Super dreamy and almost trippy shoegaze, make out to Living Hour

Shoegaze. The term is one of many that recently has me thinking whoever names marijuana strains must also name music genres. Lately, it seems like music genres and sub-categories surface by the minute, whether they are new experimentations or nostalgic resurrections.
Coined after slow paced indie-rock bands that spend much of their set ‘gazing’ at their effects pedals, shoegaze is closely related to the sounds of dream pop, chill wave and psychedelia… see what I mean?

“When it comes down to genres those are all somewhat fitting but I think there are a few unique elements that wouldn’t necessarily fall under a specific genre,” said Living Hour’s Gil Carroll, before their set at Detroit’s Marble Bar on Sept. 20.

Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Living Hour released their debut full length earlier this year on Lefse Records (Portland, OR). The self-titled record featured songs that began as ideas in Carroll’s notebooks six years ago, as well as tunes that the quintet approached more collaboratively since forming two years ago.

“I think there’s new (genres) just because there’s so many different sounds you can make now with digital equipment and different instruments that there’s so many influences coming together that it forms different sounds that haven’t been heard before,” said guitarist/back up vocals Adam Soloway.
“It’s super hard to characterize that under indie-rock for example, but were also super dreamy and almost trippy at times so you kind of have to tell people that because they might think that we’re like Pavement but we’re more like Slowdive,” said Soloway.

Living Hour’s first ever tour was two years ago last week and with little time to showcase their comfortably noisy debut, their current tour includes dates in the states, Canada and Europe and the U.K.
Aside from their non-stop self promotion on Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets, the band attributes their respective niche style for garnering geographically widespread audience in such little time.

“I think we also need to credit the shoegaze community,” said Soloway.
“Just because it’s so tightly knit across the world that if one person hears something and they post something in an online forum or shoegaze facebook page, tons of people will listen to it and it doesn’t matter how big you are because people get super into it because its… shoegaze.

Living Hour’s Marble Bar set included slow outros that felt like sun-set glistening ocean waves crashing at your feet.
Female vocalist Sam Sarty’s soothing vocals filled the room like a cool September night’s window breeze. Her nurturing melodies directed the rest of the members as they swayed with eyes closed, joining the audience.
“We want people to make out to it… If they want to,” said Sarty.
“Sex music,” added Sarty.

And just like that… another genre floats to the surface.


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.


Introducing: Touch Somebody

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Allow me to introduce Sterling Heights-based Touch Somebody; a pop-infused quartet with an attitude. If you’re a fan of Blink-182 or Say Anything, you’ll definitely want to stay tuned.

After some less than successful experiments, the guys of Touch Somebody finally came together for the purpose of writing what they really feel, rather than conforming to a particular style. Last year Touch Somebody recorded and released a DIY album entitled Is it Wrong to Say I Love You?  and begun to play shows around the Metro Detroit area.

Lead singer and guitarist, Thomas Dameron, spent his fair share of hours behind the board before heading off the recording and producing the band’s debut album. Previously, he spent many years writing and recording electro-pop tunes under the moniker, Audio Summer, while he was only in high school. Now working with a full band, he upped the home-studio ante to produce the first Touch Somebody album. Dameron explained that the greatest challenges in producing a record in his basement came from recording live drums with his brother, Jon. Through a number of technical issues, delays, and unfortunate mishaps, the guys were finally able to release the album approximately 1 year ago via Bandcamp. The album is free, and I encourage you to check it out right away.

In more recent history, the group has recorded a few singles with legendary producer, Rob Freeman, of Hidden in Plain View- who is know best by his work with Gym Class Heroes, Hit The Lights and Armor for Sleep. We’ll have to wait to see when those singles appear, but in the meantime the boys are making some additions to the home studio as they prepare to hunker down and record a wealth of new tracks that have been written since the release of the first album.

Get to know the band by checking out the first video from a two-part series about the band, produced by Habitat Media Group:

 


PHOTO GALLERY: Temples @ Magic Stick

It was a great Sunday evening in Detroit.  We were invited to check out the band Temples, and they really knew how to draw a crowd.  For a Sunday night the Magic Stick had a very nice crowd.
While we were there, we of course snapped some great photos.  Check them out below!

For more about Temples check out the link below!

Temples (Facebook)

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The HandGrenades Release New Video for “Wrapped in Plastic”

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Detroit favorite, The HandGrenades, just released the best (more like whatever the superlative of bomb-ass is) video I’ve seen come out of Detroit in a long time.   This eye/ear-gasm for their track, “Wrapped in Plastic” off of their awaited EP, 52, was directed by their very own, Jesse Shepherd-Bates.  The crew lets us sit-in on a rustic black-and-white concert, which quickly becomes as personal as a basement jam session with close friends.  Each character in the story transforms from blurry to sharp as we get to know them.  Meanwhile, the video gradually becomes more chaotic with its soundtrack, as images layer on top of one another and the band members’ faces grow jumbled.  So, in the glorious end, we are left with the real madness of things once, but no longer, wrapped in plastic.

 

Check out their video below and get stoked for their new EP, which comes out May 13.


DSLT: Best of 2013

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Since we are new in town, we decided not to do a traditional list, that being #1 is the best and #25 being the bottom.  Instead we have compiled a list of 20 Artists/Bands that really made their mark in 2013, within in the city and our ears.

Our list will include electronic artists, indie bands, punk music, jazz, psycho billy and many other artists you may recognize and others you may have never heard of before.

Lets begin:

1. KYLE HALL – 2013 Release: The Boat Party

In electronic music, this was the year of Kyle Hall.  I recently had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with him and our Media Director, Roger Castillo.  Kyle Hall is a well spoken, intelligent, down to earth guy who shared with us stories about his travels, his influences, and even had a laugh as Roger and I attempted to guess samples he used in “Crushed.”  The Boat Party was definitely a favorite among many in 2013, with Kyle Halls dirty r&b samples with a blend of Detroit style electronic, this LP was unstoppable.  You can find this LP among many lists such as NPR, Resident Advisor, and XLR8R.  At the start of 2014, please check back for an exclusive Detroit Sounds Like This interview with Kyle Hall.

2. THE GUTTER GHOULS – 2013 Release: Motor City Murderbilly 

The Gutter Ghouls had a wonderful year in 2013, playing shows throughout Metro-Detroit, even being the highlight of the Motor City Nightmares horror movie convention.  I have never met a band that works as hard as these guys do, even with a lineup change mid year, they still show that they are capable of giving you a great show.  These psychobilly maniacs even released a brand new video for their track “Corpse Bride,” in early 2013.  Recently being signed the Splatterhouse Wreckords in Washington, we at Detroit Sounds Like This cannot wait to hear what is in store for The Gutter Ghouls in 2014.

3. MEXICAN KNIVES – 2013 Release: Other Tramps & Nightmare b/w Down To Hell

Mexican Knives were without a doubt becoming one of Detroits most looked at and talked about band.  Mexican Knives achieved so much this year not only at shows but gaining a wider audience.  Just by attending other shows around the Detroit area, we always hear the name Mexican Knives being talked about and how they opened for touring indie bands such as Best Coast, and The Fresh and Onlys.  Mexican Knives not only wowed us with killer unforgettable performances but they released not one but two amazing EP’s in 2013.  With Nightmares/Down To Hell and Other Tramps being released in 2013, Mexican Knives are definitely a serious Detroit band.  Lead vocalist Ruth the Truth, lead by lead guitarist Zach Weedon are a duo on stage not to be toyed with.  Lets not forget their amazing bass player John Salvage, and their amazing drummer Blair, who are the perfect additions to Zach and Ruth.  Enjoy their new music video for “Killer Snake,” from their 2013 release “Other Tramps.”

Mexican Knives-Killer Snake from Mexican Knives on Vimeo.

4. ROGUE SATELLITES – 2013 Release: Other Angels

Rogue Satellites never disappoint.  Their style, rhythm, and production is something so elegant, most ears are probably not even ready for it.   Rogue satellites provide you with dark synths, electric guitars and beautiful lyrics with support from soft yet deep driven vocals.  Playing a daytime show at this years Dally in the Alley, Rogue Satellites really stood out with their hour long set and amazing sound.  Enjoy and purchase their album “Other Angels” below, and make sure to follow their facebook page and check out one of their shows!

5. OMAR S – 2013 Release: Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself

A release that went almost under the radar unless you are a huge Omar S fan is one to have for your library.  This is a MUST listen to if you have any respect for Detroit Electronic Music.  Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself is a deep house master piece which displays influences of early Detroit electronic music.  This album also made many lists across many blogs and news outlets around the country.

6. BRANDON WILLIAMS – 2013 Release: Stronger & Godsend

If you have been to MotorCity Wine more then once, then you have definitely seen Brandon Williams or the B.Williams Experiment.  Brandon Williams is one guy who definitely loves his fans, he is one to always thank and give the love back to his fans.  You can see him at various spots around downtown, and make sure to check out his upcoming album XII (coming soon).  In addition to his playing he has worked with many major recording artists and he has a 2009 Grammy nomination under his belt, this is one jazz cat not to be messed with.

7. SAXAPPEAL – 2013 Release: Singles: It’s You, Time Flies, Catch the Rhythm & I Can Be

Detroit Sounds Like This had the honor of sitting with SaxAppeal (LaDarrel Johnson) to really get to know how he creates, and how much Jazz music means to him.  Johnson handles his alto saxophone in the same fashion in which he plays his music — with attention, pride, and a graceful passion.

