The Big Sleep
Considering how quiet they've been over the past couple years, you'd think the Big Sleep decided to suddenly take their name seriously after the tireless tour cycle behind 2008's Sleep Forever LP. The truth is much simpler...
"We took a little break, worked on stuff separately and just lived our lives," explains bassist/vocalist Sonya Balchandani.
"It obviously took longer than we thought it would," adds guitarist/vocalist Danny Barria, "but I wasn't feeling rushed or pressured. I just wanted to write good songs."
Which brings us to the hefty hooks and sugar-spun noise pop of Nature Experiments, the filler-free full-length Danny and Sonya have hinted at since 2000. That'd be the year the duo started cutting demos in the former's Brooklyn kitchen; demos that eventually shifted from a loose shoegaze sound (the You Today, Me Tomorrow EP) to the iridescent instrumentals and groove-locked guitar anthems of the Big Sleep's debut album, 2006's Son of the Tiger.
As promising as that LP was, it's nowhere near as focused and forceful as the tractor beam tracks the pair started recording at the beginning of 2011. Helped in part by Sonya's increased use of GarageBand as a songwriting tool and a more collaborative creative process, Nature Experiments is as robust as a Big Sleep record gets, bursting at the seams with restless rhythms and choppy power chords ("Ace"), venomous vocals and blown-out beats ("Meet Your Maker"), and effects pedals/synth pads that rub and ring out against some of the band's most climatic choruses yet ("Valentine," "Ghosts In Bodies," "Ladders"). And if you need a breather, there's always the psych-steeped balladry of "1001" and "Wood on the Water."
"There was definitely a tunnel vision thing going on with our last record," says Danny. "That pressure was cool and intense, but the guiding principle this time around was to take our time and do whatever we needed to. We'd work on things separately and then meet in each other's living rooms with just an acoustic guitar and a keyboard, which is funny considering that's exactly how the band started."
"This band's always been about what comes out of the two of us working together," adds Sonya. "I think it's normal to write a little past the edge of your capabilities, so then you have to deliver, and the next time around, you end up pushing yourself again. We are always just looking for and editing ourselves towards what feels right, what we can both agree is putting across a feeling in a style that's truly 'us'." - Andrew Parks
Wild Card Music Group
Fever Charm got their start in Oakland over 10 years ago. Yianni, Theo and Ari met in middle school when they discovered they all happened to share the same birthday. Fuelled by their undying love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the movie “School Of Rock” they began to write their own original music. Instead of doing their homework, they spent night after night playing, writing, and recording music in a dusty basement. What began as a casual jam session in Ari’s basement developed into a decade long passion project.
In 2011 the band moved to Boston for college, where Yianni met JT in their very first class. It was not long until this friendship bloomed into the current lineup of Fever Charm. Together they lived in a putrid, rat infested basement unit in a downtown apartment complex infamously known as “THE DEN”. Basking in the otherwise creative and youthful air of Boston, they collaborated with many great musicians, producers, and artists. During this time the band recorded song after song and played show after show, ventures that included their Sound of Summer EP, for which they traveled to Austin, TX as well as several west coast and east coast tours.
Following graduation, the band relocated to Los Angeles to fully pursue their careers in music. Immediately after moving, the band went straight to the studio, recording demos every night after their 9-to-5’s. The resulting demos evolved into Retrograde, but the creating has never stopped. They continue to write endlessly and look forward to what the future has to offer.
Wild Card Music Group
“When we write songs, we start with our own experience and dig to find a unique angle to capture and communicate relatable human emotions and situations. Whether it’s about identity, relationships, fucking, whatever, we try to be vivid and specific about the universal and timeless. We want to do more than just tell you about our love, pain, desire etc… we want to pull you right into the middle of it.” -Danielle Harris of Slow Sugar on their forthcoming EP.
Bursting onto the scene in March of 2015, Slow Sugar has been rapidly proving their worth among the seemingly endless supply of NYC hopefuls clawing for their chance at stardom. Armed with a mix of pop and indie sensibilities, their carefully crafted alternative pop sound is not only immediately infectious, but also intricate and deep. After only a year on the scene, its clear Slow Sugar is a force to be reckoned with in the New York pop game.
A chance meeting in a student jazz combo at the University of Pennsylvania (and a shared self-proclaimed “misfit” mentality) brought together the sultry vocal stylings of lead singer Danielle Harris and songwriting chops of guitarist and vocalist Alex Utay in 2012. While Harris completed her degree in art history and Utay went the clock-punching route with a marketing position at Pepsi, the duo kept in touch. Upon Harris’ graduation in 2014, which ironically coincided with Utay putting in his two weeks notice at Pepsi, they began collaborating on a regular basis for the remainder of the year, churning out songs that would make even the most jaded industry veteran sit up and take notice. With a growing catalog of songs and years of pent up enthusiasm, Slow Sugar was finally ready to take NYC by storm.
Their live debut came at the end of March 2015 with a packed show Bowery Electric, and it has been nothing if not explosive since then. Slow Sugar went on to spend the rest of the year playing and selling out some of the city’s most renowned clubs and festivals, such as Communion’s NYC showcase at Rockwood Music Hall, Mercury Lounge, CMJ at the Bitter End, and a huge show at Highline Ballroom in December 2015.
Riding the wave of this momentum, the duo headed into the studio during the winter of 2015/2016 to record their highly anticipated debut EP with up-and-coming producer Jon Buscema. Harris and Utay have come a long way from their days of text books and college bands, and judging from their captivating live show and killer upcoming EP, it’s quite clear: Pop has never tasted so good.
William Cook II
Danny & His Fantasy
Danny is a pop star - hot-burning, fast-falling, a rising sun of the west. He’s the silver light pooling in concrete moons, teenagers kissing, soft-sifting through tall grass and night clubs. An outcast orphan of the occult, he hears the hopeless hearts scream in the dark for a prince of some plane just outside sanity or reason - an inheritor of movement, a real gift-giver. And mangled hands scramble madly for the hem of his blue jeans bright as the leper cries, “somebody… touch me!”
This is for a night drive to the forgotten mansion, a wasted empire of flat beer and stale fashion.
This is for the ghost dog on lost highway, a vision of Jacob’s.
For the child, still alive, but sleeping in evil’s stupid heart.
This is for the losers and the freaks, the pockmarked beauty queens and the fleeting elite…
This is Danny & His Fantasy.
William Cook II
Joesph is the recording project of Cincinnati-based songwriter/producer Joey Joesph. After 7+ years writing and touring as a founding member of indie pop band Pomegranates, Joey Joesph has set out with a collection of solo material that ranges from psychedelic rock, to pastoral ambience, to dance-y pop. His sounds are often filtered through the nostalgic lens of '60s and '70s folk, pop and rock.
Over the course of the past few years, the London-based YOUNG GUNS have emerged as one of the UK's most electrifying new bands, garnering heavy radio play and UK chart success, while playing to packed-house crowds all across Europe, including a main stage performance at the Reading Festival, where they tore up the stage as part of a lineup that included Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, Guns N' Roses and Modest Mouse.
New album BONES has already achieved critical acclaim overseas, with Q Magazine and Kerrang! each giving it four stars and the latter writing that the album sees the band "giving themselves the best shot possible of taking on all comers and winning." BONES and its title track were also nominated for "Best Album" and "Best Single" as part of this year's 2012 Kerrang! Awards.
"We've written something that I feel happy describing as 'brave,'" says Young Guns frontman Gustav Wood, "and it will challenge a lot of people's preconceptions about what sort of band we are. It's an ambitious record, and we have the ambition to match the sound." Written over a number of months in places ranging from Thailand to Spain to a shed in the band's hometown of High Wycombe, UK, BONES marks Young Guns' transition from a band packed with potential to bonafide contenders for the title of Britain's best. It's a stirring album full of contradictions – it speaks of strength and vulnerability, friendship and loss, energetic youth and heavy-hearted experience – that proudly displays Wood, John Taylor (guitar), Fraser Taylor (guitar), Simon Mitchell (bass) and Ben Jolliffe (drums)'s skyscraping vision and style. "When you're writing an album you need to believe that what you're doing is the most important thing in the world," continues Gustav.
Having formed from the ashes of a variety of local bands, Young Guns' first release was the striking Mirrors EP in June 2009. But it wasn't until debut album All Our Kings Are Dead, unveiled in July 2010, that they began to really show what they were capable of. Backed by a groundswell of popular support, the band hit magazine covers, headlined the HMV Forum in London, toured Australia and played the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals; in the backs of their minds, though, they knew they could do better.
And they were right. Taken at face value, BONES feels effortless, but the work that went into it – the long hours, the nudging back of immutable deadlines, the worry, the sheer grind that comes with a genuinely democratic writing process – mirrors the band's career to date. This is a story of victory by inches, not of instant boom (and inevitable, sad bust). Young Guns backed themselves into a corner with their drive to comprehensively outdo All Our Kings Are Dead. After a handful of fruitless writing sessions, Gustav, Fraser and John spent a night in the studio with a couple of bottles of vodka and the desire to write a song their heroes would be proud of; when morning eventually came, they had the skeleton of "Dearly Departed," a song that, once they'd taken it to the rest of the band and let them work their magic, would sit as one of the keystones of BONES. "Once we wrote that song, we knew we could really make a mark with this album," says Wood. The title track itself is another standout moment, a pure rock anthem in the most heroic sense. "When you do something you know is good, that you know stands up... it's bliss. Elation. We worked so hard on this album, and there were times when the stress was horrendous. When I finished tracking the vocals for 'Bones' and we stood back and cranked it on the stereo at 4am, listening to what I knew would be a single that would do big things for us, that was overwhelming." From then on, the songs flowed: the title track, a howl of defiance; stunning opener "I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die," a fearless statement of intent; lead single "Learn My Lesson," a calling-card that's as dynamic as it is catchy. "It feels like I want to just kick people's heads off," smiles Gustav. "It sounds stupid but I just want to get out there and make a mark – it keeps me up at night, thinking about how much I want to do."
On August 14th singer-songwriter Jillette Johnson releases the smoldering and passionate debut EP Whiskey & Frosting (Wind-up Records). It's an intimate and boldly emotional five-song collection of stately pop from a unique and unflinchingly honest artist. Johnson's commitment to her distinct vision is thorough and uncompromising, from her willingness to explore the raw and controversial in her lyrics, to her unwillingness to give into tempting hot ticket-career opportunities. Johnson audaciously declined a high-exposure spot on the television talent show The Voice to keep her creative autonomy. "I realized those paths would be inauthentic to me. I know how to write my own music, and I want a say in my career," Johnson explains.
Whiskey & Frosting is one of those rare and revelatory debuts where you experience a young songwriter with a highly mature sense of artistic self. The NYC-based singer-piano player wrote all the songs on the EP, and her upcoming album. The piano-based songs unfold with honeyed drama and grandeur, showcasing Johnson's soaring vocals which manage to both be comforting and spiritually rousing. "Two of my favorite things are whiskey and frosting," Johnson says laughing. "The title came directly from an impromptu birthday party with friends where I ate the frosting off cupcakes and drank whiskey. I was telling my producers about the night when I realized how similar those two things were to my writing style. I don't write happy songs without some melancholy feelings in there. I like to paint an entire emotional picture.
There is depth, sorrow, and overly sweet tones. Many of the songs are about living as a young person in New York City, living irresponsibly and exploring consequences." The bravely vulnerable "Cameron" explores the struggle of a transgendered person and transpires a universal anthem for staying true to oneself. Johnson sings: Cameron's in drag, makes his father mad / Since he was a little boy / He always felt more comfortable in lipstick / These days the world is full of aliens / The world is full of aliens, but you are a human / You're not an alien / You are a real live human / Aren't you, Cameron? At its fundamental core, "Cameron" is about making tough choices to be authentic; a definite thematic thread in Johnson's life. . "I didn't know I was going to write about a transgendered boy, the words just came out and I thought, 'Oh, this is about someone trying be someone they don't appear to be,'" she reveals. "There is a sensation I get when I want to create. I have energy coursing through my veins, and I just let my hands fall and run with it. I don't always know the initial reference point, but then I go back and make sense of what I'm saying. It's pure subconscious inspiration and relentless editing. 'Cameron' ended up being inspired by a transgendered kid I'm close with, but the song also captures the need to feel at home in your own skin." Jillette Johnson got signed to Wind-up on the strength of "Cameron." "That song was a turning point. Talent makes people notice you, but songs bring people to action," she figures.
Inking a deal was the culmination of many years of steadfast pursuit of her ideals and her dream to be a professional musician. "I was convinced by the age of 4 I was going to be a rock star," she says with a smile. At 6 Johnson began taking piano lessons, and by 8 she was writing her own songs. Her formative influences were the Les Misérables Soundtrack and artists such as Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Carole King, and Sarah McLachlan. "I learned song structure from those beautifully articulate songwriters. Joni said so much with quirky lyrics, Carole had a way of simplifying-those two parallels formed me as a lyricist."
At 18 she left her small town of Pound Ridge, New York, population 4,000, to move to NYC's vibrantly creative Loho neighborhood. From 12-18 she had been making migratory visits to soak up the city's buzzing inspiration, but her move cemented a creative relationship between her youth, the city, and her soulful compositions. The EP also features highlights like the elegant and stirring "When The Ship Goes Down," and the buoyant and heartfelt "Torpedo." "Pauvre Coeur" juxtaposes gorgeously spare classical-flavored piano against bluntly confessional lyrics about a dried up romantic relationship. It's one of the most arresting moments on the EP. Here Johnson sings: If I recall it was a Friday / Gentle hum before the war / You were high and watching poker / And I had just walked in the door / You started screaming at the TV / Saying, make a play you filthy whore / And I was trying to make you see me / Like the way you did before. "I wrote that from a perspective of strength. I haven't been in a lot of relationships-the longest has been my music career. Music comes first, anything that got in the way suffered. This was about my first serious adult relationship. It became emotionally abusive as it reached the end, and I lost myself. When I rediscovered myself, I found the strength to leave," she reveals.
The EP and the upcoming album, were produced by Peter Zizzo, widely respected for developing Vanessa Carlton and Avril Lavigne, and Michael Mangini, esteemed for his work with Joss Stone, Bruce Hornsby, and David Byrne. The duo's innate understanding of Johnson's singular vision, and respect for her fully-formed compositions helped them enhance the power and dynamics of the music. "They maintained the spirit of the songs-they still are a 100% my songs-they're just turned way up on the amp," she says. Reflectively, Jillette Johnson says: "I have a specific point of view and I follow my instincts. My sensibility has been in tune with my emotions. I'm always honest with what I feel. I'm passionate with my songs to a fault."
Satellite towns tend to breed big ambitions. Perched on the hills above Manchester, Macclesfield's principle claim to fame comes in the cult of Ian Curtis. That classic example of the 'just out of the city' boy reinforces how big horizons tend to breed big ambitions. The Virginmarys are not part of the Curtis club. Their music blends the dynamics of platinum class 'grunge' (basically Nirvana, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees) with the spikiness of punk and the attention to detail and honesty of prime British rock of the early 1970's, before the wizards and capes overcame the attack and dynamic.
Their belief system begins with a devotion to the idea of playing. Live or in rehearsals, the three are at their most comfortable instruments in hand. Whether this is cool or not in a world where we sometimes seem to want our bands to devote themselves to studiously not playing is of no consequence to them. So, the debut album, 'King Of Conflict', was recorded live in the studio with Toby Jepson producing and Chris Sheldon (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro, etc) at the mixing controls to capture the band at their thrilling best. But this is not 'muso' territory. Whilst Ally may have learnt his playing via a local blues maestro and lived in a house sound tracked by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Free and The Allman Bros courtesy of his dad, the revelation of Nirvana and the digging backwards to punk and forwards to the diverse likes of Elbow and Arcade Fire meant that when Ally, Matt and Danny set out to write rock songs, those were never likely to be dumb, despite being a hell of a lot of fun. Further, Ally's nature and his position as lyricist pretty much guaranteed that The Virginmarys would share much in common with those bands who eschewed the brainless cartoons of metal to create a rock music that used its words to deal with real life, real feelings and serious subjects. So a typical song from the trio rocks as hard as anything you are likely to hear but can talk about making the wrong calls despite yourself ('Dead Man's Shoes), domestic violence from the less thought out position of male as victim ('Portrait Of Red') and anti-capitalism ('You've Got Your Money').
It's that blend of rock schooling and intelligence that makes The Virginmarys such a thrilling proposition. Unlike so many contemporaries, the three are unlikely to fall into any of the obvious traps that bedevil young bands in their world. Having spent three years touring and playing alongside a series of self-released EP's the band have built a fan base that encompasses the likes of Slash (a regular VM's T shirt wearer), We Are Scientists, Eagles Of Death Metal and Ash, all of whom have invited the band to support them and thousands of devoted fans across the globe. In the process they have featured on BBC Breakfast, scored an iTunes single of the week both in the UK and US, had a track featured on Rockband 3 and sold out London's Garage at a canter as part of HMV's Next Big Thing series of shows at the close of 2011. Those beginnings have fostered a band that are ambitious without being arrogant, Ally claims that honesty is at the heart of everything he does, Danny wants The Virginmarys to be a catalyst for new bands to form and create great new music and Matt sees success as blowing away the dross that currently populates daytime radio and creating a world in which their music, and that like it, makes the music world an exciting place to be once more. In a world crying out for a band with substance, The Virginmarys could well prove to be the answer to all out prayers.
Wolf House Songs
Blackbear and Surf Bums
Out in the surf of one of the most perfect swells the east coast has ever seen, Ricky Hamilton, Carter Luckfield, and Jared Chapman joined forces under the spirit of blackbear. The overwhelming good vibes urged them to devote their energy to making tasty music for the world to enjoy on their transistors at the beach. They then recorded "Geep Rangler" and "Elated" in a dorm bedroom in Nashville Tennessee. They gigged and decided to record a full length album called El Ano Del Surf. The first installment of El Ano Del Surf took shape as the "Eddie Would Go' E.P. released June 9th, 2012
Wolf House Songs
Los Angeles dream pop duo Chris & Dexy Valentine of Magic Wands are back with their highly anticipated second album Jupiter out on Cleopatra Records Feb 26th 2016. You may know them from their infectious single Black Magic from their debut album Aloha Moon featuring Space which was praised by Spin magazine as “a sexy and propulsive stunner” and earned the band opening slots for The Kills, The Horrors, The Breeders, The Jesus and Marychain, The Black Keys and more. The band returns with a bigger even dreamier sound with their most ambitious album to date, self-produced & featuring more cosmic layered guitar tracks, swirling pop vocals, and driving uptempo beats. The band expanded from an electronic duo and are now joined by new band members Tommy Alexander on bass & Keith Crutchfield on drums.
"Mixing elements of gothy postpunk and ethereal psych (with no shortage of hooks), their sound might best be described as "witchy." -BrooklynVegan
"['"Heartbeat"] is a five-minute dream pop tidal wave kept aloft by a snaking post-punk bassline, with vocalist Dexy Valentine coasting above it all with serene cool." - Under The Radar
"Featuring many first takes of drums, guitars, and bass, [Jupiter] marks a shift in Magic Wands' sound, but one that exemplifies the band's musical growth and confidence." - Interview
“Jupiter” album of the month - Postpunk.com