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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

A Chat With: Flasher

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

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

Photo By Amy Breesman

Photo By Amy Breesman

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

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

How was it working with Nicolas Vernhes as the producer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your goals for 2019?

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

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

A Chat With: Girl Ray

The North London based trio Girl Ray, featuring Poppy Hankin, Iris McConnell, and Sophie Moss, has caught the attention of many since forming in 2015. Just last year, the band released their debut album Earl Grey, which boasts bright guitar melodies, soothing harmonies, and thoughtful lyrics that are quick to win anyone over. This week, the group will be embarking on a nearly two month venture to North America to perform their record to a new audience. In addition to making their SXSW debut, Girl Ray will support Porches on tour across the country, including a stop at Thalia Hall on February 21st. Before the tour rolls through Chicago, we had a quick Q&A with the band's bassist, Sophie Moss. Get to know the band a little bit better before they take over in 2018 by checking out our chat with Girl Ray now!

 Photo by Neil Thomson

 Photo by Neil Thomson

ANCHR Magazine: What do you remember as your first musical memory growing up, and what brought you all together to make music?

Girl Ray: Watching Lilo and Stitch when Lilo's sister comes in through the catflap and "Heartbreak Hotel" is playing. I wanted to be Lilo and she looked really zen and sassy. Combination of cartoon jealousy and Elvis' tones got me going and had to keep rewinding. I for one know that's why I'm in a band.

AM: Since your debut album Earl Grey came out in August last year, what have been some career highlights or favorite gigs you've play?

GR: We played a London venue called Scala which was really surreal. It's really big and people showing up and being enthusiastic felt like a massive prank.

AM: Speaking of gigs, you’ll be over in The States later this month touring with Porches. What cities are you most looking forward to visiting and playing in?

GR:  !!!!!!! For the shows: Chicago, Atlanta and NYC!  Really want to see the bat colony under Congress Avenue Bridge when we go to South By. Quite like bats but think it might be the wrong time of year. Big Sur! Joshua Tree! Griffith Observatory. Abe Lincoln's stony white head.

AM: What can we expect from your set on this tour, and are there any songs from your album that are your favorite to play live?

GR: Some smiles. My personal fave is "A Few Months." We like to change it up at the end and it's fun to play something a bit new every night. 

AM: Lastly, since your album is called Earl Grey, how would you describe your sound as a cup of tea metaphor?

GR: Smooth and good milk ratio for the most part. Not a tea you would tell your pen pal about, but maybe a tea you'd have again. Then a bit freaky at times - like finding a soft mouse inside, but it comes out the mug, touches your heart for a few seconds, and gets on with its day. Towards the end you're not seeing dregs. A nice surprise.

There you have it! Grab your tickets to see Girl Ray and Porches at Thalia Hall here, and get ready for the show by listening to Earl Grey in full below.

For Fans Of: The Big Moon, Tennis, Mitski

A Chat With: Molly Parden

Nashville based singer songwriter Molly Parden has perfected her craft of harmony-heavy folk songs throughout the years, taking her time on follow ups to her 2011 debut album Time Is Medicine, which include the 2016 EP With Me In The Summer and the brand new single "Sail on the Water." When she's not carefully finessing and honing in on her own music, the multitalented Parden also lends her stunning vocals to fellow Nashville musicians, or takes her skills on the road, recently touring as part of Faye Webster's band. On December 2nd, Molly Parden will return to Schubas (where she just played with Faye Webster) to support David Ramirez with her own material. Before the show, we chatted to Parden about everything from growing up with eight siblings, her favorite studio projects, and her 2018 goals. Tune in and get to know Molly Parden now!

Photo by Mark Cluney

Photo by Mark Cluney

ANCHR Magazine: As I understand it, you grew up with 8 other siblings and didn’t have much exposure to music at a young age. Do you remember what it was that sparked your interest to start playing music, and who some of your first influences were?

Molly Parden: Honestly I don’t remember what it was that sparked my interest in music, except that my life has always had a soundtrack. There was music every Sunday at church, a CD of worship music playing in our living room every day, and we listened to the radio as a family any time we piled into the van. Growing up in the church, Hillsong was a huge influence at first. When I began listening to secular music, it was Coldplay that led me to Radiohead that led me to Björk that led me to Feist. Feist (and probably Radiohead) played a large role in shaping my penchant for delicate vocals and jazz-flavored chords. 

AM: Speaking of all of your siblings, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from growing up with so many siblings? 

Molly Parden Biggest lesson: life is meant to be shared. Not that I always operate in that fashion, but when I sense that someone is freely giving me their time, talent or just something of theirs that means a lot to them, I am just undone. I try to remind myself that every little thing that I “own” is a gift.  Sure I work hard, but things are just things; they can easily be lost. I feel freedom when I loosen my grip on life; on possessions, on relationships. Growing up surrounded by people helped me understand this. 

