks, big power chords and shimmering synths that continued a run of critically applauded, blogosphere dominating material. Adding to a growing profile, last year Hamilton opened for the likes of G. FlipK. Fly, Ali Barter and Jack River in her native Australia, went on an extensive national headlining tour and played nine shows across six days at SXSW.

Released a few weeks ago through Sydney-based etcetc Records, Hamilton’s third San Mei EP Cry continues her ongoing collaboration with Oscar Dawson – and interestingly, the four song EP finds the Aussie JOVM mainstay simultaneously drawing from the harder guitar-driven work of  The Kills, Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the synth-driven pop like Grimes and Lykke Li. Now, as you may recall, I recently wrote about EP title track “Cry,” a track which establishes the EP’s overall tone and tone – a hook-driven, shimmering take on dream pop centered around atmospheric synths, reverb-drenched guitars and what may arguably be her most direct and personal songwriting to date. And perhaps unlike her previously released material, the EP reveals an incredibly self-assured songwriting, crafting earnest and ambitious songwriting – all while building a larger international profile.

Earlier this week, I exchanged emails with the Gold Coast-based JOVM mainstay for this Q&A. Of course, current events have a way of bleeding into every aspect of our professional and professional lives – and naturally, I had to ask Hamilton how COVID-19 was impacting her and her career. But we also talk about her hometown (which is considered one of the more beautiful locales in the entire world), and its growing music scene, the new EP and more in a revealing chat. Check it out below.

SanMeibyMorganHamilton
Photo Credit: Morgan Hamilton

San Mei - Cry EP_packshot

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WRH: Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in quarantine for the past three weeks or so. How are things in Australia? How are you holding up?

Emily Hamilton: Firstly, I’m really sorry to see what’s happening in New York right now – my heart really goes out to everyone effected. I was actually in the USA around 2 weeks ago when lockdowns starting happening there. I managed to get home earlier than planned (straight into 14 days mandatory quarantine!), and Australia started following suit with social distancing, travel bans, closing non-essential business etc. pretty much as soon as I got back. I’ve got 2 days left of quarantine which is exciting — to be able to be out in the open air is gonna feel good! We have pretty strict social distancing rules here though, so I’ll still be playing it safe and spending most of my time at home once my quarantine is over.

WRH: How has COVID-19 impacted the Australian music scene? Has the pandemic affected you and your career? And if so, how?

EH: It’s hard having shows cancel and seeing venues having to close their doors. I had some shows lined up over the next couple of months that had to be cancelled, and prospects of touring in the near future don’t seem likely. I had a massive year of touring last year, so coming to terms with the fact that this year is probably going to look different is kinda hard. I know everyone in the Australian music scene is feeling the same way – and that we’re feeling the same things in music scenes around the globe. But it’s been inspiring to see so many artists pick themselves up, be innovative and find creative ways to make the best of the situation.
 

WRH: Most of my readers are based in the United States. As you can imagine, most Americans know very little about Australia, let alone your hometown. I think if you ask most Americans, they’ll tell you that it’s far (which is very true), they’ll mention the Sydney Opera House, kangaroos, koala bears and Steve Irwin. So as an American, what is Gold Coast known for? Where would I go to get a taste of how the locals live?

EH: It’s true, we’re so far away! I think that’s why Australians travel so much, because otherwise we’re just so isolated. I love my hometown; to me, it’s the perfect mix of city and surf town vibes – for someone who travels a lot for music, it’s nice to be based somewhere with a more chilled pace and open spaces. The Gold Coast is known mostly for its beautiful beaches, but we also have amazing rainforests with swimming holes and a beautiful hinterland. There has also been huge growth in hospitality, and there are so many amazing bars/restaurants/cafes popping up all over the place. So for anyone visiting I’d recommend checking out all the best nature spots and the best places to get a drink/feed.

WRH: Are there any Gold Coast-based artists that should be getting attention from the larger world that aren’t – and should be?

EH: The music scene on the Gold Coast has definitely grown over the last few years and there are a lot of exciting bands coming up. Eliza & The Delusionals are an amazing emerging band – they’ve actually just finished up a US tour supporting Silversun Pickups. They’re definitely on the rise and I think they’ll soon be getting that attention! Lastlings, Peach Fur, Ivey, Hollow Coves are just a few that are kicking goals and I’d love to see continue to grow in and outside of Australia.

WRH: For a country of about 27 million or so, how is it possible that so many Aussie artists, who make it to the States and elsewhere so damn good?

EH: I think being so far away can actually work in our favour in some ways! We have to be really, really good if we want our music to get out there in the world and have the means or opportunities to tour outside of our own country. I reckon that has created the kind of drive and work ethic for a lot of Aussie artists to keeping pushing and being the best we can be at our craft, to be able to break through the noise.

WRH: How did you get into music?

EH: I learnt classical piano when I was little (much to my dismay at the time!), which I’m really grateful for now as it’s such a good foundation for music. But I didn’t really get into writing songs or pursuing music until after high school when I met a group of friends who were musicians, and I just found myself getting caught up in it. It turned out I had a bit of a knack for songwriting and I’ve been focusing on getting better and better at it since!

WRH: Who are your influences?

EH: So many – but a few who come to mind are My Bloody Valentine, The Kills, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, [The] Jesus and Mary Chain, Warpaint, The Cranberries, Grimes, Lykke Li. . .  They’re all pretty diverse but I think I’m influenced by lots of different aspects of other artists’ songwriting/sound.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

EH: I’m loving Cherry Glazerr, Best Coast, Connan Mockasin, Kacey Musgraves, Tame Impala, Moon Duo. . . so many more but these guys are on high rotation at the moment.

WRH: I’ve written about you quite a bit over the years. When you started out, San Mei was bedroom synth pop project. But after meeting songwriter, producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, you – and in turn, San Mei – went through a decided change in sonic direction, which is reflected on both the Heaven EP and your recently released Cry EP. How has it been working with Dawson? How influential has he been on the project’s sonic development?

EH: I’ve always so appreciated your support! It means the world to an emerging artist like me to have that consistent engagement and encouragement from someone! Working with Oscar has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve always come to him with fully realised songs/demos. I usually write and track all the guide parts at home first. But Oscar has a way of bringing out the best in my songs and just making them sound better haha… so he has never really been pushy or opinionated in shaping my sound, but I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of refining things and making smart decisions in both the songwriting and production process.

WRH:  With San Mei leaning more towards a guitar-based sound, how has your songwriting process changed?

EH: Even as my sound became a little more guitar-driven, I continued to stick with my usual writing process – open up Logic, find a simple drum groove, play along ‘til I find a good riff or chord progression… but lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself in writing songs start to finish on just an acoustic guitar. I want my songs to be able to stack up when they’re played on just a guitar or piano without relying on any production. I’ve been finding that the production falls into place a lot more easily when I write this way, because the songwriting itself has to be strong, and helps lead the way in what should be built around it. I won’t be limiting myself to this process only, but finding new ways to create has been really cool.

WRH: While possessing the big and rousingly anthemic hooks that we heard on Heaven EP, your latest EP features the guitar-led, arena rock anthem “Hard to Face,” the shimmering, New Wavey-like “Cherry Days” “Cry” and “Love in the Dark.” As much as I hear Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, Grimes, Lykke Li and others, I also hear a bit of Prince in there, too. What inspired this new sonic direction? Was it intentional?

EH: That’s really interesting! Admittedly I haven’t listened to a lot of Prince (I probably just haven’t put in the time to become a fan!), but it’s cool to hear that reference. I couldn’t tell you a specific influence for where my sound has been heading, but I have been focusing on strengthening my identity as an artist, and recognising what my strengths are in my writing, and just making sure I write whatever comes out of me naturally and not try to sound like anything in particular. I’m still a work in progress with that, but I think that’s what has been shaping my sound.

WRH: “Hard to Find” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

EH: Cool! I really love this song. I called it my bratty moment. At the time of writing it, I was in a bit of a rut mentally with my music, career, future… I kept looking around at what everyone else was doing and thinking they were all kicking goals and I wasn’t. So, I just needed to let out my frustration and have a good whine in form of a song. It’s also a good reminder of me to not be that person, because we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, and having gratitude for the present is so important in having a healthy mind.

WRH: How did the video treatment for “Cry” come about?

EH: The song theme itself is a little melancholy to me – it’s about longing for more in life or for a better day, of always wanting to get to that next stage in life or achieving that next goal. It’s good to have drive, but for me I often get caught up in the future and sometimes I worry that I’ll wish my youth and time away instead of enjoying the present. But I wanted the video to feel light, wistful and more like a daydream, and to focus on the freedom we can find by enjoying the present and finding joy in everyday moments. I think Dom the director did a great job of capturing that feeling.

WRH: What’s next for you?

EH: I’m definitely not going to be slowing down – I’ve got lots of more music to release, and as soon as we’re allowed to play shows again, I’ll be playing as many as physically possible. Stay tuned! 😀

New Video: Rachelle Garniez Takes on a Beloved Della Reese Song

Rachelle Garniez is a highly regarded singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and grizzled New York cabaret scene vet, who has managed to work with an eclectic array of contemporary artists including Jack White and Taylor Mac. Garniez’s recently released album Gone to Glory chronicles her interpretation of songs written or made famous by a variety of recently departed, beloved artists. Interestingly, the album can trace its origins back to 2016r, a year that saw the deaths of David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen — and alongside feelings of immeasurable cultural bereavement, that year also saw an increasing climate of unrest and heightened irreconcilable division.

The first Farewell Party concert was conceived and performed at Pangea, known as NYC’s home to alternative cabaret performance. Crowds were starved for the chance to mourn with other fans and celebrate the lives of their favorite artists. The concert became so popular that it became an annual event. And while being a collection of covers, the album’s material is also about recovery and resilience, that reminds the listener that death may wreck our own, we still manage to survive to enjoy what’s been bequeathed to us.

The album finds Garniez tackling the work of Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Glen Campbell, Motörhead, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Della Reese, Sharon Jones, Mose Allison and Bea Wain — and while inhabiting the characters and worlds of each of those artists, the acclaimed cabaret artists finds a way to make the songs her own. Although she’s largely eschewed covers, she has found the album as a way to honor fallen musical heroes and to branch out into exploring other lives and characters. Interestingly, instead of choosing the most obvious songs — no “Hallelujah” or “Purple Rain” here — she makes more idiosyncratic choices.  “A lot of it has to do with if I can look at the lyrics and imagine becoming a character, or even just being my own self and being able to sing these songs,” Garniez  says in press notes. “I need to feel that I’m connected to the lyrics, that I can really deliver them in a meaningful way.”

Gone to Glory’s songs are centered around an emotional arc that deals with abject despair to acceptance. Death looms large and at points comedic. Monsters are everywhere. There’s alienation, self-delusion and even toxic patriotism. But love is seen as countervailing and multiform — hopeless and unrequited, romantic, lust, paradisal and so on. Garniez, who also contributes piano, accordion and guitar, collaborates with the Farewell Party band, Karen Waltuch (viola) and Derek Nievergelt (double bass) — with the material sonically reflecting Garniez’s eclectic influences: the material evokes klezmer, Cajun, doo wop, blues, R&B, Latin, jazz and show tunes with five of the songs featuring instrumental introductions that function as sort of mini-memorials, references Glen Frey, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Bernardo Bertolucci.

Gone to Glory’s latest single finds the acclaimed cabaret artist covering Della Reese’s 1959 hit “Don’t You Know,” an adaptation of a Puccini aria, “Musetta’s Waltz” from La Bohème. Featuring a yearning vocal, the song is centered around a slow-burning, understated arrangement consisting of French horn and twinkling keys, viola, harp, and double bass — Garniez’s rendition manages to nod at jazz standards, chamber pop and classical music simultaneously while aching with pride, heartache, and loss in a way that feels devastating. The recently released video by Lewis Klahr features collage-based animation that tells the song’s central story of unrequited love and loss — with pop art.

 

Smokey Brights in a Seattle-based indie rock band fronted by husband and wife duo Kim West (keys, vocals) and Ryan Devlin (guitar, vocals) and featuring Luke Logan (bass) and Nick Krivchenia (drums). Interestingly, West a barred attorney and Devlin, who has a background in booking, publishing and the punk rock scene met working at a pizzeria during the summers while they were both in college. Much of their material draws from the duo’s transition from friends to life partners, touring in a van across the Pacific Northwest and being in love in an uncertain and uneasy world.

Developing a reputation for explosive live shows centered round warm, harmony rich, arena rock-inspired anthems, the Seattle-based indie act have earned themselves a devoted fanbase across the US, the UK and the European Union. And building upon a growing profile, the band has played sets at SXSW, Bumbershoot Festival, Sasquatch! Festival, Off Beat Festival and Treefort Music Festival.

Their forthcoming Andy Park-produced third album I Love You But Damn is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through Freakout Records. The album’s material was tirelessly demoed int their basement studio then road-tested — before the band went into the studio to record it. Reportedly, the new album reportedly finds the Seattle-based band carefully walking a tightrope between gritty Pacific Northwest rock, 70s AM rock and hook-driven arena pop.  “72,” I Love You But Damn‘s first single is an infectious, swooning and hook-driven pop track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, a bluesy guitar line and West’s expressive vocals along with clangs and thumps meant to replicate a bus crowded with commuters. And while sounding like a seamless synthesis of Fleetwood Mac and Purple Rain and 1999-era Prince, the song as the band explains is a love song that takes place on a now-defunct bass line — the 72 — which used to run through North Seattle around the time West and Devlin started to date.

Interestingly, the song finds the duo re-imagining their romantic reunion taking place on the city bus, as they’re both returning home from their respective dismal and mundane day jobs. The song features West’s narrator working up the courage to ask her former lover to come over. As a result, the song manages to evoke an uneasy sense of nostalgia and hope of potential second chances towards love — or anything else for that matter.

Over the course of his 30+ year recording career, Greg Dulli has developed and maintained a reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark, mysterious and brooding as the frontman and creative mastermind of The Twilight Singers and JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of collaborations and projects throughout his lengthy career but interestingly, enough, his official full-length solo debut Random Desire is slated for a Friday release through Royal Cream/BMGRandom Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

Dulli wound up returning to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren, with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

I’ve written about two of the album’s previous singles — the swaggering “Pantomina,” which delved into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator, who has a series of fucked-up dysfunctional relationships, and the atmospheric and brooding “It Falls Apart,” a sinuous track that seems to evoke the swooning, rug-has-been-pulled-out-from-under-you sensation of the end of a relationship and the things left unsaid.

Random Desire‘s latest single is the cinematic and Ennio Morricone-like “A Ghost.” Centered around strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering blasts of pedal steel, an expressive and gorgeous string arrangement a gypsy-like shuffle and Latin percussion, “A Ghost” can trace its origins back to when Afghan Whigs were working on In Spades. “It did not work then, so I just put it back in the ‘working on’ folder and then pulled it out last year and recut it…,” Dulli says in press notes. “It started to come together when I went down to New Orleans. The song just reminded me of a journey across the Sahara or something, like a gypsy version of Ennio Morricone.”

Dulli will be embarking on a tour to support his long-anticipated solo debut. The tour begins with a Ireland, UK and European tour throughout March and early April. The Stateside leg of the tour begins in Minneapolis on April 24, 2020 and it includes a May 6, 2020 stop at Webster Hall. Check out the tour dates below.

2020 Tour Dates

March 19 – Róisín Dubh – Galway, IRELAND

March 20 – Whelans – Dublin, IRELAND

March 22 – SWG3 Warehouse – Glasgow, UK

March 23 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK

March 24 – Islington Assembly Hall – London, UK

March 26 – Paradiso Noord – Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

March 27 – Muziekodroom – Hasselt, BELGIUM

March 28 – Trix – Antwerp, BELGIUM

March 30 – Luxor – Cologne, GERMANY

March 31 – Lido – Berlin, GERMANY

April 02 – Hotel Cecil – Copenhagen, DENMARK

April 03 – Debaser Strand – Stockholm, SWEDEN

April 04 – Parkteatret – Oslo, NORWAY

April 24 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN

April 25 – Metro – Chicago, IL

April 26 – St. Andrew’s Hall – Detroit, MI

April 28 – Beachland Ballroom – Cleveland, OH

April 29 – Woodward Theater – Cincinnati. OH

April 30 – Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA

May 01 – The Great Hall – Toronto, ON CANADA

May 03 – Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA

May 05 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC –

May 06 – Webster Hall – New York, NY –

May 07 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA

May 09 – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC

May 10 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC

May 12 – The Loft – Atlanta, GA

May 15 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA

May 16 – 3Ten @ ACL Live – Austin, TX

May 17 – Granada Theater – Dallas, TX

May 19 – Bluebird Theatre – Denver, CO

May 22 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR

May 23 – The Showbox – Seattle, WA

May 26 – August Hall – San Francisco, CA

May 28 – Palace Theater – Los Angeles, CA

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Brownout Releases a Swaggering Arena Rock Friendly Single

Over the course of this site’s nearly ten-year history — yes, ten years! — I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the critically applauded, Austin, TX-based Latin funk-based outfit and JOVM mainstays Brownout. Now, as may recall the act was formed over a decade ago as a side project that has composed and arranged music that at points evokes the likes of WAR, Cymande and Funkadelic that features members of the Grammy Award-winning Latin funk act Grupo Fantasma. Interestingly, during that same period of time, the project has managed to evolve into its own unique, critically applauded effort, completely separate from the members primary gigs — while having a long-held reputation as being a highly sought-after backing band, collaborating with GZA, Prince, Daniel Johnston and Bernie Worrell.

Adding to a growing profile, the act has toured across the national festival circuit, playing at Bonnaroo, High Sierra Music Festival, Pickathon, Bear Creek Musical Festival, Utopia Festival, Pachanga Fest, and others in support of the act’s handful of EPs and their six full-length albums — 2008’s Homenaje, 2009’s Aguilas and Cobras, 2012’s Oozy, 2015’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath,  2016’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath, Vol. II and 2018’s Brownout Presents: Fear of a Brown Planet.  

Slated for a March 6, 2020 release through Fat Beats Records, the Steve Berlin-produced Berlin Sessions is the Austin-based JOVM mainstays’ full-length album of original material from the band in over eight years. Interestingly, while the album continues an ongoing collaboration with Berlin, it’s also the first album of original material featuring lead vocalist Alex Marrero, who collaborated with the band on the band’s successful Brown Sabbath albums. Sonically, the album reportedly finds the band drawing from and meshing a multitude of sounds and genres including rock, psych rock, Latin funk and breakbeat. 

The album evolved shortly after the Fear of a Brown Planet sessions. Recorded during hot Texas summer afternoons in Beto Martinez’s Buda, TX-based Lechehouse Music Studio, many of the album’s takes were recorded with the AC off — and with the temperature well past the 90s. And as a result, the sessions captured the enthusiasm, sweat and swiftness of a band eager to record their first batch of new, original material in close to a decade. “The ideas came swift and there was much experimentation in recording techniques and instrument usage,” Brownout’s Beto Martinez says in press notes. “Steve Berlin was very hands on with implementing new sounds and tones through effects or otherwise. I not only played on the record but recorded it at the same time. After placing mics and setting the recording gear, I had to play parts I had either just written or just learned all while watching meters and the tape machine to make sure it was all recording correctly with Steve Berlin sitting directly behind me. It was a nerve wracking and trying experience, yet a very fulfilling learning process.”

With the addition of Marrero as the band’s full-time vocalist, Brownout’s material features a lyrical depth and themes that the instrumental albums simply didn’t exude.  “As I started writing lyrics for Berlin Sessions, I noticed there were more abstract yet universal themes,” Brownout’s Alex Marrero says in press notes. “Writing in a way that doesn’t spell everything out directly. They can mean anything to anyone depending on what they need it to. Although seemingly ambiguous, all the songs ended up having a lyrical thread and thematic connection of stepping outside of your physical realm and connecting to a more universal energy.  Fighting for your individuality. Healing and processing our human emotions, connections and turmoil with a sense of awareness that we are still connected to something outside of what we consider ‘physical reality.’ It’s about overcoming your problems, the cards you’ve been dealt in life or just enhancing your personal connections by acknowledging we cannot be defined strictly by how the material world has laid ‘reality’ out to us; especially not societal norms and expectations. There is a bigger truth we just keep forgetting to look at. I don’t mean religion, I mean energy.”

The swaggering, arena rock friendly “Somewhere To Go” is Berlin Session’s first single. Centered around a propulsive and funky groove, the enormous horn section that they’re known for and Latin percussion, the song is an uplifting anthem that the band says is about tackling complacency by taking chances. 

Brownout will be celebrating the Berlin Sessions album release with a pair of shows at Austin’s 3TEN ACL Live on March 6, 2020 and March 7, 2020 with more national dates to be announced. “I think the history and evolution of this band is being captured and showcased well in our live shows,” Brownout’s Alex Marrero says in press notes. “We’re perfecting the marriage of the instrumental catalog of the band and the newer material where I can step away from the percussion and serve as full-on front man for the songs that require it. It makes for an exciting live performance.”

New Audio: The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli Releases a Shimmering and Brooding New Single

Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

Dulli wound up returning to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren, with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

Now, as you may recall, late last year, I wrote about “Pantomina,” Random Desire’s swaggering first single, which delved into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator, who has a series of fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but at its core, there’s a hard-fought, world-weary wisdom. The album’s second and latest single is the atmospheric and brooding “It Falls Apart.” Centered around shimmering guitars. twinkling and tumbling keys, atmospheric synths, a propulsive rhythm section, and Dulli’s husky delivery, “It Falls Apart” is a sinuous track that seems to evokes the swooning, the- rug-has-been-pulled-out-from-under-you sensation of the end of relationship and the things left unsaid and unexplained.