LIZ VICE

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Liz Vice has always had a love for storytelling. The Portland native who currently resides in Brooklyn, started her  career working behind the scenes in the world of film and video, only to accidentally find herself behind the mic.  Liz Vice’s sound is a fusion of Gospel and R&B,  with dynamic and soulful vocals,  and lyrics, deeply rooted in spirituality, that give her work a   timeless feel.

Vice got a knack for performing early. She was raised by her mother as the middle of five children. Every morning growing up, she was awoken by her mother’s voice singing “rise and shine and give God the glory.” She also found herself frequently stealing away to the basement  to dance and lip sync songs from the radio, and soundtracks from her favorite films.  Liz taught herself how to play piano, marking the notes on the piano using blue painter’s tape on the notes of a keyboard, placed by her friends who were taking piano lessons.  Her aunt bought her headphones, that she would make young Liz sit with on her head in the living room for hours mimicking the notes she would here from an instrumental CD.

At the age of 19, Vice’s health declined, and she found herself on hemodialysis for the next three years. Her illness left many scars on her body including those from surgery on a fistula (abnormal connection between an organs). Vice received a kidney transplant in December 2005, which marked the beginning of a time of great healing and perspective.

A year later, Vice became a member of a local church and felt a nudge, that would not leave her alone each Sunday to sing background vocals on the worship team. Suffering from stage fright, Vice knew that fear could never overpower this unknown “call”. She said yes to the nudge and sang her first solo during a Sunday evening service, “Enfold Me”. The rest is history. 

For the past four years, Vice’s music and live performances have put her on the map as an artist to watch. She has been praised and featured by Oregon Public Broadcasts’ One Song, NPR’s World Cafe, Mountain Stage, eTown, NPR’s Weekend Edition, Relevant Magazine, and more. Vice has also been a featured artist in Portland for such events as Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, Moon River, Forecastle, Portland Soundcheck, Soul’d Out Music Festival, Siren Nation Music Festival, Music on Main Street and more. 

The title track for her first album “There’s a Light” received over one million streams on Spotify. The success of the record led to performing and/or sharing the stage with artists such as Joss Stone, Blind Boys of Alabama, Boz Scaggs, The Temptations, Rodriguez, Lake Street Dive, Lecrae, Cody Chesnutt, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Eric Early of (Blitzen Trapper), John Mark McMillan, Sandra McCracken,  Josh Garrels, Tunde Baiyewu (Lighthouse Family), Luz Mendoza (Y La Bamba), Eshon Burgundy (Humble Beast), and more.  No matter how large the venue, her genuine approach to her work and playful interaction with the audience makes everyone feel like their sitting at home on the couch watching a friend sing their heart out. Vice is very passionate and has overcome many personal obstacles; she credits her adventurous life to not forcing anything and being willing and available to wherever it is that the lord leads. "It's all about risk, and taking a risk is never regretful...well, most of the time.”

BOO RAY

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His dramatic southern sound will draw you in, his voice will have you hanging on every lyric and his songs will stick with you like a good friend does. Boo Ray is a southern troubadour who has forged & honed his sound in South Georgia honky-tonks,Gulf Coast jukes, Nashville nightclubs & Los Angeles songwriter joints. Hailing from the mountains of Western North Carolina and now spending equal parts time in Nashville, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; and Athens, Georgia; Boo Ray is set to release his fifth album.

Following in the footsteps of southern songwriters who journeyed to Los Angeles like Jerry Reed, Kris Kristofferson and Gram Parsons, Boo Ray headed out west in 2006 after doing a couple of years of steady troubadour work in the southeast. While living in LA, he worked with Noah Shain on a couple of tracks that ended up on his 2010 Americana release Bad News Travels Fast. Sol Philcox produced Boo Ray’s 2013 hit outlaw country album Six Weeks In A Motel in Nashville and flew out to Los Angeles to play guitar on Boo Ray’s new album.

Boo Ray says his approach to writing and making records “is like a dirt track race team, “where the shorthand and elbow-grease of a few close buddies can squeeze another 25 horsepower out of small-block motor to make a scavenged together machine run a little faster each week.”

Noah Shain has masterfully captured Boo Ray’s sound, conjuring a classic Muscle Shoals session; drums stout and close, round hollow bass, guitars growlin’ and warm wailin’ vocals. His vocal style and his voice as a songwriter are powerful, unassumingly sophisticated and uniquely his own. The new Boo Ray album, Sea Of Lights, is a songwriter’s champion, a trucker’s soundtrack and an analog aficionados delight. Shain recorded Sea Of Lights live to 2” tape at his White Buffalo Studio in downtown LosAngeles with an all-star band anchored by Steve Ferrone on drums, Paul Ill on bass, Sol Philcox- Littlefield on guitar, Dallas Kruse on Hammond B3, Smith Curry on pedal steel and the world-class background vocals of twin brothers Todd and Troy Gardner.

“Sea Of Lights is important to me,” Boo Ray explains. “I’ve been working with these guys for ten years doing one-offs and single-track jobs, and we’re all great friends. We got together and cut this new record live-to-tape, everybody standing in the room together with sound baffles & Persian rugs as isolation. We cut 10 songs in 2 days and just had a damned ball doing it! I’m not writing to impress the aficionados or experts. It’s a trucker album, it’s a party album, and I hope it’s a good album to play cards to and a good road trip album.”

WILL DAILEY

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"Then what of the national throat?  Will it not weaken?"

These emphatic words of protest appeared in a 1906 essay written by John Philip Sousa. The patriotic American composer found himself standing before a dramatic threshold in music. Faced with the advent of the recording of music and an onslaught of innovation, all of which he deemed, “the menace of mechanical music,” the composer feared the sacred creative entity he had dedicated his entire life to serve would be forever ruined. Sousa passionately lamented that singing would be replaced by a "mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks … all matter of revolving things."  More than anything, he feared that the introduction of new contraptions of innovation would serve to water down his cherished artform, all in the name of commercialism. More than a century later, treading upon a similarly fragile fault-line in music, singer-songwriter Will Dailey asks these very questions in his upcoming release. His record is aptly entitled:  National Throat. 

Will Dailey has chosen to deviate from that predestined path of cogs and commercialism.  He willfully parted ways from one of the world’s largest record labels to produce his latest full-length album.

Now independent, Dailey feels liberated. National Throat tells the story of that journey. 

People have been complaining about change in the music industry for centuries but artists make art because they have to,” Dailey says. “I write songs because they happen to me; it fuels my life and I see it fuel other people’s lives… Nothing can disrupt that. This album of songs is about doing this because you have to.

Featuring 11 new tracks, National Throat is a thriving embodiment of an authentic American Dream. It is a registry of a national reverie, one brought to fruition through a musician’s pursuit of art in its rawest form. It is music felt, not contrived. It is fresh soul untarnished by the grease of cogs or disks, left pure in the midst of a virulent commercial world.

Though fortune and fame have never been of main concern, Dailey’s music has been amplified by acclaim: He is a three-time winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Singer/Songwriter and his songs have been featured on more than 50 shows and films. Critics agree that he holds his ground performing next to artists like Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and John Mellencamp. He was unfazed by the call from Oscar and Grammy-winning producer T Bone Burnetts to join Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crowe, and Rosanne Cash in the studio. All this from a man who has never, ever been anything but a musician.

But with National Throat, Dailey risked the potential to obtain an even broader reach by parting with a major label after realizing his goals and theirs were out of whack. This time he counted on a solid fan base to save him from a failing partnership, the inspiration for one of the album’s most talked-about songs. “I’m jumping overboard /And I’m swimming back to shore,” Dailey sings over a Burnett-inspired tune in “Sunken Ship.”  Somewhat stranded but never alone, he took charge and involved his fans in a communal creative process through Pledge Music. “It will be a unique experience,” he wrote to his fans, “a one of a kind process. When the day is done, you will have elevated my music to a whole new level. A true artistic community will be built here.”

And build it they did. Dailey’s fans’ admiration feeds National Throat from the inside out – like gas to an engine. The album’s closing song, “We Will Always Be A Band,” reflects the timelessness of the special kind of relationships sewn together with sonic filaments. Its lyrics draw Dailey’s audience in close, wrapping us in a warm familiarity that lingers beyond silence:

Am I in your headphones
Am I on your mind
Is there a tune that’s stuck in your head
That comes from a song of mine?


Indeed, listeners will hear his dynamic voice echo around the naturally catchy melodies that replay themselves effortlessly in our minds.

Though unified by Dailey’s characteristic plaid, rootsy charm, each song on National Throat vibrates with unique personality and showcases his dramatic vocal range. Each is a knockout delivered through a triple threat talent for singing, writing, and playing guitar. Listeners are already addicted to “Why Do I,” a rollicking shout-out to a promise-filled night of debauchery in his hometown, Boston. The epic, beautifully melancholic “Castle of Pretending” contrasts sharply with the sexy and demanding “Don’t Take Your Eyes Off Of Me.” Dailey is not afraid to spike his songs with attitude, nor to expose a naked softness, typified by the folksy “Higher Education” and the romantic spoken French quote (“Nous devrions tous avoir la chance de connaître l’amour…”) that closes the McCartney-esque “Once In A Century Storm.”

John Philip Sousa was wrong to preemptively mourn the loss of “songs that stir the blood and fire the zeal,” of “songs of home, of mother, and of love, that touch the heart and brighten the eye.” These songs flourish and surge with vigor in National Throat. The 2014 album makes clear that Will Dailey’s zeal for art, for music—for life and love—is unhampered by time and liberated from the contemporary materialism Sousa so wisely presaged. When Dailey sings, “My last dollar will be spent keeping these lights on/Doing the only thing that I can” we better believe him. He’s unstoppable.

Today, despite the persistence and further development of all matter of revolving things, the National Throat is alive and well in Will Dailey. 

YOU SUCK AT PIANO

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Do you suck at piano?

Is there someone you know who just isn’t as good as they say they are? Do you wish that there was an instructional piano book for adults that pulled no punches, told it like it is, and wasn’t afraid to put you in your place?

This, my piano flunkies, is your book. For all of you people who used to take piano lessons and are thinking of “getting back into it”, You Suck at Piano is your jam. For those of you who wish you could crank out a simple tune… You Suck at Piano will get you there.

The key is honesty. Learning to play the piano is difficult, folks. And most piano books lie to you. They say “you can do it!” when in fact you’re not so sure you actually CAN do it.

You Suck at Piano takes a different approach. It’s a brutally honest and fun method to improve your piano skills, complete with 50 arrangements of famous piano pieces, irreverent comic strips about the composers and the terrible lives they led, and cocktail recipes to drown all of your piano related frustrations.


Dr. Joel Pierson

Composer and jazz pianist Joel Pierson has worked with artists of great repute (The Kronos Quartet, The Houston Symphony), & artists of not-so great repute (Wayne Newton, Ke$ha). As a pianist, Joel has performed on all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica) and has shared the stage with the New York Philharmonic. As a songwriter, Joel was signed to Warner Brothers Records and has written and performed with artists like Linkin Park, Father John Misty, and My Chemical Romance.

Joel’s symphonic arrangements have been performed by over 20 symphony orchestras, including Atlanta, Toronto, Cleveland, & The Philly Pops. Joel has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, and won second place in the New York Philharmonic’s New World Initiative Composition Competition. He wrote additional music for the 2013 film The Internship, and is Musical Director The Queen's Cartoonists (www.thequeenscartoonists.com), a jazz band dedicated to the preservation and performance of music from classic cartoons. Joel has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, McSweeney’s, The Chicago Tribune, and the CBS Evening News. He has a doctoral degree in music composition from the University of Maryland, a masters degree in jazz piano from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree in classical piano from Westmont College. Joel lives in Queens and maintains an active performing and teaching schedule in New York City.

BEGINNERS

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Femme electropop powerhouse Beginners are back with “Let That Money Talk”, a seductive new single off their forthcoming album CREAM, which features collaborations from artists like Kygo.  “Let That Money Talk” is set to launch with a provocative queer music video, paying homage to Jumbos Clown Room, an iconic Los Angeles strip club. 

CREAM is a formidable follow-up to their previous records which garnered immediate recognition from the press, impressive tours with bands like Walk The Moon, and over 10 million streams on Spotify; all while remaining independent. 

Beginners have been featured in multiple commercial campaigns including, Taco Bell, RayBan, Miller Lite, YouTube, Skullcandy and Europe’s Douglas Cosmetics; and landed numerous high profile TV placements like New Girl, Riverdale and The Vampire Diaries. 

BRANDY ZDAN

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Although Brandy Zdan calls her new, self-titled album her full-length “debut,” there’s no mistaking this seasoned singer-songwriter for any kind of rookie. For the better part of the last decade, the native Canadian — now living in Nashville, TN— has garnered acclaim as half of the gothic folk/roots duo Twilight Hotel, with two albums, 2008’s Highway Prayer and 2011’s When the Wolves Go Blind, nominated for prestigious Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammy), as a formidable multi-instrumentalist (touring and recording with the Americana all-girl band the Trishas), and even as a solo artist (with LoneStarMusic hailing her 2013 Lone Hunter EP as “a one-woman tour de force.”) But according to the artist herself, all of that was merely a prelude to the aptly-titled Brandy Zdan, the most focused expression of her musical identity to date.

As brought into vivid focus on Brandy Zdan, produced by Teddy Morgan in Nashville, TN, featuring a cast of musicians including Carl Broemal (pedal steel) and Tom Blankenship (bass) of My Morning Jacket and drummer Richard Medek (Alternate Roots, John Doe). That vision showcases not just her strong vocals and guitar, steel and keyboard playing, but an affinity for writing mature indie-rock and pop songs with hauntingly gorgeous melodies and edgy arrangements. Ribboned with wide swaths of warm guitar and chilly blue atmosphere, the album buzzes with static overdrive and a bracingly raw emotional honesty. From the assertive opening charge of “Back on You” through to the electronic pulse of the gauntlet-throwing closer, “More of a Man,” its 11 originals fit together seamlessly to form a self portrait of an artist in full, confident flight. And if the result feels more like an arrival than a “debut,” as far as Zdan herself is concerned, it’s all the same.

THE MOWGLI'S

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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.

LETTERS TO CLEO

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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!” 

ELEVATION GROUP

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Formerly part of San Francisco’s Bill Graham Management, Elevation Group formed their independent operation in 2002. Since then Elevation Group continues to provide dedicated full service artist direction and management to artists including The Neville Brothers, the Funky Meters and The New Mastersounds.

ALLUXE

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Alluxe wields power. To send you to emotional depths, standing onstage over her controller, unleashing hard-hitting beats, loops and grooves that cut through on impact. To send your head into a tailspin via her fine-tuned studio concoctions — a mélange of vocal swirls, avant-garde affects and manipulated melodies. There’s even a high chance she’s already affected without your knowledge: the supremely talented artist, producer, DJ, controllerist, violinist and live show designer has programmed and designed groundbreaking shows for some of the biggest names in music from Kanye West to Drake, The Weeknd to Bon Iver. “The lines are vey blurred,” the musician, born Laura Escude, says of a much-heralded award-winning career that connects the artistic and the professional, and thrives on her innate knack for technological innovation and ingenuity.  

At her core, however, Alluxe is principally an intense creative mind — a fact evidenced with precision on her new Contrast EP, a sweeping demonstration of the multi-talented woman’s ability to craft moody, emotionally jarring music, equal parts cinematic and four-on-the-floor dance riot. “It’s a bit outside the box and that’s what I’m going for,” Alluxe says of the five-track collection that finds her experimenting with vocal effects like never before (“It took me outside my comfort zone”), using brash sound and massive movement on the full-bore “Work My Body,” and utilizing angst and aggression as her ally via the explosive “On My Own.” “It’s about flying and soaring and standing on your own two feet,” she says of the Tatiana-assisted cut. “It’s about being recognized as an artist.” 

With a wealth of experience as wide-ranging and impressive as hers, artistic recognition, not surprisingly, comes fast and furious for Alluxe. In her capacity as a controllerist, she’s nearly unparalleled. An Ableton Certified Trainer, Alluxe is a wizard behind the boards -- a widely recognized pioneer in the utilization of technology for musical creation: yes, when not creating her own music, opening shows behind the decks for the likes of Miguel and Garbage or performing alongside Kiesza and Iggy Azalea, she’s dreaming up ever-expanding sonic concepts with her company, Electronic Creatives, for a diverse array of the most iconic artists on the planet including Jay Z, Herbie Hancock and Cat Power.  

Still, like any talented creative, her artistic worlds bleed into one another. “My work as an artist has influenced what I do with those artists,” Alluxe offers, “but what they do has also influenced me. I feel like I’ve become a much better performer because of working with these artists: seeing what they do and taking cues from the way they perform no matter the genre. I’m constantly taking certain elements and using them in my show.”  

It’s all part of a natural artistic growth cycle for a lifelong musician. Alluxe took up violin at age five, was the concertmaster of the Rhode Island Youth Philharmonic a few years later, and will casually mention how when studying violin performance at Florida State University she learned to produce electronic music at George Clinton’s studio in Tallahassee, Florida. After moving to LA in 2004, Alluxe quickly established herself as a superb violinist and boundary-breaking inventor, equally able to incorporate her classical instrument into her own futuristic-style electronic performances (“There’s that emotional component for me with the violin”) as well as on other artists records: her violin playing can be heard on projects by Kanye West, Hit-Boy and Big Grams. “There’s just so much energy going on,” she says of her creative process.  

Working out of her studio when not on the road, Alluxe is constantly experimenting with new sounds and styles. Her new EP, she says, is her most cohesive musical expression yet. “I feel like I’ve finally gotten together this collection of songs that really expresses where I’m at in my life accurately,” she says of an aural collage she describes as “more feminine” than her 2013 Nomad EP. “I have a ton of music but I’m very selective about what I want to put out there in the world. In the past I felt I had to put on a more masculine front to be taken seriously as a producer but now I am past that and embracing what comes naturally to me.” 

And while some artists are eager to slot their music into a specific genre, Alluxe embraces the ambiguity and open-ended possibilities of her tracks dance, hip-hop and groove-indebted songs. “I’m owning that a bit more,” she says of her genre-bending inclinations. “When someone comes to see my live shows they see it’s different and unique. I feel like people are moving forward from the whole EDM craze. I never felt like I fit in with that world anyway. Where I’m at right now is right for me.” 

“The goal has always been to be an artist,” she says reflecting on an innovative and imaginative journey that’s in many ways just getting started. “That’s my passion.” 

 

 

STAL

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STAL translates to steel in more than a few languages. As a result, the word conjures feelings of coldness and evokes imagery of a modern, industrial life. On his new EP, Fresh Blood, Pierre-Marie Maulini (the man behind the STAL moniker) strikes the perfect balance between the cold, sleek varnish of this picture and something decidedly more harmonious and human. In doing so, he creates a perfect example of how one can keep their humanity in the age of twenty first century digitalism. 

Maulini has always shown an exceptional proclivity for music; even as a child growing up in the South of France. This love and talent would first manifest itself in the form of A Red Season Shade, the post-rock outfit he formed with his older brother and a few close friends. The band signed to Gentleman Records in 2006, an opportunity that would lead to Maulini connecting with local shoegaze legend, Anthony Gonzalez. The two grew close and Gonzalez would eventually invite Maulini to be a touring member of his band, M83. The next two years for Maulini would be spent touring the world, opening for acts like Kings of Leon and Midnight Juggernauts or headlining their own international tours. It was here, on the road with M83, that Maulini was first exposed to the world of synths, keyboards and other electronic elements that would soon be so prevalent in the music he would create. 

Upon his return home, Maulini wanted to delve deeper into this new world of musical possibilities he had discovered. This desire would lead him to move to Ireland where he would work with renowned sound engineer, Patrick Walsh, to help broaden his horizons regarding what keyboards and synthesizers were capable of. Still, Maulini hadn’t forgotten his roots and a lot of the guitar work on which he first made a name for himself would remain integral to the new songs he was writing. Post rock is “all about atmosphere” and Maulini tries to “bring a degree of epicness to his music” as a result of his background in the genre. 

These first experimental demos would be released in 2011 under the name STAL, introducing the project’s epic, raw rock energy with a decidedly French touch to the world for the first time. Since then, STAL has released an EP, We Are Two, and his debut full-length, Young Hearts, and the band has toured with acts like Nothing But Thieves and Matt & Kim. Young Hearts also saw STAL become the first ever band to release a music video set entirely in a virtual reality world, which they did for the single “Gone.”

As Maulini transitioned into writing for a new record in early 2017, he took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles. Soon after the move, his music would catch the attention of producer Eric Palmquist (Bad Suns, Mutemath, Night Riots), leading to a friendship between the two. Just as Palmquist was a fan of STAL, Maulini was quickly taken by Palmquist’s process and efficiency. “First time I came across his studio in El Sereno, I immediately loved the vibe and, above all, the man”. After a short time, Maulini was impressed enough with their shared musical heritage and vision for what the project could be that he settled on Palmquist to help elevate his next batch of songs into new territory.

Much in the same way that Gonzalez opened Maulini’s eyes to the level of professionalism needed to be successful on the road, Palmquist would instill in Maulini the need for diligence in the recording studio. Whereas Young Hearts was recorded in a straightforward process, with a great deal of spontaneity and clumsiness, for Fresh Blood there were countless hours of pre-production. The initial days in the studio consisted solely of listening to the artist and producer’s greatest influences, as well as, Top 40 pop and rock. This led to an extended demoing session that saw their creative direction pulled in many different ways before the two settled on a final vision for the EP. Lyrically, Fresh Blood shows just how much maturity Maulini has gained over the past few years. While he speaks largely to the true and simple happiness one can find in life, love and hope, there is certainly a new level of profundity to his lyrics. “Working with Eric on my lyrics has been an amazing experience. He’s an amazing topliner and being in the studio with him helped me obtain a new level of confidence as a musician.”

While Fresh Blood maintains a lot of what made his previous work so addictive, it definitely represents a new creative chapter in Maulini’s career. His distinctive vocals and the signature synths sounds that drew people to Young Hearts are still present, but there is a level of maturity as a songwriter that points to something fresh and exciting on this release. The EP was also heavily influenced by the major change in the way people consume music over the past few years. “People don’t listen to an album or EP like before. I always thought albums should have been a story from track 1 to 10; now it’s mostly singles released one by one”. To make sure he was giving his listeners a complete experience, Maulini wrote each track on Fresh Blood in a manner that would leave room to “find their own interpretation and connection to their favorite tracks.”

While STAL is largely a one man show in the studio, the project takes the form of a raucous power trio live. Maulini is backed by Renaud Rodier and Jeff Di Rienzo on drums and guitar respectively. Rodier has performed with the band since 2011 and has played on every record and tour that STAL has been a part of. Di Rienzo is an exceptional guitarist, whose chemistry with Maulini is uncanny; pushing both men to new creative heights as they play off each other on stage. Di Rienzo is also the owner of The Office/The Artist mastering studio (TOTA) in Paris.

In the end, the five tracks on Fresh Blood converge with a message that life can be really tough, but in the darkness there’s always a light that guides you. With everything going on in the world today, we could certainly use this sort of uplifting message set to an epic, inspiring soundscape to help us continue to strive to be our best selves, no matter what life throws at us.  

 

TEAMMATE

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There are the cheesy, tender love stories and the boring, static ones; the heartbreakers and those head-shakers that never even make it past that cringeworthy pickup line. Scott Simons and Dani Buncher know theirs doesn’t fit easy description. Perhaps it’s because it’s still being written.  Sure, several years ago, when Buncher came out to Simons, they stopped referring to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. The music however? That unspeakable connection that bound them together all those years, carried them through rough patches and made things work even when everything felt in wild disarray? Well, that, Simons says, was the singular element of their partnership that not only survived but blossomed. “It was our therapy,” Simons says of his and Buncher’s decision instead to forge ahead on their winding road of a relationship. Rather than lose the other, they chose to embrace their unparalleled connection, forming the synth-pop duo TeamMate. “Part of the healing process for the end of our romantic relationship ending involved us playing music together,” Simons, who shares vocal duties with Buncher and plays synths and keyboards in the band, declares. “Still existing today as a partnership is our best achievement.”

Well, that and TeamMate’s effortless unleashing of ear-wormy nuggets of pure pop precision. The breakout band’s debut LP, TeamMate, is stuffed full of massive choruses, bright, shimmering melodies, arena-scale drums and the sort of anthemic choruses not easily removable from one’s brain. “We’re shooting information off each other and the result is this collaborative piece,” Buncher, who plays drums in the group, says when assessing the duo’s seamless integration of musical talent. “We always just want to see where the sound goes.”

“Looking back we never said, ‘Let’s start a band together,”’ Buncher adds with a laugh. Though when two people understand one another on such a human level -- additionally having shared their most personal songwriting with each other for years -- it’s far easier to fight past the nonsense and attack each song with pulsing vigor. “We got to a point where we had matured and we had grown and we had been through so much shit together and we still made it out,” Simons says. “We could then look at our story and say, “Yah, we have something to say in our songs now!”

And so even on their most instantly catchy tracks, like “Don’t Count Me Out,” where chiming synths and pulsing drums give way to a shout-along chorus, there’s a definitive, sincere message bubbling beneath. “Lyrically, the song is an anthem to ourselves,” Simons says of TeamMate’s infectious first single off the new LP. “We've been through a lot of things together but we're still a version of together.” The Eighties-inflected, “Nothing’s Ever Over,” by comparison, Buncher adds, “really helped us find our direction for the album” and “set the tone for most of the new songs moving forward.” It also helped the duo manage the occasional hurdles involved in the songwriting process, like on the bombastic pop gem “Something Simple,” which proved anything but. “That was a song that took a lot of work to get it to where it is now,” Simons explains. “It started as a melody and music sketch I made and then sat on because we initially didn't think it was going to work for us. But as we collaborated it started to take shape over a few writing sessions. The story comes from a personal experience in a relationship of trying to force expectations onto something rather than just accepting it for what it is.”

Winding up together as a band was hardly a foregone conclusion for TeamMate. Having first met at West Virginia University, Simons stayed in West Virginia after college; Buncher took up shop in New York and then her native Pittsburgh. Both were pushing hard with their respective former bands and yet, much as they’d always done, the pair continued swapping musical advice with each other. “For years and years Scott would send me music and I would give him my brutally honest criticism or support,” Buncher explains. It was only after Simons asked Buncher to back him on drums for some solo gigs that the two realized their talents were best utilized as a unit. “It felt like something new was happening,” Buncher recalls of an early joint songwriting session with Simons. “We just knew where our musical ven diagram overlapped,” he adds, while Buncher says everything immediately “blended quite nicely.”

“Even when we started playing some shows, it was more of a laptop-bedroom project,” Simons admits. “It was just a very cerebral thing.” Gradually though, as both musicians began sharing lead-singing duties -- not to mention when Buncher’s drum was moved to the front of the stage and was now equal with Simons’ microphone -- the musicians started to feel like a legitimate band -- one in which both members literally and metaphorically stood on equal footing. “A lot of our songs now the message is ‘we,’” Buncher explains. “It’s universal but also a very personal message from the two of us. We’re both singing together in unison. You can’t necessarily tell whose voice is whose.”

Having grown as both musical collaborators, partners and, most importantly, friends, TeamMate are finally at a point of being realistically optimistic and excited about their future. “We’ve finally figured out who we are,” Buncher says. “It’s time to put out a record that represents our growth as people and our growth as musicians.”

“If we had told each other back in college: “You are going to date for 10 years, break up and then start a band and tour we would have never believed it,” Simons says.” The whole story that’s led to this moment is so convoluted and crazy but I wouldn’t change it. It’s led to this incredible collaboration.

THE SILENT COMEDY

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Proverbs 27:6 - “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses”

There was something about that passage. It stuck out to Jeremiah and Josh Zimmerman. They knew it because their father was a preacher and, as Jeremiah says, they had “all these old Biblical passages floating around in their head.” But as the two brothers who together form rock outfit the Silent Comedy began reflecting on their decade-long music-industry journey, one that suddenly found their former close-friends in their hometown of San Diego turning against them for their perceived success, the long-known proverb suddenly began to feel all too relevant. 

“We started to realize that people kind of turn on you when you’re not their local secret anymore,” says Jeremiah of the interpersonal battles that wound up serving as inspiration for the title of the band’s new album, Enemies Multiply. It was an odd feeling for the two, humble young men. Rather than let it dampen their spirits, however, the multi-instrumentalist Jeremiah and his songwriting savant younger brother Josh channeled this admittedly confusing time of conflict — as well as the previous perilous years leading up to it, characterized by what Josh describes as “being jerked around by the music industry” — into their most impassioned, hard-hitting, and thoroughly engaging album of their career.

Enemies Multiply, which the band recorded over the course of a year in Austin, Texas, is by and large a big-boned, bruising affair. “Sharks Smell Blood,” all bluesy strut, spooky choirboy harmonies and sing-along hook, stands at the center, a rocker that Josh explains is similar to the band in the way it developed over several years to its current cohesive state. Likewise, “Avalanche,” framed around a searing guitar line and squelching church organ, evolved over time going “through this journey where it’s completely evolved. We loved it in every incarnation it went through, but when I listen to how it ended up I really feel that’s the pinnacle of all of that work,” Josh explains. Even “All Saints Forgiven,” which begins as a back porch delta-blues confessional, quickly explodes into a glam-metal Van Halen-esque sing-along at the chorus.

“All of what we have been through as a band is wrapped up in this new project,” Josh says of the Silent Comedy’s realization that conflicts and challenges often reveal themselves as the best source material for artistic expression. “We started to feel the narrative happening,” Jeremiah adds of the two years spent writing the material that became Enemies Multiply. “It started to come from a very real place. It was exhausting and it was really taking a toll on us. We were in a legitimate struggle. But all the songs started to take on a new meaning. This entire process was saturated with so much frustration and conflict. So to see something like Enemies Multiply rise out of that is awesome.”

Distance, time and learning how one best responds to the changing tide stands at the core of the Silent Comedy’s third full-length album. For the Zimmerman’s, music has always been a means by which to cope with challenging circumstances.  As children, after traveling the globe with their missionary parents only to return to the United States, meander some more, then settle down in San Diego in a house with literally nothing but an upright piano, the two brothers looked to musical collaboration in their mid-teens as a stem to their bewilderment. “Jeremiah started writing songs, “Josh recalls. “That was kind of his way of processing everything that we’d been through. That’s really when we started writing together.”

While not always visible in plain sight, rock music has always formed the foundation of the Silent Comedy. The brothers, who were fanboys for bands like Rage Against The Machine and At The Drive-In during their teenage years, first delved into band life via joint membership in a punk and post-hardcore act. But after forming the Silent Comedy in the mid-2000’s, their early albums, including 2010’s Common Faults, which sold over 10,000 copied independently, and last year’s Friends Divide EP, began to incorporate the folk, Americana and the blues they picked up from listening to a healthy dose of Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel. Songs from both releases have been used in numerous film and TV placements including commercials for Volkswagen, Xbox, Strike Back (Cinemax), the Dark Souls Video Game, the History Channel’s the Men Who Built America and Hatfields & McCoy’s series’ and more.  Still, all throughout, their live show was centered on its rollicking, over-the-top energy. To that end, the Zimmerman brothers felt their studio efforts needed to better match up with their live persona.

“In a way it was only a matter of time before we fully embraced our rock n’ roll roots,” Josh says.  Adds Jeremiah: “The farther we kept going, we realized the stuff that was more interesting to us was the more energetic and rock-focused type stuff. Our energy has been our biggest asset. We wanted to put that on the record.”

If the journey has felt long and at times painful, the Zimmerman brothers feel that with Enemies Multiply, and its accompanying massive live show they’re set to take on the road, the ends truly do justify the means. “All of our recording has been a struggle to get this energetic feeling,” Josh says. “I finally feel we’ve captured it.”

LIP SYNC MUSIC

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Lip Sync Music Inc. is a prominent music licensing agency started by founder and current owner Lauren Harman. Since the inception of the company in 2009 Lip Sync has worked with an impressive array of artists both established up-and-coming, including Au Revoir Simone, Cults, Hanni El Khatib, Rhye, Local Natives, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Mayer Hawthorne, Snoop Dogg, Bloc Party, Digitalism, The Naked and Famous and more. The labels they have represented have included some of the most prestigious tastemakers in the world including Delicious Vinyl, Daptone, Innovative Leisure, DimMak and more.

At the core of the company is Harman’s philosophy of having a small focused roster of diverse and talented artists. This philosophy has propelled Lip Sync into into being one of the top film & tv/music representation firms in the US, generating millions in sync revenue every year for their artists through an impressive flow of placements in  films, television, commercials, trailers, video games and online & industrial videos.

The company has worked with marquee brands such as Target, Nike, Windows, Amazon, PlayStaion, The Gap, Miller Lite, Honda, Audi, Lexus and more. Their clients music has been heard in major motion pictures and television shows such as Magic Mike, the Scream franchise, What to Expect When Your Expecting, Showtime’s Shameless, The Newsroom and Californication, HBO’s Girls and Entourage, Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black, ABC’s Nashville and Grey’s Anatomy, Fox’s Glee, AMC’s Breaking Bad , CBS’s NCIS and CSI and many, more.

ALO

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“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.”

JACK MOSBACHER

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“There’s something really brave…about being unabashedly happy.”  

Hearing Jack Mosbacher’s voice for the first time is like stumbling on a sunflower in the middle of a city sidewalk. At first, you’ll wonder if it’s real (it is). Then you’ll want to take it home (you can). His thoughtfully crafted traditional hooks and cheerful Motown vibes have drawn comparisons to The Temptations, Hall and Oates, and Otis Redding, exuding the old school power of Alabama Shakes with the pop sensibility of Andy Grammer and Ed Sheeran . Mosbacher revives the best of past eras with timeless warmth and modern charisma. In a world of confusion, chaos, and division, he is determined to make you smile. 

Jack’s music is his means of “accessing a higher joy” passed down from traditional greats of bygone eras. And at first listen, one can see why. His old-school style and joyful lyricism bear a uniquely innocent power. Invoking the past with an eye on the present and future, Jack Mosbacher’s original music is an uplifting delight for old souls of all ages.  

“I had a teacher once tell me: ‘You’re either in the lighting business, or the heating business. You’re either doing something new, or you’re bringing forgotten warmth to people who need it. I’ve always wanted to be a combination of both.”  

His journey into the ‘heating business’ began in early childhood, upon finding The Temptations in an old cassette drawer. It was an “unbelievable, mind-exploding moment” that ignited his spirit with fervor. But Jack hadn’t yet been exposed to the painful adversity his idols faced, or the turbulent era that he would himself enter as an adult. Today, Mosbacher harbors no illusions about what it means to honor their work.  

“So much of American music and popular culture…was driven by heroes and geniuses of color, or from some kind of background that is not like mine,” he says. “The things I’ve seen, and my faith, have taught me that you really run into trouble when you’re not acknowledging who your influences are, and all the systemic injustices and hardships that inspired artists before me to write a lot of this music in the first place.”  

Jack underwent a rigorous period of education – in school and in the real world - that would inform and empower his perspective. He eventually graduated from Stanford University (while playing on the baseball team and writing for the school paper) with Honors in Political Science. He credits this education for laying the bricks of his platform and social awareness. “The vast majority of people whose art has significantly shaped my life have looked different from me, and have gone through things I’ve never had to deal with,” he says. “There’s a huge sensitivity there. Everything white artists have done has been influenced by artists of some kind of ‘other.’ And the main thing that really strikes me about all of it is that I fell in love with this music before I knew what any of that was. There was an innocence there that I’m trying to retain while also being mindful of my own place in all of this. And a sense of purpose in being an ally, in respecting and advancing the message.” 

Mosbacher is vividly aware of the dichotomy between innocence and struggle in music, particularly in regard to race and identity. “There is such a cultural importance, and a continued relevance, to acknowledge and respect. But music is also the one place where we can all come together, where we’re able to shed these differences and presuppositions in a way we can’t in any other part of our lives and our world.” 

For Jack, authenticity is key. Audiences are more educated, connected, and responsive than ever. He trusts that they know when it’s real. “Regardless of how I look or the differences I have from artists who wrote this in the past, this music is my heartbeat. It raised me.”  

His radiant sound has evolved to exude the old school power of Alabama Shakes and Leon Bridges, with the pop sensibility of Andy Grammer and Ed Sheeran. Today, Mosbacher aims to add happy elements to the next generation of soul. “There’s a lot of darkness out there,” he says. “Joy isn’t what you regularly see on the front page of the paper, or on your Facebook feed. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate, and it seems like the least I can do is to try to spread some light.”  

Prior to pursuing music, Jack was an accomplished athlete and student. International affairs and human rights were (and are) deeply important to him. At Stanford, Jack played on the nationally ranked baseball team and was awarded a special grant to write a thesis on income inequality and oil politics in East Africa as part of an international development program. He has since traveled to 13 African countries and published pieces in Foreign Affairs and The Washington Quarterly; with that, a career in journalism and policy seemed like a foregone conclusion. But Jack’s family, friends, and mentors pushed him to follow his heart, and it called him to music and entertainment. Once he listened, he never looked back.  

He dove headfirst into musicals on the east and west coasts, dazzling audiences in cabaret shows and Off-Broadway hits such as Sondheim’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and ‘Napoleon.’ But as Jack prepared for his first headline cabaret show in San Francisco, one of his oldest friends was killed in an accident.  

In the wake of unthinkable loss, mourning friends and loved ones still came to the show, looking for an evening of relief. Being able to raise the audience’s spirits redefined the concept of entertainment for him. “The purpose of my music became solely to lift everyone in the room out of whatever darkness they are fighting and join them in the light, even for a fleeting moment.”  

Since recognizing his true purpose, Jack’s songwriting has been unstoppable. The San Francisco Chronicle heralded the young talent as “a star on the rise.” But Mosbacher stays rooted in his craft and the responsibility he feels to his listeners. His only goal is for people to leave his shows happier than when they came.  

“Music has never been my means of justifying myself, to myself or to anybody else,” he says. “It’s simply my way of giving something back.” 

Mosbacher’s recent collaboration with Nerf Herder’s Linus of Hollywood and Letters to Cleo’s Michael Eisenstein resulted in over a dozen new songs, set for release in 2018. His inaugural single, “The Second Time Around,” debuted on December 1. “These songs are full of energy and an almost naïve innocence,” he says. “They’re the best representation of what I’ve wanted my music to be to this point, and I hope that the trajectory is only upward as we continue to write, record, and perform.”  

Mosbacher fell in love with music by hearing The Temptations, but he never could have guessed that his future would bring them front and center. David Ruffin, the band’s original lead singer, was forced to abandon a solo record following struggles with addiction and a tussle with Motown Records. 30 years later, an independent label acquired the album and quietly released it. Mosbacher jumped at the chance to honor his late hero’s forgotten work. In collaboration with Michael Eisenstein and an eclectic array of musicians, Mosbacher covered four of Ruffin’s previously unreleased songs in a classic Motown session: all of the instruments in one room, making music until they got it right. 

“I’ll never be David Ruffin,” he says. “That was never the point. It was just incredibly exciting and fulfilling to pay my respects to the guy I grew up trying to be.” 

In early December, Mosbacher closed out a home-run year by performing new songs at the Peppermint Club in LA. He’s scheduled to kick off 2018 with a springtime tour of the West Coast, appearing with Train, Michael Franti, Robert Randolph, and more on the fifth annual Sail Across The Sun cruise.  

But even as big breaks roll in, Jack stays humbly nonchalant. “Exuding unapologetic joy and happiness has never really been ‘the cool thing,’” he says. “Fortunately, I don’t really care about being that cool.”  

Given his unique talent and authentic drive, Mosbacher’s rise to musical prominence seems almost inevitable. But whether good fortune comes knocking or not, Jack is too happy to care.  

“…I know what I love, and I know why. And I want to bring just as much of it into the world as I can before I’m through.”  

We’re listening.  

ZAYDE WØLF

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Dark, percussive, and drivingly cinematic, Zayde Wolf is the indie rock solo project of Dustin Burnett, a chart-topping songwriter and Grammy-nominated producer. Written and recorded after a decade-long break from the stage, Golden Age — Zayde Wolf's debut, whose 13 songs were written, produced, mixed, mastered, and largely performed by Burnett himself — is the latest in a string of projects that have included studio collaborations and co-writing sessions with The Girl and the Dreamcatcher, Augustana, Tyrone Wells, Rhett Walker Band, and others.

Burnett was raised in southern Illinois, where he spent most of his 20s as the frontman of The October. Inspired by the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen, the band logged the better part of a decade on the road, playing Sundance Film Festival and CMJ Music Fest along the way. Burnt out by the end of his 20s, Burnett put his performance career on hold and moved to Nashville, where he focused on production and songwriting. He also launched That Sound, a boutique drum sample company, to share the unique percussion sounds he'd been creating in the studio.

Coincidentally, it was Burnett's work as a producer that eventually brought him back to an artist's career.  At the end of 2015, he began working with the L.A.- based licensing company, Lyric House. The company sent him a custom opportunity to create a song for a movie trailer, and Burnett — unable to find someone else to sing on the track — decided to record his own vocals. The company loved the result. What had begun as a movie trailer project had expanded into something unique: a new musical project called Zayde Wolf, which combined Burnett's history as a producer with his talents as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. The response was tremendous, with more than 50 movie trailers, video games, TV networks, and other outlets licensing Zayde Wolf's music. Even the Rio Olympics, the NFL, and ABC's hit show Dancing With The Stars — whose one-time contestant, Vanilla Ice, found himself dancing to Wolf's dark cover of "Save Tonight" during the show — got a piece of the action.

Golden Age is the sound of a lifelong artist embracing his role as a frontman once again. Fueled by aggressive guitars, gang vocals, sweeping soundscapes, stomping percussion, and pop hooks, the album is a natural extension of Burnett's career thus far, even finding room for some of the drum samples from his own bank of studio percussion sounds. From the anthemic "Live Life" to the swaggering, hand-clapped "King," the album mixes melody with muscle, groove with guitar, old habits with new beginnings.

GRIZFOLK

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Since their very first days as a band, members of the Venice, California-based alt-rock quintet Grizfolk have made full use of their disparate origins and distinct sensibilities. Drawing on wide-ranging backgrounds both musical and geographical — frontman Adam Roth, bassist Brendan Willing James, and drummer Bill Delia hail from different corners from the U.S., while keyboardist Sebastian Fritze and guitarist Fredrik Eriksson come from opposite coasts of Sweden — the band textures its songs with a heady mix of graceful melody, sprawling guitar work, and lush but edgy electronics. Their latest single “In My Arms” features Jamie N Commons and was featured in Alternative Press’s “10 New Songs You Need to Hear This Week” and has garnered over 2 Million streams on Spotify.

Formed in 2013, Grizfolk marks a new era for a group of musicians who have devoted much of their lives to various musical pursuits: Roth, James, and Delia were previously bandmates in an L.A.-based Americana act, Eriksson has played in rock bands since he was 13, and Fritze got into beatmaking while studying music production in college. With its roots in an old nickname of Roth’s (“Griz Adams”), the band’s moniker refers to “folk not as a genre, but as in the idea of a community of people working together,” explains Fritze. To that end, Grizfolk began as a laid-back but earnest attempt at creating a fresh new hybrid of electronic music and rock. “It started off as a fun experiment to see how we could bring in different musical styles and make something that we all love,” recalls Eriksson. “But then it worked within the first few songs, so we kept going with it.”

The idea for “In My Arms” started when Adam Roth was recovering from surgery on a on a hemorrhagic polyp, and was unable to speak for two weeks and unable to fully sing for two months. “Those two weeks of sitting in my apartment alone, literally speechless, were some of the most interesting and important days of my life, “ says Roth.  “Jamie came along at almost the exact time that I was losing my voice, and we suddenly had our first duet. I pretty much thought about everything a guy could think about during those weeks, and for the most part realized how I took a lot of things for granted in my life. I wake up everyday and remind myself how fortunate I am to be able to still do what I love.”

“We would often get together to write at one of our places, and we would start the sessions with kind of a current events in the round discussion,” says James. “ When Jamie came by one day for a co-write we had a beat and a start of a melody already but no theme. I mentioned that idea of the ‘falling dream,’ the one that I’m pretty sure we all know, where you sort of jolt awake right before, or as you hit the ground, in sort of a breathless state. Then we took the effects of that into a relationship sort of situation, where those ripples would affect a person next to you. ‘In My Arms’ came from a place of wanting to comfort someone in times of trouble and distress, which couldn’t be more important in any given time, but especially right now.”

“In My Arms” is the band’s first new song since the release of their debut album Waking Up The Giants that  deliver an arena-ready sound that lead to tours with with artists like Bastille and X Ambassadors and festival appearances at Firefly, Hangout, Bottlerock and Voodoo. At the same time, it also steadily builds a warm, intimate mood that echoes the closeness of their collaboration.

Mainly self-produced and recorded everywhere from the band members’ living rooms to the famed Sunset Sound Studio, Waking Up The Giants takes its title from the album’s epic centerpiece. “There’s that cautionary phrase about being careful not to wake the sleeping giant, but we’re kind of going for the opposite of that,” says James. “We’re saying, ‘Let’s not be scared, let’s wake the damn thing up and make some waves in the world.’” Offering anthem after anthem, Waking Up The Giants never shies away from emotional truth, but ultimately inspires a deep and powerful sense of hope. “The lyrics in ‘Waking Up The Giants’ can relate back to anyone who might have an idea that they’re afraid to express, but that might spark something that winds up changing their life for the better,” says Roth.

