JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates the 82nd anniversary of David Ruffin’s birth.
Tag: The Temptations
Throwback: Happy 81st Birthday, David Ruffin!
JOVM celebrates the 81st anniversary of David Ruffin’s birth.
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 Audio: JOVM Mainstay Rhythm Scholar Takes on a Beloved Motown Classic
Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the ridiculous prolific New York-based producer, DJ, remixer and longtime JOVM mainstay Rhythm Scholar. During that same period, the JOVM mainstay has developed a reputation for crafting slickly produced, funky as hell, crowd-pleasing mashups and remixes of classic soul, funk, hip-hop, New Wave and a growing list of other genres and styles.
Rhythm Scholar’s latest remix finds him tackling the beloved and classic Temptations tune “Just My Imagination.” Perhaps unlike his other remixes, this particular one reveals a subtle yet deft touch: while retaining the original’s memorable and gorgeous melody and the legendary soul act’s impeccable harmonies, the JOVM mainstay’s take manages to gently push the song up about a decade by adding some lush Rhodes, a soulful horn line, some conga and a soaring string arrangement — all of which gives the material a dreamy, gossamer-like air.
New Audio: Carlton Jumel Smith Releases a Swooning, Classic Soul-Inspired Declaration of Devotion
Last month, I wrote about Carlton Jumel Smith, a New York-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter, who emerged into the international soul scene with the release of his debut single “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” a 70s soul and R&B-inspired track that found him collaborating with the renowned Timmion Records production and house band team Cold Diamond & Mink. Building upon a rapidly growing profile within soul circles, Smith, who cites James Brown, Al Green, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits as influences on his own work will be releasing his full-length debut 1634 Lexington Avenue through Timmion Records and Daptone Records.
Slated for release later this week, 1634 Lexington Avenue reportedly finds Smith and the Timmion Records crew carrying on in the tradition and sounds of Curtom Records, the Chicago-based studio and label founded by Curtis Mayfield; Memphis soul; and of course, by default Motown for contemporary listeners. Now, as you may recall, album single “This Is What Love Looks Like!” while centered around a shuffling, two-step groove, a sultry horn line and Smith’s soulful crooning thematically and sonically drew from the classic soul and pop songs of the late 60s and 70s with the song’s narrator expressing his devotion to his life with a sweetness and passion that you’ll rarely here in contemporary music. Continuing in a similar vein as its predecessor, 1634 Lexington Avenue’s latest single “Woman You Made Me” is triumphant declaration of the narrator’s appreciation of the woman in his life, complete with the tacit recognition that love is complicated and hard — and that finding that special someone is both lucky and rare. Sonically, the song seamlessly meshes the classic 60s Motown sound with Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield psych soul.
“I sing the type of R&B and soul that I grew up with and I present it in a fashion that is designed to make one thing of love and loyalty, which as DJ Rogers once said ‘are not for sale,'” Smith says in press notes.
New York-based R&B/soul singer/songwriter Carlton Jumel Smith emerged into the international soul scene with his debut single “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” a 70s soul and R&B-inspired track that found him collaborating with the renowned Timmion Records production and house band team Cold Diamond & Mink. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the New York-based soul, who cites the likes of James Brown, Al Green, The Temptations, Sly Stone, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits as influences will be be releasing his full-length debut 1634 Lexington Avenue through Timmion Records and Daptone Records.
Slated for a May 10, 2019 release, 1634 Lexington Avenue reportedly finds Smith and the Timmion Records crew carrying on in the tradition and sounds of Curtom Records, the Chicago-based studio and label founded by Curtis Mayfield; Memphis soul; and of course, by default Motown for contemporary listeners. Centered around a shuffling, two-step groove, a sultry horn line and Smith’s soulful crooning, 1634 Lexington Avenue‘s latest single “This Is What Love Looks Like!” draws from the classic love songs of the late 60s and 70s — and as a result, the song’s narrator expresses his devotion to his love with a swooning sweetness and passion devoid of the cynicism and selfishness of most contemporary pop.
“Here is a guy that woke up and realized what he had before it was too late and he is only too happy to share this with the world and he proclaims and declares his love for the world to hear,” Smith explains in press notes. “He is talking directly to his girl…but loud enough for everyone to hear because he is so proud of his involvement with her.”
New Video: Hannah Williams and The Affirmations Return with the Achingly Devastating Visuals for “Late Night and Heartbreak”
Hannah Williams is a Bristol, UK-born and based singer/songwriter and soul artist, who can trace the origins of her own musical career to growing up in an extremely musical family; Williams’ father was a musician and minister at the local church, and her mother, recognizing that she had some talent, allowed Williams to join the church choir when she was 6. Unsurprisingly, like a a lot intensely musical homes, Williams learned how to read music before she could actually read words.
