Tag: The Beatles

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Black Pumas on Tiny Desk (at Home)

Over the past year or so, I’ve spilled a ton of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas over the past year. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017.

Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars a day while developing the stage presence, that would later win attention both nationally and internationally. He then traveled across the Western US, eventually relocating to Austin, where he set up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s busy downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.

Meanwhile Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone new. He had been reaching out to friends in Los Angeles and London but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, with that friend telling Quesada that Bruton was the best vocalist he had ever heard. As the story goes, Quesada had reached out to Burton, but it took the San Fernando Valley-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”

Last year, the duo along with a talented cast of collaborators released their breakthrough full-length debut. And since the self-titled debut’s release, the album has sold 155,000+ album equivalents worldwide, with smash hit “Colors” hitting #1 on Adult Album Alternative (AAA) radio and has been streamed over 60 million times. They also maintained a relentless tour schedule across North America that brought their uplifting and powerful live show to New York three times: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, the band began to make stops across the nationally televised, talk show circuit, playing Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

And adding to a breakthrough year, Black Pumas earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist along with fellow JOVM mainstay Yola — with both acts anti-climatically losing out to Billie Eilish.

This year has seen the release of a deluxe version of their breakthrough self-titled album — and it features new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photographs and a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live in-studio versions of popular album singles “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves, as well as attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” (a staple of their live shows), Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car,” which they premiered on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Continuing upon an enviable run of success, Black Pumas recently received three nominations for the 2021 Grammys — Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best American Roots Performance for “Colors.” And they’ve capped off the year with an NPR Tiny Desk (At Home) session that featured album singles “Fire,” “Oct 33,” and “Colors,” as well as set opener “Red Rover.” And although they’re performing in an empty studio — it’s a pandemic after all — the NPR set is fueled by the same passionate and soulful spirit of their live sets.

Interview: A Q&A with Seattle’s Jupe Jupe

Since their formation back in 2010, the Seattle-based indie electro pop act Jupe Jupe — My Young (vocals, synths), Bryan Manzo (guitar, bass, sax), Patrick Partington (guitar), and Jarrod Arbini (drums, percussion) — have released four albums Invaders, Reduction in Drag, Crooked Kisses,and Lonely Creatures, which have helped to firmly establish the act’s sound: dance floor, synth-led, post-punk informed by synth pop and Americana. 

Jupe Jupe’s Matt Bayles-produced Nightfall EP was released earlier, and the EP continues their ongoing collaboration with Bayles, who also produced and engineered their last full-length album. Meticulously written over the course of the preceeding year, the five song EP finds the band adding soulful saxophone to material that thematically focuses on yearning and desire.

Over the course of this past year, I’ve written about two of the EP’s singles: 

  • The New Order-like “Leave You Lonely.” The accompanying video meshed three different visual styles – line animation, live footage shot in high contrast negative and a lyric video in a way that draws comparisons to  a-ha’s “Take On Me” to mind.
  • The bring Avalon-era Roxy Music-like ‘How Could We Both Be In Love.” Directed by Dirty Sidewalks‘ Erik Foster, the accompanying moody visual seems to draw from French nouvelle vague and 80s MTV.

Earlier this year, I set up an interview with the members of Jupe Jupe to discuss their Nightfall EP, their influences, the videos for the aforementioned “Leave You Lonely” and “How Could Be In Love,” and how they were all getting along during the pandemic in a rather prototypical JOVM Q&A session.  I received the band’s responses a few days after George Floyd’s tragic murder at the hands of Minneapolis police. Understandably, as a Black man, Floyd’s death hit close to home. With police brutaliy, police reform, the Black Lives Matter movement and protests brewing up in major cities across the world, I initially wanted to ask the band a handful of questions related to those particular topics. Unfortunately, those follow-up questions never came up and the Q&A languished in my email inbox for months – without explanation to anyone. 

2020 has been difficult. But with Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ Election Day victory over Donald Trump has given me some hope. We have an incoming administration that will be competent, caring and will do everything in their power to make things right through policy and action. 

In the meantime, check out the EP and the interview below: 

_______________

WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or cancelled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed, rescheduled or cancelled tour dates – and there are a number of artists, who have rescheduled releases of new material. You released a new EP shortly before the pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?

