Tag: SXSW

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Rousing, Feminist Anthem

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early in the year, it was announced that she was going to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the filming schedule, she was supposed to open for a handful of dates for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.)

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will most likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Stand For Myself’s first single, “Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Interestingly, Stand For Myself’s second and latest single is the album title track “Stand For Myself.” Centered around a rousing, shout-along worthy hook, Yola’s powerhouse vocals and a clean, pop-leaning take on the Nashville sound, the song was cowritten by Yola, Dan Auerbach and Hannah Vasanth — and features The McCrary Sisters contributing backing vocals. The track manages to be a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. And yet much like its immediate predecessor, there’s incisive social commentary underpinning the whole affair: Essentially, the track reflects on the JOVM mainstays’ belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry.  “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. She adds “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Directed by Allister Ann, the recently released video visually is indebted to Missy Elliott’s classic videos of the ’90s and ’00s but with strobe lights and a motorcycle to symbolize, the JOVM mainstay’s escape — and freedom — from those forces that have been oppressing her. And most importantly, depicting a much more nuanced definition of Black female strength — a strength thats balanced with vulnerability. r”My school years were during the 90s and 00s, and Missy Elliott’s videos were always aesthetically superior to me,” Yola says of the video. “I feel that the video is set in the antechamber to freedom. The feeling of escaping something truly oppressive and heading towards an unknown with a sense of hope and choice you haven’t felt in a long time. We all have the capacity to go through this process in our own minds, I kinda look like a superhero at times, but I’m not. I’m just a person trying to be free.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Surreal and Hilarious Visual for Her Most Politically Charged Song to Date

With the 2019 release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, last year’s  Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas.
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Understandably, last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was cited to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and the rest of the shooting schedule was delayed for the better part of a year. In between filming, she was supposed to play a series of dates opening for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening. Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. The album’s material will likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism, which have deeply impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul, classic pop.

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” Stand For Myself’s first single is a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, jangling and twanging country soul, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog, as it focuses on the powerful, who have beaten down and cheated folks, who are desperate to survive with their dignity intact. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explains. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Directed by Kwaku Otchere, the recently released video for “Diamond Studded Shoes” places the JOVM mainstay into a brightly colored, surreal world in which the mundane, the fantastic, the shitty and the flat-out terrible all meet to often hilarious results. And of course, throughout Yola’s larger-than-life personality, sense of humor and decency can’t be denied.

“The video is in part inspired by The Truman Show and is about being trapped in a false construct,” Yola explains. “It is supposedly perfect, but you’re trapped in a life that wasn’t meant for you. I wanted to convey the feeling that everything you know to be true is not quite working the way it’s supposed to. The island at the end is a paradigm of mental conditioning, we are all trapped on an island of our own thinking, until we change it.”

Stand For Myself is slated for a June 30, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. Along with the album announcement and video, Yola announced a series of tour dates that included spots at Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festivals, making her one of the few to play both in the same year. She’ll be opening for Chris Stapleton on his rescheduled 2021 tour. She’ll also play a headlining show at The Ryman Auditorium next year. Of course, you can find those dates and ticket information at her website: https://www.iamyola.com.

Live Footage: Clipping. on NPR Tiny Desk at Home SXSW

I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping. The trio — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — released two critically applauded albums as part of a planned diptych that found them interpreting a hip-hop splinter sect through their own singular lens — horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant hip-hop sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. The first part of the diptych, There Existed an Addiciton to Blood was partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.

Of course, with horror films, sequels are pretty perfunctory and perhaps even obligatory. Last year’s Visions of Bodies Getting Burned manages to hew closely to the horror film sequel tradition with the JOVM mainstays retuning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t ever stay dead. The 16 song album draws from an eclectic array of sources including Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson, Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Developing an abrasive, angular and downright messy take on horrorcore, centered around an industrial and goth-like aesthetic, the members of Clipping. lovingly twist familiar genre and sub-genre tropes to fit their politics and thematic concerns — in particular, those that fit our current moment: fear, the absurd, the uncanny, and the seemingly unending struggling for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.

