Tom Keifer And His Livewire Rock-N-Roll Come To SoCal

Tom Keifer plays The Coach House Aug. 30; photo James Christopher

TOM KEIFER plays The Coach House Aug. 30; photo James Christopher

High-energy. Dynamic. Fire and brimstone. Visceral. These words help define rock-n-roll, both on and off the stage. Tom Keifer and his band are on course to deliver all of that once again Aug. 30 at The Coach House.

Keifer sang in the Philly rock group Cinderella, and went on to release a solo album back in 2013 The Way Life Goes. It was a labor of love that took nine years to perfect, and was released to critical acclaim. Unfortunately, some legal trouble caused it to get pulled from the shelf. Simultaneously, Keifer had to have voice surgery which caused delays in touring/recording schedules.

All of that is overwhelming, but a recurring theme in rock-n-roll is perseverance through struggle. And without a doubt, he is a shining example. Keifer fought for and obtained the masters to The Way Life Goes – the deluxe version of the album (with the bonus of a few new tracks) was just released and he is currently on tour in support of it.

Heading to one of his shows, Keifer says to expect “a high-energy, loud screaming rock show; it’s a rock-n-roll show” complete with Cinderella classics as well as the tracks from his solo outing.

“I’ve always really liked playing “Nobody’s Fool” live, that one always feels good to me and I like singing,” Keifer said. “Out of the new stuff, lately we’ve been doing the title track, that one has been fun. There’s a couple there I’ve been having fun with, singing and playing.”

TOM KEIFER

TOM KEIFER and band; photo Tammy Vega

While the album was made over several years, the touring band has remained constant.

“When I started touring the record, it’s pretty much been with the first people that walked in the room the first night,” Keifer explained. “With the exception of this year, we have a new drummer and a new keyboard player, which was our first member change. Much like the first auditions, the two new guys were the first ones who walked in the room. It’s all been pretty effortless, and the chemistry has been great from the get-go.”

This chemistry even continues off-stage.

“On tours I have done before this band, everyone kind of stays to themselves, and watches movies, and there’s lots of distractions of different kinds of entertainment going on,” Keifer divulged. “But honestly with this band, every night we just get together and hang out and talk.”

Being a mainstay of the rock world for over two decades, Keifer has a unique perspective on the ongoing debate over rock being at death’s door.

“That question always comes up, if it’s not in vogue, say in certain media outlets or radio formats, then oh, its dying,” Keifer explained. “But as long as it’s being created, and it’s being enjoyed by the fans and the people out there, then it’s alive.”

Thus, Keifer remains determined as ever to continue bringing rock music to his fans.

“Playing live is my favorite part of what we do, it’s great to get out there and play live and share that moment in the music with the fans,” he remarked.

“I get nervous every night, brother, as long as I’ve been doing this. I love what I do, and I want to be, you know, give it my all every night. My main instrument, being my voice, it’s flesh and blood.”

All in all, Tom Keifer is amped for his dates on the west coast, commenting, “We are out rocking and love seeing everybody at the shows.”

ALBUM REVIEW: New Model Army “From Here”

New Model Army "From Here" album cover

New Model Army “From Here” album cover

Few bands remain active for 39 years, fewer still remain relevant after four decades and only a handful age gracefully, channeling the years of life’s experiences and trials into mature works that better the “prime” years of their career. New Model Army are one of those select handful of artists who are getting better with age. And with From Here (the band’s 15th studio album by my count) they have maintained the artistic honesty and excellence they set for themselves since their formation in 1980.

The songs for From Here were written quickly over a two-month period and recorded even faster in just nine days so the album has a feeling of spontaneity and freshness that breathes energy into the material. The album was recorded at Ocean Sound Recordings on the tiny island of Giske off the Norwegian coast. This remote location was, according to the band “Bleak, open, cold and rugged” and a perfect place for them to create something collectively, with each member inspired in his own way, by their surroundings. New Model Army guided once again by producers Jamie Lockhart and Lee Smith have graced us with a truly exceptional, and very special, set of new material.

New Model Army; press photo

New Model Army; press photo

Although recorded in just nine days From Here is anything but sparse. It is a complex and nuanced work that holds up to repeat listens, in fact it actually gets better the more you hear it, each layer of sound weaving into and out of the mix at just the right moment with everything held together (as it always is) by Justin Sullivan’s words and passionate vocal performances (honestly I think I’d pay money to hear this guy sing the phone book, he’s that good).

So, let’s talk a little about the songs that make up this fine set. I’ve picked three of my favorites although ANY of the tracks could be your favorites. Every song is strong, and this is a “no-filler” collection with a cohesiveness and unity that make it into a satisfying complete experience.

Where I Am is simply classic New Model Army – This one could have been slotted on one of their mid-eighties releases and it would have sounded right at home, with its acoustic/electric guitars and vocal intro leading the charge. When the drums kick in at about the minute mark the song shifts into high gear and by the time the sing-along chorus burrows its way between your ears you have a new favorite New Model Army classic to be thankful for.

New Model Army; press photo

New Model Army; press photo

Maps/Setting Sun are perhaps the songs most noticeably influenced by the inspiration the band found in their surroundings on the rugged and beautiful Isle of Giske. Maps very much captures the feeling of looking into the vastness of the Atlantic. It is both beautiful, moving and maybe just a little reflective, more a tone poem than pop song, with guitars and cellos (?) accented with drum rolls, cymbal crashes and lyrics about old sea sailing charts that are “filled with pictures of strange sea creatures”. The song segues quietly, and dare I say perfectly, on a wave of subdued feedback and a repeated guitar into Setting Sun which immediately sets off on a more upbeat note with a rocking drum beat and reflective almost whispered vocals. These two songs, although separate works, join together so seamlessly they almost feel as if they were conceived together as a whole.

So, after 39 years New Model Army have released an album that sounds fresh and exciting as if it had been released from a group just few years into their career. How do they do it? Certainly, by following their own muse and not trying to mimic the sound of whatever is currently on the pop charts. But I think maybe they do it mostly by putting in the hard work…writing every day, touring every year (although we do miss them here in America-Please come back) and thank god for being smart enough to remain the “Captains” in charge of their own musical destiny. From Here is another classic from New Model Army guaranteed to rank in the upper echelons of their already impressive body of work.

Nightcallers Deliver The Wave Of The Future

Nightcallers

Nightcallers

There’s a new band hitting the sound waves, going by the name Nightcallers. Emerging out of thin air, they are now dropping a flurry of songs on us without any warning. With songs pulling from every style and direction, their album Who Calls At Night is a real treat for the ears.

“Phil and I have really put a lot of this together late at night,” explains Ben of Nightcallers. “We call each other late at night on the phone. We are heavily inspired by things like AM Coast to Coast and radio shows after midnight. So Nightcallers was one of the few connotations that connected to all of that.

“Another inside joke for us is that we have been friends for a really long time, and when we were in our very younger years, we used to do…..in the days before caller ID or whatever…….we used to call into the news and do prank calls and stuff like that in the middle of the night. So that’s another aspect to it,” elaborates Phil of this enigmatic group.

Once you hear their music, it’s readily apparent a lot of thought, urgency, and passion went into it.

“It’s something we have been working on for the last year,” says Ben. “Phil and I have known each other for almost twenty years and have come together on a myriad of projects. We never really worked together solely on one project and are both definitely on the same page on a lot of things about pop music and music history, and the things we appreciate and love. It was a challenge, in a way, to ourselves, to create something and not wait around for people to say yes or no to it, to not dilly dally around it. Pack something in with our full force and a singular vision to it.”

Nightcallers "Who Calls At Night" album cover

Nightcallers “Who Calls At Night” album cover

“We wanted the ability to move at the speed of creativity,” ruminates Phil. “And that’s something we are both really proud of about this. We have been able to get everything out there in a pretty expeditious manner without a lot of hang-up’s and waiting around.”

Every album is written differently, through the use of innovative methods and also by the personalities involved.

“The whole record was written chronologically, and it’s also a story that goes on throughout it,” Ben states. “So, it’s almost like we were working together to create this story, and then each song we knew had to be the next chapter to the story. We worked really fast back and forth and pushing each other on it. We only finished the record about two or three months ago and started getting it ready for release.”

Nightcallers have their eye on the button of the future, seeking new blends of disparate elements.

“One of the things I asked myself when making this record was how can we do something that feels modern and almost has an EDM sensibility sonically, and has pop song structures; and melodic elements that hearken back to much more vintage, classic lounge and pop and rock and new wave sensibilities that we feel are underrepresented right now in the pop/EDM artists,” conveys Phil.

“Phil and I are pop aficionados in like all genres of pop,” Ben discloses. “There’s a lot in certain styles of music where the sounds are so cool but there aren’t a lot of pop songs in that style or genre. So, we almost wanted to take some of the sounds from different areas and create more classic songs using them. We also had no rules a little bit about what could or couldn’t be a part of it. We weren’t necessarily starting a punk band that had to stay within certain lines. We wanted to create a band in the future that could pull from music that has and even hasn’t happened yet.”

And they pulled out all the stops to make something truly postmodern in today’s music world.

“This album is a story and a concept,” Phil asserts. “What is the soundtrack to the not so near distant future? So, what is music going to sound like in the near future but what are going to the be classic hits of that near future? And those are the soundtracks to our story.” Phil explained.

It doesn’t end there with the surprises of this band. There are still the live shows to anticipate.

“We haven’t been playing any shows yet, but we have been planning on what we might be doing for that,” reveals Ben. “It would definitely entail a production, like a stage production…we might spend a few dollars on lasers, and we would bring out all of our smoke machines.”

“A lot of the instrumentation on the album is live innovation and live performance, but done in a way that sounds more programmed than they are,” says Phil. “It wouldn’t be hard to do, but it has to be a big concept, it has to be worth doing that production.”

With plenty of live experience between the two of them, their excitement to bring the album to the stage is there in spades.

“The great thing about playing live, and what we would really look forward to with this project is……Phil and I kept this really under wraps so now the best part is sharing it with people, and share the entire experience you are trying to create,” Ben maintains. “Bringing them into the fold and sharing this moment that everyone is a part of. The cool thing about live performance is that it’s different than records, different than movies, different than what you watch on YouTube; it’s still this combustible organic thing that happens, people come together and get on the same wavelength. It’s a special thing about music no matter what genre you are talking about.”

“What I really look forward to is because the record tells a chronological story, and it’s written chronologically….I think it would be fun to have things that would help tell that story and get people in on our concept of how we are envisioning it – what the story, the visuals, whether it’s having a film playing behind us or have rockets that lift off or a spaceship,” Phil explains.

With an album that hearkens back to many of our favorite things of the past, such as fifties pop songs and new wave postpunk delights, while also fusing that with new sensibilities, their music often feels like you already know it yet surprises you with things you aren’t as familiar with. No matter your taste in music, this is one release not to be missed!

“One thing we want to warn people about is…. Nightcallers are real so you better watch out!”

WATCH: “In A Bad Dream” Video

Pepper Bring Spicy Hawaiian Reggae-Rock To SoCal

PEPPER play FivePoints Amphitheatre Aug 2; photo Keith Zacharski

PEPPER play Five Points Amphitheatre Aug 2; photo Keith Zacharski

Pepper, a music group known for their uniquely Hawaiian style of rock-reggae, soon returns to Southern California. The three-man band is scheduled to play live at the Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine on Aug. 2 as part of their current tour celebrating the release of their latest album Local Motion.

Yesod Williams, the drummer for the group, says returning to Southern California to play is always terrific for him and his bandmates.

“We moved to San Diego in 1999 from Kona where we were all born and raised and started the band,” he explains. “So, it’s like a second home. It’s a big melting pot of fans and friends and family ‘cause we have so many friends and family that live around Southern California as well.”

Formed in 1996 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Williams joined the band after Bret Bollinger, vocalist and bassist, and Kaleo Wassman, the other vocalist and lead guitarist, approached him at a party after learning of his skilled drum playing. The group has remained together since and has consistently maintained their current line-up.

For the group’s appearance at the Five Point Amphitheatre, Williams says that, as with most of their shows, he expects nothing but people enjoying themselves and their music. As such Williams says he doesn’t expect any problems at the venue.

“It’s just going to be a super rad family vibe. That’s the rad part knowing our fans are ohana.”

To those unfamiliar with the term, “ohana” is a Hawaiian word typically used to describe blood relatives or a strong connectedness between people.

“As far as the people go there’s no real difference in the vibe of the shows whether it be in Hawaii or the mainland. It’s only the surroundings that are different because the ohana is so strong.”

The music Pepper plays is a big part that plays into this aloha spirit. The group’s music Williams says is a combination of two musical stylings: reggae and rock.

“In a nutshell it’s reggae-rock with a Hawaiian flavor. We self-proclaim it Kona dub rock,” Williams says, “We’re just playing good old high energy rock music with a reggae flair to it.”

It’s a flair-filled combo that has helped the group thrive in the music industry since officially becoming musically active in 1997. The group has in addition to playing multiple live events produced eight full-length studio albums filled with upbeat and stylish melodies.

Songs the group produces start off as very simple concepts before becoming songs according to Williams.

“Usually it’ll start with Bret or Kaleo having an idea, whether it be a guitar melody or vocal melody, but usually starting with a guitar. Then we’ll take it into our studio, and we’ll play it together and that’s in a nutshell how it’ll become a Pepper song.”

Their latest album, Local Motion, will have its songs played live at places during the Five Point Amphitheater during their tour. However, Williams says, that Local Motion he feels is one of the most unique and special ones they’ve produced to date in which they thought up the idea for a song but gave it over to their musically talented friends.

“For this album we did it a little differently. We did the initial part where we came up with the idea on an acoustic guitar and a little vocal idea and then we gave it to our friends. They gave us Local Motion.”

Concertgoers who go to the group’s appearance at the Five Point Amphitheater and beyond are not just listening to various music pieces written by Pepper’s three bandmates but that of their friends as well which results in a different and more unique Pepper concert.

For Williams, no matter the music being played, whether by his bandmates or by other friends, being able to share is a guaranteed thrill.

“That’s the best in my opinion. That’s when the songs come to their full life. Because you never know what’s going to happen until you actually play it in front of people because then it’s just like different things happen in the heat of the moment and the energy and the adrenaline that’s going when you play in front of a crowd that’s reacting to it.”

Beyond their appearance at Irvine, the group’s current tour will last until Aug. 25 ending at the Santa Barbara Bowl. What can music lovers expect from the musical representative of the aloha spirit after that?

“More music definitely,” states Williams. “We’re going to be doing some different versions of the songs that we have on Local Motion already so keep looking out for that and then we’re going to be planning another tour coming up here to support the record.

Thunderpussy Brings Rock To SoCal

THUNDERPUSSY play El Rey Theater Jul 17 and Belly Up Jul 19; photo Meredith Truax

THUNDERPUSSY play El Rey Theater Jul 17 and Belly Up Jul 19; photo Meredith Truax

Thunderpussy, the all-female rock group known for their unique vibe comes to Southern California this month as part of their summer tour. The foursome shall play Jul. 17 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and Jul. 19 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach.

Bassist Leah Julius says she looks forward to playing with her bandmates at the El Rey Theatre.

“It will be our first time playing L.A with our new drummer. It’s also one of the bigger rooms we’ve played in L.A so we’re really looking forward to that. The last couple of times we’ve been through we’ve played at the Viper Room. So, it’ll be nice to play a new stage.”

Julius has played on many stages beyond California with the group. Seattle, where the group began in 2013, still holds a special place in her heart.

“We all met through the Seattle music scene,” Julius began. “It’s a pretty small, tight-knight community up here and we were all playing in different bands and different instruments as well. And then Molly (Sides) and Whitney (Petty), the guitar player and singer of Thunderpussy, started the project and sought me out and then sought out a drummer. Kind of the rest is history.”

The name Thunderpussy started there, too.

“It embodies exactly who we are: strong, powerful, feminine. You hear the name and immediately it gets people curious, gets people talking and that’s always something you want in a name. People will remember it easily. So, when the name came about and what we were doing matched it pretty perfectly we just ran with it.”

The music Thunderpussy plays, Julius admits, is itself a kind of love letter the group has to the music they grew up with.

“We get a lot of our influences from like 70’s rock and roll. We love Zeppelin and, you know, all the classics. But we like a lot of modern music. We like a lot of pop music. So, it’s kind of a mix between Zeppelin and Beyoncé and all of the stuff we like.”

The group is none the less unique in itself playing songs ranging from rock out fare though sometimes even more mellow fare. These songs are the brainchildren of Sides, the group’s vocalist, and guitarist Petty.

“Generally, Molly or Whitney will bring in an idea to the table or sometimes even a finished song or parts of a song,” says Julius. We work together as a group to create the beast that then becomes the song.”

The group’s debut studio album that’s aptly named Thunderpussy came out just last year along with their first EP album Greatest Tits. Both proved easier said than done to make according to Julius not to mention their music in general.

“It’s a continuous struggle and aside from the stuff we have to jump through, just to get our music made and heard. Once it’s out there we deal with so much vile backlash on social media through hateful, sexist, misogynistic comments that you really have to have a thick skin to want to keep on going.”
Worse still, it’s an industry still largely dominated by males: something Julius credits for their ongoing hardships in producing music.

“It’s a boy’s club through and through especially when once you get really higher up into the major label realm where we’re at. You know, there’s a way that things have traditionally been done and there’s a way that rock bands who are all males have traditionally been marketed and sold.”

The group still perseveres and for Julius it’s worth it just to be able to share their rock and roll ballads with others, especially on a live stage.

“When you finally get up there and the lights are on and you have your instrument and playing with your fans it’s kind of like the best release at the end of the day and that’s why we do it cause that moment when you get on stage and you get to play with each other. There’s nothing better.”

It’s an effort too that still comes with surprising rewards.

“We recently got to join forces with Mike McCready from Pearl Jam and Chad & Josh from Red Hot Chili Peppers and performed some rock & roll covers and performed some Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen live with those guys for a charity show in Seattle and that was a really incredible experience to be standing on stage playing with some of my heroes.

Julius highly encourages concertgoers to come to the group’s shows as she promises they are in for a good time.

“Check out thunderpussyusa.com to see where we’re coming this summer and we’re hopefully buckling in and making another record and getting it out to everybody as soon as we can. We want nothing more than to release some new songs live for everybody.”

THE BLACK MOODS Announce Tour Dates in Support of Their Second Top 40 Single

THE BLACK MOODS summer tour 2019

THE BLACK MOODS summer tour 2019

Tempe, Arizona’s The Black Moods have announced tour dates this summer with Them Evils. The tour will kick off on July 14th in Salt Lake City, UT at Kilby Court. The band continues to support their second top 40 single, “Bad News.”

Born in the Arizona desert and reared on stages across North America, the band delivers a modern update of a timeless sound, breathing fresh life into a familiar mix of electric guitars, anthemic hooks, and percussive stomp. The Black Moods’ three members — frontman/guitarist Josh Kennedy, drummer Daniel “Chico” Diaz and bassist Jordan Hoffman — aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they’re piling into a vehicle that’s existed for decades, souping up the engine to suit their contemporary needs, and steering those wheels toward their own rock & roll horizon.

The Black Moods began building their audience the old-school way: by hitting the road. They toured heavily, promoting albums like their 2012 self-titled debut and 2016’s Medicine with gigs across the country. By the time Bella Donna hit the radio airwaves during the summer of 2018, The Black Moods’ fanbase had grown exponentially. The song became a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, paving the way for the band’s biggest shows to date.

Modern-day torchbearers of ageless rock & roll, The Black Moods aren’t shy about nodding to their influences. Bella Donna was partially inspired by the Doors’ slinky strut, while the climatic chorus of “Bad News” points to alt-rock mainstays like the Foo Fighters. With one boot planted in the same ground as their influences and the other pointed toward unexplored territory, The Black Moods blaze their own path while still paying tribute to those who came before them.