Jupe Jupe: Like so many other bands, we’ve had to cancel quite a few shows following the COVID outbreak. We luckily had our Nightfall EP release show before the lockdowns began, but the only “live” performance we’ve done since February was a live-stream benefit show to help support out-of-work employees at a local club. It was a blast playing again, though we look forward to in-person audiences! We wonder if live streaming will be the norm for bands until next year at least. 

Despite the pandemic situation, the EP still received quite a bit of college-station airplay and press coverage, which we’re happy about. Given the scary times everyone is going through, we’re not sweating the lack of live performances. We’ll just ride it out like everyone else. We also hope that the smaller music venues can survive this—that’s something we’re definitely concerned about.

WRH: How have you been holding up? What have you been doing to keep busy? Binge watching anything?

Patrick Partington: I’ve been holding up OK—lucky to still be working from home. I try limit my newsfeed time during the day—though it’s been difficult lately, of course. As far as binge-watching, I’ve finished Ozark, which I love, and now I’ve moved on to a crime documentary series called Trial by Media. When I need some levity, I go with comedies (series and movies)—Hot Tub Time Machine, Superbad, Stripes, Vice Principals, The Righteous Gemstones, etc.

Jarrod Arbini: It varies from day to day, but I’ve finally gotten around to doing some of those home improvements. After 14 years, the refrigerator ice and water dispenser hookup has finally been accomplished. And I’ve discovered a new love for video games!

So before COVID, say that I decided to fly into Seattle. Where would I go to eat and drink, if I wanted to meet and be around locals?

Bryan Manzo: Seattle is a really fun place to visit. It kind of depends on what you’re into or what you’re looking for. When people visit me I tend to offer lots of restaurants, bars, or clubs, but the thing that people seem the most into is just being outside. It’s really remarkable how green the city is. We have mountains to the east and west. Water, water everywhere and forests so thick they’re dark during the day. It’s like Endor. Honestly, I can’t even believe I’m writing this because I’m not really into that. So for me, I guess I’d say the weed stores.

What’s your favorite venue to see shows in Seattle? Why?

PP: I think my favorite venue for larger shows is The Showbox. It fits around 1100 people, the sound is terrific, and pretty much everywhere you stand is a great spot—whether you want to be right up front or in back watching from one of the venue’s bars, which I usually opt for. 

JA: Yeah, The Showbox for sure.

How did you get into music?

PP: My older brothers were music-heads, and they turned me on to The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, The Monkees, Led Zeppelin, and lots of 70’s progressive stuff when I was a little kid. Through my teenage years, I was addicted to a small AM station in Seattle called KJET. That’s how I discovered bands like The Cure, XTC, Psychedelic Furs, The Smiths, and tons of other bands you couldn’t hear on regular FM radio in Seattle. When I first learned guitar at 14, I wanted to be like Pete Townshend—windmilling and leaping around.

My Young: My father is a guitarist and came from a family of musicians. He used to play and sing 60’s folk songs and other old hits like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” to us when we were little kids. When I was 12, I started a punk/new-wave band with my pals in Denver called the Bloody Ear Muffs. I’ve been in various bands since then.

JA: There was always music in our house and from an early age, the drums were fascinating to me. Once I was able to join the 5th grade symphonic band, I was hooked. I bought my first drum kit in the 7th grade and found being in a band and sharing my passion for music with like-minded individuals to be so satisfying.

 Who are your influences?

Jupe Jupe:  Our sound tends to be influenced by New Order, Roxy Music, Echo and the Bunnymen, Cut Copy, and a bit of Roy Orbison.

PP: I gravitate toward a lot of British bands from the 80’s—OMD, New Order, and The Cure. Plus hooky 60’s music.

MY:  In addition to the obvious synthpop and post-punk influences, I get inspiration from a larger bag of artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, the 90’s WARP catalog, 70’s glam, and 60’s artists like The Kinks, Pink Floyd, Roy Orbison, and The Zombies. And of course, James Bond themes.

JA: Anything with a hook and I’m in!

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

PP: I’ve been listening to Gorillaz, The Clash, and early Who lately. Wham! and Erasure when I want to be in a good mood quickly. Usually I just shuffle playlists so that I’m surprised. I also listen to First Wave on SiriusXM Radio—I’ve heard all of it, but it’s comforting in these uncertain times.