8. Dustin Alexander (Dayda, Sexual Tension Detroit)  – 2013 Release: Bootlegs V.1

The name Dustin Alexander can be heard in two realms of electronic and house music in Detroit.  Dustin is a man with two hats, one being that of Bass heavy ghetto tech playing loudly and unmistakably from The Works.   He is also 1/2 of Sexual Tension Detroit with friend Jerry Downey Jr..  With the Bootlegs V.1 release, Dustin clearly showed the city what he is capable of and how knowledgeable he is in the bass scene and with his disco grooves.  Dustin Alexander was a name to watch in 2013, look out 2014, I’m sure this DJ/Producer has way more in store for Detroit as he is making a name for himself.

9. COSMIC HANDSHAKES – 2013 Release: 2 Delicate Details

One part Todd Modes, one part Blair French (Dial.81) and you have Cosmic Handshakes.  Maybe house and most forms of electronic don’t fit your style.  Cosmic Handshakes have elements of electronic, but infuse parts of jazz, skilled drums, and very high end production.  The very chill EP release 2 Delicate Details really takes the listener on a journey on the joyous parts of life, the album makes you want to hang out, see old friends, and of course makes you hope for Detroit.  Cosmic Handshakes have never performed together, but maybe if were lucky in 2014 we can see something amazing happen at a local venue.

10. MONTY LUKE – 2013 Release: Lonely is the Night

Lonely is the Night is probably one of the strongest deep house releases of 2013.  Monty Luke and his label Black Catalogue are putting out some of the heaviest and hard hitting grooves that are getting around the world.  Seeing him this year on my birthday at MotorCity Wine was definitely a treat, he is a vinyl only professional, dont expect to see a laptop at his show.  Monty Luke will spin the night with the rarest grooves and get everyone dancing.  Make sure to check him out for NYE at MotorCity Wine for only five bucks!

11. NIGHTMERICA – 2013 Release: The Waiting Room

Those seeking hip hop refuge from the current ramblings and nonsense of the current trend of hip hop, Nightmerica is the answer.  In addition to these 6 amazing artists, they each display a very strong solo presense with their solo projects all over soundcloud, as a group though…perfection.  This is definitely one of the best Detroit hip hop albums to be released in a long time, and they definitely need the love.

12. CLEAR SOUL FORCES – 2013 Release: Gold PP7’s

Finally a group to fill my void of A Tribe Called Quest era style hip hop with an additional 2013 production.  These guys have an unmatched flow and unreal production.  Clear Soul Forces have definitely made a dent in the hip hop circuit having recently toured Europe and getting their name out there.  With the release of Gold PP7’s, put your copy of Yeezus down and listen to hip hop the way it was supposed to be listened to.  Make sure to check them at their Ugly Christmas Sweater Concert at The Shelter.

13. JERRY DOWNEY JR. (Sexual Tension Detroit) – 2013 Release: Bad Motor Folk (Jerry Downeys Motor City Dub)

Having interviewed Jerry Downey Jr. earlier this year was a great experience not only getting to know him, but he shared his knowledge of anything disco in Detroit.  2013 was a big year for Jerry Downey as he played many Sexual Tension parties, including his North End Studios Two Year Party, with Secrets and Dr. Disko Dust.  He has slowly been releasing his own edits and they are definitely being noticed.

14. SECRETS (Gary Springs Hunting Club) – 2013 Release: Real Life – Send Me An Angel (Super Trance Edit)

Matt Abbott aka Secrets is one man who is always playing at every sleezy bar and wharehouse in the city.  His fans/party goers know him for his wild parties with Gary Springs Hunting Club and as one of the best disco edit DJ’s in our city.  He performs many live edits during his sets and always awes the crowd or gets them singing.  While his edits range from disco, to soul, and some 80’s new wave you can always find a way to get sleezy when you hear a Secrets Edit.

15. SHIGETO – 2013 Release: No Better Time Than Now

Our first Shigeto show was at the Laneway Music Festival this past September.  Shigeto did nothing but awe his crowd and played a show which showed his precision and how he treats electronic music like a craft.  His album No Better Time Than Now became a hit across the world after its release on Ghostly.  Listen below on his track “Detroit Part 1,” for his mind blowing drum sequences, eerie sounds while it takes a walk with an unimposing bass.

16. JAMES LINCK – 2013 Release: Fortress of Solitude

The first time we encountered James Linck was when the office staff and I went to check out Mexican Knives at St. Andrews, and James Linck was one of the opening acts, our ears were blown away.  James Linck and Doc Waffles took over the stage and made sure they were heard.  James Linck has worked with many other Detroit musicians such as Dial.81, Doc Waffles, Eddie Logix, and Christopher Jarvis (Phantasmagoria).   With his 2013 release Fortress of Solitude, James Linck pop vocal skills really add to the production of his tracks, whether it be electronic, hip hop or any other sub genre.

17. PASSALACQUA – 2013 Release: Eagles Fly

I really hope in 2014 Detroit Sounds Like This can sit down with them and really get to know them.  We have extensively listened to their albums and they leave us wanting more.  Their beats are beautifully done, their style reminds us of Brother Ali, and early Dilated Peoples.  A lot of their tracks are just great to sit and relax to, by relax I mean light up of course.

18. ZOOS OF BERLIN – 2013 Release: Lucifer in the Rain

Zoos of Berlin had a quiet yet tremendous release with Lucifer in the Rain.  If you enjoy the styles of bands like Beach House and Wild Nothing, we would definitely recommend this album.  With beautiful melodies, soft vocals echoing throughout the album you couldn’t ask for a more relaxing and engaging album.

19. THE VONNEGUTS – 2013 Release: Automobile
The Vonneguts lured us in pretty early on this year with their funkadelic rock ‘n roll. From snatching sets at nearly every musical event to just rocking on the street in Eastern Market, this group stole our attention and vowed not to return it. They have a very promising future ahead of them in 2014, but don’t take your eyes off of them even for a second, because these men move quickly!

20. EDDIE LOGIX – 2013 Release: Eddie Logix Plays Lykke Li

Who hasnt Eddie Logix been working with these days?  It seems that I havent heard a remix without Eddie Logixs name attached to it, whether its for Dial.81, James Linck, Doc Waffles, Phantasmagoria, and many more, hip hop and indie musicians of Detroit want Eddie Logix on their projects.

In addition to our top 25, we included a “KEEP ON YOUR RADAR 2014” List

Feral Ground
SIAS
Dutch Pink
Jay Daniel
Golf Clap
Phantasmagoria
Codine

 


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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Back To The 80s With Angry Red Planet

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In the 1980s, in Michigan and elsewhere, the punk and hardcore music scenes were developing heavily thanks to a relentless group of bands who were forming and playing in any venue that would host their style of music. In 1981, Angry Red Planet was formed by brothers Tim and John Pakledinaz and Vince Delisi, and like other hardcore groups coming onto the scene during that time, they frequently played gigs at some of the fantastic bar venues of yore, such as Traxx and The Mystery Lounge. They even scored an opening slot for the Dead Kennedys at Harpo’s back in 1984. They gained a reputation as being one of the more accessible hardcore bands around at the time with a twisted, melodic sound that resulted with a less brutal crowd than at similar hardcore and punk shows. Their popularity grew around the Detroit area, and Michigan-originated Touch and Go Records (co-founded by Tesco Vee of The Meatmen) released a 4-song, 7″ EP titled Gawker’s Paradise in 1985. Our Throwback Thursday for this week is the 3rd track on that EP, “Sun Goes Down.” With it’s dark and scratchy styling and lyrics pointing to doomsday with an ironically upbeat feel, this Angry Red Planet track as well as the entire Gawker’s Paradise EP is a great listen for when, to borrow from the lyrics, “The noise on the streets is one big pain/Like a gall digging down into your brain.” Currently, Tim Pak has transitioned his music style and is in a Bluegrass band, The Salt Miners, and started Woodshed Recording Studio in Michigan.

Enjoy the track “Sun Goes Down” by Angry Red Planet below.


A Slice of History From Detroit Rock City

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Did you ever hear the one about Paul McCartney dying and being replaced by a doppelganger in 1966?  The “Paul Is Dead” controversy than began as The Beatles were in their final years as a band together was fueled right here in Detroit, MI.  Russ Gibb, WKNR-FM Detroit DJ and Grande Ballroom Godfather, received a call to the station on October 12, 1969 from Tom Zarski at Eastern Michigan University, asking Gibb if he had ever listened to The Beatles’ White Album backwards, in particular the song “Revolution 9.”  Zarski explained the controversy in depth, telling Gibb about the hidden clues in the song that Paul McCartney was actually dead and replaced by a look-alike, including the cryptic “turn me on, dead man” message you could hear by playing the record in reverse.   Gibb played “Revolution 9” backwards on the air — listeners in Detroit were stunned, as was Russ Gibb, who was soon receiving hundreds of calls and clues from all over contributing to the runaway train that Paul McCartney was no longer with us.  Gibb even aired a 2-hour special on WKNR-FM on October 19, 1969, “The Beatle Plot,” discussing all of the clues and evidence found by listeners and analyzing the conspiracy.  Detroit; home of the greatest rock-and-roll rumor of the 20th century.


Bob Seger’s First Big Hit

The Bob Seger System—Bob Seger, Dan Honaker, Dan Watson, and Pep Perrine—in Rochester in the summer of 1970

The raspy-voiced renegade from Lincoln Park, Bob Seger, has a thousand tracks we could feature for Throwback Thursday on Detroit Sounds Like This, but we’ve chosen the first track off of his debut album for not only putting Bob Seger’s name on the map, but also for it’s energy, authenticity, and organ riffs.  The Bob Seger System was not Seger’s first gig on the Detroit music scene — prior to The Bob Seger System releasing their debut album in 1969, Seger played in The Decibels (his first band, a 3-piece outfit), then The Town Criers, then shortly after joined Doug Brown & The Omens, then finally The Last Heard.  It was after leaving Doug Brown & The Omens to record a song called “East Side Story” (which Seger wrote for another band, The Underdogs, but didn’t garner any attention) that Seger tasted success around Detroit thanks to recording the song with Hideout Records.  After getting attention from other record companies (and turning down a contract with Motown to record for Capitol), Bob Seger & The Last Heard became The Bob Seger System and recorded “2+2=?”, a song which carried a strong anti-war message and gained the band moderate success around Detroit, Canada, and New York.   “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” was the next song released from The Bob Seger System, and it instantly gained the band even wider recognition and made it to #17 on the charts.  The title track to the album was released as a single in 1968, and due to the success of it, the album was recorded shortly after and released in 1969.  Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man put Bob Seger’s name out there as a genuine and distinctive voice in rock and roots music, and it was only the beginning of the legacy he is still continuing in Detroit and around the country.

 

Enjoy a video featuring The Bob Seger System’s biggest hit along with a performance by “Legs & Co.” on Top of The Pops…you’re welcome, guys!

 


A Slice of History From Detroit Rock City

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The Who are a legendary band in rock and roll history known for their contributions to the music world just as much as, like most significant rock bands, they are also known for their antics and debauchery.  There was no member of The Who more notorious than original drummer Keith Moon, and on his 21st? birthday (there is still rumors that it was actually Moon’s 20th birthday party, but he figured if the public was convinced by the press that he was 21 he could drink anywhere he wanted) The Who were slated to be in Flint to play a gig with Herman’s Hermits at the Atwood High School football stadium.  The Who frequently made tour stops in both Detroit and Flint throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but this gig in particular would lead to the Flint Holiday Inn’s most destructive rock star incident.  After being drunk most of the day and posing for a photo in front of the motel’s sign, Moon truly knew how to turn his birthday party into chaos as only he could do — among a food fight at the motel, fire extinguishers, and Moon getting one of his teeth knocked out and having to have it removed without anesthesia due to his inebriation, the legend is that Moon drove either a Lincoln Continental or a Cadillac (or both?!) into the swimming pool by going over a small fence from the parking lot straight into the water.  Subsequently, The Who were banned from The Holiday Inn for life and Michigan gained one of the greatest and most outrageous rock stories of all time.


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.


The Woolies Hit With A Bo Diddley Classic

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In 1967, East Lansing natives The Woolies recorded a cover of the classic Bo Diddley tune, “Who Do You Love?”  This would prove to be the group’s biggest hit, and with many covers of “Who Do You Love?” out there by bands like George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Woolies’ version still comes out on top.  Formed as a band in Dearborn in 1964, vocalist Stormy Rice, keyboardist “Boogie” Bob Baldori, guitarist Jeff Baldori, bassist Ron English, and drummer Bill “Bee” Metros got their first taste of success before “Who Do You Love?” winning a Vox-sponsored “Best Band In The Land” contest which won them a set of speakers, as well as a trip to Los Angeles and a recording contract.  It was Lou Adler of Dunhill Records in LA who first ushered The Woolies into the recording studio after hearing their demos to create their first record, “Who Do You Love?,” split with an original song by the group, “Hey Girl.”  Soon after recording in Los Angeles, The Woolies were on their way back to Michigan at Russ Gibb’s request to open The Grande Ballroom on October 6, 1966 along with the MC5.  The fast-paced punchy rhythm of “Who Do You Love?” caught the attention of radio DJs and promoters upon its release, and remains their biggest success as a band.

 

Enjoy The Woolies’ classic, energetic cover of “Who Do You Love?” below!


A Slice of History From Detroit Rock City

Grand Funk Railroad Shea Stadium Dec1971 II

In 1971 over a 72-hour period of time, a band comprised of 3 musicians from Flint, MI managed to completely sell out their show at Shea Stadium in New York City.  Ticket sales from this event grossed over $300,000, and at the time, The Beatles held the record for the fastest sold-out show in the stadium’s history.  It was none other than Michigan’s own Grand Funk Railroad who crushed The Beatles’ attendance record.  This was also the first time that one American group had ever headlined at Shea.  Approximately 12,000 fans camped outside of Shea Stadium in order to secure tickets the morning they went on sale, and another 9,000 fans showed up early to get their Grand Funk.  Grand Funk Railroad’s incredible victory is still held in the record books of Shea Stadium to this very day.


A Slice of History from Detroit Rock City

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Detroit is a city known for founding and popularizing many influential forms of music (Techno, Hardcore, Motown, etc.), but if you want to get technical, Detroit could also be considered the birthplace of both punk rock and heavy metal. Why? Because in 1969, Barry Kramer and Tony Reay started a rock and roll publication in Detroit by the name of CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine. The magazine was first distributed in and around Detroit, and it was in this publication that emerging styles of rock were first referred to as ‘punk rock’ or ‘heavy metal.’


A Slice of History From Detroit Rock City

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The Lourds were a group of high school kids from Detroit who formed in the very early 1960s, wanting to play some straight-up rock and roll. In 1964, The Lourds had the opportunity to enter a “Battle of the Bands.” When the group went on to perform, they played covers of the songs “High Heeled Sneakers” and “Shake A Tail Feather.” The highlight of the performance came when the band’s 16-year-old guitar player leapt up onto the judges’ table and fired off his guitar solo to the delight of the crowd. The guitar solo sealed the deal for The Lourds, who won an opening gig to play for The Supremes at Cobo Hall. Shortly after their stunning performance, the group disbanded after their guitarist, Ted Nugent, had to move to Chicago with his parents. John Drake, the lead vocalist for The Lourds, would eventually meet back up with Nugent in Chicago to form The Amboy Dukes, where the Motor City Mad Man would first gain great recognition.

Enjoy a performance of The Amboy Dukes from The Detroit Music Awards in 2009, and Nugent at DTE riding a bison onstage in 2001. That’s Detroit Rock City for you!


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!


A Slice Of History From Detroit Rock City

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Hank Ballard was a native of Detroit who was considered (along with Bill Haley) to be one of the first rock and roll artists to emerge in the 1950s. Hank Ballard released a song called ‘Teardrops On Your Letter’ in 1959 along with his group, The Midnighters. On the B-Side of that single was another song written by the band, called ‘The Twist.’ It was barely a modest success upon its release, until it was re-recorded by Chubby Checker and released the following year, becoming a #1 hit and a dance craze across the USA. Checker may have popularized the song and dance, but those rock and roll roots were first nourished by Hank Ballard and The Midnighters in Detroit.

Please enjoy a video interview with Hank Ballard and The Midnighters about some of their best-known songs and what playing music means to them, and also the original version of ‘The Twist’ below.


From the Meadow to the Lawn: The Pilgrimage of Mack Partin

Mack Partin

Two Saturdays ago, a mass of indie fans filed into the Berkley Front’s euphonious attic to see Meadower play their beloved indie rock ballads. This Meadower show was unique because their openers included Huumans (Detroit) and The Most Dangerous Animal (Flint). This Meadower show was unique because their guitarist, Brent Mosser, made screen-printed posters by hand.

 

This Meadower show was unique because it was their last.

In 2010, the group of four indie rockers (Joel Gullickson, Matt Provost, Brent Mosser, and Mack Partin) leapt onto the scene and has been playing local shows consistently ever since. Mack Partin, the band’s charming bassist and one of those people whose name just sounds better when stated in full, sits across from me in this dim bar on a Monday night and attempts to explain to me just how meaningful Meadower was.

Mack reveals that to him, Meadower made such a strong impact in part because of the surreal alliance of its members. “I had lived with our guitar player Brent for three years prior to him joining the band, I ended up living with the drummer for a couple of years, and the guitar player Matt and I had been in a previous band. So, I had a lot of history with those guys.”
meadowerBeyond just fulfilling his Partridge Family-esque dreams, Meadower also transformed the way Mack considered the art of composition altogether. Instead of having one writer in the group, “Meadower worked as a collaboration, so we would show up to practice and figure out a song.”
“I really liked doing that,” declares Mack, because that way, “We would write the song together.”

Playing shows about thrice a month at places like The Crofoot, The Loving Touch, Small’s, The Belmont, and PJ’s Lager House, Meadower was not by any means struggling to make an impression. So, why did such a unique band conclude what most would consider a phenomenal run? Upon my asking this question, Mack brushes aside his bangs and looks up from his chicken sandwich, trading in his sly grin for a dismal countenance.

“It ended because creatively, I think we accomplished everything that we had set out to do as a band. And we had been trying to write something for a little bit and it wasn’t really coming together the way I think anyone wanted it to.”Mack Partin

Alas, at their last show, Mack confesses that he “definitely got emotional during the set, looking at those guys and thinking ‘this is the last time I’m going to play with them in a long time,’” The devoted musician even shaved his mustache for the performance, in an effort to pay homage to the clean-shaven man who joined the band three years earlier. “I’m a sentimental guy,” he says, with the addendum, “or mostly just an idiot.”

Overall, Mack appears both sorrowful over Meadower’s conclusion and proud to have been in such a close-knit group in the first place. He also knows that the future is uncertain, and the band is devoted more to the music than to daily routines that may get in the way. “You know, I might get a phone call from Matt of Brent or Joel being like ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea: let’s work on a Meadower song.’” He adds, “If one of our closer friends were to ask us ‘ Hey, come play this show,’ we’d do it in a heartbeat.” For now, Mack is eternally grateful for the time he had with his talented and dedicated bandmates.
“You got me all choked up,” he concludes. “I love them. I love those guys.”

Though pained by the conclusion of this awesome foursome, Mack has by no means put an end to his career as a devout bassist. He has, in fact, been pleased to spend time veering in different creative directions. He has found time now to focus on jamming out with 500 Club at PJ’s Lager House, like he did last Wednesday, and writing new music with a groundbreaking punk rock band, Lawnmower.

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Lawnmower itself was born in 2010, but Mack Attack added his name to the triumvirate one year ago. At the time, Mack says, “Me and the drummer of Meadower had been kind of messing around with stuff on our own time and looking for different people to play with just for fun,” because, he concedes, “We legitimately just love playing music.” So, it’s no surprise at all that when Travis (Lawnmower) approached Brent (Meadower) at a Meadower show in Flint, saying, “Man, we just need to find a guy who will play the bass for us,” Brent knew the perfect man for the job. “‘Mack will do it. Mack has nothing but free time.’”

So, with that, the bass man joined Travis Bravender and Aaron Quillen, and has since been mowing lawns like he’d never mown lawns before (that is to say, he has been driving to Flint a lot for band practice). When asked if he was at all concerned that he was burning the candle at all possible candle’s ends by performing with three bands over the past year, he confirms that it was nothing to fret (lol, music pun) about at all. “Lawnmower was different enough, so creatively it was moving in another direction,” he explains.

As for the sound of the trio, Mack states, “We’re more of a melodic kind of punk,” and names such influences as Weezer and Super Chunk for the sound. “A lot of my favorite bands were in the nineties,” he explains, “so I definitely take from that.” An ever-loyal Lawnmower fan, Stevie Garofalo calls the band a “catchy, raw, 3-piece punk band with original songs and good vocals and instruments.”

After a year in this punkier indie rock trio, Mack oozes love for the group as if it’s the family he’ll go home to after this interview. He tells me that, “it felt like a bunch of friends that I’ve known forever just hanging out and writing songs.” And although the bassist enjoyed the compositional eccentricities of Meadower, he can’t seem to contain his love for everything about the way Lawnmower operates as well. “What’s cool about lawnmower is that typically Travis will write something, send it to me and Aaron, and then me and Aaron comment… The main idea is kind of there. And from there we work together as a band and figure out how we can make it sound like us.” The band has developed its own unique system, and boy, does the system work.

No novices of the music industry, the men of Lawnmower had released a phenomenal full-length record in 2010, called “Franchise Wings.” Furthermore, just a few months ago, they released the EP of EPs, “Whack Yer Brain.” Both albums offer Lawnmower’s greatest attributes in perfect proportion: unique vocals, complex, but calming melodies, and incredible instrumentalism. That being said, “Whack Yer Brain” is far better than “Franchise Wings,” and I’ll tell you why: Spinner has a mohawk. That is to say, the entire album is based on “Degrassi, the Next Generation,” and if that’s not everything you’ve ever wanted in an album, then your priorities are askew.

As for the future, Mack explains that Lawnmower is only picking up musical momentum in the days ahead. They are currently recording a full-length record that is to be released within the next few months, and will doubtless be monumentally earth-shattering. Beyond that, they plan to take part in two tribute albums, one for The Replacements, and the other for The Get Up Kids. “We’re keeping pretty busy,” he says, detailing the band’s most recent show a few weekends ago at the Soggy Bottom in Flint. “We have played in a variety of different spots around Michigan. Our plan is, especially now that we have the record out, to maybe do some more regional tours.”

Both Meadower and Lawnmower have made enormous impacts on Mack’s life, and for that, he could not be more grateful. As he concludes his epic bildungsroman in this booth across from me, he appears more hopeful than most other musicians I have encountered thus far. Lawnmower is making unmistakable waves, and as Garofalo says, it “is definitely a band that could make it big in the underground punk community.” But this didn’t happen because Mack Partin became hardened by the inherent tribulations of the music industry. It didn’t happen because Mack Partin let opportunities tumble through the wilting leaves of his meadow. It happened because Mack Partin loved music for music’s sake. His future is bright because he made it so.

Come check Lawnmower out tomorrow night, August 23rd, at the Howell Opera House.

Check out Meadower and Lawnmower on Facebook and Like them by clicking the thumb button!
www.facebook.com/meadower
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lawnmower/260677670632599?fref=ts

Also listen to them both on bandcamp and buy their stuff!


Track of the Week – The Gutter Ghouls “Corpse & Bride”

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This week was no contest with the Gutter Ghouls and their recent release of their video “Corpse Bride.”  Its been a favorite of mine for a while now, and the video is amazing!

I have enjoyed seeing them live more then once, and their show is something you wont forget.  It gets your heart beating and wanting more.  These guys really enjoy what they do, and they prove it every time they hit the stage.

It is also great to see a band that put so much time and effort for their first ever music video.  Props guys.

Stay Dope Detroit.

Artist: The Gutter Ghouls
Track: Corpse & Bride
Label: Hell City Records


A Slice Of History From Detroit Rock City

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In the 1960s, The Hideout was a popular venue off of 8 Mile and Harper where numerous up-and-coming Detroit bands would play. The Hideout was a venue that did something differently than most at the time – they frequently booked an all-female rock band to play their stage. The Pleasure Seekers originally consisted of 5 Detroit-born females, including founding member Patti Quatro and her little sister Susan Kay Quatro (known to most as Suzi Quatro), who would go on to become the first female bassist to get recognition as a major rock star.

Enjoy this classic clip of The Pleasure Seekers performing on their 1968 tour, covering the Motown classic “Reach Out (I’ll Be There).”


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


Question Mark and The Mysterians “96 Tears”

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? and the Mysterians had their first great success as a band when their song, “96 Tears,” was recorded in March of 1966 at Art Schiell’s recording studio in Bay City, located in the back of his house.  “96 Tears” was recorded on the back porch of Shiell’s studio and became the first mainstream hit for a Latino rock band in the United States, selling over a million copies upon its national release, certifying it gold.  The song was first written as a poem back in 1962 by  front man Rudy “Question Mark” Martinez, titled “Too Many Teardrops.”  Rudy Martinez hailed from Flint, while the rest of the Mysterians originally hailed from Saginaw.  Upon first organizing the band, Rudy’s brother Robert Martinez was the original drummer, and was replaced by Eddie Serrato when Robert was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces.  The lineup that you hear on “96 Tears” also includes Frank Rodriguez laying down the signature Vox organ riffs, who was only 14 years old at the time “96 Tears” was recorded.

Enjoy the rare clip below from Detroit’s “Swingin’ Time” back in 1966.


A Slice of History from Detroit Rock City

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In the summer of 1925 in Highland Park, MI, a boy named William John Clifton Haley was born.  William John Clifton Haley eventually shortened his name to Bill Haley, got himself some Comets as a backing band, and became dubbed ‘The Father of Rock and Roll,’ thanks to hits like Rock Around The Clock and Shake, Rattle and Roll.  He ignited a rebellion in 1950s youth culture and paved the way for statement-making rock music for years to come.


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 Gutter Ghouls

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I was 24 when my psychobilly cherry was popped. When people talk about the Detroit music scene these days they’re usually referring to mostly electronic, garage punk, or hip hop. Psychobilly, for those who aren’t familiar with the genre,  is made up of elements of punk then mixed with pieces of horror (usually from old horror movies). The shows are very fast paced and the bass players usually prefer to play with an upright bass as compared to most rock groups who use a standard bass guitar.

Check back soon for an in depth interview with the Ghutter Ghouls!

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Detroit Rock From The 50s

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Detroit has a long and rich history associated with rock and roll. In 1954 Hank Ballard & the Midnighters crossed over from the R&B charts to the pop charts with “Work With Me, Annie.” The song nearly broke into the elite top 20 despite being barred from airplay on many stations due to its suggestive lyrics. In 1955, Detroit-native Bill Haley ushered in the rock and roll era with the release of “Rock Around The Clock.”
In the late 1950s rockabilly guitarist Jack Scott had a string of top 40 hits. First, in 1957 with “Leroy”, then in 1958 with the hits “My True Love” and “With Your Love” and then twice again in 1959 with the hits “Goodbye Baby” and “The Way I Walk.” Scott was one of the first musicians to marry country music’s melodic song craft to the dangerous, raw power of rock and roll.