MAAVVEN is a creative agency that breaks the molds of what management, production and creativity are to provide open and supportive ground for artists to thrive. The company celebrated two years this February, as the perfect vision of the artistic world founder Coleen Haynes has worked tirelessly to create over the last 20 years.
GynoTalks is a new health education platform that uses social media as well as webinars and personal workshops to further educate today’s women about their bodies. Our current healthcare climate is such that physicians have less and less time in the office to teach patients about their various medical conditions or preventative care measures that will improve their health outcomes. As a result, patients are left to learn for themselves. This in turn leads to more illness as women grapple to separate fact from fiction on their own. We hope to provide a solution to this problem by allowing women to learn directly from a board certified gynecologist and expert in the field.
When most people think of defiant music, they think of punk rock or outlaw country. But defying genres while transcending eras and resisting clichés is hard to pin down when it comes to artistry—unless you’re talking about Miss Tess, who does all of that and more on her new release, The Moon Is an Ashtray. Swinging for the fences and from the branches of jazz, country, blues and old school rock and roll, she has employed all of her influences and talents on a tour-de-force, while cleverly taking standard perspectives and ideas—like the definition of a love song—to task.
To help capture and shape her own unique sound, Miss Tess enlisted not only her trusty 1930s Weymann archtop, but also heavy input from co-producers Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and Thomas Bryan Eaton, her full-time bandmate and musical partner. Tess elaborates, “I think Andrija’s indie leanings were pivotal in taking these songs into a transcendent space, while still supporting my initial vision. He definitely pushed me in new ways and the three of us found a very interesting mix between bold experimentation and a more traditional approach.” Combining Thomas’ arranging ideas and skilled instrumental work with Andrija’s studio full of vintage mics, tube amps, keyboards, and tape machines, the resulting record has a rich, buttery warmth well-suited to Miss Tess's voice and authentic, retro-contemporary songwriting style.
The album starts with the stinging bite of “The Truth Is,” a Dave Godowsky tune that Miss Tess delivers with an insouciance that simultaneously betrays and belies its kiss-off content. The only cover on the record, Tess has no problem making it her own. “I love the unexpected meanness of it,” she confesses. “He originally wrote it as a happy early Beatles-sounding tune, but I changed some of the chords and the melody a bit, then slowed it down to make it darker and way more crushing.” Saccharin sweetness need not apply.
Lake Street Dive's Rachael Price joins in the fun for a duet on “True Flood,” which kicks open the old soul gates with its deep, rolling groove. Mid-way through the New Orleans-style rollick, Miss Tess steps up for a slyly swaggering guitar run showcasing her instrumental prowess. From the rapid-fire country-rock of “Gamblin' Man” to the laid-back jazz-blues of “Riverboat Song,” Miss Tess shows both the pluck and poise to fold a multitude of styles into her own. That's what happens when you grow up in a musical household giving the blues greats, big bands, and Chuck Berry equal weight.
The idea of defiance parlays itself into the tongue-in-cheek metaphor of the album’s title track, “The Moon is an Ashtray.” It’s not about what we look at necessarily, but what we see that matters. From our earthbound vantage and oft storied lore, the moon is a romantic and mystical entity; though as one looks closer, the moon is dusty, barren, and empty. Here, Tess breaks from the moon’s typical cliché to deliver a much more cynical, yet whimsical point-of-view, conveyed with her smoky vocals set against a swaying backdrop of bright guitar licks and yearning pedal steel. She sings, “The moon is an ashtray, catching dreams that have burned away / They couldn’t stand up to the flame, so they flickered and died.”
After over a decade on the road, now making her home in Nashville — by way of Baltimore, Boston, and Brooklyn — Miss Tess has found a creative community that encourages and embraces wide artistic exploration and expression as much as she does. Alongside Thomas (who’s been a full-time band member for seven years), local heavyweights like Dennis Crouch, John Pahmer, Jimmy Lester, Jack Lawrence, and Larry Atamanuik fill out the album’s liner notes, but the songs belong to Tess.
Throughout the record, Tess uses many of these songs to look at love from every angle she can think of, except the usual. There is the mysterious thrill of “One Little Kiss,” the quiet havoc of “If You Don’t Know How to Love Me”, the uncomfortable exhilaration in “Take It Easy,” and the deceptive psychedelic darkness of “Sugarbabe.” Of the latter, which initially takes the form of a traditional Piedmont-style blues, she says, “It might sound sweet at first, but the song actually speaks to an underlying intense sexual desire and yearning for someone who is either spreading their love around to many, or is simply gone. Despite these frustrations, you are still deeply obsessed.” The song then shifts into psychedelic overdrive with a swirling instrumental section that leaves the listener unsure of which way is up, or where the journey began.
As Miss Tess shows in every moment of The Moon Is an Ashtray, questioning the status quo while maintaining her unique identity and challenging our ideas of perspective, well, there's nothing more defiant than that.
New England-based multi-instrumentalist Mark Erelli wears many hats--singer, songwriter, sideman, producer--but approaches each of these varied roles with a belief in the transformative power of paying attention. Bearing witness to small details and fleeting moments is what dignifies our everyday stories, rendering the mundane profound. This principle governs Erelli’s approach to his craft, and is uniquely evident on his latest release, Mixtape, which features revelatory reinterpretations of songs by the Grateful Dead, Neko Case, Roy Orbison and others.
Erelli’s two decade career highlights include 11 solo albums, stints accompanying Josh Ritter, Paula Cole and Anais Mitchell, and a pair of records he produced for GRAMMY-winning songwriter Lori McKenna. Ever since Billboard magazine heralded the “simple, atmospheric grace” of his Signature Sounds debut, Erelli’s belief in the sacredness of an examined life has driven him between the ostensible extremes of lullabies and murder ballads, western swing and protest anthems. It has propelled him from the hallowed stages of the Newport Folk Festival, Grand Ole Opry and Royal Albert Hall, and beckoned him back home, to better nurture his 16-year marriage and be a father to his two young boys.
Whether he’s holding a pen or a Telecaster, Erelli’s music welcomes even the casual listener, but those who choose to dig more deeply are richly rewarded. Perhaps that is what Folk Alley hears in Erelli’s songs, when it encourages people to “listen close; there's sure to be something in there to break your heart a split second before it leads you straight to grace.”
Bootstraps is Jordan Beckett, an American musician, singer and songwriter from Portland, Oregon. Under the moniker Bootstraps, Beckett has released two studio albums, Bootstraps and Homage, and one EP, To Each His Own. Critics have compared Bootstraps’ music to The National, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, Band of Horses, and Coldplay. Bootstraps produces and records out of Harmony Studios, in Hollywood, CA, home to notable records by Adele, Miley Cyrus, and Sia.
Beckett grew up in the fertile Portland music scene, spending his teen years going to Elliott Smith, Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse shows. A friend gave him Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, which influenced his writing style, though it wasn’t until college that he became serious about music. A college baseball player, Beckett was injured, and while sidelined, he learned to play guitar. The Pacific Northwest’s rich indie landscape provided the backdrop for Beckett’s first steps into song writing and recording.
Beckett eventually moved to Los Angeles in where he was approached by friend, actor/screenwriter Sam Jaeger, to write music for the film Take Me Home, which went on to win Best Music In A Film at the Nashville Film Festival in 2011.
Beckett recruited old friends Dave Quon and Nathan Warkentin of We Barbarians, to play on his self-titled debut album. The songs “Guiltfree," "Forty-Five," and “Revel" were placed on TV show Parenthood, and “Guiltfree" was also featured on the show Suits.
This led to him being named Amazon’s Rising Star and playing Way Over Yonder Festival in Santa Monica, California, with Lucinda Williams and Local Natives. He was then featured in Rolling Stone and performed on Ben Lovett’s Communion tour.
His 2016 offering Homage, an album of re-interpreted covers, saw Bootstraps further his reach into film and TV placements. His version of Whitney Houston’s "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" was featured in Grey’s Anatomy, Supergirl and in an ad for the Venice Film Festival. His version of Ben E. King’s "Stand By Me" was placed in the Lionsgate blockbuster film Power Rangers, Lethal Weapon on Fox, and Hawaii 5-0 on CBS. His cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere" also appeared on Supergirl.
Formed in 2010 by the coalescing of a Venice music collective, The Mowgli’s began as a 10+ member group playing house parties and warehouse gatherings.
The release of their first major-label LP Waiting For The Dawn in 2013 saw immediate success with the hit single San Francisco. The record - which focused on the joy of bringing people together -immediately connected in a cynical world. The band quickly found themselves playing to sold out crowds in clubs around the US and inundated by requests for press, sponsorships and partnerships. Appearances at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Firefly, Osheaga, Bottlerock and many other festivals followed as did performances on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CONAN and a stint as the SXSW House band for Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live (Bravo) The follow up LP, 2015’s Kids in Love (which spawned the feel-good single "I’m Good") saw the band explore personal relationships including their own inter-band ones, and their third LP Where’d Your Weekend Go? which came in the fall of 2016, often found the band working on songs together from their very inception - giving much of the record a relaxed and communal feeling. Always with a mission to bring hope and positivity into the world, The Mowgli’s have been involved with numerous charities including The IRC, Heal The Bay, Happy Bottoms and many food banks and homeless shelters.
When Boston alt-rock band Letters To Cleo split after 10 years, 3 albums, and thousands of tour miles together, it was at the behest of a pact that singer Kay Hanley and guitarist Greg McKenna made with each other when they started the band in 1990.
“We said that we’d stop doing it when we weren’t having fun anymore.” says Hanley. “I had just had a baby, (lead guitarist) Michael Eisenstein and (drummer) Stacy Jones were recording and touring with Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon, (bassist) Scott Riebling was crazy in demand as a record producer, and I know it was frustrating to Greg to be in the shitty position of doing all the work to try and keep the ball rolling. It felt hard all of a sudden, and I hated that feeling.”
Soul searching done and tough decisions made, Letters To Cleo called it quits. The band members moved into new careers in and out of the music business, with Hanley, Eisenstein, and Jones migrating to Los Angeles. They all remained friends and sometimes even colleagues, collaborating on a host of movie, TV, and touring projects.
Now, for the first time in 17 years, Hanley, Eisenstein, Jones, and McKenna have written and recorded five brand new songs for “The EP”, are poised to launch a Pledge Music campaign, and will play club dates in Boston, NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the Fall. So why reunite now?
"Because we’re good and stuff”, laughs Jones. “To me, the question isn’t ‘Why are we doing this now?’, the question is, ‘Why didn’t we do it sooner and why aren’t we doing it more?’’
McKenna adds, “It’s a blast. I mean, we spent our formative years learning how to do this stuff together. When it was done, we went out and lived our lives and now everyone’s bringing their experiences back to this at a new level of musicianship, but writing with these guys still feels effortless.”
The new material reflects McKenna’s sentiment. All 5 songs are instantly recognizable Cleo concoctions that fans will devour. From Eisenstein’s fierce, angular guitars locking horns with Jones’ roaring locomotive rhythm on “Hitch A Ride” to McKenna and Hanley’s signature melodic ESP on “Good Right Here”, the Cleo bandmates are in prizefighter form.
Staying true to the chemistry that defined their muscular pop sound throughout the 90’s was key to Cleo’s new venture. “It feels completely unforced. It sounds like classic Cleo. But at the same time, there’s nothing nostalgic about it.”, says Jones.
In addition to playing guitar, bass, and keys on The EP, Eisenstein also handled the lion’s share of production at Death Star Studio in the Koreatown section of LA, where he and Jones are current and former partners, respectively. Eisenstein is hesitant to pick any favorites from the new batch of songs but offers, “I really like “Four Leaf Clover” because it’s so in line with who we are as a band. It could have been on any of our records. The emotional content of “Back To Nebraska” is impossible to deny. It’s beautiful and powerful.”
According to Hanley, the opportunity to re-unite with her former band and make new music came almost from out of nowhere. “I didn’t have time to think up reasons to say no, so I just said yes. We didn’t have a plan. We just jumped in and everything unfolded really quickly. We all love the new songs and can’t wait to start playing them. It’s really fun!”
From haunting acoustic ballads to gritty rock and roll songs filled with swagger and attitude, Matthew Mayfield has spent the past decade releasing music that has changed the hearts and lives of his listeners. His latest LP, Gun Shy, is a collection of songs as varied as the emotions each of us feels. If his previous release, RECOIL, was the fruit of an intense effort by Mayfield to depict the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world he inhabited, Gun Shy is a look into all worlds – those full of darkness and hope.
To connect with listeners and draw them into these worlds, Matthew created Inside the Song with Matthew Mayfield, a podcast dedicated to telling the stories behind the songs of Gun Shy. According to Mayfield, “I grew up with songs in such a deep way that I wanted to be inside them. I wanted to know how this artist could articulate the things I was feeling better than I could myself. The lyrics, the sonics behind the music, everything. I just craved to know more. Growing up with music when I did meant that I looked to liner notes. I think of the podcast as liner notes for your ears.”
Listen to any of the podcast episodes, and you’ll hear what makes Gun Shy Mayfield’s most introspective and personal record to date. “Our Winds” speaks of true love and hope in the midst of pressure from external forces while “Broken Clocks” finds Mayfield accepting a relationship that is doomed to fall apart. The riffs and hooks found in “Gun Shy” and “Best of Me” show Mayfield as the rock and roller he is.
While Mayfield is known for crafting both gripping ballads and eclectic rock songs, Gun Shy’s greatest triumph lies somewhere between those two styles. “S.H.A.M.E.,” the album’s third track, touches on what is currently Mayfield’s deepest concern – a world full of people that feel as if they are alone.
“Shame is something that no one wants to talk about, but we’re all ashamed of something. We all have demons and things that prevent us from seeing our self-worth. The song is about connecting with people and letting them know they are not alone,” says Mayfield.
Gun Shy was produced by Paul Moak, who Mayfield describes as, “one of the most gifted producers, players, songwriters, and overall artists I’ve ever met.” This is the fourth full-length album the two have recorded together, and Moak’s talents played a major role in making it special. Mayfield and Moak also happen to be great friends, which Mayfield says, “helped us push each other along through the process.”
With each new record, Mayfield has grown in his ability to evoke a broad range of emotions in his listeners. “I want to create melodies and lyrics that move people, that make them feel something. Connection is everything, and music has a unique way of helping people connect to others and to parts of themselves that they might otherwise be unable to access.”
Gun Shy is now available on all digital platforms worldwide. Physical copies are available on matthewmayfield.com.
Pyramids are some of the most mystical, powerful and protective structures in the history of the earth. For The Smoking Flowers, made of East Nashville-based artists Kim and Scott Collins, writing, recording and producing 2018’s rock-oriented Let's Die Together and their forthcoming acoustic album Snowball Out of Hell was like erecting a personal pyramid for the band. Both albums were conceived during Kim's battle with and triumph over an aggressive form of breast cancer. Snowball Out Of Hell showcases the softer side of the band’s sound, and is an ode to standing united against life’s toughest challenges.
With the creation of a pyramid, three cornerstones are required. The songs “(Still) Here For You Now” (a love letter from Scott to Kim), “Let's Die Together” (a love letter to each other) and “One Friend” (a love letter to a friend) were those cornerstones. "Those songs gave us immense strength, purpose and protection during a rough time in our lives,” the band explains. “Every time we play any of those songs in our live shows, we keep adding stones ... building that pyramid higher." Kim's breast cancer is in remission today due to only using holistic and alternative methods and a raw food diet (no chemotherapy, no radiation, no hormones). In the wake of this experience, Kim and Scott took life by the reins and hit the road in their vintage Volvo 240 station wagon, touring across America and Canada for three years. With this life-altering experience to draw upon and years of intense touring under their belt, the couple then tapped even deeper into their raw rock, punk and folk roots in the composition of their companion albums Let's Die Together and Snowball Out of Hell. The urgency present in these recordings is undeniable, a true story of love and triumph.
With influences that range from Led Zeppelin to Gillian Welch, and The Ramones to Neil Young, The Smoking Flowers' chemistry is palpable as Kim dances between strings and percussion while Scott plays electric and acoustic guitar, and harmonica--she delivers her own sensual, simmering vocals, while his is the voice of a feisty, gin-battered, heart-on-sleeve, hardscrabble troubadour. The Collinses, who founded charitable organization The Treasure Chest, continue to be activists and advocates for holistic and alternative medicine and healing. Their music and lives have been an influence on many East Nashville artists, being early pioneers of the now popular underground scene. With their passion, determination, and undeniable talent, The Smoking Flowers are, and continue to be, a formidable force.
Unfazed by what a typical pop artist today is “supposed” to look like and how the typical pop artist is “supposed” to sound, Heather Mae, an award-winning songwriter whose evocative vocals and rhythmic piano style call to mind artists like Stevie Nicks and Sara Bareilles, creates intoxicating music that tackles complex topics surrounding mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, self-love, racial injustice, social inequality, and women’s rights. Inspired by her own personal experiences and identities - a queer, plus size woman living with Bipolar Disorder - and those of her multifaceted fans with whom she has forged connections throughout her many years of touring across the United States, Mae crafts powerful lyrics and unforgettable music about life’s moments--from the quietly chaotic to the explosive.
In 2016, after an eight-month period of silence to recover from vocal nodules, Mae made a vow: she would dedicate her career to solely write music that made the world a better place. Her independently-released debut EP I AM ENOUGH, which reached #58 on iTunes Pop Album charts, was her announcement to the world. Mae, who was dubbed “the new queer Adele” by L-Mag, envelopes her audience with a message of hope.
Her newest project, GLIMMER, is a collection of nine songs supporting one central theme:” Feel To Heal.” Within the grooves of the new album,Mae wrestles with the complexities of existing as a human with mental illness. From her #MeToo-inspired feminist anthem “Warrior,” featuring a choir of 100+ female vocalists, to “You Are My Favorite,” a love song written for her wife inspired by her own wedding vows which will surely be the 2019 wedding soundtrack for LGBTQ+ couples, Mae shows she’s nothing less than a powerhouse. She has examined her struggle with Bipolar Disorder from every angle in order to create her most sonically adventurous set of recordings yet--and to remind us that we aren’t alone.
Essex-born John Smith has built a reputation as one of the UK’s finest guitarists and songwriters. Raised by the Devon seaside and making his bones in the bars and clubs of Liverpool, John has released five albums with over 10 million Spotify streams. He has played to audiences all over the world in living rooms, festival tents and sold-out concert halls. He is a genuine folksinger, an inquisitive truth-seeker, devoted song interpreter, and enchanting writer.
Steeped in the lineage of British folk, taking his cue from Richard Thompson and John Martyn, Smith has evolved a transatlantic blend of fingerstyle and slide guitar techniques. John’s intimate takes on love, loss and the journey we make, combined with his innovative guitar work, have won him a loyal following. His honey-on-gravel voice and mesmerizing fingerstyle guitar are undeniable. Sometimes using a slide, sometimes with guitar on his lap, sometimes detuning mid-song, Smith’s obsession with the instrument has made a master of him. Whether by way of album or concert, he leads the listener, enthralled in his presence, on a viscerally emotional journey.
A contributor and collaborator, John quickly and effortlessly earns the esteem of his comrades and heroes. He has opened for folk greats including John Martyn, Davy Graham and John Renbourn, who called John Smith “the future of folk music.” On the contemporary side, he has also opened for Iron and Wine, Tinariwen, and Ben Howard. He has guested with artists such as Jackson Browne, Martin Carthy, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker, Jerry Douglas, Glen Hansard and Rodney Crowell; and in his occasional role as sideman, he has played guitar for artists such as David Gray, Lisa Hannigan, Lianne La Havas, Joe Henry and Joan Baez.
He has released five records - his most recent Headlong (2017) reached #15 in the Indie Breakers chart, #1 on iTunes’ Singer-Songwriter chart, and amassed over 10 million Spotify streams.
His forthcoming album Hummingbird will be released 5 October in Europe and in early 2019 in the rest of the world on his own imprint, Commoner Records, via Thirty Tigers worldwide.
John Smith's inspiration for making Hummingbird was deeply personal. An album he has long wished to make, "Hummingbird" reflects the sum of his influences - be they centuries, decades, years, or days old.
The traditional songs on the album originate as far back as the 15th Century, and yet the record is surprisingly current, revealing the affirming consistency of the human condition. In the course of 10 songs, John explores timeless themes of longing, love, loss, horror, tragedy, grief, resilience, desire, devotion, heroism, romance, dignity, and ultimate triumph.
John has formed a relationship with the songs over the course of his entire life - some from childhood ("Lord Franklin") and some from over a decade touring ("Willy Moore" and "Time Has Come"). The album reflects the role his influences have played in his own songwriting, selecting and interpreting. Artists including John Renbourn, Davy Graham, Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Nic Jones, Joan Baez, Wizz Jones, John Martyn, Danny Thompson, Martin Simpson, and Paul Brady.
"I wanted to get away from any sense of artifice and dressing it up. The thing that really appealed to me about recording this album was the idea that I could just sit with a guitar and record something that reflects everything I've learned in all my years of touring and that will also affect people in ways I can't predict. I wanted to remove the obstacles that often interfere and come between artist and audience; it feels like the right thing to do for these songs. Not a lot of people do that anymore - but those are the records I really love. Albums from the 60s and 70s when folk recordings were made concisely and the focus was to get your point across." -John Smith
Living with the traditional songs on Hummingbird are new original songs penned by Smith ("Hummingbird," "Boudica," and "Axe Mountain (Revisited)") - which stand up alongside the others as evidence of the power of his influences and personal history on his present creativity.
Produced by Sam Lakeman and recorded at his Somerset studio, Hummingbird features Cara Dillon, John McCusker and Ben Nicholls.
“You’re smiling even as tears catch in your throat.” -MOJO
“He’s a magician.” -Ben Howard
“Spellbinding.” -Time Out
“the guitarists’ guitarist.” -The Sunday Times
“Staggeringly good.” -Acoustic Magazine
In their early days, Damn Tall Buildings didn’t rehearse – they busked. Now, whether live or on record, the band still radiates the energy of a ragtag crew of music students playing bluegrass on the street. But, that energy is anchored by their instrumental chops, their strong songwriting, and their varied influences that stretch beyond bluegrass, even beyond American roots music altogether. Whether sharing lead vocals and instrumental solos or blending their voices into high-spirited harmony, Damn Tall Buildings are a tight unit that contains more than the sum of its parts.
Primary vocalist and lyricist Max Capistran’s singing recalls old blues and The Band-style roots-rock, whereas Sasha Dubyk’s time studying musical theater is evident in her rich vocal tone and soulful flair. The interplay between Avery Ballotta’s fiddle and Jordan Alleman’s banjo brings stratospheric dimension to the churning rhythm section of Capistran’s guitar and Dubyk’s bass. The band’s harmony singing is tight without being too slick – they sound like four individual voices joined together in celebration, not a perfectly polished machine. Their choruses are the kind you sing along to with a glass raised into the air. Their lyrics find beauty and glory in the mundane, workaday struggle of everyday life: time keeps passing, you don’t like your job, you drink too much, you laugh with your friends, you search for a home, and you dream about what else might be out there. You carry on. This is what Damn Tall Buildings sings about, what they seek to share with their audience.
This has long been the case, even when their audience was simply whoever happened to be passing by. In 2013, then students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the band took their instruments to nearby street corners and jammed for hours on old bluegrass and blues songs, traditional fiddle tunes, and eventually their own original music. They had become fast friends: Ballotta and Alleman met playing frisbee on Boston’s Revere Beach, while Capistran and Dubyk met in class, when they were wrongfully accused of cheating off each other on a test because they had put down the exact same incorrect answer. Busking, a continuous test of one’s ability to command an audience’s attention, cemented their closeness and fostered their infectious, captivating performance style. It’s how they learned half of their repertoire, and it’s where Dubyk first picked up the bass. Since then, they’ve made three albums: 2014’s Cure-All, 2015’s self-titled, and their forthcoming third album, Don’t Look Down. The band has also relocated to Brooklyn, NY and toured widely, sharing stages with Sierra Hull and the California Honeydrops and appearing at festivals like Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Philadelphia Folk Festival, and Freshgrass Festival, where they took second place in the 2016 band competition.
After several years of living in different places and trying to make things work, the band sees Don’t Look Down as a reconnection, a leap forward, a simultaneous arrival and takeoff. Having self-produced their first two albums, the band enlisted Dan Cardinal (Darlingside, Lula Wiles, Josh Ritter) to produce Don’t Look Down, which captures Damn Tall Buildings’ lightning-in-a-bottle live energy while also showcasing a broader sonic finesse. The atmospheric violin intro to album opener “Late July” evokes Ballotta’s time playing in an experimental string quartet with the Boston Ballet, but the song soon gives way to a hard-driving, lighthearted meditation on loss and tough times. Standout track “Evan” (as in Williams) brandishes Dubyk’s fiery vocal and Alleman’s ferocious, guttural low-tuned banjo over a bed of clattering percussion and rock-solid bass. “Words to the Song,” an ode to faking it until you make it, recalls John Hartford with a healthy dash of vintage soul.
The album cover for Don’t Look Down, by artist Scott McCormick, is a reference to the old Chinese story of Wan Hu, a man who strapped forty-seven rockets to a chair in order to launch himself into space. When the smoke cleared, he was gone, and never seen again. For Damn Tall Buildings, this story resonates. They are a band of unlikely astronauts, of rocket launchers, of dreamers. Who knows if they’ll reach outer space, but they’re certainly going to spark something.
Speelburg (né Noah Sacré) is in a good mood. Having spent the last few years living in England writing what he calls “pop music for important people,” Speelburg relocated to Los Angeles seeking the kind of weather he grew up with in the south of France. He made quite an impression during his time in Great Britain, earning BBC Radio 1’s Chillest Record of the Week for his single “Headlights” and praise from Clash magazine who described his sound as “startlingly unique electro pop.” Pigeons & Planes took it a step further: “Speelburg...is a force to be reckoned with.”
In recent months, the Belgian-American musician has completed work on two solo albums, the second of which will confusingly come out first, but only he will ever know the difference. Character Actor (coming late summer 2019) is a sunny collection of ten songs to be accompanied by Arcobaleno, a (very) short film he directed himself, drawn from Instagram and beyond.
Whether it is paying homage to three Sofia Coppola films in his music video for “Screener Season,” hand-drawing and animating the video for the aforementioned “Headlights” (which Clash called in true English fashion “a corker”) or showing off his fondness for short-shorts and watermelon in the video for his upcoming single “Oxy Cotton Candy,” Sacré is as much a compelling visual artist as he is an innovative musician.
Having just completed a short tour of the West Coast and with a European trek on deck this fall, Speelburg’s good mood looks like it is going to stick around for awhile.
411 Music Group was founded in 2012 for writers by writers and has grown into an international music brand. 411 provides synchronization licensing, custom music, music directors, curated playlists, online and offline databases, and publishing services for music rights holders. The team strives to raise the bar within the audio/visual community by adding unique artists to the roster and developing forward-thinking models for brands and production companies. The 130+ genre-specific composers write music for brands, TV shows, films, trailers, video games, and interactive media.
In November 2018, Dallas-based blues-funk guitar god STONE MECCA released his fiery new LP Alienman, garnering praise and comparisons to Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and Gary Clark, Jr. With his own unique blues-rock blend, Stone carries on the legacies of the greats as he combines his love of hard-hitting hip-hop beats with funk-driven bass lines, grinding riffs, and soulful melodies, and forges his own formidable sonic fortification which trips along genre lines and refuses to be confined--or contained.
Miranda Glory, born Miranda Glory Inzunza, is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
Growing up, she first fell in love with music doing musical theater and listening to everything from John Mayer to Joni Mitchell, Nirvana, Coldplay and Michael Jackson. It was through her consumption of all of these different genres and artists that she started her love affair with music and was inspired to start writing her own songs, learning to play the guitar, piano and the drums. Miranda graduated from the Professional Performing Arts School in NYC, whose halls have been graced by the likes of Alicia Keys and Britney Spears. After high school, she headed to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she earned her degree in early 2016. She scored her first major solo success when she was selected to record a vinyl LP in Valencia, Spain, under Berklee’s in house label.
Miranda continued writing and recording, and began to release her music independently online. In late 2016, she was discovered and selected to the exclusive Neverland Songwriting Retreat in Costa Rica, which put her on the map as a songwriter. After that, she went bicoastal, ferrying back and forth from New York and Los Angeles, writing with established songwriters and producers, including Autumn Rowe (Fifth Harmony, Cher Lloyd), Sheppard Solomon (Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears), Zac Poor (Tori Kelly, MNEK), David Brook (Eminem, Charlie Puth), The Fliptones (Jason Derulo, Flo Rida), and more. For Miranda the writing process is all about honesty. She sources material from all different areas of her life. Ideas can be sparked from anywhere, a conversation with a friend going through a hard time, a random phrase or word, someone or something that she observed on the street.
Last year, Miranda released her debut singles “Blue Eyes feat. Matty Owens” & “Take” on iconic NYC-based label Tommy Boy Entertainment, gaining attention from prominent streaming playlists and media outlets. Of the Alt Pop/R&B infused “Take,” the music blog Gems and Secrets wrote that it’s “a slow jam that’s perfect for getting yourself in the mood.”
In late 2017, Miranda signed a worldwide deal with Selected/Sony Music Germany & Ultra Music U.S. for her single “Instant Gratification” released on December 15th, while simultaneously co-writing and featuring on RYNX’s single “Want You”, which has amassed over 10 million plays across streaming platforms.
2018 is off to a great start as Miranda collaborated with established European Artist & DJ Tujamo on the single “Body Language (feat. Miranda Glory & Haris)” which can be heard in clubs all over the world. Next came a collaboration with one of the world’s top DJ’s, R3HAB, & Noah Neiman for the single “We Do (feat. Miranda Glory)” which debuted on 25 of Spotify’s New Music Fridays worldwide, released in April. Most recently, Miranda released her single "Stain" with Colin Chase & Gill Chang on KnightVision Records.
Miranda continues to write & record in the studio from a place of honesty and self-expression. It’s important to her that her music is relatable, set to a heavily R&B and electronic influenced beat. Above all else, she wants people to connect to the vulnerability and honest nature of her music and make others feel that their experiences are universal. She’s currently gearing up to release her next single “Hypochondriac” this summer, as well as an EP set to release later this year.
“We’ve never fit into any quickly digestible category,” says ALO’s keyboardist/singer Zach Gill. “It’s just a different kind of experience.”
With its delightfully vibrant blend of inventive musicality and genre-blurring reach, Sounds Like This sees ALO operating with fresh verve and vitality, their always-kaleidoscopic funk pop ‘n roll aglow with exceptionally ebullient songcraft and deliriously danceable grooves. The California-based band’s fourth Brushfire Records release showcases their unfettered passion, wit, and imagination while simultaneously exploring hitherto uncharted musical terrain. Invigorated by an unstructured approach to the studio process, ALO have accessed new avenues of resourcefulness, resulting in a truly distinctive collection of songs that adroitly captures all the glorious ingenuity and adventure of the band’s legendary live sets.
“There has always been a division between the fans that get to know us through our live shows vs. the fans that get to know us through our albums,” guitarist Lebo says. “This album is going to bridge that gap.”
Long acclaimed for their deft musicianship, potent songwriting, and astonishing on-stage interaction, the members of ALO have played together for more than two decades, with the current permutation now in its 10th year and counting. The band followed the release of 2010’s Jack Johnson-produced Man Of The World by doing what they do best: playing live, with highlights including the Halloween-themed “Haunted Carnival of Traveling Freaks & Frights” tour and their annual Tour d’Amour benefitting public music school programs.
In April 2011, ALO convened at San Francisco’s Mission Bells studio with no plans other than to make some music together. With studio owner/longtime collaborator David Simon-Baker assisting behind the board, the band opted to take the same improvisational tack towards recording as they do on stage. Any distinctions between pre-production and real recording would be shed, allowing for ALO’s instinctive spontaneity to make it to track.
“We thought, what if we started recording from the get-go,” Gill says, “instead of rehearsing, making songs, and then going into the studio. We decided to start the whole process all at once, with the intention of wanting things to feel really live.”
“Without a clear roadmap, we hit a lot of dead ends,” says drummer Dave Brogan says, “which forced us to create our way out of the morass. I think that helped us look to within ourselves – rather than outside influences – to bring the music to life.”
The band – all based in the Bay Area, bar Gill, who resides in sunny Santa Barbara – were also able to utilize a lifetime’s bag of tricks in a way the previous album’s sonic scope only suggested.
“The previous record was done in Hawaii, so we simply couldn’t fly with much,” bassist Steve Adams says. “Doing this one in San Francisco definitely made it easier to bring anything we wanted from home – Dave set up a more elaborate drum zone, Lebo had more guitars and amps, Zach brought up more keyboards. I had all my basses and a keyboard rig as well. Having a broader palette of sounds definitely had an influence on how the record turned out.”