MY: I’ve been listening to the new Angel Olsen record a lot. I also really like Temples, Tame Impala, Idles, and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

JA: During COVID, I’ve been trying to run more, and for my run mix I’ve recently added The Magic Group, lots of Kaiser Chiefs, The Goldbergs, and some Tame Impala. To take the edge off some of my ongoing periods of anxiety, I’ve actually been turning toward smooth 60’s Motown stuff with the likes of The Temptations and The Four Tops, among others.

WRH: Are there any acts from Seattle that the outside world should know now and doesn’t? Why?

BM: Yes. There’s a band called The NitWitz. They’re 11 and 12 year olds. One of the members is my kid. Another one of the members is My’s kid. Someone please discover them and get them OUT OF MY GARAGE BECAUSE IT’S SO LOUD! Also, they’re kind of funny.

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

Jupe Jupe:  We describe our music as dark yet danceable—a “noir cocktail” of crooning vocals over pulsing beats, with guitars and sax that cut across washes of synth.

PP: When people ask me personally what we’re like, I say we try to sound like an updated version of our 80’s new-wave influences.

JA: Definitely a more current take on an 80’s-type vibe. Quite a mixed bag really, but it works!

WRH: Your latest EP, Nightfall continues the band’s ongoing collaboration with Matt Bayles. How has it been to work with him?

Jupe Jupe: Matt’s done an amazing job recording and mixing our last two albums, Nightfall and Lonely Creatures. Though he’s produced many harder bands (Mastadon, He Whose OX Is Gored, Murder City Devils, etc.), he gets our sound completely and we generally don’t have to give him much input, especially when it comes to how he mixes the songs. We bring the tunes in fully written, so that we can get straight into recording. He’s a serious, no-nonsense guy in the studio—and he definitely doesn’t put up with less-than-stellar performances!

WRH: The EP’s material thematically focuses on yearning and desire. How much of the material comes from personal experience – or that from someone you know?

Jupe Jupe: We usually write the lyrics as a group. Though it takes longer this way than it would with one person doing all the heavy lifting, we feel like we end up with stronger material. Everyone’s input is probably based on their own experiences, but we usually don’t go into it with an individual’s specific story in mind (“Hey, this thing happened to me—let’s write a song about it”). We might offer anecdotes that lend themselves to a song, but after the music is written, we pick subject matter that we think will work best with the vibe. For this batch of songs, “yearning and desire” seemed to fit really well!

While much of the EP’s material continues the synth-based, hook-driven sound that has won you attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere, EP single “How Could We Both Be in Love” features the addition of saxophone. It may arguably be the most Avalon-era Roxy Music track of the EP – and it’s one of my favorite off the entire EP. How much did Roxy Music influence it? What’s the song about?

MY: Bryan and I started playing music together in an Austin prog band called Maximum Coherence During Flying, in which Bryan played both guitar and sax. We always wanted to bring it back into our songs, but kept forgetting to do it. For the Nightfall EP, Bryan proposed how it would add a new element to the direction we were already heading in. We’re both huge Roxy Music fans (especially their first four records), and it was exciting and inspiring to bring it back into the mix.

PP: Essentially, that song is about being in a relationship with a narcissist.

How did the videos for “How Could We Both Be in Love” and “Leave You Lonely” come about?

Jupe Jupe: For “How Could We Both Be in Love,” we teamed up with our friend Erik Foster of the great Seattle band, Dirty Sidewalks. He directed our last two videos and he’s always done a spectacular job. We usually start by sending him a rough mix and the lyrics, then discussing some broad ideas over beers. For this video, we really didn’t have to offer any guidance. He’s extremely creative and talented at matching the vibe of the video to the song. He did some great stop-motion and visual effects—he always surprises us. It’s an awesome partnership.


”Leave You Lonely” was created by two of our band members, Bryan and Jarrod, using a combination of hand drawings, still photos, lyric text, and shifting color palettes to capture the movement and feel of the song.

WRH: The band has been together for a decade now, which is an eternity in contemporary music. What do you ascribe to your longevity? What advice, if any do you have for bands trying to make a name for themselves?

PP: We’re all best friends and we’ve worked together in various bands over the past 20 years, so we know each other’s strengths and idiosyncrasies really well. Plus, with that type of history, it’s easier to be honest—as opposed to walking on eggshells with someone you don’t know well. Apart from music, we just like hanging out! 

As far as advice for bands trying to make a name, I’d say figure out your sound, and continue to evolve it! Don’t worry about what’s popular or the next trend. Hopefully you can break through the clutter by sticking to your convictions and continuing to improve as a band. Also, it helps to share band duties—rather than one person doing all the writing, promo, booking, etc. It makes it much more fun and keeps everyone invested. And when you play live, be sure to promote the hell out of every show and make sure the other bands on the bill do too.

JA: I think our longevity is due to the lack of inter-band drama and a shared love of music and playing live. It also helps that everyone brings a different expertise and perspective to the group —outside of the actual music. This really helps us to get through all the less-than-glamorous band duties that come along with being a musician.

What’s next for you?

Jupe Jupe: Bryan and My are currently working on new song ideas individually, and we check in with each other for a “virtual” band happy hour once a week. We’re really just playing things by ear during the pandemic—it’s difficult to make concrete plans right now, but we know for sure we’ll be releasing new music eventually!

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Joe Wong Teams Up With Fred Armisen on a Lyrical and Trippy Visual for “Nite Creatures”

Throughout the course of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Joe Wong. Wong has had a lengthy career as a drummer — but he has made a name for himself for his scores for a number of acclaimed TV series, including Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Earlier this year Wong released his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, and so far I’ve written about four of the album’s previously released singles — including: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” the Scott Walker-like “Minor,” and “Day After Day,” a sobering exploration of free will versus fate that doesn’t have easy answers. Continuing an incredible run of stunningly lush yet brooding material, the album’s latest single, album title track “Nite Creatures” is a slow-burning and deliberately crafted track focuses on existential dread with a rapturous and swooning psychedelia. If Wong wasn’t a contemporary artist, you might mistakenly think that “Nite Creatures” was released sometime between 1966-1970.

Directed by Fred Armisen, the recently released video follows a brooding Wong as he enters a vaguely Eastern-styled house. As he wanders through the house, we see some deeply kaleidoscopic and psychedelic effects happen to him and to his surroundings, suggesting that Wong was going through a deeply spiritual awakening of some sort. Much like the song itself, it’s a slow-burning and gorgeously shot fever dream — but with something dark and murky on the fringes.

Interestingly, the collaboration between the duo can trace some of its origins back to the 1990s: Armisen was the dummer for Trenchmouth and Wong was a high-school kid in a math rock band named after an extremely obscure Dune reference. Wong wound up reconnecting with Armisen in 2013: Wong was drumming for Marine Stern. A few years later, Armisen asked Wong to help produce his first comedy special Standup For Drummers.

“It was inspiring to witness how he’d evolved from the drummer I met over twenty years ago to the singular talent he is today,” Wong says. “When I decided to make a video for ‘Nite Creatures,’ I thought Fred would be the ideal person to direct. Because of his sense of narrative rhythm (we’re both drummers, after all), surrealist aesthetic, and ability to make creative decisions on the fly, he proved himself the perfect director, indeed.”

“I love Joe’s album,” Armisen adds, “so when he asked me to work on the video, I was like, ‘YES!’ The song is so sonically rich, I think it makes dreamy videos in everyone’s mind. I just wanted to try to match that feeling.”

FRANK WOODBRIDGE · To The End

Born to an English father and Italian mother,  Paris-born and-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music producer and electronic music artist, Frank Woodbridge grew up in a passionate, musical household: at an early age, the Woodbridge family spent their evening listening to their vinyl record collection in front of their huge stereo. “My father loved The Kinks, The Beatles, The Bee Gees and Al Jarreau. My mother introduced me to Stan Getz, Carole King and the romantic refrains of the crooners that reminded her of her childhood,” Woodbridge recalls fondly in press notes. “From the age of ten, I was already deep into The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2. My teenage neighbor had decided to perfect my musical education. And then, Bernard Lenoir on Inter, the many weekends in London . . . I was an indie kid, that was my life.”

After spending many years in rock and electro pop groups as a singer/songwriter and self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Woodbridge has spent the past few years focusing on composing for films, the web, TV, as well as  sound design for events and stage music for theater. Currently, Woodbridge works with Andre Manoukian on his daily chronicle for the Daphne Burki-hosted TV show, Je T’aime, ETC — and he wrote a comic book Inversion, which follows its composer protagonist.

2020 has been a busy year for the French artist: a companies like Kenzo Parfums and Oris Watches commissioned him to compose music for web campaigns and for series of 10 films. He also composed the soundtrack for Florie Martin and Melissa Theuriau’s documentary  Seine Saint Denis Style, which aired on French station C8 earlier this year.  Additionally, Woodbridge’s latest album of original compositions LOLA LIFE DEATH ETC was released earlier this month.

Now, if you had been frequenting this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about, the Uppermost and M83-like “Lola dans le bus,” a melancholic yet cinematic track specifically composed to drive or daydream along with that was actually inspired by personal experience: Woodbridge ran into an ex-girlfriend he had lost contact with. He saw her on the bus and waved at her but unfortunately, she didn’t see him. So as the result the song is punctuated with the sadness of a missed connection, nostalgia for old times and of unfinished business. LOLA LIFE DEATH ETC‘s latest single “To The End” is a motorik-groove driven track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios and thumping beats and a fairly optimistic air.  Sonically speaking, the track sounds like a slick synthesis of New Order and From Here to Eternity and From Here to Eternity . . . and Back-era Giorgio Moroder.

“It is music driven with an urge, a dream for something else, a lot of energy and yet peacefulness coming from inner strength and will,” Woodbridge says of his latest single. “I composed it thinking of movies I love, where people are at a turning point of their lives knowing it or not, and heading for their future. Although slightly melancholic, it has a positive light and effect.”

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: Black Pumas Performs “Fire” on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

I’ve spilled quit a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas over the past year. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017. Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars and day and honing his performance skills. He then traveled through the Western states before deciding to settle down in Austin, setting up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.  

Meanwhile, Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone new. He reached out to friends in Los Angeles and London — but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, telling the Grammy Award-winning songwriter, guitarist and producer that Burton was the best singer he had ever heard. The two musicians connected but Burton took a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”

Last year, the duo along with a talented cast of collaborators released their breakthrough full-length debut. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Since the self-titled debut’s release, the album has sold 155,000+ album equivalents worldwide, with smash hit “Colors” hitting #1 on Adult Album Alternative (AAA) radio and has been streamed over 60 million times. And as I mentioned earlier, the band was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy along with fellow JOVM mainstay Yola — losing out to Billie Eilish.

Black Pumas will be releasing a deluxe version of their breakthrough self-titled album, which will feature new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photographs, as well as a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live-in studio versions of “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves; the band’s attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car,” which they premiered on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last month.

Building upon their rapidly growing profile, the act was recently on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where they performed one of my favorite songs off their self-titled album, the Muscle Shoals-like shuffle “Fire.”

Live Footage: Black Pumas Perform “Confines” with a String Quartet

I’ve spilled quit a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas over the past couple of years. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017. Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater 

Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars and day and honing his performance skills. He then traveled through the Western states before deciding to settle down in Austin, setting up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.  Meanwhile, Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone knew. He reached out to friends in Los Angeles and London — but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, telling the Grammy Award-winning songwriter, guitarist and producer that Burton was the best singer he had ever heard. 

The two musicians connected but Burton took a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”

Last year, the duo along with a talented cast of collaborators released their breakthrough full-length debut. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Since the self-titled debut’s release, the album has sold 155,000+ album equivalents worldwide, with smash hit “Colors” hitting #1 on Adult Album Alternative (AAA) radio and has been streamed over 60 million times. And as I mentioned earlier, the band was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy along with fellow JOVM mainstay Yola — losing out to Billie Eilish. 

Black Pumas will be releasing a deluxe version of their breakthrough self-titled album, which will feature new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photographs, as well as a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live-in studio versions of “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves; the band’s attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which they premiered on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last month. To celebrate the forthcoming release of the deluxe edition, the band released live footage of their in-studio performance of “Confines” with a string quartet. While continuing to show viewers that Burton is a stand-out star, the in studio rendition is a stunningly gorgeous version of the album single. 

New Audio: Joe Wong Releases a Lush Meditation on Free Will

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and is the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Over the past few months Wong has released material off his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, including the album’s three previously released singles: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” and the Scott Walker-like “Minor.” Continuing to build buzz for his full-length debut’s September 18, 2020 release through Decca Records, Nite Creatures’ fourth and latest single “Day After Day” further cements the Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s 60s psych-inspired sound — lush string and horn arrangements paired with shimmering guitars, enormous hooks and Wong’s mellifluous baritone. And while there’s a deliberate attention to craft that gives the material an anachronistic feel, the material is bolstered by earnest lyricism. In this case, “Day After Day,” is a sobering exploration of free will. 

“The lyric came to me after I read an article arguing that traumatic memories can be encoded in DNA and passed down from generation to generation,” Wong says. “Whether or not that’s true, I wanted to explore the notion that many of our personality traits and life choices that we attribute to free will may, in fact, be beyond our control. This track features an English Horn solo by Claire Brazeau (LA Chamber Orchestra), partly as homage to my ‘labelmate’ and hero Marianne Faithfull, who famously used oboe on her hit ‘As Tears Go By.’”

New Audio: Joe Wong Returns with a Lush and Orchestral New Single

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast.

Over the past few months Wong has released material off his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, which is slated for a September 18, 2020 release, including two singles I’ve written about so far: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away” and the a Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow.” “Minor,” Nite Creatures’ third and latest single continues a run of incredibly lush material, but it’s arguably the most orchestral of the album’s singles, and as a result it reminds me a bit of the late, great Scott Walker’s work — brooding, achingly lonely and breathtakingly gorgeous. 

 

Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day,  Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, June 19, 2020 commemorates the 155th anniversary of Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, TX with his troops and announcing federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. In reality, those held as slaves in Texas were technically freed two and a half years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery across Confederate territories.

Although Juneteenth is commonly thought as celebrating the end of slavery in the US. it  was still legal and practiced in Union border states until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished non-penal, chattel slavery across the country.

Officially celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, initially involving church-centered community gathering across Texas. It spread rapidly across the South becoming much more commercialized, centering around food. Regardless of how you celebrate it, today should be America’s real independence day —  the day in which all Americans were made free. There’s still a lot of work to be done by all of us for all of us to truly be free from fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy and other oppressive human systems. Let’s keep pushing on.

In the meantime, I wanted to spend today celebrating Black people and Black art. Being Black has truly been the best thing to ever have happened to me. Black is multifaceted. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful and righteous. Black is brotherhood and sisterhood. Black is swagger and flavor. Black is joy in the face of terror, horror and injustice. Black is survival and pride. Black is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

If you’re Black and gay. I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and trans, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black woman, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black man, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and non-binary, I love you, you matter to me.

Because of the occasion, I had been thinking of Syl Johnson‘s 1969 full-length album Is It Because I’m Black? Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS, Johnson and his family relocated to Chicago in 1950. Acclaimed bluesman Magic Sam was his next-door neighbor — and Johnson quickly developed a reputation as a go-to guitarist and vocalist, playing with Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf throughout the 50s. He recorded with Jimmy Reed in 1959 and made his solo debut with Federal Records, a subsidiary of legendary Cincinnati blues label King Records that year.

Personally, I find Johnson to be interesting because he’s part of that last wave of the Great Migration — and because his work comfortably sits in between blues, R&B and soul.  As for Is It Because I’m Black? It’s a great album that deserves more love and greater attention for its observations and thoughts on being Black in America, Black unity and more — plus it features a Southern fried cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together” that’s worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Joe Wong Returns with a Psychedelic Ode to Existential Dread

Joe Wong is a Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, who has created the scores for acclaimed TV series like Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being host of The Trap Set podcast.

Wong’s full-length debut Nite Creatures is slated for release later this year, and as you may recall, I wrote about the album’s lush and ambitious first single, the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away.” Wong’s second and latest single “Nuclear Rainbow” is a Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like track, centered around a lush and ambitious arrangement featuring soaring strings, regal horns, strummed guitar, hi-hat driven drumming and fluttering flutes — and while sounding as though it came out of the psychedelic late 60s, the track is centered around a deep existential dread that should feel familiar to all of us.