Since initially forming in Bloomington, IN over a decade ago, the rising Los Angeles-based psych rock outfitFrankie and the Witch Fingers — featuring core trio Dylan Sizemore (vocals), multi-instrumentalist Josh Menashe and Shaughnessy Starr (drums) — have developed and honed a reputation for restless experimentation, multiple permutations and a high-powered, scuzzy take on psych rock, centered around absurdist lyrical imagery, often fueled by hallucinations, paranoia and lust. The end result is material that manages to be simultaneously mischievous and menacing. When Shaughnessy Starr joined, the band went through another of their many sonic permutations, which resulted in a lysergic and claustrophobic sound rooted in Black Sabbath-like riffage.
The band’s most recent full-length effort, Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters . . . was last released last year through Greenway Records and Levitation Festival‘s label The Reverberation Appreciation Society. Recorded in a breakneck five-day recording session, Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters . . . features much more insidious, evil and ambitious material while capturing the band in the midst of massive personnel changes: longtime bassist Alex Bulli left the band, and as a result, Josh Menashe wound up writing and playing most of the material’s bass parts with occasional contributions from Dylan Sizemore. Much like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard‘s Infest the Rats Nest, Frankie and the Witch Fingers’ latest effort sees the band writing expansive and maximalist material — with fewer moving parts.
Since the release of Monsters, the band has been busy writing and recording new material, including the “Cookin'” seven inch, which was released through Greenway Records and The Reverberation Appreciation Society today. “Cookin'” further cements the Los Angeles-based psych outfit’s long-held reputation for psych rock centered around scorching riffage. Paired with a punchy baseline and a rousingly anthemic sing-along chorus, “Cookin'” manages to be a rollicking party starter — but the good time vibes are superficial, as the song thematically calls out humanity’s obliviousness, greed and wastefulness,
Directed by Alfredo Lopez, the recently released video for “Cookin'” features three badass women, who gleefully inflict all kinds of chaos and destruction wherever they go, while doing a shit ton of drugs and drinking way too much booze.
“‘Cookin’ is a visceral and violent snapshot of three agents of chaos who gleefully inflict destruction and terror wherever they go,” the members of Frankie and The Witch Fingers explain. “They are personifications of the brutality of nature, the wrath of humanity, and the cruel unpredictability of reality. Havoc incarnate, they weave a path of wanton destruction and utter wastefulness throughout a sweaty, summer day in Los Angeles. The significance of moral values, of good and evil, are entirely human constructs; in nature it’s only kill or be killed — and leave the remains for someone else to clean up. The themes behind this song and video are a rumination on the ways in which we are carelessly laying waste to the resources we were gifted. Nature is relentless, humans are destructive, and everything decays eventually. The planet doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the planet, and she’ll be here long after we’re gone.”
Interview: A Q&A with New Colossus Festival Co-Founder Mike Bell
Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Lola Live’s Steven Matrick, the second annual The New Colossus Festival, which will take place on March 11, 2020 – March 15, 2020 will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia, and Singapore. By design, the festival takes place just before SXSW: the festival’s co-founders view the festival as a pre-SXSW stopover that will give its emerging acts an opportunity to organically gain exposure – while filling a critical void in the festival circuit.
Of course, New Colossus offers adventurous fans and music industry insiders alike an opportunity to catch many of these emerging and buzzworthy bands before SXSW – and in many cases, the festival will offer the unique opportunity of catching some of these acts playing their first Stateside shows ever. Personally, I’m looking forward to catching JOVM mainstays The Orielles,Summer Heart and A Place to Bury Strangers, along with Beverly Kills, Hanya, Bodywash (who I caught at M for Montreal last year) and Jackie – but I’m also looking forward to some serendipitous discovery of new acts and the opportunity run into old friends, and to network and meet new friends and colleagues. And much like its inaugural year, the second New Colossus Festival will also feature panels and talks that will be of interest to the music community.
I got in touch with New Colossus Festival co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the second edition of the festival – primarily its rapid expansion, the founders hope for the future and more. Check it out below.
WRH: This year is the second New Colossus Festival. In terms of the festival, what makes this year’s edition different than last year?
Mike Bell: We’re thrilled to be back! This year we’ve grown from 6 venues to 9 venues while still keeping everything within walking distance on the Lower East Side. We added MOSCOT Eyewear on Orchard Street as a venue, which will host shows all day Friday. It’s pretty exciting to be teaming up with a wonderful Lower East Side institution. We also added an after-party at Ludlow House on Thursday and a late show featuring our friends A Place To Bury Strangers at Bowery Ballroom on Friday.
