Tag: Shawn Lee

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Hannah Williams and The Affirmations Defiantly Embrace Suffering and Autonomy

During the past four years or so, I’ve managed to spill copious amounts of virtual ink covering acclaimed Bristol, UK-based soul singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay Hannah Williams.

With “Work It Out,” off 2012’s full-length debut Hill of Feathers, Williams and her first backing band The Tastemakers, emerged into national and international soul circles with the track receiving attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the States, Australia and the European Union. At one point “Work It Out” was one of the most downloaded songs in Greece with the video amassing over 1.5 million streams on YouTube.

Building upon a growing profile, Williams played sets across the European festival circuit, including stops at Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival, as well as some of Europe’s most renowned clubs, including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester, UK’s Band on the Wall; and Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe with the likes of JOVM mainstays Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, and Charles Bradley, as well as Cat Power.

Williams’ 2016 Michael Cotto-produced sophomore album Late Nights and Heartbreak was the first recorded output with her current backing band, the Bristol-based soul outfit, The Affirmations — currently, James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals) — and the album further established Williams’ growing profile across the international soul scene.
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Over the course of the following year, Hannah Williams and The Affirmations received even greater international attention, after smash hit-making producer NO I.D. sampled the heart aching hook of “Late Nights and Heartbreak” for Jay-Z‘s “4:44.” “It was an incredible catalyst,” Williams says in press notes, “as a change in our collective career, and getting a global audience. Suddenly, there were millions of predominantly American hip-hop fans listening to my voice, going ‘Is this from the ’60s? Is she dead?’” Unsurprisingly, as a result of the attention they received from “4:44,” the rising soul act spent the better part of 2018 on the most extensive touring schedule of their collective careers, including stops at SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Brooklyn Bowl, the Toronto Jazz Festival and across the European Union, where they expanded their fanbase.

With even more attention on them, Williams and company were determined to make the record of their lives. The end result was their Shawn Lee produced effort, last year’s 50 Foot Woman. The album finds the band accurately capturing the visceral power of their live show on wax — white further establishing a sound that generally draws from classic soul, psych soul and funk, with a subtly modern take. 50 Foot Woman’s fourth and latest single “The Only Way Out Is Through” is a defiantly strutting song about resilience, self-determination, self-reliance, embracing suffering as part of growth and finding strength and power within yourself, centered around Williams’ powerhouse vocal, a shimmering psych soul groove and forceful horn section.

“I was going through a really tough break up and struggling with the idea of being alone when Hannah said to me ‘All you need now is you,'” the song’s writer Victoria Klewin explains in press notes. “That stuck in my head and the rest of the lyrics followed. The pain of that situation was hugely transformative for me, so I wanted to write a song about actively embracing emotional suffering in order to grow and also finding strength in your own autonomy.”

So there a couple of things you should know — if you were previously unaware:

Hannah Williams can sang. And I think she should be the most famous soul singer in the entire world — right this very second.
The Affirmations can give the Daptone crew a run for their money. They’re one of the best contemporary soul acts in the world. And if you don’t believe me, check out “Still In My Head” off Late Nights and Heartbreak and tell me that I’m wrong. That’s a hill, I’m willing to die on.
The song’s writer, Victoria Klewin couldn’t have imagined how relevant to this year and this particular period of history as she wrote it. We’re going to go through a horrible patch — and there’s no choice but to dig down deep and go through it as bravely as we can. The only way out is through.l.
Williams sings some feminist anthems, y’all.

Shot, edited and directed by Dawn Kelly, Will Nash and Bird Lime Media, the recently released video for “The Only Way Out Is Through” uses some deft video editing and effects as we see three different Hannah Williamses — one, who’s in the throes of heartache, a second, who’s defiant and proud, and the third, coolly drives the car. The video manages to evoke our innermost battle with ourselves and our psyche.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Trent Prall, a Southern California-born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter and his solo recording project Kainalu, which derives its name for the Hawaiian word for ocean wave.  The music that Prall has created over the past decade or so, draws from psych pop, psych rock, dream pop, Tropicalia, synth pop, funk and childhood trips to Oahu, Hawaii visiting his mother’s family — and the breezy and retro-futuristic mix is what the Southern California -born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter has dubbed Hawaii-fi, as a homage to his Hawaiian roots and their influence on him.  Now, as you may recall, “Love Nebula” reminded me quite a bit of Tame Impala, Toro y Moi,  Shawn Lee’s Synthesizers in Space, AM and Shawn Lee’s La Musique Numerique and Lee’s split album with Tim “Love” Lee New York Trouble/Electric Progression as “Love Nebula” was centered around shimmering analog synths, a sinuous bass line and copious amounts of cowbell; but underneath the breezy and summery groove is a bittersweet yearning both for a sense of belonging – and for someone.

“Finding Peace of Mind” Prall’s latest single was inspired by Trent’s father, who routinely gives him advice on life and other matters — and the song was written in some way from his father’s prospective. ““He would always try and get me to read Alan Watts’ literature as a way of accepting the stress and anxiety of the world. Although, it’s kind of ironic though because a book inspired the lyrics which are about not being able to learn yourself inside of books,” Prall explains in press notes. “The overall message is sometimes you can’t learn yourself by looking outward, instead you must accept that you can discover more by diving deep internally.” While focusing on a deep and thoughtful self-assessment and introspection, the single will further cement Prall’s reputation for crafting dreamy and retro-futuristic synth pop — but in this case with a decided psych pop leaning.

 

Q&A with Kainalu A.K.A. Trent Prall

Trent Prall is a Southern California-born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter whose solo recording project Kainalu derives its name for the Hawaiian word for “ocean wave,” and interestingly enough the music Prall has created over the past decade or so draws from psych pop, psych rock, dream pop, Tropicalia, synth pop and funk and from childhood trips to Oahu, Hawaii visiting his mother’s family to create a breezy and retro-futuristic sound that he’s dubbed Hawaii-fi, as a homage to his Hawaiian roots and their influence on him.

“Love Nebula” Prall’s latest single immediately brings to my mind Tame Impala, Toro y Moi,  Shawn Lee’s Synthesizers in Space, AM and Shawn Lee’s La Musique Numerique and Lee’s split album with Tim “Love” Lee New York Trouble/Electric Progression as the song is centered around shimmering analog synths, a sinuous bass line and copious amounts of cowbell; but underneath the breezy and summery groove is a bittersweet yearning both for a sense of belonging – and for someone.

I recently chatted with the up-and-coming, Southern California-born, Wisconsin-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter via email about how much Hawaii has influenced him and his music, his musical influences, the new single and more. Check out the Q&A below.

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WRH: How did you get into music? And when did you know it was your calling? 

TK: Both of my parents are creatives/musicians so I was surrounded by instruments for longer than I can remember. My dad always tells this funny story about how he would put some headphones onto my mom’s stomach while I was in the womb and blast Earth Wind and Fire haha…. I don’t know if that did anything but I still love EW&F …

WRH: From what I understand, you were born and raised in Hawaii and are now currently based in Wisconsin (which probably is one of the biggest cultural shifts I can think of while still being in this country). How was it like growing up in Hawaii? And how much have your formative years in Hawaii influenced your sound and overall aesthetic?

TK: I wasn’t actually born in Hawaii, I’m from Southern California but my mother’s family, extended and all, lives in Hawaii and so I would spend the majority of my summers there. I moved around the country a lot in my formative years and so I didn’t have a real “home base” growing up. The only constant was Hawaii. Those summers really had a lasting influence on me and the music I write. I was introduced to Hawaiian music early… a popular genre of music in the islands is called Jawaiian music which is a fusion of reggae and Hawaiian sounds, very groove-centric.

However, I think the ocean and the peace I feel with it is the biggest influence on my music. The ocean really feels like home to me… playing and later relaxing on the beaches of Oahu are my most cherished memories. I would grow each year but the beaches never changed, I’m not sure why but I love that concept, it’s very tranquil to me and I try to capture that feeling with Kainalu. Kainalu actually means ocean wave in Hawaiian

WRH: You’ve dubbed your sound “Hawaii-fi.” What does that comprise of? And how does that differ from say, dream pop or psych pop?

TK: I honestly am not a fan of naming genres because in my mind every artist is unique in their own way. From the point of view of describing the music to other listeners I understand why genre names exist, but I think it forces preconceived ideas on the listening experience. So I honestly just made it up because the music was heavily influenced by my love of Hawaii and my memories there. More specific, I think tropical psych music is Hawaii-fi. But yeah, it could very well be psych pop or dream pop, I think people who enjoy the music should decide how to describe it and I’ll gladly take the tag that’s given.

WRH: Who are your influences? 

TK: [I] live for psych rock and Motown. So Tame Impala, Toro y Moi, Unknown Mortal Orchestra on one side and Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye, etc. more recently though I’ve been taking a deep dive into bossa nova, Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz are getting to me in such a good way.

 WRH: What is the influence behind your latest single? 

 TK: “Love Nebula” was written because I wanted to write a heavy bass driven song. I started on the piano but bass is my favorite to play. Once I had the instruments laid out I wanted to write the lyrics about wanting to be wanted. Through middle and high school, I was bullied a lot about my race, it’s kind of fucked up… it made my cultural identity confusing as a child. This song was written to be a sort of reclaiming of my identity and confidence… but the reclaiming comes in the form of wanting to be desired by a love interest

WRH: What’s next for you?

TK: I’m about half way done with my next release, once it’s done I’m ready to tour.

 

Comprised of Phenomenal Handclap Band‘s Daniel Collas (keyboards, production) and Morgen Phalen (vocals guitar) and members of Stockholm, Sweden-based bands Dungen and The Amazing, indie psych pop act Drakkar Nowhere can trace their origins to when Collas and Phalen had been making music in the kitchen of a rented apartment in Stockholm. And in a relatively short period of time, Collas and Phalen’s kitchen-based music project caught the attention of the members of Dragen and The Amazing, who then joined the project to flesh out its sound, a sound that’s largely influenced by cosmic jazz, soul, jazz fusion, prog rock and psych pop among others — while being influenced by their direct surroundings, including the forests that surround the Bagarmossen and Midsommarkransen neighborhoods of Stockholm.

“How Could That Be Why?,” is the first single off the band’s forthcoming self-titled effort slated for a September 23, 2016 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records — and the shuffling and trippy single has the band pairing twisting and turning synths and keyboards, a sinuous bass line, an infectious sense of melody  to craft a song that sounds as though it could have been released in 1973. And in some way, the song naturally reminds me a bit of Collas and Phalen’s work with Phenomenal Handclap Band as well as Shawn Lee‘s collaborations with AM and Tim “Love” Lee with a subtle nod to Afrobeat — but with a subtle, cosmic glow at its core.