Both Bella Donna and “Bad News” were recorded with Grammy Award-nominated producer Johnny Karkazis, who flew to Phoenix and set up a makeshift studio in the band’s own rehearsal space. There, in the same practice facility once shared by hometown heroes like the Refreshments, the band funneled the spirit and swagger of their live show into their most dynamic recordings to date. That live show — which The Black Moods sharpened with cross-country tours alongside the Doors’ Robbie Krieger, Shinedown, Jane’s Addiction, Eve 6, Cracker, and numerous other headliners — has always been one of the band’s strongest selling points. Now, thanks to singles like Bella Donna (which also lends its name to the first wine in The Black Moods’ wine series), The Black Moods’ fury and fire onstage is matched by their electricity on record.

The Black Moods Tour Dates:
6/22 Pinetop, AZ The Lions Den
6/30 Madison, WI WJJO Boob Toob
7/5 Monett, MO First On Front
7/12 Colorado Springs, CO The Black Sheep
7/14 Salt Lake City, UT Kilby Court w/ Them Evils
7/15 Denver, CO Steets w/ Them Evils
7/16 Sioux City, IA The Marquee w/ Them Evils
7/17 Des Moines, IA Leftys w/ Them Evils
7/18 Mankato, MN Whats Up Lounge w/ Them Evils
7/20 OshKosh, WI Rock USA
7/21 Racine, Wi Route 20 w/ Them Evils
7/23 Pekin, IL Twisted Spoke Saloon w/ Them Evils
7/25 Whitesburg, KY The Listening Room Whiteburg
7/26 Toledo, OH Frankies Inner City
7/28 Southbend, IN 103.9 Presents (The Big Growl)
7/30 Waterloo, IA Spicolis Reverb
7/31 Minneapolis, MN Varsity Theater w/ Gin Blossoms
8/1 Milwaukee, WI Turner Hall Ballroom w/ Gin Blossoms
8/2 Ft. Wayne, IN Sweetwater Pavillion w/ Gin Blossoms
8/6 Wilmington, NC Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre w/ Gin Blossoms
8/7 Chattanooga, TN The Signal w/ Gin Blossoms
8/9 Springfield, MO Mothers Brewing Company (KQRA WienerFest)
8/10 St. Louis, MO Hollywood Casino (KSHE Pig Roast)
8/13 Phoenix, AZ Comerica Theatre w/ Gin Blossoms & Collective Soul
8/14 San Diego, CA Voodoo Room @ HOB
8/15 Costa Mesa, CA Pacific Amphitheatre w/ Gin Blossoms & Collective Soul
8/16 Tucson, AZ The Rock

Blowin Smoke Volume Two: A Shining Example Of The LA Underground

BLOWIN SMOKE VOL. 2 cover

BLOWIN SMOKE VOL. 2 cover

Bubbling beneath the surface of Los Angeles, jungle, DNB, and bass music has long been simmering…. slowly leaking out into the culture of the city. Once a small scene found only at obscure venues, it is now a force to be reckoned with that attracts talent from across the globe. Huge acts such as Andy C, S.P.Y., Noisia, and Spectrasoul all come to DJ small clubs and big festivals alike. Even underground acts such as Ewol, Homemade Weapons, Phase, and Hyroglifics make their way to play L.A. as well.

However, the underground scene in LA has and continues to play a vital role in this: making it possible for these acts to come here, providing support for the shows, and overall keeping the vibrancy of the scene alive. And it is one far more vibrant than most people realize, at times making it confusing to traverse.

Luckily, a crash course in LA DNB just dropped in the form of Blowin Smoke Volume Two by Voyage Events, and it perfectly encapsulates the quality and diversity found within it.

It starts out with a heady intro of hip-hop viewed through the lens of jungle, thrown together in a dizzying fashion that’ll make your head spin. With smooth transitions and a deft sense of timing, Jah Bliddie’s “Intro” sets the stage for the rest of the release; one full of surprises, unique vibes, and genre bending delights.

“Styles” by Tank Dubz keeps the jungle momentum going. The snap of jungle breaks sets the mind ablaze on an introspective journey, as the deep and dark basslines pull you with the force of a blackhole. Reggae vocal samples give an air of nostalgia, harking back to the roots of jungle; while the crisp chatter of the high end reveal a modern production sense, revealing a love for both new and old.

Following all this wild and heavy music comes the deep moody number known as “Dark Cloud” by Cranial Superfood. Menacing atmospheric vibes sit next to chiming melodies, with a hypnotic driving beat pulling everything forward. Dark and infectious, it is a prime example of how DNB infuses danceable beats with experimental sounds to create a distinctive palette.

Changing gears yet again, the next track opens with a hypnotic soothing melody that seems to climb endlessly, until it gets absorbed by the huge wall of bass that suddenly drops. “The Grind” by Keekz continues, and becomes even more intertwined inside the click of the cymbals and the layers of fuzz tones. As the break hits, it’s as if you are launched weightless into space as the next drop brings you right back to Earth; a little confused, a little tripped out, and with a mind blown wide open.

After the last two trips into outer space, some earth-shattering basslines are heavily desired. BC Rydah gives us exactly this with “Nyce Up Da Dance.” Full of deep throbbing basslines and intricate beat patterns, the song throws you around like a ragdoll on the dancefloor. Upon repeated listens, the clashing layers reveal the precision of every sound and the careful thought placed into each moment.

Next up is the fierce rolling sound of pure DNB. “Irieness” by Nodsy perfectly captures the tempo and vibe of the best old school DNB tracks, with a rolling bassline that would make anyone’s feet start moving. Armed with the precise production style characteristic of the deep underground side of DNB, Nodsy delivers a heavy dose of what defines the LA style: blending the past and present in new and exciting ways.

Jah Biddle brings us another jungle workout, rife with ethereal vocals and moody atmospherics. Showcasing a talent and natural grace towards the complex patterns of jungle, the crisp snares and crystal-clear crescendos of cymbals slowly build the atmosphere of the tune. Ethereal vocals create a kind of exploratory jazzy atmosphere, making it perfect for the dancefloor or just chilling.

Further exploring the boundaries of bass music, DCML ft. REFT deliver the lo-fi beauty of “Keys for Days.” Reminiscent of smoky bebop jazz clubs and early hip hop shows, it effortlessly fuses the two into a uniquely modern mix of analog as well as digital vibes. With the repetitive patter and clicks of the cymbals and snare as well as a meandering jazz guitar, it provides a great respite from the intensity of the previous tracks with its artful musings.

Bringing in the heavy beats and trippy vocals of trap and footwork, “Snowden” by Liquid Giraffe (ft JTRA) widens the scope of the album even further. Everything is carefully placed, from the warbling vocal line to the space between the beats; this gives the track that push and pull feel between beats to move your feet and spacey melodies which instigate wandering thoughts.

Giving us a heady dose of addictive melodies and hazey lo-fi beats comes “Screaming for an Echo” brought by Alia Atreides (ft. ATMAAN.) An introspective pattern of beats enters along with a simple motif that creates a kind of swirling sensation, slowly pulling you towards the ambient center of the track. When it all hits with the drop, all you can do is helplessly enjoy the journey back home.

Deep sub bass is a hallmark of nearly all dance music, from DNB to House to Dubstep. Sawdust brings us an excellent example of the dubstep variety in “Raspek.” Hailing from LA, he expertly fuses the west coast bass love of hip hop with the throbbing vibes inherent in dubstep. Glitchy sounds, hypnotic cymbals, and the lurching pace all come together to create a track that bashes you around incessantly… and makes you feel eternally grateful for it.

This is a release not to be missed! Thoroughly exposing the flexibility and fluidity of the underground bass music scene in LA, it has something for everyone and certainly demonstrates the promising future for this genre of music. Blowin Smoke Volume Two is currently available through Voyage Events bandcamp page, so get yourself a copy ASAP and support the local DNB scene!

John Paul White Brings Countrypolitan To Orange County

JOHN PAUL WHITE (and his band) play The Coach House Jun. 11 and Troubadour Jun. 14; album cover

JOHN PAUL WHITE (and his band) play The Coach House Jun. 11 and Troubadour Jun. 14; album cover

John Paul White comes to Orange County as part of his current tour celebrating the release of his latest music album The Hurting Kind. SoCal Concertgoers can listen to the acclaimed Grammy Award winning musical talent of White at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Jun. 11 and the Troubadour in Los Angeles Jun. 14.

John Paul White says he looks forward to these appearances.

“The synergy is pretty spot-on right now and I’m really proud of that and anxious for people out that way to see it in person.”

White himself eagerly cannot wait to return to California in general, too.

“I love my home state of Alabama but there are so many things about California I dearly love. I love the weather, the people, the weather, the food, the progressive nature of the state.”

He quickly adds with a chuckle he especially looks forward to the food.

“I actually eat plant-based nowadays which is really hard down in Alabama. They’ve found a way to put ham in just about everything.”

But it’s being able to share his music with others that he honestly looks forwards to in California.

John Paul White; press photo

John Paul White; press photo

“The best part of all is the people because the shows that I play in California have a definite thankfulness for us having traveled so far. I get it from people after shows, ‘thank you for driving all this way to play a show for us.’ That warms your heart and makes you want to do it even more because that’s the only reason to get out of the house is that kind of connection.”

White admits though he didn’t get into music for the sake of music.

“The way I got into it was just trying to meet girls, to be honest. Once I started figuring out the reaction from the other sex when I would sing, I thought, ‘this is what I want to do for a living.’ Later on in life I started digging down below the surface as I started writing songs and figuring out what made me click.”

White would be able to achieve a contract writing music for a musical label in Nashville for approximately 10 straight years before being granted the opportunity to play music himself. White says he doesn’t at all view this long wait as being tedious but educational.

“I learned everything I know about the craft of writing songs. It was an invaluable education for me as an artist to learn all the ins and outs of the bones of a hit song. I still use those things to this day.”

Since becoming a music artist in 2008, White’s performances and dynamic countrypolitan music have earned him praise from critics and music lovers. His songs have even been featured in shows and movies such as The Hunger Games and The Firm.