WRH: The second edition of New Colossus features a packed lineup of over 100 bands. Much like last year, there’s a big representation of Canadian acts. But I also see a few Norwegian acts, a few Spanish acts, a fair number of British acts, an Irish act or two, a couple of Austrian acts, an Irish act or two, an Australian act and even an act from Singapore on the bill. Was there anything specifically that changed in how acts were chosen and booked this year?
MB: Our prime motive is always the quality of the music and how it makes us feel. We’re booking bands who play music that we love. We aren’t targeting a band from Djibouti because they’re from Djibouti. If there’s a great band from anywhere in the world that is able to make it to NYC and are serious about their careers as professional musicians, we’ll certainly consider them. I will say that there are great festivals and conferences like Halifax Pop Explosion,Focus Wales, The Great Escape and Music Finland that have flown us out to find talent because their governments support exporting their music and art.
WRH: Who comes up with the festival playlist?
MB: That’s all Steven [Matrick]! He’s really good at it and puts a lot of thought into song placement. He’s been sending out playlists to his friends for many years. You can hear his “Best of 2019” here:
WRH: This year’s festival sees the addition of two new venues – Ludlow House and the biggest venue in the festival’s history to date, Bowery Ballroom, which will host arguably the most talked about showcase of the entire festival. Does this give you and the organizers a sense of an even bigger future for New Colossus?
MB: By the time your readers see this, we’ll have announced MOSCOT as another venue that will be hosting bands all day Friday, March 13, with our friends from AdHoc. As mentioned previously, MOSCOT has been part of the Lower East Side community for over 100 years. They’re also a huge supporter of music so it made a lot of sense to team up with them.
The Bowery Ballroom show is a big deal and we’re super excited about it. However, we really don’t see this as a showcase nor as a “headline” show. We definitely don’t want to be the kind of festival that makes fans choose between seeing a more established band versus a smaller one. A Place to Bury Strangers are part of our TNC family and we see their show as another awesome band for festival attendees to see after the other showcases have ended. That said, Bowery Ballroom is a great venue and we hope to expand and do more shows with them next year.
WRH: Festivals like Winter Jazz Fest, New Colossus, SXSW and other festivals with a conference segment have featured talks covering a variety of subjects of importance to their audiences, which will predominantly be musicians, music industry professionals and journalists. How did you and the organizing team come up with the subjects for the various talks that will happen this year?
MB: The topics we chose were the ones that we felt were most useful and interesting to the bands playing the festival. We feel it is important to include speakers who would be the most likely to connect with the artists in a meaningful way. In the age of declining record sales, Indie labels, sync and touring have become vital to survive as a musician. The other panels are on activism, mental health and the history of music in NYC, all very relevant to the bands playing our festival.
WRH: Besides making a living off your art and passion, and how to survive the touring life, one of the biggest issues that concern musicians, music industry types and those who love them is their mental health and wellness. A portion of my readers aren’t music industry insiders. Can you talk a bit about why having discussions on the subject of mental health and wellness is so important for the music community as a whole?
MB: Mental health and wellness is something we need to talk about as much as possible. Professional artists’ lives and livelihoods are dependent on maintaining their wellbeing. We are here are for the artist and want to help them with their careers, which includes making sure that issues like mental health are not stigmatized and that they addressed in an open form. Most touring musicians spend a huge percentage of their lives in bars at music venues and it is a struggle for everyone single one of them to be healthy and sane while touring.
MB: It’s pretty amazing! Tim is also playing his first US solo shows at the festival. Lio has been friends with Simon and his wife Abbey for years and we all love their label Bella Union. In the end it really all came down to them believing and understanding what this festival is all about. Bella Union also sent us two of our favorite bands Penelope Isles and Lowly last year, and Pom Poko and Dog In the Snow this year, as well as the legendary Tim Burgess of the Charlatans.
WRH: Where do you see the direction of the festival next year?
MB: We are already thinking about what we’ll do for 2021 and have some plans that involve integrating more with the community and the neighborhood as a whole. We’d love too partner with a backline company and do more pop up shows in art galleries and stores.
Throughout the course of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brooklyn-based collective Red Baarat, and as you may recall, the act, which derives its name from baraat, a wild South Asian wedding procession that often features the groom riding a horse, an enormous group of extended friends and family, singing and dancing to music led by a brass band with drummers, and what the color red symbolizes in both Indian/South Asian and Western cultures — fiery red-blooded passion; in the case of the band, the passion they have towards creating and playing music, as well as the passion they inspire and elicit from fans, who catch them live. Led by Rochester, NY-born, Brooklyn-based bandleader, dholi, drummer and composer Sunny Jain, and featuring John Altieri (sousaphone), Ernest Stuart (trombone), Jonathon Haffner (saxophone), Sonny Singh (trumpet), Chris Eddleton (drums), Rohin Khemani (drums), and their newest member Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), the collective formed in 2008 — although it wasn’t until the release of their critically applauded and commercially successful sophomore effort Shruggy Ji that the band received widespread attention for a seamless, genre defying sound that draws from Indian classical music, bhangra, hip-hop, rock, pop and New Orleans brass.