AM: What are some of your favorite projects that you worked on as a studio vocalist when you first moved to Nashville?

Molly Parden: Two months after moving to town, I was invited to record harmony vocals on Caleb Groh’s record “Ocelot” and later on Joseph LeMay’s “Seventeen Acres”. I have listened to these records so many times. Chad Wahlbrink engineered both projects in (what was at the time) his home studio in Sylvan Park at The Pink Mailbox. 

AM: Can you talk a little bit about your transition into the spotlight when you started working on your own music, instead of being a studio vocalist? What were some of the challenges and what have been some of the biggest rewards? 

Molly Parden: I was stuck in a writing rut when I moved to Nashville. I had no idea what to write about. I would invent song ideas, record them on my iPhone, and try later to chip away at them ... to no avail. It was awful; I felt like maybe I had lost my knack for making songs. Singing harmony on records and at live shows was nice. I didn’t have the pressure of being the face of the band, but I was definitely being heard. I met so many artists and songwriters this way, by being a supporting vocalist. This role lent itself well to my very supportive personality. I truly don’t mind being beside the spotlight. 

I’ve played small shows regularly (once every 2 months) from the time I moved to Nashville in 2013, but I’ve never cared much for recording my own music. The pressure of time and money can feel harsh, making me want to wrap things up in the studio maybe too quickly. Being my own label, manager, lawyer and agent, I make my own timelines... and that’s probably why there was a 5 year gap between my first record Time Is Medicine to my 2016 EP With Me in the Summer

AM: What are some of your favorite aspects of the Nashville music scene right now, from venues to other artists and just the overall vibe?

Molly Parden: Hmm. I’ve been here just over four years. One of the things I love about Nashville is how many different people can rotate in and out of bands. I’ve played shows with 8 different electric guitar players, 3 bassists, and 2 drummers. It is pretty awesome to have 4 backups in case your #1 and #2 are both booked. I love the variety of club sizes here in town and I will always love playing Grimey’s dingy little precious venue underneath his record store, The Basement. Always. 

AM: You’ve been on tour this month, and you’ll be out throughout the first half of December. What have been some highlights, and what other cities are you looking forward to?

Molly Parden: I’ve been a David Ramirez fan ever since he beat me at an open mic contest at Eddie’s Attic back in 2010, so the fact that I get to share a stage with him for 45 shows is a rather wonderful thing to me. I had a great time in NYC at Mercury Lounge, Toronto at The Drake and in LA at Bootleg. New York is always so dreamy, in an exhausting way. We stayed in Montana on the way to Spokane, and I really enjoyed waking up to a mountainous backdrop. I’m really pumped about playing my tunes at Schuba's and 7th Street in Minneapolis. I played bass with Faye Webster at Schuba's on November 17th; it sounds so great in that room. And you know, I’m kind of excited about touring Florida. I don’t know why, but I am. 

AM: What are some of your favorite ways to stay entertained on the road during long drives? 

Molly Parden: I have one really boring one: the ABC game where you find (and shout) a word 4-or-more-letters outside of the car that begins with each letter of the Roman alphabet in sequential order. My sister Hannah and I are really good at it. My van BFF Matt (David’s keys player) played with me one time and hasn’t suggested we play since, so... I’m going to assume he’s not a fan. I don’t have any other good activities. If any of your readers have some, please. Email me. 

AM: I love your latest single, “Sail on the Water.” Where are you in the process of your next album, and when can we expect more new music?

Molly Parden: Thank you! I love it too. Took me about 18 months to write that bugger. Juan Solorzano (the producer and multi-instrumentalist) really breathed life into it. 

I am 3 songs in to creating a full-length record. 10 songs? 11? I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, after David’s tour ends in mid-December. I’ll hop back in the studio with Juan, Zachary Dyke, our drummer Tommy, Ben on strings and hopefully Matt Wright on keys for four or five days and knock out the rest of the record in Madison, TN. I’ve no clue when this one can be expected. Crossing my fingers for 2018. My fans are patient, as we’ve established earlier (re: five-year recording hiatus). Perhaps I’ll test their patience, make this five-year thing a trend.

AM: What else are you looking forward to in 2018?

Molly Parden: Every year you learn something new. Same goes for each tour, and I’m ready for the next one. A couple are in the works already for spring...can’t wait to see where the wind will blow me. I’m excited for baseball season; Nashville has a minor league team, the Sounds, which is cute, but I didn’t make it to a single Braves game in 2017 and I hope to change that next year. 

Chicago! Grab tickets to see Molly Parden at Schubas on 12/2 right here, and follow her on social media below!

Molly Parden: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram