Momments #10: Big and Brassy

I love the musical scene in Pittsburgh on these brisk November days. So much going on. Every band traipsing through town on their way to NYC, Chicago, Philly, Toronto and or combination of all before the holidays. Typically they roll into town and the first thing they say is ‘it’s too cold here’ but invariably they are welcomed by a very respectful musical fan base who just want to relish their aura for a few hours and warm up.

Photo Courtesy of WFVU

Photo Courtesy of WFVU

 

Certainly that happened last week on a few occasions. On Wednesday we had a second visit by St. Paul and the Broken Bones to da Burgh. I have to admit I may be their biggest fan since seeing them at SXSW in March this year. Their ability and talent just keeps on getting better, plus Paul Janeway is perhaps an Otis Redding soul whisperer. Whether it’s with his signature tunes like ‘Call Me’ or just the theatrics on a Beatles cover,  it is a pleasure to experience the transformation from Austin/Alabama to the big time. This summer the band played to a sold out audience at Club Café and one patron said to me, this is the last time you will see these guys at this size venue. It was way too small for both the sound and the seven pieces (especially with the brass section), so I was delighted when I heard they were coming to Mr. Small’s ‘church of sound’!! The band filled the 400 plus venue with a totally satisfying rendition of their newest album, Half the City. In addition, they covered Sam Cook with ‘Amen’ and a Beatles cover,  ‘Don’t Let Me Down.’ All were on point in arrangement and performed as only Janeway can do it–with a bit of twist and shout!

Photo Courtesy of WME Mgmt

Photo Courtesy of WME Mgmt

On Thursday, an equally grey day of rain and nasty weather,  I ventured out to the WYEP 40th birthday bash at the Renaissance Hotel with Trombone Shorty. Well I have to say, this kid (I can say that ‘cause they are all kids if they’re Julia’s age) was awesome!! And if you know me well enough you also know I hate that word, overused and played like the Old 97’s tune…

 

But this young man, Troy Andrews, was amazing from the minute he came out with his trumpet and trombone dressed in skinny jeans, white v neck tee shirt plus leather jacket to start with ‘Buck Jump.’ Sheesh!! This New Orleans native was up north and in town!! For the next hour (and three standing-O tunes), Trombone Shorty performed nonstop with his orchestra and made me think back to Aloe Blacc’s performance in Austin this spring. Both bring years of musical experience to the audience, but also commit to making the evening a true once in a lifetime spectacle.  Whether it was with fire and brimstone or just a trumpet/bass partnering, this young man has it down pat. The other thing he knows is that if he is happy playing his music it’s gonna be contagious and the audience will want to get up and dance. Needless to say the Benedum Theater was rocking to the warmth of Troy Andrews and his spectacular band, Orleans Avenue. It was especially gratifying to see two sax players on the 200 birthday of the inventor, Adolphe Saxophone strut their stuff with Trombone Shorty conducting.

Needless to say it’s a great time for bluesy pop, so question is, where’s our Steel City brass band?

Past Perspective: Joe Stevens

Whether it’s roots music or personal history, Joe Stevens embraces his heritage. While other members of the trans community throw off their former identities, Stevens embraces his, aware that his perspective would be entirely different had he not been born a shy, awkward girl.

“There was a whole body of music I’d created under this old name, and I wanted to kind of bring that back, pay homage to it. On the cd cover, I credited Caitlin Stevens. I wanted to pay respect where respect is due.”

Listen to Stevens’ new LP, Last Man Standing, and you’ll hear Caitlin on “Can’t See the Train.” Like an Appalachian predecessor, Stevens busts out an old instrument to connect two people with different lives and different experiences.

Caitlin, he explains, “played and wrote music as if [her] mental health depended on it. Because it did. That person suffered a fair amount. I see my music much more as a craft, it’s not just a coping mechanism anymore. I’m more aware of my processes.”