Slated for a June 29, 2018 release through Rhyme & Reason Records, Red Baraat’s Little Shalimar and Sunny Jain co-produced Sound The People reportedly finds the band managing to continue their exploration of South Asian culture while placing it within the context of a globalized generation, reflected by the diverse backgrounds of its members. Interestingly, Jain began writing the album’s material a few short weeks after Trump’s election victory, and as he says in press notes, “the record is a call to action against the various inequalities and injustices that we’re seeing. We desperately need citizen engagement in response to those injustices.” Adding to the global focus, the album features guest spots from Pakistani singer and writer Ali Sethi, Das Racist’s Heems, American poet and activist Suheir Hammad and American humorist John Hodgman. “With the migration that’s happened, there is all this varied and expressive music that has erupted from the South Asian Diaspora,” says Jain. “Sound The People is a shoutout to, and celebration of this community around the world.”
Sounds The People‘s latest single “Kala Mukhra,” features Ali Sethi contributing his sonorous baritone and is as Jain explains, “. . . our take on a Punjabi folk song called ‘Ghora Mukhra.’ I first heard this song a couple of years ago when Ali Sethi shared a 1950s recording with me, featuring the acclaimed ghazal singer Iqbal Bano, with a brass band. I’ve heard very few Punjabi brass band recordings featuring a vocalist and so when Red Baraat was gearing up to work on a new album, it seemed fitting to try and see what we could do with this song. The meaning of Ghora Mukhra literally means “white face.” There’s a fetishization in South Asian culture about being fair-skinned or light-skinned, something that is pressed upon women. It’s ridiculous, but this kind of nonsense is witnessed throughout the world to varying degrees. So while we loved the melody and brass band flavor of this song, we needed a different narrative. I asked Ali if he could come up with some lyrics that are more aligned with our beliefs and also reflective of the times we are living in.” And while being a propulsive and densely arranged song, the song manages to be a boldly and proudly defiant and danceable track that will remind listeners that music holds a profound and true power.
The members of Red Baraat have a long-held reputation for being relentless road warriors and they’re about to embark on a lengthy world tour that will include a June 8, 2018 stop at Flushing Town Hall. Check out the tour dates below.
5/7 – London, UK – Rich Mix
5/8 – Bristol, UK – The Louisiana
5/11 – Caceres, ES – WOMAD Caceres
5/12 – Madrid, ES – Sala Clamores
5/13 – Barcelona, ES – Club Marula
5/14 – San Sebastian, ES – Club Dabadaba
5/15 – Zaragoza, ES – Sala Las Armas
5/16 – Santander, ES – Sala BNS
5/17 – Bilbao, ES – Kafe Antzokia
5/18 – Paris, FR – New Morning Jazzclub
5/19 – Brussells, BE – Jam’in Jette Festival
5/20 – Nijmegen, NE – Music Meeting
5/22 – Wels, AT – Alter Schlachthof
5/24 – Vienna, AT – Wiener Konzerthaus
5/26 – Austin, TX – 3Ten @ Austin City Limits Live
5/27 – Dallas, TX – Soluna Intl Music & Arts Festival | Klyde Warren Park
6/8 – Flushing, NY – Flushing Town Hall
6/11 – Camden, NJ – Sunset Jazz Series at Wiggins Waterfront Park
6/22 – Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
6/25 – Mill Valley, CA – Sweetwater Music Hall
6/26 – Oakland, CA – The New Parish
6/28 – Saskatoon, SK – SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival
6/29 – Saskatoon, SK – SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival
6/30 – Victoria, BC – TD Victoria International JazzFest | Centennial Square
7/1 – Vancouver, BC – TD Victoria International JazzFest | David Lam – Park Main Stage
7/25 – Reno, NV – Artown
7/27 – Denver, CO – Clyfford Still Museum Summer Series
7/28 – Basalt, CO – The Temporary
8/11 – Greensboro, NC – Lebauer Park
8/13 – Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
8/16 – Madison, WI – The Central Park Sessions
8/17 – Detroit, MI – The Cube at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center
Nicki Bluhm is a Lafayette, CA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, who’s perhaps best known for a six year stint as the frontwoman of The Gramblers, a band that featured her now ex-husband Tim Bluhm (with whom she also released two albums), and for recent high-profile collaborations with the likes of Phil Lesh, Infamous Stringdusters, Ryan Adams and others. Slated for a June 1, 2018 release, the Ross Sprang-produced To Rise You GottaFall Bluhm’s first solo album in several years, and the album, which was written over a difficult and life-altering period in which she got divorced and made a spur of the moment move to Nashville, TN — and as a result, the material is a deeply personal chronicle of her state of mind. “These songs are quite personal,” Bluhm says. “They are the conversations I never got to have, the words I never had the chance to say, and the catharsis I wouldn’t have survived without.”