With its sweeping, cinematic feel, Waking Up the Giants came to life by way of a songwriting approach that Grizfolk describe as visually oriented. “A lot of the time when we’re writing, we’re picturing some sort of landscape and inserting story and characters into it, and then creating the song from there,” says Fritze. “They’re often stories of people traveling, not having a destination, living in the moment wherever they are right now instead of trying to go off and find something better.” On the album-opening “Into the Barrens,” for instance, Roth assumes the role of “a lonely wolf wandering,” his soulful vocals set against a cascade of surging rhythms and hypnotic synth. From there, Grizfolk slips into the heavy groove and gritty guitar of lead single “Troublemaker” (a track written on the road and inspired by “the thought of someone who’s so good you just want a promise that she’ll still be there when you get back home — although it never really works out like that,” explains Roth). On “Bob Marley,” Waking Up the Giants serves up the consummate driving song, complete with whistled melody, surfy drumbeats, spaghetti-western guitar tones, and a touch of reckless romanticism. And on tracks like “Bohemian Bird,” Grizfolk show a softer side without losing any intensity, fusing stark beats, spectral guitar lines, and hushed harmonies to stunning effect. This unique approach to songwriting drove the success of the album and led them to some of the biggest performances of their career. The band performed  “Hymnals” on The Late Show With David Letterman and later “Troublemaker” on Conan. Their music also began to appear on the radar of publications like BillboardSPINand Paste Magazine.

DESI VALENTINE

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“I’m not a perfect pop star.” Once or twice a century, a sound comes along that belies all comparison. There’s been a Nina Simone, an Otis Redding, and an Amy Winehouse. But Desi Valentine is the first of his nature. He’s a recording artist, singer, and songwriter with a modern mind and a timeless sound. Desi Valentine wears a balanced medley of enticing contradictions: he’s traditional, and he’s innovative. He’s peaceful, and he’s disruptive. His voice is of velvet and smoke, with a timbre beyond definition.

To truly know Desi is to listen. Born and raised in Catford, London, he initially followed his heart to musical theatre success in West End and Broadway shows. This victory could have signaled a happy ending for many. But when a stranger asked Desi if he’d thought to try music, he fell forward into new dreams. “I started soaking myself in the world of music,” he says. Desi moved to Los Angeles in 2012. “As soon as I arrived, I knew I was supposed to be here. It really opened itself up to me…very quickly, I knew this was the next step of my story.” But immersion in the music industry was one thing…finding his niche was another. “The type of music that I first made was a rock-pop kind of sound,” he says. “I had a big mohawk at the time, very different style. People said all along, ‘you should do a rockabilly throwback kind of thing.’ [But] I didn’t identify with that [at the time]…I honestly didn’t want to be another black guy doing soul stuff.”

It took years of starts and stops for Valentine’s unique style to find him. Today, he credits those alternate routes as guideposts toward finding his space. “You’ve got to listen to your gut and your instincts for what you want to do, because the music won’t be good otherwise,” he says. “I had to go through rock, hard rock, hearing metal for the first time, in order to bring me…back to where I started.” Adele’s “21” heralded this epiphany. “[The album] really touched me. I thought…this is the next revolution of me as an artist.’ It all of a sudden just clicked into place.” This shift in perspective brought the journey full circle.

Desi looked back on his childhood, hearing retro classics with his parents. “The house was full of Otis Redding, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, and classical composers like Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Bach…Little did I know that it was shaping the artist that I am today. I couldn’t see it, and couldn’t feel it until it was the right time for me to do so. Now it’s at home with my music.” Since his debut, Valentine has worked with the likes of Leona Lewis and Elton John. “Being on the 02 stage [with Elton] was one of the most inspiring and incredible experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “Getting to work with him is…an incredible thing.” As with the West End in London, this milestone inspired even bigger goals. “I want to stand on [the 02 stage] in my own right, at some point in my career,” he says. “I love a goal, I love a challenge. And the 02 is a significant one indeed.”

In 2016, Valentine went on tour with Andra Day, whom he credits as a major influence in the next chapter of his story. Desi recalls a particular moment in which Day skipped a break during a show, just to ask Valentine if there was anything more she could do for him. “Her songs are so huge and take so much,” he says. “You get five minutes to just…relax for a moment, [but] you take your support act aside to see how you can include them more in your show? I can only aspire to be that kind, to be that sort of person when it’s time to pick a support act and take them on.”

In the wake of the Charlottesville riots, Valentine wrote a song in response called Love is Love. “I’ve never written a song that’s really inspired by current events that way…[but] it’s been a very illuminating time.” The song is less about politics and more about humanity, Valentine says. Solving today’s social crises can be as simple as practicing love. “I would love a world where peace is celebrated that way that war is prepared for,” he says. Valentine is no stranger to adversity. When "Fate Don’t Know" You landed on Spotify’s Viral 50 internationally, Desi had just been laid off from a bartending job. “It was so strange to be wildly celebrated on one hand, and then really struggling on the other,” he says. When the song went up on the charts, Desi was rehearsing to open for Blondie, making plans for Bumbershoot festival, and then going to 7-11 for dinner because “a hot dog was $2.99.” To make rent, Desi was driving for Uber.

Meanwhile, "Fate Don’t Know You" landed the coveted season finale of Suits. “I was like ‘wow, my song is top 50 around the world… but I would love to know how I’m going to eat tonight,’” Desi laughs. Looking back on tough times, he has no regrets, and credits success to hard work. “That is the thing that really outlasts anything else. When you struggle, just be inspired by the struggle and draw from it… Life is for living - the ups and downs - and you’ve got to embrace that.” This mindset contributed to the creation of his anticipated new single, "My Worst Enemy." The song arose from a place of intense, but unrequited longing. “Sometimes, somebody can just make you forget yourself,” Valentine says. “[Rejection] is such a knock to the ego. It derails who you know yourself to be.” Valentine partnered with Morgan Taylor Reid to bring the single to life, and the result is disarmingly catchy. When My Worst Enemy drops on October 6, audiences can expect to be emotionally moved…and moved to dance. From mid-October through November of 2017, Valentine will be touring with Vintage Trouble throughout the U.S. and Canada. He looks forward to two shows in particular: The Wilton in Los Angeles (November 15), and The Fillmore in San Francisco (November 16). “It’s going to be great to have a hometown show [at the Wilton]. And the Fillmore, that’s one of those venues that legends have performed in. I’d love to see everybody come down.” With a packed touring schedule and brand new single, Valentine is not slowing down. Fate Don’t Know You has made its way to the upcoming season premiere of A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce (Bravo). Another song made it to the mid-season finale of Queen Sugar on OWN. Valentine’s new EP is set to debut in early 2018. This will be his first collaboration with STINT, the Grammy nominated producer behind Gallant’s critically acclaimed –Ology, as well as Grammy nominated songwriter and Cheers to the Fall producer, Jenn Decilvio. The EP weaves a modern twist through silky, old school vibes. As Valentine moves forward, he doesn’t look back. “Don’t stand in the way of your music growing and evolving. Create something brand new, even if it’s drawing from something that’s quite old.” There is beauty in memory, but truth lives in change. The music, for Desi, is both.