Detroit natives, The Social Bandits, are toying with live music platform, and it’s working

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Detroit natives, The Social Bandits, are toying with live music platform, and it’s working.

In the hodgepodge of colorful characters and versatile sound that has become Detroit’s music industry, there is said to be an overwhelmingly saturated rock and roll scene. This statement made last year by Dave Zainea, owner of Detroit’s Majestic Complex in midtown, was a foreshadow of his future business plans.

Zainea teamed up with Amir Daiza, owner of Pontiac’s Elektricity nightclub and the former Clutch Cargos venue. Together they renovated the Majestic Complex’s iconic rock venue, The Magic Stick, and turned it into a stomping ground for electronic dance music events. One year later, the red ribbon cut and decades of rock band stickers and delusional scriptures scraped from the restroom walls, the city has only the ghostly memories of a monumental atmosphere for Detroit rock and roll.

bandits-msu-moody-10What happens when a band breaks the traditional tropes of bar gigging and creates an innovative platform for the delivery of their live music marketing? The Social Bandits take the stage.

From OU to every other U

Detroit’s alternative quartet, The Social Bandits, pin their original sound on many influences aside from rock and roll.
“There are a lot of solid 70s and 80s cover bands that make a good living and there is a huge metal and hard rock scene, not my vibe, but it’s cool they still play so many shows downtown,” said Brad Rude, co-lead vocalist and bass playing bandit.
“But I would say there’s not a whole lot of ‘rock and roll’ that is current and original in Detroit right now. There are few bands like this and I would consider The Social Bandits to be one of them,” Rude added.

“But I would say there’s not a whole lot of ‘rock and roll’ that is current and original in Detroit right now. There are few bands like this and I would consider The Social Bandits to be one of them,” Rude added.

With a broad range of influences including The Beatles, Bob Marley and The Killers to name a few, The Social Bandits have an innate love for Detroit’s historically staple sounds of funk and jazz. Oakland University’s jazz program was a catalyst in bringing out the boys’ Motown inheritance.

“I was pleasantly surprised when they came in; I nicknamed them the Swing Brothers,” said Sean Dobbins, OU’s jazz combo coordinator and assistant program instructor, about Rude and drumming band mate Dylan Walsh.

There are a lot of solid 70s and 80s cover bands that make a good living and there is a huge metal and hard rock scene, not my vibe, but it’s cool they still play so many shows downtown

Brad Rude, co-lead vocalist and bass playing bandit

“They had this connection they could play with and it was obvious from day one that they could have careers as musicians and go far,” added Dobbins.

According to Dobbins, studying jazz teaches musicians a sense of subtlety and introduces musical texture. Rude, who believes jazz is the root of all modern music, says that jazz is a big part of his musical life especially from an educational standpoint.

When the Swing Brothers aren’t busy playing jazz combos at Detroit’s Cliff Bell’s and other smokey landmarks of the city’s musical authenticity, the Social Bandits are making entrepreneurial moves. They are currently making a conscientious aesthetic change in formats through which they deliver a live set. Although the band play their fair amount of bar gigs, the traditional route up the ranks, in recent months they have been taking advantage of an environment that draws a particular fan base: college parties.

“There are a lot of good venues that support local music but if you’re [the band] not bringing out enough people then it’s hard to make matters worth-while,” said Rude.

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He added, “So we’re going right to the source which is college kids at parties. They’re going to be at parties anyways, they might as well listen to the Social Bandits while they’re there.”

As a band with a desired demographic of younger listeners, there seems like no better setting to cater to than college parties. Rude says the response has been beautiful.

“We’ve had parties at MSU where the basement is packed wall to wall. You couldn’t fit more people in there with a shoehorn.”

Thus far, the band has traveled to The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.

The Social Experience

The element that separates the aura between the binary of a Social Bandits bar gig and a college house show is the level of crowd interaction that the band is able to participate in, coupled with the deliberate differences in song choices. Spencer White, frequent Bandits show attendee, said that being able to get strangers dancing is one of the hallmarks of being a “good band.”

“The bar gigs are great but there’s a certain disengagement you can have at a bar gig where you can wander away, grab a drink, things like that,” said White.

“But at the college shows you’re packed into a room and it’s a party ya now? You’re committed. You’ve got your booze with ya, you’re with all your friends, you’re hoppin’ around in a tight space. Regardless of the setting, the Bandits have great command of the room but it shows so much more in a tight place like that” White added.

the-social-bandits-central-4oAs a live concert guru, White explained the best type of live interaction is “in-song” interaction. Something that a band can afford much more of in a house show due to the band’s relative proximity to the band.

“The Bandits never miss a chance to have you clap, or yell with them, or sing their lyrics or even hop on the drum kit for a little bit during the drum solo whereas at the bar gigs you can’t always do that type of stuff” said White.

“It’s that kind of stuff that makes people involved with the music, makes the experience more than just songs that are being played at you,” he added.

Playing to a crowd rather than at them is what Dobbins considers being the most important part of catering to a live audience.

“Act like you’re taking apart a movie and make sure your repertoire has all of the emotions there can be,” said Dobbins.

“Happiness, sadness, drama, comedy, everything that you could think of that would go into a movie should be in a set because you’re trying to get your audience members on every emotion possible,” Dobbins added.

As for variations in song choices, the Bandits typically play their originals everywhere, however different platforms get different access.

“We play a lot of original songs,” said Jesse Medawar, who handles half of the band’s vocal and guitar duties.

“We definitely play original songs at a bar gig but we play all of our originals at the house shows where we’re trying to market ourselves as The Social Bandits rather than just receiving a paycheck,” Medawar added.

Cover songs, on the other hand, vary between show platforms because of relative target audience. Bar covers include Pink Floyd’s “Money” or Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads”, where covers on a college set list include Sublime’s “Santeria” or Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop”. The fact that Miley Cyrus can’t stop the band sheds light on their aesthetic diversification and perseverance in giving audiences a memorable emotion to take away with them as Dobbins claims vital.

On The Horizon

Moving forward, The Social Bandits have a spring college mini-tour coming up. They are booked to play college house shows through April and May in Lansing and Mount. Pleasant. Audiences at these shows will hear a taste of original songs from the band’s first full length LP, which is set to release this August. After the release of the record, the band plans on taking a two-week east coast tour.

“We’re bringing out other musicians to feature on it and its very diverse,” Rude said about the currently untitled, upcoming record.

“I think there is something for everybody on it. It’s about half way done and I think it’s going to be huge for us.”


Ryan and His Abundance of Arms

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“If I’m given the chance to eat at McDonald’s or eat a healthy balanced meal, I’ll choose the healthy one even if it takes longer to eat,” Ryan Allen describes to me as I quickly type up his words next to a broken tape recorder. I do a double take as I realize what I just typed. “Is this guy talking to me about food right now?” I ask myself. Then I realize that Ryan Allen isn’t just telling me what he had for lunch, but is instead making one of the most significant analogies to the way people listen to music that I have heard in a long time as a music journalist. So I laugh out loud.

See, Ryan Allen is trying to explain to me that he believes people don’t really savor music like they used to.

Most people just want their fast food sort of music just served to them in an easily digestible way

– he says, and explains that he would prefer for the music he makes to require several listens in order to gain approval form his listeners. He will later compare his music to “a good book,” which one “wouldn’t want to finish in one sitting.”

Metaphors aside, Ryan Allen does exactly what he came to do with his new recording project, Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms. After participating in many different bands so far, such as Thunderbirds Are Now!, Destroy This Place, and Friendly Foes, Ryan decided to step away from his collaborative arts and do something altogether individual. In creating the solo albums for Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, Allen was able to use all of his experience in bands to his advantage, because, as he says, “the longer you spend doing it, the more honed in you can become on how you want the sound to get across.” But he wanted to produce something completely different from anything that his bands would put out. He describes his band Destroy This Place as loud and somewhat aggressive, and says that with his solo music he wanted to “dial that back.”   That sound ended up being what he calls “smart, personal, and emotional lyrics [coupled] with melodic pop music.” Don’t let the term ‘pop’ turn you away from the album, though, because he uses it in more of an old-fashioned, British invasion, sort of way. This sound comes naturally to him, and his listeners will not be disappointed by its execution.

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I listened to “Heart String Soul” for the first time on one of those snowpocalypse mornings in which one is able to relax for lack of obligations, but pretty quickly feels the sting of cabin fever. This album is much like that feeling, because while it is extremely catchy (I mean take-up-arms-against-this-melody catchy), it also exudes such strong emotions that it is somewhat cabin-fever-like in its desperation to be heard. Allen explains this idea, saying that he wanted to go for something that is “power pop like Fountains of Wayne,” but veers away from that music in that it is not “very surface level.” He wanted to create songs that would “combine something that’s very unique to listen to with lyrics that are maybe not shiny happy people songs, but songs about being jealous of your friends who are more successful than you and stuff like that.”

I dug this album because it reminded me of the soundtrack to one of those 90’s films with very little plot, met with actual real life adult issues. It struck me as sort of Motion City Soundtrack meets early New Pornographers meets The Who. Is that a thing? If it is a thing, it’s this thing for sure. And for all of you who were saying to yourself, “Hey, this sounds a little like Big Star to me,” not to worry! Because Allen himself declares that they were one of the biggest influences on the album. He also adds in a little Teenage Fanclub and Tom Petty to the mix of inspirations for good measure. So I suppose, not for lacking of trying to narrow it down, we will have to call it a hybrid of all six, but not in a too-many-cooks sort of way. Phew. I’m exhausted.