Interestingly, while Bluhm’s relocation to Nashville was spur of the moment decision, it actually came from the result of a number of writing sessions in the city. As Bluhm notes, the city was inspiring “because of all the songwriting going on here. When I would come to Nashville on writing trips, it was just percolating . . . it was intoxicating.” Around the same time, Bluhm met with renowned producer, engineer and mixer Matt Ross-Spang, who was in town mixing a record, and as the story goes Ross-Spang and Bluhm hit it off immediately. “I really needed someone who was going to take the reins and have a vision for the album and he really did,” Bluhm says of meeting Ross-Spang. “My ex-husband had been my musical director, co-writer, and producer on all my records except one and I was looking for someone to step into that leadership roll, which Matt did very gracefully. I was looking for a clean slate; the only baggage I wanted to bring into the studio were the words to the songs I was singing. I wanted it to be a fresh experience; I didn’t want to even have history with anyone in the room that would pull me into old habits or ways of thinking. So we agreed we’d record in Memphis.”
Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording, the sessions revolved around live tracking featuring a backing band of accomplished pros assembled by Ross-Spang featuring Will Sexton (guitar), Ross-Spang (guitars), Ken Coomer (drums and percussion), Al Gamble (Hammond B3), Rick Steff (piano) and Dave Smith (bass), with Reba Russell and Susan Marshall (background singers), Sam Shoup (string arrangements) and various special guests. “We really just recorded live and we didn’t do that many takes of each song,” Bluhm says. “The final versions we ended up with were all one take. It was really refreshing to go analog. It minimized over thinking and second-guessing; forced us all to stay in the moment and play from the heart. . . Throughout the session there was a lot of listening and trusting. Matt really spends time curating his sessions and who he decides to bring in; he knows how to keep the vibe right. What you are hearing is, as Jerry Phillips would say, ‘not perfection but captured moments in time.'”
“I had lost my partner in so many ways,” Bluhm continues in press notes, “my musical partner, my life partner, my creative partner, and all of a sudden I was left on my own, to start my own engine. It was really intimidating and scary,” she says “but I had support from my management, my agent, my friends and family, and ultimately I just had this guttural drive that I didn’t even know I had in me. I was on auto-pilot, ready to move forward and take the steps I had to take to keep moving forward. When the album finally comes out it’s going to be like setting a caged bird free.”
Album title track “To Rise You Gotta Fall” is an incredibly self-assured and effortless track that manages to to be clearly indebted to classic Memphis and Muscle Shoals soul while nodding at contemporaries like Goodnight Rhonda Lee-era Nicole Atkins and Natalie Prass, as it reveals a careful attention to craft but with a “you-are-there” immediacy. Along with that, the song’s narrator reveals a resiliency and determination that comes from living a full, messy life full of struggles, heartbreak, loss and so on. As the song and its narrator seem to suggest, life will find a way to kick your ass but it’ll also find a way to move you forward towards where you need to be.
Bluhm will be on tour to first build up buzz for and to support her first solo album in some time and it’ll include a two night stay at Chicago’s Vic Theatre in April and a July 25, 2018 stop at The Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.
April 11 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue*
April 12 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre*
April 13 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 14 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 15 – Saint Louis, MO @ The Pageant*
April 17 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Ballroom*
April 18 – Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark*
April 19 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue*
April 20 – Knoxville, TN @ Bijou*
April 21 – Brevard, NC @ Songsmith Gathering
April 22 – Charlotte, NC @ Tuck Fest
May 27 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Meadowgrass Music Festival
May 28 – Aspen, CO @ Belly Up
May 31 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
June 1 – Eagle, CO @ Bonfire Brewing Block Party
June 2 – Taos, NM @ Music on the Mothership
June 3 – Flagstaff, AZ @ Hullabaloo
June 5 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
June 7 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
June 8 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
June 10 – Crystal Bay, NV @ Crystal Bay Club Casino
June 12 – Chico, CA @ Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
June 13 – Arcata, CA @ Humbrews
June 14 – Eugene, OR @ HiFi
June 15 – Portland, OR @ Dog Fir Lounge
June 16 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
July 13 – Atlanta, GA @ Atlanta Botanical Gardens
July 14 – Charlotte, NC @ Knight Theater
July 19 – Scranton, PA @ Peach Music Festival
July 20 – Alexandria, VA @ Hamilton
July 22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
July 25 – Floyd, VA @ FloydFest
July 25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
July 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
July 29 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley