Throughout the course of last year, I wrote quite a bit about Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Jonny Couch. Couch initially began his music career as a drummer, who played in a number of local punk bands before completely reinventing himself and his music career with 2016’s debut EP Animal Instinct, a soulful take on 80s synth pop that drew comparisons to the legendary Bryan Ferry while receiving praise from Louder Than War and High Times.
Last year saw the release of Couch’s Peter Mavrogeorgis-produced full-length debut Mystery Man, an effort that found the Brooklyn-based JOVM mainstay further establishing a sound that’s indebted to and influenced by power pop and New Wave. “My favorite bands are Cheap Trick and Buzzcocks,” Couch said in press notes. But he goes on to explain that his solo work is deeply influenced by Nick Lowe with elements of Duran Duran and The Psychedelic Furs.
Couch closes out 2020 with his latest single “Hideaway.” Released earlier this month, the single simultaneously marks the first bit of new, original material from the JOVM mainstay since the release of Mystery Man while continuing upon the synth-pop, power pop and New Wave-inspired sound that won him attention across the blogosphere. Featuring shimmering A Flock of Seagulls-like shimmering synths, twinkling keys, four-on-the-floor and the sort of anthemic hook that Phil Collins would love, “Hideaway” is a sweet love song centered around a classic pop trope: the desire to be in a sort of protective cocoon with your love, far from the madding crowd.
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?
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.
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.
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!
Initially starting his career as a drummer in a number of local punk rock bands, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Jonny Couch reinvented himself and his career with the release of 2016’s debut EP Animal Instinct, a soulful take on 80s synth pop that drew comparisons to Bryan Ferry — and received praise from Louder Than War and High Times.
Building upon a growing profile, Couch’s highly-anticipated Peter Mavrogeorgis-produced full-length debut Mystery Man will reportedly further develop the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s reputation for crafting infectious material that’s seemingly descended from 70s and 80s power pop and New Wave. “My favorite bands are Cheap Trick and Buzzcocks,” Couch says in press notes, “but this is more of a personal record than a band effort, highly influenced by power pop solo artists like Nick Lowe.” But there’s also elements of Duran Duran and The Psychedelic Furs as well.
Coincidentally, Couch’s forthcoming full-length debut is also deeply influenced by the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s love of classic film noir — in particular, films like Body Heat and Body Double. In fact, the album is centered by deep film-noir metaphors, from the album’s title, its artwork and even song titles like ” Vertigo” “Framed” and others.
Mystery Man’s latest single, album title track “Mystery Man” is a sleek, Roxy Music meets No Jacket Required-era Phil Collins -like track centered around atmospheric synths, shimmering and angular guitars, a motorik-like groove, a soaring hook and Couch’s plaintive vocals. And while revealing an ambitious, arena rock-like populist bit of songwriting, the track is underpinned by an earnest sense of late night loneliness and longing.
Directed by Art Boonparn, the recently released video stars Couch, Audrey Cover and Sara Nelson and begins in a dark Brooklyn bar during karaoke night. We first catch a band singing Journey’s smash hit “Don’t Stop Believing” — poorly. Kovar and Nelson follow the man singing Couch’s “Mystery Man.” Couch is there the entire time, in the background, but as he leaves the bar, he turns into his alter-ego, a fedora wearing noir-like detective, collecting clues. We then see Couch, along with Kovar and Nelson perfuming the song in a house party full of hipsters and characters. It’s trippy but it reveals Couch’s good-natured, mischievous sense of humor.
Currently comprised of founding member Trevere Thomas (guitar, vocals) along with Douglas Andrae (drums) and Alex Ricart (bass), the Richmond, VA-based noise rock/math rock/metal act Hex Machine can trace their origins to its formation by Thomas, Municipal Waste‘s and Human Remains‘ Dave Witte (drums) back in 2004. Over the course of two EPs and two full-length albums — 2009’s Omen Mas and 2012’s critically applauded Fixator, the Richmond-based act firmly cemented a sound that drew from from The Jesus Lizard, Melvins and the Dischord Records catalog, but with their own unique take; in fact, Fixator found the band flirting with anthemic choruses, metallic drumming and a wider ranger of guitar sounds, which in some way would foreshadow what was to come for the band. And as a result of a growing profile, the members of Hex Machine toured with the likes of Clutch and Melt-Banana.
After a series of lineup changes and the release of their sophomore album, Thomas and Andrae joined Today Is The Day as the band’s rhythm section, playing behind Steve Austin for hundreds of shows across theworld. Interestingly, Hex Machine’s forthcoming album Cave Painting, which is slated for a June 21, 2019 release through Travere’s own label Minimum Underdrive, is the Richmond-based trio’s first album in seven years. Reportedly inspired by Thomas and Andrae’s time in Tday Is The Day, Cave Painting‘s material finds the band pairing their sludgy and lurching rhythms with elements of 80s New Wave — in particular XTC, The Police, Killing Joke and The Psychedelic Furs; in fact, Hex Machine covers one of my favorite Psychedelic Furs songs on the album, “President Gas.”
Cave Painting‘s latest single is the bruising “Scimitar Blues.” Centered around layers of sludgy power chords, red-hot flashes of hi-hat and thunderous drumming and growled vocals, the song sounds as though it were inspired by Sisters of Mercy and Chain of Flowers — but with oddly shifting time signatures and moods, which give the song a menacing and downright evil vibe.