He may headline the Gay and Lesbian Community Center’s night at Cattivo tomorrow, but being a transgender male is not his calling card. Just so there’s no confusion, he’ll still come out during a set. But more and more Stevens is recognized for his lilting melodies and creative lyrics. “Most of the problem is when people have not met someone of the minority status.” The whole point of coming out, Stevens explains, is to bridge the gap between his fans.

Supporting Stevens is brasstastic Brooklyn band Great Caesar and the light, drawling electronics of Night Lights. Both offer newly-released EPs, the former delving into power pop with two fresh songs. And, at a pre-sale price of $10, these tickets leave enough for thirsty Thursday.

New Faces in NashVegas

Nashville quartet Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes isn’t too keen on the one hit wonders.  When we interviewed them back in August, the rockers behind Kid Tiger emphasized that an album should be a full composition, not a few singles strung with filler. That’s clear on Deer Head Music’s new release, Indie Mixtape Nashville, curated by the music city ambassadors and available for free download here.

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The album is a crash-course in the Nashville of today, where Jack White has ushered the hard guitars of Printer’s Alley into the limelight, Mercy Lounge is the haunt of danceable electronic rock like OkGo and of Montreal, and you can still hear the twangs of Americana at the Bluebird Cafe.  If you can get in, that is.

“There’s so much amazing music here, we can’t fit it all on one compilation. Our plan is to continue releasing these mixtapes filled with the best Nashville has to offer,” says bassist Marshall Skinner. We think he must have picked Goodbye June, because they sound very Columbus.

The point is, Nashvegas isn’t just a shaggy guy with a beat-up guitar anymore.  With tracks by Lulu Mae and Earl Burrows, we get what a lot of people think Nashville is.  Then there’s Vinyl Thief and Modoc; like DE&TGL, their foot-tapping beats and cathartic vocals give us a picture of the new Nashville, the Nashville you’ll (hopefully) be hearing next festival season.

Check out the tracklist below, and enjoy Indie Mixtape Nashville on your morning commute!

1. Majestico – I Just Want To
2. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes – Phantoms
3. Heyrocco – Virgin
4. Phin – Those Killers
5. Sol Cat – Sea Of Light
6. INTL – Spitfire
7. Moseley – Faithful
8. James Wallace & The Naked Light – Worse Things Have Happened
9. Escondido – Evil Girls
10. Kyle Andrews – Great Big Life
11. *repeat repeat – Not The One
12. Milktooth – What You Do To Me
13. Vinyl Thief – Pipes
14. Goodbye June – Man I Am
15. Photo Ops – Chameleons
16. Modoc – Runnin’
17. Kink Ador – Personal Judas
18. Tessla Rossa – Kinetic
19. Earl Burrows – Hey Me Israeli
20. Lulu Mae – Memphis Woman

Boutique Rap: Palermo Stone

When Palermo Stone set out to write a true Pittsburgh record, he didn’t count on facing his own (often literal) demons. Yet The Second Coming became a portrait of the artist as a young man, complete with the hangups of a tough upbringing and the new pressures of raising two sons. All that, plus articulating the world of Pittsburgh hip-hop made Stone’s latest record a huge responsibility, one that changed his perspective and even his writing style. The Second Coming, Stone explains, is all about duality. “Run the Streets” brings us Palermo the rapper, negotiating the attention he gets with the relationships in his private llife. On “Milk & Honey” we get Palermo the man, and in some respects, the father he wants to be. So, where do the two intersect? Like a microcosm of the city, Stone is trying to figure it out, and digging deep to get there. Here’s what he had to say.

 

On this album, you wanted to encapsulate the real Pittsburgh sound. How did you do that without focusing on just one area of the city?

Just ‘cause of where we are on the map, I didn’t want to do the East Coast thing with the beat breaks and the boom bats. We’re not East Coast– they call us East Coast but we’re actually closer to the Midwest. So I didn’t want to do down South– they grew up with candy paint, and we don’t do that kind of stuff in Pittsburgh. We’re not West Coast, so it doesn’t have to be heavy synth oriented. And then, it’s not like Midwest as far as rhymescapes go. In Pittsburgh, we’ve gotta take hints from everywhere. It’s [also] my tip-my-hat to Tupac, for the ‘Run the Streets’ idea, but instead I just flipped it again. His is more so about the girls not being around, and mine is about the girls holding you down. That’s just more relatable from my current situation. And my friends’ current situation.

 

“Run The Streets” sounds very conflicted, in terms of being a rapper, but also wanting to have meaningful connections with people. But also dealing with people that are stalking you on Twitter.

[laughs] I gotta watch what I say, and that’s just how it is. Someone says something on Twitter, and you have to interact. Just being in the public eye in general, you have to interact. You have to be polite, and sometimes politeness comes off as flirtatious. If you have somebody that’s with you, they understand that you are two different people. You have your rapper world, you have your everyday life. I got two kids now, and my music is prettymuch a reflection of that. But things that come with it are totally different than even what I rap about. You could have girls all over me, but you could have a song about being faithful.

 

Some people might find that more attractive.

Sometimes that’s how girls are [laughs].

 

How does having two kids affect your communication?

It gives me structure. Now that I have time to do this it’s fulfilling a part of me, having kids. Now, I have even more to write about. Now I’m home more, I can actually reflect. I did so much living for so long, I never really got to reflect. Now that I’m home, with the kids, I can just reflect during the day, and then once I’m ready to hit the studio at night, I just go, just write about what I’ve been thinking about all day. And it’s made it easier.

 

How are you going to negotiate the duality on “Milk and Honey” with raising two boys, especially the things you talk about with your dad?

That’s one of the reasons I decided to write the tape, as a whole. With me, I even say in that, ‘my mom was a very good girl and my dad was a very bad boy.’ How they came together and made me, is a whole different thing, [laughs] I have no idea. Everything’s not butterflies and rainbows. Especially now, when I had my new son, four days ago. They give you a newspaper, for the day, and on the front page, it’s like Mike Brown, the ISIS situation, beheading the media people. The way I explain it on this tape, is the way I’d explain it to my kid, there’s good and evil, you just have to be yourself. You’re the one that’s going to determine which way to go. ‘Cause I grew up in a very bad situation. A lot of my friends I grew up with are either dead, or in jail. And me, I’m just kind of out there, just trying to do my best to not be either of those. I say on the disk, If I were to be gone, tomorrow, and my kids were to go look at that, they’d get a piece of me. That’s why I wanted to write it, it is a documentation of my thoughts, my mind, my spirit, my soul. Even though everything’s not appropriate for children, once they get older they might be able to understand it a little better.

 

What kind of feedback have you been getting, from outside the city? It’s a Pittsburgh-oriented record, but it’s also a very personal record.

Relatable. With my other projects, I wrote just to write music. I was always kind of afraid to step into myself, and get that out. What do I have left, if I give everything away?

 

You have the Twitter followers.

Yeah. Before I dropped R.A.R.E, people didn’t really know me. Because I never really gave them much of myself. What am I feeling, what are my philosophies. Whether it’s celebratory music, or it’s introspective, or kind of sad, it’s all me. I think that’s what the reception has been, so far: people are really relating to it, more so than anything I’ve done. They feel the emotion. Even in my voice, on “Milk and Honey,” I’m like, screaming it. I really felt that. I play that in my car, when I’m riding around, man. I’m in that zone, I feel that way. To me, that makes it all worth it. To get people into that zone, where they can’t really get out, when they listen to that music. Whether it’s three minutes long, five minutes long, you listen to that whole cd, you’re stuck for that amount of time. And I think that’s how you make a classic, timeless album. So far, everyone’s been like, ‘yeah, this took me to that place.’ I’m excited for people to listen to the album, the whole way through, and fall in love with it.

 

What’s an example of a record that’s taken you to that place?

The Chronic, from Dre. That was one of the first hip-hop albums that had stories built into it. Not just the rap stories, skits were built into it. You see it a lot on the West Coast. Then you see that moving to the East Coast, too, when Biggie started doing it a lot. The people that don’t do that, are the people that never last 10, 15 years. The people that do do that, are still making money today. So records like The Chronic, Good Kid m.A.A.d City, YG’s new album, Ready to Die from Biggie, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, Nas’ Illmatic.

 

He just celebrated the 20th anniversary.

And I’m only 25, so I had to go back. The music we were listening to was like, Nelly. It was mid-2000’s.

 

City High, and all that terrible shit.

[laughs] Back then, I was like ‘man, this is the best song in the world!’ My older cousins were like, ‘man, this stuff is trash.’ I knew about Jay-Z in ‘95, ‘cause my uncle was in New York in the television industry, he came back with Reasonable Doubt before it was even a cd. It wasn’t even a master, wasn’t clean. I heard it and was like ‘oh, that’s cool,’ but at 7 years old…

 

It’s not what everyone else is listening to.

I didn’t even know regular people could make cds! Then later found out, in the 2000’s, oh, this was who my uncle was talking about. He’s huge now! Those are the albums that– they take you somewhere. There are skits and things on The Second Coming that have cultural meaning. It’s really snippets from the media. Different clips from different things that play on that duality. It’s all in there. It flows, it’s a nice story, from beginning till end. I think it’s my best project. I just want people to listen, to really listen, and take away the story. The way I wrote it in “Run the Streets,” it’s subtle stuff. Got a gun in the clutch and a Bible on the dashboard. I know people that have crosses hanging from their rearview mirror, but have guns in their car. I want people to think, really think. That’s what hip-hop is supposed to do, be a conversation starter. Ten years later, when they break down my lines, I want them to be able to [ask] what was this point in life really like? In 2014, what made him say that? I want people to have dinner conversations about the album.

 

Like a time capsule.

Exactly. That’s what hip-hop really is. You can really tell what the times were, when you listen to some things. You can go back, revisit those memories when you listen to them. Even some of those things, my first dances, my first kisses, [were] to all those horrible songs. Those songs will always have a special place, like my first girlfriend, my first car, my first song on the radio. That’s the important things. I might be the only person who thinks about music like that.

 

I feel like, if you’re trying to define a sound, you have to know your heritage.

As far as the Pittsburgh sound, too, I feel like a lot of the people here– not to throw any shade on anybody– they just don’t think about it. If you do that, you’re just imitating. Pittsburgh, we’re like the little people, in such a big world. We have a great city, beautiful city, most livable city, but we’re still the little people. In the great scheme of the world, people talk about New York, people talk about Cali–

 

People talk about Nashville before they talk about Pittsburgh.

[laughs] Right. We’re still the little people, that will to succeed, that comes from here is it, but nobody embodies that. That’s why I see people who are trying to be thug, trying to be cool, trying to be this, trying to be that, it never comes off to be regular music. I feel like that’s why a lot of people haven’t made it, since Mac and Wiz. They did them. There will never be another Mac Miller. That crazy, cool white kid. And Wiz became an icon. You just gotta do you. Do something that’s boutique. A department store flow, you can do that anywhere, you do something boutique, people are gonna come for that, people are gonna pay any price for that. They’re going to come for that because they can only get it with you.

 

 

2 Degrees and 16 Shots: Cadaver Dogs

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Cadaver Dogs’ Lex Vegas momentarily ponders cracking his beer open on the glass table, then decides against it. While the Hilton Honors lounge isn’t the first place you’d expect us to be interviewing a punk band, we’re glad to be sharing some morning craft brews with the Columbus duo, who have toured extensively with Foxy Shazam and systematically shunned major labels. Guitarist Mathew Franklin prefers to do all the album art and let his blitzkrieg shreds speak for themselves, an approach that has gained them an extensive following in the Midwest. They’ll be the first non-Michigan band to play Detroit’s Halloween music festival (as hard rock Elvis impersonators, no less). As for Fashion Meets Music Festival, the two have played their cards perfectly, nabbing sponsorships from Ink Addict and Jaegermeister.