With the release of her 2012 full-length debut Hill of Feathers, Williams exploded into the both national and international scenes, thanks in part to the success of album single “Work It Out,” which received attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the US, Australia and the European Union; in fact, at one point, “Work It Out” was the most downloaded song in Greece, and according to her label, Record Kicks Records, the video has — as of this point — received over 1.5 million plays on YouTube. Adding to a growing international profile, Williams has played sets at some of Europe’s biggest festivals including Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival,as well as some of Europe’s well-known clubs including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester, UK’s Band on the Wall; Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe and others with the likes of Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Cat Power, and Charles Bradley.
Williams’ sophomore effort Late Nights and Heartbreak, which was produced by The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto, and marked both the first time Williams has worked with Catto, as well as the first recorded output with her backing band, the Bristol-based soul unit, The Affirmations, comprised of James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals). And as you may recall, the album, which featured singles like the fierce, Dusty Springfield-like torch song “Tame in the Water” and psychedelic soul rendition of “Dazed and Confused” that managed to draw from equally from the original version written by Jake Holmes, Led Zeppelin’s legendary cover and The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” as well as some of the most personal and heartfelt material I came across last year, was one of my favorite albums in 2016, decidedly taking the top spot on last year’s Best of List.
Recently, the Bristol-born and-based soul artist and her backing band have received greater international attention after renowned, smash hit producer NO I.D. convinced Jay-Z to use the hook of album title track “Late Nights and Heartbreak” for the superstar artist’s album title track “4:44,” making his track a personal statement of his infidelity in response to Beyonce’s Lemonade. Of course, as you hear on Williams’ “Late Night and Heartbreak,” the song focuses on infidelity but also on the narrator’s crippling and confounding inability to figure out their own desires, their fears of vulnerability and heartbreak and their deception both to themselves and their partner. But at the core of the song is something that the song’s narrator and the most people don’t want to readily admit — that it’s difficult to face yourself and your own life with the sort of unflinching honesty that you may have for others. And as a result of the song coming from a deeply personal and lived-in place, it packs an unexpected and devastating wallop, especially if you’ve been on either side of a troubled, deception-filled relationship.
Directed by Nick Donnelly, who has worked on videos for the Wu-Tang Clan, Martha Reeves and Akala and DJ Khaled, the recently released video for “Late Nights and Heartbreak” was filmed in Williams’ hometown and focuses on the sort of deeply troubled relationship at the heart of the song. As Williams explained to Complex, the video “depicts the realisation that sometimes the most burning love is for ones’ own passion, and when a human relationship gets in the way it will lead to heartbreak.”
New Audio: The Afghan Whigs Return with a Tribal and Darkly Seductive New Single
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’d likely be familiar with the Cincinnati, OH-based indie rock act, The Afghan Whigs. Currently comprised of founding members Greg Dulli (guitar, vocals) and John Curley (bass) along with Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and Patrick Keeler (drums), the Cincinnati-based outfit can trace its origins to when its founding members — Dulli, Curley and Steve Earle (drums) founded the back in 1986, after the breakup of Dulli’s previous band The Black Republicans. As the story goes, Curley introduced Dulli to Rick McCollum (guitar), a frequent jam partner of Curley’s, who had developed a reputation within the Cincinnati scene for his use of effects pedals. With their initial lineup complete, the band went on to write material that Dulli has publicly described as being a cross between a cross between The Band, The Temptations and Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Although the band has since gone through several lineup changes, a lengthy breakup and a recent and very fruitful reunion, the Cincinnati-based band has the distinction of being within the first batch of bands that Sub Pop Records ever signed outside of the Pacific Northwest, and one of the more highly-regarded and critically applauded bands of the early 90s with 1993’s Gentlemen landing at number 17 on The Village Voice‘s Pazz and Jop critics list and 1996’s Black Love, arguably their most commercially successful effort landed at number 79 on the Billboard Top 200. Interestingly, while being their most commercially successful effort, Black Love was praised for sound that reportedly drew from 1970s Rolling Stones while setting themselves apart from the rock music being released that year.
