ANCHR Magazine

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Self-Reflecting With Harvey Fox

In any circumstances, but especially within the creative industry, it’s often too easy to ignore the signs of your own body and mind telling you that you need a break; You’re conditioned to keep going, to continue pushing out content and keep performing. There was a point in time when Colin Fox of Chicago band Harvey Fox came face to face with this exact struggle, and he ultimately decided to trust his intuition and be honest with those around him about taking some time off from his passion project. “I realized that I just wasn’t enjoying anything about the band. I wasn’t enjoying anything about making music or performing or going out and talking to people. It was all like a chore for me,” Fox recalls, telling me about about his change of heart and battle with social anxiety over a cup of coffee last month. The epiphany occurred right after the band played a packed Lincoln Hall show last year, and it led Fox to post on social media about his current struggles with certain aspects of being a musician. “I just made a post about this and was like I’m mentally not in a good space, I’m not having a good time, and I need a break from this to reassess and find a way that I can make a more sustainable life. You have to be careful how much energy you invest and you have to be mindful of your state and when you’re working on something that hard.”

As it turns out, Fox says his break from the band allowed for him to approach their sophomore effort with a refreshed outlook and clean slate, but he does also admit that the whole process had its ups and downs. “The album gets a little meta… There’s a lot of songs about the struggles that [I’m experiencing] and then I’m struggling to finish the record. So it’s real cyclical,” he says. Most importantly though, the second album from Harvey Fox, called Lullabies for the Restless, signifies growth and introspection for the band, and Fox’s ability to call out his own struggles in a self-reflecting manner is maybe one of the biggest changes between this record and the band’s debut.

Photo By Edgar J. Lomeli

Photo By Edgar J. Lomeli

Harvey Fox’s current-day, four-man lineup consists of friends that Fox made as far back as middle school— 14 years ago. The first being the band’s keyboard and synth player, Drake Morey. “We met in middle school. I transferred to a new school. It was a private Christian school and I was not so into it. Drake was into Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, and he was one of my first friends at the new school. I went over to his house and he just had like hundreds of recordings of electronic music that he made,” Fox recalls. In a way, Morey served as Fox’s musical guru, introducing him to classic rock music and the recording arts. After dabbling in making music with Morey, Fox eventually met bassist Tom Garvey at a White Elephant party, where Garvey received Fox’s gift of a monkey carved out of a coconut. “Then I found out that he liked Radiohead and we’ve been friends ever since,” Fox added. Eventually, Fox also connected with drummer Dario Velazquez in high school when they both joined the lacrosse team. “ I saw him play drums in the school band and he was amazing,” Fox says. “We started playing garage rock in Dario’s garage ten years ago. Just Tom, Dario and I. Then it grew larger, Drake joined. We had a ten piece band in high school...we were just trying to be Arcade Fire. We wanted to make the kind of music that inspired us to make music in the first place.”

The long-term friendship between all four band members meant they definitely had a similar goal in mind and connected through their influences, but Fox says, “When I listen back to the [first] record today, it sounds like two different records, there’s side A and side B. Side A is definitely more of the reckless side, like garage party music stuff we were doing before. Whereas the second half is much more self reflective and contemplative side. I think when you work on something long enough you just have to take a serious look at yourself. It seemed like a lot of that first record was done as a joke. They’re silly songs, joking songs.”

Nowadays, in addition to the more direct, cohesive theme of introspection Fox wanted their sophomore album to have, he also approached some of the songwriting with very specific intentions. For example, the lead single “Pictures of Herself” stemmed from one of Fox’s personal relationships, as well as his self-proclaimed love/hate relationship with Lana Del Rey. When he started to work on the debut single for Lullabies for the Restless, Fox said he had just listened to a Lana Del Rey B-side called “Never Let Me Know.” “I kind of dig her, but also it’s hard not to scoff at everything she does. That song ‘Never Let Me Go,’ I just felt like so irritated by it, so the first line of [‘Pictures of Herself’] is ‘She never says don’t let me go because she thinks I won’t.’ The idea of this was to make like an antithesis of a Lana Del Rey song. It was me responding to a Lana Del Rey Tumblr singer.” Fox says after the initial idea fell into place, the song took a very long time to piece together, mostly because it involved a storyline about current events in his life— sometimes events that hadn’t fully played out yet. “I wrote the first verse and then I didn’t know what to do, then I wrote the second verse, then once I had those two pieces I was like how do I merge these together? Part of this album is it’s written in the moment… it’s all very in the moment. A lot of these songs are hard to finish because I don’t know the end of the story. I’m living this story.” For the second part of the single, Fox says he was scrolling through Facebook and saw a picture of his ex-girlfriend. "I saw a picture of her and that feeling of seeing somebody moved on with their life, while you’re just kind of stuck in your own anxiety and depression, that’s the feeling that I was capturing. With this song it’s like the first verse is attacking and antagonizing, then the second verse turns the mirror back on myself. Like you’re judging someone for taking pictures of themselves while you’re looking at the pictures and being annoyed and angry. It’s like you obviously have some of your own ego and headspace that you need to work on.” As for the final verse of the song, Fox leaves that one open-ended, saying that he prefers to keep a little bit to the imagination and allow listeners to have their own interpretations.

Along with a more thorough approach to the songwriting for this record, the band also stepped up their game with their recording process. “We met with a couple of different producers and there was one guy Caleb Harris, he runs SonWaves Studio out of his basement. I was at a party and I had heard one of the songs that he produced. I was like wow this sounds amazing, and I was telling him I wanted to make a lo-fi garage album. He was like ‘Well, go do it yourself then. If you want to make a lo-fi album, you’re not gonna do it with me. If you want to make something sound good, then record it with me.’ So he just like instantly started fighting with me,” Fox says, adding “That’s how I like to work with people. I like to butt heads!” Working with a seasoned producer with a strong vision not only allowed the band to challenge themselves as artists, but it also allowed for the band to take their time and work at a natural pace. In order to even afford recording in the studio, the band had to space out their sessions, and that lent to a more natural, fleshed out recording process that lasted for more than a year. “We recorded everything live initially with [Harris] in the basement studio, then did overdubs with him,” Fox says. “Then Drake and I recorded a lot of the synths and guitars and everything outside of the studio.” As a day job, Fox happens to work in the recording studio inside Hanover Park Library, which turned out to be very handy when recording the finishing touches on their own. “I recorded a bunch of cello and flute with one of the guys from our high school band. I also recorded our vocals in the library because there’s a soundproof booth.I work in the library all week and then on my days off I would come into the library and record.” Other finishing touches include sounds of trains, whispers, and random synth sounds Morey recorded on his phone. “We just combined that in a bunch of ways to make it sound cohesive. It was a very slow, organic process which I was very happy with,” Fox says.

Overall, Fox says that his hiatus and the steady pace of this record completely made the project more enjoyable, and produced something that he can be proud of. “After that [Lincoln Hall] show, I took a four month break from playing music. I didn’t even touch a guitar, and when I came back to it, I had a whole new life. I was able to finish the record, I was able to finish the title track of the album, the very last track on the record. It sort of serves as an epilogue to everything, and I had enough gear and experience from working as an audio engineer at that point to be able to not have to go to the studio, but to record it myself. The direction of the record after that time took a much more organic feel, and I think that if I would have stuck to my previous headspace and mindset, not only would I have totally burnt out, it would have been a much more angry and rigid record. As opposed to blossoming into this more much more positive and organic thing.”

The record Lullabies for the Restless will be released in October via Midwest Action, along with a record release show at Sleeping Village on Sunday, October 20th. Get your tickets here and keep up with Harvey Fox on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Baring it All With Burr Oak: A Premiere of the New Single "Rosemary"

Sometimes your favorite songs have to grow on you, but the best songs are those that hook you during the first few seconds and after luring you in, the melody gets lodged in your head for hours after the song has ended. The debut single from Burr Oak, “Southsider,” had that effect on me the first time I listened— as soon as I heard Savanna Dickhut’s haunting, double-layered vocals, I knew this project was going to be something special.

I was first introduced to Savanna as one of the lead vocalists and songwriters of the local folk-rock group Elk Walking back in early 2018, and while that group has always given her a platform to shine, Burr Oak is an outlet that allows for listeners to absorb Savanna’s unapologetically honest musings in a way that fully belongs to her. Prior to forming Elk Walking with Julian Daniell, Savanna dabbled in collaborative writing with her band called Tigers and Tantrums during her freshman year of Columbia College, but long before that, she was writing songs just for herself. “I think the first song I wrote was probably before I even learned how to play guitar. I remember writing songs—this is so embarrassing, but I would write songs on the toilet when I was 7 or 8. They weren’t even really songs, but I would just sing on the toilet,” Savanna recalls.

Burr Oak photographed by Alexa Viscius

Burr Oak photographed by Alexa Viscius

When she was 11 years old, Savanna started playing drums, but after realizing she needed a way to write songs on an instrument, she asked for a guitar for her 8th grade graduation present. “So I was 14 and I just went on this streak of writing. I remember coming home from high school my freshman year and of course at the time I’m obsessed with Taylor Swift. Cause I’m 14 you know? I’m a 14 year old girl who just learned how to write and I remember hearing that one song on the radio— ‘Teardrops on My Guitar.’ It sounds cheesy but I was inspired by her and so I started writing songs and I would come home from high school every day and write a song,” Savanna says, adding that back then she was writing purely for the joy of it and to express herself in a no-pressure situation.

Essentially, these Burr Oak singles came about in the same way; They were inspired by feelings that Savanna had to get out for her own peace of mind, except this time she decided to share them with the world. “I started writing a lot of songs that weren’t working for Elk Walking,” she says, adding that they just weren’t the vibe of the band. “I was going through a breakup and some personal stuff, and I started writing these really sad songs. And was just listening to a lot of music that was in the sleep rock genre. When I wrote ‘Southsider,’ I knew that it just wasn’t gonna work [for Elk Walking]. So I either have this for myself and do nothing with it, or I start this new project.” Coincidentally the timing was right for Savanna to take on another project, and she also had the catalog to back it up. “It wasn’t like I just wrote that one song either...I had been writing songs for a while. I have probably an album’s worth of songs that I could put out that wouldn’t work for Elk Walking.” Ultimately, it was specifically “Southsider” that Savanna wrote that she felt like she needed to get out there, and the best way to share it would be starting her own side project. “I hit a wall creatively. I was going through depression with my breakup and I just needed to get this out there. It was selfish almost, it was for me, but also I do want to get it out there for people to listen to. I just didn’t want it to be another one of those songs that I wrote and it’s like ‘never gonna see the light of day.’ So that was really the main motivation for it,” Savanna added.

During her first experience of writing songs as a teenager, Savanna took influence from popstars like Taylor Swift, but nowadays she pulls inspiration from a more laid-back place. In addition to Julia Jacklin, Faye Webster and Weyes Blood, Savanna says she really connected to the latest album from Hand Habits, the project of Meg Duffy. “I was really inspired by Hand Habits. When their record came out, I was very inspired by that and I loved that doubling of their voice and the just kind of dreamy sound. Everything about it was just like I love this so much! So that inspired me to double my voice in pretty much all of those two tracks [“Southsider” and “Rosemary”]. I don’t know if I’m gonna keep doing that when I eventually record an EP and album, but it was something I experimented with because I just wanna have this kind of bigger sound.”

Like the haunting double vocals used on “Southsider,” Savanna’s second single “Rosemary” (which we’re premiering below) has that same ethereal effect. Fittingly, since these songs both have a dreamy quality to them, part of the melody for the second single came to Savanna in a dream. “Sometimes I’ll write from my dreams, but I never get a full song. Sometimes I do hear melodies and even lines in my dreams. So I had that dream and I kind of based the story I was telling about this person who is very consuming in your life. Somebody that I met recently that kind of just sucked all of the emotion and sucked the life out of me in a way and is with another person, but is very all-consuming of me. Obviously I knew it would be wrong to ever try to get invested in that cause I don’t need to be a part of that,” Savanna says about writing “Rosemary.” She chose to release this song and “Southsider” first because they’re the two newest of songs she’s written for Burr Oak, and songs that she currently connects with the most.

Going along with the theme of new beginnings, the live ensemble for Burr Oak is filled with some fresh faces for Savanna. Her friend Emily McDermott plays bass along with Jeff Sullivan from Elk Walking on lead guitar and Tony Mest on drums, who Savanna hadn’t worked with in the past. “It was perfect timing cause I was looking for a drummer to try to really get Burr Oak off the ground, and I wanted someone who I hadn’t really worked with before,” she says about Tony. You can catch the full band in action at our next showcase this week at The Hideout.

As far as what’s next for Burr Oak, the possibilities are endless. While the first two singles were very stripped back and very minimal (Savanna didn’t track to a metronome in order to keep the live feel), Burr Oak’s sound hasn’t been defined just yet. Talking about the recording process for “Southsider” and “Rosemary,” Savanna says, “I really just wanted it to be about my voice and the story I was telling. And not overproduced and not add too much. That’s not to say that my sound isn’t gonna develop, but at least for this debut, I wanted it to be pretty simple. I think that comes off that it’s gonna sound pretty much on the record as it does live.” Eventually, Savanna hopes to put out an EP within the year and continue to work with new people and branch out of her comfort zone. “I can’t say where or if it’s gonna be an album, but I will definitely be recording more in the next few months. I have all these songs and I really wanna get them out. But I also don’t want to overwhelm people with so much at once. People are digesting their music differently now.”

For now, dive into Burr Oak’s second single “Rosemary,” and get your tickets to the August 15th Hideout showcase here.

Keep up with Burr Oak on Instagram and Facebook

Crying with Katharine Seggerman: A Chat with Lunch Duchess

I sat down with Katharine Seggerman of Lunch Duchess to talk about her forthcoming album, Crying For Fun, out August 16th on Heavy Meadow Records. We talk about Britney Spears, relationships, and of course, our feelings.

Photo by Chloe Krenz   . Lunch Duchess is:    Katharine Seggerman (she/her) - drums, vocals    Nicky Steves (he/them) - synths    Sam Frederick (they/them) - guitar    Matthew Sandstedt (he/him) - bass

Photo by Chloe Krenz. Lunch Duchess is:

Katharine Seggerman (she/her) - drums, vocals

Nicky Steves (he/them) - synths

Sam Frederick (they/them) - guitar

Matthew Sandstedt (he/him) - bass

So how did you decide to start singing and drumming?

People kept telling me to do it for years and I was always resentful of that because it’s kind of hard. And I think there’s some weird gender aspects of me wanting to prove that I’m a good musician and not just a singer. And then I bought myself a headset microphone and that was a game changer, and it still took years to get competent at it.

I feel like the natural progression of “what can I do in addition to singing?” is playing guitar. So drums is different, were you already interested in it?

That was my starting point actually. I started drums when I was 12 and played in a band with my friends in middle school, and played in jazz band in middle school. I did a teen program kind of similar to She Rock, and then my own bands in high school and college. It wasn’t until I was in this band, BOYF, now defunct (RIP). That was a hilarious band and I played drums in that and then started singing on the headset mic. 

I just really wanna see you with an early 2000s Britney Spears-esque headset mic. That’s my dream Lunch Duchess set.

You’re giving me such a good idea, I don’t know what to wear for the release yet. Maybe like the red latex one she wore in “Oops I Did It Again.” Ponytail and hair extensions. 

You describe your voice as “Disney-esque.” What’s your vocal background? Are you a trained singer?

My only musical training is percussion so I can read percussive music, but never got beyond middle school choir for vocals. Although I did sit down with Sam’s mom, who’s actually a well known singer in the Twin Cities and got some tips from her, because I’ve been trying to learn a little bit on my own as an adult. 

In the press kit you sent me, a lot of the sentences end with “this may sound like a lot- it is.” Which I think is an interesting choice of words, can you define “a lot”?

I think of the songs as being very distilled, and not even distilled to simplicity but really intense elements taken from each component of the song. Like the emotionality, the lyrics, the instrumentation. There’s not really a lot of fluff. I think the intensity of the songs themselves and the commitment to going all out when I easily could’ve alluded to an idea. Like the part when everybody in the band is singing “lala lala lalala,” it’s so unnecessary... it’s a lot. I think a lot of bands might have a similar idea, but with less intensity. 

Ok, well obviously I follow Lunch Duchess on Twitter, and I saw one of your tweets where someone was very confused by you defining your band as grunge pop. But then in your press kit you’ve articulated the sound of each song to a tee. So do people not “get” your sound, is that a problem you come across?

Photo by Chloe Krenz

Photo by Chloe Krenz

I think that particular tweet was about a really interesting conversation I had with someone who doesn’t really listen to music. I mean the way he was talking about it like “I use hip hop at the gym.” Which was really eye opening because I’m surrounded by people who live and breathe music.

The album is very cohesive but the songs shift from each other. Like “Chicago” is more rock in feel than most of the other songs. How does that come together? 

That’s a good question. I think it goes back to the way that I write each song. So for some songs- well they all start with vocal melody. Probably something is bothering me and a melody pops into my head. And then I will find stuff to go under that using either a banjo or a piano, sometimes a bass. And then flesh it out as best I can for the structure itself. And after that I bring in bandmates. I think it’ll change based on who kind of takes the lead instrumentally, if it’s gonna be more guitar driven or more synth driven. A mood is really important to me, so using the instruments to convey a certain mood of like doom, or excitement, anxiety… I think a lot of it has to do with the developmental process, writing with the band once the structure is done, and what the mood of the song needs to be. 

It’s interesting that you drive things based on how it comes together rather than creating a formula for what you want the album to be and then bringing people in.

And even having different people be involved on the album in different parts. Like the song “Better” originally was played with a different guitarist. And some of these songs were played by Matt on guitar who now plays bass, some of them were played with Ranelle on bass, who now plays synths. It’s fluid.

I actually did want to walk about “Better.” It has this playful, bouncy sound. But there’s that line “just kidding, that wasn’t me but only cause society is extremely unforgiving of female sexuality.” It has me wondering how much of that song we should truly read as a joke?

I think they’re serious issues, but I’m trying not to burden myself by taking it so seriously and being so angry about it, even though at different times I am definitely super angry about some of that stuff. On one hand “Body” I’m talking about “I get naked anytime I like” and that line kind of bothers me because it sounds like I’m talking about having sex but I literally just mean I like being naked. I’ll probably spend some time in a nudist colony at some point, I don’t know. I don’t understand societal norms around that and why bodies have to be sexualized, that really pisses me off. And that goes into the territory of possession too and reproductive justice, so that’s stuff that I’m angry about. And not prioritizing partners’ sexual needs, especially if the partner is a straight cis guy, they could be doing a little better. Which is why the song is called “Better.”

That’s funny because I have a question about “Body.” I’m very much a believer that having a body is weird and that I’d be ok being sentient haze.

I wish. What are you, an Aquarius or something? 

I’m actually a Capricorn! But because of your points on autonomy it becomes arguably the only political track on the album. Because you said you try not to let it burden you, was that a moment where you wanted to touch on something more specifically?

In writing that song I had started out wanting to do something really silly and was just playing around. The first two verses are about really inconsequential things like allergies and being sensitive to drugs. And then I was asking myself “why am I even writing about bodies if it’s just a joke?” and realized I could say something I actually do care a lot about in it. Which is not usually how a song works for me. Maybe I’m adding little bits here and there but it’s not “let me bring in an entire issue that’s important to me.” So kind of explaining to myself why I wanted to write about that in the first place. And the other ones definitely aren’t political, I think they mostly deal with boundaries and relationships. And sometimes that’s in a societally gendered way, kind of a stereotype of like women are supposed to save men and men are stereotyped as not being responsible for their behavior, not taking accountability, needing to be mothered. So I think some of the songs are push backs against that mentality.