 

Lex: I’m glad that something like this is happening in Columbus, because it’s a great city. There are a lot of little local festivals: Independence Day, ComFest, but there’s nothing that’s bringing in artists from all over the country. I dunno, are there any international artists playing?

 

Jules: Local Natives are big-er.

Mum: Future Islands just got back from Australia.

Lex: I’m glad there’s something on this scale– that somebody was like, I’m going to take the reins. ‘Cause logistically it has to be insane.

 

Jules: You live in Columbus. So you started the band from here?

Mathew: When we first moved here, we had a house together, and we’d do house show, and just be as depraved as possible.

 

Jules: I saw you first when you were touring with Foxy Shazam, did you learn anything from spending so much time with those guys?

Mathew: Their guitar player, Loren Turner, produced our new record. They’ve obviously been a big brother situation– I was touring with them and I started Cadaver Dogs while on tour with them. The idea for it, being in the desert and writing songs. They helped push me to start my own project.

Lex: I learned never to sign to a major label.

Mathew: Yup. Don’t sign to a label, don’t worry about management, just get a good agent.

 

Jules: So you put out three albums, without ever being signed?

Lex: Two full-lengths, and two EPs. This newest one is out on a label called Mind Over Matter. It’s based out of California. They’re not a major– but in a good way. They do–

Mathew: Art releases, small releases.

Lex: They’re a boutique sort of label, where everything they’ve put out is sort of hand-made. Crazy books, only vinyl, no cds. Everything they do is as intensely handcrafted as possible. Their only stipulation was, ‘we want to put out your album, but we want to make it as detailed and deluxe and awesome as we possibly can, but sell it for as cheap as we can.’ I was like, ‘Yes. That’s right. Perfect. Us too. Do that.’

Mathew: The vinyl comes out in a couple of weeks, and it’s all in 3D, you get 3D glasses. All the art is in 3D, when you pull out one thing it’ll look different.

Lex: Slightly offset red and blue. The vinyl itself is gonna be red and blue. It’s gonna be fucking rad.

Mathew: [leans close to the recorder] Fuck-ing-Rad.

 

Jules: You have a punk rock sound that isn’t as common now as it was in the 80’s or 90’s. Are you comfortable with being considered a little old school? Right now it’s all about the dance-pop–

Lex: I would much rather sound like we sound than dance-pop shit, whatever that is.

Mathew: I would much rather we sound like Motorhead than Skrillex.

Lex: We sound like my favorite band [laughs].

 

Jules: So have you had people come up to you and say, ‘this sounds like what I used to listen to?’

Lex: Constantly. A lot of people are like, ‘thank you! Nobody else sounds like this! It’s all this dance-pop shit!’ Rock n’ roll. Even the band that played after us, they were a two piece, and it was all backing tracks. I’m like ‘cool,’ but every bit of sound we do is the loudest drums we can find and the loudest amps we can find. And then just play it as hard, and fast, and wild as you can.

 

Jules: So how did you guys start living together?

Lex: I saw Matt from afar. Ten years ago, or something.

Mathew: We went to college together.

Lex: We were prettymuch the only two who– I saw him, and he was wearing a Misfits wristband.

Mathew: Oh, that’s very true. I also probably had a giant pink mohawk then.

Lex: You did have a giant pink mohawk then. Of course I noticed the Misfits wristband [laughs]. We went to Miami University, that’s where we met Alex, the trumpeter of Foxy.

 

Mum: Majors?

Mathew: Math.

Lex: No.

Mathew: He was journalism. And I have painting and photography.

Lex: It’s an awesome way to run our band, ‘cause we don’t have to hire PR people, or art people, so many other things that other bands have to pay for. We do everything ourselves. It’s just now, recently, we’ve gotten ourselves an agent. It was really awesome that we had college degrees in useful things, that then– instead of me going out, interviewing people, I just knew how to get us interviews.

Mathew: He writes anything that is publicly online, listed with us.

Lex: So many bands shop out their art too.

 

Jules: So, being in Columbus, have you found that the music scene is on the rise? Or has it been limiting to be here?

Lex: We’re never here. We’re out on the road.

Mathew: I’ve specifically noticed that Columbus has a great scene, and one that’s constantly expanding. It’s a hipster, indie-esque kind of scene, but it’s hungry. So, you go to all these cities, and in most cities it’s like, live music venues are closing, and the scene is shrinking. In Columbus–

Lex: There’s constantly new venues opening up. All of the local journalism stuff in town– the free magazines, and stuff– are great. They really keep things moving. When you travel a lot, and play every city in America, which we have done, it makes you appreciate Columbus more. Because it’s doing it right, and a lot of other cities aren’t.

 

Jules: So what city has been your favorite?

Lex: Well, it’s like our last album, we say ‘there are all of the pretties in all of the cities…’ Matt got roofied in New Orleans once. On the Foxy tour.

 

Mum: I just gave this lecture to my nephew, going off to college.

Lex: Especially bands, because people are buying us drinks, it’s part of the job.

Mathew: People rob bands. I just woke up the next day, on the floor of the bus, my pillow was stuck to my face from the blood. I guess I tried to do a front flip.

Lex: I saw it from the not-roofied standpoint. Matt was like, ‘I’ma do a front flip!’ and then he was just face first into the concrete.

Mathew: [leans toward the recorder] I have two college degrees. [laughs] I blame my father, he said ‘never trust a man who turns down a drink.’

Lex: We drank shots with scorpions in them at SXSW. You just went straight out, I thought I had to chew mine.

 

Jules: I was going to ask about “Superloose and Turbohigh.”

Lex: Our motto!

 

Jules: Is it just supposed to be a headbanger?

Lex: Do you bang your head to it?

 

Jules: Yes.

Lex: It’s workin. It can be whatever you want it to be. That’s actually one that we get a lot, people are like ‘that song!’ The epitome of rock n’ roll. And I’m glad we wrote it, too.

Mathew: We were trying to determine our genre, and I think “Superloose” embodies what we do.

Lex: I think Miley Cyrus would be Superloose. It’s the same thing as ‘Turnt.’ or whatever, that shit.

 

Jules: Turn down for what?

Lex: We were in a Radio Shack commercial that ‘Turn Down for What’ premiered in.

Mathew: With Lil John and Michael Phelps.

Lex: They didn’t tell us, they didn’t ask us for permission. So we had to sue radio shack. They played our song, and then they played “Turn Down For What,” right after it. They didn’t pay us, or tell us. People were like ‘hey, heard your song, sounds great!’

Mathew: It was on Monday Night Football.

Lex: We were on tour, our phones just started blowing up. People were congratulating us, and we were like, ‘we have no idea what you’re talking about.’ It got 2.5 million views on YouTube, but then they pulled it, because of the lawsuits. I was able to download a rip of it, before it went away forever.

 

Mum: Snapchat that! [laughs]

Lex: It’s an interesting thing, in the history of our weirdness. [But] the lawyers still made more than we did.

 

Mum: It’s a great story, are you keeping a scrapbook?

Lex: I journal, yeah.

Mathew: Lex is writing my biography.

 

Jules: …And he had two degrees.

Lex: He had two degrees, and sixteen shots [laughs]

 

Mum: And then did the double-flip.

Mathew: It was more like a quarter flip.

 

Catch Cadaver Dogs on PromoWest Live! After SNL tonight on NBC, and in InkAddict’s afterparty at the Garden Green Room tomorrow.

 

Keeping Track of Red Letter Days

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Pop punk outfit Red Letter Days has a full plate for Fashion Meets Music Festival. With an afterparty set tonight at Park Street Tavern and a booth at the retail marketplace, they’re one of the only acts on both sides of the spectrum. Bassist and songwriter Katie McKenna is used to the hustle. She heads her own fashion line, Pink Sheep Heiress, with help from her brother Willie, and the band will play immediately following the line’s fashion show tomorrow night. Like the music, the clothes are high-quality punk rock, full of layers for women who aren’t afraid to make a statement. Check out what the band had to say about their EP, Sounds Like a Plan.

First, I want to know what’s in this notebook.

Willy: That’s completely off limits.

Katie: It’s like we’re on an airplane with a little black box, that’s his little black notebook.

Alex: It’s his personal diary.

Willy: There’s nothing in it, it’s just blank pages.

I heard the song Pieces, which I thought was interesting. There’s male and female vocals, and it’s also kind of cathartic. What’s behind that song?

Katie: That song, I wrote the lyrics after– I think the most interesting time to write lyrics is right after you’ve broken up with someone, and when you’re kind of looking back. So it was, it was kind of catharsis for me, to go through and write lyrics, just kind of close that chapter.

Did it close after?

Katie: Yes and no. I think that’s the best part about writing songs, you can just kind of let things go.

Do you find your songs changing meaning, as you play them live?

Willy: Katie writes most of our lyrics, so I think the thing is– even though Katie has the meaning of what they actually mean, I’m sure each of us– I know I do– interprets it toward our own lives. So I know, for me, I take Katie’s lyrics and I represent it with something that’s happened in my life, and something that I can put to that situation.

What’s an example of that?

Willy: Our EP, Sounds Like a Plan, Katie wrote the lyrics, but it was sort of based off a situation that happened to me. So Katie wrote that situation through her eyes.

And you weren’t demanding royalties?

Willy: I hope she knows that, in the future, I expect that.

I was talking to Alex [Bolano, guitarist] a little earlier about your branding. Instead of doing the smooth, artsy craft beer fonts, you’re doing a scribble font.

Willy: Well the Red Letter Days logo goes into the story of the band, and the band name. It was actually from a journal that my grandfather wrote. Every day that was very special to him, like the day Katie and I were born, of course, were Red Letter Days for him. So, after he passed away, we had his journals, and we looked at them (obviously) because it was so tempting! Every day we would stay at their house we would see him writing in these, after we had gone to bed. And we looked at the journal, and we saw this handwriting, which we thought was the coolest thing. Katie went ahead and put it into photoshop, and there you have the logo.

Katie: To us, it’s really important. It’s nice that we can bring him on our with us. For our last EP, we announced it on a billboard in Times Square, so it was really exciting to see our grandpa’s handwriting– I think that was more exciting than the picture of the EP.

I assume an album is the next step.

Katie: One thing we like about EPs– not that we’re against albums–but with an EP, it’s so much faster. You write five songs, you get them out there. We’re changing, like our fans are. We’re changing, we’re growing, so it’s great to have this little piece, of– this is where we are now. And then, six months later, to put up something new. So we’re planning our next EP now, which we think will be Spring 2015. We’re consistently releasing, as opposed to every 2 years releasing an album.

So, you’re playing after your fashion show tomorrow. Was that a condition, of being able to show Katie’s clothes?

Willy: [laughs] That’s what’s so amazing about this festival, for us. It brings together the passions, you know Katie and I work on the line together. I try to handle the business side, and Katie handles all the design. It was a perfect opportunity to combine those two, and it wasn’t forcing it.

Katie: The festival in general has been really supportive of both aspects of what we’re doing.

Willy: Up here at the Fashion Meets Music Festival we released our new EP, it went up on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and we have it streaming on Soundcloud as well. It’s a very different mix from our Sounds Like a Plan EP, and we also did a cover. We did “Johnny Be Good” by Chuck Barry.

 

Rock out with Red Letter Days’ new EP, below!

Out of the $3 Bin: Local Natives

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We’ve seen Local Natives go from fine print to headliner. Debut album Gorilla Manor mixed bass-heavy percussion with whimsical strings and keyboards, for a sleepy, fist-pumping sound. Hummingbird was their harmonic follow-up, which has landed the four-piece countless engagements and a diverse fan base. The atmospheric pop act from LA plays a free show at Cox Stage tonight at 9:15, as part of Fashion Meets Music Fest here in Columbus. After they snapped some pretty pictures, we were lucky enough to have a chat with guitarists Taylor Rice and Ryan Hahn.

You guys have literally seen yourselves get bigger since you started playing festivals. What’s changed?

Taylor: Ryan requests a lot more backstage.

Ryan: Ice. Ice for my drinks. Room temperature ice.

Taylor: For us, it’s been a very gradual thing, over 5 years or something. It always, from a distance, feels like it’s happened overnight. But it’s kind of the same, I remember our first time going to festivals and we were all excited, and bright eyed, and we were treated awesome then. The smallest band on the bill, opening up the tent of the day, or whatever. I think the culture of festivals is super hospitable, it’s a time when all the bands can be friends, hang out with each other– it’s kind of like summer camp.

 

You guys have been emphasized for your sartorial taste, was that something unexpected?

Taylor: Yeah, that’s weird. It’s not something any of us put time or thought into. It’s kind of a way to be artistic, to some degree. But we’re usually locked away either on tour, or in the studio.

Ryan: We brought this one guy on tour, he was opening for us, and before every show he was scoping out thrift stores. I hadn’t done that in so long, I guess it was pretty fun.

Taylor: I did a road trip recently– we finished a tour in Nashville, and I did a road trip across the country. And in the southwest, especially, I did a lot of thrift shopping. A lot of the Goodwills, there’s bins– It’ll be $3/lb for clothes.

 

Did you get a lot of inspiration on the road?

Taylor: Definitely, especially in the southwest, I haven’t spent that much time in New Mexico before, and I went to Albuquerque, Santa Fe. Those towns are cool, they have their own really unique things happening there.

 

Well, you guys are big on the desert, aren’t you? Wasn’t the first album inspired by the desert?

Taylor: Was it? [laughs]

Ryan: On our second record, we actually took a trip to the desert– Joshua Tree– and wrote songs for a week. That’s the most deserty we get [laughs].

 

I assume there’s a new album in the works, is it going to be more–

Ryan: Way more desert.

Taylor: Way more.

Ryan: So dry and hot.

 

Can we expect more Gorilla Manor– fist pumping cadence-like stuff– or Hummingbird, with its trance vibes?

Ryan: It’s definitely going to be different than both of them. We learned a lot, in the past two years, and toured so much. I think we always want to do something new, and feel like we’re progressing, and evolving. It’s hard to say exactly what that will mean, but it will definitely be different than Hummingbird.

 

Have you started writing?

Ryan: We have bits and pieces, we just finished setting up a new rehearsal space in LA

 

:D

Ryan: Yeah, that’s the face. We need that space, ‘cause we’re so collaborative, we need to be in a room bouncing ideas off each other. So now that’s done, we’re going to start writing a little more.

 

So you don’t initially see the big, harmonic picture that we eventually get?

Taylor: I think it is there, but at the same time, the way we write is very direct and personal. So, for example, Hummingbird– I don’t think we really set out at the beginning to make this subtle, super-personal record, that’s just where we were. We were going through a lot at the time, it sort of had to come out. And therefore, it’s kind of a cathartic, introspective record. I think just right now, where we are, that’s kind of out of our system, we’re in a very different place, and everyone feels more gelled together, and a lot more momentum. I think it’s going to feel more expansive.

 

Do you find your fans harmonizing with you a lot, when you’re performing?

Ryan: The only time you really notice, is when some drunk guy is going WAY off pitch.

 

That was probably me at Shaky Knees.

Taylor: [laughs] It is funny when someone goes for the harmony instead of the melody. I have a lot of respect for that. Go for it!

 

We saw your performance of that unreleased Johnny Cash song, and we were wondering if any of that collaboration is going to end up on the new album.

Taylor: We actually are working on a potential idea to go to that studio, and do something for the record there. We did that Johnny Cash song, I asked to do it, and then his son is a guy that ran Johnny Cash’s studio for thirty years, and had us come down to Nashville. The grounds, the studio, everything. It was such an inspirational spot to be in. So we’ll see, something may happen. We’re going to play it by ear.