Traditionally, NPR Music participates in SXSW — typically through curating showcases and through covering the hundreds of showcases and sets performed at the annual festival. Last year, the festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the festival reconvened as an online festival with pre-recorded livestreams. NPR programed a virtual stage of Tiny Desk (at home) concerts, filmed in various locations and full of surprises and Easter eggs, which were presented on the festival’s final day.

The JOVM mainstays took part, offering one of the most unique, surreal and innovative Tiny Desk (at home) sessions I’ve ever seen with the trio emphasizing both an in-your-face, close-up intimacy and tininess with the trio performing with extremely tiny instruments and microphones. And at some point, one of the members of the trio even drinks a tiny beer. Clipping.’s NPR Tiny Desk (at home) session features material from their last two albums, as well as 2016’s Wriggle EP and their debut mixtape, 2013’s midcity performed with even more menacing and uneasy productions that continue to display Diggs’ rapid-fire and clever wordplay — all while being disorienting.

With the release of their debut single “Island of Promise,” the Budapest-based electronic music production and artist duo  Belau — Peter Kedves and Buzas Krisztian — quickly exploded into their homeland’s scene for establishing a buoyant, summery and dance floor friendly sound that according to the band meant to evoke “cheerful places, filled with sunshine, where one can relax, unwind and find peace and harmony.” Since its release, “Island of Promise” landed at #1 on Deezer Hungary, one of the country’s largest string services, amassed over 500,000 streams, was featured in the HBO Hungary series Aranyélet, and in an international  Pepsi ad campaign shown in 33 countries.

Belau’s full-length debut, 2016’s The Odyssey won a Hungarian Grammy for Best Electronic Music Album. The duo supported the album with an intense touring schedule — 120 shows in 19 countries with stops across the international festival circuit with sets at Eurosonic, SzigetReeperbahnUntold, and SXSW. After The Odyssey, the JOVM mainstays released a series of remixes of The Odyssey tracks, which they followed up with their sophomore album, 2019’s Colourwave featured a number of singles I’ve written about, including:

  • Breath,” a sultry, dance floor friendly collaboration with Sophie Lindinger centered around glitchy beats and a sinuous yet anthemic hook
  • The Massive Attack-like “Natural Pool.”
  • Rapture,” a collaboration with Blue Foundation‘s Kirstine Stubbe Teglbjærg centered around a trip hop-inspired production featuring shimming synth arpeggios, wobbling low end and Stubbe Teglbjærg’s sultry vocals. 
  • Essence,” a collaboration with Sophie Barker that features Barker’s sultry vocals gliding over a shimmering production centered around looping, reverb-drenched guitar shimmering synths, skittering beats and an enormous hook that brought Third-era Portishead and Octo Octa to mind  – but a with a brooding air.

Although the duo haven’t been able to tour as a result of the pandemic, they’ve been busy: earlier this year, they released “Luz,” a one-off single with Sexto Sentido that was decided sonic departure for the duo: the single reminded me quite a bit of fellow JOVM mainstays Ibeyi. Interestingly, as the duo explained in press notes, “’Luz’ is kind of a bridge to our future album; it’s a bit different from our earlier releases.,” the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays explain. “This single is a harmonic blend of traditional Afro-Cuban folk music and modern electronica, the lyrics in yoruba and spanish. This song is a spiritual journey for us, it will be the part of Colourwave DLX album with some remixes, reimagined versions and live sessions in April.

For Colourwave DLX‘s latest single, the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays recruited Ohxalá to remix album single “Breath” with Sophie Lindinger. Interestingly, the Ohxalá remix meshes dub and house music by retaining Lindinger’s sultry vocals paired with a chopped up hook, skittering beats and shimmering synths,. Interestingly enough, the remix gives the song a subtle yet completely different feel: in this case, the Oxhalá remix possesses a bracing chilliness that reminds me quite a bit of Octo Octa’s Between Both Selves.