Hex Machine will be on tour throughout July. Check out the tour dates below.
July 17 – Richmond, VA @ Wonderland w/ The Wayward
July 18 – Raleigh, NC @ Slim’s w/ The Wayward
July 19 – Athens GA @ Caledonia Lounge w/ The Wayward
July 20 – Atlanta, GA @ The Bakery w/ The Wayward
July 22 – St Louis, MO @ FOAM w/ The Wayward
July 24 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Howlers w/ The Wayward, Microwaves
July 25 – Cambridge, MA @ Hong Kong w/ The Wayward
July 27 – Philadelphia, PA @ Mothership w/ The Wayward, Stinking Lizaveta
With the release of 2016’s debut effort Language, the Brooklyn-based indie rock quartet Hypoluxo, comprised of Samuel Jacob Cogen (vocals, guitar), Cameron Riordan (guitar), Eric Jaso (bass) and Marco Hector Ocampo (drums), have received attention for a sound and songwriting approach that possesses elements of shoegaze, indie rock and dream pop — but with rapidly changing time signatures. Their sophomore album Running on a Fence is slated for a September 21, 2018 release through Broken Circles Records, and the album reportedly reveals a band that has expanded upon their sound while retaining the infectious hooks and shimmering yet anachronistic quality that has won them attention — and as you may recall, the album’s first single was The Smiths and The Psychedelic Furs like “Kentucky Smooth,” which possessed a wistful sense of regret at its core.
The album’s second and latest single “Huckleberry” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its centered around shimmering guitar chords and propulsive drumming; however, the band’s latest single manages to draw from classic 80s New Wave, complete with pop-leaning hooks — but while avoiding soulless mimicry; in fact, emotionally speaking, the song expresses frustration, uncertainty and regret simultaneously.
With the release of 2016’s debut effort Language, the Brooklyn-based indie rock quartet Hypoluxo, comprised of Samuel Jacob Cogen (vocals, guitar), Cameron Riordan (guitar), Eric Jaso (bass) and Marco Hector Ocampo (drums), have received attention for a sound and songwriting approach that possesses elements of shoegaze, indie rock and dream pop — but with rapidly changing time signatures.
Running on a Fence, the Brooklyn-based indie rock act’s sophomore album is slated for a September 21, 2018 release through Broken Circles Records, and the album reportedly reveals a band that has expanded upon their sound while retaining the infectious hooks and shimmering yet anachronistic quality that has won them attention; in fact, the album’s first single “Kentucky Smooth” sounds as though it were inspired by The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs and others, as the track is centered around shimmering guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section, Cogen’s baritone crooning and a wistful sense of regret at its core.
Earlier this month, I caught the Brooklyn-based alt rock duo Deaf Poets play on a bill featuring Chicago-based post-punk act Ganser and the Brooklyn-based New Wave act Winkie at Saint Vitus, and as you may recall, the up-and-coming rock duo, comprised of Miami Beach, FL-born, New York-based duo of Sean Wouters (vocals, guitar) and Nico Espinosa (vocals, percussion) can trace their origins to when they met in elementary school. During high school, Wouters and Espinosa went through a long process of musical experimentation, which ultimately led to their founding of Deaf Poets — and since their formation, the Miami Beach-born, New York-based duo have received attention for a sound that effortlessly meshes elements of 70s rock with 80s punk and 90s grunge.
Like countless hungry bands before them, the members of Deaf Poets recently relocated to New York, and unsurprisingly, their soon-to-be released EP Change & Bloom is reportedly inspired by the events and personal experiences that have transpired before and during their move, arguably making it one of the more personal and honest efforts of their young and growing catalog — and while the EP will further cement their reputation for swaggering crafting hard-hitting, power chord-based, arena rock, the EP’s latest single “Cigarette,” features a moody and expansive alternating quiet, loud, quiet song structure centered around effortless time signature changes, tribal-influenced drumming and some impressive and forceful guitar pyrotechnics, revealing an ambitious band experimenting with both their sound and songwriting.
Deeply influenced by The Breeders, T-Rex, punk rock, psych rock and New Wave, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, Grace Vonderkuhn has received attention for a sound that meshes elements of psych rock, garage rock and guitar pop; in fact, back in 2015, I wrote about Vonderkuhn’s slow-burning, brooding, and lysergic cover of The Psychedelic Furs‘ “Love My Way.” Adding to a growing profile, over the past year, the Wilmington, DE-based singer/songwriter and her backing band, which features Brian Bartling (bass) and Dave Mcgrory (drums) has opened for the likes of Titus Andronicus, Lower Dens and blogosphere darlings Sheer Mag among others.
“Worry,” the first single off Vonderkuhn’s forthcoming full-length album, slated for a February release through Egghunt Records features some muscular and self-assured power chords paired with angular and driving bass chords, forceful drumming within a 90s alt rock song structure — alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, arena rock friendly hooks, an explosive and cathartic bridge and a fade out into the song’s coda. Though it clearly owes debts to the aforementioned Breeders, Veruca Salt and others in the 120 Minutes-era MTV universe, the song, as Vonderkuhn explained to the folks atGoldFlakePaint is an “anthem for over-thinkers” with the song’s narrator attempting to act as a calming counterweight, as she constantly reminds herself that maybe she shouldn’t be worrying as much as she does about everything, that some things are just beyond your control. And as a result, Vonderkuhn’s latest is a deceptive and mischievously modern take on a beloved and familiar song and aesthetic.