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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

Get To Know: Pool Holograph

Initially founded as the bedroom-recorded brain child of Wyatt Grant, the now four-piece band Pool Holograph has been making waves in Chicago over the last few years with their carefully crafted mix of lo-fi, art rock, and post-punk elements.

After releasing their second full length album, Transparent World, in October 2017 and touring the east coast, the band has been consistently booked at Chicago staples like Schubas, Lincoln Hall, and The Empty Bottle, but this weekend they’ll be hitting the road to play Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo, MI. Ahead of the festival’s kick off on Saturday, September, 22nd I met up with Wyatt Grant, Zach Stuckman and Paul and Jake Stolz of Pool Holograph. Get to know the band better as they discuss their creative process, 2008 Urban Outfitters, DJing a party with Kevin Parker and more.

Pool Holograph // From left to right: Jake Stolz, Zach Stuckman, Wyatt Grant, and Paul Stolz

Pool Holograph // From left to right: Jake Stolz, Zach Stuckman, Wyatt Grant, and Paul Stolz

Loyola University Brought Them Together

Long before the current day lineup of Pool Holograph came to be, brothers Jake and Paul Stolz grew up listening and playing music together from a young age. “Paul showed me everything music-wise growing up. We grew up playing guitar together and listening to like Creed and all those legendary bands of the early 2000s, late 90’s,” Jake says, adding that they also played drums a lot as kids. “We both grew up playing other instruments that our parents would force us to play and then when I got into middle school, I started hanging out with kids who knew how to play guitar and I wanted to do that,” Paul says, explaining how they got into multiple different instruments early on. “Then I was too embarrassed to play guitar because my cousin played guitar and I didn’t wanna copy him. Then my friend Derrick played drums, so I didn’t wanna play drums either. So I learned how to play bass. We just learned how to play together.”

Paul says after that, he and Jake continued playing with bands in high school, both together and separately, but it wasn’t until Jake started attending college at Loyola University that they met the rest of Pool Holograph. “I met Wyatt [Grant] and Zach [Stuckman] cause they were both living in Rogers Park. We had mutual interests and started playing,” Jake says. From there, Jake invited Paul to join the lineup.

Unlike the Stolz siblings, Stuckman got into playing music later in life. “I played piano for two years when I was younger and then never touched music until Wyatt and I started living together, and I picked up bass through some friends I lived with one summer between years in college,” he says. Stuckman brought the bass back with him to Chicago to continue to pursue it, and from there everything just fell into place. “Wyatt taught me a bunch of bass lines to songs he was working on. It was really unexpected…I didn’t really anticipate being in a band or playing music at all. The circumstances were given to me and it was the right time. Now they can’t get rid of me.”

Grant grew up away from Chicago, in a suburb of Memphis, TN, so his path to musical discovery was much different from the other band members. “Music culture is very much dominated by what was on the radio. There was no like musical god at my high school,” he says. Grant recalls being in punk and hardcore bands in high school because he was so eager to get into music, but it wasn’t until he attended a show at The Buccaneer in Memphis that he found clear direction. “My friend Michael Peery (he’s in Ex-Cult) and I went to this garage rock show at the Buccaneer, and saw the Rat Traps and the Final Solutions, and it was the first time I ever stayed up all the night.” After witnessing the sense of community that night, Grant says he had a sense of navigation to pursue his own project. “It wasn’t even necessarily that I could do it, cause I hadn’t had that confidence until well after I met these guys. I was confident knowing Zach and having such a close friend back you up, but having navigation is a different feeling I guess.”

The Band Started as Wyatt’s Solo Project

Prior to the band coming together, Grant had started writing for Pool Holograph as more of a solo project recorded in his bedroom. The project eventually evolved from there to accommodate a full band with a live show in mind. Describing the transition into writing as a band, Grant says, “I would say when we started writing Town Quarry, it was after we had written Mortals. We had started to write songs together from scratch. A lot of those came from jams where we were kind of able to strut or express our own---basically be indulgent in our own musical curiosities.”

Since then, the band agrees that the creative process has remained collaborative. “Sometimes the seed will be planted by Wyatt, like he’ll have an idea and bring it to the group. Sometimes there’s a fully formed song, but there still room to reflect upon it from each of the band members,” Paul says. He adds that they recently had a voice memo recording of them doing a 12-minute long jam that they’ll now work on fine-tuning. “That was just spur of the moment and evolved naturally, so I don’t know what the next step is gonna be. But just to refine it. It depends on what we’re hoping for, what day it is, how we’re all feeling...”

Grant agrees that the current day process totally depends on the day. “There’s some eras when maybe they’re out of town or we go through a process of moving to different places. Where we’re separated geographically and can’t get together that often. If we’re apart for a while or I know we’re really busy, I’ll start writing by myself quite a bit,” he says. No matter where their writing sessions take them, Grant has noticed one common theme in the way the band works together. “What’s been really consistent is a drafting. Like a way of… not reducing necessarily, but just walking through the steps of it. Together. So that when we start it’s really elementary and then new concepts and new ideas start to bleed out from that. The writing process for me collectively has started to call for something more crude almost. Where I make a move that’s maybe more atypical, or outside of myself or outside of all of our comfort zones. Then it’s like I maybe know that it will throw one of us for a curve ball.”

Technology Helps Them Stay Collaborative

Speaking of their writing process, the band is currently writing and recording new material. Although they don’t know what form the follow up to 2017’s Transparent World will take just yet, the band says they continue to push themselves outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves. Grant says the curveballs he throws out sometimes act as writing prompts for the rest of the band. “It’s a matter of knowing that you have vitality as a group. So it’s like fertilizer or whatever. It’s a matter of how I’ll do something that’s maybe seemingly wrong or uncomfortable but in the long run, digging out of that is a matter of like creating devices that you never had before. Not that I’m omniscient enough to know that. We’re cycling ideas into someone else’s wheelhouses or musical memory. Like Zach might have a bass line that I didn’t think of the song being that way or having this attitude, but it kind of actualizes things.” Pool Holograph songs continue to morph and mold into different places until it reaches a point that sits right with them. “It’s not a peak or a high point like a lot of people think. It’s just a matter of depth,” Grant adds.

Another way that the group maintains a certain level of collaboration is by having a place to pool together their ideas and voice memo demos. “We have this folder on a drive called ‘Revolving Door’ and we just throw them all in there. Sometimes you listen to them sometimes you don’t. It’s a matter of keeping that stream of consciousness, or keeping everyone in the know of our interests and stuff,” Grant says. As far as the subject for most of the new material, the band is trying to pull in more realism, rather than the Sci-Fi elements their last release had. “We like aesthetics and putting yourself in different scenery. That’s a really fun way to make music but I think it’s… recently I’ve been trying to speak from the first person and put words to the things that I’ve kind of struggled to say sometimes. Or even putting myself in someone else’s shoes.”

With this loose framework in mind, the band already has plans to start recording, even before having a solid arrangement of the new material. But they’re ok with that. “The longer it takes to actually nail down what you’re gonna do, the more rules tend to form subconsciously. Like the more conditions tend to pop up,” Grant says. Paul echoes that sentiment and adds, “The more bored you get. Even from a performative aspect… you record a song you’ve played 500 times, it doesn’t feel the same as one of those songs you’ve only played like 15 times before we recorded.”

The band also credits producer Dave Vettraino with guiding their recording process on Transparent World, and will be working with him on the next project. “He’s so patient. The way that he’s able to kind of guide you in the right direction. It’s the best form of musical diplomacy. Even if he knows what you’re doing is wrong, he can sit there with you to get the final project done,” Paul says.

“A lot of people talk about people they like to work with, saying they point us in the right way, like pointing in this solid direction, as in like a dictator. But I think of [Dave] more as like an extractor. Where he’s like a psychologist. He’s a therapist. He knows a lot more about me than I think my parents,” Grant says.

They Describe Their Sound as an Urban Outfitters Store Circa 2008

When discussing bands that they’re excited to see at Audiotree Music Festival next weekend, Grant brought up the band Lushh. “It kind of reminds me of the bath bomb store [Lush]! It’s soothing. They seem like it’s not in an aged way where it’s like ‘oh you know in decades from now it’s gonna sound like a bath bomb’.”

So if Pool Holograph’s music was to be compared to a store or an inanimate object (besides a bath bomb), what would the band members say? Jake says their music reminds him of a bowl of oil, while Stuckman picks an old, favorite t-shirt. “I don’t want to make a stupid pun, but it has the potential to get worn but not like worn on your body. But worn out over time. It has a sentimental value to it. I think through Wyatt’s lyrics there’s these sort of introspective narratives that happen. With a t-shirt you live out these narratives and have connections to it.”

Grant elaborates on that metaphor, adding “The narratives are kind of graphic elements on top of the song and it’s kind of like ‘oh shit I accidentally washed this on hot’ and it’s gone.”

“You can spill oil on it. And then that stain is there the whole time. Like when I joined the band, I poured my oil on it,” Jake jokes.

Grant goes one step further and paints a full picture of the band’s sound, combining the oil and old t-shirt. “Pool Holograph is an Urban Outfitters. A closed Urban Outfitters at night, in 2008. 2007. And the janitor is wearing a Rolling Stones distressed t-shirt and slips on some oil… and I feel bad now.”

The band jokes that they might start selling oil-stained t-shirts at the merch table to go along with this; “Wait this is covered in oil! Want your money back? Too bad… all of them have oil.”

They’re Fans of Visual Artists Who Also Make Music

While you most likely won’t actually be picking up an oil-stained, homemade t-shirt from Pool Holograph’s merch table any time soon, Grant does design and print their band shirts (they’ll be selling ‘em at ATMF). Naturally, Grant mentions other bands who are also into visual art when talking about some of his other favorite Chicago artists. “We really like Bunny. As artists making music, Courtesy is another example of that. My friend Drew is a really inspiring graphic designer. I think those bands give me a lot of motivation to continue as an artist/musician. Sonnenzimmer is a really good example of like an art/musician duo. They make posters and they make art all over the place. They’re legendary poster-makers and also musicians inherently.”

Without getting specific, Stuckman agrees that they’re fortunate to be surrounded by great friends and artists; “The people that we play with already I think are great, and in my mind, we only have room to encounter newer people along the way. We’ve been really fortunate to have a solid group of friends and bands that we’ve played with.” The Stolz brothers also give shout outs to the likes of Pixel Grip, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, The Hecks, Deeper, and Charlie Reed- just to name a few.

After reflecting on some of their favorite creative Chicagoans, Grant adds that being a part of “the scene” isn’t something that they necessarily strive to do as an end goal. “I don’t like to paint a static image of what ‘a scene’ is. I know there are like cumulations or like things kind of congeal in a certain shape for a little bit. Chicago has been a good example of that for all forms of music. I think it’s significant, historically speaking, to notice that like ‘now it’s this’ or ‘now it’s that’, I think at best Chicago has been a place where bands you don’t know about or people that you don’t get to hear from get to step forward and contribute to the conversation. There are a lot of ears and a lot of eyes and people listening and people breaking the mold constantly.”

Kevin Parker Attended One of Their DJ Sets

Imagine having the Kevin Parker of Tame Impala attend one of your DJ sets and not even knowing he was in attendance until weeks later. Well, that’s what happened when I brought up the fact that Parker had been in the crowd for the Pitchfork Music Festival after show in July that included DJ sets from Pool Holograph, Knox Fortune, Whitney, and NE-HI.

While Grant may not have noticed that members of Tame Impala had been present that night (in his defense, the place was packed), he says he’s got big plans for any future Pool Holograph DJ sets. “The thing is it’s about dictating the consciousness of the club,” he says, mentioning he just added some Bo Diddley and Rolling Stones albums to his collection. Pool Holograph has also recently DJed events at Crown Liquors and The Whistler, but be sure to keep your eye on their social media for future events.

You can catch Pool Holograph on Saturday night at the official ATMF after show at Old Dog Tavern, and on Sunday at 4:30PM at the festival. Get your tickets to the festival here.

Follow Pool Holograph on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

Get To Know: OHMME


"It’s really exciting because I feel like we’ve both been producing a lot of work in the last few years, and we’ve been working a lot on music, but there’s nothing that’s been out tangibly. It’s very satisfying to have something coming out that feels representative to us and where we’re at in our lives," Macie Stewart says about OHMME's debut album, Parts, which is out today via Joyful Noise Recordings. Since 2014, Stewart and her counterpart Sima Cunningham have endeavored to create a new sound together, following their years of experience playing music that fell into different sonic territory. 

While the pair continues to split their musical talent into multiple projects, OHMME has remained Stewart and Cunningham's main focus over the past few years, which saw them put out a self-titled EP last year and tour nationally. With so much experience already under their belt, the release of their debut full length marks the beginning of bigger and brighter things on the horizon for OHMME. Ahead of the record release show at Thalia Hall tomorrow, tune into Parts and dive into these six facts I learned while chatting with Stewart and Cunningham earlier this month. 

They're Both Classically Trained Musicians

If you live in Chicago and haven't seen Stewart and Cunningham perform as OHMME, chances are you've probably still seen them on the stage. Whether they're singing backup vocals for Twin Peaks, performing in the strings section at Whitney's show, or collaborating with Chance The Rapper, there's no shortage of ways to see the duo putting their musical talent to use throughout the city. Both Stewart and Cunningham are classically trained musicians and wear multiple hats in the music scene, experimenting with different genres, but they still recall their early days of first getting into music. 

"I remember going to my mom’s work," Stewart recalled. "Going to pick her up, cause she’s a musician too. She plays piano in restaurants around Chicago. I remember being really little and getting to sit on the piano bench with her and being like this is really fun," she continued. 

"I can kind of remember doing really, really early Suzuki violin, which I did not stay with," Cunningham pondered. Stewart chimes in that she understands that, as a former Suzuki violin teacher herself. Cunningham added, "I think one of my earliest memories was probably my dad would play the Boogie Woogie a lot on the piano and would just kind of like let us bang along or sing along with him on the piano. And do a lot of making up lyrics. A lot of just playing the blues. I think playing the blues with my dad, just singing with him..." 

They're Pros at Time Management

With all of the projects that Stewart and Cunningham have going on outside of OHMME, they don't have much free time to spare, but they're quickly learning how to manage their time. Cunningham credits coffee with keeping them going through their busy schedule, while Stewart says, "That’s a difficult question cause I’m not sure that we’ve exactly figured it out. I think we’re really good at managing our time and when we have an hour free just by ourselves, we’re able to get stuff done that needs to get done. Probably what I’m learning is that I have to schedule time to be free. Instead of scheduling time to do things. I have to schedule time to be productive in that sense. It’s really impossible when your brain is flying through so many thoughts. Not even just working on music, just working in general, just life in general. You gotta make sure that you make time for your own brain space in order to be creative. That’s the thing that I’ve learned over the last year."

For Cunningham, putting one project as the number one priority has helped her manage her overall schedule; "I think in a partnership like we have with OHMME, both of us, kind of a year and a half ago, made the commitment to each other that [this] would be number one. That has made a lot of things easier for me in my life as far as making decisions and figuring that out," she says. 

Their New Material Focuses More on Live Creation

After dedicating their priorities to OHMME, the pair set aside some time last year to knock out writing the album, and they set to work to record it with a loose plan in place. "I think it’s good to create loose perimeters for yourself for whatever you’re doing and then mess with those. That’s kind of a life mantra in general, for whatever you’re doing," Stewart says about their outline for the album work. Tracing back to the beginning of the process a couple of years ago, Cunningham says, "It's kind of interesting... there’s a little bit of a ping pong effect of like where the audience hears the music at because if you were in Chicago, some people might have seen us when we first started playing these songs. Some of the songs were about two years old, some of them are just a year old and we finished them right before we put them on the record. It was just kind of like we had this window and we knew we had to get the record done cause we’re gonna be on the road and we’re both really always busy and always doing stuff. So we had this nice window of time where we knew we had to finish the record," adding that they also didn't want to draw out the process. "We just wanted to put it out, record it and then get to work on making it come out and come to fruition. So a lot of that was bringing ideas to each other and kind of improvising on those ideas." She described plotting out the core of the melodies, harmonies, and arrangements with Stewart before bringing in their live band. 

"Yeah, we kind of had a loose conceptual idea of what we wanted it to be, which was that we wanted it to capture what we sound like live more than the last EP. The EP that we put out was a lot of layering and just me and Sima. Kind of stacking all these things on top of each other. Not necessarily playing at the same time. Doing a lot of overdubs and writing things that way. We wanted this record to be more capturing this moment in time where we’re all playing together in a room, getting the energy of the songs and how they sound when we’re all communicating with each other. So that was kind of like the loose concept of the record," Stewart elaborated. 

Prior to the studio time spent on the album, Cunningham and Stewart played a show at The Hungry Brain to test it in a true live setting. "I feel like playing a live show is worth ten rehearsals. It tells you a lot about the songs that you’re playing and where they’re at and about what works and what doesn’t. So that was really helpful to play a marathon show where we just played every single song. It was like a last minute thing at our favorite bar," Stewart recalled about the show, adding that they did gauge the crowd responses to the album, but they mostly judged their own reactions. 

They're Bookworms

Talking outside subjects that inspired the writing on the album, Cunningham and Stewart credit books as the main medium that influences their writing tactics, but even then it's a faint influence. Stewart recently tweeted about the task of moving her massive book collection, but she says, "For this record, at least for the lyrical content that I created, it was mostly drawing from my introverted experiences in the world and how I am perceiving things around me. A lot of the time, we draw inspiration from books. I think that’s something we have in common. When we’re reading, it kind of sparks all these different ideas and sets us off when we’re writing. For this record specifically, I wouldn’t say that-- I mean I’m always inspired by that cause I’m around it all the time, but far as something that was purposely inspired by that, that wasn't what I contributed."

Cunningham agrees, adding, "Yeah I don’t really know if I can point to anything specific, but I would say that a lot of the lyricism of the album is drawn from thinking about things in a very tactile way, and thinking about little clips, little image clips and kind of trying to dissect them and peel layers back. I’m trying to think of what I’ve been reading a lot over the past year. I’ve been reading a lot of Margaret Atwood and I feel like I always love the way that she describes scenes. Parts of the album I think are very landscape-like."

Sheryl Crow, Sigur Ros, and Sofia Jernberg are all on Their Collaboration Bucket List

While they may not rely on other art forms as inspiration, the pair says they are inspired by working with other people. Reflecting on the biggest lessons they've learned, Stewart says, "I’ve definitely learned that I love collaboration. That’s my most ideal method of creating, is in a collaborative environment with someone. I’ve also learned that I need to get out of my comfort zone in order to get something that’s actually viable or that’s actually interesting. We recorded this record in Sima’s basement studio that she has, and it was really great. We recorded the first project there too so it was nice to record there because we knew how it worked there. It was also a different method of recording than we’re used to with this band... On the other hand it was like now that we’ve recorded this record there, I think for whatever happens next we need to get into a new environment to really push forward and make something that’s not the same that we’ve been through."

As far as their dream collaborations they'd like to be a part of in the future, Cunningham says, "I’d love to work with David Byrne, I think that’d be super fun. He just did that whole project that was really cool except that there were no women on it. His live show also looked really incredible. I just feel like he’s very much into putting on large performances."

Stewart adds, "I personally love Deerhoof a lot. They’re an awesome band, and I know that they also dabble in the free improvisational scene. We’re also label mates with them," before excitedly throwing in, "I wanna work with Yoko Ono!" A Le Tigre song came on in the a cafe where I'd met up with Stewart and Cunningham and both agree they'd love to collaborate with that band, while the latter also adds, "There’s a singer and composer named Sofia Jernberg who is in Norway. I’d love to collaborate with her sometime." 

It's clear that the duo really does love collaborating and experimenting with other genres because they also mention Sheryl Crow ("St. Vincent just collaborated with Sheryl Crow!") and Sigur Rós as artists they'd love to work with before changing subjects.

Their Favorite Artists are Also Multi-taskers 

As demonstrated by their endless involvement in the Chicago music scene and their massive nation-wide tour coming up after the release of Parts, it's obvious that Stewart and Cunningham are no strangers of multi-tasking, but as it turns out, many of the local artists that inspire them are also jacks-of-all-trades.

"I really admire Ken Vandermark actually. He’s someone who is in a bunch of different projects and is constantly doing a million things but he’s able to make things that are different from each other and still remain interesting and new. That’s someone that I look to for inspiration to keep moving forward," Stewart says. 

"We have a lot of amazing friends around us. Our friend Alex Grelle...he’s a really talented theater performer and has been doing these amazing variety shows that I think influenced us but also everyone in our very close proximity into falling back in love with the idea of true performance," Cunningham added. 

The pair has no trouble listing plenty of other local artists with work ethics that they admire, like Crystal Zapata and Maren Celest, who both assisted with their album art. Talking about the latter, Stewart says, "She shot our album cover but she’s also a musician and just released her own record. She does stuff with Manual Cinema, which is this amazing theatre, shadow puppet, multi-disciplinary company in Chicago. She works with them and she used to have a vintage shop in Chicago and she was doing all these things at the same time. But doing them all really well, it’s not even like she was just putting limited attention towards everything. She’s definitely an inspiration cause her work is always so unique and inspired. She’s constantly working and just trying to figure out new ways to do things." Zapata, who did the design of their record, works with The Normal Studio and creates other art. 

"There’s a lot of inspiring people in Chicago. I feel like it’s an endless list, which is why we stay here," Stewart wrapped up the topic. While the two love Chicago and find infinite inspiration here, Cunningham mentioned they'd love to do residencies outside of the city. "Both of us are really craving to go do residencies in places. When we’re in Chicago, it’s hard for us to not be working all the time. I mean, whether it’s on OHMME or just music, it’s very exciting cause our lives are full of music and we’re busy, but in Chicago it feels like every minute of our time gets swallowed up sometimes. So I think giving ourselves an opportunity to go spend time away and just be with our own creativity, cause it can be hard to set time aside for it."

OHMME will begin their biggest tour yet this weekend, kicking things off with a hometown show at Thalia Hall with V.V. Lightbody and The Hecks-- get tickets here, and check out the rest of their tour dates here (They'll be playing in Vancouver for the first time, making their first non-SXSW appearance in Austin, and performing at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.)

To get ready for the show tomorrow, listen to Parts in full below.

Follow OHMME on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

Get To Know: Shame

If you've ever attended SXSW, you know that it's not like any ol' regular music festival with set stages and scheduled performance times; There's super official secret shows with big name artists, last minute pop up shows, unofficial showcases by new artists in the most random places around town, and multiple sets by the same artists in a single day. This past March, I finally attended my first ever SXSW and quickly learned just how unconventional this festival can be when I found myself interviewing Charlie Steen of the British punk band Shame at 1 AM after my friend had just cut his hair (as well as his bandmates' hair) into a mullet. 

Easily one of the buzziest bands at the festival, Shame has been soaring high since the January release of their debut album Songs of Praise, which has in fact been receiving endless praise from listeners around the world. This summer, Shame will return to The States to play a handful of dates, including a show at Chicago's Empty Bottle as well as the annual West Fest street fest. Before they return to Chicago in July, get to know the band better by checking out these six facts I learned while chatting with Steen earlier this year. 

Photo by Holly Whitaker

Photo by Holly Whitaker

They Recorded in the Legendary Rockfield Studios

With the amount of buzz they've garnered and the sheer amount of gigs and festivals Shame has played, you might be surprised to find out that the members of Shame are only 20 and 21 years old. Before they started touring heavily, the band worked on writing their debut album for a few years, starting at the ages of 16 and 17. "We were still in school, and we recorded the album when we were 20," Steen says.

Talking about the process behind writing the album, Steen continues, "Lyrically, it was about personal sort of things you experience in that time as well social observations. Musically, it was influenced by what we were exposed to in that period. All the different bands we discovered through just being that age and being into music." Once they had written the album, the band took a trip to the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales to record the tracks. "It was kind of like rehab," Steen says about the middle-of-nowhere location of the studio, where they resided for ten days. "We’re quite bad at distractions. So, we were on a farm, and this place is like a historic studio. Oasis, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Led Zeppelin, all these people recorded there. Not many people go there now...Because everyone seems to just record with their laptop or a studio in London," he says, pausing to describe the scene. "You have like a farm, and then you have a house up top. That’s where we stayed, we each had our own room. Then you walk past the stables and stuff like that and there’s a recording studio. I was up at the house, and I did all of my vocals in my bedroom with a bed sheet over me, onto an Apple Mac. The rest of the band, they did everything to a click [in the studio]." 

Prior to their work at Rockfield Studios, Steen recalls working their way through several different producers in order to finally get the right fit with Dan Foat and Nathan Boddy. "I’m not a musician, so I don’t want to put my foot in a shoe that won’t fit, but before that, we’d worked with eight different producers. They all had done the same method of 'you’re a live band, let’s try to make you sound like some punk band from the 80's where you record it live.' That wasn’t how it worked best. Dan and Nathan are from an electronic background, techno producers...They did it a completely unique and different way. Like Charlie, our drummer, he recorded his drum kit individually, each song. They saw it in the same way that fits our music, where the bass and the drums are the pulse and that was very important," Steen says. "We then realized through trial and error that the best way to approach it for us, was to try to create something completely different to our live sound. So they’re two different things. Sometimes people say it sounds like it does live, but to us it’s a great difference than how it sounds on the record. It’s a lot more concise," he continues. 

They Admit Their Music is Derivative, But They Still Enjoy It

One of the most compelling features of Shame's music is the incredibly raw, honest quality of their songwriting. Reflecting on their style of writing, Steen says, "With the type of music we’re doing...we’re a guitar punk band in 2018. We’re very aware it’s very derivative. There’s no way we could ever deny that. I think with us--I’ve said this before, with bands and artists we might be compared to, and those that might have heavily influenced us, we’ll never have been able to experience it. That’s amazing for us. When we get to see bands like Goat Girl and Sorry and stuff, it’s amazing that we can experience it. For us, it does feel new and refreshing." Ultimately, they were never trying to be someone else when they started writing, and they're still just trying to stick to their own vision. "At the end of the day, we never did this with dreams of like having 5-star hotels. It wasn’t ever manufactured. It was all just part of the process. We are just very passionate about music and we know that it’s been done before, but we enjoy doing it. I think the main thing is we don’t write music for anyone other than ourselves. At the end of the day, this is entertainment and we really enjoy it. We’re having a laugh," Steen adds.

In addition to being authentic, Shame strives to keep their sound and vision multifaceted. "I think one of the preconceptions of a punk guitar band is aggression. Which you know could be lost in translation from energy or passion, or humor at times. That’s something we want to separate. Of course there are issues we’re angry about, but we don’t want to be a band that just conveys one emotion. That’s not human. We want to be able to express humor and melancholy," Steen says. As they keep pushing to diversify their sound, they also keep pushing themselves to grow and adapt. "We’re very self aware. When we did that album we were teenage boys...that was when we wrote that album. We know now that a lot has changed in our personal lives, which also reflects in the general absurdity of being in a band. It’s just a weird life to live. You feel very temporary. At all times. We basically just want to adapt and evolve. We don’t wanna write the same songs we did before," he says, adding that their constantly changing environment deeply affects them as a band and as people. 

We know that it’s been done before, but we enjoy doing it. I think the main thing is we don’t write music for anyone other than ourselves.
— Charlie Steen on being in a punk band in 2018

Their Rehearsal Space Led Them to Discover Music in a New Light

In addition to recording in a legendary music space, Shame also first formed in the rehearsal space of the legendary Queen's Head in Brixton, which is where the likes of Fat White Family rehearsed as well. 

Steen attributes their early rehearsal space to some of their current habits as music fans, saying, "When we started in the Queen’s Head...This is one of the differences; Before, we’d grown up going to venues like Brixton Academy, really large venues like that and seeing bands who had already established themselves in a position of accomplishment. When we went to go to the Queen's Head, personally I was able to discover bands who were playing a lot more intimate settings. Not known world wide. The realization that great music exists with an accessibility to a more intimate setting is a sort of relief."

"These were bands who, you say what you want them about personalities, but they were characters. It wasn’t just some pop culture. When you grow up and you’ve only ever seen the bands who perform on a platform of success, you can sometimes overlook the reality of a lot of situations. Of course everyone grew up listening to The Ruts and Stiff Little Fingers. So we knew about these bands, but to get to know them. You realize they’re people. And I think their intentions to do whatever the fuck they wanted...they’d gone past the point of remorse. Which was the best thing about it," Steen continues. 

Their Stage Presence is Just an Amplified Version of Themselves

The same sense of authenticity that Shame's music has transfers over into their live shows; at SXSW, Steen often told their audiences to loosen up and smile, saying "this is entertainment." Steen says he never feels intimidated to get up onstage and deliver such a transparent show. "When I was younger, and I say younger as in like a year ago, I definitely had idolized a lot of people. Then I found that to be quite damaging because you gain this obsession and sort of like--" Steen pauses and snaps his fingers, trying to think of the best way to phrase it. "It’s unattainable identity. At that period, when we play, it’s definitely to an extent a persona. It’s who I am, but amplified," he continues. 

Essentially, their stage presence will continue to remain an extension of themselves. Steen muses further on the concept of immense stage personalities, saying, "When I would look up to all these people like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed or whatever like, it was always...if you’re constantly comparing yourself, that’s what I found damaging. I think like I was saying, I don’t believe anything can be separated from context. At this age as well, you’re in the middle of this identity crisis, so you want to absorb all of these different personalities and be these people you obsess over. Then it got to the point where I’d just rather be myself. I was just this chubby, shy stoner as a teenager. When we used to play, that was the whole point: If you’ve been insulted so much your whole life, what have you got to lose?"

Touring Has Taught Them Their Limits

Shame just finished another UK and European tour after returning from a North American run, which saw them playing upwards of five shows in a day at this year's SXSW, but believe it or not their recent touring schedule is nothing compared to the previous year. "Last year we did like 140 gigs and 57 festivals in 3 months, like whilst recording an album and doing 5 tours. By the end I got a bit broken mentally," Steen says. "It’s hereditary but I suffer from anxiety so now I can only speak for myself...On the road, I don’t drink as much and don’t do drugs as much as we used to. Every night used to be a party. I sound like an old man," he laughs. "I feel like an old man. So that’s how I kind of deal with it."

Their intense past experiences ended up acting as a learning experience, where Steen personally discovered where his breaking point is. "The period of what I went through in December, where we ended up having to cancel this tour in Germany, I learned a lot more about myself than I have in my entire life. So I know when is too much. I know when I need a good night's sleep. Like I need a good night's sleep now, but it’s a celebration. I know what I need to do. I guess I sort of learned the value of responsibility a bit more. As a person, and this is a little bit hypocritical of me to say after saying that, but I can’t do moderation. I can’t do it at all. So I know that if I have one drink, I won’t drink until I fall asleep. And I can’t do one line. I’ll do it until it runs out. I can’t do that. If I’m not doing that, I can’t do anything. So it’s either one or the other, but that’s me as a person," he says. 

While Steen may have personally learned to rein in his limits, he also realizes as a band they have to compromise sometimes. "We’ve known each other since we were kids. Sean has been my best mate since we were 8. We understand each other very well. I don’t particularly like playing a lot of shows, for my own personal reasons. If the rest of the band wants to do it, you have to find a middle ground. After what happened we're looking through a sharper lens about how many gigs we do. So like this festival season we slashed loads of festivals cause it’s not worth flying from Poland to play to 40 people in Kent to fly back to the Ukraine the next day."

As far as the biggest lesson that Steen has learned about the band through the years, besides learning his limits, he says, "You kind of lose a lot--this might sound very dramatic, but you kind of lose a lot of human rights. And by that, I don’t mean like I’m shackled in chains in a 4x4 room. I mean, in terms of you kind of lose the things that make you feel human. Eating a meal with your mum and dad or like going for a drink with your friends. You lose people you love, your friends and family. It sort of disappears. Familiarity becomes an abstract ideology. I still don’t think I know a lot about myself. I think as people we know each other so well, we [the band] went beyond friendship about 2 years ago. It’s almost like a cult. I guess, I don’t know, you have to deal with everything you deal within a normal life, like breaking up with someone, moving out of home... you have to do that through the band. The biggest amount of privacy I get is when I go to the toilet. Fact. For 6 and a half weeks. So I think you lose privacy. But you know I’m saying all this and we fucking enjoy it and we love it. Whatever we have to lose at this particular moment in time, personally, I feel is because we want to do this. I want to do this. We want to do this to the best of our ability."

At the end of the day, it’s the biggest bullshit that a person could say ‘I’m not political.’ Everyone has politics, it’s just whether or not they choose to share them.
— Steen on using their platform as a band

They'll Always Use Their Platform in a Positive Way

Through their music, social media, and even past interviews, the members of Shame have made it clear that they'll never shy away from standing up for what's right. At one of their shows at SXSW, Steen jumped off stage mid-show to tell off an audience member who had gotten aggressive with some of the other crowd members. Touching on their habit to speak out, Steen says, "As a person, and a white man, we don’t want to...I don’t want to be the spokesperson for any problem or any inequalities with girls, or race, or religion. But as a human being, I don’t understand how you could not want to support all these people and fight against any inequality. I think we all feel it’s disgusting for anyone who has any sort of platform to not [use it]."

Steen also reflects on the tendency of the press to label them as a political band, but says they never saw it like that; they just realize it's something that directly effects them. "At the end of the day, it’s the biggest bullshit that a person could say 'I’m not political.' Everyone has politics, it’s just whether or not they choose to share them. How could you not talk about it? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense to me. There are a lot of great bands who will speak on these issues, and I think particularly in the current climate, in the music industry, and every industry, but this is the one we’re most absorbed in because this is our life." He continues, shouting out people like Princess Nokia who speak out on all these issues, adding, "As a guy, like who is constantly surrounded by the music industry all the time, it is without a doubt and without question, majority middle class, white men. That’s how it’s been for probably just under 100 years. With the birth of pop culture, all of these unforgivable acts of discrimination were erupted that weren’t extinguished. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but they should have been addressed and destroyed when it came out." 

Lastly, Steen asks that everyone remains respectful of others when they come to shows, especially one of their gigs. "At a guitar gig, like a mosh pit, it’s mainly like male aggression taken out. We don’t fucking want that at our shows. Like it’s a safe environment. I’ve never won a fight, I’ve only ever been beaten up. Honestly. We’re not the jocks, we’re not the cool kids, we’re the people who just want to enjoy ourselves and we want everyone else to enjoy themselves as well. It’s not fucking hard, it’s not a lot to ask. If you’re an asshole, don’t come to our show."

Make sure you grab your tickets to Shame's show at The Empty Bottle here and keep up with them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

Get To Know: Jordanna

Chicago based singer-songwriter Hayley Jordanna, better known simply by her last name Jordanna, is on the brink of releasing her debut sultry and soulful solo EP, Sweet Tooth (say that five times fast...) After moving to Chicago to study Music Business at Columbia College, Jordanna first dipped her toes into the local music scene by fronting the politically-driven rock band Glamour Hotline. Now, she has branched out and dived into completely new sonic territory, focusing on more personal topics in her songwriting. Before Jordanna unleashes this brave and refreshing new material next week and before her massive EP release show (appropriately deemed Candyland), I caught up with her to talk all about her past and present. From her first memories of music to her goals for the year, here are six things you need to know to get acqauinted with Jordanna. 

Photos By Juliet Cangelosi 

Photos By Juliet Cangelosi 

Ballet Got Her into Music at a Young Age

Jordanna says she remembers being invested in music from a very early age, but it wasn't actually playing music that got her started.  "I would say my first music memory is actually not me singing, but I grew up as a dancer. I was in a pre-professional ballet company as a child. So my first memory is very movement based. I feel like I was born with the rhythm, and I have all these classic music memories lined up from a very early age," Jordanna recalls. "The reason I started playing music was because I’m like 5 foot 0 and a very curvy woman, which was not acceptable in the ballet world, so it was a very natural transition from moving to music to making the music that other people can move to," she continued. 

As far as her first song she wrote, Jordanna says, "My first song I wrote after my great grandmother passed. It’s not even real chords, it’s just like me figuring out how to play guitar with two fingers probably. I was 13 when I wrote that song, and it’s like the most depressing song to touch the earth." 

Much Like The Chicago Music Scene, Her Project is Collaborative 

It's been a few months since she released her debut single "Lucky For You," but lucky for us (get it??), we won't have to wait long until her debut EP drops. Detailing the recording process behind her EP, Jordanna says it was a very collaborative project. "We recorded at Audiotree, with a producer named Brok Mende.  He’s one of their main engineers. I met him because I was on a song with Mykele Deville. I was featured on one of Mykele’s tracks and I recorded with Brok, and I definitely fell in love with his technique for recording. He is very...he will give his opinion. He will tell you if it is not sounding too hot, or if I’m in my head. It’s important for me to work with someone so honest and good at what he does. He’s also just the kindest person. In the music industry it’s hard to find that. In the studio especially."

After finding her engineer soulmate at Audiotree by collaborating with Mykele Deville, Jordanna also found the perfect balance with a backing band. "I work with a backup band on this album, these guys in their own band called 8:33. They play backup for me and they also play for me live" she says. The collaborations don't end there though! "I brought in a girl named Grace Kinter to do some backup vocals. It was very collaborative. Just the most beautiful process. I’m so proud of this music and all the people who worked on it are incredibly talented at what they do, and I feel blessed. And we got this guy Joe Meland on keys. It was crazy...he had never played with us before, he was just a friend of Brok’s. He was like, you should just ask him to come in. He came in and just played perfectly on every single track. We were all just like who is this guy?! He only needed to be in the studio for like 20 minutes. He did the entire album in 20 minutes and walked out," Jordanna added. 

She's All About Repping Non-Binary and Female Artists

While on the subject of collaboration, Jordanna reflected more on the community here in Chicago, saying, "It’s the most collaborative city. I don’t even know why...maybe because we’re not New York and LA and we have to help each other. It’s super collaborative and a good place for innovation. I’ve seen a lot of people do things I haven’t seen anywhere else. The collectives and DIY venues...the network is insane." She also shouts out some of her favorite spaces to play, who go out of their way to be an inclusive community. "In addition to how collaborative it is, what impresses me in the DIY scene specifically is the opportunity to create safe and diverse spaces. The Dojo in Pilsen is like the most inclusive space, as well as a place called AMFM Gallery. They’re both in Pilsen. They’re amazing and all run by young artists in Chicago who want to make spaces more collaborative and inclusive as far as race, gender, religion and all of that. I’m blessed to be a part of a scene that is inclusive and creates space for some many different kinds of people because--I think this was a problem in the punk scene, and that it was very white washed," she says. 

For Jordanna's release show and party on February 17th, she's done an incredible job on not only booking artists of all artistic mediums, but representing artists of all different backgrounds. You can check out the full line up here, but Jordanna has also prepared a spotlight of everyone involved. Catch a glimpse of those on the official event Instagram, or head to this part of the site. "There’s a lot of fusion happening [in the Chicago scene]. I will definitely be taking part in all of that, like with the show I’m organizing in February. It’s become way larger because I can’t contain my enthusiasm. It is certainly very diverse. We’re pulling musicians, installation artists...I’m trying to get poetry and all sorts of things," Jordanna said about the show, before the lineup had been officially announced. Needless to say, the lineup has held up to her teasers. 

 Poster Designed By  Alex Lukawski

 Poster Designed By Alex Lukawski

Her New Material is Some of Her Most Vulnerable

Jordanna touched more on her transition into a solo artist path, following the success of Glamour Hotline. "Glamour Hotline is no longer. We’re still all best friends so it’s fine. It was a natural transition. That was a very radical, feminist movement part of my life. It was not built to be sustainable for longer than two years. It was a lot of emotional stress to make that kind of music, and performing that music a lot. Now I’ve transitioned into this solo, R&B world that allows me to be vulnerable and still have power but not so aggressive," she explains.

She talks more about the energy and power shift behind the new project, adding, "Glamour Hotline was very easy to hide in like being angry. I was able to be like 'don’t touch me'...'I don’t need anybody'...'I’m strong by myself'... 'don’t talk to me!' All these things...and I mean that’s just not a sustainable way to live. The way I am with my art, it consumes me. It’s everything I am. So it was so unhealthy. I was cutting myself off from people. I was like this is who I am, that’s it. When it ended I was like, Oh shit. Who am I?? It was this period of just being lost and being forced to find myself. It was just facing reality. I was dealing with some weird relationship things. And mental things. I was like well I guess this is what I’m gonna write about now. And it was about heart break and being lonely. Before I would write about being lonely like GOOD. And I needed to finally admit, I can be sad and still be powerful. There can still be strength and power in sadness. And owning it. Just being honest with yourself and other people." 

Eventually, Jordanna started playing solo shows when she came to terms with her new realization that she could be vulnerable and powerful. "The first couple months [the shows were] very much performance art. I would use a looper pedal and involve the audience. Asking them to answer questions. That was how Jordanna started. It was performance art and a form of therapy. Very emotional. Then as I started to do that, I started getting stronger and owning that vulnerability and being proud of it. That’s when I started bringing in a full band to back me up. I was like, this is powerful. It moves people," she says. 

In being more vulnerable, Jordanna also started writing more sexy songs, she says. "There’s a song called 'Sugar,'  which is the opening track on the EP and it’s very like ok, let’s go...what’s good?! It’s just very seductive and I remember the first time I played that live, watching people look into my soul. Like oh my god, they’re seeing everything. But it’s so liberating to be like we all love having sex and going on dates and being cute...So in a way I feel like my evolution of music in Chicago has maintained a political aspect in it. Even though the music I play now is maybe more 'commercial' or more accessible to a larger audience. It’s still putting people in a place where it’s like this queer woman is talking about sex openly and invitingly and I can feel hot too. And abandoning, for the moment while you’re listening to my EP, you can abandon your anger. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be angry. Because especially right now there’s so many reasons to be angry. Like I’m furious, but the moments where I play my music, that’s an opportunity for us to feel empowered. Then take that empowerment and use it for political change afterwards," Jordanna mused.

As far as other powerful artists who influenced this sexy, soulful sound of hers? "Amy Winehouse was a big influence when I was growing up first writing music. A lot of my music is based on her work. Her...classics like Etta James were really important to me. Contemporary R&B artists like D’Angelo are really important. Even like The Internet, SZA, Kali Uchis...all of these people," she says. 

She Believes in Investing in Her Work

One thing I immediately noticed when I was first introduced to Jordanna was how together she seemed, despite having only one single out under her solo project. She has this incredible brand already worked out, and that's something that many artists tend to overlook, especially in the early stages. Jordanna credits her education at Columbia College for inspiring her investment in her art. "To be honest, I am one of Columbia’s biggest advocates. I know people hate on it. Cause it’s art school. I majored in music business, and I genuinely feel like I use my degree. I swear I use my degree every single day. It was super important to me as far as registering my music online and all that," she says.

However, one teacher in particular, left a lasting impression...Chances are if you majored in music business at Columbia, you (like Jordanna) had at least one class with Bob DiFazio. "The first class I had with [Bob]---I did a bunch of business courses with him and one that was more technology based. The one thing he said that I literally can picture him saying and writing it down in my laptop--he said 'If you wanna be successful, you have to invest in your art.' Cause that was so against everything I believed at the time. I was like 'DIY! You don’t need it!' But if you really care about your work at the end of the day, you have to invest," Jordanna recalled. "Those words have really driven me. I still think about it when I’m poor as hell and panicking about rent. It’s like oh, maybe cause I’m spending a lot of time working on my music. But it’s worth it. It’s gotten me where I am, and it’s gonna get me where I want to go. So to anyone who reads this who is struggling, it’s all worth it," she continued. 

Jordanna has applied this principle to her album release, going all out with Candyland. "Sweet Tooth is the name of the EP, so [the event is] called Candyland. I think part of what has kept my Chicago music career going so far is that you need to act like you have it more together than you really do. Part of that is having an official website. Having a brand. Fake it till you make it!"



I needed to finally admit, I can be sad and still be powerful. There can still be strength and power in sadness.
— Jordanna on the vulnerability of her recent songwriting

Her Idols Also Inspire Her Marketing

In addition to investing in her work, Jordanna said she's also studied her idols in order to strategically market herself. "As far as my visual brand, studying your idols helps," she says. Continuing on, Jordanna adds, "It’s all about the Gram[Instagram]! I actually more so studied--this is dumb--but brands like Supreme, and Vans, and looking at brands that people just follow to look at. At the end of the day, people are just following you to look at you. So following streetwear brands, all of their social media is on point."

Jordanna also gives a nod to some of her favorite local influencers. "Stitch Gawd [who will be a part of Candyland] is this girl who does cross stitch fashion for a lot of hip hop artists. Her Instagram is really good. There’s this guy JoeFreshGoods. He’s a local fashion designer. He’s really good," she says, also adding Jovan Landry, Oliv Blu, and Drea The Vibe Dealer as some of her favorite local musicians and artists. "They’re all amazing people as well. I could list some amazing artists that I love right now. But then you meet them and it’s a bummer. Like just making other people feel inferior... I don’t like that. We’re all trying," Jordanna concludes. 

Much like the artists she shouted out, Jordanna is also an amazing person. So come out and support a great artist and human at her incredible show on Saturday, February 17th...get your tickets to Candyland here.  Follow Jordanna on all her social media platforms below for updates, and get pumped for her EP by revisiting "Lucky For You."

Jordanna: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram


A Chat With: Cut Worms

The brainchild of Max Clarke, Cut Worms combines a lo-fi process with timeless, harmonious vocals reminiscent of 1960's singer songwriters, the storytelling element of folk music, and a touch of psych rock. Following the October release of his debut EP Alien Sunset via Jagjaguwar Records, Clarke and his bandmates will be coming to Chicago next week to perform as part of the annual TNK Fest. The show acts as a homecoming of sorts, as Clarke attended Columbia College here in the city, but now resides in Brooklyn. For more on what you can expect from his set at Tomorrow Never Knows, what's in the books for 2018, the biggest lesson he learned at Columbia, and more, tune into our chat with Cut Worms now!

Photo Credit: Caroline Gohlke

Photo Credit: Caroline Gohlke

ANCHR Magazine: So starting off, what was your first musical memory from when you first got into music?

Cut Worms: My first musical memory would probably be just singing along to stuff on the radio as a kid. Or listening to my dad’s CDs that I found, like his Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits.

AM: Did that then inspire you to want to make music yourself?

Cut Worms: Yeah, in a sort of subliminal way that I didn’t really recognize yet. But I didn’t really start thinking about that I wanted to try to make music until I was 12 probably. Two of my uncles played guitar, and at family gatherings I would see them play, and just wanted to be able to do that.

AM: Nice, so then you started making music as Cut Worms when you were at Columbia College right?

Cut Worms: Right, I’ve been writing my own stuff, or trying to, since I was in middle school or high school. I didn’t ever actually get my own band or anything together until the end of college.

AM: Nice, I went to Columbia too!

Cut Worms: What did  you go for?

AM: Music Business, what was your major?

Cut Worms: Mine was illustration.

AM: What do you think was the most valuable lesson you learned from going to Columbia? Did you take anything away about the music business, even though that wasn’t your major?

Cut Worms: Not really as far as music, but it did give me a sense of developing a process for my work, whether that was illustration or music. Imposing deadlines on yourself, and I had some good professors there in the illustration department who were illustrators or cartoonists....Especially in Chicago, they tend to be kind of dark people. They just like sit inside all the time and draw, but they have really good work ethic. So I always admired that and took that away from them.

AM: For sure. I was reading a little bit about your writing process and that you’d try to release two songs a month online, so it seems that you definitely took that process away. So what were some of your favorite responses after you released your debut EP, Alien Sunset?

Cut Worms: It was just nice to get responses from people all over the place. Especially since signing with Jagjaguwar and them putting it out, they have a much wider reach obviously. So getting like a message from somebody in Norway saying that they were into it, that’s pretty wild to me.

AM: So where did you pull influences from for the songs on that EP? Did you look to other art forms like visual arts or films and what not?

Cut Worms: Yeah, my girlfriend and I always watch a lot of movies and TV shows, so I’m sure a lot of that is in there. I don’t really know where anything comes from. It’s kind of like listening to the news and getting angry, and trying to deal with it.

AM: Do you have a particular story about any of the songs on the EP and the process behind how it came together?

Cut Worms: I kind of just did it as I went along. I didn’t think about it too much before hand. “Curious Man,” that song on there, was the only one that I kind of had an idea and kind of wanted it to be like a sci-fi ghost story thing. That’s kind of one of the only times I’ve tried to write a certain type of song.

AM: So you’re originally from Ohio, and now you’re based in Brooklyn after living in Chicago. Do you find yourself pulling influence from the location you’re based in, and does it affect your writing habits?

Cut Worms: Oh yeah. Living in different places...I guess, since living in New York, I’ve started traveling a lot more than I ever did before. Even just to go home for holidays and stuff, just driving a lot. You kind of get more of a sense of the differences between different places and the atmosphere and the vibe. Just the pace of life. That was always kind of just like a meaningless cliche to me, but it really is kind of true.

AM: What are some of your favorite parts of the Brooklyn music scene, compared to Chicago?

Cut Worms: I don’t know. I’ve never really felt like I was part of a scene per se. In Chicago I guess I kind of was. There’s a garage rock scene there, at least there was...I think there still is. I was in a garage/punk band there and that kind of got me...that was the first band I was ever in. I’d never really experienced what it was to be in a scene before that. Since moving to New York, I don’t go out that much. I’ll go see my friends’ bands.

AM: Do you have any favorite NYC venues?

Cut Worms: To play at, yeah. Any of the bigger ones. It’s always good to play places with good sound, like Music Hall of Williamsburg. We got to open for The Growlers one time at Webster Hall. After spending years of just playing in shitty bars, not really being able to hear yourself, or when you could hear it, you know that it sounds’s just kind of depressing. So finally getting to play places where they know what they’re doing with sound, and they make you sound better. It’s more exciting to play, and I think it feeds off each other. Some of the places I like to go see shows are like Union Pool. Small rooms like that are cool.

AM: Nice, what about some of your favorite bands? You mentioned you like to go see your friends’ bands, so anyone you want to shout out?

Cut Worms: Yeah, EZTV. John Andrews and the Yawns. He actually plays in my band now. People from Woods. This band called Pavo Pavo. The guy Oliver is a good friend of mine who I met by playing shows with him. He moved out to LA, but when I met him he was a Brooklyn band.

AM: So speaking so playing live, you’ll be coming out to Chicago to play Tomorrow Never Knows Fest. What’s your live set up usually?

Cut Worms: So I play guitar, and then John Andrews plays keyboards and also sings harmonies. It’s really exciting for me to finally get someone to sing with, who’s good and gets it. Then Jarvis from Woods is gonna be playing bass with me, and my friend Noah Bond, he plays with a bunch of different people, he plays drums. It’ll be just a four piece, and that’s been the set up lately. Occasionally if I can pin him down, I’ll have my friend John, he plays in a ton of other bands, so he’s not always available. But it’s always good to have him when I can.

AM: For sure. Do you get to stick around and see any of the other bands playing TNK Fest?

Cut Worms: I’ll stick around for that night, but we’re flying back to New York the next day. The day after that we have a show at Brooklyn Steel with Allah Lahs. We need to get a rehearsal in since that’s a pretty big venue.

AM: Anyone on the line up that you’re into, if you got a chance to check it out?

Cut Worms: I’m getting to play with my friend, the band opening for us, Cafe Racer. One of the guys in the band used to play bass for me when I lived in Chicago. I know Sonny and the Sunsets are cool, so I’m pretty psyched on the show that I’m playing. I can’t remember, I know I was looking at the line up.

AM: Yeah your show is pretty stacked though, you have a good lineup! Do you have any other artists that you look up to in terms of stage presence, or anyone else you’d love to share the stage with?

Cut Worms: There’s a lot of people who I admire for their stage presence. I feel like I’ve never been that big of a...I don’t have that big of a presence. Or I don’t do a whole lot of moving around. I mean, The Lemon Twigs, who we’ve played with before, they have a pretty amazing stage presence. I admire that. I’ll probably never get there.

AM: What other goals do you have for 2018?

Cut Worms: I’m going to Europe for the first time in February so I’m excited about that. Then my record will be coming out in May. That will be like the first real release, and I’m excited to see what happens with that. I’m mainly trying to write new stuff.

AM: What can you tell us about the album?

Cut Worms: I just want it to speak for itself and for people to take what they want from it.

Grab your tickets here to Cut Worms show at TNK Fest to make sure you don't miss out...5 day passes are now sold out! Listen to Alien Sunset in full below to get ready for the show!

Get To Know: Liz Cooper & The Stampede

The Nashville based trio Liz Cooper & The Stampede blend multiple genres together to create a recognizable yet refreshing sound. Fronted by a nomadic Liz Cooper, the group's folk rock melodies mesh perfectly with Cooper's soulful and raspy vocals, formulating a sound that's caught the eye of many, including Audiotree. After recording two Audiotree sessions, it only makes sense that they’d be asked to perform at the annual music festival put on by the Chicago based tastemakers who create audiovisual sessions of the best up and coming artists around. While at Audiotree Music Festival last month, we caught up with Liz Cooper and her stampede (Ky Baker and Grant Prettyman) to talk everything from the Nashville music scene to their hidden talents. The trio have been all over the place lately, performing new music at Austin City Limits Festival, touring with Desert Noises this past summer, and even recording their full length record. It's only a matter of time before they take over the world, so here are five facts to help you get to know them now!

Liz Cooper & The Stampede at Audiotree Music Festival

Liz Cooper & The Stampede at Audiotree Music Festival

They Inherited Their Great Music Taste From Their Parents

Liz, Ky, and Grant all got started in music at different stages in their life, but each of their parents played in a role in their first musical memories. Liz talks about her experience growing up with the rock and roll staples, saying, "For me, my dad was always really the one to introduce me to new music that was...not crappy. I’d be like I want to listen to--" she pauses, before continuing, "Not Beyonce, because I freaking love Beyonce, but like Nelly or something. And my dad would be like, 'No. Here’s Bob Dylan. Here’s The Grateful Dead.' So we always just went to concerts like The Allman Brothers and that festival type of thing. All those songs just bring back memories for me of summers as a kid doing that. So that’s always just been a magical thing."

Ky echoed that sentiment, adding, "For me, my dad has always had pretty great musical tastes. Even being in a crib I just remember going to sleep to Beatles and Springsteen records. Beach Boys, Elton John, and Tom Petty...So it’s been ingrained in me forever."

Grant says he didn't grow up on the classics like Liz and Ky, but his parents still played a major role in his musical development.  "When I was really young, my parents started me playing piano. Whatever musical instrument I wanted to play...they would force me to at least try. Eventually I found my dad’s old Gibson ES 330 from the 60's in the basement under a broken couch in this random room. I was just like what is this? He was just like, 'Here let me show you. I think I remember Puff the Magic Dragon.' So eventually I started playing guitar. That was kind of when it started...finding that guitar. I had always liked music, but the guitar was really different from playing the piano or saxophone," Grant recalled. 

They're Collaborative With Other Nashville Musicians

Liz also talks about how her parents unintentionally got her prepared for tour at a young age, by always moving around and living a nomadic lifestyle. After growing up just North of Baltimore, Liz says they moved around a ton. "I lived in Indiana. All throughout the east coast. My parents always moved around a lot and kind of had the wanderlust thing about them. I’m an only child so it’s pretty easy to just pick up and move around. That’s probably influenced a lot of just me. I was always around older people as a kid. I’ve just always had to kind of adapt into situations and meet new people," she reflected. 

Now, though, Liz has been in Nashville for just about five years, and the band have become very comfortable in their newest home. "It’s been amazing This year, maybe year and a half, the community there has felt so strong. Like anywhere--with anything, it takes a long time to build relationships with people. Just to make solid friends. I feel like everyone who’s moved there maybe around the same time I have, or just in general who’s playing music that’s our age, we’re all kind of doing it together. It feels very communal this past year especially. It’s really inspiring and very cool," she says. 

When I asked which fellow Nashville musicians the group would like to collaborate with, Ky says it would take a couple of days to list of his bucket list. Liz mentions that she's written a little bit with Okey Dokey, a band that the group has played with and become friends with, adding, "I’m actually gonna play guitar with Ron Gallo. He asked me in studio, so I’m gonna play guitar on a song. I’m not sure what the song is, but I'm gonna do it. He came up to me and he seemed really nervous about it."

Although Ron Gallo was a bit nervous to ask Liz to help him out on his recording, it turns out he came to the rescue recently when the band needed him at a festival. "During Americana Fest Liz lost her voice and we had a show. So she came up with this idea to have different people sing our songs, and we still played. Ron came in and sang “Dalai Lama” with us," Ky says. In addition to Ron Gallo, a few other Nashville bands added their hand to the set in order for the show to go on, all in the name of camaraderie. "That was so much fun! I mean, I didn’t feel well. But it was for Americana Fest. I needed to do something about it and I didn’t wanna cancel the show, so I had all these Nashville people sing a song," Liz concluded. 

The New Album Was Recorded In Less Than a Week

While Liz Cooper and her Stampede have been playing a lot of their new music live, they also have new recorded versions on the way. "We were in the studio last fall and we recorded a full length. It’s all been this year of like getting it together, and it takes so much planning. This is all a new experience for me so we’re just trying to figure out what to do to make the right moves and decisions. We have a full length that we’re just waiting to do something with," Liz says. 

Talking a little more about the process behind this upcoming record, Liz adds, "Well we recorded it at Welcome to 1979, which is like... you walk into this big warehouse. On the outside it’s kind of just--" Liz paused and Ky interjected, "Very conspicuous. Looks like an old, nothing special to it...Then you go in there and it’s vibey as hell." Liz continued her story about the studio, saying, it was indeed like walking into the 1970's as the studio's name implies. "It was intense, but not at all. It was really cool to see how it all worked together," she added. 

"It was intense in that we had 5 days in there to record 10 or 12 songs. But it was a very relaxed atmosphere. It was intense cause it was like we can’t just sit here and take our time. We have to really stay on schedule and crank this out. Our producer did a really good job of milking new ideas out of us we didn’t know we had in there," Grant chimes in. 

As far as how similar the new songs will sound on the record versus on the road, Liz says, "For people who have been seeing us, they’ll recognize the songs. We recorded them in a different way. So what we do live is a different interpretation. But for everybody’s ears it will be a fresh thing and something we can keep touring on."

They Plot Out Their Setlist Carefully

Liz also lists "Hey Man" and "Dalai Lama" as some of her favorites to play live. "That’s the one that people usually just go nuts on," Ky says of the latter. "You can see a usual shift. Usually 'Dalai Lama' is the third or fourth song in the set. When we play it, people have been receptive up until that point, but when we play it, all of the sudden after that, they’re a little bit louder. It just seems like people are more engaged. So it’s really fun for us not only because it’s fun to play, but it also gets everyone a little bit more into what we’re doing," Grant adds. "That song’s pretty crazy and everyone will go nuts and we’re doing everything we know how to do at once. Then we’ll come back in with the next song and it’s really chill. So everyone is like 'WHOA What?!' So now they’re paying attention. They’re like 'They might go somewhere now,'" Ky says, echoing off of Grant. 

Liz says the placement of "Dalai Lama" is intentional. "I like to plan it out--it’s all part of the journey. Really planning out your set. I mean it’s fun to just feel it and do random things sometimes. But to really plan something out, you start paying attention to how people react. It’s just like painting or something. You figure out what to do and how to do it," she says about the set list. "40% of the time we write down a setlist. 60% of the time it’s 'Oh yeah let’s go to this one next,'" Ky adds. 

The band also mentioned that one of their touring highlights of the year included playing with their friends in Desert Noises. "I played guitar in Desert Noises, and we went on tour with them and opened up. I did double duty and that was a whole new experience for me and that’s kind of been something I’ve been doing this year to just absorb as much as I can and keep learning. To just keep getting better. How I learned to play guitar was just sitting down and learning from guitar tabs and you kind of keep progressing to whatever you’re gonna do. But I was learning from other people so that was a really cool thing for me," Liz recalls.

Ky elaborates on that tour, saying, "I was such a fan of Desert Noises before they took a break for a couple of years. I was a giant fan. They eventually moved to Nashville, I got to become friends with them, and they decide to make some music again and ask Liz to play with them and have us open. For me it was this whole like holy crap, one of my favorite bands and favorite human playing together and I get to open for them. Now we’re having a blast out on the road. It was really cool for me personally. Absolutely fantastic. A huge highlight of my whole music career. Getting to see my favorite band with one of my favorite humans."

They All Have Hidden Talents

Ky says when he's not on tour he works at a pizza place and he can make a mean pizza. He's even an expert at twirling the dough around, but that's not the only hidden talents the band members hide up their sleeves. "I grew up playing golf...that was basically my life until I moved down to Nashville. My dad and my grandpa played, and whenever I would go visit my grandpa in North Carolina--I don’t remember much of anything, but they’d give me a driving club and it was just like a natural thing," Liz says, adding that she thinks the hand eye coordination of playing golf transferred into learning guitar. 

Ky also mentions that he can put his legs over his head on a good day, but his pants were too tight on the day of the festival to be able to demonstrate. "Grant can catch things in his mouth from quite a distance and from different angles. You can just throw things and he’s gonna catch it in his mouth," Ky continued. 

While they might have a killer golf swing and a knack for catching grapes with their mouth, the band say they're thrilled to just keep doing what they do best in the music scene. Liz mentions how excited they were to be part of the Austin City Limits Festival this year, especially the same day that Jay Z played.  The band is also infinitely grateful for Audiotree and the festival they put on. "We love Audiotree. This festival is awesome. Anyone we’ve ever interacted with at Audiotree has been awesome and taken us in with open arms," Liz says. 

Liz Cooper & The Stampede at Audiotree Music Festival

There you have it! Keep up with Liz Cooper & The Stampede on social media for any updates on the album and upcoming tour dates.

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Get To Know: Ron Gallo

The Nashville via Philadelphia rocker Ron Gallo has had quite the year in 2017; Releasing his debut solo album called Heavy Meta, playing major festivals across the country, touring across the pond, and befriending some of our other favorite bands like White Reaper and Twin Peaks on the road. In the always evolving and ever fickle music industry, it's been a year of textbook success for someone on their first album cycle, but it's also been a year of personal growth for Gallo. 

 I met up with Gallo before he played Loufest in St. Louis's Forrest Park earlier this month to talk through his newfound sense of clarity and how he transcended into new musical territory.  Gallo's songwriting style on Heavy Meta takes on a goofy, laidback tone while tackling serious subjects both in his personal life and with issues that affect the world. Our Loufest conversation spanned topics from Gallo's favorite author to David Lynch and the weight of social media in today's society.

If you haven't yet heard of Ron Gallo, allow us to introduce you with these eight things you need to know.

Ron Gallo at Loufest 2017

Ron Gallo at Loufest 2017

His departure into solo music involves self realization

For several years before Gallo ventured on this solo endeavor to produce the quirky, yet thought-provoking garage rock on Heavy Meta, he had been in the Philadelphia based band, Toy Soldiers. Sonically the music is quite a departure from the work he put out with Toy Soldiers, so how did that come around?  "The story is I made music under the Toy Soldiers name for many, many years. I don’t even know if it really scratched the surface of what I wanted to do with music and what I view as the role of it in my life," Gallo began. 

"I think it’s when I kind of started getting a little more real with myself in what I was writing about, talking about… [I] realized that music for me is really a vehicle for what I need to say to the world and to myself. It’s not like a vanity thing or it’s not even necessarily a fun thing. I mean there are elements of fun, but it’s bigger than that to me. It’s more important. When I started to realize that, I felt like it was me coming into myself a bit. I identified less and less with what my old band is doing and I felt like I wanted to be--I wanted to shed all of the hiding, and I wanted to be exposed and start a project that was just like whatever I am at any given moment. That can keep the whole thing honest and fun, and it can always reinvent itself. That’s kind of when I started making Heavy Meta," Gallo continued. 

To go along with the shift in the purpose behind his music, Gallo also changed his surroundings during the time period of working on his solo debut. After recording all of Heavy Meta in Philadelphia, he packed up and moved to Nashville. Although the scene and the sound of Nashville contrasts with that of Philadelphia, Gallo says his work doesn't feel heavily influenced by either locations. "I think sonically and stylistically where I was going I was kind of just figuring that out on my own...Not necessarily influenced too much by the Philly scene or the Nashville scene, but moving to Nashville, I felt like I identify a lot more with people in the scene. There’s just so many great bands there right now. Especially in the weirdo, rock and roll, garage, psych punk rock whatever scene. It just felt very at home. When I moved there I was like I don’t even really care about going to this place to like make things happen or be a part of the scene. It was just that I liked the city, I needed change, and it all made sense. I just wanted to go somewhere and do my thing," he says. 

He passes time by skateboarding and [crowd] surfing on tour

In addition to the many Summer festivals that Gallo has played, he's been on tour nearly non-stop across America, even venturing over to Europe this year. While on these many tours, Gallo often passes the time with some PG activities, like skateboarding. "We don’t really party. I don’t really drink or rage, as per say. So nothing involving that, but we skateboarded a lot when we weren’t playing," he says. 

What's the best city for a touring band to skate around? "[In] Vancouver there was actually a skatepark right around the corner from the venue, so we went over there. I ended up making a really bad skate compilation video from that [White Reaper] tour," Gallo vouches. 

In addition to skating, surfing also stuck out as a memory of the White Reaper tour for Gallo...crowd surfing that is. While talking about tour highlights, Gallo says, "The West Coast was great. Seattle was a really great show, and our first time really playing out there. I crowd surfed for the second time in my life to White Reaper in Seattle. So that was kind of  a pinnacle moment. The first time was actually earlier this year to Fidlar in Atlanta. It’s just funny that age 29, my first two stage dives were this year. I’m just reverting back to being a kid again."

Geographically, one of Gallos favorite tour memories involved his band's run in Europe. "We got to Norway. Tromsø, Norway, where it’s sunlight 24 hours and we got in at midnight. Still light out. We stayed at this really, really nice hotel on the water. One of my favorite moments was getting to the room--we each had our own room, and looking at the view and sitting down. That was a really nice moment," he recalled. Gallo also mentions he enjoyed his time on the road with Hurray for the Riff Raff, humbly adding, "We’ve been really lucky this year to be surrounded by great bands and great people, and seeing way too many places in a small amount of time. It’s all been’s a blur!"

Comedians influence his stage presence

While Gallo talked me through his transition into solo music, he mentioned that he finds certain aspects of making music fun, but his motive behind creating music is much bigger than that. Prior to Loufest, I had seen Gallo perform at Lollapalooza, where a sense of humor laced his set, and he added an element of weirdness by playing guitar with a fire extinguisher. Gallo explains that comedic undertone in his personality and stage presence stems from a few places, saying, "That kind of comes from---it makes dealing with serious topics in songs and having a certain level of intensity in what we makes it way more tolerable and helps me deal with myself by letting the other side shine through. I don’t really take myself too seriously. Humor and lightness are so important. It’s all about that balance to me. So as intense or heavy as it can be, to kind of like mess with people or make people uncomfortable, or do weird stuff that’s off the cuff, make people laugh...I’ll laugh at myself, make people laugh at themselves….It’s like two forces working together. I love people that do that."

He attributes comedians with some influence on that approach, adding, "I am actually in certain ways influenced by certain comedians. Andy Kauffman….somebody that really tampered with reality and being really confrontational with the audience. No one really even know what was real and what wasn’t real. I love that and I think it’s hilarious. Louis CK and like Hannibal Buress. Steven Wright and George Carlin...there’s a fearlessness to what those guys do. There’s nothing cool about it. It’s like get up there a be real and be laughed at, be laughed with. But you have this ability to convey truth and you’re not afraid of it. I love that. There’s an element to music sometimes where there’s characters or there’s this element of trying to put a wall between audience and band members, an element of cool to it...Fuck all that. It’s about trying to do something real. Be yourself. I just love anybody that does that." 

Humor and lightness are so important. It’s all about that balance to me. So as intense or heavy as it can be, to kind of like mess with people or make people uncomfortable, or do weird stuff that’s off the cuff, make people laugh. It’s like two forces working together.
— Ron Gallo on his stage presence

He also finds Dougie Jones Inspiring

Gallo has posted on his social media about David Lynch's cult classic Twin Peaks. While Lynch has never backed down from venturing completely into bizarre and uncomfortable territory, his work with Twin Peaks has created an entire universe within itself...One which Gallo admires and respects immensely.  "I love David Lynch so much. Really everything that he’s done. His films, and in Philly he had an art gallery. Especially with like his meditation practices and how outspoken he is about that and the role that it can play in creativity. It’s amazing and I think he’s an incredible real deal artist and everything an artist should aspire to be. I mean Twin Peaks is just the greatest...everything about it is’s created a world that you want to live in. As soon as I found out it was coming back I, like most people, was freaking out," Gallo says. 

Talking about his favorite characters in both the reboot and original series of Twin Peaks, Gallo says, "I think Agent Cooper is an obvious lovable character. I know we only got to see him for the brief part of that one episode [in the reboot], but even when he was Dougie, I really loved that character because I think that was sort of the embodiment of a fully present, aware, enlightened being. All he ever really did was repeat the last word that somebody else would say, and it was amazing how he got people to look at themselves or he fixed situations just by inaction. I think David Lynch was going that direction with that character. It’s like he doesn’t care about the material world. He’s kind of in a different dimension, yet he thrives in it because he’s not all worried about it. Everything just kind of works out...he fixes it all. I thought that was a really cool alternative to Agent Cooper. I had a huge crush on Audrey Horne in the first season. Also, David Lynch, his character in the show...Gordon Cole is like the best!"

He believes in social responsibility on social media

Similarly to the balance of lightness and darkness that is present in Gallo's songwriting and stage presence, he uses his social media platforms to bring lightness to his followers, but he also makes sure he takes a stance on world wide issues. While some people challenge musicians or performers in the public eye taking a "political" stance, Gallo has stated it's not just a political stance, it's a human stance. "We have this opportunity now to reach mass amounts of people. There’s like a collective consciousness with the internet that’s like tangible now. You can reach people from all over the world in an instant. Whether we like it or not, we are so influenced mostly in a negative way by the internet and social media. I think everyone is very, very addicted to the thing. It’s so normalized that people aren’t willing to look at it as a problem. I guess that’s where I come in with that is that things like Charlottesville, where there’s these very open acts of hatred and ideas that you don’t like to think exist in this society and country. That we’ve evolved past it and grown to realize that thinking about human beings and the world that way is insanity and it’s sickness and you think it’s gone. Then something like that comes up and you’re like oh yeah, no it’s very, very present still," Gallo says. 

Although there can be a negative side to so much social media and such a quick, global connection, Gallo elaborates, "I think if we’re using the internet to post selfies for vanity, especially for artists, to further their career or to promote their music and their shows...I think it’s their responsibility, especially when your livelihood is based on humanity and people enjoying what you do and support from human beings. The more successful you are, it’s your duty to kind of take a stance. Say something in support of humanity and in support of human beings. That’s gotta be the balance. We have access to people all the time. Don’t just use it for your own gain. Use it to create a better good. Go and put something positive out there that is universal. And nobody can say “Well I disagree with that stance”... What does that mean? It’s means you’re being lazy. Get on your fucking Twitter, even if it’s just like “I love all of you” and “We accept all of you,” you have to combat darkness with the light. I think people that get complacent and don’t use their platform are just lazy. Let’s make the world a better place, not just sit on our asses and wait for things to happen."

Eckhart Tolle Helped Shape His Way of Thinking

Throughout our conversation, Gallo's wisdom and positive way of thinking came across with a certain sense of ease in nearly every answer, and he was also kind enough to share where some of mindset stems from. Gallo shared that he would chose to be stuck with Eckhart Tolle if he got stranded in an elevator for two hours with only one other person. Gallo explains his decision saying, "He’s sort of like a spiritual teacher, and he wrote a book called The Power of Now that was super popular. He’s written a couple of books that have sincerely changed my life and the way that I view the world. I could talk to that guy forever because just reading his words has had such a major impact on my life." 

There is new music on the way

In the recent weeks, Gallo has shared some photos of himself and his bandmates recording new music to follow up Heavy Meta, and he says we can expect a lot of it soon. "So we’re actually gonna put out two new things before the year is over, which is exciting. We recorded one song, a new single that was sort of a response to the whole Charlottesville thing. In early November, we’re doing a tour with Naked Giants so we’re gonna release a split EP with them. Then right before Christmas we’re gonna release an EP that we recorded. The second album should be out middle of next year," Gallo says. 

His hair styling advice is...

In addition to his clever song titles, Gallo's curly mop of hair has become one of his signatures. Gallo's tips for his voluminous hairstyle? Do your thing and be proud of what you've got. "Don’t do anything, just let it be. This is what happens. This is just how it is for me. I didn’t choose this. Guys, whatever you got, just let it go. Learn to love it," he says.

As the interview wrapped up, Gallo also shared one last bit of advice, unrelated to hair styling. "I would always just encourage people to maybe question themselves, question the world a bit. Don’t be afraid to maybe think that how something is, is maybe not how it should be. And have a good time, be happy. It’s your choice," he says. 

Photos of Ron Gallo at Loufest 2017

Get ready for the plethora of new Ron Gallo music coming our way by revisiting the debut, Heavy Meta, in full below. For tour dates, updates on new music, and Gallo's wise words, follow him on social media. 

Ron Gallo: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Widowspeak

Indie rock group Widowspeak just released their fourth studio album Expect The Best on August 25th. The Brooklyn-based duo of Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas have been making music together since 2010, but this latest album brings their fullest and most developed sound to date. In support of the new record, the pair and their live band will kick off an extensive North American tour this week, followed by a UK tour. Before the tour hits Chicago, we chatted with Molly Hamilton all about the new album and upcoming tour. Check our chat with Widowspeak now to find out the biggest lesson they've learned in their years of making music, what makes this new record different, their ideal night out in NYC, how they prep for tour and more! 

 Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

 Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

ANCHR Magazine: So your new album Expect The Best just came out last month! How did the writing and recording process for this album vary from your previous records?

Widowspeak: For this one, I still wrote the songs separate, from voice memos and notebooks and random ideas pieced together, knowing we would then expand on that and make them more intricate eventually. In the past, it has mostly been Rob figuring the latter part out, but this time we played with the regular touring band in the studio.  

AM: After releasing a few albums and being a band for several years, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a musician?

Widowspeak: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is just to be kind to people, which seems obvious, but… We are really laid-back as a band and always super appreciative of people we meet on tour, whether that’s the people running the shows or going to them. We’ve heard stories about other bands, whether ones we know personally or are fans of, being jerks or just generally difficult to work with, and that is a total bummer.  It's so important to be good to people.

AM: Where did you find yourself drawing inspiration from for the new songs, whether it be musical or non-musical influences?

Widowspeak: The new songs I wrote sort of in a big batch of them all at once, and I think they are all sort of about feeling stuck in various feelings or states of mind. It’s not uncommon at all to have those sorts of thoughts, but for me personally I wanted to write these songs more directly about that because it was getting increasingly hard to do anything, let alone music. Some of them are more concerned with the symptoms of those feelings, like being unproductive, or looking at social media, and others are about trying to figure out “why."

AM: I really love the cover art too, and the limited edition vinyl you put together with the purple lava lamp splatter. How involved are you with the visuals that the band puts out, and how does the cover tie in with the theme of the record?

Widowspeak: I’m usually really involved in the visuals, if not doing everything except the technical layout myself (sometimes, as with our last record, we use someone else’s art). This time, I took the cover photo and all the other photos in my apartment in Tacoma. The lava lamp is actually my stepmom’s that I borrowed (and that broke!) I had this weird feeling that the corner of my apartment, with a lava lamp, should be the record cover and had no idea why, ha. 

AM: Are there any songs from the new record that you’re particularly excited about performing live? Any spoilers you can give about the set for the upcoming tour?

Widowspeak: I’m excited to play all of them, honestly. I feel like because these songs were originally recorded with the band, they are already really full of that energy. Sometimes we have to try to figure out how to play a song live that was more sparse, or where the instruments aren’t represented by the four of us. This time everything feels more natural, also more high-energy. For tour surprises, I will say we are trying to figure out a new cover… hope we get it figured out in time!

AM: Are there any cities you’re especially looking forward to playing?

Widowspeak: We love playing our respective hometown cities (Seattle/Tacoma, Chicago, Des Moines, Detroit) as well as our new hometowns, NYC and Kingston, NY (upstate), because so many of our friends are there. But it’s also great to play shows anywhere and to be surprised by the people you meet there, or how cool a venue or their staff are. Tour is crazy and full of things you didn’t expect, so I’m just going into it excited to play the songs and hoping the van doesn’t break down.

AM: Speaking of touring, I saw you recently posted on Facebook about a taking a roadtrip (and tour is essentially one big roadtrip itself), so what are your go-to road trip activities, tunes, and essential snacks?

Widowspeak: Yeah, we got a new tour van which is also a great camper van, and we’re excited to bring it on the road! Generally we listen to a lot of podcasts, especially comedy or science ones, because they tend to be things people can all agree on (but also tune out if they want to). Music-wise, the van has a tape player so I’m excited to bust out the old cassette collection and go foraging in the bins at thrift stores. When we’re on tour we like to research ahead of time to see if there is a must-try local restaurant/food truck/etc. that is around, because no one wants to be figuring out how to eat breakfast from the things they have at a gas station. We try to plan ahead. So we definitely sometimes will go through a National Park or something, if it’s sort of on the way, or we’ll go swimming or thrifting or play pinball.

AM: Since the album is called Expect The Best and you’re based in Brooklyn, describe what you would consider your best night out in NYC?

Widowspeak: I would say the best night out in NYC definitely involves knowing where to go so you don’t spend too much money, because the city is crazy expensive and it takes finesse and skill to do it right and not be broke. First, getting some snacks somewhere where there is happy hour food. I really love dollar oysters, and there are a bunch of places in Brooklyn that have them. Or honestly just grabbing something from a deli and finding a good spot in the park or something to people-watch. Then I’d say maybe go to someone’s roof if you know someone with a cool roof, unless it’s raining. There’s nothing better than watching the sun set over the skyline and bridges. But that’s kind of where my idea of the perfect evening devolves, because the best NYC night out would be unpredictable and you’d end up a lot of places you didn’t expect, like random apartments and bars you’ve never been to, or other boroughs from where you live. I will say that later, when you’re crawling home, I would get tacos or halal from one of the trucks, depending on where you are. That’s the classic NYC night-ender.

AM: On a similar note, who are some of your favorite NYC bands at the moment that you would recommend to your listeners?

Widowspeak: Well, we just moved back into town, so I can’t totally speak to any of the newer bands that are just starting out (as we haven’t seen ‘em yet), and also a bunch of the NYC bands are now somewhere-else bands, but EZTV, and also there’s this band Poppies I like, Cut Worms, our friend Renata Zeiguer, who used to be in a band with Rob, is incredible. Other than that there are a bunch I’m not thinking of, I’m really glad to be back in the area though, lots of new bands to hear.

Chicago, you can check out Widowspeak at The Empty Bottle next week. Grab tickets here, and listen to the new album in full below. 

Get To Know: Capital Soirée

Indie pop-rock band Capital Soirée knows how to write a song with a sticky, stuck-in-your-head melody. Since forming in 2013, the group has released a handful of singles, including two EPs called Next Weekend and Take Me Anywhere. Founding members James Kourafas, Max "Rom" Romero, and Steven Rejdukowski have also been playing around the city for years, recently adding on a live drummer, Griffin Shaw. Last weekend, we chatted with the four-piece before they headlined the main room stage at Wicker Park's Subterranean to not only celebrate their upcoming EP, but the one year anniversary of Griffin joining the live band....and Max's birthday. In our interview, the group discusses their new music, the lessons they've learned over the summer, their evolution as a band, and more. Here are five things you need to know about Capital Soirée!

Capital Soirée is Max "Rom" Romero, James Kourafas, and Steven Rejdukowski

Capital Soirée is Max "Rom" Romero, James Kourafas, and Steven Rejdukowski

They've Changed Roles Since the Band Started

The three core members of Capital Soirée are all multi-instrumentalists and have all been able to take on multiple roles throughout the years. After initially starting to play drums at age 6, Max Romero eventually picked up the bass, which has since remained his role in the band today. Vocalist and guitarist James Kourafas describes his start in music, saying, "I was like 9 or 10. [Max and I] initially had met in third grade. We had this whole thing that we were gonna start a rock band." Steven Rejdukowski, who now plays guitars and keys in the current day lineup says, "I learned how to play drums so I could be in a band," after meeting Kourafas and Romero and finding out they needed a drummer to complete their band. He had initially picked up a guitar and learned to play at age 14. Griffin Shaw came in to play the live drums with a lot of experience already under his belt. "I've been playing [drums] 12 years now. My grandpa plays jazz drums. So he got me into the drum world pretty early," he recalled. The band's ability to be flexible and take on playing multiple instruments had led them to a seamless live show, even with the new material they debuted at the Subterranean. 

They've Recently Taken on Producing Their Own Music

The band have been working away on new music that not only features a more developed sound, but a more in-depth process behind the scenes. Talking more about their current recording process, Rejdukowski says, "We record at my house. I’ve been building a studio for the past 6 years or so. We recorded at a few places before when we were younger and we kind of hated it." Echoing that sentiment, Kourafas says, "It took us a while to come to the realization that so much of a record’s sound actually has to do with the way it was recorded and produced and mixed. At the time when you’re younger, you don’t necessarily have the words to express what you’re trying to get down so you’re kind of at the mercy of the producer who’s recording you. That’s kind of what drove us to want to do the DIY thing." As far as who takes the lead in their production work, the band says it's a democratic system, each on them getting an input. "Yeah we kinda all just sit around the computer, and one person drives, and we all make our own comments," Romero describes their process. 

The band also discuss some of their favorite producers that they admire and look to for influence. "I really like the band Hoops, their production style. It’s not so much an inspiration for our music, but I admire that sort of lo-fi production. But we also like hi-fi, like super high fidelity electronic stuff. There's all sorts of different styles that we’re trying to mesh together,Kourafas says. "If I had a big influence...Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. He was the whole reason I wanted to record and build a studio, besides that I’m tired of hearing other producers tell us what to do. He opened my eyes,Rejdukowski chimed in. 

They Spent the Summer Locked Up in the Studio...and Other Places

The band have spent a large chunk of the summer recording and producing their upcoming EP. Talking more about the direction of the songwriting style for this new material, Romero says, "It’s slowly been evolving. Back in the day, one of us would write a song on acoustic guitar, bring it to the group, and figure out parts from them. Nowadays it’s more like ok we have a song pretty much written. For the most recent recordings, we had demos that we made ourselves and we brought them all together and kind of decided which one was gonna be the best and from there we opened up the doors. So anyone could add on anything they want." The amount of collaboration varies track by track with the band's best interest in mind. "A big thing with the technique we’re using now is we’re trying to get past our own personal egos and make music that we feel is the best possible music we could make. Being in the studio... it really lends itself to coming up with different sounds," Kourafas adds. 

So while the band has been working hard, remaining locked up in Steven's studio to get this new music complete, they did also have a scheduling conflict pop up, when Romero got literally locked up for getting caught with a little bit of Colorado's finest export at Bonnaroo Festival and didn't show up to his hearing. Consequently, he got sentenced to two weeks in jail in Coffee County, Tennessee. Despite the setback, Romero gained some wisdom from the experience. "The biggest lesson I learned besides don’t take drugs across state lines, is don’t stress the shit that you can’t control. Cause you can, especially in jail, go crazy. Like, I can’t do anything about the fact that I’m gonna be in here for two weeks. You just have to sit back and let the world do it’s thing. Control what you can and don’t kill yourself over the shit you can’t control," he says. 

The Subterranean Holds a Lot of History for Them

The band has played all around the city over the years, but the SubT holds a special place in their heart. Their show last week acted as one of several times they've played that stage. So what are some of their favorite memories from the Wicker Park venue? "There was that one time you ripped my shirt off [to James]. That was one of the first times I had my shirt off at a show," Romero recalls. He also describes another time he stage dove at their last EP release show, saying, "I was over on the front by the monitors. My friend who is like 6’5, pretty large guy like grabs me and picks me up. This was during 'The Count.' I’d never stage dove before. It was kind of scary cause I was like I still have to play these parts... I didn’t want want to hit anybody with the bass!" Griffin Shaw also played his very first show with the group on the SubT stage.

This most recent performance will most likely go down on their list of Subterranean memories, seeing as Romero did take his shirt off again at the end of their set, and they played one of their unreleased tracks. The experience of playing this new song already proved to be landmark for the band, Romero pointed out. "It’s weird because before when we wrote songs, we would play them all together before we would even record them. This is the first time we’ve flipped it around. So we recorded first and now we’re playing it." Kourafas agrees, saying, "It’s kind of goofy cause we had to like learn our own songs. At the time when we recorded, we lay down what we lay down and don’t necessarily think about it too much."

Their List of Dream Collaborators is a Cross-Genre Super Group

If the band could collaborate with anybody in the world, Rejdukowski says he'd love to work with Tame Impala, since Kevin Parker has inspired him as a musician and producer. Romero throws out The Weeknd as a personal bucket list collaboration, while Kourafas says Phoenix and Shaw named Hans Zimmer. Basically, their dream collaborators sounds like an ideal super group that needs to happen at one point in the future. The group also shout out their bucket list venues and festivals,  Rejdukowski saying, "Absolute dream place--kind of cliché, but Red Rocks!" Romero mentions Shaky Knees festival, which takes place every Spring in Atlanta.

Although they'd love to one day work with more established acts and work their way up to playing bigger shows, the band also have a lot of hometown appreciation. Talking about the Chicago scene, Romero says, "Rare is it that we’ve found people who are shitty. Everyone is pretty supportive honestly. The Chicago local scene...I’ve never really been around other local scenes, but from what I’ve heard it’s pretty large." Rejdukowski agrees, adding, "Even like a lot of the bands we play with, they don’t necessarily sound like our music, but that’s the best part about it. The people who come to the shows are exposed to more genres and everyone is just vibing on it." As far as their favorite fellow Chicago musicians, the band shout out Floral Couches. "They’re great. Last time we played here we got to meet them. We all really fuck with The Walters. I like the Symposium. Post Animal’s great. [Twin] Peaks..." Romero says. 

The band says we can expect a new 7-track Capital Soirée EP and some music videos before the end of the year. While we await the new music, check out photos from the band's show at Subterranean, including some Behind the Scenes shots. 

Follow Capital Soirée on Social Media:

Facebook. Instagram. Twitter.

Listen to the latest EP "Take Me Anywhere" Below:

Get To Know: Sedgewick

The three members of Chicago's own Sedgewick have been through quite the journey since they first released their debut EP Gardens in 2015. First off, the group expanded when Jake Hawrylak joined founding members Sam Brownson and Oliver Horton. Secondly, the group has worked to broaden and reinvent their style of music. Cumulating influences from all different corners of R&B, Hip Hop, Rock, and Alternative genres and sub-genres, the trio have built a sound that's completely their own. With this distinct new sound comes a rebirth of sorts and a fresh slate for the group to take their music to different venues around their hometown and on tour. 

Last month before Brownson, Hawrylak, and Horton took the stage at SPACE in Evanston to support Family and Friends, I met up with them to talk not only about their new album, but the journey leading up to it. Find out which groundbreaking albums inspired them, what challenges they faced, what they love about the Chicago scene and more in our talk with Sedgewick. 

Sedgewick backstage at SPACE

Sedgewick backstage at SPACE

The New Album Hasn't Gone According To Plan...

But not in a bad way, the band say. While the album that the three members of Sedgwick set out to make may have been left behind long ago, the band are all extremely proud and happy with how their finished product has come out, even though it's far from what they first envisioned. Oliver Horton shared his take on the recording process saying, "It’s been really exhausting. It’s a lot of hard work. But it’s gratifying work. It feels really good to get these in some sort of place where we can send them off to people and be really proud about it. I’m super proud of it. I really think it’s gonna accomplish what we want it to. A lot of planning for this has just all sort of fallen by the wayside. What we planned to do with it." Horton continued on to reflect about the effect on the band that this change in route had, saying, "That alone has created a bond between the three of us that we’ve never had before. Sort of dealing with that, dealing with that totally unexpected has caused us to grow deeper together. I think that’s really starting to show up in the record. It’s been really interesting. Just rolling with the punches and seeing what we can come up with."

Jake Hawrylak echoed that sentiment on the recording process, adding, "It’s been very eye opening. It’s been very enlightening in a lot of ways. Hands down the biggest thing any of us have been a part of, not just in terms of budget, but in terms of scope. In terms of sounds… I think where we’re at on a personal level too." Sam Brownson weighed in on the biggest challenges of the process, saying for him the mixing proved to be the most difficult. "The hardest thing is to draw the line for yourself and as a group and saying this expresses what we want it to. And also being ok with saying if it doesn’t we can’t control how it’s gonna affect someone that listens to it. It’s a lot of trusting instincts. I’ve learned how to sit down over the course of recording and just do what feels good," Brownson said. 

Their Influences Range From Bon Iver to Frank Ocean 

In addition to the departure from Plan A, the band have also had a departure from the strictly folk sound of their EP. Their live set opening up for Family and Friends incorporated so many layers and took so many twists and turns. Before they performed, the band gave a little bit of insight as to where that influence stems from. 

Brownson shared his influences, saying, "When the Dirty Projectors record came out, I....that changed how I thought about mixing. I’ve also been listening to a lot of hip hop music lately... Like SZA and Kendrick Lamar’s new record. From a mixing perspective, the space that those records create are very influential."

Hawrylak also found some specific influence from Kendrick Lamar and other artists. He shared his insight on specific records that made his year, adding, "It’s been interesting to me to watch a lot of the bands we play with and a lot of Chicago industry people who keep talking about how the record’s dead. That everybody just needs to start releasing singles or songs. Then something like Damn. comes along. Or A Seat at the Table or Blond and they’re very much---[they] needed to be records. There’s a very specific narrative. Or on the non-hip hop side, the new Fleet Foxes that just came out is very much a record. The songs exist in their own framework, or one thing at a time. But there’s this specific arc that I think it captures. Which is so much of what was enjoyable when I really started to get into music. The records and getting lost in the world it creates. 22, A Million, the Bon Iver record, huge one for me last year." 

Brownson interjected to say that they listened to that Bon Iver record a lot while making their record. Hawrylak continues, "'Creeks' was one of the more frustrating songs I’ve ever heard. That was a sound that we wanted on the record. Then that came out and we were like that’s exactly what we were trying to do." Tying back into the change in path for the album, Brownson says, "It’s also a credit to how much space this record has spanned for us. Cause we were in the studio when 22 A Million came out. Since then, Dirty Projectors. Damn. I just remember seeing like all that stuff came out and saying wow, this has been a journey."

Hawrylak says the band are also able to measure their own personal growth through these records and how they've evolved for him as a listener. "Blond is a great example. That record meant something very different to me when it came out to like a year later. Particularly to that album, half of the songs I loved and half of them were like ah whatever. Then in that year, I’ve come around to see what was brilliant about those other songs," he said. Brownson echoed that, saying, "I think that over the course of the year...the advantage of making a record over the course of a long time is that you internalize what’s going on around you. You can’t help but be influenced by the trends, or the energy and culture going around. I feel like that was very--initially you think you want to get it out right away. Which, I think there’s merit to that, but I also think there’s something about sitting and letting it marinate and you as a creator, listen and try to understand its relevance. So that’s been very cool."

They Consider Chicago's Music Scene Eclectic and Collaborative

Although Hawrylak disagrees with some fellow Chicago musicians who think the record is dead, the band are all very appreciative of the collaborative scene that Chicago is known for. As far as his favorite musicians, he says, " Astro Samurai is like one of the coolest bands I’ve seen. They call themselves 'Third Eye R&B.' They’re working on something special." After Brownson interjected to show his appreciation for NoName, who they don't know personally but very much admire, Hawrylak eagerly agreed that the Chicago poet and rapper is one of his favorites as well. 

Hawrylak continued on to say, "Saba is another one. We did a Sofar Sounds with David Ashley. He was the MC. He was really cool. For me so much of what’s cool is it’s rooted in poetry in a very particular way. NoName came up in the local After School Matters program. There’s a very distinct cadence to her flow that comes from that. It’s casual and maybe that’s what I like about the Chicago scene. It’s casual and eclectic. Like NoName is casually rattling off this fucking rapid fire, weird twist of images, then she starts singing and then she goes back. Jamila Woods is another one! Good god!"

Brownson then called attention to the spirit behind so many of these up and coming artists in Chicago, saying, "I think for me, the collaborative spirit and friendship. From what I read about NoName, she’s got a lot of people and this music community where they all look out for each other and help each other out. That’s just not the way I was brought up to think about the music industry. Just a group of friends getting together making good music? It was always like, sell your soul so you can continue to do this. Instead of saying no I want to have deep relationships with people. That’s part of the reason why I connect so deeply with her music, and Chance and Saba and all those people because they invite you in. It’s just this spirit of friendship."

Horton concurred with his bandmates observations on the city's spirit, saying, "It’s a small city! Especially considering the music scene." Bouncing off that small city sentiment, Hawrylak said, "Look at like the people on Acid Rap. It’s all Chicago people. It’s the whole record. That was my first exposure to the scene. I was playing bass with a guy named Brendan Forrest, he goes by B. Forrest. He’s friends with a lot of the Sidewalk Chalk people, who connected me to Jude [Shuma]. When I met Brendan, he needed a bass player, and we got connected. He started showing me his tunes and first record he came out with, was every other track was with somebody. Now he’s working on a new one, and every track is about collaboration."

Brownson wrapped up his take on the Chicago scene saying, "If you just are a good person, it pays off. Even if you don’t make big bucks, you’re gonna be happy with your relationships. If you decide I just want to make good art for the right reasons... I want people to hear it, but I’m not gonna fight and shove it down people's throats to make a dollar."

Horton chimed in with an influence of his who holds similar values, saying, "Another musician for me, is Jamie Chamberlin. He’s been a huge mentor to me. He has exemplified exactly what an old guy on the scene needs to be doing. I’ve seen a lot of musicians treat each other really poorly. It’s amazing to see a dog as old as him and how frequent he’s been on the scene, how lovely he is to be around. You can tell he’s an amazing human being. He honestly cares about you when you show up to a gig. Seeing that has made me realize what’s so amazing about music. Treating people with respect. Giving them integrity when you speak to them. Making sure everybody is held accountable for what needs to be said. I feel like that has really taken a ramp up at least in our band, as far as accountability and integrity. Seeing that roll around all these really cool scenes in Chicago is really interesting to me."

They Describe Their Live Show as Intentional Disorientation

At the Friends and Family show, the band performed the entirety of the new album to the crowd. Talking more about the set, Hawrylak said, "We’re kind of doing the whole record backwards, which is funny. I think. I’m really liking the ones that sound bigger than they should. I like the ones that take people by surprise when we have a lot of other loops and stuff going on. We were just on tour back home where I’m from, in New Mexico. One of the cooler things that one of my friends said was that she didn’t know where anything was coming from after a while. It was hard to tell who was creating what sound. I think I like getting in that space of intentional disorientation." 

Although they managed to create this layered and intense live set now, Hawrylak admits it's quite challenging to get there at times. "The way we play the songs live is a little different.  For better or for worse. We’ve been running into a lot of problems with sound guys when we pull out this upright, these synthesizers, all this gear...they’re like what the hell? And they’re immediately mad. Then after check, they start to kind of get that it’s supposed to be a little different. With the record we’re kind of trying to balance how do we make it it’s own thing that’s still a faithful representation in the live set. Cause we have strings and a choir and all this other stuff on the record. Live, it’s just the three of us," he said.

Brownson mentions some highlights of their recent live shows. Talking about their recent tour, he said, "We got to see Jake’s hometown. The music was incredible. The shows were incredible. But I think we all kind of had time to just spend time together as people and talk more about what and why we do music. Why we love and respect ourselves. Why it’s important to do that. In the process getting to know Jake and also Oliver who was going through some stuff. We were all going through stuff together. That relationship is a huge part of why this record feels so good and it’s a huge part of why the show is how it is because of this energy."

Industry people keep talking about how the record’s dead. That everybody just needs to start releasing singles or songs. Then something like ‘Damn.’ comes along. Or ‘A Seat at the Table’ or ‘Blond’ and they’re very much—-needed to be records. There’s a very specific narrative.
— Jake Hawrylak on making a proper record

There's a Lot More to Come in 2017 for Sedgewick 

The band is obviously ready to get the record out to listeners, but they're also ready for what goes along with a proper album release. Hawrylak elaborates, saying, "I am excited about putting out the record. It’s been a long time coming and it’ll be good to have it out in whatever form. I’m most excited about the new perception we can give people of ourselves. A lot of the songs on the EP were just completely different from where we are going with the record. I wasn’t in this band for the EP, so I can’t say much more than I like the songs. But I’m really proud of what this record has become. I’m really proud of a lot of the journey that became of it. I want to share it! We did three different tours to wet our feelers in the name of this record. I’m kind of ready to start going out and bringing it to people."

Horton reveals what he's most excited for with the upcoming release, and even afterwards saying, "I’m really psyched for scheduling and doing the PR and making sure we’re really super ready to have a huge release show. We’re really looking forward to cultivating something that nobody has ever seen before. Maybe more importantly, I’m getting super stoked to get back in the creative process with these people. Whenever that is, I think the next whatever it is, it’s gonna be much more webbed together. It’s gonna feel really good to create something again. These songs at this point are like...we’ve recreated them so many times. One of the tunes is four or five years old. We’re ready to just wipe the slate and start over." 

The band continue on to say they're currently performing songs that have been around for over three years, but they still feel fresh thanks to arrangements they're worked out. They also admit they're at peace with the process taking as long as they need, saying, "We’re no longer at the point where we just want to put out the record when it’s done. We kind of want to raise some interest. And do it right. Put it in the right hands."

The trio don't have a definite release date, but they're just enjoying the process. "That’s really important. I’m looking forward to having a fresh ear for new things and I feel like this record has been--what’s great about it is, this whole thing is a process. [The record] reflects the process. The process has led us to some really cool things for the next project as well. That’s what this record is-- it encapsulates an evolution in itself. I’m excited to share that," Brownson concluded. 

Photo Gallery of Sedgewick at SPACE

Sedgewick will performing at The Beat Kitchen this Sunday, August 6th to celebrate the release of their single "To Fold" from the upcoming album. Tickets start at $10 and you can grab them here

A Chat With SHAED

Last week, we caught an incredible live performance from the DC trio SHAED at The Bottom Lounge. Prior to their lively and energetic performance that evening, we caught up with Chelsea Lee and her bandmates, twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst. Together, the three craft catchy pop melodies that blend with Lee's soulful, powerful vocals and the clean production work of the Ernsts. After touring with acts like Bishop Briggs, Marian Hill, and playing festivals like Chicago's own Mamby on the Beach, Lee and the Ernst brothers are now back on the road with Sir Sly. Talking everything from Lee's go-to karaoke jam to new music and their favorite spots to eat on tour, get to know SHAED now!

SHAED for ANCHR Magazine 

SHAED for ANCHR Magazine 

ANCHR Magazine: So I wanted start off by talking a little bit about how you guys each individually got into writing music and eventually started producing it and making it together. 

Max Ernst: Two of us are twins, my brother and I. We got started playing music pretty young. Our mom got us taking piano lessons at a young age. From there we just fell in love with music and writing songs. We just kept doing it until now.

Chelsea Lee: For me, I kind of was always listening to music my parents love..alternative 80's. So I always jammed out to that. When I was in elementary school, I got a karaoke machine, so that became like my best friend. I would do that for hours and hours.

AM: What’s your go to karaoke song?

CL: The Carpenters were always a go to for me. I also loved doing the Christmas karaoke CD.

Spencer Ernst: Chelsea’s obsessed with Christmas to this day, so not surprised.

AM: So that started it all! So you guys have played a ton of live shows, even though you’re still working on the debut album. I saw you at Mamby on the Beach, you’ve toured with Marian Hill, Bishop Briggs....what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about each other being a band on the road so much?

ME: I’ve got one. When Chelsea’s asleep in the van, you don’t want to wake her up.

CL: Always make sure that I’m fed because I get hangry. We’ve learned that we don’t want to kill each other, which is amazing. It takes a special type of person to be stuck in a van for a really long time with each other.

ME: And we live together when we’re not on tour.

CL: It’s 100 percent.

AM: Nice! So what have been some of your favorite songs to play live then?

CL: We just released “Too Much” last week. That’s been really fun to play live. We actually started playing that live during the Bishop Briggs tour, which was a couple months ago. Everyone loved it so much and it got a really good response, and we decided that would be our next single. So that’s my favorite song to play out right now.

AM: I saw you did that cover of “Starboy,” too. What was it about that particular song that made you decide to cover it?

CL: Well we did Spotify sessions, and we needed a cover. We did one original and one cover. We were trying to think of a cool cover, and we immediately thought of “Starboy” cause that was such a jam.

AM: How is the debut album process going? Are you still working on writing it or is it mostly written and just needs to be recorded?

ME: I’d say that it’s going really well. We’ve got a lot of songs in the works right now. We’ve got a couple in the chamber that are closed to being released, but we’re still in the writing process right now. It’s definitely not totally done. We have a pretty good idea of where it’s going, and we have some singles ready to be released soon.

AM: How is it writing on the road then? Do you find that you get inspired?

CL: Yeah, these guys are constantly working on sessions in the car. I don’t know how they do it because I would barf if I looked at a computer screen for too long in a moving car. For them, they work on sessions in Ableton. We always want to be writing, honestly.

ME: There’s different ways that we write. When we’re in the van, it’s hard to like write as a collective group because of all the noise and people are doing different things. We work a lot on our own, just on beats and music on our laptops in the car. We also, when we have time...we’ll get a guitar out or piano and write stuff together too.

AM: So you guys are from DC, and the only thing I really know about the music scene there is 930 Club, which is a legendary venue. What are some of the best kept secrets from your hometown music scene?

ME: DC is definitely known for punk and rock, but there’s definitely a lot of really good R&B andd soul happening there. Marvin Gaye is from DC. There’s just a ton of really good soul music there too. The venues are really supportive, but there’s a really strong artist community. And really good house shows too. Some of the best shows are being put on by like a collective, that kind of thing.

AM: Do you have any particular DC bands you’re really into?

CL: Yeah we love...there’s a really cool band called April + Vista. There’s also a band called Dawkins. They’re also really cool, kind of experimental.

AM: What about in general, any bands you’re vibing with or you're influenced by?

CL: Right now we’re listening to Active Child a lot. Sigrid. We just got into this girl Chloe Howl, she just released a really awesome song. We always try to listen to new music, and each week, it’s kind of a different thing.

AM: Cool, how else do you guy stay entertained on tour besides making music and listening to it?

CL: We love to eat, so we’re always trying to find a good spot to get some grub. We also really like this game called Cribbage.

AM: Oh, what is that?

CL: It’s like an old sailor game, it’s a card game and it’s got a wood board. Love that game, so we play it a lot.

AM: Nice, keeping it old fashioned. So what’s been your favorite city to go to as far as the food goes then?

ME: Everything is kind of a blur.

CL: We have a special place in our heart when it comes to Wisconsin just because of the cheese.

SE: Actually, the last time we were in Chicago, we stayed in Chinatown, and we got some incredible dumplings there. We also had some Sake there.

CL: What was that place called?

SE: Imperial something-- After we had the food, we went to this little dive karaoke bar. It was actually a Korean karaoke bar right around the corner from Chinatown. We got our own private room and just like-

CL: Wailed for an hour!

SE: It was really fun!

AM: Then what else are you guys looking forward to this year? Besides touring a bunch...any particular shows you’re looking forward to?

CL: We’re doing the billboard hot 100 Festival in New York, which is gonna be fun. Plus we’re excited for new places on this tour. There’s a lot of places we haven’t been, like Colorado Springs. There’s a couple new spots we’re really excited to see!

Keep up with all of SHAED's updates, including any upcoming tour dates, by liking their Facebook page

Can't get enough SHAED? Also check out our review and photo gallery of their show last week. 

A Chat With: NAWAS

It's pretty rare for a band without even an EP to their name to get placed onto major festival lineups like Hangout Fest and Firefly. But that's exactly what the Nashville based NAWAS have done this summer, in between working on their debut EP for Harvest Records. Composed of singer Jake Nawas, guitarist Ben McDaniel, and drummer Joey Gonzales, the trio have been turning heads with their addictive, unique tones and cross-genre sound that blends indie pop with R&B. We recently chatted with frontman and namesake of the band Jake Nawas to discuss their recent show at Firefly, their upcoming EP, and his unique vocal style, among other topics. Tune in now and get to know NAWAS!

Photo Courtesy of NAWAS

Photo Courtesy of NAWAS

ANCHR Magazine: Let's start off by hearing a little bit about what first inspired you to get into singing and making your own music. Was it a certain band that inspired you, or maybe someone in your family?

Jake Nawas: I was in college and I was having trouble finding direction, but I was always paying a lot more attention to music than anything else. Then myself and my guitarist Ben eventually got around to making music. We just got around to getting the laptop out and figuring out how to smash out something. When that started that was was like that click moment of this is what I want to do, and I hope I have the ability to do it.

AM: Oh wow, so you only started music in college?

JN: Yeah, we basically started making music in college. We played a little bit in high school, and we had fun with it, but we weren’t focused on it. We loved it, but we weren’t quite where we were when we turned this page and decided to do this for a living...or to make a go of it at least.

AM: You’re originally from Louisiana and now you’re based in Nashville. How do you think that move has influenced your writing and your music career in general then?

JN: What Nashville offered us as far as...the impact that it had on our sound, we’ve had a very individual experience here. We found our way, and this is not what I consider the right way or wrong way, but we’ve found a couple people who really got into what we were trying to do, and wanted to go there with us. Which was kind of a different sound and different things that aren’t just different from Nashville; our sound was developed to be different from anywhere. But the biggest thing Nashville gave us was this sense of community. This sense of people rooting for you and sometimes you need that. You don’t always need it. It’s unhealthy to focus on that, but sometimes you need that community and that tight-knit group. You know people are in here trying to get through the food chain too, but no one’s stepping on each other’s heads here for the most part. It’s a lot of fun to make music here.

AM: Cool, that’s a really good outlook to have with that community vibe. Speaking of standing out though, your voice is super unique. When did you kind of tap into that? Was it when you started writing or have you always known that you had that special quality to your voice?

JN: I think I trained it to be weird. I figured, you gotta pop! My pop is weird so I just embrace it and go in those weird nooks and crannies of my voice where it’s not so comfortable for the ears, but it’s fun and it’s interesting. So I don’t think that by any means it was like this-- I didn’t really have this moment where it was like oh my god. It just sort of slowly developed, you know? It wasn’t really just one moment. It also took time, and it’s taking time for me to get stronger. I want my voice to get stronger over the years because I’m late into this and I’m not classically trained. I do aspire to continue to find things with the voice that I don’t have right now in my arsenal or that I recognize that I want, but I haven’t quite gotten to that point.

AM: Very cool. So I know you’re working on the debut EP for Harvest Records. How’s that process going and what can you tell me about the songs that are going to be on there?

JN: It is quite a process. It’s a process of patience, which I’m not very good at. It’s always paying off, though. I’m learning at the end after I’ve bitched and moaned about it, things come together in a way that I envisioned without cutting corners. So it’s good. We’re taking time writing and we’re putting it together. I always want to try to have more ready than we need. So we are putting an EP together, but we’re putting more than that together. We have a lot of songs, and there will be ways to release that in this day and age. With streaming, you can put a little out here and a little out there. We’re writing a record and we’ll release it whichever way puts us in the best position. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve done some things in LA too. Which have been great. We’ve worked with Tim Anderson...John Hill...a couple different people who have really been great for seeing what we’re trying to do and saying add this, take away this, see how that works…

AM: How was the process of working with Tim Anderson in his studio?

JN: It’s a nice spot, it makes me feel spoiled when I’m in LA and I get to work there. One of the coolest things about recording with Tim as a writer and as a person who likes to be on the ground level of my songs, is he’s done a lot of stuff that would give him the right to kind of impede...not impede, but to run shit, basically. He allows you to do your thing, and he kind of accents that in ways. The last song we released was done by Tim, Tim and this wonderful woman MoZella who wrote on the song. Whatever instinct I had, they allowed me to get out. Then we sharpened it. I’m 23 and I’m a baby in this, basically because of my experience, and I’m trying to soak in as much as I can. When people do that, it shows you like oh, these people at the high level, they’re not what you may think they are. They are just as open and as artistically inclined as anyone.

AM: Very cool. So then you just talked a little bit about working with Tim Anderson and MoZella, so you’ve collaborated a bit on the songwriting level. Is there anyone else you’d love to do a collaboration with, either singing on a song with them, songwriting again, or having them do the production?

JN: First off, my life goal is to write a Britney Spears song. I did just see that Clams Casino just put out an instrumental mixtape. So I was like, I better record some stuff over that and put it out there to see if he can hear it, cause I like Clams Casino a lot. He’s a really cool producer. A producer I just met not too long ago, he’s a great guy...Mikky Ekko. Mikky had no reason to meet me, I’m just some kid, and he really sat down and chopped it up with me for a long time. So I’m appreciative of the conversation we had and what he shared with me. He’s an artist who’s been through different situations and prevailed.

AM: So talking about playing some of these songs live then, I know you just played at Firefly, which is pretty cool considering this is all new to you and you’re still working on the debut EP and album. How was that to be able to play at such a major festival?

JN: It was great! I mean we played--we’ve been really lucky to meet some really genuine people and surround ourselves, as far as our team goes, with a lot of great people who have put us in situations that maybe….I don’t want to say we didn’t deserve to be there, because you can’t get there without earning the right. But it definitely was early in the process. We played ACL, we played Firefly, we played a bunch of shows at South By and Hangout. Those are just so incredible...the people are can’t imagine. We’ve played every type of gig now. We haven’t gone on tour, but we’ve played a bunch of shows. We’ve played smaller gigs in weird rooms, and you just can’t imagine at these festivals, even though it’s a big production, and it’s worth millions of dollars….you can’t imagine how open those people are to us. We’re so strange sometimes. To hear after someone who’s not in our world, and people are so open to it, and I’m really appreciative of that. We need that! I love those festivals. I can’t wait to bear down and get back to those. The workers are great at those too.

The biggest thing Nashville gave us was this sense of community. This sense of people rooting for you and sometimes you need that. You don’t always need it. It’s unhealthy to focus on that, but sometimes you need that community and that tight-knit group.
— NAWAS on working in Nashville

AM: So what else are you looking forward to for 2017? I know you said you’re writing a bunch more than the EP, but will their potentially be a tour?

JN: Yeah, well we signed early and we did all this, and it was kind of overwhelming. Now I’m seeing like there’s tons of things to look forward to. But really what I’m looking forward to is getting on a tour and some club rooms, and getting to play these [songs] and see what people say. I’m really excited for tour, whether it’s a….it does not have to be glamorous. We don’t have very high standards right now. We’re ready to get out there and play. We’re hungry. We’re hungry to hear what the people have to say. This is a tight knit group, the’s me, Ben, Joey. We write a lot together and we work with producers we’re really close with. It means a lot to us to bring people a product that we think is up to par. I can’t wait to get out there and see if it is up to par. I don’t have any breaking announcements about a tour, but it will be coming. I’m really excited to get out there and get our shot basically.

AM: For sure, let us know when you eventually come to Chicago!

Keep up with all the NAWAS updates on their Facebook page, and listen to their latest single, "Who Are You," below. 

A Chat With Twinsmith

Omaha-based indie rock band Twinsmith return with stripped back and chilled out tunes for their third record, Stay Cool, out next month. Singles like "Matters" and "You & I" boost infectious and mellow melodies, perfect for driving around with the windows down on a summer day. Originally formed by the duo Matt Regner and Jordan Smith, the band has grown to include Bill Sharp on the bass and drummer Jake Newbold while on tour. Last Thursday, Twinsmith played Chicago as the third show of the Ultrasonic Summer Tour with Rooney and Run River North, following a hometown gig in Omaha. Before they hit the stage at Lincoln Hall, we caught up with the guys to talk about their simplified recording process, Jason Derulo, and Red Roof Inns...among other things. Get to know Twinsmith now! 

Twinsmith at Lincoln Hall on June 22nd, 2017  Left to Right: Jake Newbold, Matt Regner, Bill Sharp, and Jordan Smith.

Twinsmith at Lincoln Hall on June 22nd, 2017

Left to Right: Jake Newbold, Matt Regner, Bill Sharp, and Jordan Smith.

ANCHR Magazine: Your single “You & I” just came out this week. How does it feel to get your new music out there in advance of the new record?

Matt Regner: It’s always great. Especially in this day and age where that whole process takes forever. Especially if you’re pressing vinyl. Basically you finish the recording, you finish mastering, then you’re just hanging out with the songs by yourself for a few months.

Jordan Smith: Yeah, it definitely feels good. It feels good to play new songs. That’s what we’re most excited for. We were rehearsing these songs as a band. We’d written and recorded them before we started playing them live. So the whole process was just like a long process of being able to start playing these. We’re excited to keep releasing music and keep writing.

AM: How was the recording process for this album then, compared to your past records?

MR: It was awesome. Basically that whole album came together in our house. We recorded it in our dining room. We didn’t really need--for all of these songs we didn’t need a big studio. We didn’t spend a ton of money. We could just find some cool gear and make it happen. Having complete control over everything and not like five people running around the studio, doing this and that, you start forgetting names. It was just for the most part Jordan and I, and then Graham Ulicny who produced it, showing up at 11 a.m. and working. 

AM: So for the first two records, was it similar or you did actually record those in a studio?

MR: Yeah, in the studio you’re just rushed. So we weren’t on a time crunch with this. That’s when you start making mistakes.

AM: I think that comes across in the mood when you’re listening to the new record.

MR: There’s definitely more of a relaxed mood with this album. Maybe that goes back to the actual process, or our moods when we wrote the songs. Not having that studio rush, or worrying about the money, like the hours that you’re putting in…

AM: So I know tour just started a couple nights ago, but how have the new songs been going in the live setting so far?

MR: Great. There’s still just enough rust on them. They’re always fun to play, and we’re still making mistakes on them--

JS: But that’s good! I’d rather have that than be really bored. 

MR: The Alligator [Years] album, we played those songs 100 times over the course of a year. You get burnt out on that. I don’t know how The Rolling Stones do it.

JS: They get millions of dollars.

MR: I’d play “Start Me Up” that much for a million dollars.

AM: What have been some of your favorite new ones then?

JS: I think “Defend Yourself”--

MR: Which actually, we planned on having it as a single, but we didn’t release it. I think that’s just the most fun to play live. It’s a fun groove. We always play it towards the end of the set.

AM: So you guys just had the hometown gig in Omaha last night, but is there anywhere else you’re really looking forward to playing?

JS: I’m interested to see what Davenport is gonna be like, cause I’ve never played in Davenport. I think we’ve played everywhere else. 7th Street Entry’s always fun.

AM: So you guys made a Spotify Playlist that for "songs to crack open a cold one to”--

MR: That’s all Bill!

AM: Then there was the “Stay Cool” one, which had all songs with “Stay” or “Cool” in the title, so how do you guys decide who gets the aux cord on the road?

MR: I’m the only one with a Spotify Premium account, but I have that damn new iPhone that doesn’t have the thing, and the van doesn’t have bluetooth. We’re not there yet as a band.

JS: We were there last week, but now we had to downgrade. Last tour, we listened to a podcast that was like 8 hours long when we drove from Chicago to Omaha.

MR: We listened to the entirety of S-Town. It was mind-blowing.

JS: We wanted the drive to be longer cause there was an episode and a half we still hadn’t listened to . That was the first time ever we were like “man I wish this drive was longer!” For the first five hours today, I don’t think we played a single thing.

MR: We usually just scan for a Top 40 radio station and keep it on a low volume.

JS: Unless it’s Jason Derulo.

MR: Derulo comes up! Everything else stays low.

AM: Do you guys tend to write while you’re on the road?

JS: You were writing [to Jake]--

Jake Newbold:  It was a grocery list.

MR: He does all his grocery shopping in Chicago. 

AM: Any other new bands you’re really into at the moment? 

JS: We were talking about Kevin Morby on the way up here.

MR: He’s got a really good new album.

JS: Jake knows what’s hot!

JN: I’ve been listening to Chris Weisman.Tigerwine just put out a new record.

AM: Nice! So was there anyone you pinpointed as influences for the record?

MR: Not super specifically. Actually, yes, super specifically in the sense that there’d be one part in a song where I’d try to get behind the mindset of the guitar licks. Like “what were they thinking when they wrote that?” But there wasn’t like one band you could put an umbrella over the album. Which is definitely a good thing. You never want that to happen. I think all of us, for as long as we’ve been in the band, or been in bands period, we just all listen to stuff that isn’t anything like our music.

AM: Then you can pick up on the moods or certain emotions, or even like you said certain guitar pickings and stylize that to your own music.

MR: Yeah, totally.

AM: Cool, anything else this year you’re really looking forward to besides this tour and the album coming out? Anything planned for the fall?

JS: I think we’re looking forward to kind of just seeing what’s next. We’re just seeing what happens, and I think we’re ready for whatever.

AM: Maybe some bluetooth in the van?

JS: Yeah, get back to that! That’d be awesome.

AM: Oh and did you get a week of free rooms at Red Roof Inn that you Tweeted about? 

MR: That was all [Jordan]

JS: I tried! 

MR: We're big fans of Red Roof Inns.

JS: We stay there a lot.

AM: Any last minute words of advice?

MR: Don’t use Apple Maps to get through Chicago. We just figured that out today. It wasn’t lost, it was just using all these alternate routes. We basically got off the highway in Iowa and took side streets.

So, Red Roof Inn, if you’re reading this, help a band out! Everyone else, help yourself out and pre-order Stay Cool here, out July 14th on Saddle Creek records. You can check out  Twinsmith's upcoming tour dates here, and see the gallery from their show at Lincoln Hall below! 

Catching Up With The Autumn Defense

It's rare that you'll find a festival that has the same artists perform multiple times in one weekend, while still providing completely unique and once in a lifetime performances. Enter Eaux Claires, Pat Sansone, and John Stirratt. Sansone and Stirratt performed twice on Friday as The Autumn Defense, before closing out Saturday with Wilco's headlining slot. In the early evening on Saturday before Wilco battled the oncoming storm for the final set of TROIX, the Chicago music veterans talked about their Eaux Claires experience, balancing multiple music projects, and working with other artists. Here are five things we learned while catching up with The Autumn Defense. 

Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt of The Autumn Defense at Eaux Claires 2017

Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt of The Autumn Defense at Eaux Claires 2017

They Were Shocked At Their Crowd Turnout

The Autumn Defense got cozy with the crowd in the woods twice during the festival's first day, playing The Oxbeaux Stage, which sits in the middle of the forest as a hidden gem. The pair discuss their favorite part of their two sets. "I enjoyed the fact that there were a lot more people there than I expected. I knew we were gonna be playing on a small stage in the woods. It was very much how I pictured it, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many people came and listened to us. It was a great crowd...a beautiful setting," Pat Sansone reflected. 

John Stirratt adds his praise of the festival in general and how great they've done on setting the scene, saying, "I think they’ve done a better job, much like a lot of the smaller European festivals that seem to be more of the trend now. What they do is they really focus on the spaces where people are and try to make some kind of gear or nighttime lighting in the woods. You see that at Green Man in England. I think just really concentrating on the spaces and how it looks in the daytime and the nighttime...There’s a magic quality to that, especially in the woods here." 

Sansone says he 100 percent agrees with Stiratt's observation, adding, "Yeah, curating such a good feeling, it takes care and it takes vision. The immediate feel of those things when you come here..." 

Their Collaboration Wish List is Endless

In addition to the magical and beautiful setting that the team behind Eaux Claires curates, there is a strong focus on collaboration and improvisation between bands on the line up. Wilco alone had multiple spin off groups at Eaux addition to Stirratt and Sansone performing as The Autumn Defense, there were also sets from Tweedy and cup, featuring Wilco members. Sansone and Stirratt discuss other possible collaborations between musicians on the lineup and themselves. 

"I’ve never played with Jenny Lewis. That would be fun to do something with her," Stirratt says, mentioning that they're friends so it's weird they have yet to collaborate.  "I just ran into Leslie Feist, and we worked with her on a Wilco song...she sings on Wilco song. It’d be great to do something with her again. So many great people. Justin [Vernon]," Sansone chimes in. Stirratt also suggests playing with Aaron Dessner before Sansone throws out the possibility of working with Chance. "I think Autumn Defense and Chance The Rapper could really find some common ground. I think we could kind of give him the bump that he needs to get out there, on a bigger platform," he joked. Funnily enough, after the interview, I stopped by the merch booth and noticed they had separated headliners Wilco and Chance The Rapper merch from the rest of the artists' and festival merchandise. Maybe that's a sign that something could work out between the Chicago musicians. After all, anything's possible at Eaux Claires. 

Speaking of epic collaborations, Sansone and Stirratt gave their suggestion of a cross between some of the other musicians on the 2017 line up. "It’d be cool to see Paul Simon and John Prine link up. That’d be pretty historic," Sansone says. 

They Rely On Muscle Memory For Their Different Projects

Working in multiple active projects has got to be tough to keep up with, but Stirratt says they've got the routines down. "It’s kind of, at least for me, it’s kind of like we’ve played with both entities for so long, there’s a lot of muscle memory there. We bring in the Autumn Defense guys, and really, we’ve played long enough with them, all it takes is one short jam and they’re right back. It’s really wonderful, and quite economical too. So you can do these things without really dedicated rehearsal days and rehearsal spaces. You can make it kind of informal. Wilco sort of does that as well. It’s definitely great to have that history with all those folks," he says. 

They're "Looking Towards Looking Towards" A New Album

It's been a minute since the 2014 of The Autumn Defense's fifth album, appropriately titled Fifth, but it might not be too long before a sixth LP is in the works.  Sansone talks more about the current status of new music from The Autumn Defense, saying, "We haven’t really started looking towards a new album yet. We’re looking towards looking towards a new album right now. It’s been a busy couple years since we put out our last one. With Wilco, and John and I have other projects that we’ve been consumed with. It’s definitely something that’s close to us, and we’re looking forward to when we can carve out that time." So while the process of the new album isn't really in motion yet, at least it's at the front of Sansone and Stirratt's minds. 

As far as their writing process when inspiration does hit, Stirratt says, "I tend to write really for Autumn Defense only. I used to contribute songs for Wilco over time and I realized it wasn’t the best use of my time. For a long time it’s been for The Autumn Defense. That’s the main writing outlet that I have. I personally can’t delineate where it goes." 

They're Still In On The Chicago Scene

Although Sansone and Stirratt have been touring the world with Wilco, they still manage to keep up with some hometown musicians. While talking about some of their favorite newer or up and coming Chicago artists, Stirratt says, "Well Whitney is way beyond up and coming, but that record [Light Upon the Lake] was a big record for me last year."

Sansone shares his new local favorites, saying, "There’s a guy named, well the project is named Jagged Jaw, and it’s one guy. His name is Bobby Lord, and he had a record that came out last year. He does everything himself. Self released. It’s really great. I produced a record for his previous band which was called Future Monarchs, and he kind of went off in secret and made this record. I was just completely blown away. I hear he’s working on a new record. He’s keeping it very under the radar." 

Although Sansone and Stirratt have been making music professionally for years, they say that newer artists probably have a leg up on them despite all their experience. "It’s a whole new world. I kind of feel like a lot of these musicians and younger bands probably have stuff to teach me," Sansone admits. 

Stirratt agrees, saying, "I feel the same way! I feel like things were way easier. Getting a deal was easier back then. It was just--," he pauses before adding, "There’s people with all these different disciplines, you know. The ability to record and produce and arrange and do it all on a really high level."

Keep up with The Autumn Defense here, and listen to their last record Fifth below. 

Get To Know: The Sometimes Island

In Austin, Texas, there's a manmade lake called Lake Travis, and sometimes, depending on the fluctuating tide, small islands can be seen poking out of the lake. These part-time islands are the inspiration behind the Los-Angeles based (via Austin) multi-instrumentalist and producer Matt Blankenship Jr's moniker. "I thought it was a good metaphor for sometimes it’s just a one-man band, and sometimes I have a bunch of people with me," Blankenship explains about the meaning behind his latest endeavor, an indie electro-pop project, threaded with summer vibes. While we recently chatted with the well-versed musician, we heard about his upcoming EP, his journey as a musician, his tour survival tips, and more. Get to know The Sometimes Island now!

Photo Courtesy of The Sometimes Island

Photo Courtesy of The Sometimes Island

He Decided To Do Music As A Profession at 14 Years Old

Blankenship’s musical journey stretches all the way back to the age of 7 or 8, when he says he asked his dad to let him play drums. “My dad was pretty smart. He was like well, I’ll get you this little drum practice pad and as soon as you can do a drum roll, I’ll think about getting you a drum set and getting you drum lessons. I was like 7 or 8 and I had no idea how to do a drum roll,” Blankenship recalls. As the story continues, his dad then offered him piano lessons, which he continued to learn for about seven years. Blankenship reveals that he’s since been dedicated to music 100 percent for more than half his life, saying, “I think I was around 14 when I was like ok, I think I’m just gonna do this for the rest of my life, as a profession. I’m 30 now.”

It's been a winding road since then, with other bands and past projects, but Blankenship describes the formation of The Sometimes Island as a natural progression. "These songs...this project in general has been something that I started working on about three years ago. I was in another group at the time, that was much more electronic leaning. This was my way to have an outlet to make this beachy kind of catchy music. I have bubble gum in my veins. I love a good pop song, so I was writing these [songs] and they weren’t a good fit for the band I was in. It came down to that band breaking up and me focusing on this full time for the last year," he says. 

He's Focused On The Community Around His Music

Having played music in the buzzing scene that is Los Angeles for more than 11 years, Blankenship says he's learned a thing or two about the business side of things. "I spend more time marketing myself than making music. Which to make enough music just means that I do this constantly," he confesses. He continues to share his wisdom, adding, "The biggest lesson I’ve learned is you can make a Facebook event and invite people to a concert, but if you just do stuff that works on a small scale, like calling a friend and saying 'Hey, I have this show. Would you like to come?' That’s the kind of hustle that you have to do to get people to actually go." Blankenship emphasizes the overflowing market in Los Angeles, saying you really have to go above and beyond to create something unique and memorable. "In this town especially there’s no shortage of really talented musicians, and they’re all playing shows and you have to create an environment where people want to go to your show not just because the music but because there’s like a comradery. And the other people who come see you play kind of create a little scene, and that’s how you get something going. Rather than just being like hey this is a really good song, listen to it! People will listen to it and forget about it. But if you create a community, then you have something going," Blankenship advises. 

He Hoards and Repurposes Old Material 

So while Blankenship may have started writing material for The Sometimes Island years ago, it doesn't mean he's released all of it. In fact, Blankenship reveals that he obsessed over the songs on the upcoming EP, called Bad People. He elaborates on the EP songs, saying "I spent way too long on these songs. They’ve been around for so long and I didn’t have anyone to bounce musical feedback off at the time. I obsessed over them, and they’re good for it, but I learned a lot about just writing off the cuff and improvising. Just because I worked on something for 10 hours doesn’t make it better than something that came from maybe 15 minutes. I’m really hard on my music and I’m actually proud of these songs, which is saying a lot for me." 

Blankenship also reveals that he saves the material that he hasn't deemed as ready for release. "There’s also a huge value in tying a bow on something and saying this is done and listening to it objectively. If a song isn’t good, then you don’t have to release it. But if it’s pretty good, you might have worked all the good out of it had you kept going. If you make a crappy song that has a really good part, I’m very into cannibalizing my old material for a new song. There’s some parts of songs where I’ve been like this would work really well, and I never released that old song...," he says.

African Funk Music Is His Jam

Blankenship talks about his influences, saying, "I spend a lot of time looking back on the past. There’s a lot of great music out right now, but The Beach Boys are a huge inspiration to me. I’ve been putting a lot of harmonies and vocal soundscapes into my music. I love the sound of chillwave from around 2009."

As far as his favorite music just to listen to and absorb, Blankenship gives props to the genre of African Funk music. "As far as new stuff that’s coming out...I don’t even really know what’s new anymore with Spotify. If a song is new to me I’m like did it come out a week ago? A year ago? I’ve been really into trying to get out of my pop music space, so I’ve been listening to a lot of African Funk. Which is great music to have on. The songs are extremely long, really jammy. It’s great music to just sort of have on while you’re doing other things, but it’s also great to listen to directly. African Funk, man, that’s been my jam." 

He Stays Tame During Tour

Blankenship will be hitting the road at the end of July and early August, but he admits the tour won't be all that wild. "I’d love to do the whole rock’n’roll party all the time thing, but I gotta make sure I’m not drinking too much, I’m getting enough sleep. Because this tour is particularly packed. It’s one gig after another. And if I’m tired for one, chances are I’ll be tired for the next one. I have all the time in the world to party when I’m not on tour. So I’m very regimented about it." As far as which cities he's most excited to play in, he says, "I’m definitely excited for all of them. I don’t want to sell anyone short. I’m particularly excited for the Seattle gig because I’ll get to play a show with my  good friend Claire George. So I’d say that one I’m particularly excited about."

Blankenship also gives a teaser about some of the songs that will be included in the setlist this tour, saying, "I think 'Bad People' is a lot of fun. That’s gonna come out as a single in a couple weeks, and it’s the namesake of the EP.  It allows me to go off on a bunch of crazy vocal stuff. And I really enjoy playing a quieter song that will come out on the EP that’s called 'Mornings Are The Worst,' that’s just sort of very acoustic. I don’t really believe that mornings are the worst. I wrote it on a morning where I hadn’t slept at all, so the sun rising was a bit of a bummer. That’s a song that just sort of wrote itself. It became sort of a critique of who I was at that time, in retrospect."


Keep up with tour updates and new tunes from The Sometimes Island here, and listen to the newest single "Can't Move On" below!

Get To Know: Island Apollo

Los Angeles-based band Island Apollo made their return last month with the brand new single "Hold It Down,' their first music release since 2015. After having a string of success with their debut EP, from their songs being used on major television networks to winning an OC Music Award, the band have recorded an entire new EP in Seattle with producer Eric Lilavois. While we eagerly await the release of this new music, get to know even more about the guys behind these infectious and unique indie tunes. We chatted with guitarist Heath Farmer to get the scoop on everything from their recording process up in Seattle to Mickey Mouse and his take on the LA music scene. Tune in now...

The Band Took Their First Guitar Lesson Together

Taking it was back to his days as a 10 year old, Heath Farmer kicks off with some backstory of the band's formation. "I started playing guitar for the first time probably when I was around 10 years old. My brothers and I, who are in the band, and Ryan our lead vocalist...all four of us took our first guitar lesson together. So there’s like a long history and connection between when we first started playing music and our band that we have today," Farmer recalls. 

Shifting towards his journey into creating his own music with the band, Farmer gives some insight on his influences, continuing, "I don’t think I really got interested in making music until I entered middle school. Once you become a teenager, music becomes like the most important thing in the world to you. I went through a couple different stages of musical epiphanies I guess. The first song that I heard that made me go 'wow, I didn’t know you could do that with music' was 'Clint Eastwood' by The Gorillaz. I remember hearing that and going 'I had no idea that you could work a beat like that along with a melody and still have a story that’s really relatable.' Then I went to Blink 182 then to Thrice. Then threw it way back to The Beach Boys... and then Muse. I had another big one when I discovered Arcade Fire. That’s kind of where I’m at right now." He and the band have pulled from this wide range of influences to craft their own refreshing sound.

Missing a Flight Took a Positive Spin During Recording

While the band were recording the brand new and still unreleased EP up in Seattle with Eric Lilavois, Farmer says the band explored a new sound by stepping out of their comfort zone. "It seemed like an opportunity that would help inspire us. We went up there and spent a whole week recording these songs and living together in Seattle. Really going from one end of The US West Coast to the other. It’s funny, it’s almost like a parallel dimension from Southern California because it’s got a lot of the same cultural vibes, but in a completely different setting. Everything is just a little bit different. Enough to where it’s a completely different experience. I think that helped us explore things musically that I don’t know if we would have necessarily done had we been in our comfort zone. So I think it was a good opportunity that we seized. There’s a very big possibility that we might do something like that again," he mused. 

Speaking of being out of their comfort zone, Farmer recalls one particular experience that caused some mayhem during their final day of recording. "There was one moment where I actually had to leave earlier than the rest of the band to go back to Southern California, and I missed my plane. So they came back to pick me up, and drove me back to the studio. There was this weird sense of confusion and frustration from me. Because it was the last day, we split everybody up in the studio so we had a couple different stations. We had the control room as the main recording live room, where we had people doing various different parts. We had another station set up in the lounge where we were recording a lot of the extra instruments, whether it was percussion or some synth lines. So just because my mind was completely scrambled at that point, I started hearing things in the music that everybody else wasn’t hearing. Sometimes that ended up being a good thing and sometimes that ended up being a really really bad thing. To the point where I honestly think I was having auditory delusions. Everything was just so frantic for me that day. Initially it was very--inefficient. As the day went on and I started to calm down, I had this creative perspective that I don’t think I would have had had I not gone through such a weird day. That translated to a lot of different ideas with the unreleased songs. It was a really, really weird experience," Farmed recalled. "For the record, completely sober. I think as a musician I should make that clear. It was this frenzy that I was in that really lead to that," he immediately followed up. 

Although it seemed like a stressful experience, Farmer put an optimistic spin on the story, concluding with, "It was amazing what that amounted to at the end of the day, and it was a very a positive experience." 

I think that helped us explore things musically that I don’t know if we would have necessarily done had we been in our comfort zone.
— Guitarist Heath Farmer on recording in Seattle

They're Big Disney Fans, Especially Mickey Mouse

As mentioned, Island Apollo have had their music featured on major TV networks from VH1 to CBS and used in ads for the likes of Sprint and SoBe. So with new music on the horizon, what product would the band like to associate their music to? "That’s a great question. I saw that Mickey Mouse had a summer playlist this year on Spotify, which is hilarious. That would be pretty cool if we were listed as one of Mickey’s summer jams," Farmer revealed. Wise move on his choice, since Disney opens such a huge door to other opportunities. 

Elaborating further on the new music and when fans can expect to hear it, Farmer continued, "We should have a new song coming out within the next couple weeks. It’s a total dance party song. Not in the sense that it’s EDM. This is actually like---the best way I can describe it is Surf Funk. There’s a lot of stuff in the song and instrumentation that we’ve never tried before."  Stay tuned for news on this unchartered territory with Island Apollo!

They Care About Their Live Show

As far as an upcoming tour to pair with the new music, Farmer says, "We’re in talks about a few different things regarding touring. We just want to make sure it’s done in the right way for us. We’re not exactly sure where we’ll end up, but we’re hoping to be on the road soon." He does promise that when they do tour, he and his bandmates will give their all for the live show. 

Talking more on being a part of the live music scene in LA, Farmer shares his insight on the oversaturated market. "To tell you the truth I’m kind of--" he begins before pausing. "I want to say the right thing, but at the same time I want to say the truth," he continued. "I’m pretty disappointed with what a lot of new artists are doing today. We’ve played shows with guys who will straight up just push a button on their keyboard and then hold one guitar to play one line in the song, and then sing everything else over their pre-recorded tracks. I greatly appreciate the music, but it’s a pretty boring thing to watch. That’s my unadulterated observation on that. Especially in the local music scene where there aren’t big budgets to have sets and and lights. I feel like that’s watered down the rest of the scene. Because people look at that and go ‘wow that’s all I have to do?’ And then some people get inspired by that and then everyone’s just half-assing put it bluntly."

Farmer concludes his take on the LA scene with a very important point about live performances, saying, "I look at that and just think wow, you guys wrote a lot of great songs, why are you half-assing your live show? That’s the difference between going to the show and listening to the recording. There’s this intimate experience of watching the creator create. If they’re not doing that for you, you kind of think like what’s the point? That’s not to say that the community that’s at a live concert scene is not important. That’s very important to it all. But at the same time you have to give a reason for why the community wants to come and see you. You still have to put on a show. There are a lot of great bands that we’re friends with that we love, but at the same time, there’s a lot of people not impressing anybody."

There's An Unbreakable Bond Between The Band

Playing on the bands name, I wrapped up the interview asking Farmer if he could be trapped on an island with one member of the band, who would be pick and why. After pondering briefly, Farmer confirmed the tight-knit nature of the group by answering, "I don’t know if I can answer that question to be honest. I don’t find anybody in the band to be dispensable. I’m not saying that to be politically correct-- I mean it," he says. "Everybody in the band is incredibly integral to what we have been able to manifest, and I would never take anybody’s contribution for granted. I would just be like alright well if I have to be stranded on a deserted island, then I’ll swim to shore to be with everybody. I’ll probably die along the way," Farmer concluded. 

Get ready for the new music and a possible tour from Island Apollo by listening to "Hold It Down" and following their Facebook Page.

Drinking Advice and Arena Tours: A Chat With Mondo Cozmo at Hangout Fest

It's been a hell of a ride for the Philadelphia-born Josh Ostrander (better known by his stage name Mondo Cozmo) since he released his debut single "Shine" just last year. Besides having success in the charts with the aforementioned single and appearing on Jimmy Kimmel's show, Ostrander and his brand new band had the opportunity to join Bastille on their Spring arena tour across North America. Oh yeah, and he's on just about every single festival lineup this summer, from Shaky Knees to Summerfest to Lollapalooza. Although he's got countless gigs and festival appearances lined up, when Ostrander chatted with us at Hangout Fest, he had just finished playing his second ever festival. Despite the newness of the Mondo Cozmo project, Ostrander and his band not only sounded well-versed, but they drew quite the crowd during their early afternoon set at Hangout. With the way things are going, Mondo Cozmo's success will only keep coming. From touring stories to news on his album, get to know Josh Ostrander now. 

Photo by Travis Shinn / Thumbnail Image Courtesy of Hangout Music Festival

Photo by Travis Shinn / Thumbnail Image Courtesy of Hangout Music Festival

ANCHR Magazine:  Going back to when you first started playing music, do you have a first memory of when you picked up an instrument?

Mondo Cozmo: Yeah, it was when Nirvana's In Utero record came out. That was it for me. That’s when I asked my parents to get me a guitar for Christmas. We didn’t have a lot of money, so it was nice that they did that. So I started with guitar, then I got a 4 track cassette recorder. I learned how to record, and then ever since then, I’ve just been recording on my own. I record everything in my house, and then it just comes out and it’s kind of crazy to be in Alabama and see people singing along. Like this was in my guest bedroom!

AM: So are you still doing that for the new music?

MC: Yeah, the album’s coming out in August. It was all recorded by myself and my dog.

AM: What else can you tell me about it, like the theme of the songs? 

MC: It’s kind of all over the place. It’s a good mix of that I really like to listen to, and hopefully everybody likes it.

AM: You’ve been playing some of the newer stuff live that you haven’t released yet. What are a couple of songs that stand out to you?

MC: One of my favorite songs on there, it’s called “Plastic Soul,” I love it so much, I named the album after that. There’s a new song that just came in at the end. It’s called “Thunder,” and it’s right in the middle of the record, and it’s just like a proper good rock song. I just can’t wait for people to hear it.

AM: So speaking of playing live, you just did your tour with Bastille. How was that? Any crazy stories from that tour?

MC: Our first show was Air Canada Centre in front of like 10,000 people. At any given point on that tour, my band was figuring out how to play cause we haven’t played that many shows. It was just...I’ll forever be grateful to them for taking us out, because we needed to learn now to play at this level for the summer that we have ahead of us. I will forever be grateful to them.

AM: Any special highlights or cities that stood out on the tour? Did you get to do anything fun outside of the shows?

MC: Yeah we drank a lot with them. By the end of it, we were pretty tight. I miss those guys now. They really took us under their wing and they were really sweet to us.

AM: Any favorite cities as far as playing in a band there for the first time?

MC: We played Montreal, it was my first time ever playing there. We played “Plastic Soul” and midway through the song, the whole venue opened up with wasn’t lighters, but people use their phones now. It’s the coolest thing ever! It’s so powerful, it’s amazing.

AM: What else are you looking forward to this summer? You’re doing a lot of festivals!

MC: I think I’m really excited about Lollapalooza. I’ve always had that one on my radar. I’m really humbled to be on that. We’ve got some really cool stuff coming up this year, and I’m just so grateful to be able to do this.

AM: So talking more about festivals, do you have any festival do’s and don’t?

MC: Just try not to get drunk before we play is my main goal. I have to remember to bring sunscreen.

AM: Speaking of not getting drunk before playing, that was some impressive chugging on stage earlier!

MC: I did alright! We didn’t have any beer backstage so I got someone in the crowd. I asked the band for all the money we had, and we came up with $63 and asked someone in the crowd to buy us 5 beers, they came back with 10.

AM: Any other bands or new albums out that you’re listening to at the moment?

MC: Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff! The Kendrick album is getting a lot of play with us right now. It’s cool cause the boys all bring their own taste, and we all listen to everybody’s playlists. It’s an ever changing mix.

Mondo Cozmo's Ever Evolving Spotify Playlist

AM: Anything else you do to stay entertained on the road?

MC: At the moment, we’re just trying to learn my songs. It’s been moving so fast, where it’s like we haven’t had a chance. Like we played a song today we haven’t played yet.

AM: What else are you looking forward to this year?

MC: I think we’re doing a headlining run in the fall, and the record comes out in August!

AM: Any other last words of wisdom?

MC: Beer before Whiskey!

Chicago, Mondo Cozmo will return for Lollapalooza in August, including an aftershow at Schubas Tavern on Wednesday, August 2nd....perfect timing for the August 4th release of his debut album, Plastic Soul! Starting Friday at 10AM, you can grab your tickets to the aftershow here. Get ready for the gig by revisiting our photo gallery from his show with Bastille at the Aragon Ballroom, and listen to his latest single below!

Shower Sex, Stripping On Stage, and Sheeran: Catching Up With Barns Courtney at Hangout Festival

Since the release of his single, "Fire," Barns Courtney has been everywhere...touring cross-country, opening for the likes of Fitz and the Tantrums and Tom Odell, playing radio shows and festivals...and he's not stopping any time soon. Released earlier this year, Barns Courtney's The Dull Drums EP combines his distinct vocals with infectious melodies and singalong choruses. His debut full length has been a long time coming, and when we caught up with the singer-songwriter at Hangout Fest last weekend, we talked about the recording process for the debut album, life on the road, what's next for him this year, and more. Get to know more about Barns in this candid interview, featuring a scandalous festival tale from his early days. 

Photo Courtesy of Hangout Music Festival

Photo Courtesy of Hangout Music Festival

ANCHR Magazine: What do you consider your first musical memory, when you first got into playing your own music, or really falling in love with music in general.

Barns Courtney: I think just singing with my mom. My mom’s crazy. We'd always put on voices together, put on accents, sing little bits and bobs together, make up parodies.

AM: Any bands that she was into? My mom loved Michael Bolton.

BC: I love that, I love that you’re willing to admit that. She used to play Paul Simon’s Graceland. She did that everyday for a year. There’s a line in that song “my traveling companion is nine years old, he is the child of my first marriage”... which was true, for a year. I was a nine year old child of her first marriage.

AM: So you were born in England, then moved to Seattle...then went back to England. Where do you consider home now?

BC: Seattle for sure. That’s where I spent my formative years. That guy over there, Mikey, is my best friend from when I was in elementary school. All the people that I really love from childhood are in Seattle. And my mom loves there, and my brothers.

AM: Do you consider the traveling around to be a big influence on your songwriting?

BC: I think so. Because the way that I write music is very sporadic and I write in a lot of different genres. I was actually wondering if the album was too all over the place, stylistically. It’s different from the EP. I think it’ll be alright. I think the subject matter and the fact that it’s the same person singing on all the tracks will unify it. But I certainly think that the British Indie scene was a huge influence on me. The American pop punk scene when I was growing up in Seattle was a huge influence. I don’t think in the way that would expect. For instance when it comes to Nirvana, they were a big part of my young life. I just loved their throwaway confessional honesty of Kurt Cobain’s songwriting and lyricism. I love that he can fill an entire chorus with some balls and one word, like “Lithium” where he just sings “yeah” again and again and it sounds so good. That’s just inspired me to write music that’s an honest as possible. It’s more about the passion for me and the feel when I write a record than it is about the musicality. Which could be both a good and a bad thing.

AM: I think it’s always better to have passion than be perfectly technical.

BC: But I do love technical bands. I love bands like The Strokes where the guitar weaves so effortlessly with the bass and they have these little lovely intricate parts. I want to explore that on my next record. This one is very basic....basic chords, basic drum beats.

AM: Is the album done then?

BC: It’s done. It’s been done for a while.

AM: Is their a targeted release date?

BC: I think they want to go for around September, I’m not sure though. I just gotta keep my head down and keep writing songs because eventually something’s gotta give. 

AM: What else can you tell me about the album, like where’d you record it?

BC: It’s been a mad rush. I wasn’t expecting my first single “Fire” to be a single. I wrote this song. I was working in a computer store. Before I knew it I was getting calls from my buddy who had showed it to an agent who was a friend of his, and it just like spread around the industry like wildfire. I was signed before I knew it. And then it was in a movie. Then KNND [107.7 The End] in Seattle were playing it. They were playing it before my label even knew who I was. They were getting calls like this Barns Courtney guy, is he yours? And they’re like I don't know who this guy is. I’ve been on the road solidly since that tune picked up. A lot of the album was recorded on the road. My friend Sam from my last band, who’s like a mad genius. He does this project called Look Mum, No Computer where he makes like synthesizers out of bicycles. I took him on the road, we recorded backstage at festivals, in the car, in hotel rooms. Occasionally, like for the next single, we stopped off in a studio on the road in between promo and gigs. There’s definitely like a sense of urgency with the album. 

There’s just this tremendous sense of togetherness, and it’s not even about being a spectacle or having the attention or the adoration. It is about the fantastic ability to be a part of something together with other people around you.
— Barns on the thrill of performing

AM: So your set yesterday was great--

BC: It was an interesting set. I was not expecting to get naked.

AM:  Wow, I missed that! I saw the first half of the set, but then went to MGMT.

BC: It got progressively more and more intense.

AM: Well, I was going to say you seem to give 110% at every performance, so how do you refuel yourself on tour when you give so much during each performance? 

BC: I just love being onstage. I love that unspoken connection between the audience and myself. I think all anybody wants to life, ultimately... is connect. When you’re up there, you’re all singing and dancing, hearts beating in unison. Glory Hallelujah. There’s just this tremendous sense of togetherness, and it’s not even about being a spectacle or having the attention or the adoration. It is about the fantastic ability to be a part of something together with other people around you. You come offstage and people want to continue that, they want to talk to you and continue that feeling. The sad thing is, as soon as you leave the stage and the audience, you become two strangers again. There isn’t that magical feeling of togetherness anymore. And that’s what really fuels all my performances. I love that. It’s cathartic and it’s meditative. I’m plugged into something bigger than myself. Really the only times where I don’t do that are when I’m too caught up in my own head or too self conscious. It is the most giving and energizing thing that I personally can experience. It provides me with my force, as opposed to the other way around.

AM: So since we're at a festival, do you have any crazy festival stories?

BC: Whenever people ask me these questions, I know in my mind somewhere there’s something, but I have to think of exactly what it is. I’ve done some messed up stuff at festivals. I remember once, I grew up in the same rough area as Ed Sheeran. So he would come to gigs in this place called the Steam Boat Tavern because they do little clubs shows in there. We played to like 10 people...[Ed] was always a phenomenal performer. I took my first band to see him at this little place, and I introduced was a big deal. I said ‘"Hey this is Ed,’" you know, he’s phenomenal, he’s gonna do great things one day. Bass player walks straight up to him, bites him as hard as he can on the shoulder. Draws blood. Ed starts freaking out, walks off. I don’t see him again for like two years. At this point we’re both playing this festival called Wakestock. Ed’s started to gain traction. He’s playing to a tent of like 5,000 people. I see him backstage, he’s like "Hey what’s up Barns." I’m like "Dude, it’s so nice to see you, I'm so sorry about that thing last time--" Mid sentence, bass player appears out of nowhere, bites him on the shoulder again. Bleeding! He’s like oh my god....goes off. He has to do his set.  Then later that night, we went to a roller skating rink. This is where Ed leaves the story.  We’ve all got roller skates on, and I was so drunk, me and the band, we just left this roller rink with the skates on. We’re trying drunkenly to get back to the van on roller skates through a muddy field. I meet this girl. She starts chewing my face off and she’s obviously on ecstasy, and I realize halfway through, the water that she gave me, is just full of drugs. New Found Glory is playing, we’re like going at- I mean like, Tyrannosaurus Rex going at each other’s faces. Like, it’s not pretty. All the music stops, and we look up and New Found Glory is looking at us, and they say, "I didn’t realize that our music was romantic, but fuck, you guys are really macking on each other!" No word of a lie, everyone is looking at us. We end up backstage in the shower room. Next thing I know this girl and I are getting intimate, I’ve still got my roller skates on. I’m soaking wet. It’s freezing cold, I’m wet through, making sweet love to this girl in a pair of roller skates. I’m shivering my ass off, and the two of us climb into this van. I look behind me, the bass player that just bit Ed Sheeran is making out with this girl that I literally just got with.

AM: That is crazy, I don’t even think you can make that up. So, still on the subject of festivals, you’ve got Lolla coming up, is there anything else you’re really looking forward to? Hopefully nothing as crazy as that festival story! 

BC: I hate having relations with women wearing roller skates. I hope that never happens again. It’s awkward. It doesn’t work.

AM: Would that be your festival "don’t?"?

BC: Do not have sex wearing roller skates. Especially when it’s freezing outside.

AM: Do you have a "do" in relation to that?

BC: A sexual do? Ecstasy is a glorious drug to make love on. You just wanna love everyone. You just wanna touch everyone. I remember being with this girl, and I just sat on my bed and I just looked at her for four hours. It was phenomenal. Just gazing deep within each other’s souls. Then when we finally got around to it, it was just this incredible, visceral experience. Must try that. I insist upon it. It’s got the Barnsy seal of approval.

AM: Anything else you’re looking forward to this tour?

BC: I just love playing festivals. I love playing gigs. Hangout Festival was so much fun. The crowd were just so present. When they told me to take my clothes off, I took my shirt off. They just kept asking. I basically made a deal with them. I was like look, if you guys go fucking crazy, I’ll take the rest of my clothes off. It was the end of the set, I brought two girls up on stage to be my hype ladies. I made a big ceremony, I got a drum beat going. I got the crowd chanting "take it off!"

AM: Wow, I included you in my highlights, but I think I need to revise it to include you getting naked. 

BC: I think Hangout put it on their snapchat. They said “He Did: That" and “Barns Courtney: No Shirt No Problem." 

AM: So moving on from being naked, are there any bands you’re really into at the moment?

BC: Yeah, Bishop Briggs. Phenomenal. I’ve seen her at a couple of festivals. Really into Band Of Skulls. Fidlar. Temples' new album is sick. Harry Styles’ new single is amazing! It's like Ziggy Stardust era Bowie. I don’t care about One Direction. Objectively, those are great pop songs. They’re not for me. They’re for teenage girls, but all music has its place. I would never discredit that. His new record is very credible, and very well done. The production is great. Nobody’s lyrics are ever gonna touch Bowie, but the lyrics are solid. They’re not teeny bopper One Direction lyrics. This is like when Justin Timberlake went to do a solo thing, but even more dramatic of a change. 

AM: Any last shout outs or advice? 

BC: Shout out to my mom. Shout out to my buddies The Struts. I saw them in LA recently, they’re gentlemen. Shout out to my friend, my lover, my coproducer, Look Mum No Computer...his shit’s amazing.

Chicago, Barns will be in town this August for Lollapalooza. You can check out all of his tour dates here, and listen to his full EP below.