“‘Breath’ was one of the first single from the album and also one of our favourites. We had some nostalgic feelings about that era, for example the day when we got the final master, that was the first time when we ever met with Sophie,” the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays recall. “Fun fact it was in Texas, where we played at SXSW. After the success of the song, we thought it would be great to have an alternative version, and asked Ohxalá to make a remix. We love their style because they blend traditional folk music with modern electronica, and they made a unique song which also has a new mood.”

Live Footage: The Black Angels Perform “Young Men Dead” at LEVITATION Festival

Levitation Festival (formerly known as Austin Psych Fest) can trace its beginnings to a simple idea devised by the members of  The Black Angels in the back of a tour van in 2007 — let’s invite all of our favorite bands and all of our friends for our version of a music festival. 

The inaugural Austin Psych Fest was in March 2008 and by popular demand, the festival expanded to a three day event the following year. Austin Psych Fest quickly became an international destination for psych rock fans with lineups featuring up-and-comers, cult favorites, legendary and influential acts and a headlining set from The Black Angels. Renamed Levitation in honor of Austin psych rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, the festival has sparked an new, international psych rock movement while inspiring the creation of several similar events across the globe, including Levitation Festival events in Chicago, Vancouver, France and a SXSW showcase, as well as other special events in Europe and Latin America.

Late last year, Levitation Festival’s record label, The Reverberation Appreciation Society announced the launch of a new live album series, Live at LEVITATION. Comprised of material played and recorded throughout the festival’s decade-plus history, the live album series specifically captures and documents key artists in the contemporary psych rock scene. Of course, many of these moments were also important moments of Austin’s live music scene. 

The live series’ first album Kikagaku Moyo — Live at LEVITATION featured two different Kikagaku Moyo sets — their 2014 Levitation Festival set, which was one of the Japanese psych rock act’s first Stateside shows and their return to Levitation back in 2019, during a sold-out Stateside tour, which included a stop at Warsaw that year with Japanese krautrockers Minami Deutsch.

Live at LEVITATION‘s second album The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION features the festival’s founders The Black Angels. The Black Angels live album is comprised of material recorded at Austin Psych Fest 2010, 2011 and 2012, and captures a rare glimpse of the festival’s earlier, more humble days. And of course, for Black Angels fans, like myself, the album features live version of six songs from their first two albums — Passover and Directions to See a Ghost. “Since the beginning The Black Angels were meant to be heard live,” the band’s Christian Bland explains in press notes. “This record captures the rumble of the drums and amps, and the very essence of the way it should sound. Now future generations and new listeners can now hear how these songs were meant to be heard.”

The album’s first single was a hypnotic and equally menacing version of Passover single “Manipulation” that featured a mesmerizing guest spot from Elephant Stone‘s bassist, sitarist and frontman Rishi Dihr. And building up more buzz for the album’s release day — which is tomorrow — the band released the live album’s second and latest single, a muscular and menacing version of Passover single “Young Men Dead.” The accompanying live footage captures the band and their live sound with an uncanny fidelity.

This weekend is a big weekend for the band: As I mentioned their live album, Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION is slated for a digital and vinyl release tomorrow. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’d recall that The Black Angels and MIEN frontman Alex Mass released his solo debut, a meditative and gentler take on the psych rock sound he’s developed throughout his nearly two decade career, inspired by the birth of his son Luca.

Much like countless other artists across the globe, the pandemic has put touring on hold indefinitely. So, Maas and his backing band — Bryan Richie, Jake Garcia and Rob Kidd — decamped to nearby Bastrop, TX to bring the live show that they had developed around the album’s material to the world through a live performance film, shot in the Texan city’s historic downtown.  “We shot this down in an old opera house built in 1889 and a 100 year old German tailor mercantile building in historic downtown, which is now Astro Records,” Maas says in press notes. “This session is a glimpse of what a tour on Luca would look like had we not been in a pandemic. It was a joy to get out and get back with the friends and collaborators I created this album with, and bring these songs to life. For now this is the world tour, and a look at what we’re looking forward to being able to do on stage when we are back up and rolling! Thank you to Jonas Wilson of Mr. Pink Records who asked me originally to film this in the beautiful city of Bastrop.” 

Featuring sections from Luca and three new songs, the live session shot in Bastrop, TX will stream as a Levitation Session on March 27, 2021 at 7:00PM Central.

New VIdeo: Morningbell’s Travis Atria Releases a Quiet Storm-Inspired Meditation on Climate Change

From 2004-2013, Travis Atria was a member of acclaimed Gainesville, FL-based indie rock act Morningbell, which released six critically applauded albums of material, which includes songs featured in film and television. The band also played sets at Bonnaroo and SXSW and commissioned a custom star show at the Kika Silva Pia Planetarium while on tour to support 2013’s excellent album Boa Noite. Travis also had a side project The Slims, which released two albums and kept him pretty busy bon top of his Morningbell duties. In 2014, Morningbell went on indefinite hiatus when his brother Eric and his sister-in-law Stacie Thrushman-Atria started a family.

After spending a decade of recording and touring, Travis Atria turned to another lifelong dream of his — books. In 2016, Atria co-wrote Traveling Soul, the first biography of the legendary soul singer/songwriter and producer Curtis Mayfield — a major influence on Atria’s music — with Mayfield’s son Todd Mayfield. Traveling Soul received praise from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. He then wrote Better Days Will Come Again, a biography of jazz trumpeter Arthur Briggs, who was among the greatest musicians of Paris’ Jazz Age — and who spent four years in a Nazi prison camp during World War II, where he conducted a classical orchestra of prisoners.

Adding to a rather productive period for the now-acclaimed musician and author, Atria had been writing new material, which would eventually become his soon-to-be released solo debut, Moonbrain, and at the tine he had started he was searching for the album’s heart. Of course, that process came about in stages: While working on his Arthur Briggs book, Atria went to Paris in August 2017 to see the site of Briggs’ prison camp. On the night he had visited Briggs’ prison camp, the Parisian news reported on the now-infamous Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA. For Atria, who was studying World War II history in Paris, it was a chilling to see his own countrymen staging what was a pro-Nazi rally.

The following year, the IPCC released their updated climate report, which said that we were maybe 20 years away from permanently damaging the environment as we know it. Atria, who had been involved in climate activism since 2004 began to fear the world the his niece and nephew would inherit, and decide that the album had to be more than the sensual rock ‘n’ soul he had been known for in Morningbell. Taking Curtis Mayfield’s “painless preaching” as a model fo this solo work, Atria focused on creating the material’s grove, initially steering clear of lyrical polemics — but while still trying to write about the truth about the world. “I felt too few artists were trying to deal with what we’re going through,” Atria says. “I owed it to these kids to try.” 

Unsurprisingly, Moonbrain’s material is a reflection of our time — and it pulls no punches about it, even if they sometimes seem like love taps. The album’s first single “Jazz Cigarette” is a shimmering Quiet Storm-like slow jam featuring shimmering guitars, twinkling keys, smooth horns, and a sinuous bass line paired with Atria’s plaintive crooning. But underneath the sultry, late night grooves, the song is focused on the dire state of the globe’s climate, suggesting that things are really even more fucked up than you think.

The accompanying video was shot primarily on the streets of New York — with most of the footage set in and around the 59th Street Bridge, Roosevelt Island and Long Island City. Throughout, the video reminds us all of the city’s constant activity and constant motion; but with the uneasy reminder that those beloved sites may at some point be in endangered, and real soon.