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And where did such goodness come from? Ah, well, in this case, “Heart String Soul” was inspired by the past few years of Ryan Allen’s life, including stories about his wife and his three-and-a-half-year-old son, Emitt. He loved playing in bands for years, but was inspired to go solo on this project because of these stories and their extremely personal nature. He explains that this does not mean that he felt himself unable to write passionate songs in a band setting. In fact, he says, “I don’t think I could make music and call it solo music without the experiences that I’ve had playing in bands.” He just means that when he writes songs he is able to see whether they would best be created with others or alone. Furthermore, because Allen has actual adult stuff on his plate, he doesn’t want to just “go to band practice and sit there and bullshit and get nothing done.” He says, “If you’re twenty-three that’s awesome because it’s not a waste of time,” but if you are thirty-five, “you better do something productive.” This combination of planning and focus behind “Heart String Soul” place each track on the pedestal of being carefully considered and deliberately crafted for this specific purpose over many years. These qualities are not as common as one would hope in the music industry.

The honesty of the album doesn’t necessarily separate it from albums being released by other Detroit artists today. But the stories themselves do. Years ago, Allen would have told his simple tales over loud speakers, wanting only for flannel-clad hipsters to bounce around on creaky wooden floors in response. But Allen has realized that his stories have expanded a great deal over the past few years. And when his three-and-a-half-year-old son looked up at him upon seeing the album cover appear on the computer screen and said, “Dad that’s your CD! We should listen to that!” he realized his target audience had expanded quite a bit as well.

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Ryan Allen will perform songs from his album live at the album’s release show, which will take place on March 28, 2015 at the Berkley Front. He will play with Sean Sommer on drums and Michael Majewski on bass, and the band will follow two others, Love Axe and Javelins.

 


Vonneguts, Vonneglory

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“Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something,” screams Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to a world where desolation and pain rule over artistic endeavors. So too scream his namesakes as they sit quietly in a room, surrounded by empty packs of Camels, flower wall paper, and a looming Detroit winter. The Vonneguts have just released their first full-length album, which reveals itself to be just what Kurt Vonnegut demands: a collection of songs, dances, stories, and poems (though certainly not lousy ones). And as it was self-produced and written over the span of a year by only the band’s four dedicated members, Miles Hubbell, Mike O’Brien, Joe Myers, and Phill Dage, it is truly something which they have created for creation’s sake.

The recently completed, “Urban Paradise” was the result of both shared time and shared ideas. “We had released singles and EPs before that, and put up songs online,” says guitarist, Phill Dage. “But it’s different to release them in a physical copy.” I had the pleasure of sitting down and listening to that physical copy with three of the band’s members, Miles, Joe, and Phill, along with Miles’ girlfriend Kate. Mike (who is presently living in California) was sorely missed, of course.

 

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Phill reveals that one of the main reasons this album worked out for the band as well as it did lies in the fact that they “were all living together and devoting [their] money to it, so it was a communal effort.” The guys explain that being physically together during the album’s creation helped the music to flow more easily because they were not constrained by the need to plan specific times to work on it. “It doesn’t always work out so easily that bands can just move into a house together and play like that,” says guitarist Joe Myers. “It was pretty cool to come home when we were all done with our days and just make music together.” Phill agrees, saying, “the moment of spontaneity was much more available.” The blessings of living under the same roof seem to have shaped much of the album’s collaborative qualities.

But what about the general idea behind it? Though it would seem like four guys with this much individual intellect couldn’t possibly agree on an idea behind an entire album, they surprised listeners by doing just that.

It all began one day in December of 2013, when the band got together and created something of a storyboard for the album. Their plan organized every aspect of the album, down to instrumentation and key themes on which the songs would focus. “We got our heads together on an idea,” Phill explains. “It was the story of this wandering urban traveler who has these highs and lows.” He reveals that the album dives into many different aspects of the traveler’s life, detailing “different events, like love and hardship.” The band members then showed this blueprint to their producer, Steve Sholtes. They were incredibly grateful to him for being “welcoming to their ideas,” as Phill describes, because “they felt like they could try something new or kind of crazy.” The band had a framework, a place to focus on that framework, and the freedom to expand upon its foundation. They were ready to make their masterpiece.

Because of the collective space and the shared idea behind the project, the album has become “more of a conceptual album,” says Miles, the deep, golden voice behind The Vonneguts. He points out that the second track of the album is essentially three separate songs with soundscapes in between that serve as connective tissue. The song that follows, “Travelogue,” though completely different musically, is similarly a collection of different concepts. The song is a poem read by Phill on top of one of the band’s innumerable jam sessions. It is unique because the music was recorded long before Phill added the poem to it and each member played a role in the lyrics. “I remember one day I decided I wanted to encapsulate what this record is in words on a page and just try to do something I could speak to. The day before we went down to the studio I was asking Miles and Joe what words they would want to have spoken and I was just kind of able to incorporate them into it. I did it a couple of times in the studio to try and get the phrasing right on the music, but I didn’t revise it at all. That song serves the purpose of adding depth to the story.” Joe also notes that “Travelogue” is the song which “kind of brings it all together.”

The nine minute opus and the spoken word poem that follows it both unfold much of the urban traveler’s story in small clips of what the album strives for throughout: connectivity. Each track on the album is meant to lead into the next as the traveler’s story becomes more complex. Joe tells that the band even decided to put the lyrics on their bandcamp page in an effort to help listeners more closely follow this story.

Beyond just creating the theme of the album together, the band also formed its parts as a team. As Joe explains, “

My favorite part about the album, I think, was that it was always changing as to who was playing what instrument.”

When they created each song individually, each member had a mastery of his own instrument, and was also able to take on other roles in order to add something new to the sound. The drummer also reveals that “there were some songs in which Phill would write all of the lyrics and he wouldn’t sing any of the song, or I would write the lyrics, or someone else would. It was very interchangeable. I thought in that way it was much more of a team effort.” This malleable quality of the album’s creation is very present in its substance because the sound is very apparently unconfined by tempos or keys. It also speaks to the album’s subject, as the urban traveler, while devoted to his home, refuses to be limited by it.

While the idea for the album was created from each of the band member’s individual and collective efforts, it is certainly not without musical influences. They name Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as the top two. While the influence of these records may not be obvious at first, “Urban Paradise” does carry a more antique sound overall. “I personally don’t listen to much modern music at all,” says Miles. Not only does this show in his deep, almost Jim-Morrison-esque vocals that weave between retro guitar riffs, but the lyrics also reveal something more simple from the past. “I’m more inclined to be singing words that are kind of traditional as opposed to the modernization of lyrics,” he declares. But it must be noted that, while the lyrics may be somewhat old-fashioned, they are anything but predictable. Their subjects are intended to live outside of time and thus be meaningful for all listeners, not just other millennials.

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But surely, though “Urban Paradise” is not meant to live in a specific time period, it must be what most would call a “Detroit album,” yes? “Ultimately, I think there is definitely Detroit pride in the album,” says Phill. “It was conceived here, but nothing about it is specifically Detroit.” The guys describe that their idea of the Urban traveler is meant to transcend space and time, offering a universal idea of what it’s like to live in any city.

The sound of “Urban Paradise” is distinctly different from the Vonneguts’ previous albums. Miles Hubbell declares the main reason behind this to be that “the harmonies are much more thought-out in this album.” Phill adds that, overall, it seems like the band put more of their collective musical knowledge into this album than they had previously. “We know what’s going on going into the songs. I mean, Joe wrote scores for the string parts,” Phill continues. He says that the album just reveals “more musical knowledge and a more technical understanding of what we’re actually doing.” The band also mixed the album themselves, with some assistance from their beloved producer, Steve Sholtes. Steve allowed the band to be free to make any changes they wanted to, which was something they really enjoyed. Of course, this task put the band’s ability to analyze the minute details of its own songs to the test. “It was tough listening to a song one hundred times,” Joe explains, “but on the hundred-and-first time it was like, ‘that’s the one!’” The sound is altogether new for the band, and they are pleased to present it as such.

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Of course, “People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something new, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so, in fact,” says Rodion Raskolnikov, of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” (who happens to be the fictional character with whom Miles Hubbell most closely associates himself). I think he would agree that each member of the Vonneguts have proven themselves some of those lucky few. Phill’s fictional likeness, Siddhartha of Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” grounds himself in his own freedom of mind, a role which Phill certainly played in the band during the creation of the album and continues to play as the band moves forward. When asked which fictional character Joe most closely associates himself, he chose someone quite different: Dumbo, the little elephant who could fly. “Do you know why?” he asks me.

Because everybody doubted that guy, man. Every doubted him and he came back and he flew!

If you ask me, every band would be so lucky to have this cast of characters in its ranks. This combination of personalities is what makes “Urban Paradise” something worth lending both ears to as soon as possible.

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Now that the band has released its pride and joy for the world to hear, they plan to enjoy their achievement to its full extent. They obviously feel their songs need to be heard, but not just on dusty record players. Indeed, they have already begun performing some of these songs, playing Dally in the Alley on September 6th. They also plan to play at a show on October 19th at the New Dodge, one on the 22nd at PJ’s Lager House, and one on the 28th at the Magic Stick. In an effort to preserve the Vonneguts’ unity while Mike is away in California, the guys have decided to take on a new name for some of their shows, calling themselves the Motor City Golden Boys. They miss Mike dearly and await his impending return with bated breath. In the meantime, the band is also running its own DIY venue, called Elijah’s. Right now that venue lives on East Grand Boulevard, where it hosts many well-known local bands. The Vonneguts are incredibly dedicated to maintaining this Detroit venue, and Joe even notes that they are hoping to one day purchase a more permanent location for shows. Clearly the guys are not only dedicated to being able to perform their music in their home, but also giving other up-and-coming bands the opportunity to be heard. After all, even after having travelled and performed in places like Boston, New York City, and Chicago, the band still loves the Detroit music scene most of all. “I just like playing in the Motor City, man,” says Miles. And we couldn’t be happier to have you, Vonneguts.


Monty Luke and Black Catalogue

Monty Luke and Black Catalogue

Recently we got together with Monty Luke, owner and curator of Detroit-based electronic music label Black Catalogue. Originally from San Francisco, Monty moved here several years ago to work with Carl Craig and Planet E Communications.

We talked weather for a minute, winter’s like this can easily make someone think about goin’ back to Cali’. As I asked Monty if this was the most eff’d up winter he’s seen out here, he laughingly asked me (Michigander my whole life) the same question.
Yes. Yes it is.

Let’s get to the music.


How do you try to get your sound and message to the people? Does the music curation and artistic duties take up most of your time, or is it the marketing and everyday responsibilities of a running business?

“It could be a general music industry thing, it’s tough man. The whole game of PR and trying to get that publicity and awareness. There are so many other labels, and so many people making music, you got to get above the fold. It can be really tough, especially when so much of your day is trying to run the label, doing day-to-day stuff and talking to artists, especially when you’re an artist yourself, it’s a grind…”

“I have to set time aside for each aspect, otherwise it’ll never get done. If I have a remix that’s due, I have to focus on that. If I have a deadline for a release, I have to schedule studio time and finish that track. I have to set separate office hours aside to meet with designers, and production related stuff. If I don’t do that, something is going to fall by the wayside. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever done but also some of the most gratifying.”

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What’s going to be happening for you and Black Catalogue in the next couple years?

“As an artist myself, I want to push myself beyond my current boundaries. I want to help push the boundaries of Detroit electronic music. I’m really happy with what I’m doing with the label right now, but I want to focus on finding underground artists, not only from Detroit, but from all over the place. Finding someone really dope that you’ve never heard of before and makes you say “Damn! Who the fuck is this?” is something I want to continue to do. But in general, I really want to push myself to get better at music production, push what is known as Detroit techno, and house, further.

To me it’s all about progress. I think the history is amazing and great, and really rich, but it’s time to push this to the next level. I think the time to rely on the history of Detroit techno is over, it’s time to push this shit forward.

That’s what I like to focus on. If you come to my house, I have all the Detroit classics, all the hot shit, and I love all that stuff to death. But, it’s time to make some new classics.”


You recently released some tracks vinyl only, and digital releases weren’t released for several months. Was that by design?

“Yes. I believe in that format really strongly. From a practical standpoint it’s more expensive, so I have to focus more on selling that more. The bottom line is I’m dedicated to that format, it’s a labor of love. They’re both beneficial; I’m not one of these people that don’t believe in the digital realm. Tangible art to me is real important.”


By the sound of your music, I can tell your heavily inspired by science-fiction. Just how deep does that run?

“This is gonna sound crazy. There is this Dutch organization called Mars 1. They want to send 4 people to Mars in 2022. Last year they had an open application process, you had to submit a 70 second video. I entered this, and out of 200,000 applicants I made it to the second cut of about 1,058 people. At the end of this year they select the next round, then it’s a seven-year training process. “I want to be the first brother to go to another planet” I actually put that in the video haha. It’s not a trip, it’s like a one way ticket, which is kinda wild. I haven’t told my mom yet, I don’t know how that conversation is going to go.”

Yea, Detroit was probably hard enough…


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Keri Lynn Roche: American Idol’s Sweetest Detroiter

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Ever since Kelly Clarkson was named the very first winner of the television contest on September 4, 2002, American Idol has brought millions of skilled vocalists out of their showers and onto the big screen.  And, as Americans, it has since become our job to use all of the basic knowledge of vocalism we’ve gained from artists like Jessica Simpson and N*SYNC to decide the fate of these up-and-coming singers.  And, as humans, we will continue to get excited about these new potential stars as long as they continue putting the fate of their careers in the thumbs of our texting hands.

That being said, my thumbs are already sold on one of the phenomenal singers this year who received a golden ticket at the Detroit auditions on January 15th.  Her name is Keri Lynn Roche, and her achievements as a local artist so far have already encouraged Detroiters to tune into this season of the show unceasingly.

The very first to audition in Detroit for this season of American Idol, Roche proceeded to 1. admit she was nervous (displaying her knack for honesty on all occasions), 2. offered her adorable laugh at least thrice, and 3. tell J-Lo she was “so pretty”.  So, the audience immediately fell in love with her in this little-orphan-Annie way, which is great because that’s legitimately exactly how she is in real life.  But then, just to force everyones’ hands, she also sang outrageously well and had all three judges saying “absolutely yes” within seconds.  She chose to combine her interest in current musical trends (though a lot of current music is what she describes as “not something I would spend 99 cents on”) with her devotion to tradition and vocal power, by singing Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.”  Her song choices revealed something imperative to her nature: she is not entirely ready to forget the past, but she is always prepared for the unpredictable future.  The judges promptly complimented her on this decision, and then continued to praise her unique style, her confidence, and her artistry.  Keri Lynn Roche was officially in the game.

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But for Roche, the game had begun long ago.  “I tried last year for American Idol on Season Twelve, and I was turned down,” Roche tells.  “But,” she continues, “I knew that I sang my ass off and I knew that I gave what I could.”  Instead of feeling discouraged by the negative feedback she received, Roche says, “I took the challenge and I went back.”  She explains that this persistence for taking the challenge is what makes her different from the other singers in the running right now.  “I just don’t want to settle.  My motivation is not ‘I want to be a millionaire.’  I want to inspire people and I want to feel good by making music.  And if I can do that on a larger scale, then why not?  Why stay in a dive bar when there are many other people who might want to hear what I have to say?”

 

So, while Roche has been served “no’s” on several occasions, she hardly even seems to notice them.  And this attitude started at a very young age.  Roche often attended performances of her older brother’s band, a group which always inspired her own musical fortitude.  Furthermore, she explains, “I went to Liz Phair, Jewel, and James Taylor really young and I would just start crying at the shows.   It wasn’t because I was upset, but because I wanted to be where they were.”  She was encouraged to explore her own musical side after asking “how in the hell can I possibly get up on that stage and do what that person is doing right now?”  “I was just so determined by it,” Roche says.  Others showed her what was possible at a very young age, and she was not going to give up on that possibility for herself.

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Growing up in Detroit has made an even greater musical impact on her.  “Ever since I started singing, I always loved older singers. One of the first CDs my mom got me was a Motown CD, so from a young age it was always powerhouse singing.”  As she grew up, she began to fall in love with the women of the era, including Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.  “I was a pop princess.”  But, with both passions in mind, Detroit made a great home for her.  “This area is music city: so many people that are interested in hearing new music and that has been a really vital part of being an artist in this city.”  And as soon as she got her own guitar, she was thankful for that open-mindedness.  “A lot of people want to hear local talent and know what’s happening here.  It’s a great place to develop a fanbase.”

Playing her first show at the Blind Pig (a Johnny Cash tribute) when she was a mere sixteen, Roche was just beginning to gain a following..  She would later play at places like AJ’s Cafe (at that time, Xhedos), The Black Lotus, the Magic Stick, and the Crofoot.  People almost immediately fell in love with her sound.  “I started very folk-rock-acoustic,” she explains.  But, she admits, “the sound has changed as I’ve grown.”  Over the past few years, the singer and musician has switched from guitar to piano, which has been what she calls “a drastic change as far as intimacy goes,” and she has begun experimenting with electronic music by working with different musicians.  But what else happened between the café shows and the big screen?

“A lot of change in my personal life,” the singer explains.  “What has mostly inspired me is life struggle and the change that’s come in music has been made by that.”  Though she by no means wants it to be a focal point for her fans, Roche wants to be honest with the world about her struggles, especially since she feels that if she hadn’t overcome them, she definitely wouldn’t be where she is now.  “Being sober and writing has been a huge transformation for me,” she declares.  “In regards to alcohol and drugs, they went hand-in-hand with music for me for a long time.  It completely changed my entire perspective and artistry and I was super bummed thinking I didn’t make it anywhere.  I had been in a bad place.  I had no idea I was slowly drinking poison; it was really holding me back but I didn’t even know that.  As opposed to the young destructive [person I was], I’m now cultivating a completely different side of myself.”  Roche reveals that there is “a lot of heartache and things that happen along the way, and you don’t understand why its happening at the time.  But then you have a beautiful song and you say ‘oh, that makes sense!’”  Indeed, she explains that all of the hardships she has experienced over her eight years of performing have made her who she is.  “I started to really transform over the last couple of years,” she says.  “Music was the only thing I had left to hold onto.  There’s no reason why I shouldn’t talk about my struggle because without the music I never would have come out of that.”

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So, Roche’s attitude as a musician was built upon a combination of the good and the bad, with a firm trust in her own capabilities all the while.  Her music was her foundation and everything else followed.  But the singer and songwriter will admit that there is an enormous difference between devotion to music and devotion to the music industry.  “There are definitely parts of me that have felt tainted by the business: not about creating but about the motive behind it.  There are a lot of days where you think ‘I don’t think I can survive in this industry.’”  And since she is in the very heart of the industry right now, she is experiencing a great deal of apprehension.  “I definitely felt nervous, but I tried to be as authentic as I could possibly be and try to disregard cameras.  I tried to be myself and its very intimidating when you’re sitting with three of the biggest names in the industry and wondering if they’re going to validate you.”

The nerves were definitely a struggle, but America hardly noticed them.  Her strength on the screen was enormous and continues to be because she doesn’t allow the thoughts of others to cloud her own.  It’s what Harry Connick Jr. would later describe to his wife at dinner as “that grit.”  And boy, did he and the other judges “dig that.”  Roche knows she has the confidence to make it as a singer/songwriter today, but she also knows she has something else far more important and far less common: “remaining humble and grateful.  That’s the key to who I am.  That has helped me survive in this industry.”

Now, as one of the singers on her way to Hollywood, Roche is loving every second of it.  “I have been enjoying the experience.  I see that everyone involved has something spectacular and really incredible.”  Beyond just living it up, Roche is fulfilling her goal of creating a bigger audience in which to share her message, and she says she is very honored to be able to do so.  “You don’t really realize how a three minute clip of you on TV can affect someone’s life.”  And being on the big screen, while trying in many ways, has encouraged her in her musical life at home as well.  “TV is like an anabolic steroid for a local musician,” she explains.  “Last year I didn’t really get any airtime and it still had a huge effect for me as far as exposure goes. People are coming to me more than I am usually going to them,” she says.  And rightly so.

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Roche is thus moving up in every way possible at once, and Detroiters are undyingly supportive of her.  I encourage everyone to tune into American Idol this season, because this girl deserves your attention.  Watch this Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm to see her perform on Hollywood Week.  she will also be playing a show at the Ark in Ann Arbor this Wednesday, which promises greatness.  Finally, check her out on 1071’s Acoustic Brunch on February 9th.  Oh, and like her on Facebook and go buy her incredible new single, called “Scar on My Heart” ASAP because it’s beauty incarnate.  Guys, I love this girl.  I can’t wait for the days when I drive downtown Detroit and see her face more often than Joumana Kayrouz’s.


DBP INTERVIEW WITH JAZZ GREAT ‘ROBERT HURST’

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While not exactly sure how big the Bass-Mint is, this summit of upright bass players is impressive. Ivan “Big Ive” Williams chats with Jazz Great Robert Hurst, and friends.

Robert Hurst has been one of the most in-demand bass players in jazz for the past quarter century and has done extensive stints in the bands of Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, Branford Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, Chris Botti, and Diana Krall.

Hurst is an Associate Professor of Music at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, Dept. of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation, Ann Arbor, MI.


A Fireside Chat with “The Jet Rodriguez” frontman, Cameron Navetta

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Thursday, October 10th, 2013.  Raining innumerable domestic animals.  Inside the New Way Bar, loners, lovers, childhood friends, and withered businessmen merge with a love of two sacred things in common: music and baseball.  The Jet Rodriguez gets the crowd on their feet just in time for the Detroit Tigers to trample the Oakland Athletics with theirs.

Cut to today, when I, after months of virtual stalking, am permitted by the fairies of music journalism to converse with the man who essentially made this all possible.


  • BB: “Ok, first of all, where in the world did the name Jet Rodriguez come from? Is there a story there? If so, how many jigs would I have to perform in exchange for it?”
  • CN: “Well, protocol is that the one who’s asking us about our name must perform up to three jigs before we enlighten them.  But for you, I’ll do it for one really solid jig (I’ll take you up on that later).  Jet Rodriguez is a reference to the classic 90’s childrens’ movie “The Sandlot,” in which the hero is named Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez.  Which I think is actually yet another reference to the Elton John song, “Benny and the Jets.”  So it’s a reference within a reference.  Which basically just amounts to double the royalties.  Not really worth it, actually.”
  • BB: “That’s SO META. Well, with a name like that, your band will definitely be a hit FOR-EV-ER. (I make stupid jokes when I’m nervous around famous people).  So, uh… How long have you guys been a band?”
  • CN: “This is a hard question for me, incidentally.  It seems as though we’ve been a band of four co-expressive men for approximately two years.  However, Jet Rodriguez has been a thing for about five or six years now, as it merely started out as my solo endeavor.  Naturally, Danny Bowron (the drummer) was the first additional member, whose original role was to help me play the solo material.  Then we added a guitar player (Mike ‘”Effing” Daniele) under the same pretense.  Then we added a bass player (The Lance Corporal of Darkness, Steve Krycia) still under that same pretense.  Finally, my plans to have the guys help me with the solo material all went to hell, because that was a stupid idea anyway, and we became a band, in the real sense of the word.  We all contribute to the overall puzzle that is Jet Rodriguez.  And I’m confident that that’s the way it should be.  We don’t actually call Mike, “Mike ‘Effing’ Daniele.”  I just thought that was funny.”
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  • BB:  “So, Are you guys from Detroit, originally?”
  • CN: “I’ll let you in on our little secret.  We just like to walk around pretending like we’re a true Detroit band.  It feels cool to do that.  But alas, we are not truly “from Detroit,” as far as Southeast Michigan is concerned.  We all went to a high school about 30 minutes northeast of Detroit in a magical place called Anchor Bay.  Only one of us has ever lived within city limits.  Not to blow the lid on national rock and roll icons, Against the Grain, but they were bred from Anchor Bay as well.  We grew up with all of them and,  in fact, are good friends with them.  But from a regional perspective, we are from Detroit, because that’s easy.  However, I will say that the vast majority of our shows are in Detroit and the outlying close suburbs like Ferndale.”
  • BB: “What’s Anchor Bay like?”
  • CN: “It depends on who you ask.  Some people totally hated it.  Me, I’m grateful for being raised in Anchor Bay.  I consider it a sort of microcosm of suburban America.  It’s really diverse for one thing.  Part hick, part ghetto, part upper-middle class, part dirt poor.  It also supplied a sufficient amount of suburban angst to the artistic kind.  It’s right on the water, which was nice growing up.  It’s a neat place.  Don’t ever go out of your way to visit, though.”
  • BB: “But you met your band mates there, though. So that must have made it worth it?”
  • CN: “It did make it worth it.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
  • BB: “Well, I’m sure I speak for many locals when I say this, but Detroit is definitely lucky to have you here now.  What has it been like performing in Detroit since you started?”
  • CN: “The music community has really welcomed us with open arms.  I haven’t yet figured out if that’s just because they don’t realize we’re imports, or if they’re just a generally welcoming community.  I hope it’s the latter, but it’s probably a bit of both.  We’ve considered attempting to crash the circuit of other local scenes, but art as a concept in Detroit is just so great, and I’ve always admired the local music associated with Detroit.  It’s where the artists go, plain and simple.  It’s just an attractive place to express oneself.  Playing in Detroit is beautiful.  It’s insane to play on a stage like the Magic Stick and think about all the Detroit acts that have stepped foot and sweat and bled on that stage.  And it’s exciting to see new and innovative things pop up too, like the Loving Touch.  So whether you’re considering what has come before you, or what is to come, Detroit is an incredible place to simply be, let alone have an opportunity to play music.  Honestly, we do view Detroit as a home for us.”
  • BB: “What genre would you say you fall into?  And what are the advantages or disadvantages of playing this genre in Detroit right now?”
  • CN: “I would say that we at least fall under the general umbrella of rock.  And the true advantage/disadvantage of being a rock band in Detroit is simply that Detroit is rock.  I tend to look at it like this: you can either rise above in this town (but only the crème de la crème does that), OR you can fall through the cracks and be completely overlooked (because a lot of other folks are seemingly doing what you’re doing). My hope is that Jet Rodriguez would one day have the honor of being in the former group.  The neat thing about rock, especially in this city, is that it really doesn’t have so much to do with the style of music as it has to do with the attitude of it.  I think there would be some (clearly uneducated) people out there that would listen to George Morris and not really understand it as rock music.  To us Detroit people, we get it.  It’s rock.  But some dumb folks might not be as quick to call it that.  My point is, George and his Gypsy chorus play the most rocking music I’ve ever heard.  I mean, he is straight up Detroit rock n’ frigging roll.  To me, he’s the difference between someone who plays rock, and someone who is rock.  You know?  Anyway… That’s not to suggest that I think there’s any shame in trying to classify and pinpoint artists into specific genres.  That totally has it’s place.  Like right now, I think Jet Rodriguez is maybe a throwback, stylistically. We might have a Woodstock-ish aura, expressed through a 21st century lens though, of course.  We’re a lot of 60’s-70’s rock, with a dash folk mixed in, perhaps.  I made up a genre to help put it into words: “psychedelicate,” is what I call it, which is something I think effectively captures what we’re projecting.”
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  • BB: “I could definitely see the psychedelicate aspects during your performance at the New Way.  I also loved the way you and your drummer interpreted some of the covers you played that night.  A lot of times I despise covers of songs I really like, but you guys did an amazing job with those songs.  I was floored when you played ‘Moondance.'”
  • CN: “I’m totally ecstatic that you dug our covers that much.  In truth, we as “Jet Rodriguez,” do not play covers at all.  The only exception being one time last year, when we did Marvin Gaye for Det x Det.  The whole covering songs business is really a side thing that Danny and I do under the name Damn Uncanny.  Get it? Like Cam and Danny? Damn Uncanny?  Well, we’re trying to take it seriously and play out more as a completely separate, more cover-ey duo-ey entity.  It’s kind of entertaining for me.  I suspect that it’s ultimately an extension of my deeply engrained need to always try to be the center of attention.  On stage.  Performing.  Lights.  That kind of thing.  It’s all about me.  I’m “that guy,” I guess.  No, but for real, Danny and I love to sing together.  We’ve been doing that since we were 12.  And we figured, if it helps pay the bills, then why not, you know?  Why not explore that avenue?  It’s fun, and people seem to like it.  It’s taken me a long time to get to that point, creatively, but I’m here now, with the encouragement of Danny.  The idea of doing covers used to piss me off.  In the name of Art and Expression, I felt icky about doing something other than my own stuff.  But I tried real hard and now I’m a lot more comfortable with the idea.  Playing covers wouldn’t ever do anything but help promote my true art in the end, I’m inclined to believe.”
  • BB: “And how do you choose which songs to cover?”
  • CN: “It’s a very crowd conscious thing.  We do a lot of pop songs, 80’s, 90’s, whatever.  Some well known classic tunes as well.  Anything we think a general audience of all ages could potentially appreciate.  Granted, we have to like the song as a prerequisite.  We try not do stuff we don’t like.  Sometimes a stupid song works it’s way into the set list, but in general, we try to exclude that.  We also pepper in the stuff that might not be as well known, but that we really enjoy, like Fleet Foxes or Sufjan Stevens.  We try to limit the more obscure stuff.  Just enough to make it pleasant for us.”
  • BB: “Well, it was definitely pleasant for the crowd as well.  Ok, Cameron. Let’s get down to the real stuff here, shall we?”
  • CN: “Totally.”
  • BB: “Are you left or right handed?”
  • CN: “Lefties rule. Righties drool.”
  • BB: “Ok, ok. I’ll withhold judgement on that one.  Now, describe to me the happiest time of your life. Please.”
  • CN: “I would be doing an injustice to the present if I did not say that right now is totally the happiest time of my life.  It truly is.  I’m playing my music.  I’m in love with a beautiful woman who is also my best friend.  I have a supportive family, both biological and musical.  And I live in (the suburbs of) America’s #1 rising city.  Right now is when it is.”
  • BB: “That all sounds so fantastic.  And any goals for the upcoming months?”
  • CN: “We do have some awesome goals!  We’re going to be continuing to record our first full length record together.  There isn’t yet a release date on that, but it won’t be too long.  Really, we’re just laying low and tightening up.  Making sure we sound the best we can.”
  • BB: “Wonderful!  And just a few more things, here, then.  What are the top 5 items on your Christmas List this year?”
  • CN: “5. Snuggie, 4. Recording equipment, 3. HD camcorder, 2. Snuggie, 1. A new guitar/amp rig!? (Plzzz Santa??)”
  • BB: “And what about if you got the chance to meet 5 musicians this year for Christmas?”
  • CN: “Oh, good one! Let me think… Ok, 1. Sufjan Stevens (easy answer for me), 2. Neil Young, 3. Van Morrison, 4. Robin Pecknold,  5. George Harrison.  Well, in retrospect I think I would have switched Van Morrison and George Harrison.”

Well, there you have it, guys.  Not only is Cameron Navetta a brilliant composer, singer, and musician, but he also has great taste in Beatles.  Listen to the band now at thejetrodriguezmusic.com, and look for their record, “Day of the Dead” on vinyl, CD, or available for download on their website in the upcoming months!

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Education Sounds Like This

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I sit here in this brightly-colored classroom, as my teacher pulls up a file on his computer screen and suddenly he asks, “Do you see that big phallic thing at 200?”  My eyes focus on the projected image before me. “Yeah, we gotta get everything out of its way.”

That’s when I realized this was no ordinary classroom.  This was what the guys at FyouNK Collective in Royal Oak call a “Meat & Produce” session: an event in which musically-minded people come together to discuss the production process.  As the Facebook page says, “Producers of any genre are welcome – electronic, hip hop, pop, rock, etc., as long as you are open-minded.  Musicians, singers, and rappers who are looking to collaborate are also very welcome to join in on the fun.”  Essentially, as the men in charge state, “Anyone with a dedicated interest in music production is welcome to join.”  Such a vast invitation can properly explain the fact that when I walked through the doors at FyouNK Collective, the place was pretty nearly packed.  And rightly so.

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The professors on the eve of the twenty-first day of October were some of my favorite musicians in Detroit, so I simply could not miss my chance to explore this learning opportunity for myself.  This faculty included Detroit’s very own guitar-driven-bass master, OCTiV, the Detroit-raised beat manipulator, Freddy Todd, and the electronic mastermind/party-starter, ill.so.naj.  I was a little late for class and I dropped my pencil twice, but my teachers made me feel right at home and worthy of their profound lessons.

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First, OCTiV came up to the desk at the front of the classroom and told us all about the importance of equalization, or balancing sounds in music.  He summarized much of this tweaking mechanism, saying that what was most important was “getting unnecessary things out of the way of stuff you want.”

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He then explained that, though some sounds need to be made less powerful for the sake of more important ones, all is not lost in doing so.  In fact, often times those sounds that are diminished for the sake of others can still be felt in the song and have an enormous presence in the overall vibe of the piece. Thus, OCTiV showed the importance of knowing the difference between hearing sounds and feeling them.  As OCTiV revealed, however, extra sounds can sometimes be distracting.  “You need to make sure people can pay attention,” he declared, reminding composers to make cuts whenever necessary for the listener’s benefit.  Of course, it is okay to be sad about these cuts for a bit.  I mean, we are all still mourning for those sounds which were demolished by the aforementioned “phallic thing.”

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After OCTiV offered a new perspective on making positive changes to songs, Freddy Todd took the reigns.  The musician began by highlighting his philosophical approach to music, a quality which separates him from many of his composing counterparts.  Todd told his students that when you are creating music, “step one is your brain.”

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For Todd, focusing on one’s mindset is an essential part of what he called, “starting right and starting proper,” and it is a step in the music production process which simply cannot be skipped.  Todd then detailed what that meant for his own music, telling us that he needs to be inspired and in a clean room when he begins to create his sounds.  He encouraged students to develop their own rules for getting in the correct music-making mindset.

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Todd admitted that producing quality music, however, ultimately requires more than just a positive mental state.  “You can get inspired and write a whole track on your headphones, but typically if you want to put out an album you need a good pair of studio monitors.”  Thus, while the mind is the strongest tool at a musician’s disposal, it is also critical that he or she has the necessary tools available to them and knows how to use them properly.

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After explaining the process for beginning a song, Todd left the floor open for ill.so.naj to give some technical advice for the later parts of production.  The electronic artist focused his lesson on the idea of personalizing the musical experience.  He did this by showing students how to use programs, such as Ableton Live, to make improvised edits to tracks.  He encouraged everyone to take their iPods, iPads, or other beloved gadgets and “then assign them customized ‘MIDI mappings’ and touch screen layouts, creating unique ways to trigger effects or blend sounds.”

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This process allows performers to create their own unique set-ups, which cater to their individual needs and styles.  Ill.so.naj told us that, with these tools, he was even able to use a Guitar Hero controller to perform his songs on stage at one point.  The musician proceeded to play many of his own clips for the students to give them an idea of where improvisational tools might be applied.  Though he emphasized using the computer programs to be prepared for any show, he declared that:

Most importantly you gotta leave room for those happy accidents to happen. That’s where the magic is.

Here, the artist’s technical approach highlights both the immense dedication required to produce such music, and the importance of allowing for freedom in its performance.  Ill.so.naj showed us that even this freedom, however, requires much focus and effort beforehand.

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The three musician/producers took their students behind the scenes into many aspects of their artistic processes, and it was truly an educational experience for all involved.  The teachers were able to reach both the dedicated producers in the crowd as well as the beginners who had just fiddled with their friends’ computers during study hour.  In fact, each speaker made the intricacies of his musical processes seem approachable and comprehensible, even for any woefully ignorant music journalists in the building.

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All of that, of course, is to say that the environment at this Meat & Produce event was ideal for many different people with vast ranges of experience and interests.  Obviously October’s teachers brought a great deal of information to the table, and for that we were sincerely grateful.  But I know for sure that all other producers who take the time to share their wisdom in the future will do so just as admirably.  For my part, I know that I will be back at the FyouNK Collective often for more music education, and I am certain that the seats will fill just as quickly with musicians who are eager to learn.

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MUSIC VIDEO-Mexican Knives “Killer Snake”

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Last Thursday Mexican Knives released their new music video via Noisey for their track “Killer Snake,” from the 2013 EP “Other Tramps.”

Want more Mexican Knives? Check them out here:

Facebook
Bandcamp
Souncloud

Filmed, Directed and Edited by Wesley Levise
Additional footage shot by Esme McClear
Song by Mexican Knives


Jerry Downey Jr. (Sexual Tension Detroit) – Badd Motor Folk (Jerry Downey’s Motor City Dub)

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Released 10/7/2013 is a free download from Jerry Downey Jr..  Uncle Louie’s classic “Badd Motor Folk” from 1979 is given a 2013 re-touch.  Enjoy Detroit.

For an in depth interview with Jerry Downey Jr. click here!


George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus

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One minute and forty-eight seconds into a video for George Morris’ song, “Fuck It,” directed by Jesse Shepherd-Bates, the singer can be spotted standing in front of a wall, staring intently at the camera, and holding a baby in his arms.  I have seen this video probably 6,000 times and I have always been overwhelmed with confusion about this paternal scene.  That is, until I saw Morris perform at The Magic Stick on Saturday, September 28, 2013.

George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus drape themselves across the stage and let their sound follow suit by unraveling its delicate fabric upon our ears.  I hear everything at once and am at a loss for words.  The band performs such stellar songs as “Nine Lives” and “Girls on Parade” with such vocal crispness and rhythmic perfection that they seem too good to be live.

Even for a band with a stated “leader,” as it were, this group contains members who could very easily be making their own agendas.  AJ Nelson, the bassist, carries the pulse on each track, adding passionate motion to stage right.  The keyboardist extraordinaire Helena Kirby pours her entire being into the keys before her with grace and diligence on stage left.  Behind them, Zach Pliska casually puts every drum to use with intense precision that is simultaneously impressive as all get-out and super annoying (because it’s as frustrating as someone beating you at a videogame while eating Cheetos and petting their dog at the same time).  I imagine each of these three could be performing alone on this stage right now and doing a bang-up job at entertaining the audience.  But instead, they choose to fulfill a greater musical role by supporting one another and the man behind the words.

choose to fulfill a greater musical role by supporting one another and the man behind the words.

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And there he is, of course, standing firmly at the front of it all.  Morris moves about in subtle surges, proving himself to be one of those singers whose voice comes from his toes and rises up out of his pores without asking.  But the surges are less forceful than they are gentle.  Morris’ voice is uniquely angelic and as serene as a lullaby, even at its most outraged.  All of that is to say, snaps for Jesse’s video production.  I would love to have George Morris hold my baby.*

Periodically on stage the bandmates will look at each other whimsically.  Kirby will flash her dazzling smile to Pliska and Nelson intermittently, and they will smile back.  Then, after “Girls on Parade” she will look to the crowd and yell, “We love love! Don’t you love love?”  Finally, a few songs later Morris will walk up to Nelson and hug him in front of us all without saying a word.  While at this point it appears as if the crew has spent their entire childhoods on the same couch watching “One Saturday Morning” before playing laser tag, it turns out that they didn’t all know each other that well before uniting musically.  Morris sits me down after the show (not really, but I like to think this is actually how the story went) and tells me that this band is only three or four months old (which is astounding to me), and that before that he had only worked with Nelson and Pliska on other musical endeavors.  Prior to creating the Gypsy Chorus, Morris was, in fact, going solo much of the time and exploring his own musical identity.

“I’ve been trying to write music since I was probably ten years old,” Morris explains.  The musician grew up in the Waterford and Commerce areas, where he explored music at a young age by trying to collaborate with cafeteria mates as early as his middle school years.  “My first real band was in high school,” Morris declares upon noting my obvious awe.  Morris is modest.

Though he says he hopes his music style has changed a great deal since the cafeteria days, there is one sentiment that will forever thrive in his music: “My philosophy has always been just to try and concentrate on writing good melodies.”  From the complex phrases of “Call Girl,” to the more calming predictability of “Old Friends,” Morris’ Magic Stick set shows this auditory foundation.  The artist makes these varying melodies the basis of his work, and, as he further states, “I’ve always tried to do that no matter what type of music I’m trying to make.”

geroge4Morris’ writing process thus begins with a prominent tonal expression.  But how does this melody come to life?  “It’s spontaneous,” Morris reveals.  I imagine the singer/songwriter kneeling on a knoll somewhere in England (in proper poetic fashion), feeling the wind upon his cheeks and the grass between his toes.  Suddenly, Mufasa appears (this is where it gets less clear, as I’m not sure why Mufasa would need to urgently speak with Morris) and says, “Look inside yourself, George,” and then suddenly Morris’ pen is on the staff paper and he can’t stop writing.  Within minutes, the page is filled with notes that traveled to his soul because they wanted to.  I could be wrong about this scene, but it does seem plausible.  “After that moment, though,” he continues, “then I sit down and just flesh it out.”

“My philosophy has always been just to try and concentrate on writing good melodies.”

But once one has found one’s melody, one must always consider one’s television.  What does television have to do with music, you ask?  Well, everything.  Duh.

“Honestly, I’ll write to TV shows, or, I don’t know… Romantic Comedies.  Like, the end of [them], you know, when either everything’s going horribly or everything’s coming back together.”  Yes, that’s correct, readers: George Morris is inspired by the movies you hope no one finds out you watched in your bed while eating Ben & Jerry’s by yourself.  Not only that, he pairs these with his essential ethereal tones to make you regret ever having been embarrassed by your TV-based feelings in the first place!

Morris then turns to me seconds later and says very frankly, “There’s a CSI song.”  And I suddenly get really nervous for the world because I realize that none of us are as awesome as this guy is.  “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” as Dante would say.

Before forming George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus, our fearless leader had actually been doing solo shows for a year or so with these same wonderful tracks.  When asked why he chose to integrate his phenomenal music makers, Morris smirks slightly and says, “Well, I got tired of playing by myself.”  He chuckles a bit, and adds, “And I wanted more energy.”  To me, the word ‘energy’ kind of encompasses the entire idea of Morris and his Gypsy Chorus because it very clearly reveals a mission for the band as a whole to be a living organism.  If the singer had said that he collaborated with these artists in an effort to add more volume, strength, or power to his music, the music itself would be less significant.  He would then be using this band to demand that his message be heard by his audience without any possibility of them misunderstanding.  But Morris’ message is one whose foundation is, and only needs to be, itself.  The band is there to make the message mean something to each listener individually.  “And,” he adds, “they do their own thing; they’re all putting their own twists on it.”  This energy toward the audience and between each other is what makes George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus the jubilant band family that I saw on stage earlier.

Nelson saunters up near the end of our conversation and chimes in to help Morris further explain to me the band’s sound.  “It’s tough because I feel like the definitions of genres are always changing,” he explains.  The friendly bassist goes on to illustrate how vastly different the word “indie” is now than it was when he first got into “indie” music.  Morris agrees and the two try to explain how much they don’t understand about music labels anymore and how they would almost always rather listen to The Walkmen than MGMT.  We talk for probably fifteen minutes about this until Nelson finally looks up at me and asks, “What was the question?”

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These guys know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to the musical world, and for that, I believe they have the upper hand over their “indie” competition.  But they finally agree that their sound is based on a combination of very different musical acts: The Beatles, Radiohead/Thom Yorke, The Walkmen, Jack White, and The Velvet Underground.  “For me it was Beatles, Beatles, Beatles,” explains Morris.  “Then I got really discouraged because I couldn’t write a song as good as any of those songs.  Then I heard The Velvet Underground and that showed me a different way to make music.”  As for their other influences, Nelson declares, “Radiohead is almost like The Beatles, where you just can’t even attempt to do anything like that, and you’re always going to be let down.  But ‘The Eraser’ (Thom Yorke’s solo album) had obtainable melodies.”  Morris and Nelson quite obviously treasure the musicians who came before them immensely and eternally.

The singer takes a break from explaining how the past has affected his cherished Gypsy Chorus to give me some sneak peeks into their very bright future.   “We are putting an EP together that will come out at some point and in some form,” he explains.  “That will all be leading up to a record eventually.  I’m not sure how it’s going to come out or what, but sometime next year.”  Furthermore, the band is also playing one of their tunes at the TEDx Detroit event on Wednesday, October 2 (guys, that’s tomorrow!).  Finally, they plan to open for Jessica Hernandez at St. Andrew’s Hall on November 27, 2013, so you should probably go to this show if you have a brain.

Beyond just musically, the band has been progressing artistically in many ways, as well.  Morris has recently given good friend Jesse Shepherd-Bates the reigns to make another music video for the band’s awesome tune, “Girls on Parade.”  “Jesse just chose it,” he explains.  “He just showed up at my house one day and said he bought a camera and was shooting a video for the song.”  So, of course, Morris simply said, “okay,” and since then the singer explains, “it’s all Jesse.”

Morris did have his doubts about the videos at times, simply because he felt he wasn’t knowledgeable enough to assist with such tasks.  “But,” he continues, “I’m really impressed with how Jesse has just kind of jumped into it.  He learned on the fly and is turning out some really impressive stuff.  All of his videos look spectacular, and this is the first time he’s ever really done it.”  So, with a director like that, Morris feels confident that his creation will be preserved and admired.  Jesse’s video for the band’s catchiest track, “Fuck It,” is a superb example of the director’s mastery.  If I lived in the smart house of the Disney Channel Original Film “Smart House,” I would definitely opt to have this video play on my bedroom walls instead of that one B*Witched video.

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Going back and forth between solo work and close-knit bands with hit videos, Morris’ musical career has certainly been an exceptional, and consequently wild, ride.  He admits that much of the wonder he has experienced as a musician has to do with his place of residence.  While he feels that, at times, “Detroit can be a hard place to make any art,” as, “it’s very critical,” he explains that musicians just need to have a little more confidence here than they might in other places.  “I think the talent in Detroit is incredible.”  He declares, however, that, “because of that, it’s a hard place to play sometimes.  Because even if there are so many musicians around here, at a lot of the shows everybody is standing still.”  While the audience can sometimes seem uninterested, Morris explains, “You have to understand that that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and that they’re just listening to you.”

“It’s when they leave that it’s bad,” he laughs.

Detroit then proves itself not only a teacher of self-worth, but a place where that worth can easily flourish.  “Detroit is unlike the majority of cities,” Morris continues, “and I think everybody takes it for granted because they just assume that it’s like this everywhere.”  Morris explains that “In a lot of places, if you want to see a rock show, you go to one venue.  Then a metal venue, maybe.  And maybe a folk venue, or something.  That’s all you get to choose from.  Here there are tons of places that constantly host different kinds of bands.”  Being in a band whose genre he and Nelson will later agree to call “alternative indie pop rock (with a little electro),” Morris would feel slightly unappreciated in lands of black and white.  Having this realization, Morris talks about his city with an overarching sense of love and sanctity.  He is grateful for this often-dreary place because it has given him a chance to be himself and feel valued as such.

If you are not yet entirely amazed by George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus I must inform you of the two most important facts about them: 1. George Morris plays sports with adults at the YMCA as his day job, and 2. Bassist, AJ Nelson helps his dad make granite ping-pong tables that are worth a lot of money.  Enough said.

Listen to their music on bandcamp and don’t be afraid to give them ye olde thumbs-up on Facebook!

*If I had a baby, of course.  Which is not the case.


Atoms & Ease “Let It Go” (Live from Lager House)

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Artist: Atoms & Ease
Track: Let it Go (Live from Lager House)

After photographing an energetic set at this past weekends Dally in the Alley, this group caught my ear. They had the crowd dancing, drinks were being poured off the stage, it definitely had every proper element for a funk party.  It caught our ears enough to track them down on the internet and find our track of the week.

Enjoy an intimate cassette tape sounding track entitled “Let It Go.” Recorded live from PJ’s Lager House.  Let Cyepies (Lead Vocals) take you on a lo-fi vocal journey guided by crisp drumming and a dark-upbeat bass line.


Zoos of Berlin “Above the Air”

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Hello Detroit!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day Weekend! Its Monday so that means here is your track of the week!
This track was recently a Rolling Stone download of the day!

Check out “Above the Air” by Zoos of Berlin

For More Zoos of Berlin:
Zoos of Berlin Facebook
Zoos of Berlin Bandcamp


Mexican Knives “Killer Snake”

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Mexican Knives release a brand new EP entitled “Other Tramps”

The two track EP contains the songs “Killer Snake” and “Make This Moment”

Please check back later today for a brand new music video by the Mexican Knives.

Want to learn more? Check out their Facebook here!


Best Coast to Play with Local Dead-Surf Band Mexican Knives

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Best Coast is an American indie rock band based in Los Angeles, California, and is often categorized under the subgenres of garage rock, surf pop, and lo-fi. The members are frontwoman/songwriter Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno. The band is recognizable for their fuzzy, low-fidelity sound in the vein of surf rock.
They write one hell of a melody!

Attached below is a video from Best Coast, take a look!

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Mexican Knives are a local dead-surf group from Detroit Michigan.  The band is lead by Zachory Weedon, and consits of Ruth (Vocals), Blair (Drums) & John (Bass).  Want to know more about Mexican Knives, check out their interview with Detroit Sounds Like This here!

Below is an exclusive track performed live at the Detroit Sounds Like This studio in Eastern Market.

Click here for more event info!

$16 in advance


Track of the Week – Damon Warmack “Evolving”

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This week we have some Detroit Jazz for you, please enjoy the brilliant bass guitar of Detroit Jazz artist Damon Warmack.
You can watch Damon play at his frequent spots around the city such as Motor City Wine, and Bakers Keyboard Lounge.

Enjoy.

Want to know more about Damon? Check out his website here:
http://www.damonwarmack.com/

Artist: Damon Warmack
Track: Evolving


Notes from D Underground

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We can all recall a time when we wore our best beer-stained fangirl t-shirt and heard that one phenomenal band for the first time in that cramped living room with chipped-paint walls. Maybe it was in April of 2008, when Lenny Stoofy freed your mind and your body at the Scrummage Toy Factory on Van Dyke and Davison. Perhaps it was that time you brought the year 2011 to a close by skanking raucously at “Detroit’s sexiest anarchist collective,” the Trumbullplex. Or maybe it was that time Dr. Handsome covered “She’s Not There,” by the Zombies two months ago at Whatever Fest in Midtown and you cried yourself to sleep because it was better than the original.

Whatever the case, these unique and beloved experiences exist solely in the smaller, more intimate musical venues that make up Detroit’s underground music culture.  But why is it that these smaller DIY hotspots have been gaining such enormous ground as the venues of choice for young people in Detroit?

I just tend to have more fun when I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with people who are sweaty

…says Eric Schmeling, an eternal supporter of Detroit’s small local music venues and a guitarist for the now disbanded Detroit group, Cave System. After attending shows in the city since he was in high school, Schmeling says that when choosing a venue, he would almost always prefer “some dude’s basement over the Crofoot.” In other words, the smaller, the better. Underground venues and house parties are cropping up all over Detroit, filling quickly with Detroit’s youth and inspiring kids from the suburbs to make the trek to see their favorite local bands.

Brittany Badenoch, who has been involved with smaller music venues in Detroit since she was seventeen, praises their incredible presence in the city’s musical community, and not just on account of sweaty bodies. “The great thing about Detroit,” she says, “is that there’s so much space to have a venue and just kind of set up shop.” She also points out that underground venues offer a “way more laid-back and real way to enjoy music, rather than going to a venue and having to pay for parking or tickets, etc.”

What makes the underground music scene in Detroit any different than that of other American cities? “Initiative,” Badenoch says. “If you go to any other major city, you don’t really meet people who are ‘creating something out of nothing.’” In those places, “there are so many night clubs and venues… we [also] have really cheesy night clubs, and no one I know wants to go to those. So if we don’t create something ourselves that’s going to be more up our alley, we don’t have anything.” These smaller venues, as Badenoch confirms, “really force people to show initiative where they maybe wouldn’t [otherwise].”
Rising from the ashes, as they say.

Badenoch says that the significance of underground venues, however, stretches beyond just those kids who want to dance around, inebriated, for hours. “Detroit is a place where people are really anxious to create new good things in the city and DIY venues are a really good outlet for that. They really appeal to a lot of different types of people, like someone who’s interested in public relations or someone who is interested in business, etc.” Furthermore, Badenoch reveals that as a musician, she’s found that “DIY spaces always make an effort to promote a lot because they want people to come and they want to have a good reputation for their venue.”

Taking on the role of one of Detroit’s most lauded female rappers, Breezee One, Badenoch says that she has a huge spot in her heart for the house shows and underground venues that hosted her when she first started. “Me… I don’t play instruments, I’m not a really phenomenal singer (she’s terribly wrong about this), but I still make music and I still play shows.” Artists across the globe agree that it’s incredibly difficult to make a name for oneself in the music industry, and Badenoch confirms this fact. “If there weren’t DIY places, I would have never started to play because I wouldn’t have known how to approach it. The great thing about the DIY spaces is that you can be a no-name band and get a show there and then start your foundation with a fan base that way.”
Clearly it was these “dudes’ basements” that gave Badenoch and many others their start in the Detroit music culture.
But is playing at these smaller, lesser-known venues ideal for musicians in the long term?

Lead singer and guitarist for beloved local band The Hounds Below, Jason Stollsteimer isn’t so sure. “House shows are the most crucial point in a band’s life,” Stollsteimer says, “and when you first cut your teeth playing those shows, it’s pivotal.” The singer started performing at and attending smaller venues religiously in 1994, where the scene was prevalent in various suburbs of Wayne County. Now the local music mastermind says he would choose almost anything over the basement. “They have a time and a place,” Stollsteimer says. “I don’t feel I’ve gotten old, I just want to hear the band the best they can sound. And the best sound is very much not underground.” As a musician, Stollsteimer says, “I haven’t actually played a house show since 2000.” He explains, “the last time I threw one or went to one, there would be maybe ten bands there, and maybe one out of the ten would do anything more than that house party.” Stollsteimer, in fact, declares the entire idea of underground music an odd paradox: “the unsaid goal of underground bands is to become not underground, because if you wanted to be underground, you wouldn’t play shows.”

“I never wanted to be famous,” he explains, “I just wanted the songs I was writing to be heard. And why do people at the Trumbullplex make a Facebook event page? Because they want people to be there.” So, while putting one’s band out there at those small shows is definitely a key point in one’s musical career, Stollsteimer believes that the reality of underground venues is that the goal for musicians playing them is almost always to be done playing at underground venues. “If you play house shows for fucking 10 years that’s not good.”
So, perhaps spending ages thrashing on a stage in your friend’s living room isn’t going to pay your rent or get you a spot on MTV’s “Wake and Shake,” but everyone can agree that those shows are a step in the right direction.

The underground music scene “is as popular as it always has been,” Schmeling says. “It’s more cyclical, than anything else.” He explains that when “real life catches up” with the people in charge of a specific venue, there is seemingly always someone there to take over the others’ musical role in the community.

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DJ Recloose playing at Detroit Contemporary circa 2003 – During the Broken Beat/Nu Jazz scene


Alas, Bankrupt or not, Detroit is still going to give us as many chances to experience underground music as we could ever ask for. Those paint chips are ours, ladies and gentlemen.  And don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

By setting aside what may be more lucrative opportunities in exchange for the chance to perform for those fans who supported them at the very beginning, these bands are showing immeasurable passion for their art and devotion to their homes. They see something in Detroit that other musicians don’t: a need for music in and of itself (sans societal bells and whistles). And as Badenoch says, she is very proud of kids these days because, “the new generation is seeing this need and deciding to do something about it.” And that is what Detroit sounds like.


Track of the Week – Richy Marciano ft. Dej Loaf “One Rule, No Rules”

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Hello Everyone.
I know it may seem like I am on a hip hop craze lately, but no worries, Detroit Sounds Like This supports all genres. It just happens this week we were highly impressed with this sound. The local talent includes Richy Marciano and female hip hop artist Dej Loaf. Both of these artists are Detroit natives, and let me tell you…they know their stuff.

Enjoy Detroit

Artist: Ricky Marciano ft. Dej Loaf
Track: One Rule, No Rules (Cover of Nas & Lauryn Hills track “If I Ruled The World)


Weird Art in the Market

The Weird

A group of artists, graphic artists, illustrators and lecturers from Germany and Austria are currently on vacation in Detroit, and loving the large blank canvases available in Eastern Market. “The Weird” is comprised of Look, Cone, Dxtr, Frau Isa, Herr Von Bias, Nychos, Vidam, Rookie, Nerd and QBRK, the last two are known collectively as Low Bros. Here some mobile shot’s of their work from local chef John Miller:

The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area. The Weird, a group of artists from Germany and Austria are painting large murals in the Eastern Market area.

Discussion with Rocket McFlyy

Rocket McFlyy's visual expression of their music.

I’ll be honest with you, the last time I wrote an interview was for my riveting high school journal. Therefore, I approached this “interview” as more of a discussion. Before this discussion happened, I had a chance to hear the band live, and have a listening session of their recorded music. Because of this, I skipped all the introductory excess and got right to their music.

Before they were Rocket McFlyy and The Free Radicals, they were Organized Khaos, and before that, well, I’ll let them explain. The first time I saw or heard of Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals was May 2013 at a battle of the bands here in Detroit. Rocket McFlyy includes Rocket (piano/vocals) and McFlyy (rapping/vocals). The Free Radicals, also known as their live band of brethren, consists of Michael Moore (guitar), B (drums), and JAWZ (bass guitar). It should be noted that Rocket McFlyy not only produce their own music, but also write and produce for other Detroit musicians. Unfortunately, B wasn’t able to attend the interview, but his bandmates were sure to acknowledge his importance to the whole.

One thing you will see if you visit the band’s website (http://smcflyy.wix.com/rocketmcflyy) or twitter (https://twitter.com/rocketmcflyy) and read the bio, is a large illustration of Rocket and McFlyy standing atop a pile of alien robot carcasses, and holding space weapons. There’s a visual element to Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals that should not be overlooked; It was clear that some visual art work was necessary. I refer to my “art box” in the interview, which is essentially a place where I keep art supplies ready to go. You can see all of their visual representations of their music below.

For me, Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals’ music is a complete experience. There’s a lot of sound, concepts, emotion, and energy behind their work, and I can only hope that this discussion captured a small part of that.

So let’s get started. Turns out all you need is a little beer for a band to be comfortable around a crazy little gal from Detroit. Cheers.

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[In speaking order]

CL (Camille Langston), MM (Michael Moore), J (JAWZ), R (Rocket), MF (McFlyy)

CL: One of the things I’m confused about is your studio versus your live show life.

MM: We’re actually doing a full recording right now that will resemble more of the dynamic and sound of the live performances.

CL: I know on your website it says your sound is a combination of hip-hop, Motown, and rock and roll. However, I also heard your music conceptually. I heard a lot of outer-space. I heard a lot of deep sound. I heard a lot of full sound.

MM: On the recording or live?

CL: Both. I think you guys are a totally different entity live.

MM: Which is a good thing. I think when Rocket showed us his recordings individually we all thought, “Well this guy has his act together.” And then we started playing live and things quickly progressed into what they are now. We added the drummer that we have now (B) which has really pushed things forward.

J: B brings a little bit of the soul and a little bit more complex rhythmic sound.

R: B is very classic, but contemporary. As far back as the African dance element, he can nail it. We did a show last week and it was hot. We were about to do this song and he didn’t wanna do it because he didn’t have his tom-toms. “I need my Toms man! I need my Toms!” Like, he gets DOWN.

CL: Yeah he does get down, I remember that. I have a very vivid memory of the first time I heard you all live. Which was an experience. I do agree that B brings a whole other rhythmic energy to your music. It’s different than the energy in your studio music.

MF: Yeah I think everybody in the band does that with everything, in relation to the studio versus live stuff. When we play live, JAWZ’s bass is gonna be way more dynamic. Michael’s guitar is gonna be legendary, as opposed to just awesome.

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CL: I want to ask, in a general sense, how you all got together.

MF: That’s like 5 stories.

R: That’s at least 10 years of talking.

MF: Me and Rocket met in high school. We were in an a cappella singing group, which I hated, but Rocket made it awesome. Rocket came to me one day and was like, “Dude, I wanna do rock music with hip-hop drums.” and I was like “Bro. I can’t sing that shit, man.” So when we started this rock shit I was like, “Dude, I gotta rap.” So I started rapping.

R: And I was like noo noooo!

MF: Everybody laughed at me and then we did a bunch of studying and shit and I got better at it. And then JAWZ came in once we hit Organized Khaos, which is when we decided to do rock music.

CL: You guys are like a whole three course meal of music. There’s so much to hear and experience. That’s why I bought my art box because there’s a visual component, there’s the music, there are the concepts behind the music, and the whole website is a whole other thing. Everything there made me curious about your inspiration. Besides music, what are your influences?

R: You mean what influences us as entities existing at all? God, love, sex, rock and roll, superheroes, outer space, DREAMWEAVER, video games, inner peace, outer freedom, positive growth, keep moving forward.

MM: It’s ironic because for me there is no God, but I have beer.

J: That’s really close enough.

CL: Explain to the people what DREAMWEAVER is.

R: Uhhh Cannabis. Marijuana.

J: It’s a good plant.

R: It’s an entity and an idea for us. It’s so much more than what it is. We live in a country where there are so many drugs that are just dangerous for you that you can get over the counter.

CL: Since the blog is called Detroit Sounds Like This, tell me about your Detroit musical influences, your favorite Detroit sound, anything. Expand as much as you want.

R: So this is like the what Detroit sounds like to us section?

CL: Yeah, that’s a great way to put it.

MF: RenCen CoolBeanz is one of my personal heroes, locally.

R: I don’t know. Detroit sounds like world music to me.

MM: That’s actually really well put. That’s what I loved about Detroit growing up. It was mostly Motown but it was also really great hard rock. Really great rock and roll that you couldn’t hear anywhere else. It also had a special groove and a special anger.

J: Yeah a special anger, absolutely.

MM: There’s a certain anger to Detroit rock that I love to this day, and I still think that per capita, there are just better musicians here. I was just talking the other day about traveling to cities that are “economically healthier,” but the music scenes just don’t seem vibrant, or they don’t pull you in. There’s nothing there, you know? It’s a Saturday night at 10pm where’s the jaw dropping show? In Detroit you can find a couple of those things going on, and it’s like, where else would you see this?

CL: Nowhere.

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MM: One thing I’m really proud of Detroit for is even with all the economic turmoil and chaos, it really kept a strong sense of artistic creativity.

R: Detroit has a heartbeat, and it’s growing, and I really believe that. It’s an irregular heartbeat, too. It’s funny that Michael would talk about the musical demographic, especially as it pertains to live performances, because everywhere I’ve been, they don’t do it like they do it here.

J: We invent the world’s greatest music. Techno came from here first. Even the more obscure shit like second wave punk came from Detroit first before it came from Seattle.

MM: In the late 90’s there were three of the world’s biggest indie-prog bands from here. I was in House Of Usher. Discipline was also out of Detroit, and Tiles was big in Germany and is still going strong.

R: In Detroit, generally speaking, it’s nooks and crannies with huge amounts of energy coming from them. At this one SPOT in a vacant warehouse, or artsy loft, or you know, some dope after-hours joint, there’s just space around it. But the inside is exploding.

CL: Self realization is so important, and until one gets to know oneself it kind of floats. I remember Rocket telling me that before you had the Groove Theory (which is essentially a theory for creating the sound of Rocket McFlyy and the Free Radicals), you had a spectrum of “yes” and “no.” Until you focused it, and until you realized your musical signature, you didn’t get the constant “yes.” I’m asking if you’re aware of your musical signature, and if you could describe it.

MM: Well I actually think I have a very Buddhist relationship with my guitar playing. It’s just something that I do. It just happens. Sometimes I feel very connected to it, but sometimes it just happens and I’m just an observer. It’s a very dissociative type of act.

CL: It’s without the ego of it all.

MM: Yeah, and in terms of individuality; I’m standing on the shoulders of multiple generations of people whom I’ve simply studied and struggled to incorporate, and it would take a really really fine ear to hear that, and I don’t think most people do. But maybe I’m underestimating their intelligence.

CL: You don’t think most people hear what?

MM: Anything identifiably me. I think they hear a big loud guitar. I don’t think they really get it, to be quite honest with you. I think I can be very flashy and very showy and it looks good. I don’t know if they really…

J: Get what you’re doing.

MM: Get what I’m doing. And it really doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t on that level to which I aspire. It’s okay that they just find it entertaining.

CL: That’s a really interesting point, because I don’t know you. I don’t know any of you, and you don’t know me. But when I listened to you (Michael), maybe I didn’t hear you or your musical signature, but I did hear something that you expressed.

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MM: That’s totally valid. My experience of it is actually quite Equalist. I play notes, I’m listening, I’m reacting, I’m kind of thinking of my job as more of a craftsman.

J: Michael puts a lot of color into the band.

MF: When I’m starting off cool, I follow JAWZ or B, because I know they’re gonna give me that beat. But to turn it up, I’ve gotta follow Michael to catch the intensity. Rocket is my opposite on stage in a lot of ways, and my equal. Rocket is pulling as much emotion out of the rhythm as possible and I have to pull as much rhythm out of the emotion as possible (laughs) and that’s where we landed.

J: We all definitely have a very concrete roll in the band, and almost a totally different perspective of what’s going on. Especially during the live performances. I have a very different approach than Michael.

CL: What is your approach?

J: I like to sit back, listen, and have a conversation musically with B. Really listen to what he’s doing, and what his groove is, and just feel the bottom line of the song. Where should I be? What is the most supportive note? Should I do something different to support what Rocket is doing? But I have to keep everything super solid, and it’s all about the groove and making it feel good. My influences as a player: Bootsy Collins, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooton…

CL: Is there anything I’ve not asked or we haven’t talked about that you view as essential to your musical expression?

MF: I want to over emphasize Marijuana.

CL: That’s going on the website.

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Track of the Week – Rogue Satellites “Party Angels”

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Detroit Sounds Like This would like to start off your week with some great local talent. Rogue Satellites provide great production and outstanding vocals that will keep you listening. Enjoy.

Artist: Rogue Satellites
Track: Party Angels
Album: Other Angels


The Funk of Detroit

Frank Raines @ Funk Night (2011)

Still have a taste for some funk and soul? How about some new and fresh funk from your very own Motor City.  Local DJ/Producer Frank Raines runs the globally known label Funk Night Records. Funk Night Records has a very nice YouTube channel where you can stream some of their releases.  Don’t forget you can purchase them online and most of their vinyl is on Discogs for you vinyl collectors out there.

Without getting nostalgic and talking about funk night, I just want to steer people in the direction to hear some great funk and soul.

Below is a track performed by Will Sessions and Detroit Native Billy Love.

Remember this isn’t the only place to find funk in Detroit. If you know your funk, please take this note… Dennis Coffey plays for FREE at Northern Lights Lounge every Tuesday at 8 pm. Check it out for a performance that will satisfy all your funk needs.

Stay Dope.