In the past, ALO felt compelled to adjust their expansive songs to better suit the recorded format, trimming tracks to a more easily consumed length. While this certainly honed the band’s songwriting skills, ALO were now eager to let it all hang out, marking tracks like the bombastic “Dead Still Dance” with collage-like structures, deep dance grooves, and inventive, intricate solos. The inclusion of longer songs on Sounds Like This epitomizes “ALO being more comfortable with who ALO is,” according to Lebo.
“The truth is, longer songs come more naturally to us,” he continues. “In the past we've spent more time whittling the songs down because we felt that we needed to do so in order to ‘fit in.’ This time around, we let the songs be what they wanted to be, and sometimes that meant a long song.”
“There was a part of us that went, ‘Are we being a tad too indulgent?,’” says Gill, “but in the end we decided that we wouldn’t say we were being indulgent – we were being generous.”
ALO let their imagination run free, both musically and lyrically, resulting in such larger-than-life highlights as the Old West flight of fancy, “Cowboys and Chorus Girls” or the self-explanatory glitterball workout, “Room For Bloomin.” Where prior albums featured songs penned individually and then arranged by the band, this time out, ALO were determined that their collective spirit inform every groove.
“With collaborative writing, everyone’s personal stamp is in the DNA of the song,” Lebo says. “That makes these songs definitively ALO.”
At the heart of the album is ALO’s raucous reverie for days past, “Blew Out The Walls,“ as well as its more subdued sibling, “Sounds Like That” (included exclusively as an iTunes bonus track). The track reverberates with the excitement and passion of a rock ‘n’ roll band in its nascent stage, that magical moment where four friends first get together in someone’s basement for the sheer joy of making music together.
“I think we all were feeling the dream again,” Adams says, “remembering back to where it all started.”
All four members of ALO agree that a similar sense of excitement is currently spurring the band forward. Sounds Like This has imbued ALO with an audacious energy that is certain to infiltrate the band’s already spirited live shows, not to mention their next studio outing.
“Like all ALO albums, the next one will be a culmination of all the past albums and everything that happens in between,” Brogan says, “I don't know if we'll be so bold in our lack of planning next time, but I'm sure we'll find some other way to challenge ourselves.”
“I love making records,” Gill says. “With this one done, now there’s the excitement of, what about the next one? Those juices are already brewing. I feel like we just cracked the ice so it’ll be exciting to see what happens next.”
NEXT CItY, formed in the heart of Los Angeles, California, is the brainchild of renowned actor, vocalist and musician Samuel Larsen, best known for his work on Glee as Joe Hart and his supporting role in the current hit film After, based on the novel by Anna Todd that became a worldwide phenomenon. Larsen always had a strong passion for true rock n’ roll and it inspired him to start a band rooted deep in garage rock grit, layered over a foundation steeped in groove. His vision began taking shape when he met guitarist Philip Paulsen on tour and the two wrote the band’s debut single “Blue Star” together. Rounded out by the unwavering rhythm section of bassist Nick Diiorio and drummer Ben Brinckerhoff, the quartet has come together to perfect their brand of guitar-driven rock influenced by heavy hitters like Death From Above 1979, The Dead Weather, and Queens of the Stone Age, all while encompassing the electric energy of funk driven pop music that takes its cues from Prince and Michael Jackson.
As the main songwriters for the band, Larsen and Paulsen most commonly write as a synergetic experience. Growing up, they were both inspired to become musicians by listening to the music of AC/DC and Elvis Presley. Combining catchy hooks with soaring guitar riffs and Larsen’s vocals, the two came together to create music that aligns with their personal taste and focus.
NEXT CItY has a unique way of fusing their experimental energy with the modern era of rock n’ roll. With fuzzy, funk-tinged guitars and pocket beats, their sound is familiar on the ears, yet unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. They’re making their sonic assault on the world with the release of their debut single “Blue Star” inspired by the dichotomy between the dream vs. reality of Hollywood and how it can be the ultimate fantasy, but also a nightmare. They’ve recently written a record of honest and soulful tracks they hope bring fans excitement, inspiration, escapism and newfound energy. Larsen said “I've always loved how music can make you face your feelings while also helping you escape them at the same time. I want our songs to do just that, as well as make you want to move. I want people to feel confident when our songs are on.”
NEXT CITY – Lineup
Samuel Larsen - Vocals
Philip Paulsen - Guitar
Nick Diiorio - Bass
Ben Brinckerhoff - Drums
LOS ANGELES HAS A LONG RICH HISTORY OF CULTIVATING SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST INNOVATIVE AND PROGRESSIVE ENDEAVORS, BRINGING TOGETHER TALENTED INDIVIDUALS FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE WHO THRIVE IN COLLABORATION. THAT HOTBED OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION IS WHAT ALSO LED TO THE CREATION OF ASHRR.
FORMED THIS YEAR, ASHRR IS AN ALTERNATIVE ROCK / SYNTH POP MUSICAL COLLECTIVE MADE UP OF SINGER-SONGWRITER STEVEN DAVIS AND ARTISTS / PRODUCERS ETHAN ALLEN AND JOSH CHARLES. WHILE SOMEWHAT NEW TO THE MUSIC SCENE IN LA, THE TRIO HAS A LONG ECLECTIC MUSICAL BACKGROUND THAT MELD EXPERIENCE AND INFLUENCE FROM A MULTITUDE OF STYLES AND GENRES.
STEVEN DAVIS’ COMES FROM A FASCINATING MUSICAL PEDIGREE RANGING FROM HIS MIDWESTERN CHURCH ROOTS, SINGING GOSPEL TO HIS BOOMING CAREER AS A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN. SELECT HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE HEADLINING RESIDENCIES AT NYC’S ESTEEMED RAINBOW ROOM; (SHARING THE STAGE WITH ICONS SUCH AS DIANA KRALL AND TONY BENNETT, HEADLINING ROCKEFELLER CENTER'S RAREFIED RAINBOW & STARS) AND CO-WRITING WITH POP LEGEND JOHN OATES. HIS MUSIC HAS BEEN FEATURED IN TELEVISION AND FILM INCLUDING, GRITTY TECH INFUSED THRILLER “STARTUP”, CBS HIT SHOW “CRIMINAL MINDS” AND THE TITLE SONG TO THE TOMMY LEE JONES AND MORGAN FREEMAN FLICK “JUST GETTING STARTED".
ETHAN ALLEN IS A GRAMMY-NOMMINATED RECORD PRODUCER, MIXER, ENGINEER, WRITER, MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST MUSICIAN ORIGINALLY HAILING FROM AUSTIN AND NEW ORLEANS. HIS CREDITS INCLUDE BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB, BEN HARPER, THE 88, TRICKY, LUSCIOUS JACKSON, THE CULT, GRAM RABBIT, SHERYL CROW, TIM FINN, BRANT BJORK, DONITA SPARKS, MEG MYERS, PATTY GRIFFIN AND BETTER THAN EZRA, AS WELL AS MANY LICENSING PLACEMENTS IN FILM AND TELEVISION.
JOSH CHARLES IS A CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED PIANO PRODIGY, GUITARIST, SINGER, PRODUCER AND SONGWRITER MENTORED BY ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAMER DR. JOHN. HE HAS RECORDED FOR COLUMBIA RECORDS/SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, ISLAND RECORDS AND ELEKTRA RECORDS/WARNER MUSIC GROUP, AND HAS PRODUCED/CO-PRODUCED AND WRITTEN/CO-WRITTEN SEVEN ALBUMS, INCLUDING HIS OWN LOVE, WORK & MONEY (2010) AND 1974. HE HAS BEEN PRODUCING EXCLUSIVE SOUND CONTENT FOR NATIVE INSTRUMENTS AND SPLICE. JOSH HAS MANY SONGS ON RADIO, FILM AND TV INCLUDING SEVERAL CUTS WITH JOHN OATES.
THE COLLECTIVE CAME TOGETHER AFTER MEETING THROUGH MUTUAL FRIENDS IN MUSIC AND EVENTUALLY MADE THEIR WAY TO THE THE STUDIO BEGINNING IN 2018 WITH ONE GOAL: CREATE MUSIC FOR THEMSELVES AT THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE LEVEL. “OUR COLLECTIVE LOVE OF ANALOG SYNTH POP, CLASSIC NEW WAVE MELODIES AND SONGWRITING, AND TAKING MODERN PRODUCTION TO THE LIMITS, DEFINES US,” SAYS CHARLES. “WE ALL COME FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS WHICH IS WHAT CAN BE HEARD INSIDE THE MUSIC. WE'VE MADE A BAND FOR OURSELVES THAT WE WANTED TO HEAR IN TODAY’S CLIMATE. ASHRR SOUNDS LIKE ASHRR.”
ASHRR’S UNIQUE SOUND SHINES BRIGHT ON THE BAND’S NEW EP, THAT’S DUE OUT IN OCTOBER. MUSICAL DIVERSITY CAN BE HEARD THROUGHOUT THE RECORD WITH EACH SONG WRITTEN AND PERFORMED WITH DISTINCT PURPOSE AND METICULOUS SKILL. THE BAND’S CONTRASTING BACKGROUNDS ALLOWS FOR A COLLISION OF INFLUENCES FROM NEW WAVE AND ART ROCK TO INDIE ELECTRONIC POP.
“WE ARE INTERESTED IN TRUE EMOTION AND INTENT, AND HAVING SOMETHING REAL TO COMMUNICATE,” ADDS ALLEN. “WE ARE ALSO INTERESTED IN EXPERIMENTING AND PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES TO FIND SOMETHING NEW.”
Noah C Lekas is a poet, essayist and journalist. His first book, Saturday Night Sage (April 13, 2019) is a collection of narrative prose exploring mysticism and menial labor in contemporary America. After calling all four corners of the country home, his work is as uniquely American as his perspective. The first literary release for San Diego record label Blind Owl, the collection gives voice to an often overlooked and undervalued, working-class experience. Hailed as “A punk séance for the beat spirit,” Saturday Night Sage weaves the unwavering ethos of post-industrial Wisconsin with the poetic tradition of New York City and the eccentric Rock ‘n’ Roll soul of San Francisco.
Even before its official release, the collection inspired other artists to take Lekas’ words beyond the page with audio recordings and visual art. San Francisco artist Alan Forbes, best known for his work with The Black Crowes, Mars Volta and Patti Smith, brought the title piece to life with original cover art. Saturday Night Sage is the first poetry collection to feature Forbes’ work. Six recordings were also made featuring Lekas reading with accompaniment by members of Mrs. Henry and Taken By Canadians. Those recordings were then interpreted by film makers Scott Rosenbaum (Sidemen: The Long Road to Glory), Shelby Baldock (North Mississippi Allstars) Joshua and Jeremiah Zimmerman (The Silent Comedy), Blake Cook (Visual Artist), and Elizabeth Lekas (Visual Artist) for a series of promotional short films.
In a time when spirituality is often confrontational and nuance is trivialized, Saturday Night Sage fearlessly digs into American culture. In its unique rhythm of Thoreauvian romanticism and punk contrarianism, Lekas defines the poetic voice of blue-collar mysticism.
Saturday Night Sage pre-order begins March 2nd with an official release on April 13th.