Especially on “Lust/Love,” a lyric I really attached to is “don’t recall how to be alone, it’s making me angry that you do.” Thematically I did want to ask you about the concept of boundaries throughout the album because it does undercut most of the songs. This idea of what am I on my own? What am I with another person? How do I not overextend?

That’s one of the only songs on the album that’s about an entirely different relationship. I don’t want to get too specific and make the subject feel bad. But a lot of the songs on the album are about a specific relationship and a specific type of relationship that was pretty co-dependent. And trying to figure it out, usually from a self-empowering kind of way, during those rare moments in a co-dependent relationship where you question what you’re doing. But this relationship [portrayed in "Lust/Love"] was so far from that and purely physical. And then kind of acknowledging that I don’t know how it feels to be in a relationship where we’re so much more independent- to the point of excluding emotions. And just really having my thinking changed by someone who was a lot more detached, which at the time was really healthy for me. It was just a reset.

Going off that, Crying For Fun definitely has some difficulties defining love.

Yeah, especially going back to that one very co-dependent relationship and just feeling moments of total doubt in myself. Like is this love? Do I know how to love? Is this how I want to be loved? And am I loving this person the way that they deserve? So I think there is a lot of anxiety about that on the album. And then other moments that are kind of taking a break from that, like “Chicago” is a new crush, and “Lust/Love” is a whole different thing. So kind of exploring different avenues and trying to answer those very basic questions about love and capacity to love. 

I really like the word “capacity” in this context.

I guess, damnit I thought I had grown, but a song on the previous EP is called “How You Love” and towards the end of the song it keeps repeating “is that how you love?” and “did I love well?” So I guess I’m still asking that question in a way, but starting to use more outside sources for getting feedback than relying just on myself. Your own internalized narratives can get so twisted if you keep telling yourself the same thing over and over again. 

So is it safe to assume that you’re someone who’s comfortable being seen as openly emotional?

Yes, definitely! And even then I still am a little nervous about it. There is a part of me that really enjoys confrontation because I think it’s healthy for people to be stating their needs instead of the Minnesotan tendency to gloss over it and not talk about it. So sometimes I still am scared to bring things up. But it’s a lot scarier to me to not be feeling emotions at all. And I think I was feeling that way for a long time when I was a lot more depressed and medicated, and coming out of that I think I’m really grateful that I have the capacity to be really sad or be really upset or be really happy. So I kind of think Crying For Fun is a little bit about that, about getting back in touch with my emotions.

And it’s, in a way, easier to not feel.

But if you’re not feeling you’re not getting signals from life about where to go. You’re not gonna end up in a happy place when you’re finally ready to confront your emotions. And I keep using ‘you’ language but I know it’s not universal, it’s personalized.

Talking about Crying For Fun versus My Mom Says I Have a Rich Inner Life, we have “Cry II” and the single “Ride or Die” appears again. Is Crying For Fun an expansion of the EP or do you view it more as something totally different that has a track that’s been refurbished? 

I think the answer to that is more technical than anything else. I wondered should we re-release “Ride or Die” and I asked a friend of mine and he was like “well it’s probably gonna expose more people to it so it’s good to include it again” and it’s a good song, I still like it. But thematically, if it’s an expansion? I think so. I’m asking that question about love again and defiantly talking about crying, which is not something people are usually proud that they do. And there are other themes that still carry through too, I think about independence. Some of the stuff on “Unable/Unwilling,” I think that song is a lot about coming out of depression and people putting their assumptions on you about your motives for doing certain things. I think in that one a boyfriend assumes music is something I do as a hobby. But in fact it’s mostly emotional exorcism. That’s the reason why I write songs. So unfortunately when I’m doing really well and I’m happy, like I am right now, I don’t do a lot of writing. But I try to not worry about it. I don’t really understand the point of art that is not necessary to the maker. If I don’t feel the need to create then I’m not gonna make myself do it, I’m not gonna do like an inspiration exercise. Which maybe I’ll change my mind on that, but at the moment I’ll fill my time with something else. Like going to grad school.

Are you? Congratulations!

Thank you! I’m going to be a talk therapist. So doing some more emotions and dark secrets and analysis. So kind of fulfilling that need in a different place, I guess. 

It would be cool to find out your therapist is in a band. Though probably just for the patient, not for you.

I’m so nervous about that. Like “yeah she’s in a band and writes some really forthright lyrics about sex and I know way too much about her sex life now.” Yeah, I’m probably gonna have to change my name.

There’s something very subversive about Crying For Fun. There’s a sweetness in some of the instrumentals but the lyrics are darker; I think it’s part of what makes the album sound so distinct. How do you create that kind of juxtaposition?  

I think it’s maybe a mirror of how I’m thinking about some of these things, which truthfully it’s not the healthiest way to deal with things. But a lot of these songs have been in the bag for years, “Better” is a really old song for example. In kind of just stepping back and looking at this collection of songs and other things going on in my life I feel like the angst comes from thinking that I have to keep my dissatisfaction about things secret. So not being able to openly discuss when I’m dissatisfied, which is nobody’s fault, I think it’s more an existential problem. You only have one life to live and you have to be brave enough to do it. I think freedom of choice can be a really terrifying thing for people. Sometimes you wish someone else would make the choice for you. So you go with the flow and you stay in things that you don’t like but you sort of pretend that you do like them and then it ends up just making you resentful. And I think I’ve been feeling resentful about different situations just out of my own fear to do what I want to do. But if you don’t know what you want to do for a long time, you just end up kind of stuck in a loop. 

How does that lead into creating these very saturated songs?

I think that I’ve been really selective in what to put on the album. There are a lot of other songs out there but at some point it feels like it’s not clicking or it doesn’t need to be said. It feels redundant compared to something else in the catalogue. And then I’ll decide not to develop it any further. I feel a little bad about this, but I really don’t like performing songs that I don’t feel to be emotionally true anymore, which is probably frustrating for my bandmates. It’s like “oh yeah I just want you to learn this song” and then six months later it’s like, “no I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Are there any songs specifically that you’re not playing right now?

There used to be one, I was just listening to a demo of it on my way here because it popped into my head, it’s called “Friend/Lover/Fuck Me Over,” and it’s being just really frustrated with someone even outside a romantic relationship and feeling like they’re just not respecting you as a person no matter where you try to meet them. It has some really cutting, mean lyrics, some of my songs do. At the end it says “bad people they have a way of being bad friends” which is literally calling someone a bad person, that’s pretty mean. So sometimes I’ll shy away from songs that are overly attacking of someone without taking enough share of the responsibility.

You say it yourself that Crying For Fun is full of “earworms,” which is almost an understatement. I think it’s funny with the subject matter that you work with that it ends up being really catchy. How intentional is that?

The only songs that I end up developing are the ones that are banging around my head for a long time. That phrase and melody is just going through my head constantly until I think of some other parts to go along with it. So I’d say it’s pretty unintentional but I like the fact that a lot of them are darker subject matter and are catchy. I think everyone could take some time to reflect on their emotions and relationships and other stuff that maybe they wouldn’t hear about in a normal pop song. I feel like there is such a trend about that lately- pop songs about anxiety that you hear on Top 40 and you’re like “what? This is really dark stuff.” That Julia Michaels song that’s like “I got issues and we got issues.” Unexpected. 

A lyric that’s really imprinted on me is “I love you like I fight a war” on “Makes Me Love You More.” Could you tell me a little more about it? 

I think that song is coming to terms with a complicated romantic relationship, and I think right now our culture is quick to dub things abusive or toxic, but even in those relationships you’re getting something out of it or else you wouldn’t be in it. I’m sorry, I mean that in a nuanced way, obviously in an abusive relationship there’s not much you can do to defend a truly abusive person. But there is something lovable about every person and you can’t just pretend that you never loved the person, even if it was a kind of love that felt like going to war everyday. And that’s with yourself and with that person. With yourself just in terms of it’s not actually healthy for you but you make yourself do it or you’re trying to make yourself get out of it. I don’t think that fighting in a war is the ideal way to be in a relationship, but even in those relationships there is still something that you love about that person and that’s still a valid love. And definitely admitting guilt on that too. Like should you be in a relationship with someone? Maybe you’re doing some harm too or I was doing some harm in feeling like it was a war. It’s two sided. 

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Pre-order the digital album here and cassettes here and catch their album release party on August 31st at Mortimer’s Bar and Restaurant.

A Chat With: Together Pangea

LA-based band Together Pangea has been crafting catchy garage rock since 2009, delivering four full-length albums and a handful of EPs that each explore different sounds and offer a little something for everyone. Over their years together, the band has also become known for their infectiously energetic live presence—no Together Pangea show is ever quite complete without a mosh pit or some crowd surfing. In the past, Together Pangea has shared the stage with acts like Alkaline Trio, Ty Segall, and The Black Lips, just to name a few.

Most recently, the group just wrapped up a headlining West Coast tour run in celebration of their EP Dispassionate, and they are now gearing up to embark on the East Coast run, which kicks off here in Chicago. Ahead of the kick-off show at Lincoln Hall, I spoke with Danny Bengston of the band, discussing their recording process of the latest EPs, their music video for “Dispassionate,” and how they plan to spend their time in Chicago. Tune into our chat with Together Pangea below!



Your new EP Dispassionate just came out about a month ago now, which was a quick follow up from the Non Stop Paranoia EP released last year. When working on the two EPs, which have been described as opposites of each other, did you already have that theme in mind and write them in tandem? Or was Dispassionate more of a reflection after the fact?

We went into the studio and we recorded nine songs, plus some acoustic songs that we put out before the EPs. So I guess in total we did about fourteen songs all at once. When we went in to do it, we weren’t sure what it was gonna end up being because we had enough songs technically to do a full length, if we wanted to. But it just sort of happened that once we got into it and started getting mixes back and seeing how things were shaping up, there were four songs that made sense together and five songs that made sense together. So that’s how that happened.

Totally, so they just ended up as two halves of a whole piece. 

Yeah, there was no intention going in to make two separate EPs that had separate vibes, we just had a group of songs that happened to have two distinct sounds so we split it up that way.

Nice, then the four songs on Dispassionate are definitely more laid-back compared to some earlier material and sort of have that 50’s, 60’s vibes. What were some factors that influenced that shift?

We made the decision specifically to sort of go ahead and put out songs that we felt really good about, not necessarily songs that were reflective of our previous catalog so much. I think with Non Stop Paranoia there’s definitely a little bit more recognizable aesthetic sounds that are in the vein of Badillac or some of the older stuff, but all in all I think it was more of a choice that we made this batch of songs that we felt really good about. I think that was it! Even if it sounded different than before, it’s still us. We felt they were solid songs.

Were there any influences you can pinpoint? Maybe other art forms, like films, or other music you were listening to around that time? 

I know that the song “Moonlight Lately” specifically I wrote that one, I was listening to a lot of 60’s girl groups like The Shangri-Las or The Crystals…The Ronnettes. I was listening to The Crystals a lot when I wrote that song, and I wanted to make a song that sounded like one of those old girl group classic songs. So that’s why that song sounds that way. We also had just never really done anything like that where we just sort of went for it that hard. Like chose a sort of genre or style and just went for it. It started out just guitar, drums, and bass and then we ended up having more time and resources. I was just like fuck it, we called Max Kuehn, he’s the drummer for Fidlar, and he came in and played. We had two drum kits in the studio and he and Erik played together. Our friend Killian from the band No Parents did a bunch of hand percussion. The percussion take is two drums and also a lot of hand percussion. I told Danny, the producer, what I was going for specifically and we just went for it. Somebody at our record label knew somebody who played saxophone, so the saxophone was on it and I was like I want to add some piano…some glockenspiel, you know. It just spiraled out of control.

Yeah, that sounds like a fun recording session with lots of guest appearances.

Yeah it was a lot of fun. It was the first time we’ve ever done anything like it, where we got two drum kits in the studio at once.

I also really liked the video for “Dispassionate,” the EP’s title track. And speaking of No Parents, I laughed at the part with their t-shirt in the video. So as far as this music video concept, did you all work together to come up with the idea, or did you work with a specific director who had this concept in mind?

For the music video that was our friend Derek Perlman, he’s a photographer based in Los Angeles. It was his idea and he’s actually a really close friend of mine, we hang out fairly often when I’m back home. I know that he had sort of dipped his feet in the idea of wanting to make more music videos, and he had started this music video for this friend, but it never came out for other reasons. We were just looking for someone to do a video, and we were like why don’t we see if Derek is interested in trying it? And he totally killed it.

Wow so this was his first official music video?

Yeah! It’s technically his second, but the first one wasn’t 100% finished and never came out.

Wow that’s still impressive though! Shifting gears to your live shows, I know you’re in the middle of a huge cross country tour at the moment. What have been some highlights of it so far, or some favorite places? Maybe some places you’re looking forward to hitting soon?

I’m still pretty excited that Chicago is the kick off of the east coast run. That’ll be great. This first half of the tour has been pretty amazing, like every show. There hasn’t been a bad show...LA is always good because it’s our hometown. Yesterday we played Sacramento, which was very fun, aside from it being no air conditioning and being extremely hot. Denver is an amazing place for us...another tour highlight. We’re definitely looking forward to Chicago, that’s the first one of the second leg.

So as far as Chicago, is there anything you guys have plans to do outside of the show? Anything on your Chicago list?

Well we toured with Twin Peaks a couple years ago and we’re still very good friends with those guys. I was talking to Cadien about hopefully going to swim in the lake. He was saying it might not be warm enough. We’re also on tour with another Chicago band, Dehd. I’m just excited cause we have a lot of friends out there like Twin Peaks, Dehd and Lala Lala. If it’s warm enough we’ll go swim in the lake!

Yeah I think that might work out now! It’s been like 80 degrees this week, although yesterday it hailed a bunch, but it was sunny about ten minutes later. So hopefully the lake plans will follow through.

Yeah I’ve always wanted to do that. 

Are there any new bands or any albums that have been on heavy rotation while you’re on tour at the moment?

The No Parents record, which isn’t out yet, that’ll be out in September. Been listening to that a bunch. Lala Lala...Dehd. There’s always a lot of really good Chicago stuff. The new White Reaper song is really good. 

Nice, lots of good stuff! Anything else you guys are looking forward to this year besides the tour and new EP? Anything else coming soon, like videos or potentially even more new material?

Probably! As of now we just have these tours to wrap up and then we go to Europe…and maybe some more touring throughout the year. We’ll probably get to recording at some point in the next year, I’d imagine. I have a feeling we’ll be hitting Chicago at least twice this year though.

Together Pangea makes their Lincoln Hall debut on Thursday, July 11th. Get your tickets here.

Keep up with Together Pangea on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Zuli

As a songwriter and creator, Zuli has never shied away from exploring different genres and styles with his music. His multi-faceted debut album On Human Freakout Mountain gave listeners glimpses of rock, pop, psych and folk textures back in 2017. Now, Zuli has returned this year with his first bit of music since his debut record, giving fans another taste of something new. Released June 21st, Zuli’s latest single “ur mistaken” contains the same rock and pop undertones of his older material, but it also twists in sprinkles of soul and R&B.

Drawing influence from some of his favorite music released by other artists during the past two years, Zuli was able to tap into a different side of his creativity and refresh his sound without straying too far from his roots. While there’s still plenty more to come as far as new material goes, I recently caught up with Zuli the week that “ur mistaken” dropped to talk about his current artistic inspiration, the growth in his writing process, and what he hopes to deliver with his live performances.  Tune into our chat with Zuli below!

Photos by Kimberly Young Sun

Photos by Kimberly Young Sun

What was your first musical memory?

There’s a lot! My mom is a singer, and when I was growing up she was always singing and playing gigs. I was always going with my dad. She’s a country singer. So that’s probably my first memory of music, just hearing her sing Dolly Parton and things like that. In terms of me being affected by any kind of music, I guess some of my earlier memories was I was a huge Stray Cats fan when I was a little kid. I really loved like Brian Setzer, I wanted to be Brian Setzer when I was a little kid. I also feel like when I heard “Tommy” by The Who for the first time I wanted to pick up a guitar and just start writing songs and doing my own thing. Those are the memories that come to mind firsthand. I grew up in a musical house though so it’s always been a big part of shaping who I am.

That’s awesome you have that connection with your family going way back! So now you have your new single out, which is your first release since 2017. How does it feel to have “ur mistaken” finally shared with the world?

It feels great, honestly. I was lucky enough...I don’t know if lucky is the right word, but I was testing out the song with some shows to see people’s reactions and people have been really positive about it. After it came out, the love and the output from people has been really inspiring. It’s just great to be back and have it out and I’m excited to keep the ball rolling. I’m glad people are feeling a new direction and this whole new chapter. 

Yeah it seems like a lot of good responses on social media so far! Lots of people were sharing on release day. Then as you mentioned, it definitely pulls in a new soulful sound and new approach compared to some of your older material. What was your process with “ur mistaken” and creating this song versus some of your earlier material?

I think that at its core, it shares some resemblances of the older material and that I still always try to do my best to write a song with the intention of one instrument and a vocal, and making it feel good at its core. Then once you put the production on top of it, you’ll only make the song better. I think that when this song came about, and when I was digging deeper and going in this new direction to express myself and create, it kind of just came from a place of a little bit of melancholy and feeling down about where I was in my relationship with everyone. It just kind of felt like a more longing type of approach. My voice didn’t feel the same. I just wasn’t expressing myself in the same kind of way. With On Human Freakout Mountain, as a record, it was my first experience recording and releasing a full length album. When I was finished with that I learned so much and I had all these new experiences that came along with it but also was tending to all of these experiences that led up to that point, and once I reflected on where I was going and where I’ve been, it just kind of felt like there’s certain aspects that I’m gonna take and I’m gonna expand upon and keep in my toolbox. But there’s this whole other side of me I feel like that hasn’t really seen the light yet. It wasn’t even an intentional thing but this new idea and new direction felt so right and like the best method for me to continue expressing myself.

Nice, it sounds like it’s an accumulation of everything you learned when approaching the new music. So between the time of your debut album coming out and now releasing this new single, what would you say is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about yourself, either personally or as a musician? Anything you tried to apply from those experiences you had?

I think as a musician and as an artist, my main focus and a big part of what I do is going with your intuition and feeling. I think feeling goes a lot deeper than thought. However, I do feel that was such a big crux for me in a lot of ways, just the music feeling right to me and how it kind of came out. I think when I was approaching this stuff, I was coming from more of an introspective space where I was really reflecting on everything, and I feel like right now with my creating, I’m trying to find a balance of keeping my heart and my brain in the song. And letting the thought process behind the song help shape not only the narrative, but the direction and some aspects of the aesthetic, but then also not forgetting that at the end of the day, my intuition of how the song feels and how I feel about the structure...Say I want to write a song about this, but then I’m working on a melody, a string of words comes out that not only resonates with me but feels good, I shouldn't deny that because my intention was different. I feel like that was my biggest difference or growing moment between the two, was just learning ok like, I can take this part of me but I also want to be more concise with what I’m saying.

Yeah that’s a great way to look at it and approach it. Like making sure you still have the heart and soul behind the song and not losing that, but still focusing on your intention. I’d say that’s a good way to work.

I think so! I mean I tried to do that.

I think it came across with this song. So kind of along those lines, what were some albums or maybe other art forms that you consumed during that past couple of years that may have influenced you with the new material?