After their breakup in 2001, the members of the band went on towards other creative pursuits — with Dulli frequently and famously collaborating with Mark Lanegan and others; but after reuniting for a series of festival tours, the band released 2014’s Do To The Beast, which marked both the band’s first proper release in over 16 years and the band’s return to Sub Pop Records. And while being one of that year’s most forceful and seductive albums, the album continued Dulli’s long-held reputation for writing angst and bile-filled lyrics, focusing on bitter, lingering memories of relationships gone sour and on his own long-held obsessions with drug addiction, sexual deviancy, suicidal ideation and bleak, gallows humor. And because most of the lyrics are written and sun from the first person, it gives the material a disturbing and deeply personal air, as though the song’s narrators are confession their darkest, most fucked up secrets, desires and fantasies.
In Spades, the band’s forthcoming album is slated for a May 5, 2017 release through Sub Pop Records and the album, which was produced by the band’s Greg Dulli reportedly finds the band at their most soulful and urgent and while being darkly seductive, emphasizing a pop leaning sensibility. And much like their previously recorded work, the material manages to be veiled. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me, it’s about memory — in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.” Last month, I wrote about In Spades’ first single “Demon In Profile,” a single that evoked life’s uneasily lingering ghosts — the electric tough of a lover’s skin, their smell, their very physical presence, and the sense of loss and confusion that permeates everything once that person is no longer in your life; that hurt and ache are inescapable parts of our lives that makes the necessary process of letting go and moving forward seem ridiculous and impossible; and that worse yet, even when you’ve moved forward, you can’t possibly forget. Drawing more directly from soul — thanks in part to a horn section — the song manages to be evoke Quiet Storm soul-like sexiness with a bold, arena rock friendliness. In Spades’ second and latest single “Arabian Nights” is an enormous, arena rock-friendly song that indirectly nods at Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and The Who’s Who’s Next and Who Are You — thanks in part to Keeler’s swaggering, tribal-like stomp drum work, propulsive synths and blistering guitar work; but just underneath the stormy and swaggering surface is a vulnerability and sensuality that Dulli evokes through crooned vocals.
New Video: The Darkly Seductive and Soulful Visuals and Sounds of The Afghan Whigs’ Newest Single “Demon In Profile”
Currently comprised of founding members Greg Dulli (guitar, vocals) and John Curley (bass) along with Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and Cully Symington (drums), the Cincinnati, OH-based septet The Afghan Whigs can trace its origins to when its founding members — Dulli, Curley and Steve Earle (drums) founded the band in 1986 after the breakup of Dulli’s previous band The Black Republicans. Curley introduced Dulli to Rick McCollum (guitar), a frequent jam partner, who had developed a reputation across the Cincinnati scene for use of effects pedals. With their initial lineup finalized, Dulli has publicly described the band as intending to be a cross between The Band, The Temptations and Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Although the band has gone through several lineups, including a lengthy breakup and a recent reunion, the Cincinnati-based band has the distinction of being among the first batch of bands that Sub Pop Records signed outside of the Pacific Northwest, as well as being one of the more highly-regarded and critically applauded bands of the early 90s, with 1993’s Gentlemen landing at number 17 on The Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop critics list and 1996’s Black Love, which landed at number 79 on the Billboard Top 200, while being critically praised for a sound that reportedly drew from 1970s Rolling Stones while setting themselves apart from the rock music being released that year.
After their breakup in 2001, the members of the band went on towards other creative pursuits — with Dulli frequently and famously collaborating with Mark Lanegan and others; but after reuniting for a series of festival tours, the band released 2014’s Do To The Beast, which marked both the band’s first proper release in over 16 years and the band’s return to Sub Pop Records. And while arguably being one of that year’s most forceful albums rooted around Dulli’s angst and bile-filled lyrics, evoking the bitter, lingering and fucked up memories of a relationship gone terribly sour; but while also focusing on Dulli’s long-held obsessions.
In Spades, the band’s forthcoming album is slated for a May 5, 2017 release through Sub Pop Records and the album, which was produced by the band’s Greg Dulli reportedly finds the band at their most soulful and urgent and while being darkly seductive, emphasizing a pop leaning sensibility. And much like their previously recorded work, the material manages to be veiled. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me, it’s about memory — in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.” And as you’ll hear on the album’s first single “Demon In Profile,” the song evokes life’s lingering ghosts — the electric touch of a lover’s skin, their smell and the sense of loss and confusion that permeates everything once a person is no longer in your life, and how at times its inescapable, that letting go seems impossible and unfeasible. While being one of the more soulful tunes the band has released, thanks in part to the horn section, its one of the sexiest yet anthemic songs they’ve released in some time.
The recently released video possesses a dream like logic as it follows several characters haunted by both their demons and their pasts in various ways — but spending the most amount of time on a fat, washed up, weary and arrogant pop star, getting ready to perform before a crowd of teenyboppers. But is it the present? Or is it a glorious past that of wild success, drugs and women that fuel this fantasy? And it ends suggesting that it’s main character is stuck within some uneasy, never-ending, dread-filled nightmare.
New Video: A Tree Grows Capture Both the Mysteries and Wonders of NYC and Nature in Visuals for “Future Calculations”
Comprised of founding members, Washington, DC-born, New York-based sibling duo Rashaan Carter (bass) and Russell Carter (drums), German-born, New York-based electronic music artist Emmanuel Ruffler, Georgia-born, New York-based Tivon Pennicott (saxophone) and Duane Eubanks (trumpet), the New York-based jazz quintet A Tree Grows features some of the city’s most accomplished and renowned jazz musicians — and arguably some of the city’s most accomplished musicians across any genre.
The quintet’s founding members, the sibling duo Rashaan Carter and Russell Carter were born in a very musical home as their father was a saxophonist and their mother, a radio programmer. Growing up, the Carters cut their teeth in the Washington, DC scene where they played with a number of locally and nationally renowned artists including the likes of Gary Thomas. Rashaan relocated to New York to attend New School University, where he began collaborating with a number of the school’s faculty members, including percussionist and composer Joe Chambers — and where he met future bandmate Emanuel Ruffler. Ruffler, a German-born, New York-based electronic music artist once won the grand prize in the Thelonious Monk Competition, has a songwriting credit on Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Aquarium” and has collaborated with world-famous designer Emanuel Ungaro, which led to Ruffler crafting the soundtrack for an ad campaign for an Ungaro-produced perfume. Georgia-born, New York-based Tivon Pennicott is a two-time Grammy winner and Thelonious Monk Competition runner-up, who is perhaps best known as a member of renowned, jazz-soul vocalist Gregory Porter’s backing band. Additionally while in college, Pennicott began playing with renowned guitarist Kenny Burrell, and as a result the Georgia-born, New York-based saxophonist has played in backing bands for Stevie Wonder and Wynton Marsalis among others. The Georgia-born, New York-based saxophonist has also collaborated with Esperanza Spalding on Radio Music Society and has toured as part of Al Foster‘s band. Finalizing the band’s lineup, Duane Eubanks is best known as a member of Dave Holland‘s two-time Grammy Award winning big band and as a member Mulgrew Miller’s band Wingspan. And as a result he’s played in some of the world’s most renowned and well-regarded music venues including Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center, as well as countless tours across Europe and Japan. Eubanks has crossed over into other genres as he recorded and toured with an incredibly diverse array of artists including The Temptations, Alicia Keys, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Wu-Tang Clan, Freedom Williams, Kirk Franklin and DeFunkt.
The jazz quintet’s self-titled EP was released earlier this year and while serving as a teaser for their forthcoming full-length effort, and if you had been following this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about the band’s coolly atmospheric and funky first single “Wau Wau Water,” a composition that managed to evoke seething, bubbling and frothing water. Interestingly, as the members of the band explained each composition that appears on both the EP and their forthcoming LP is based around a different concept, describing and evoking a distinct state in the evolution of life on Earth as we know it. “The images are snapshots, extending from the beginning of life, to the emergence of emotions, to aspects of modern human life. The cycle closes with possibilities for future development: self-perpetuating intelligence. The composition ‘Wau Wau Water’ is based on the following concept: ‘Enzymes are forming in a prehistoric ocean — evolving into bacteria. A stew of life is brewing, the cycle starts and intensifies in this patch of fertile Wau Wau Water.” As the band’s Emanuel Ruffler added “Defining and discussing these concepts during the rehearsal and recording process created a sense of purpose among the musicians and a deeper engagement with the compositions. This has transformed our creative process.”
“Future Calculations” the EP’s latest single is a coolly swaggering strut of a composition that much like its preceding single owes a debt to bop-era jazz and jazz fusion as a propulsive yet wobbling and retro-futuristic bass line, played through copious wah wah pedal is paired with shuffling and deceptively complex syncopation and a boldly expressive melody from the band’s brass players. Clocking in at a little over 2:30, the composition is roomy enough to allow room for the brass players — primarily saxophone — to solo in a composition that rapidly shifts gears in a prog rock-like fashion, and while evoking the wonders of minute mysteries of nature, even in a large city.
The recently released video for the song follows a young girl, with an expressive and highly intelligent face wandering around New York with a small container of dirt and seeds, who stops by Central Park’s Strawberry Fields to let a jazz musician she encounters to take a look at the suddenly growing seedling, before she plants it in the park nearby to replace a fallen tree.