His most famous period of musical work was between 2009 and 2014 when he teamed up with fellow musician Joy Williams to form the Civil Wars: a musical duo that won four Grammy awards. Since the duo disbanded in 2014, White’s worked solo. This has better allowed him to make music on his terms.

White says he strives to be empathetic to the tastes of his audiences though.

“I have learned the hard way not to create a dish I think other people will like because I cannot possibly guess what anybody else is going to like. So, my entire M.O. is to please myself and pray that there is a bunch of people out there that like the same things that I do. As long as that’s the case, I’ll still have a job.”

For White, playing his songs live is always a great reward.

“I’m intensely proud of these songs and so when I get in and I start singing, I’m consciously doing this, I try to remember that feeling I had when I wrote them. That feeling I had when I played it back for myself, for my wife or for a friend. I never want to just go through the motions and let muscle memory move onto the next song. When that’s the case I’ll go home. I’ll go play with my babies because I miss them all the time.”

White hopes it never comes to that as he plans to continue singing and making music beyond his current tour.

“I’ve got a ton of songs that I feel in the back of my brain trying to beat their way out and so I think it will be kind of rinse and repeat. I’ll tour this record for a while, but I’ve got songs wanting to be born and so I would expect I’ll make another record and keep doing that the rest of my life.”

Taelimb – Granite EP

TAELIMB; press photo

TAELIMB; press photo

The deep, dark side of Jungle/DNB has long been known for its experimental and challenging nature. One of the most exciting producers in this vein is Taelimb, who has been dropping tracks for the last several years. With releases on labels such as Flexout Audio and Demand Records, he has firmly established a signature sound characterized by a fierce attention to detail, diverse soundscapes, and a growling timbre of low end all his own. With his latest release, the Granite EP, from The Chikara Project, he pushes even further the boundaries of his own sound.

On his first exposure to drum and bass, he was hooked. “Around the age of 18, I met a number of guys that I used to hang around with in Brixton, South London,” says Max Taelimb. “They were a good few years older than me and were all into making Jungle/Drum and Bass. I remember the first time I went over to one of their houses, they were all sitting around together making tunes on a very old version of Reason.

Taelimb - Granite EP cover

Taelimb – Granite EP cover

“This was the first time I had ever seen people making music in this way and was blown away. It had never occurred to me that people could make music on computers like this in their own home; so, after that, I started going ‘round regularly to watch and learn how to use the software and make the music. Conscience was one of these guys and I still make music with him to this day.”

Although getting exposed to various forms of electronic music, DNB grabbed his attention the strongest.

“A big part of it was the people, as mentioned before, and the other was the energy at the raves,” Taelimb explains. “Back then, it was mainly house, garage or jungle/drum and bass, and people were just going mad in the jungle rooms! I found there to be far less ego in the jungle raves too. People were there to rave and have fun, and that was that.”

However, one of the more difficult aspects to launching a music career is figuring out a name.

“Taelimb doesn’t actually mean anything,” laughs Taelimb. “I was struggling to settle on a name when I was starting out and had so many different ideas of names I should use. The problem was anything I thought of was already taken, and in many cases used by multiple people over the world. This created problems when searching for me online, etc. So, I made up a name that no one else could have; this way when searching for ‘Taelimb’ the only thing that comes up online is me.”

Not only does he have a unique stage name, but many of his song titles (such as “Breath Mint,” “The Wookie Song,” “Flo,” “A Clean Cut,” etc) seem random yet entirely intentional.

“Most of the time I just call them the first thing I see or think of,” Taelimb points out. “A lot of the time, the names of the tracks have little to do with how the tune sounds. When starting a new project, you have to call the track something to save the file; and I make so many, coming up with names for them all is a nightmare!

Taelimb; press photo

Taelimb; press photo

“My passion lies in production first. I was never massively into DJing, although I find I enjoy it a lot more nowadays than I used to! But if I had to choose one, I think I would definitely choose producing. It’s like an escape for me…I can sit on the computer for hours at a time, quite happily making music and not get bored. I get bored much faster DJing at home, it’s much more fun playing to a crowd. There is only so long I can DJ to my wall; but with production, it’s purely for me and I don’t need anyone else to make it entertaining.”

This passion is obvious and on full display on the Granite EP – from the glitchy textures found in “Titan,” the deep subterranean explorations of “Cold Outing,” the hypnotic drum work of “Granite,” to the infectious vibe of “Grot Bag.” His expertise in using space and sparse layers of sound only call even more attention to the tones and off-key vibes in the tracks.

“I have known Will and Mike (of Mystic State) for some time now through the DNB scene. When I heard they were starting their own label, I thought it would be a good fit for me so I sent them some tracks. Thankfully they liked them so they agreed to release an EP for me!

“I just wanted to keep the tracks a bit different, I try to mix it up a bit with each release I do. It would probably do me more favors if a I found a sound and stuck to it, but I get bored that way. There is rarely a theme with any of my releases; I have so much music on my computer at the moment that I will send a bunch over, and then let the label decide what they think works best together.