I kind of narrowed it down in my head because I thought about this a little bit. There’s been a multitude, there wasn’t just one thing that I was like oh man, this is what I have to do now…But I have to say, On Human Freakout Mountain came out, and it was maybe a week to a month after and I had heard Control by SZA for the first time. And yes it has the R&B and the soul, and that kind of flavor to it, but I feel like the thing that resinated with me so much was how deep and personal and unapologetically herself [it was]. It felt so refreshing. And plenty of different singers talk about sex and love and all of these things that are so relevant and relatable to everyone, but something about her take on it and just the way her music made me feel, it was like wow, this is special. This is something that really really made me feel so good. I’m so grateful for all of my experiences and the opportunities I’ve been given, but it just kind of gave me this feeling like wow there’s so much more I could be doing. Just how much I could improve. So that was huge, if I had to give it to one [influence], I’d say that. Then that kind of started the whole train of all this other stuff I started listening to and pulling from when I was creating.

As far as when you play live, I saw you at Schubas in 2017, and even two years later I still remember how intense your energy and stage presence was. Are there any performers that you look to for inspiration and influence in that sense?

Yeah definitely. There’s the classic ones, like you can throw in the David Bowies and Freddie Mercurys. I think at an early age I caught the music bug and saw a lot of performances that just really moved me. I feel like that’s another aspect to this whole artistic side of making music. There’s a lot of current’s hard to think on the spot, but I really love the new Tyler, the Creator album, and I feel like the whole performance element that he’s added to it is really clever and engaging. Fun to watch. I’ll go with one more...Even like BrockHampton. I don’t think that’s a perfect example in terms of who I am, but it’s being able to perform in a high energy type of way that can really grab people but also using elements of the stage space more than just room for a band. Like being able to explore it as a set. Something that really resinates with me and my background, but also being able to shape the world and make it more engaging for the audience.

I see the next show you have announced is at Elsewhere in September. Do you have any plans for a tour later this year, or anything else you can kind of tease?

Nothing definite to tease right away, but the agents are always looking out for me and letting me know some opportunities. For me, right now I’ve been super lucky that people respond to the music so well and love coming to the shows and get really into it, but I’m also still at the moment tweaking some of the songs for the record and getting that all ready. I’m hoping to be on the road as soon as possible, but for now I want to focus on the record. But the summer is still going, there’s still some time before the Elsewhere show. There’s a chance something might come in the fall, but the record is the priority. Once the live shows and tour start happening, it will be well worth the wait though.

Can fans expect some new material at the September show or any other potential upcoming gigs?

Yeah, I think the new show will be debuting a lot of new songs and a whole new structure. As well as some of the classics but with a little bit of a twist to keep everything in the same world. It will be a nice mix of a lot of new stuff as well as some of the songs that helped get me where I am today.

Nice! Then how would you sum up the newer material that we haven’t heard yet in three words, just to keep it vague and not give too much away? You can say more about it if you want, or keep it at three words. 

I guess if I had to say three words to explain the music...introspective, abrasive soul. That’s so like music-based.  I think that another direction is playing with the themes in terms of the songwriting. I think that’s the best because I want the record to speak for itself, and I want to have the whole body fully-formed and realized before I give anything else, but sonically, it will be some sort of avant soul that has a little aggression, but ultimately lies in this smooth world too. 

That’s a great one-sentence tease and should get people intrigued! Anything else you want to share that’s in the works?

Working on the record….there’s gonna be some more music coming out this summer. We’re getting some more visuals ready too. In the meantime, my whole creative collective that I associate with is also releasing new music, so just supporting them and ready to take over in 2020 I guess. To the best of my ability.

Keep up with all the Zuli news on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Black Belt Eagle Scout

Black Belt Eagle Scout is the creation of singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul. Paul first got into playing music at a young age as she grew up in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and experienced native drumming, singing, and arts. Now based in Portland, where she moved in 2007, Paul started writing music for her own project after becoming immersed in the city’s music scene by playing drums and guitar for numerous other bands.

As an indigenous, queer woman and self-proclaimed radical feminist, Katherine Paul has worked hard and paved her own path to share her voice and her journey with the world. Paul’s debut album Mother of My Children clearly paints a picture of her stories, remaining transparent and honest from start to finish, and her stage presence possesses the same authenticity and composed intensity as her songwriting. Paul’s genuine nature and boundless talent as a creator continues to connect with listeners from different corners of the world, and this month, she will be joining Julia Jacklin on a tour across the country.

A couple of weeks ago when the tour was just beginning, Paul took some time to chat with me over the phone during a drive through the east coast. We talked about her current sources of inspiration, her new single “Loss & Relax,” elevating the underdogs, and what we can expect from her show at Schubas this Wednesday, May 8th. Tune in below to my chat with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

Black Belt Eagle Scout is Katherine Paul // Photo by Jason Quigley

Black Belt Eagle Scout is Katherine Paul // Photo by Jason Quigley

I wanted to start off talking about your early days. I know that you grew up in a small Indian reservation and you’ve said “Indigenous music is the foundation for all of my music.” In addition to your background and the music you learned with your family, what are some other sources of inspiration that you look to when writing now?

I’m currently in a van and we’re driving to New York City, and we’re playing shows. So I feel like at the moment, I’m inspired by the people that I meet and I’m inspired by this life that I have, where I get to drive all over this beautiful country. Right now we’re in Maryland I think. It’s so green and there are these really beautiful purple flowers that kind of look like cherry blossoms, but they’re purple. It’s just so beautiful here and I think that having this life is an inspiring thing for me right now. I feel really happy on tour and sometimes that doesn’t always happen to people. I don’t always feel happy on tour, but right now I’m having a really great time being on the road. And I think that having a healthy and happy tour life is really important for your mental health, and being able to keep your creativity flowing.

Yeah totally. Then in April you just shared “Loss & Relax” from the forthcoming 7” [out April 26th]. What was that creative process and your frame of mind like for this single, and how does it compare to the songs your wrote on your debut album?

Well “Loss & Relax” was written during the time I was recording Mother of My Children. I started writing the first guitar riff, and I wanted to put it on the album, but I just felt like it wasn’t finished and it wasn’t to a point where I wanted to share it. So I kept it in my back pocket and throughout the next year after recording Mother of My Children, I started playing with people and having a live band. I played with a bunch of friends and they helped me realize what that song could be and its potential. It was really interesting being able to play and flesh out a song in a live capacity. In terms of the intensity— I feel like that’s why the song is so intense is because I was able to have that experience of playing it with people. The song also was about the journey home to record Mother of My Children. It’s kind of a perspective song about what that was like and why I needed to go record that album. I think that the way the song is now in its recorded version, I’m very proud of it. I put a lot of effort into figuring out what parts go where and what additions need to be. Basically producing the song.

Yeah, it sounds great now. I’m glad it’s getting a proper release in its own time.

Yeah and that’s kind of why it’s on the 7” It was a lingering element that I don’t know if it would fit on an album in itself.

The music video [for “Loss & Relax”] is a perfect visualization of returning home, and what you’re describing in the song. It’s very cool to see you return to Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and to see you in your element.

I talk about my home a lot and I talk about where I’m from. I feel like besides people who I grew up with there and maybe my close friends who have gone back to visit with me, you don’t really know what that looks like. I wanted to be able to share that and to give a face to the name.

Yeah I think it definitely does that! I also wanted to mention while we’re on the subject of recording Mother of My Children, you played every instrument on the record. What were some of those challenges that you felt while recording and wearing so many different hats during the process, and what motivated you to continue down that path of being a multi-instrumentalist?

Before Mother of My Children, I had done this little demo where I also played all of the instruments, but it was done pretty much in a couple of takes per instrument, and it was very demo-ish sounding. So I already had this idea of “If I can do this myself, I can create an album myself.” I had that mentality going into Mother of My Children that I want to be able to do this myself… I know how to play all these instruments. I know how to put together songs. It’s something that I have knowledge about. So I was like why not just do it? I’m gonna do it!

Yeah I’m sure it gave you complete creative control then, which is important with a first release. And each instrument will come across on the record how you wanted it to.

It definitely is, but it’s also hard because you don’t have someone who you can bounce ideas off. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and rather than feeling validated about an idea, which that sort of thing can be hard for me— Just being able to be like oh, I’m not sure about this part, and then not having anyone to have that conversation with. I don’t work with any producers, so it’s basically just me and a recording engineer. I would do it all myself if I knew how to record, mix and master, and have it sound nice. That’s definitely a goal of mine down the road. The way that I work is I like to record into the night and I like to take breaks, and that doesn’t always work when you’re paying for studio time and you have a time limit. That was one thing that was difficult— being on a budget and trying to record the instruments by yourself. I paid for the whole thing all by myself and went in every day and played every instrument all by myself. At the end of every day, I was exhausted. I was trying to get as much done as I could. It’s not cheap to record in the studio, so I had my little savings and was like this is as much as I can spend, so let’s try to get this done in this amount of time.  I was fortunate enough to stay with my parents because I recorded in Anacortes, WA, which is where I was born and then I grew up 15 minutes outside of there at Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. So my mom was really helpful and she fed me and gave me food to take to the studio, and then I came home and could relax. If I didn’t have that, it would have been a lot more difficult having to create that album from scratch.

So speaking of your hard earned savings, I saw that article in Vulture where artists talked about their side hustles. You’ve worked in Portland in music venues as a talent buyer and in production. What’s something you’ve learned from being on both ends of the business as a performer and someone who books talent, or advice you’d give to other musicians who maybe haven’t been on the other side of it?

I’ve been working there for a long time. I still work there but not in the same capacity that I did before I decided to embark on a really long tour. I started working at Mississippi Studios after I graduated college. It was my first job out of college and they liked me enough that I’ve worked there for seven and a half years. I’ve done so many jobs there...I was production manager, then I was box office, then I’ve done ticket managing. I was the talent buyer, and then I was just like an office manager. So I feel like I’ve sort of lived the life of being in music venue production, and having that experience and while also being a musician….One of the things with Mississippi Studios is that it was established by a musician, so I was able to go on tour in other bands that I was in, and they let people take time off of work to go on tour, and then come back and work. They’re very understanding of that. Being a musician and also working at a venue, it feels like you get to be some sort of superhuman musician at times. Like you know what’s going on for your job side, and also you know what to do for being in a band. Being on the road, I’ve been advancing all of my shows. I’m essentially like my own tour manager— I have been putting in a lot of work to make sure the whole project is going along the schedule. So it’s an interesting thing to have this knowledge. I think that some people when they get to a certain point in their music career, they go on to tour and they go on album cycles, so they understand what it’s like. But as a musician that’s first starting out, you might not always have that knowledge. I don’t know what sort of advice I’d give in terms of your question.

It’s interesting still to hear your take on the benefits of knowing what’s going on from both sides. It’s good to be knowledgeable.

Yeah it just takes a huge amount of work to be a musician. It’s also interesting going around to different music venues. Sometimes I realize that not every music venue is the best venue to work with. Some sound engineers suck to work with. Some isn’t always perfect. So it’s always an interesting thing to realize.

Totally, then talking about your stage presence, I actually got to see you at SXSW this year for the first time. I loved your set and how there would be more mellow moments followed by you just shredding on the guitar. Who are some performers that you admire their stage presence or maybe look to for inspiration?

That’s a hard question! These questions I always have to think about them for a while, and I feel like I’m gonna have a good answer in like an hour. But I will say this— I love energy. And if there’s something that has energy, no matter what it is…it’s a certain kind of energy though. It’s this intensity. It’s like this love and this passion. I’m so drawn to seeing somebody who’s performing and they’re just getting so immersed into their performance because they’re feeling what they’re putting  out there.

Yeah like a genuine energy, and you can really tell when someone has that genuine energy, versus them just trying to put on a show.

For sure, and that’s my most favorite kind of performer. Exactly that. Someone who’s genuine, who’s putting out passion and energy. I love intensity, especially I love intense drummers who just get into it. One person that pops into my head, when I brought up drumming, is Janet Weiss. Her drumming intensity is what I’m totally into… that sort of element. Sleater-Kinney was one of my favorite bands growing up, and they definitely had a very intense stage presence and performance. So bands like that, I’m super into. I get bored when I see bands that are just kind of standing there not really feeling it. Coming from my music venue side, I’ve seen a ton of shows, I’ve worked a ton of shows, so I feel like there are certain shows where I’m like eh, not really into it. But then some of them, I’m like this is really amazing.

So this might be kind of another question that’s difficult to answer on the fly, but I’ve seen you’ve been asked a lot in other interviews about your identity as a queer, indigenous woman, and you’ve said “Having this identity—radical indigenous queer feminist—keeps me going.” You’ve also said how important it is for you to use your platform to elevate other voices in a music space that still is predominately male and predominately white, which I think is great and very much needed. What are some actions that you would you like to see from maybe venues or other artists moving forward to also help elevate these voices that are still seen as the “minority?”

One thing that really annoys me is when white indie rock musicians just don’t realize the importance of people of color. I think that more people need to be lifting up indigenous voices and queer voices if they don’t identify that way-- if they’re like cis, white, heteronormative people, I think that’s really important. It’s something that should be done a lot more. However you can… in the most respectful way of course. One person who is actually on my label, who I really respect and who I consider an awesome ally and accomplice is Elizabeth from Land of Talk. She is constantly in support of indigenous people and is showing that on social media and at her shows. She’s the kind of person where I feel like white people can learn by example. They can see her and see what sort of things they need to do. I don’t know…pay us more money too I guess!

Totally, just being more aware. I think that there are definitely some people that would want to help and be an ally, but they might not be sure how to take the first step, so giving that example of Elizabeth is a great start.

I mean also, first and foremost, just educate yourself. Like if you don’t know any people of color musicians or queer musicians, get on that and support that. And help uplift those voices if you have a certain platform, and if you see somebody that is doing an amazing job at whatever, just help raise that up.

Yeah keep sharing and supporting. Wrapping up then, you’re currently on tour with Julia Jacklin, who is also great! There’s a lot of sold out shows on this run and I’m excited for the Chicago show. What can we expect as far as your live set up? Will there be any new songs?

Yeah so tonight is our first show with Julia Jacklin, and I am so excited! I’m very excited to meet her and her band and to embark on this really long tour together. We are gonna be playing a couple new songs. “Loss & Relax” will be on the setlist, then we have another song called “Half Colored Hair” that’s the b-side of the 7-inch. We’re incorporating that into the set as well. Then for this tour, I have a 4-piece band, we have two guitarists and a bass and drums, so it will sound a lot more full. I’m really excited about that.

Black Belt Eagle Scout’s show with Julia Jacklin at Schubas on May 8th is sold out— but check out the rest of the tour dates here.

Keep up with Black Belt Eagle Scout on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram and tune into Mother of My Children below!

A Chat With: Jungle Green

Originally the moniker for solo songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Smith, Jungle Green is now a six-piece collective that creates timeless and genre-fluid music. Listening through the more than twenty releases on Jungle Green’s Bandcamp page, it’s impossible to pinpoint a specific style for Smith and his bandmates’ sound. There are some songs that sound like they were plucked right off a 1960’s hits compilation, while others play upon more modern elements; Some songs have a hint of twang, while others have a trace of jazz. Some of the recordings are more layered with a full band sound, and some are lo-fi recordings of Smith and his piano. The members of Jungle Green are jacks-of-all-trades, and their discography definitely reflects that. The extensive catalog also gives an insight to Smith’s boundless creative energy as a songwriter.

While I’ve been seeing Jungle Green’s name on bills around town for months now, I finally got my first chance to see them live earlier this month, when they opened up for Shy Boys at the Beat Kitchen. After their set, they took some time to chat with me about their evolution as a full band, touring with The Lemon Twigs, recording with Jonathan Rado and what’s next for them. Tune into Jungle Green and check out our conversation below!

Jungle Green is Adam Miller, Adam Obermeier, Alex Heaney, Andrew Smith, Emma Collins and Vivian McCall // Photo by Mitch Mitchell

Jungle Green is Adam Miller, Adam Obermeier, Alex Heaney, Andrew Smith, Emma Collins and Vivian McCall // Photo by Mitch Mitchell

So I know Jungle Green originally started as a solo project of Andrew’s, and now it’s evolved into a big old collective of six people. Can you talk a little bit about how that evolved and how you all met?

Andrew: Yeah totally! I first met Alex in an acting class. We became great friends and started kind of picking up shows every now and then. He would play guitar and we would do comedy bits. It was really not very good, but it was fun. And that’s what it’s all about, having fun! Then I just gradually met everyone else through school and you know, in 2015 and 2016. I just wanted to get shows and have a fuller sound, so I recruited people who were cool and I thought were talented and fun to be around.

Adam O: I met Andrew at a party, the same night I met Adam M. We hit it off and I got his number, and we had plans to see Angry Birds the movie— the Summer 2016 blockbuster. Shout out Angry Birds. And yeah he blew me off, and then I didn’t see him again until September and we got tacos together. I had the large popcorn cause I thought we could share…

Andrew: That’s true, but now we’re friends. Now we live together. It’s funny how things can start one way and fate will turn it another way.

Then Andrew, I know you’re not from Chicago. Is anyone originally from here?

Andrew: Yeah, I’m from Massachusetts.

Vivian: I’m from Texas. Everyone’s from all around. Texas, St. Louis, Kentucky….

What would you say is your favorite part of creating music in Chicago, versus your hometowns?

Andrew: These guys right here!

Adam M: It’s nice to be in a city where there’s just lots of people who are into music and lots of venues.

Andrew: I like the amount of venues. It’s nice! I like that I’ve met these guys.

Definitely! Then in the Fall you toured with the Lemon Twigs. How was that experience?

Andrew: That was really fun! That was in October.

Adam M: It was just really amazing that they asked us to play. We have mutual friends, but we didn’t know them super well. And they kind of just took a risk.

Andrew: You’re taking a big risk asking a band you’ve never met to tour cause it’s like you’re stuck with them for a month, they could be assholes.

Adam M: But it ended up going really well, and they’re great people. It was just a good time.

Andrew: It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Adam O: It just kind of came out the blue too.

Andrew: Yeah and we got really tight too, on the tour. We got our stride.

Yeah, I wanted to ask about your live show, and how you all switch instruments at different points and mix it up. When you were putting together the live show, is that something you decided to do from the start or is that more recent?

Andrew: That kind of came about because--We switch instruments, and we do it a lot cause we kind of play multiple things and people want to have a take on an instrument. It spices things up and also makes everyone happy.

Alex: It started more almost because we were forced to. It started with us recording different things cause we just did different stuff. Then when we went to make it a live show, we were like how are we gonna do this? So we just had to switch every song. It was kind of fun to do.

Andrew: I really like it! It’s really fun, and it keeps every song really unique.

Adam O: When we arrange, it’s kind of just like Oh, I sat down at this instrument when we were arranging this, so I guess I’m just gonna play that. It’s a fun, organic way to arrange.

Vivian: Yeah, everybody has a really different take from everyone else on each instrument. If you just mess with those combinations, you don’t really have to try that hard to get something that doesn’t sound like what you’ve done before.

Will you ever mix it up from show to show, or is it pretty much set at the current rotation in your live show?

Andrew: It’s set every show.

Yeah I saw you play a solo set last week, but I haven’t seen the full band until today.

Andrew: This didn’t really directly influence it, but there’s a band I like called Palberta. They switch every song--granted there’s only three [of them] playing guitar, bass, and drums, but they’re switching every song. I saw them and I was like oh, this is really cool. That maybe had some play in it.