Moonbrain is slated for an April 2, 2021 release through Gold Robot Records.

Interview: A Q&A with Laure Briard

Rising Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter Laure Briard has had a highly uncommon path to professional music: Briard bounced around several different interests and passes, including studying literature and criminology, and even doing some acting before concentrating on music full-time in 2013. 

Briard initially signed with Tricatel Records, who released her debut EP. After the EP’s release, Briard met Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps. And began working on what would become her full-length debut, 2015’s Révélation. Inspired by Françoise HardyMargo Guryan and Vashti BunyanRévélation featured modern and poetic lyricism.  She then signed with Midnight Special Records, who released her sophomore album, 2016’s Sur la Piste de Danse.

Since Sur la Pisa de Danse, Briard’s work has increasingly been influenced by Bossa nova: 2018’s Coração Louco, featured lyrics written and sung in Portuguese — and a guest spot from acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays and Latin Grammy Award nominated act Boogarins. 2019’s  Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit, which was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States continued Briard’s ongoing love affair with Bossa nova and Brazilian music. 

Released last week through Michel Records in North America, Dinosaur City Records in Australia and Midnight Special Records in Europe, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s latest effort Eu Voo sees Briard continuing her successful collaboration with Boogarins, as well as with her longtime collaborators Vincent Guyot, a.k.a. Octopus and Marius Duflot. Over the past year or so I’ve managed to write about two of the EP’s singles:

  • EP title track “Eu Voo,” 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meets 70s AM radio rock-like take on Bossa nova, featuring Briard’s ethereal vocals cooing in Portuguese, twinkling Rhodes, shimmering guitars and jazz-fusion that evokes the swooning euphoria of reuniting with a long-lost love. 
  • Supertrama,” which continues in a similar path as its predecessor — 60s Scott Walker-like orchestral psych pop meeting 70s AM radio rock     featuring twinkling piano, shuffling jazz-like drumming, a sinuous bass line, a regal horn arrangement, angular bursts of guitar and a soaring hook within an expansive yet breezy song arrangement. But just underneath the breezy surface, the song evokes a familiar bittersweet ache. 

In this edition of the Q&A, I chatted with Laure Briard about a number of different topics including her hometown’s favorite spots to eat and see music, how she’s been keeping busy during pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, her unusually winding path to a music career and much more. 

Check it out below. 

Photo Credit: Kamila K. Stanley

Photo Credit: Andre Peniche

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WRH: I’ve been to Europe twice (Holland and Germany) but sadly, I’ve never been to France. I hope to see France – after all of this passes, of course. But for this question let’s imagine the pre-COVID world: I arrive in Toulouse. What would I need to see? Where should I eat? Where would I catch local music? 

Laure Briard: Ahah! There is a lot to see it’s a very nice town. You can just walk in the streets and look at the architecture. My favorite places are Le quartier St Sernin with the Basilique, la Dalbade. You should eat at Señor Tacos (ahah) very good Mexican restaurant. About places where you can listen to local music, there are Les Pavillons Sauvages, Le Ravelin, Le Taquin for example.

WRH: The COVID-19 pandemic has managed to put all of our plans and desires on an indefinite hold. You’ve worked on your latest EP, the recently released Eu Voo (more on that later!) but how have you been occupying your time? Have you picked up any new or unusual hobbies? Are you binge-watching anything? 

LB: In September I moved to Seignosse, it’s very close to the ocean. So every day I go to the beach and walk while listening to music, looking at the waves. Otherwise, I try to write songs, I read, and yeah lately I watched Le bureau des légendes. It’s a French TV show. I was very addicted!

WRH: You’ve had an unusual path to music: You’ve bounced around and pursued a number of different interests and passions — you studied literature and criminology, and even tried to act at one point before getting into music. Have these various pursuits, career interests and professional twists and turns influenced your work at all? When did you know that music was your thing? 

LB: I suppose that it had an impact on my personality so yes it influences my work. I can’t tell how exactly; it’s an abstraction. I knew that music was my thing very late. I was working in a high school for several years and one day I decided to stop and to give all my time to music. I was around 33 years old.

WRH: Who are your influences? 

LB: The Beatles, Ash, Weezer, Jane Birkin and Serge [Gainsbourg], The Cardigans (as a teenager)…

WRH: Who are you listening to right now? 

LB: Arthur Verocai, Janko Nilovíc, Judee Still, Israel Vibration

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you? 

LB: It’s always a tricky question to me…I go in so many directions that it’s hard to summarise in few words. So I would say: poprockpsychbossayéyé ahah!!

WRH: After the release of your sophomore album, your work and sound has been increasingly influenced by and draws from Bossa nova. How did you get into Bossa nova?  

LB: I’ve been a huge fan of bossa and tropicalism for years! A friend of mine introduced me to Vinicius De Moraes and Astrud Gilberto by lending me his iPod. I completely fell in love and I started to dig stuff on my own over and over. Then I met this band Boogarins when we were playing at SXSW. We became friends and they helped me to come to Brazil first to play and then for the recordings. Providential encounter!

WRH: Did you know Portuguese before you started recording Bossa nova? How many languages do you know? 

LB: No, I didn’t know this language… I learned at the same time I wrote. I only speak English, but not so well.

WRH: I first learned of you and your work through your cover of Sessa’s “Grandeza.” For me, your cover and the original are a perfect example of Bossa nova in my mind. They both have that wistful nostalgia for a past we can’t ever get back – whether it’s our innocence, a lost love, a place we knew and loved that’s been changed or something else. Perhaps because of the pandemic, I thought of concerts, sporting events, gatherings with friends and family, sitting inside bars and chatting with strangers and the like. So, what was about the song that drew you to it? And do you know what Sessa’s response to it was?  

LB: Thank you 🙂

We have mutual friends with Sessa. They introduced me to his music that I didn’t know. I listened to the song “Grandeza.” I was completely amazed by the sound, the vibe. I immediately wanted to do something with this song. At the end of the recording of Eu Voo I spent few days in Sao Paulo, and I had the chance to meet him! He seems happy and enthusiastic about this cover idea.

WRH: Eu Voo sees you continuing an ongoing and critically applauded collaboration Latin Grammy-nominated, JOVM mainstays Boogarins and your longtime collaborators Vincent Guyot, a.k.a. Octopus and Marius Duflot. How did the collaboration with Boogarins come about? How was it like to work with them on material? How collaborative were the recording sessions? 

LB: The collaboration came after our meeting and my first tour in Brazil. I started to write songs in Portuguese as a challenge then I sent them to them, and they liked it. Thanks to my label Midnight Special Records and people in Brazil like Ana Garcia (and of course Benke from Boogarins) we managed to organize a studio session to record my first EP Coracao Louco in 2018. And then Eu Voo in 2020. In these two cases, I sent demos and we recorded live, doing all of the arrangements together.

WRH: You recorded Eu Voo in São Paulo’s Dissenso Studio last January. How was it like to record the EP in Brazil and in that studio? And knowing everything that happened, does that give the EP’s material an even more bittersweet feel to you? 

LB: It was like a dream really. In this wonderful studio with wonderful people. Everybody got along so well; it was the perfect crew! I do feel very nostalgic of the recording session, especially with the pandemic occurring now. I feel like it was ages ago as if it was in a different time. I try to put things into perspective but it’s not easy sometimes.

WRH: According press to notes Eu Voo’s material can traces its origins back to when you had returned from a 2017 trip to Brazil.  Some months later, you had suffered through an illness – pneumopathy – and was taking Tramadol for pain and other symptoms. For me, the EP’s material is imbued with the aching longing and nostalgia for that special place that changed your life. As I listened to the EP there’s this subtle acknowledgement of mortality, that all of this is a fleeting fever dream. That’s my sense of it at least. How much did your illness inform or inspire the EP’s material? 

LB:I was sick while composing my first EP, so I don’t really know how much it did influence it or not. 

WRH: Sonically, Eu Voo’s material reminds me of Scott Walker, AM Radio Rock and psych pop. Did that influence the material at all? 

LB: I don’t know about Scott Walker; but I’ll listen to it!

WRH: “Eu Voo” is one of my favorite songs on the EP by the way.  If I remember it correctly, before you recorded the song, you decided that you should speed the tempo up and that you wanted the arrangements to be punchier and catchier. What inspired that decision? 

LB: Yes, I did! We had previously recorded this song for my first EP, but we didn’t have time to complete it to a satisfactory level. So I really had the necessary time-lapse to think about how I wanted it to sound and its artistic direction. I felt like the song had really a dance potential. That’s why I went with this idea of the catchy up-tempo. I suggested it to my collaborators, and they all agreed. 

WRH: You worked with a longtime collaborator NORMA for the playfully surreal visual for “Eu Voo.” How did the concept for the video come about? 

LB: It was Norma who had the idea to shoot in the desert and also for the wings! I put all my trust in her vision. Her ideas are always bright, creatives, and very much D.I.Y oriented. So, she came to me and mentioned the wings. We were influenced by Arizona Dream. We have a lot of references in common, so we get along easily. She also lives on the Atlantic coast and the desert where we filmed, Les Bardenas, is only a couple of hours away. It was the perfect plan! 

WRH: “Supertrama” sees you collaborating with Giovanni Cidreira, who you met through Boogarins. How was it like to work with him? 

LB: We did a long-distance collaboration. I sent him a guitar melody I had written and asked him if he would like to write the lyrics. About a week later, he sent me the same melody played on the piano with some beautiful words. We did the arrangements live when I came to Sa

o Paulo to record in the studio with my team. I would have loved for him to be there with us, but he couldn’t be there, unfortunately. He completely trusted us with the song. 

WRH: Now that the EP’s released, what’s next for you? 

LB: I wanna go on tour all over the world!!!

With the release of Oceans EP, Blonde Maze, the acclaimed recording project of New York-based singer/songwriter. electronic music artist and producer Amanda Steckler received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for slickly produced synth pop centered around earnest lyricism, documenting her experiences, feelings and thoughts. Since Oceans EP, Steckler has released a handful of singles including “Antartica,” “Thunder” and others to praise from Billboard Pride, DJMag, XLR8R, Impose Magazine and many others, as well as love and support from BBC1, MrSuicideSheep, and MTV Radar.

Adding to a growing profile, Steckler’s material has landed on several Spotify and Apple Music playlists, including Spotify’s US Viral 50, as well as landing at #1 on Hype Machine‘s No Remixes chart. LADYGUNN named her an “artist you should’ve seen at SXSW 2018″ — and she’s opened for the likes of The Shadowboxers, Elderbrook and Vallis Alps. During that same period of time, the JOVM mainstay also released collaborations with a number of established and up-and-coming electronic music producers including including the Iowa City, IA-born, Duluth, MN-based electronic music artist and producer Kyle Stern, best known as Attom. 

The New York-based electronic music artist, electronic music producer and JOVM mainstay begins her 2021 with a cover of Mazzy Star‘s beloved, 1993 smash hit “Fade Into You.” While replacing the jangling guitars, twinkling keys and tambourine of the beloved original with shimmering and atmospheric synths, synth click and skittering beats, the Blonde Maze cover retains both vocal melody and the swooning and urgent yearning of the original — but the end result is more of a contented sigh.

“IMO it’s kind of a blissful/happy take on the beautifully yearning original,” Steckler wrote to me in an email. “I’ve been listening to the original for years — probably a decade now — and still love it. Hope Sandoval and David Roback really created a gem.”