Taelimb; press photo

Taelimb; press photo

“In terms of being particularly proud of my music, it’s hard. Generally, by the time I have finished a track and it’s got a release date, I have heard it so many times I no longer like the tunes! To be honest, I’m always left thinking that they are not good enough and all I can hear is what’s wrong with the tunes. I think this is common with a lot of producers though and not just me! Or maybe not.”

Keeping music and the making of it fresh, innovative, and exciting is no easy task. Especially since there is no foolproof method or one solution that works for every person.

“I’m not sure…I try not to let what other people in the scene are doing influence me too much,” analyzes Taelimb. “It’s impossible not to be influenced by what you hear, especially when you think it’s really good. But I try my best to draw these influences from other genres, rather than DNB. I try to listen to a big range of music, see what people are doing in other genres and then bringing that to drum and bass.”

Still a relatively young genre, the state of DNB and its future is a hotly debated issue. As a DNB producer and having toured in the States as well as the UK, Taelimb has a unique vantage point on it.

“I’m not sure, there are some things I love about it at the moment, and some things that wind me up,” he says. “I don’t like the fact that people want everything for free nowadays, but I guess that’s just a problem with how we consume music generally and not specific to DNB.

“I love the fact that it is growing in the States, and that underground dance music in general is starting to take off more in the USA. I remember coming over to America, and all dance music was just referred to as techno. But now there seems to be a much stronger following.”

Taelimb is one producer to definitely keep tabs on! Make sure to grab the Granite EP – out now on The Chikara Project, available on the label’s own Bandcamp, as well as all the other usual streaming sources. And to stay up to date with everything Taelimb, follow his Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and usual social media culprits.
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Cowboy Junkies Wrangle California With Music

COWBOY JUNKIES play The Coach House May 17, Observatory/North Park May 18, Fonda Theatre May 19; photo Heather Pollock

COWBOY JUNKIES play The Coach House May 17, Observatory/North Park May 18, Fonda Theatre May 19; photo Heather Pollock

The Cowboy Junkies, a group famous for its innovative takes on folk and country music, shall be touring throughout California May 8 to May 19. The group’s Southern California appearances specifically begin May 16 at Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, followed by May 17 at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, May 18 at The Observatory North Park, ending up at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on May 19.

Michael Timmins, the lead songwriter and guitarist for the group, says concertgoers can expect a good, lengthy two-hour show at each of these venues.

“It’s basically a whole night of our music and we do two sets, Timmins explained. “The first set we do is pretty much all of our new album All That Reckoning, about 40 minutes of it, and then the second set we do is about an hour and a half long and we do all the old catalog stuff.”

Though currently residing in Canada, where the group first formed, Timmins says he and his bandmates always looks forward to leaving Canada for a while to play in California.

“It’s always fun going to California, especially Northern California and we’ve always had a great audience in Southern California as well from the very early days of the band. So, it’s always been a strong market for us. It’s always fun to get there, especially this time of year when the weather is kind of iffy here in Canada, when it’s trying to turn into spring.”

Timmins says he especially looks forward to the group’s appearance at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano given the group’s history.

“It was just a venue that we had a lot of success at very early in our careers,” Timmins recalls. “When we used to come down to California we’d always play it and we’d occasionally play it multiple nights. They were all very nice to us. Gary (Folgner) there was very kind to us and made us feel welcome.”

That’s just one of many venues Timmins and his group have played. The group has been actively playing together since 1985. Their music, though usually typically classified as alternative country and folk rock, is something Timmins says is hard to define due to its influences.

“There’s a lot of different influences in it,” Timmins says. “There’s a lot of blues, there’s a lot of folk, a lot of psychedelic rock in there.”

Difficulty in defining their music also extends to their group name of Cowboy Junkies. This, Timmins says, is not unintentional.

“We had a show coming up when we were starting out and the club owner needed a name for the newspaper. We sort of sat around, threw names back and forth and those two words sort of stuck together and we kind of liked it and thought it was odd. It didn’t define anything; it was just kind of an odd sounding name and kind of puzzling and that’s what we thought we needed. We needed a name that stood out so that’s why we went with it.”

That unique name and equally unique musical style has proven to be invaluable to the group’s identity and success both on the stage and in the studio for over 30 years. During that time, Cowboy Junkies have played many concerts and music festivals and also recorded 17 studio albums.

Timmins says he remains grateful for the group’s success and ability to be on very friendly terms, not to mention that the four-person lineup has not changed since forming in 1985 enabling him to make the music he loves.

“It’s a great feeling,” Timmins admits. “It’s really liberating, especially doing it all these years. It’s quite an amazing feeling to be able to express oneself through one’s instrument and with a band and playing your own songs and having people react to them. It’s pretty special. At the end of your work day, people stand up and applaud for you, it’s great. It’s pretty special.”

After the current tour ends in Los Angeles, Timmins says the group will not waste time in getting back on the road.

“In July we go off to Europe. That’s the next stage. We have three weeks in Europe, so we’ll go do those shows and then we’ll come home and hopefully get some time off in August. In November we have some more touring in Ontario and then the eastern states.”

For the Timmins and the other Cowboy Junkies, traveling and singing their music wherever they can is a full-time job that shows no signs of stopping.

“We’re working musicians so that’s what we do. We tour.”