Adam M: It helps when everyone is a Jack of All Trades.

Adam O: We all put a lot of effort into the instruments we’re not as good at.

Yeah it’s kind of like a band buffet.

Andrew: Yeah, a continental breakfast.

Emma: I think it also helps Andrew’s persona as the frontman. It makes what he does more exciting. He’s able to nail the drums and be the lead singer kind of hanging back, and then he comes forward.

Yeah, it’s very dynamic and interactive! And it’s not like you’re just going through the motions.

Vivian: It used to be, in comparison to what we do now. We all used to stick to one instrument and never ever switch, and Andrew was always behind the drums.

Andrew: It’s kind of boring [to stick to the same instrument]. It’s boring the way we did it. It’s not boring for every band.

Vivian: It was just missing out on how Andrew is a really good frontman and brings a really cool energy up there. It was like a waste when he was just at the drums.

Andrew: I’m trying to get to the point eventually where I’m just not really playing drums.

Yeah your stage presence is great! When you came off the stage and you were wandering around, it’s very much in your face and breaks the fourth wall. It felt very present. Is there anyone else besides Palberta that influences your stage presence or that you admire?

Andrew: Sure, yeah! There’s a lot. I really like people like Sam France of Foxygen. My favorite guys are like Sam, and David Yow of Jesus Lizard, who’s like the best. I like a lot of punk frontmen, I feel bad I don’t know his name, but the guy from Bad Brains who does back flips. I don’t know the band too well but I love that. I think a lot of punk frontmen, which I guess makes it kind of interesting cause we’re not really punk music.

Adam M: We’re not very tough at all.

Andrew: I have straight up run away from someone who looked remotely scary.

Switching gears to your recorded music, you’ve recently worked with Jonathan Rado as a producer. How did that experience go?

Andrew: Yeah that was a year ago, that was great! It was really fun.

Adam M: It was amazing. This probably goes for everyone, but I feel like my life is sort of pre-recording with Rado and post-recording with Rado. Just the way he approaches recording and he just keeps a really good attitude the whole time. He’s very encouraging but also it was just really inspiring to see how he works a song up from the beginning.

Vivian: He did really keep a lot of positivity— cause it’s hard when you have six people and everybody has their own opinions. You have firm opinions when you’re making final decisions about the arrangements and how these songs are supposed to sound [on the record]. Then you’re doing it for 12 hours for a week and a half.

Andrew: It’s hard to do but I think it was as smooth as it could have been.

Cool, then the last thing I wanted to talk about was the music video that Vivian mentioned you were recording over the weekend. Can you talk about it a bit?

Andrew: It was really fun, Alex directed it and he did a great job.

Alex: I went to film school, and I did really lame projects, but everyone was nice enough to let me take some creative liberties with it.

Andrew: He did a great job and he’s available for hire!

Alex: We’re editing it now and it’s gonna come out pretty soon.

Vivian: We just had a lot of fun with it.  I think we kind of tried to do a little bit of what we do onstage and keep it fun.

Andrew: It’s for a song called “Cryin’”

Photos of Jungle Green at Beat Kitchen, April 2019

Catch Jungle Green at our first showcase of the Summer with Jude Shuma and Fran at Sleeping Village on 6/25— tickets are only $5 and the beer is just $1.

Keep up with Jungle Green on Facebook + Instagram

Catching Up With: Ten Fé

Way back in 2017, shortly after ANCHR was just starting, I talked to the duo Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan of Ten Fé over a spotty FaceTime audio connection in honor of their first full length album, Hit The Light. During our first conversation, I learned about their early days of busking in the London Underground, who some of their favorite bands were at the moment, and how they collaborate together.

Recently, Moorehouse and Duncan, along with their bandmates Johnny Drain, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley, made their first stop ever in Chicago to perform to a sold out Schubas Tavern. I sat down with the full band this time to catch up face-to-face and chat everything from their newest album Future Perfect, Present Tense to performing on JBTV and what they do to stay entertained on the road. For all that and more, catch up with Ten Fé below!

Ten Fé is Ben Moorhouse, Johnny Drain, Leo Duncan, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley (Left to Right, from standing to sitting)

Ten Fé is Ben Moorhouse, Johnny Drain, Leo Duncan, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley (Left to Right, from standing to sitting)

You just put your second album, Future Perfect, Present Tense out at the beginning of March, so first of all, congrats on that! What would you say are some of the biggest differences stylistically or as far as the process goes between this one and your first record?

Leo: The biggest difference is we did the first record completely just me and Ben. Rob played on a bit of it [the first one]. It was mostly me and Ben and then when we came to do this one, it was the five of us, although we had a different drummer. Greg’s just joined us. The process was different because it became more about capturing five people’s energy you know? Sometimes that works and sometimes we had to work in a way that we’d done on the first record. I think stylistically we wanted to make it a lot more rootsy and honest and less electronic, and break down any distance between the listener and us. I don’t know, can you tell that?

Yeah, I think so! This past week I was listening to Hit The Light and the new record, and I can definitely see that. Anyone else have anything to add about their mindset or stylistic goals going into this second album?

Ben: Yeah, I think we had just come back from tour, sort of what Leo was saying. We were back from tour and thinking of that in the time we had as a band and playing on the stages and the sound we were making. I think we were sort of excited by that and the prospect of then doing it again and making it grow and getting bigger. I think that was quite a driving force behind this album. We wanted it to sound more live and more kind of visceral I think. It’s like, it feels like it’s an ongoing thing is we want it to get more live and rootsy. We’re still sort of developing that now.

Yeah, there’s definitely that energy of being together and playing live that comes across. What would you say was your favorite moment or memory during the process of recording or writing this new record? Anything you look back on with a fond heart?

Leo: There’s been plenty of highs and lows during the making of it. We ran out of money. I lost my voice totally. So it hasn’t been the easiest to make, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows. My favorite memory probably is during the summer when we were coming to the end of it in London. We finished it in London and we collected everybody in our studio in Tottenham and we recorded a choir of about twenty of our friends. The football was on, it was the World Cup, and we had the BBQ on the roof the studio. Then we all went downstairs to record the vocals of the song “Superrich.” There’s loads of people singing on that song in the chorus, sort of a hard knock life style singalong. That just felt really good. It was a very hot day.

Nice! Then this is actually your first time in Chicago right? How has Chicago been treating you so far?

Rob: Well we haven’t had much time to explore. We sort of skimmed Chicago on the way up to Milwaukee. We went to Illinois state beach is it? It was coming down from Milwaukee about half way to Chicago, there’s like a strip of green and you get right up to the shore on Lake Michigan. Which was pretty wicked, we don’t really get horizons like that-- well you’ve got to go to the sea. That was pretty special. Last night we didn’t really have that much time to explore. We just sort of had to grab moments when we can.

Leo: We went to Greek Town. We went to a really nice restaurant. Greg is Greek.

Greg: Yeah we had really nice Greek food. I approved.

Then today you played JBTV in the afternoon, which is a staple in the music community here! How’d you like Jerry and the experience?

Leo: So cool man! It just seems like he’s got this thing that he believes in. And he’s just surrounded by all these interns, you know. He was saying he hasn’t been well lately, but he’s got so much energy. It’s just unbelievable so that’s amazing to see.

Yeah, he’s still always there despite having cancer. He’s a fighter!

Rob: Yeah he said he had his operation two weeks ago. He’s bouncing around still.

I know, his energy is great. So the show tonight is also sold out, which is pretty great for a first show here!

Leo: It’s amazing! To come so far away from home and have it sold out is the best feeling.

Do you have anything special planned for this show or this tour that people can look forward to?

Leo: Like Ben was saying, it’s a real process still. You know, it’s hard work but it’s also exciting. We’re really trying to do more with the vocals on this tour. It’s taking a bit of time to get it as right as we want it to be, but hopefully that will come through.

How was the rest of the tour been going so far? Have there been any other stand out shows?

Leo: Montreal was a real favorite of mine. It was like an oasis in a desert of America and Canada. But all the shows have been wicked in their own way.

How have you guys been staying entertained on the road? Any favorite podcasts or albums or shows you’ve been watching or listening to?

Greg: I’ve been watching loads of “Only Fools and Horses.” I don’t know if you know what that is. It’s a British sitcom.

Leo: Yeah, “Only Fools and Horses” has been keeping Greg happy, and the rest of us are just trying to keep--there’s a big bag of prunes in the back of the car. We’re trying to avoid eating too many of them.

So then the last time I interviewed you, which was just over two years ago, you talked about how you’re into Kevin Morby and Twin Peaks and some other Chicago bands. Are there any other new bands that have been on your heavy rotation lately?

Leo: Amen Dunes has released a great album. We listened to Delicate Steve’s new album in the car. The same people really, there’s no one really new that’s come along that I can think of. Kevin Morby, Whitney--

Oh some of the guys from Whitney were here yesterday for Stella Donnelly’s show.

Leo: Stella Donnelly played here last night? No way! Ewan Pearson, the person who mixed our first album mixed her album as well. That’s mad! So she’s touring the states at the moment?

Yeah, just missed her! It was a sold out show last night too, so a good weekend at Schubas.

Leo: Did you see her?

Yeah I was here! It was really good. It was one of the best shows I’ve been, so you have a lot to live up to. You know how you can get jaded, or maybe it’s just me, from going to shows all the time? But her show was so great, I just forgot about being tired and it being long week and the mood of the room was just so positive.

Leo: Oh so we’ll blame Stella if you haven’t got any energy tonight. But how come there seems to be a lot of bands [coming out of Chicago], like Whitney, Twin Peaks…?

Yeah there’s something in the water in Chicago. There’s just so many bands coming out of Chicago that might not be at the level of Whitney or Twin Peaks yet but they’ll sell out shows here and a bunch that went down to South By.

Leo: Oh can you give us a few names so you can check them out?

Well so I actually put on an ANCHR Magazine showcase at SXSW, so a few on that were Blue Dream, The Evening Attraction, Thompson Springs, Uma Bloo….I’ll just send you guys the flyer. There’s a lot of great local bands that play here at Schubas too. So wrapping up, anything else you guys are looking forward to this year or hoping to accomplish on this album cycle?

Leo: Stay in one piece by the end of this tour!

Don’t eat all the prunes in one day?

Leo: Finish all the prunes by the time we reach the west coast!

Rob: Hopefully we’ll be back out here in the autumn. We’re still quite early on with this new album. We’ve got this tour, we’ve got another big tour straight off the back in Europe. Then we’ll hopefully be back here as soon as possible.

Keep up with Ten Fé on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

Feature: Glasgow's The Dunts Have Invested in Themselves, And You Should Too


In the weeks leading up to the annual SXSW festival this year, my inbox got inundated with emails upon emails of showcase recommendations and requests to feature or interview certain bands during the festival. While some emails certainly may have slipped through the cracks, I tried my best to listen to any of the bands that I heard from— and one of those emails just happened to be from a Glasgow band called The Dunts. The Dunts are still a relatively young band with just a couple of EPs under their belt, but they immediately jumped out from the hundreds of emails I got when I took my first listen of “Dimitri,” their most streamed track on Spotify.

The Dunts have a sound that’s familiar in a way you just can’t quite put your finger on; They remind you of so many of your favorite bands without sounding derivative of them. And since forming in 2016, they have garnered buzz with their authentic, rowdy stage presence and guitar-driven, sticky melodies. I got the chance to see The Dunts perform during the afternoon on my second day at SXSW, and when I arrived at the British Embassy venue to see a room packed to the brim, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one eager to experience their raved-about live show.

Following their SXSW debut, the four band members were buzzing from the successful show as they took some time to chat with me afterwards. Guitarist and vocalist Rab Smith tells me that so far, SXSW has been the best experience of his life— and at that point, they were only three or four days into the festival. For most of the band, it’s their first time in Austin (or America in general) and it was impossible not to sense their genuine gratitude for being able to perform over here. David McFarlane says he’d been to The States before, but not since he was about nine years old. “The whole experience so far has been half like a holiday, half like working. So far it’s been amazing. I’m enjoying every single second. Even the hangover,” he says.

The band also admits there’s definitely been some culture shock coming over here, mostly in the form of huge meal portions and free pours of alcohol at the bars, but for the most part the trip has exceeded their expectations in every way. “It’s so refreshing to be here. Like with Glasgow, it’s not that people aren’t friendly, but you don’t really go around the street talking to random people. So it’s refreshing to be here. Feels kind of good for the soul,” Smith says.

Leading up to their first SXSW gig at the British Embassy, Smith says they’d all been able to check out some shows there in the days prior. “We saw how good the sound system was and I think we were all excited,” he says, but he and the band also admit there were some nerves as well. As a spectator of the show, I was impressed by how quickly The Dunts commanded the room in an unfamiliar setting; everyone listened intently, either dancing or nodding their head along to the melodic anthems. The band looked right at home as they thrashed around the stage and drummer Kyle McGhee let loose on the drum kit, and at one point, Smith even hopped off the stage to sing amongst the audience members. Despite being so far from Glasgow, The Dunts fit right in. I ask what bands have stage presence that they admire, or what kind of frontmen inspire them, and they mention another band from Glasgow, called Gallus. “He doesn’t play guitar, it’s just him singing. He’s crazy, running around,” McFarlane says of Gallus’ frontman Barry Dolan, and Smith compares him to the likes of Freddie Mercury. Smith says he also admires the frontman of Ireland’s Fontaines D.C., who played their first SXSW this year as well.

Back on the subject of the Glasgow music scene, I mentioned an article from Noisey with the tagline that Glasgow isn’t all just electronic music, which The Dunts had tweeted about. The article discusses the pub/venue called the Priory, which all of the members of The Dunts say is an absolute staple in their music scene. There’s a PA, but the Priory has no stage and it’s a dive bar frequented by musicians that have bit of grit about them, but that’s what makes it perfect, Smith says. “If it wasn’t for the Priory, we wouldn’t have met all the people that we’ve met that are best friends with us, and we wouldn’t have gotten some of the opportunities we’ve got,” Colin McGachy adds. “The guy that runs The Priory is a good friend of ours as well now. There’s a lot of UK promoters that use pay to play, but John Jokey is anti that. He’s the antithesis of that, he wants to pay bands fairly and he loves the music. It’s because of guys like him and the pubs like The Priory… It’s guys like that that make all the difference,” McFarlane says. While the Priory is a place primarily for new bands to cut their teeth, it’s mainly about the sense of community for Glasgow musicians. “You get a feeling that it’s this big fucking connected thing and everyone looks out for everyone. It’s amazing that new bands want to be a part of that community and it’s amazing to go and see them,” Smith says about their music scene.


Another place in Glasgow that The Dunts rave about is the recording studio 7West, which the band had been working in a few weeks prior to SXSW, recording their next single, slated for release this Spring. “Bands will go to 7West and pay the money that it costs, cause it costs a lot but it’s worth it,” they say about the studio, which is run by Chris Marshall (Marshall and Johnny Madden from Baby Strange also produce The Dunts’ music). While they admit it can be pricey to record in the Glasgow staple, they all agree that any band worth their salt in the UK will go to 7West. “You have to invest. I think that’s what we do well in the industry. You really do get what you pay for,” Smith says. And as a listener, you can definitely tell that the band doesn’t skimp on their presentation when you listen to their first two EPs. There’s a cheeky, punk attitude embedded into The Dunts’ music, but it’s presented in a meticulously polished fashion that tells you about the time and investment that went into the final product.

And ultimately it’s that determination and their willingness to put in the effort and hard work that has gotten The Dunts the opportunities they’d had so far, and will continue to get. The Dunts played Reading and Leeds Fest last year and they’re slated for other UK festivals like TRNSMT and Camden Rocks Fest this summer, but they’ve got their sights set for even more in the future, like playing the famous Barrowland Ballroom venue in Glasgow and the coveted BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. They’ve got the work cut out for them, but they’re ready to take it on, says Smith. “If there’s any wee children that are listening to this, that have music instruments and are worried about not being able to do it or don’t believe in themselves, just believe in yourself. Work hard. We’ve all come from fucking nothing. We are the proof if you keep going, keep plugging, it doesn’t matter who says no. It doesn’t matter who ignores you, if you believe in yourself, you’ll do it,” he adds.

The Dunts have invested in themselves—now invest in them too by keeping up with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and listening to their latest EP.

A Chat With: Native Sun

NYC’s Native Sun promises to play every show like it’s their last. A weighted promise, especially for a band who signed on to play more than seven shows over the course of a few days at this year’s SXSW, but one that they not only live up to, but exceed. If you’ve ever seen Danny Gomez, Jake Pflum, Alexis Castro and Mauricio Martinez play a show together, then you’ve undoubtedly felt the surge of energy that they release each and every time they get on a stage, and you’ve walked away knowing that they just poured everything they had into that performance. At least, that was my experience when I saw Native Sun play to a packed house at Cheer Up Charlie’s indoor venue on the final Saturday night of SXSW. It was a performance that inspired a crowd surfer (despite the venue’s low ceilings) and ended with Gomez on the floor of the stage.

Despite the exertion of Saturday night’s show and all those prior, when I met up with Native Sun the following afternoon, the band seemed anything but worn down as they got ready to play their final show of the festival. Perhaps it was the spiritual awakening of Austin, Texas that Pflum experienced that kept their spirits high (more on that later), but when talking to Native Sun, I got an immediate sense of their gratitude and appreciation for being able to create, play, and share their music. If you’re not yet familiar with Native Sun, get to know them more as we discuss their favorite musical discoveries of SXSW, their place in the NYC arts scene, a wild night in Nashville, and more!

Native Sun is Mauricio Martinez, Jake Pflum, Danny Gomez, and Alexis Castro (Left to Right)

Native Sun is Mauricio Martinez, Jake Pflum, Danny Gomez, and Alexis Castro (Left to Right)

Now that we’re on the final day of SXSW, and it’s been a long week with lots of shows, what has been a personal favorite memory or highlight from one of your shows this week?

Danny: We played Spider House yesterday after this ridiculous band called The Sloths. They had a lot of moves. They covered “Gloria” at the end. But after the show, we stole a Link Wray poster that they had from the venue. We thought that was kind of very part of our DNA to do that. I don’t regret it. We did it for the love of rock’n’roll.

Alexis: Yesterday we played at Cheer Up Charlie’s and there was someone in the crowd that knew lyrics to a song that we haven’t put out yet. We’ve only played it live maybe four times. They were singing along and I was confused.

That’s amazing. They came to all the shows this week so they know it now!

Mauricio: I feel like that’s the same [highlight] for me. I was confused—I don’t even know those lyrics! Someone was singing them. So that was different and cool.

Jake: Hi I’m Jake—

And you’re watching the Disney Channel?

Jake: And you’re watching the Disney Channel! I’m a huge fan of Fugazi and their refusal to use a setlist and how they just kind of call it based on feel every time that they play. That’s something that I had hoped to get to with this band some day, and we had just been playing so much leading up to SXSW and during SXSW, and the last couple shows we didn’t have enough time to write a set list. So finally we were just locked in and sharing the heart beat. Calling songs out during the show. We all look at each other like “what are we doing?” and we just launch into it. That was a personal victory.

Nice! Were there any new bands that you discovered this week?

Danny: Yeah, I liked the Fontaines D.C. guys. We got to hang out with them and play pool and see some of their shows. They were really nice.

Jake: We’re gonna have a shared answer [himself and Mauricio].

Mauricio: We saw Haiku Hands. They were so fire.

Jake: I’ve never seen a band that loud. Ever.

Mauricio: They’re like Beastie Boys meets Missy Elliott.

Jake: It was a really great experience. I loved their performance. Not to mention that every bass hit was like shaking my entire skeleton.

Mauricio: Black Midi was super interesting also.

Alexis: I didn’t even have time to focus on any other sets. We were just running around for our shows.

Danny: Those were the main ones.

Your stage presence was really great at the Cheer Up Charlie’s show I got to see yesterday. People were vibing and crowd surfing—

Danny: People really react at our shows, which is something we’re thankful for. Cause you never know, sometimes where you’re doing something more intense, it doesn’t get the same reaction.

So as far as stage presence, is there anyone you look up to or really admire in that sense? Or anyone that inspires you when you’re performing?

Jake: I love Jimmy Page. I don’t think I’m as sexy, but that’s definitely maybe a starting point. I think for my own personal stage presence, the inspiration comes more from outside of music. Just life in general and what it’s like to live and how it can be frustrating and emotional and there’s a lot of pent up feelings: positive, negative, neutral, that go from when you wake up to before you can play. It’s definitely…I’ve said once before, that when I play, it’s like my body is trying to jump outside of itself.

Danny: That’s the best way to put it. Locking into the ethereal spirit of it all. Those are the entertainers that I like.

Mauricio: We’re lucky because we’re doing what we actually love doing.

Danny: Yeah, we have to fight for it so we’re gonna give it our all.

Mauricio: Exactly! If there’s two people in the show, we play like there’s a thousand.

Jake: We play like it’s not gonna happen again.

Mauricio: It’s my favorite thing to do in the world.

Danny: We’re always gonna give it 200 no matter what show you come to.

Nice! Then as far as your music, you had an EP come out at the end of last year. What can you tell me about the process behind those songs?

Jake: [The EP] was written a while before it was released. We started recording that right after the one before it came out. So our first EP was done, and we were already working the day after on recording. So they had been written a while. We kind of took our time to slowly build it from the ground up from a recording standpoint. And you know, New York City band, it’s like who’s got their basement free for two hours? How much can we get done?

Alexis: We recorded at my house.

Jake: We recorded at his house...we jumped around a bunch of different studios. We recorded saxophone in one studio, keyboards in someone else’s apartment, that sort of thing.

Danny: It was interesting, out of those six songs, four of them we went in dead set, and then “Sweet V” and “Modern Music” we kind of just decided on the spot. We had just written those maybe a couple weeks before that and just decided to go for it. So like those takes you hear of “Sweet V,” that’s the first time we made it through. It’s a very live experience in that sense. You hear him [Alexis] say “Fuck” at the end of it.

Do you guys do your own producing too or do you work with somebody else?

Danny: Not yet, hopefully soon!

Alexis: We’ve been doing demos by ourselves.

Jake: I think from like the technical definition of producing, a lot of it does land on our shoulders. We definitely have people engineering for us, and as far as like the ownership of the equipment. But it’s not like we’ve gone into a studio and we’re like here’s our song and someone’s going “I’m actually thinking we should restructure it.” None of that. We’re definitely owning it.

Danny: We’ve been working with this dude upstate called Kevin McMahon, who’s like a guru. He’s worked on a lot of records we like, like Fat White Family. Swans. He’s a weirdo. We love that.

As far as your collaboration as a band, how do you handle times when you might disagree? Or do you typically just agree to each handle your own parts?

Danny: I think we state our opinion and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Alexis: Most things instinctually kinda work out. It just kind of works.

Mauricio: Now after a moment of playing together for a year and a half, we know how we should play for the sound we want to do. So I play the bass and I’m not gonna try to be super technical. I know how the song should sound, and what I should do. We now know our strategy.

Jake: There’s plenty of times where an idea will come into the practice space or the writing room or wherever we’re working on something, and someone will float an idea, and maybe it doesn’t land 100 percent. So yeah there’s disagreement, but just because it doesn’t make sense or it’s not a fully formed idea yet, it’s when we all figure it out together. There’s a song, ”Oedipus”…

Alexis: I used to hate that fucking song. Now it’s my favorite.

Jake: We just put it out on a 7 Inch, which we just put out here [during SXSW]. We just couldn’t figure it out. We couldn’t get on the same page, the tempo didn’t feel right. It’s not that anyone was playing incorrectly, it’s just that we were like out of sync. Then one day--

Danny: Oh, we did this kind of like art experiment, where they had us play for eight hours straight without stopping. And they documented the whole thing. On the breaks, they wanted us to jam. We started jamming on that song, and I remember Jake took a dump and came back and was like I got it! I figured out what was missing. We jumped into it and you see the process of how it all evolves.

Jake: Definitely a come to Jesus moment on the toilet.

As far as more new music, you mentioned there’s a newer unreleased song you’ve been playing here. What else have you guys got cooking for release this year?

Danny: Album!

Mauricio: It feels like its time.

Jake: We’ve got the two song 7”. Those songs will likely be on the final product of a full record. We recorded a bunch of songs with Kevin McMahon a few months ago, which we figured would maybe be like the starting point for that album, and we have a bunch of songs that we’ve been demo-ing ourselves.

Danny: Jake’s computer is the vault.

Jake: Exactly, I’ve got to lock it up. Alexis has the back up. So now we’re demoing the remainder of the songs we have and we’re just trying to fit the pieces together and see what makes the most sense as a complete project

Danny: We want something that’s a cohesive body of songs.

Nice, so you’re definitely more into full albums that sort of have a theme?

Danny: This could go there! It’s not gonna be like a wizard theme or anything like that. But we want it to feel like a body the whole way through. The records that I think we really love, be it from all different genres, are bodies of work that you know in their own respective rights.

Jake: 100 percent an album guy, start to finish, no shuffle. An album that’s ten singles that don’t really fit together has never been my sort of thing. So a cohesive piece-- sequencing is really important to me.

Danny: We want it to sound timeless. Like this record could have been from twenty years ago or that band still could be making this music in twenty years.

Cool, and then as far as the New York music scene, we were chatting a little bit earlier about bands like Gnarrcicists and Stuyedeyed—which they’re actually playing an ANCHR showcase on Friday back in Chicago.

Danny: Where’s that at?

Thalia Hall!

Danny: Nice that’s a big one! Hell yeah. Who else is playing?

Varsity, Rookie and Pool Holograph!

Danny: Oh sick, we love Rookie! We played with them—

Jake: Oh my god! I’m so glad you brought them up! Haiku Hands, I love you! Like next time I’m in Australia, I will find you, but Rookie was the best band that I have seen! God I love them!

Mauricio: Yeah they were fucking sick.

Jake: You know how South By goes, you play at 3PM and maybe that’s just not where everyone’s at right now. They played to like I think me and Rachel, our friend. And they were just SO good. They brought it, just like their energy. They brought it like they were playing to a huge crowd.

Yeah they played the ANCHR showcase here too and people were coming in off the street cause they heard them outside.

Jake: I think that like we’re purists and appreciators of classic rock-- those are classic rock students. Those are dudes that like Rock n’ Roll!

Ok so, we’ll have to do a show with you two in Chicago at some point is what I’m hearing! As far as the New York scene, though, what are some of the best and worst parts of the scene at the moment, in your opinion?

Danny: I think it’s very privilege and image obsessed. You know what I mean, some of these bands put on a front of this griminess, but once you really know them, that’s not really them. So we try to be honest about who we are cause we’ve had to struggle for it. So that’s my biggest thing with people in New York.

Jake: The best part of New York for me is that there’s so many opportunities to play, there’s so many venues to perform at. I’ve lived in a smaller town. I grew up in South Florida where there’s one venue and you can’t play at the one venue with the same three bands every week. It’s just like at some point people aren’t gonna come. So [In New York] you’ve got so many different places you can go. There’s so many different scenes that exist and I’m on a constant personal journey of trying to figure out what’s happening that I don’t know. Cause I know the world I run in, but what’s happening somewhere else, there’s all these other different bands. I see the SXSW list of all the bands coming from New York that I’ve never heard of, and it’s like who are they? What are they doing?

Danny: Actually a great band that we really like from New York is called Yaasss.

Jake: I really like Miranda and The Beat. There’s a lot of soul in those songs.

Danny: We played with them when they did a full Shangri-Las set at this fake prom show we did at Baby’s All Right.

Jake: There’s a lot of non-musical things that sort of revolve in our world that are really cool and make it a really fulfilling place to be and to be working on music and art. We’ve got friends who are unbelievable film makers and unbelievable photographers and poets. Our friends Rachel and Natalie run POND Magazine, which is an institution. There’s so many different things that are multimedia happening that it’s really inspiring to be around.

Danny: I’d get bored if I was hanging out with musicians all day, I like stimulation from other art.

Jake: From people making zines...there’s just stuff happening all the time!

Danny: That’s why we love Chicago!

Yeah that’s very similar in that sense. Then last thing I wanted to mention, Danny you said earlier that the ride down from NYC to Austin was interesting. What were some top moments from the road trip?

Mauricio: Yeah yeah, it was fun! We stopped in Nashville to sleep there. So we went out just because we’re in Nashville, so we’re like let’s have a beer at least. We go to this dive bar/trucker bar. We played some pool, had some disgusting tequila shots.

Jake: Grossest tequila I’ve had in my life. Why does Nashville have sweet tequila?

Mauricio: It was intense. So we went back to our hotel and wanted a little more. So we got to the hotel bar and they were closed, but the lady was like I’ll open the bar for you if you play a few songs.

Danny: So we got up there and did a few songs acoustic, but then she opened up the bar. Then she liked it so she invited us on this country tour bus, and we chilled with a bunch of different people that we don’t usually get to. It was great! You get to see all different paths of life when you’re sitting there with a kid with no teeth.

Mauricio: I held a knife.

Danny: He held a knife! This woman wanted him to hold her knife. I think that’s a sign of affection.

Jake: That’s really just how you say hello in Nashville I think!

D: Me and [Mauricio] did another song and that kid was like “Is that The Stooges?” And he smiles and you just see no teeth.

Mauricio: We didn’t think they were into that shit.

Danny: Yeah he was playing like “Wagon Wheel” and then he’s like I love The Stooges! Us too, dude.

Anything else you want to shout out, or let the world know as we wrap up?

Jake: I’d like to shout out the city of Austin, TX. I’d never been here before. This is both my first time at SXSW and in the state of Texas and the city of Austin. That being said I feel like I’ve had a personal spiritual awakening while being here. There’s been a door of a room shut inside my soul and the door has been kicked open and the lights been flicked on. And I feel like I am now me again. A me that I forgot that I was. I’m not being tongue and cheek. I feel like the keys are back in the ignition and I am revved. I’m ready.

Danny: He got that oil change.

Jake: My oil has been changed.

Alexis: The van’s oil has not been changed.

Jake: I got new windshield wipers. I got new headlights, I can see!

Danny: I just want everyone to pay attention to this year. It’s a crucial time, there’s a lot of people in this country that are being disserviced right now. I just want everyone to keep their eyes open and not shut off the doors. Right now is the time to do something.

Keep up with Native Sun on Instagram and Facebook, and listen to their latest EP below!

Catching Up With: Taylor Janzen

Photo Courtesy of NBD PR

Photo Courtesy of NBD PR

Right before her debut EP dropped last August, we got to know Taylor Janzen, an indie-folk singer songwriter from Winnipeg. This year, Janzen made her SXSW festival debut, she has another EP on the way, and she’s been booked for major festivals like Shaky Knees and Winnipeg Folk Festival.

While in Austin for SXSW, I caught up with Janzen to discuss working with a new producer, her fateful meeting of Dennis Quaid, The Bachelor and more! Check out what’s been new with Taylor Janzen below.

We last chatted back in August, right before your first EP came out. During that interview, we talked about your love of Dennis Quaid, and at the time, you hadn’t met him. Since then, you were actually able to meet him! Can you talk about that experience and how that happened?

He was in Winnipeg, and I live there. Someone I know works at a golf course and he was at that golf course, and she told me. So I went there and I met him, and he was super nice! I didn’t embarrass myself too much, but it was the most magical moment of my life!

Did you get to tell him about your song called “Dennis Quaid”?

I did, but I had to specify it’s not about him, because it’s more of a sad song…So if he thinks that it’s about him, he’s gonna be like “why do you hate me?”

Yeah, but sounds like it was a great experience and a nice moment to check off your bucket list.

It was a great experience! Definitely a bucket list moment for me. He’s super nice. He was teaching me how to selfie basically. He’s like “the sun’s over here!”

Very cool. Last time we spoke, your EP Interpersonal also hadn’t come out, and you’ve since put out another single, called “New Mercies.” What else is on the horizon for new material?

We have a new EP coming out later this year. The first song is scheduled to come out March 29th, so it’s going to be nice and soon. I’m really excited about it because it’s full band and kind of a step up from the last one. My goal in creating music is to always make music that every project is more evolved than the last one, and this is definitely more evolved than the last EP.

Yeah you mentioned how the last EP was recorded with one of your friends. Did you work with the same producer this time?

No, I went to Omaha and I recorded with Mike Mogis, and that was such a cool experience. Just to not only be in a new environment, but to work with someone who I admire so much. That was super cool.

Yeah, he’s produced some Phoebe Bridgers material right?

Yeah, and Ruston Kelly. Super good!

Nice, anything else about the new material that you’re excited about?

I think just having the resources to do what I want creatively. Put some noises in there that I want. Make it sound the way that I really want it to. That was a really cool experience. I think also lyrically it’s a bit more— it’s a bit more in depth. Which I didn’t think we could get more in depth, but here we are!

More personal than Interpersonal. Then this is your first South By right?

Yeah, it’s my first time in Austin! It’s my first SXSW. It’s so nice! I got in yesterday, very early flight. I feel all rested now and ready, but it’s so beautiful. At home I’m still wearing a parka, so it’s crazy to me that I can walk outside without wearing a jacket.

Have you had a chance to catch any shows yet?

I haven’t been able to yet. Last night I was like I’m going to bed ASAP. It’s been really nice though, I have my band out with me. It’s my first time traveling for music with a band. It’s nice to not be by myself all grumpy at the gate. Now I have people to be grumpy with.

Oh cool, so your shows here will have a full band then. Will you be playing songs from the new EP?

For sure! We’re going to play some new songs. We’re reworking some old ones, so that’s what I love about playing with a band. You can take the songs that originally were just played solo, and I can add stuff to them.

Very cool. Is there anyone that you’re hoping to catch the rest of your time here?

I heard that Pedro the Lion was gonna be here. I have never been able to see them but I want to so bad. I also want to check out some of the Manitoba music acts. There’s a few artists from Manitoba also coming here. I want to check some of them out. Even though I could probably just go home and see them, it’s cool to see them in a different city.

Anything else on your Austin list to do while you’re here? Tacos? BBQ?

Yeah I had some BBQ. That was delightful, and I’m probably gonna do that like eight more times while I’m here.

Then as far as the rest of the year, you’re also booked for Shaky Knees festival and a few others. Will those be full band shows as well?

Yeah, I’m gonna do a full band show for Shaky Knees. I’m so excited for Shaky Knees. The line up is incredible! I also am playing Winnipeg Folk Fest in the summer, which has been a goal of mine since I started playing music. I’m so stoked to be on that line up as well. So it’s gonna be a fun summer.

Anything else you’re looking forward to this year? Any tours?

We haven’t booked a tour yet. I’m excited to also be able to see so many other acts at these festivals because living in Winnipeg, we don’t get all those bands all the time. So it’s nice to be able to travel and go to cities where there’s always a band playing.

So last question, I saw you tweeted about The Bachelor—

Oh my god! Let’s talk about this!

Well, I haven’t gotten to watch the final episode yet.

Me neither, but I know what happens.

Same! I looked at spoilers, but what are all your Bachelor opinions? What do you think about Cassie?

Ok! The minute that Cassie stepped out of that limo, I was like she is delightful. I’m so glad that she’s the winner. Also--the fence jump. The fence jump! It’s actually my first season watching The Bachelor. I’ve never seen anything Bachelor Nation until this year, when my friends roped me into a weekly Bachelor night.

I know, it’s so dangerous!

It’s lovely though! It is my favorite night of the week. I’ve seen The Bachelor Canada before, but I’d never seen The Bachelor, and I love it. I am never going back. I’m a full fan.

Did you see who the new Bachelorette is going to be?


Were you rooting for Hannah B. or Caelynn?

I loved Caelynn. But I think that Hannah B. will be the nice, dramatic Bachelorette that we’re all looking for. I’m glad that it’s Hannah B. and not Hannah G. I have lots of opinions about The Bachelor…

Any other hot takes or strong opinions you want to share?

Hmm. Kirpa was so annoying!

How did you feel about Colton’s hair [on the Women Tell All]?

Oh yeah and Colton’s hair is interesting. He did look nice and put together for the Women Tell All. I also love Demi. She was the most entertaining. The thing with Demi is I didn’t want her to win, but I wanted her to stick around for as long as possible and she left us too soon.

Agreed! Any other guilty pleasure shows or favorite TV shows at the moment?

That’s the main one. I’m trying to stop living under a rock and finally watch Game of Thrones. It took me a while to get there. I started out and I was like this is not for’s so boring. And you have to pay attention to the dialogue, which is not my strong suit. I like to do like crosswords while I watch TV, but I’m actually super into it now.

Taylor Janzen’s latest single “Shouting Matches” is out now! Listen to it below.

Feature: High School Band Why Not is No Question

Photo By Johnny Nguyen

Photo By Johnny Nguyen

After being sent an incredibly enthusiastic email, I find myself sitting down with genre-refusing teen band, Why Not. The band is following up their 2018 album Spring Cleaning with EP, EP, out today, February 15th. Drummer Josh MacGregor has promised me that this is their “most captivating, interesting, and professional release so far.” So at the very least, Why Not is confident. Opening track “Ready 4 the World” backs that up on title alone, the band telling me that it’s the only song on Spotify titled “Ready 4 the World” using the number instead of the word.

Why Not thinks of themselves as a new step beyond punk and emo and math rock. And they aren’t wrong. EP layers autotune over a cacophony of guitar and fits a ten minute track into a four song release. Why Not, as a whole, are unique in their audacity. Singer, Henry Breen is articulate and soft spoken when I speak with him about the album. Which is a rare skill for a high schooler to possess. And it bleeds through EP. He sings about maturity, growth, and self-awareness over layered tracks. On “Thud. Dead.” he repeatedly slurs “I’m turning into ashes” as the track drifts away with a train chug. But there are no sad songs on EP. Even the feelings of being lost in your own mind and unable to properly convey yourself are undermined with energy. Why Not are cautious not to delve into the despair and self-pity of the three pieces of yore. They’re young, but just old enough to know they should care. Guitarist Isaac Dell tells me “we love our buds” while Josh chimes in “we’re wholesome people.” Part of what differentiates EP is its lack of edge. It’s not trying to be anything it isn’t, it’s refreshingly earnest. Why Not doesn’t posture themselves as the cool kids in school, and that’s what makes them so endearing. EP thinks self-righteous head nods are passe and encourages audiences to dance instead. This release is sonic; you can feel the band’s excitement of coming into their own. When asked about “Why Not” versus “Why Not?” they eagerly tell me that it’s a statement. Sans question mark is “exciting.” Isaac perks up and tells me that it’s also aesthetically better while handing me a handful of band stickers. But question mark aside, EP does stand on its own.

Photo By Johnny Nguyen

Photo By Johnny Nguyen

Sitting with the band we discuss Spongebob, Ariana Grande, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and it becomes clear why they vie for positivity. They know their truth and they’re optimistic about it. Why Not isn’t emo, they’re not pop punk, they don’t swear in front of me. The peace and joy they find in expressing their more negative feelings is a punk mentality all its own. EP is the product of people who don’t want you to associate their music with sadness. Which may be naive, but it’s what differentiates EP from the rest. This EP is made for themselves, and if it resonates with others, then Why Not is happy. Their idealism seems young. But their desire to grow as people is wiser. Why Not is three teens making music because they love doing it and because they care for each other. And the world is definitely ready for that.

Why Not will be having their release party for EP on March 2nd at the Fall Out Arts Initiative in Minneapolis.

Keep up with the band on Facebook + Instagram

A Chat With: Roman Lewis

Photo Credit: Hollie Fernando// Courtesy of Fancy PR

Photo Credit: Hollie Fernando// Courtesy of Fancy PR

London based singer-songwriter Roman Lewis just released his debut EP on January 25th, via Bright Antenna Records. In honor of the release, we chatted with Lewis about his favorite moment recording the seven tracks, selfies with celebrities, the London music scene and more! Tune in below.

Congrats on releasing your debut EP Heartbreak (for now)! What’s your favorite memory or moment from the writing and recording process of these songs?

Thank you! Yeah I’m just happy it’s finally out. My favorite memory from the recording process was definitely playing the tambourine on "Heartbreak.“ I had the best time playing that goddamn tambourine… you have no idea. Catherine Marks produced the EP and she’s a genius and just the biggest joy to record with, so we had a lot a fun with this. From the writing process it was probably writing "Midnight in Paris.” It was one of those songs I was just really really really proud of, and I still am. Any time someone asked me to play a song, I would play that one, which rarely happens with me for a new song. It was just one of those things I wanted to say and that song did it just right. 

You’ve said that your song “Rose” from this EP was inspired by William Blake's 1794 poem "A Poison Tree.” What was it about this particular poem that inspired you, and what are some of your other favorite poems or poets?

I just really liked how Blake used a tree to symbolize his hatred and wanted to do the same with a rose and a girl. I would love to say I know a lot about poetry but I really don’t. We studied that poem in English class, that’s the only reason I know it. 

Besides writing a song about it, what’s your go-to activity for getting over heartbreak?

[Laughs] Writing a song about it. Not the biggest fan of wallowing in my own sadness, so writing a song gets it out and creates something beautiful with it. Thankfully it doesn’t happen on a daily basis so I don’t really have a ritual or anything else I do. 

Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to your stage presence?

 Damien Rice was one of the first singer-songwriters I really got into and he plays acoustically so I when I first started performing I took some inspiration from him I guess. The energy of Jack White when The White Stripes would play live would always amaze me, so him too I reckon. 

You’re based in London and there’s always so much great talent coming out of London. Who are some of your favorite fellow London musicians and favorite places to see live music in the city?

King Krule, Wolf Alice, Blaenavon, Marika Hackman, Matt Maltese, Shame and Idles are some of my current faves from the UK, but I couldn’t tell you whether they’re from London or not if I’m honest. Omeara and Koko are probably my two favorite venues in London. I was lucky enough to support Blaenavon at Omeara recently which was great fun!

I love your music video for “Ways,” and you’ve mentioned it was inspired by the video for "Once In A Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. What was the experience like filming in front of a green screen for it and working with director Matt Robertson?

 I just saw David Byrne dancing and I thought to myself I just wanna do that. The song’s about the aftermath of a good time so I just wanted to dance and have a good time. Filming it was great fun! None of the dancing was choreographed obviously so I had no idea what was coming out but enjoyed witnessing the madness of it all, and dragging my brother into it was fun too. Post-production on the other hand made me want quit music altogether. Matt is a talented guy, but we were on very different pages with the green screen so I ended up just taking the footage off this stock video website I found. It ended up looking great though so I can put the trauma behind me. 

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you want to work with?

 Doing something with Snail Mail would be cool. Her music is great!

What are three songs that you can’t stop listening to lately?

 Going through a big Elliot Smith phase right now and can’t get enough of “Say Yes.” Also loving Fleet Foxes, especially “Helplessness Blues,” and Pavement “Gold Soundz” and “The Spark That Bled” The Flaming Lips. Loving all four albums those songs come from.  

 Besides your EP, what else can fans expect this year, whether it be touring or more new music?

Another EP! Going into the studio to record the next one and it’s very much a continuation of "Heartbreak (for now).”

Your Instagram bio mentions that your mum got 11,000 likes on a photo of your sister with Selena Gomez. If you could take a selfie with any celebrity, who would you want it to be and why?

Great question! I would also get one with Selena Gomez and I would get 12,000 likes and rub it right in her face.

Keep up with Roman Lewis on Twitter + Facebook + Instagram

A Chat With: Welles

From playing major festivals like Bonnaroo and ACL and sharing stages with the likes of Greta Van Fleet, Royal Blood, and The Regrettes to releasing his debut album Red Trees and White Trashes, Jesse Wells (AKA Welles) has been on a roll for the past couple of years. With his addictively gritty and emotive sound that’s reminiscent of 90’s grunge and classic rock’n’roll, while also refreshing and revitalizing at the same time, it’s no surprise that Welles continues to garner the attention of new listeners.

This month, Welles will head out on yet another tour, headlining shows across the country— including a stop at Schubas on February 20th. Ahead of the show, get to know more about the songwriter as he discusses his move to Nashville, covering The Cure, his tour essentials and more.

Photo Courtesy of No Big Deal PR/ By Mafalda Millies

Photo Courtesy of No Big Deal PR/ By Mafalda Millies

What was your first musical memory?

In the first grade I was walking down the sidewalk with the class singing Don McLean’s “American Pie.” I remember grabbing classmates on either side of me and getting ‘em to sing the chorus with me until the teacher finally came and asked me to not sing that. Picture of bunch of 6 year olds singing ‘them good ole boys were drinking whisky and rye,’ arm in arm, rolling down the sidewalk.

Congratulations on releasing your debut album Red Trees and White Trashes in June last year! What was your favorite moment during the writing and recording process of these songs?

I enjoyed writing them back on space mountain in AR. I used to stay out late, wake up and go and get coffee with my mom in the mornings. Then I’d go back to the apartment and write. Salad days for sure.

Since moving to Nashville from your hometown in Arkansas, what would you say is the biggest growth you’ve seen in your songwriting and artistry, or the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

I’ve written a few songs folks like, but I’ve gotten mostly negative feedback otherwise. I’ve stayed productive aside from being on tour 7-8 months out of the year. The most profound lesson, or at least just a consistent thing I’ve been aware of since coming to Nashville and touring the states is that everywhere is relatively the same. When I first moved up I found myself saying ‘oh just like Arkansas’ a lot. The more I traveled the more I found that everywhere is just like everywhere else.

Your sound has been compared to legends like Kurt Cobain and the more modern Ty Segall, but who are some musicians who have influenced you that people might not expect?

I grew up with a lot of CSNY and Simon and Garfunkel. I spent a lot of time with Dylan, still do. I like a guy who calls himself ‘Little Wings.’ Check out ‘Light Brang’ or ‘Boom’. Guy’s a poet.

I love the cover of “Lovesong” you recently did for Spotify Singles. What made you pick that song for your cover?

A buddy of mine reckoned I oughta give that Cure tune a try. I recorded a version down in my basement, folks agreed, and we went into the studio and did that. It was honestly my first encounter with new wave. I missed the 80’s. The aesthetic always seemed so inorganic to me. I’ve come around though.

When you’re writing, do you ever look to other art mediums like movies, books or visual art for inspiration? If so, what are some recent works that have inspired you?

There was a period of time that Apocalypse Now! was pretty much on repeat in my apartment. I want to capture the horror. I read some Ginsberg and Salinger too. Visual art is a bit frustrating for me, there’s a disconnect but I’ve got plenty of years to come around.

Who would you love to work with in the future (either touring with or collaborating on a song)?

I’d love to tour or to write with Ty Segall. He’s brilliant. I think Mac Demarco is the tops.

You’ve spent a lot of time on the road, playing music festivals and touring with bands like The Regrettes and Greta Van Fleet. What are the three things you can’t live without on tour?

I don’t roll nowhere without my off-white BPA- free walmart thermos. I hate the idea of using so much plastic all the time, it’s gross. I like to have Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, I keep a little thing of it. And a lot of kombucha. I like the GTS gingerade brand.

Which cities or shows on your upcoming February/March tour are you most looking forward to, and how would you describe your live show in three words?

I’m stoked to be back on the west coast! And the east coast! Honestly when I’m in the van, I’m equally excited every day. It’s a wonderful life.




If you were entered into a talent show and couldn’t pick music as your talent, what would your special talent be?

I would tell em jokes till I lost.

There you have it! Welles will be down at SXSW this year, or if you’re in Chicago, catch him at Schubas Tavern February 20th. Tickets here.

Welles on: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Gully Boys

Based out of Minneapolis, Gully Boys are a neo-emo band blazing the way for non-male bands in the DIY scene. I sat down with drummer, Nadirah McGill to discuss boy bands, “diversity,” and shifting the dialogue on local music.

Photo courtesy of Gully Boys

Photo courtesy of Gully Boys

Tell me a little about how you got started.

I started playing the drums about two and a half years ago. My ex-boyfriend had a drumkit and I would just fuck around on it. I finally saw these two drummers, Ben and Drew from POLICA. I saw them live and I was just like.. deceased. And it inspired me to start drumming. I always wanted to drum but my mom wouldn’t let me, she said it was too loud. So as soon as I was old enough, I got one, and it kind of happened like fate. My ex-boyfriend broke my TV and so he gifted me the drumset as payment.

Wait. Your ex broke your TV?

He was like “you can have this drum set, I was gonna sell it but I broke your TV. So.” And I was like “that’s fine”.”

Ok, Continue.

And so that’s kind of how Gully Boys started. Kathy came over and we covered “Boyfriend” by Best Coast. And then she showed me one of the songs she had and it was called “Hymen Honey.” She invited her best friend Natalie, and we jammed together one time and we became a band. It was nice because none of us had really played our instruments before so there wasn’t a level of power difference or hierarchy. We all learned our instruments and grew together. We all have a musical background in different things, so it’s really fun to kind of take that and smash it into a different instrument. Our first gig was in 2016, and we had started playing like maybe a month before that. We said we wanted to be a band, and came up with a name, and then just never practiced because we were like “we know how to do this.” And then we booked our first gig and we were like “oh shit we need to figure this out.” We pulled it together. And it’s really funny because my friend brought my mom, and I didn’t know but she recorded our first gig. My drumset was next to the stage, it was so awkward. We were so nervous and were just shaky little babies in the video. It’s kind of embarrassing that it’s on the web. My sister was actually at our second gig where we covered ‘Burning Up’ by the Jonas Brothers and she posted it on Facebook. Now it’s always there.

Music is undoubtedly dominated by men. The drums are especially an instrument we don’t often see non-men play. What’s that like for you?

So when I was on tour in Chicago this last New Years Eve, this guy walked up to me and he was like “you’re actually a good girl drummer! I see all these good girl drummers online, but when I see women drum in person they’re never that good. You’re actually amazing!” And I know he meant that as a compliment but it was so fucking rude because I know that people don’t say that to men. It sucks. If you’re femme-presenting or just not a dude and you play the drums, or are just in a band in a predominantly white male setting, it’s hard. But with my drums people patronize me in small ways. They don’t assume I know what a drum kit is or how to set it up. Someone told me once, when we were backlining the drum kit, I was like “oh what do I need to bring? My pedals and my breakables?” and they were like “oh you know what breakables are? Usually we have to say cymbals and snare.” I’m not an idiot. It sucks so hard to exist in this space and to just have to not take it personally. I know I have to have tough skin because. I had a girl come up to me and tell me that she wanted to start a band because of our band, and she had never played an instrument before. And that’s all I want to do. Because I never had female rockers to look up to, especially queer rockers of color. And I don’t play the drums to show off, I do it for me. Drummers were always my favorite in bands. And Katherine from Lunch Dutchess is like, my idol. Every time I see her band play I’m so inspired. It’s just so good to see women drumming, and she’s such a badass, so when men do question her about stupid shit she can just tell ‘em to go fuck off.

Have you ever had that chance?

Yeah! It was so funny. So we had a gig at this space, and right before I was shooting a music video for someone else and I was playing the drums in it. And in this one part of the music videos I was purposely getting frustrated with one part on the drums. And this guy walks up to me and goes “if you just raise your snare stand, just a quarter of an inch you’d get it every time.” And I just looked at him and said “you fucking asshole, I’m doing this on purpose, I know how to play the drums. Thanks even though I didn’t ask.” He was so confused, and I’m like dude, nobody asked. Why do men think they can just insert themselves and give me unsolicited advice?

Do you get that “advice” a lot?

All the time. And it’s so annoying. It feels like they’re trying to hold my hand and go “oh, silly girl you don’t know what you’re doing.” But, I love when they do that before I actually play and then I play and they’re like wow, you know what’s up.

You recently posted a meme on Instagram with you and other non-male bands in the Twin Cities as the Breakfast Club. Which was hilarious. But do you find that you all get lumped into one category?

I just ranted about this recently. As non-men bands, we get compared to each other All. The. Time. Especially in write ups. Like, when we played the main room we got compared to Scrunchies. And we don’t even play the same genre of music. In write ups, if there’s another girl band on the bill we get compared to them. Whereas there will be like eight boy bands and none of them ever get compared to each other. But there is some solidarity because when we [other non-male bands] do play with each other, we’re all like fuck all this, it’s ridiculous. We get tokenized, guys literally ask us to come on the bill and open so they could check their diversity quota of being diverse like “we have one girl band.”

Is that tokenizing or belittling behavior is pretty blatant?

A lot of it is micro-aggressions. Just small little pokes. Like when people say we’re so good for a girl band and not just… a band. Boy bands don’t get that. Or after our sets they’ll be so surprised that we make music that men like. It’s stuff like that.

I notice you’re using the term “boy bands”, which is great. Is that a term that comes up or do you consciously categorize all male bands as boy bands?

That’s what’s really funny. I don’t know when we started doing that ‘cuz everyone’s like “all male bands” and we’re like, no they’re boy bands. They’re not grown men. They’re boy bands. But, we also want to fit in that space too. We’re boy bands. We make different kind of boy band music, and we’re actually girls, but we’re a boy band. Also all of us were fucking weird tomboys when we were kids. And now we’re all hyper femme and reclaiming that aspect of our dirty, reckless childhood in boy bands. But all the local male bands are boy bands to us. They would be offended if we said that, I’m sure.

I like that. So Metallica is a boy band, Led Zeppelin is a boy band? Big Black is a boy band?

Yup, we call ‘em boy bands who make “butt rock”. Butt rock music. We have a boy band butt rock song. But we look at Led Zeppelin and we’re like yeah, that’s butt rock. It’s a genre of music.

Has Women Bands(™) become a genre?

Yes, and it sucks. That’s why I feel we get compared to other bands. Because even though we make music that’s completely different from Scrunchies and other local bands, we get compared to them because Women Bands is a genre now. It’s baloney sandwich and I hate it. Because we’re girls we get pinned against each other, and you can feel that misogyny in the music scene. And then it gets kind of fucked up because I’ll be honest, I find myself comparing myself to other female bands because of my own internalized misogyny. But then I’m like, “why?”— I want them to succeed and I want them to have good things, and I want to support them as much as I can and as much as I want them to support me. But we’re lumped into one genre; if we’re women and a three piece, we’re a “Punk Woman Band.”

Do you feel safer or more confident when you’re on bills like tha-

Yes. When we get to play bills of just non-boys, it’s so good. It’s definitely just more safe and more fun hanging out backstage, and just naturally clicking. We both do this really hard thing for this thing that we love and have to go through more B.S. than boy bands do.  

You just played First Ave, a big historic venue. So there’s no denying that we’re seeing a shift in who makes music. Do you feel like we’re seeing an influx of more non-men in the scene?

Yeah! In some aspects, yeah. Recently I’ve been seeing more calls for non-men. There’s a DIY festival for non-men that we’re playing in Fargo, North Dakota. But I feel like we’re also very supported in this scene. During our tour we talked with other women and their DIY spaces. It’s hard for a lot of people to find their space and acclimate. A lot of spaces are male heavy. But there is definitely is a wave of non-men coming. Stephanie Jo Murck [a musician in the Twin Cities] is kicking down doors and making space for women in DIY spaces. We’re seeing non-men take up space they should have and not be confined to being a Girl Band Playing in a Basement. There’s so many DIY bands now that are comprised of mostly women, or at least fronted by them. It’s becoming more normalized and more accessible. And it feels good and welcoming, like we’re moving away from tokenization because it’s not something unnatural. It’s not super groundbreaking anymore to have women in music and rocking. There’s also so many non-binary artists. There is space for non-men musicians to just exist and do what they do best, and get supported!

If you were dictator of a venue, what would the rules be, what would it look like?

It would be a mixture of touring bands and baby bands. Bands who just started and want to make music, and just picked up instruments for the first time. I’d want space for them to open up for bands on main stages, just making space for young people of She Rock. There would be a lot of space for non-binary folks too. I feel like there’s a lot of space for women. But queer and trans folks, especially trans women, get the short end of the stick when it comes to DIY and that doesn’t sit well with me. There’s so much space and so much room for everyone to succeed and everyone to do well and support each other. I wouldn’t have it be a competition. It would be more of a collective, co-op type thing. I would like more of this. We’re like thinking of opening up our own space in a friend of ours’ house. And that space would be run by musicians with disabilities, and musicians of color, and non-male musicians. It’s in the works. There might be that utopian space coming soon.

What kind of conversations do we need to have to create more inclusivity in the DIY scene?

One thing I don’t like is people who claim to be woke and have all these inclusive thoughts and then just take up space from the people they claim they’re fighting for, that’s what drives me absolutely insane. It’s the well intended white people. They inadvertently take up space they talk about giving back. I’m black, and queer, and in punk music, and making music that is predominantly run by white males. We need to remember that that music came from black people. Inclusivity for that would be having those conversations and realizing where you stand and how much space you take up. You need to ask yourself if what you’re doing is uplifting and making room for more people or if it’s self serving. I would just like a space where I could feel safe at all times and make music at all times. It’s, y’know, simple things.

Is Minneapolis an especially white city to play in?

Oh yeah. When we went down to New Orleans it was cool to see that space because everywhere there were just black musicians owning that city. But here it’s… really white, yeah. I have to tell my brothers that sometimes I do struggle being in a band with two white people, because sometimes small microaggressions will happen and they don’t notice it. Like on tour we went to Birmingham, Alabama and I was a little nervous being a queer black woman in the south, and Trump is the president right now, so it’s dangerous to exist. And I was trying to explain that to them and they just hadn’t considered it. There’s those times where I can feel that their bubble is only so big. And sometimes my realities exist outside of their bubbles. And that’s within the whole scene as well. But I am starting to see POC come into the scene too. And when I see them it’s like, I’ve been waiting for this. It’s good to see people who look like me playing this kind of music.

Re: creeping on your Instagram, I notice you hashtag “women in music.” Is that for irony? Just in case people search that tag? Or is it how you would describe yourself?

I do that because it’s how I found bands on tour. I mostly do it so other women bands can find us. I go on it and reach out to bands on tour and make friends with other women in music and find solidarity. Sometimes I do do it as a joke, but I’ve just found that tag to be useful for networking with other women. And of course it’s ironic too because we do call ourselves a boy band- we’re all brothers.

Do you feel like this wave of non-male bands is paving the way for the baby bands out there?

I feel like that bit of credit is true for most female bands. Any non-male bands have had to go through some bullshit so the next wave of musicians can have a smoother ride into the space. One of the things I always try to say at our shows, to whoever needs it, is to just start a band if you wanna start a band. Just pick up and instrument, because we need it. There are so many non-men and POC who have such amazing things to say but nobody has pushed them to say it or made them feel safe enough to just step into it. And I know I needed that. If I hadn’t have seen Tony Peachka, I don’t know if I would’ve been inspired to just do it. All of these bands kick down a door so someone else can walk through it.

Keep up with Gully Boys on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

A Chat With: Patrick Damphier

Singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire Patrick Damphier is on the brink of releasing his first full length album as a solo artist; Say I’m Pretty, out February 1st via YK Records. With eleven tracks, the debut record takes listeners on a winding journey that combines breezy melodies and jangly guitars with dreamy vocals and pop infrastructure. Featuring collaborations with the likes of Molly Parden, Nicole Atkins, Jessica Lea Mayfield and the late Richard Swift, the album nods to Damphier’s chameleon-like ability to work with an array of artists, while also putting him in the spotlight for the first time. There’s a refreshing and eager energy that threads through each track, but it’s mixed with the touch of a seasoned musician—Damphier has played in The Mynabirds and Paper Rival and makes a living songwriting and producing for other artists.

Ahead of Friday’s release, Damphier took some time to chat with us about the journey behind the record, including his experience with the different collaborations and the stories that inspired the songs. Tune in to our chat below for more!

Photo by Satellite June

Photo by Satellite June

What was your first musical memory either as a fan of music, or when you started creating?

I’d say the Ghostbusters 7” single from my grandmother. I was, I wanna say maybe four years old and I was just absolutely obsessed with that movie and that song and I listened to the b-side, which was the instrumental. I flipped it over and just recorded myself singing the lead onto a cassette tape, like on a boombox. That was my first real creative musical memory.

Nice, that’s a good one! It’s a classic. So you’re about to release your debut album as a solo artist. How are you feeling about the release date being so close and just generally about putting this project out into the world?

Well in general I’m just super excited about it. This particular group of songs has been written for so long that it feels good to just have them out into the world. I’m really the only one who’s heard them for so long. I have a ton of other stuff written, so that’s sort of where my headspace is now. It feels ok to move on, now that these songs are going to be out. Like it wasn’t all for nothing. It felt weird--it almost felt like cheating when I was working on other stuff before, knowing that this was gonna come out. Now that I know it’s coming out, it feels good to move on.

On Say I'm Pretty, you worked with collaborators like Jessica Lea Mayfield, Molly Parden, Nicole Atkins and Richard Swift. What were some highlights from your experience of working with them as songwriters and musicians?

Swift was a really, really good friend of mine for years. I met him in 2010 through The Mynabirds. I was in that band touring, and I worked on the last two records in the studio, fully producing the last one. Working with Richard was great. His contributions were done both in Nashville and in his studio. His stuff was done a couple years back, just in between tours. Just sort of hanging out, like hey we’re bored, do you feel like putting some keys on my stuff? Sure, let me put some drums on your stuff. That kind of thing...That was really, really natural.

The other three artists all lived in Nashville, so that was a lot more planned. Like Jessica, Molly, and Nicole you’re in Nashville, can you show up to my studio at this date, this time and do some vocals for me? That kind of thing. Swift also did the artwork for that 7” that came out for “Under My Door.” He contributed artwork for the inside insert of the 12” vinyl that’s about to come out.

Oh that’s awesome, and I’m so sorry for your loss with Richard.

Thank you, yeah he did a whole, whole lot. He actually contributed these ideas for this about a year and a half ago. It just feels good that it’s gonna come out and people are going to hear it.

Yeah, and his memory lives on with this project. Then as far as your overall contribution with the album…you wrote the songs, recorded and mixed it, so you had your hands in all aspects of it. What would you say was challenging about that, and what was the most rewarding part of being able to wear all these different hats and work on each part of it?

I’d say the most challenging part of it was just the time aspect to it. Because I make a living writing and producing for other artists, so the challenge was sort of finding the time to do all of that. I don’t know, I mean it’s not too different from what I do already. A lot of the work I do with artists is multi-instrumentalist work. Where I’ll work with one artist and I’ll be the band, you know. So it wasn’t all that different from that, except they were my songs and then I had to be the one singing them too. The challenging part was finding the discipline to actually do it.

Going off of that, when you’re working with other artists as a co-writer, producer, or instrumentalist, do you tend to take a different approach when you know it’s your music versus working with somebody else? When you’re writing, do you ever think ‘oh I should keep this for myself,’ or how do you dictate what to keep for yourself or put towards another project?

You know it’s about half and half. There have been things that I’ve written for myself but then I’ll get an opportunity to write with someone else and I’ll be like man, this thing that I wrote with myself in mind a month ago would be perfect for X,Y, or Z artist. Then I’ll bring it to them and see what they think about it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I guess more often than not when I write with other people I am writing with their unique, or at least what I perceive to be their artistic take, in mind. My approach to producing and writing is to sort of be a chameleon and serve them. So I can go a few different directions as far as the aesthetic, the arrangements or the production and the final presentation. So to answer your question, it’s super fun doing my thing because it’s all mine. It’s 100 percent my vision, 100 percent what I want to say. I don’t have anyone over my shoulder. It’s how I want to say it, and how I want to present it and I don’t have to keep anyone else in mind.

Cool, so you usually get in a certain mindset before working on a different project, versus working on your own.

Yeah there’s just no limits to it whatsoever. It’s not that I feel limited working with other people. I’m really lucky in that I get to work with artists that I really respect and I’d say that 95% of the time, any ideas that are thrown out, are tried. I tried all sorts of stuff that didn’t get used on that record. That was another thing--I had unlimited time. I just tried all sorts of crazy stuff that I probably wouldn’t have tried on a record that had a time limit to it.

Yeah you get that total creative freedom when you’re on your own schedule.

It definitely yielded some pretty interesting results, in my opinion anyway.

Who would you love to work with who you haven’t already collaborated with, from a writing standpoint or featuring on a song?

I’ve wanted to work with Aaron Lee Tasjan for a long time, but now I’m going back in February. I actually just got this opportunity a couple of weeks ago, so it’s gonna happen. I’m going to do production stuff with him so it’s actually coming true. He and I had written a song together before all of this. I’ve worked with a lot of mutual friends of his over the last few years in Nashville, and I’m really excited to see what comes of that. I’ve wanted to work with him for a couple of years now, so the fact that it’s happening is very exciting to me.

Very cool! So kind of circling back, when you were writing the songs for Say I’m Pretty did you ever look outside to any non-musical art forms like movies or visual art to inspire the lyrics or where you were coming from with certain colors and tones of the songs?

You know, on this record all of the words were written before there was any music. And that’s something I’ll do a lot. I don’t always do that, sometimes the music is first. I think more often than not when it’s just my songs, the words will come first without any sort of music in mind at all. Then when I have the words in a place where I like them, then I’ll start writing music arounds those words. And then it becomes musical. It pretty much starts with, whether it’s a linear idea or not, it just starts with some sort of emotion. I don’t really write in a country music story-telling way, but there’s definitely a thread that you can run through it, with a common emotion. It all starts with that. So on this record in particular it all starts with words, so there wasn’t really any musical inspiration, it’s just where I was at emotionally. I think more often than not, it’s more about instances that happened to people in my life. As opposed to happening directly to me. More just sort of keeping my ears open when someone is telling me about something they’re going through or something that happened to them. Then I guess I would try to take whatever resonating feeling that anyone could relate to and write it down that way. So I’m not getting so specific that this person would know I wrote this about them, but that’s definitely the emotion that expired it all. Like that would have never been written if I didn’t have that conversation with my friend at the bar last Thursday.

Totally, so like a characterization of that story you were told, and you elaborating on it.

Yeah exactly. I’ve definitely done the exercises where you turn on the TV on mute and you write about what you’re seeing. I write all the time, and I like to write just for fun, but as far as this record goes, it’s more about these are very real things that happened to actual friends.

Nice! What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself from your years of playing music in different projects and touring. Or maybe the best piece of advice you’d give your younger self or someone who’s just starting out?

Just keep doing it. You know. It’s so easy to get jaded and let down. There’s so much rejection and if there’s anything I would say to myself when I was 22 it would be just keep doing it, make the music you want to make. Just keep releasing it. No guarantees that anything is going to “happen” with it, but I think there’s a lot to be said for just continuing to do it. I have no idea where I’m gonna be a year from now, but I’m still gonna be doing this, I know that.

So now you’re based in LA, but coming from Nashville who would you say are some of your favorite artists, outside of the ones that you worked with on this record, based in Nashville? Anyone that we should keep on our radars?

I’m usually really good about this! I probably have 15 people I could say, but now that I have to think of it….I would definitely put Molly Parden on that list, but you’re talking about people I didn’t work with?

It could be people you worked with, or anyone else you’d like to shout out.

Specifically Molly, I’m really excited for her because we just finished mixing a record that she’s gonna put out this year. Nobody’s heard this yet, and I don’t know who is going to put it out, but it’s gonna come out this year. It’s so good and I’m really proud of her for making this record, so I’d like to give her the shout out because I just think it’s a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up with her.

Yeah, we’ve covered some of her shows here. She’s great!

Yeah I just saw her play the other night, and we literally just wrapped up mixing a couple of weeks ago, so that one is super fresh on my mind. There’s someone I’m going to work with, who has played in my band, who I’d like to give a shout out to. Charlie Shea of Charlie and the Evil Mothers. That is a Nashville project.

Then as far as live shows, do you have any plans for some shows or a tour that you can hint at?

I’m definitely going to be playing shows in Los Angeles and Nashville, but I don’t have plans for a tour because I’m still in the process of transitioning to LA and moving the entire recording studio set up out there. So that’s a pretty involved move. If the right opportunity came along for a tour, I would do it, but I’m still sort of geared more towards producing others.

Cool, any other goals or plans for this year besides the studio move and more production work?

Well I’ll be working on more of my own solo stuff this year for sure. That’s a big part of this move for LA. I’ll have more time to dedicate to my thing than I did in Nashville.

There you have it! Preorder Say I’m Pretty and keep up with Patrick Damphier on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

A Chat With: The Britanys

Based out of the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, The Britanys are a band that conjures up memories of New York City’s rock scene circa 2001. By mixing bright, punchy guitar melodies and candid, storytelling lyrics with a refreshing and earnest outlook, The Britanys deliver carefully crafted songs that set them apart and continue to catch the ears of new listeners. With their latest release, a mixtape called 1-833-IDK-HTBA, the band provides commentary on the technology obsessed culture we all live in an participate in, while still managing to nod to nostalgic influences.

Surrounding the mixtape’s release, the band created an actual hotline you can call (the number is just the name of the mixtape) and built in an old school bot on their website that visitors can chat with; Not only introducing a new take on this older technology, but allowing for the fans to have a more interactive experience with the new material. The bonus content that rolled out with 1-833-IDK-HTBA showcases the thoughtfulness that The Britanys put into their art, which extends past their music itself. As the band winds down from a busy year that saw them playing SXSW, touring the UK, and being invited to play at the Velvet Underground Experience, drummer Steele Kratt took some time to chat on the phone about their mixtape, fan interaction, and what’s next for them. Tune into our chat with The Britanys below for more.

The Britanys are Lucas Long, Lucas Carpenter, Jake Williams, and Steele Kratt // Photo By Aysia Marotta

What was your first musical memory growing up?

Well my dad was a musician so I think my first proper musical memory, at least that I can remember, is playing along to “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears for Fears. My dad handed me a pair of drumsticks and put some newspaper down on a chair in our living room and I’d just sort of bang along to that. That became something I did pretty much every day. That’s my first proper musical memory I guess.

That’s awesome. Then you just released 1-833-IDK-HTBA [I Don’t Know How to be Alone] back in October. Where did that idea to do a mixtape instead of a traditional album stem from, and what were your favorite parts of doing this project?

I think that a lot of bands put a collection of songs together and say that’s an EP. It’s not quite an album but a lot of the songs don’t really connect. So we we kind of wanted to have something that had our songs, but had some sort of thread that connected them all together. Then also just sort of like being in a digital world, so many artists release mixtapes. It was more of a casual thing between a full album and an EP so we just figured we’d do it. It’s not something that a lot of rock bands do and it’s kind of the way that a lot of songs are being released these days. We figured it’d be fun to make our own and put our own spin on it.

Yeah it sounds like a good chance to be able to experiment with something new.

Yeah it was nice, and we worked with one of our really good friends on it. Our friend Dylan Chenfeld, so it was nice to have the collaborative effort.

There’s definitely that new element to it, but the mixtape still sounds very true to The Britanys’ style. It doesn’t sound like a new band or anything drastic, but like you said, it’s not typically what a rock band would do. Was there anything outside of your typical inspirations that you looked to when writing this set of songs?

I think we just sort of looked at modern culture and how technology influences life and sort of isolates you from real life, human nature and humanity. Just that whole thought. When we were on tour for that mixtape, we were flying back to New York from London, I remember I was at the airport and I looked around at a restaurant and every single person in there was on their phone. It’s just kind of bizarre like you just walk through a public area and everyone is just staring down at their screen. I think since releasing the mixtape and speaking about that concept, I sort of see instances of that a lot more. There’s a lot of stuff to write about with that because no one really knows where technology is gonna go, what’s happening with it, how it properly affects our psyche and our humanity. And I don’t know, it’s one of those things where it can be used for good, but isn’t really. So there’s a lot in there to sort of experience and write about.

On that same note, I love that along with the mixtape, you had the functioning hotline and the Eliza bot on your website. So there was all these different interactive things to go along with the release, which goes hand in hand with needing stimulation and interaction at all times. What was the process like building all these different platforms for fans to interact with?

Well for the Eliza bot, that was something that Lucas was thinking about. He was thinking of wanting to have a chat bot, and a lot of businesses use bots on their social media pages now. So we were gonna make a bot like that, that you could have a conversation with. Once he got researching, he found out about the Eliza bot, which is like the precursor to Siri and stuff like that, cause it was done in the 70’s. So we just sort of decided to pin it to that sort of throwback and that piece of technology that’s relatively primitive, but became a huge influence in that sort of tech culture. The basis of the Eliza bot is a sort of virtual therapist, and it’s sort of you know, we figured it’s relevant and needed now. There aren’t many-- you can’t talk to a robot to just sort of help you.

Cool, and then how did the hotline come together?

When we were writing the songs about technology and how it isolates you, so it was a similar thing to the Eliza bot. It’s another hotline thing, and there’s a lot of hotlines or self help lines that people call. We made it relative to the band, but with that sort of idea like here’s something you can call with a toll free number that can give you advice or something else to entertain you with. It’s also just sick. It’s fun to be like oh, we’ve got a phone number.

Yeah totally! So kind of on the flip side of that, where’s one place you go to try to escape the outside world and your phone? Where you can shut everything else out.

My mom’s house! My mom lives like 10 minutes from me. So if I’m like particularly stressed or you know, just want a break, I’ll go chill there in my room with her and our dog. That’s mostly where I go to unwind. I don’t really get out of the city too much so that’s my little oasis.

Nice! And then another place where fans can interact with you and the band is the new Instagram page that you have called Millennium Club, which is trying to build a community amongst fans and breaking the boundaries between band and fan. What’s been your favorite part of that experience?

It’s funny cause originally we were doing a show and I was thinking it’d be cool to have some sort of Instagram where people can post things that are happening at the show and everyone can have a password. Then we took it one step further and said what if it’s just always on, and so we figured it’s just a way for everyone in the community to have their own collective anonymous Finsta or whatever. I think my favorite thing so far is we didn’t think that anyone would start posting on it and then relatively quickly people started throwing shit up there, and for a minute I just thought it was us. Like ‘oh wow Lucas has posted like 40 posts,’ but it’s not him. So it’s a lot of people doing their share of posting whatever they want. So it’s fun, but it’s so weird cause sometimes I’ll get like a DM from that account and I have no idea who wrote it. So I’m like is it someone I know, is it someone I don’t know? How do I respond to this? So that’s kind of funny. It’s interesting to get story replies from an account that you created.

[A scrolling feed of the Millennium Club Instagram is shown below]

Back in October, you played the Velvet Underground Experience in New York. What was that experience like?

We decided that we were gonna go in a style of the Velvet Underground and instead of playing our own set, we kind of just jammed through it. Like a couple sets that the Velvet Underground did in the 70s...they just started onstage with about eight people and they’d turn that into a segment, and they’d just sort of jam through everything. So we wanted to do something that was freeform and unstructured like that. So we just played like a quarter of our songs and just jammed through, and then started up with the new ones. So it was all improv. It was nice. We got Jake’s brother to play with us. My dad was in the audience and I was like hey, just come up. So my dad played like tambourine onstage with us. Lucas’s girlfriend just sat and scrolled through Instagram sort of like as a nod to Nico, who sang a little bit but mostly just hang out onstage for most of those performances. Then my friend Alexis was onstage videotaping. So it was kind of fun to play around with an idea that they did in their museum.

Very cool! So I also heard that you’re going to be recording this month again. What can you tease about the new songs and what we can expect?

I guess you can expect a lot more of inclusion and leaning on the community. I think we’re gonna have a lot of friends play sections. So it’s still really our thing, but we want it to be more collaborative. We want to have local bands from Bushwick or neighboring neighborhoods come over to the studio and make guest appearances with us.

Speaking of that, who are some of your favorite local bands from the Brooklyn area?

One of my roommates is Alexis, who is the drummer of a band called Native Sun and we’ve known them since we were probably 19 or 20, so they’re very good friends of ours. This band called The Muckers who we play soccer with, and play shows with and go play pool with and stuff like that. They’re really good. This band called Been Stellar, who are a bit younger than us, but we met them sort of through Instagram. All these bands come through and record in our house because Lucas records in our rehearsal studio. So we always have just bands coming through, which is nice. We get to meet a lot of good bands.

Awesome, then you guys went to the UK a couple months ago, so where else are you looking forward to playing next year? Anything on your bucket list?

I guess just where they want us! We played Mexico City a couple years back and that was really great. It’d be nice to explore that whole country and also just go further to central and south America, and see all that and play there. But anywhere that will have us, we’re excited to play.

Nice! Any other goals for 2019?

Just have fun. Basically. Maybe we’ll get a Nike or an Adidas sponsorship. That would be sick to be a band sponsored by athletic wear, so I don’t have to buy athletic wear.

Keep up with The Britanys on Facebook + Instagram + Twitter and listen to 1-833-IDK-HTBA in full below.

A Chat With: The Total Bettys

Based out of San Francisco, California, the four-piece band The Total Bettys just released their sophomore album This is Paradise on November 16th of this year. The album follows up the debut record released by singer songwriter Maggie Grabmeier (she/her) and guitarist Reese Grey (they/them), the founding members of The Total Bettys, who have both since joined forces with bandmates Chloé Lee (she/her) on bass, and Kayla Billos (she/her) on drums. With their catchy pop punk sound, The Total Bettys have garnered all sorts of attention in their hometown and shared stages with the likes of Palehound, A.W., Jay Som, Hazel English, and Oso Oso.

Just one week after they put out the second album, Maggie Grabmeier took some time to chat with me on the phone from Cleveland, where she had been visiting her family for Thanksgiving. In our chat, we talk everything from the musicians who inspired This is Paradise, the band getting booked to play Treefort Music Festival, and pushing for a more diverse music scene. Tune in below!

Photo by Kelly Sullivan

Photo by Kelly Sullivan

What do you remember as your first musical memory?

It’s kind of funny, I think I remember growing up, my parents had this big like speaker system thing. You know, you always needed a lot of technology to make music play in your house, so I remember sitting in front of it and listening to Green Day CDs and I also really liked A Very Special Christmas 2, you know that compilation CD? That album—I just really loved it! I remember barely knowing how to use a CD player but putting in Green Day and that CD.

Nice, and that’s timely now with The Holidays coming up!

I know right? I’ve been thinking about it!

Nice! Well you just had your second album with The Total Bettys come out last week on November 16th—

Yeah it’s one week old today!

Awesome, so as far as the writing process on the album, how collaborative is it between you and the other band members and where were you coming from writing these songs?

I’ve been working on these songs since we recorded our first album. Once that was over, I started writing right away and I wrote the fill of the song with the lyrics and the chords and all that. And then usually I bring it to Reese our lead guitarist and they usually add the--I usually like it a lot more once I hear it with the lead guitar. They help it a lot. Then Chloe writes her own bass parts as well and it just flushes out the song. What’s interesting is Kayla, our drummer is brand new to the band. So she joined and we had like two months or something until we had to record, which is just not a lot of  time to learn 10 songs, plus we wanted her to learn all of our old songs too so she was hustling and we’re really grateful she was able to learn everything so quickly and she wrote these parts that were awesome. Our previous album had really like present, loud drums, and she just totally picked that right up and added--she just had a really good sense of how it should go. It just seemed really natural when we started playing with us. So I’m really impressed with her. She was able to learn everything so quickly and so well. Lots of props!

Once the songs all came together, what was the recording experience like?

We recorded with Grace Coleman, she engineered our recording and mixed it and mastered it. We worked with her our last album Peach as well. We went to a new place, Secret Bathroom in Oakland…and I don’t know if they’re still around under that name. They’ve kind of had a brief life as far as I know. But we recorded in The Secret Bathroom and then mixed at Different Fur, which is where we recorded our first album, and working with Grace is amazing. We already knew that we really loved her but that first album recording was my first experience with professional recording. So I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into and I was extremely nervous but she just has a special way about her of being like if something takes time to get it right, we’ll take the time. And it’s not like roughed or scary and she’s just very patient with us and lets us hear stuff as many times and as many ways as we want. It felt a lot easier this time and not quite as scary because we already knew we had someone we really trusted leading us on the way.

That’s always a better environment to work in when you trust someone and they don’t make you feel uncomfortable. Then as far as the songs I’m sure it changes day to day or week to week, but what song on the album are you most proud of or do you consider your favorite?

Yeah that does change a lot! But I think I really loved “Dark and Stormy.” That song just felt really real to me and it’s also structurally a little different from the other songs that I’ve written, so I was proud that I was able to kind of try something a little different. I also really love “So Much Better.” That song emotionally feels really real to me now. It’s one of the more recent ones that I wrote for the album so I’m still kind of like…the emotions of writing it are still kind of fresh. And that one’s about being able to give advice but not being able to take your own advice. I think that for me that’s just like really how I’ve been feeling. When my friends are going through something, it’s like ‘oh my god no you don’t need to worry about this’ but when it’s myself I’m like no you’re useless.

Yeah that’s everyone. I think we’re all our own worst critics and it’s impossible to take our own advice.


So you’ve cited Charly Bliss and Diet Cig as influences in the past, but what else inspires you when you’re writing? And this could not necessarily be music, but other art mediums.

Interesting. I think with writing music, the first thing I jump towards are other musicians. And stylistically I really get a lot from those pop punk bands and I really love like the amazing women and queer people that are making music in the scene right now, but I also as I was writing these albums, I went through a huge Lorde phase. So I think what I love about pop music in general is it’s okay to say exactly what you mean and exactly what you’re feeling. It took me a long time to get to this place of just saying how I felt without having to try to make it more poetic than it is. That’s what I love about pop music and that’s something I really love about Lorde.

Yeah totally. It’s just so straightforward. So as far as your live shows, I saw you’ll be playing Treefort Festival which is exciting.

Yeah I’m so excited!

What other plans do you have for tour next year? Anything you can hint at or anything in the works?

Yeah so we also just announced we have a show January 17th-it’s gonna be our tour kickoff show with Remember Sports in San Francisco. I’m so excited. I really love Remember Sports and I’ve seen them live a couple times and I’m so excited to be able to play with them. I think it’s the second week in January, we’re leaving on our tour and going to Nevada and Southern California and Arizona. That’ll be a 10 day tour. We’re really really excited for that. I don’t have all my ducks in a row for announce yet but that’s in the works.

Awesome. Then what are some other bands in the San Fran scene you would recommend, or do you have any venues or DIY spots you’d like to shout out?

Sure! I really love Pllush, they’re a local band that’s really super great. I love Scrim. We love playing with Difficult Objects. There’s a really awesome scene of like queer people especially who are totally making amazing music. In the city, my favorite venue I don’t know that’s a hard one! Maybe Bottom of the Hill. That’s where our album release show as. El Rio is a queer bar that has shows and they have really great stuff. I wish there were more like house venues and DIY venues but it’s really hard for venues to stay alive. I just heard news about a club, The Mezzanine, in San Francisco closing. And the Hemlock which was a great club just closed a month or so ago. So people are a little freaked out that our venues are gonna start disintegrating but hopefully that means more people are gonna step up and start something new.

Ah but that’s the worst! Losing a live music venue and all the memories attached!

Yeah it’s really sad. It’s really sad.

I was also gonna mention you already send such a positive message of inclusivity with your members all either being female or non binary. And you just shouted out the queer music spot, El Rio, but what else would you like to see from the people in your music scene or promoters in general to help promote more inclusivity? What else would you recommend or like to see more of?

Yeah I think that it’s really exciting to be a part of a queer music scene and I feel like really lucky to be in San Francisco where theres so many musicians who are doing amazing things. And so many venues that are willing to host us. I think that’s really awesome and really special but I think that there’s still not quite as good representation of people of color in our scene and I’m trying to think of ways that my band that can help support bands that have people of color and also just uplift the music of people who we love. My big piece of advice to people is just to start a band. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I decided I wanted to be in a band. And I think it’s fun to do it. I’m also kind of working through the different ways that I as a person can help and that the Total Bettys as a band can help make the scene more welcoming and more inclusive. But I think it’s something that we’re striving for and we hope other bands in San Francisco are also trying to do better

Yeah if more people work together, things can finally change! So besides the tour and including people in the scene, what are some of your other goals for 2019?

I think I really want to keep writing. The last couple songs that I wrote, I felt pretty proud of, and I’m kind of doing some different interesting things so I’m excited to keep on writing and keep writing with my band. I want to tour more so we’ll see how that goes. And just kind of keep going and keep playing lots of shows and meeting new people.

Keep up with The Total Bettys on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Flasher

Taylor Mulitz, Daniel Saperstein, and Emma Baker have known each other since they were teenagers, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the three got together to form Flasher. Since the trio’s inception they’ve released a self-titled EP in 2016 and followed up with debut full length, Constant Image, released June 8th of this year via Domino Records. With its mix of genres ranging from punk, shoegaze and pop, the diverse yet straightforward record has been very well received. Flasher has toured these songs relentlessly this past year, sharing stages with the likes of Ought and The Breeders throughout The States, and recently completing a European run.

This Tuesday, December 4th, Flasher will play The Hideout as one of their final tour stops of 2018, and before the show, the band took some time to chat about their debut album, their music video for “Material” and the DC music scene. Check out our chat with Flasher below, and go see them on Tuesday night.

Photo By Amy Breesman

Photo By Amy Breesman

Congratulations on the release of your debut album Constant Image earlier this year. What was the writing process like for this set of songs?

Thanks! We wrote almost every song on the record in the month leading up to our time in the studio. Out of the whole record we had only played one song (“Skim Milk”) live before going into recording.

How was it working with Nicolas Vernhes as the producer?

Traditionally we've strictly recorded ourselves with the help of our friend and collaborator Owen Wuerker- in Owen's and Daniel's DC studio, Lurch. We've never seen recording as a matter of transcription or a production of representation. Recording for us has always been approached as a process of writing and a production of new ideas. When searching for another engineer to collaborate with, we wanted someone whose records sounded like they appreciated a similar approach. We also wanted someone who was conveniently located (somewhere on the east coast). Out of a list of a handful of engineers Nicolas' records stood out to us. At once, his body of work is so eclectic in style and yet there's an attention to form across all of them that sounds as if the techniques of engineering and production are foregrounded in the songs themselves. We don't want to just make unique songs, we want to make unique sounding records and Nicolas was instrumental in helping us do that with Constant Image.

You definitely have a versatile sound that blends different genres together, so who and what are some of your influences from a writing standpoint, and who inspires you as a performer?

Some touchstones for the writing of a Constant Image were My Bloody Valentine, The B52s, Juana Molina, Broadcast, Stereolab, and Blood Orange. Some of the most inspiring live shows I saw this year were by US Girls, The Breeders, The Funs, and Beach House. Beach House do an amazing job of getting a huge sound with just 3 musicians on stage (with the help of their FOH engineer and samples, of course). Figuring out a creative way to introduce some of those elements into our live set on a much smaller scale is a goal moving forward.

Although your first release as Flasher was only in 2016, you all had known each other and been into music since you were teenagers. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about each other since you started playing music together?

It’s been a steep learning curve of trying how to be more sensitive with one another. Feeling safe and understood by each other can feel like a moving target, but communication and checking in with one another is key.

When it comes to the band’s visuals and your music videos, how hands-on are you all with the concepts? Specifically with the “Material” video that came out earlier in November, who came up with the YouTube parody/videos-inside-videos idea, and what was the experience like filming all the different clips used in it?

So far, Taylor has handled most of the artwork and design for the records, t-shirts, and posters. Music videos have been much more collaborative and often begin with a director submitting a treatment and then workshopping it with us. For the Material video, the entire concept came from the mind of the director, Nick Roney. Filming it was intense but really fun and well organized. It was shot over two 14 hours days in LA, which began the morning after we had driven from DC to LA in 4 days. When Nick first submitted the treatment we were all like, “This is brilliant but I don’t know how the fuck we’re going to pull it off,” but we decided to go for it anyway. Nick was super organized, had a strong concept and vision, and had a great team of people working with him, so things went surprisingly smoothly.

What were some of your favorite moments or highlights of your November European tour?

In terms of the shows we played, Glasgow and Paris were standouts. We had days off in both Hamburg and Amsterdam and it was such a treat to have extra time to explore those cities. In a dream world we’d have a day off in every town.

Do you have anything special in store for your last few shows on the year?

Why yes, I’m glad you asked! From December 1st - 7th we will be touring the east coast and Midwest with two incredible bands, Public Practice from New York and Gong Gong Gong from Beijing. In honor of this super tour we will be selling a tour-exclusive 3-way flexi split featuring a previously unreleased track from each group.

What are some of the best things about the DC music scene, and who are some local bands you’d recommend?

Growing up in DC we really took for granted having access to all ages shows all the time. It was much easier for us to get involved in the music scene at a young age because of the all ages culture in DC, and it’s a huge bummer that it isn’t the standard everywhere. There is a ton of exciting music coming out of DC. It’s hard to narrow it down but just to name a few: Clear Channel (new project of Mary from Downtown Boys, Carson from Merchandise, and Ahmad from Vasillus), Knife Wife, Mock Identity, Bad Moves, Des Desmonas, and - *shameless plug* - everything on Sister Polygon, a label Taylor runs with his former bandmates in Priests.

What are your goals for 2019?

Write more music , make more art, spend more time with friends and family.

Grab your tickets to see Flasher at The Hideout on December 4th here and keep up with them on Facebook + Instagram

A Chat With: Mallrat

Australian singer, songwriter and producer Grace Shaw has been making music under her moniker Mallrat since 2015, releasing her first EP, Uninvited, in 2016. Inspired by an eclectic range of rap, pop, and indie music, Mallrat shares her honest and clever narratives over refreshingly diverse beats and melodies. Since her first release, Shaw has gone on to collaborate with one of her biggest influences on 2018’s In The Sky EP and tour the world.

At the end of October, Mallrat played Chicago for the first time during a support tour with Maggie Rogers, and she took some time to chat with us before her set. Tune into the conversation below to hear about what first inspired Shaw to start writing, who she’d like to mentor her in freestyle rap, her tips for eating vegan on tour, and what she’s planning to conquer next in her career.

Photo Courtesy of Mallrat

Photo Courtesy of Mallrat

What was your first musical memory, either as a fan or wanting to play music yourself?

The first time I was like maybe I can do this was at a concert for a guy called Allday. So that was the most important one.

What was your first memory as a music fan?

I’ve always loved music. When I started listening to my own music, and got my first CDs, they were like Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine. And Azealia Banks!

Awesome! Speaking of Allday, when I was doing my research I saw that you said you were inspired to start writing after seeing him in concert, so how did that feel to be inspired by him and then end up collaborating with him on your second EP?

It was cool! It wasn’t maybe as sudden as it seems, because we became friends and toured with each other. He’s literally my best friend. I’m so protective of lyrics— [the sound of Mallrat’s Tamagotchi cuts her off] That’s my Tamagotchi, I’m sorry! I just got it today.

Nice! Where did you find it?

Just at a comic book Store! I saw it in the window and I was like everyone stop! We have to go in here. I forgot what I was saying…

Oh you mentioned touring with Allday and how you are protective of your lyrics…

Oh yeah, but cause we’re so similar and he’s my best friend, he’s kind of the only person that I feel like I can trust to speak on one of my songs.

Cool, and then you just had your second EP out this year, so what else do you have planned as far as new music goes?

I’ve got another EP almost finished, but I don’t know when that will come out.

Nice, so we can expect another EP instead of a full length?

I’ll probably do an album after that.

Do you have any teasers you can give or any new sounds you’re exploring?

Every song sounds very different to all the others.

Are there any themes you’ve noticed between the songs?

Not themes really...I just do a song. I don’t think like ‘this is gonna be part of a concept album.’ I want to make this song sound like the best version of that song, and then I’ll make another song that sounds like the best version of that song, and then another song that’s the best version of that song.

Cool, so your writing is more of TV show with episodes instead a movie?


I also love how a lot of your songs already have such a different sound from one another, where you fit in with the indie pop world, but then you also have that cadence and influence from rap music. So who are some of your favorite artists of the moment that have a unique sound as well?

So many! Like Kanye and A$AP Rocky...and Lana and Florence still. Billie Eilish. She’s so good! I love her new song “When The Party’s Over.” I like this producer called Sophie, who’s like— I was describing it to someone earlier and I said it’s like electronic music from 50 years in the future. It’s really cool and I like my friend’s band Cub Sport. The Jungle Giants. I love Ariana Grande and Charli XCX.

Nice, that’s a good mix of different genres. So as a fan of rap music, if you could pick one person to face off in a rap battle, who would you pick?

I don’t think I’m a rapper. I wouldn’t want to challenge anyone. I love rap, but I don’t think I’m a rapper. Some people are amazing freestylers. I’ve never tried it. Maybe I should try it..

Who would you want to teach you or mentor you? Kanye?

You know, Kanye is my favorite artist. But I don’t think he’s got the best bars. Probably, like…I love Lil Wayne’s style. I don’t know if he freestyles. But you know he never writes down any of his lyrics. He doesn’t want someone to take them. So he memorizes even when he’s recording. So maybe him!

Nice! So being over here in the states, what would you say are some of the biggest culture shocks, both as a musician with the different audiences, and then just generally? Any crazy food or anything you’ve experienced?

Nothing has been shocking, but I always get weirded out at the gas stations. Like all the different snacks, all the meats that are in the fridge just gross me out. Everything has been pretty chill or normal. Even when we were in Texas, I didn’t see anyone carrying a gun around.

Yeah, none of the Texas stereotypes actually happened?

Yeah I kind of expected to see that. It was definitely a lot of people wearing stereotypical things like camo and trucker hats.

Any cities that have stood out as favorites?

There haven’t been whole cities, it’s been more like different things that we’ve done that I loved. When we were in Phoenix we went to The Butterfly House. That was my favorite thing, like this big green house filled with butterflies. Chicago, so far I’ve loved! We’ve only been here a few hours but I got a Tamagotchi, had a vegan Chicago style deep dish pizza.

Oh did you got to Kitchen 17?

Yeah we did!

Oh yeah I’m vegetarian and I love that place. There’s another place called Kal'ish that’s not far from here, and they have really good vegan food.

That sounds sick! Thank you for the tip! Just like things like that, food usually is what sticks with me. I remember the other day we had really yummy bagels…

What are some of your tips for eating vegan while on tour?

Get Happy Cow. It’s an app that shows you vegan places nearby. The only time it’s annoying is like when you’re doing long road trips, there isn’t much stuff at gas stations. You can go to Chipotle or Subway or you can just get corn chips. I don’t eat much in the car and just have a delicious meal when you get to the city. Happy Cow is the bomb!

You already kind of mentioned this about collaborating, and you said All Day was one of the only people you’d let touch your music…but in the future, who else would you love to work with?

Well I really want to write and produce for other artists. So like Kanye is my number one. And also I’d love to write some really cool pop stuff for like Dua Lipa or Camila Cabello or Little Mix. Or produce something for A$AP Rocky. Stuff like that!

How do you feel about Kanye’s rants recently?

I feel like I always want to say something and then I check Twitter and I’ve missed all this new stuff. The last interview we were talking about Kanye and she said you know about half hour ago he tweeted and said he’s not doing political stuff anymore, and I had no idea.

Yeah I can’t keep up with him.

So it changes so quickly, but my biggest thought and feeling from all of this is just headlines, just clickbait headlines. People don’t actually watch the whole interviews. That’s my biggest thing, cause he actually hasn’t said that much outrageous stuff. He’s said a few things, but he’s made some really good points. Like Trump is the president whether or not you like it, so he’s said why don’t we try working with that instead of against it. I’m not a Trump supporter at all, but nobody thought that he would win because the media only presented what they wanted people to see. Like, this is crazy, but that’s why he did win. Because the media is not realistic.

Yeah, especially in a city like here we’re in such a bubble! Sorry to get all political on you.

Oh that’s ok. I’m no expert, but I just hate seeing Kanye taken out of context. I definitely don’t agree with everything he’s said either. I’m mostly…70% support.

Nice, anything else you want to touch on? I know you mentioned the new EP and you’re finishing up this tour with Maggie Rogers, but anything else you’re looking forward to this year?

I’m just trying to be a better producer as well as songwriter. So just practicing that a lot and being in LA a lot. I miss my dog!

What would your advice be for someone trying to produce their own music and having to critique your own work from that producer standpoint?

I’m still very new to it. I’ve only finished one song so that’s a good point. It’s hard, for me, to finish things, especially when I’m trying to do it all. But it’s also more rewarding when you finish it. And there aren’t enough girls as producers so I was like why am I just sitting here being annoyed about it? Why don’t I just start calling myself a producer? That’s the biggest trick! If you want to be a producer, just say you’re a producer.

Right, fake it til you make it!

With anything, if you want to be a singer, just say you’re a singer. If you want to be a journalist, just say you’re a journalist. You don’t have the job yet, you just have to create that reality.

Grab tickets to see Mallrat at The Bottom Lounge on January 26th here, and keep up with her on Instagram + Facebook