Detroit Artists Keep the Music Coming During Quarantine

courtesy of Vinny Moonshine

As we move deeper into the quarantine vortex, Detroit musicians continue to use their open schedules to release new songs. While most things are still up in the air, it is a simple comfort to know that there will always be a steady stream of more music. From Saajtak’s experimental jazz stylings to Zilched’s apathetic noise pop, this smattering of releases shows the breadth of Detroit’s creative well. I’m at a bit of a loss for words this week, so I reached out to the artists to give us a little insight into what the music means to them. Enjoy!

“Unknown Landscape” – Vinny Moonshine

“’Unknown Landscape’ is Vinny Moonshine’s first collaboration with the group Future Trash and was recorded at Medieval Times studio in Detroit a couple months before the pandemic. The song is a deranged lounge mantra for a failing world – as the title suggests, it describes the confusion of living in strange territory, tearing away from the past, moving forward into an uncertain future. The individual often feels tethered to preconditioned states of being; in the song, the ground breaks apart. The road ahead is paved in gold.” – Vinny Moonshine

“Hectic” by Saajtak

“Hectic” is the first music video of Detroit art rock band saajtak (pronounced “sahge-talk”), whose music has been described as an impressive, explosive combination of electronic music, free jazz, opera, noise, and chamber music. The video, composed of iPhone footage and 35mm stills, was shot, edited, and directed by Pittsburgh filmmaker and crooner Elliot Sheedy with additional visual processing by saajtak’s own keyboardist, the multimedia artist Polyhop. You can find the members of saajtak working on their debut album or recently collaborating/sharing stages with the likes of My Brightest Diamond, Deadmau5, Meshell Ndegeocello, Xiu Xiu, John Maus, Toshi Reagon and more.

white ceilings – whiterosemoxie

“I’m surrounded by white ceilings. Every room, every studio, every basement that I have grown in, created in, partied in… they all have white ceilings. My life has been full of people putting limits on me, constantly putting a ceiling on my potential. This project is about those ceilings and how they don’t actually exist. The only ceiling I allow in my life is white. A white ceiling is a ceiling undefined, a ceiling whose limits have no definition.” – Moxie 

“Sleeper” – Zilched 

“’Sleeper’ is basically about biting your tongue in conversations that make your eye twitch. I wanted the music to reflect that repetitive, performative communication where you’re internally screaming or rolling your eyes but outwardly you just go along with it. Maybe you tell yourself you won’t put up with it again but chances are you will.” – Chloë Drallos (Zilched)

“Get Your Love” – Jacob Sigman  

“‘Get Your Love’ was one of those songs that happened all at once. It’s about falling for someone you’re not supposed to, like someone who’s already seeing someone else. I was in that situation and just needed to vent and the whole song just kind of came out that one night. I spent the next month trying to re-track the vocals because I had recorded them on a shitty sm58 but, couldn’t recapture the emotion from that night, so I kept them the same.” – Jacob Sigman

“Last Money” – Sam Austins

“I wrote ‘Last Money’ about times when I wasn’t able to have shit. My money was so low, my back was against the wall so I had to find a way to make the bread. The song and visual takes you through the journey of the bottom, the quick come up, and how fast it can all turn. The inspiration behind these different scenes is that I wanted to take scenarios from TV shows, movies like The Wire & The Dark Knight, and use it for the narrative of ‘Last Money.’ I turned my seemingly normal life into a visual experience, based on the media we used to watch as kids… plus getting away from the feds in my joker fit was fucking amazing.” – Sam Austins

Quarantine – Ytl77232 (Prada Leary)

“This project ‘Quarantine’ is the first under my new artist name YTL77232 (formerly Prada Leary). It’s a newer sound that I’ve grown into over time with smooth and aggressive beats throughout. I made half of this project in Cali and the other half in Detroit. Changing my name is an evolution for me. The YTL means young Timmy Leary and the 77232 means Prada in T9 text. I hope you all enjoy the growth.” – YTL77232

PLAYING DETROIT: Curtis Roach shines on Sophomore LP, ‘Lellow’

Like any 20-year-old, Curtis Roach has gone through some major changes in the last year: moving out of his mom’s house, entering and exiting college, trying out veganism. However, navigating life as an up-and-coming, critically acclaimed hip hop artist has proved to be the most difficult. Regardless, Roach is determined to stay positive through it all, which explains the UV-level brightness of his latest record, Lellow. Roach’s sophomore LP reflects exactly where he’s at in this season of life – on the rise, a little overwhelmed, but facing every day with unyielding optimism.

As someone who openly struggles with anxiety, it’s clear that Roach has repeatedly turned to music again and again as the ultimate antidote. But if his 2017 single “Anxietea.” is a vivid depiction of the hopeless perspective anxiety can paint,  Lellow’s “I’m Good!” is a clap back, reminding him that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.  “I know that life ain’t all rainbows but / bitch I am thankful / yo I’m good” Roach puts simply. Actually, it’s the simplicity of the song that makes it so calming. Roach repeats “I’m good,” throughout the song like a mantra, until he, and whoever’s listening, actually believe it. 

Roach’s positive affirmations prove to be a much healthier coping mechanism for anxiety than most people in their early twenties turn to. In fact, he seems to have a more well-rounded viewpoint on self-care than a lot of people who have been trying the adult thing for years, even decades. “Affirmations, eating good, paying attention to my health… I take time to just breathe,” says Roach. “Little stuff like that you don’t think is important, it helps tremendously.”

Taking time to breathe is important when you have as much on your plate as Roach does. Although he released his first project when he was sixteen, this past year following the release of Highly Caffeinated has opened a lot of doors for the young rapper. But Roach explains that these new doors also opened up new avenues for stress. 

“It gets overwhelming at times,” says Roach. “At one point, it didn’t even matter to me, the whole business thing. I’d just be making music in my basement and then I’d release it on Soundcloud and hope for the best. Now… there’s just a lot of things you have to take into consideration if you want to be somewhat successful in the music industry.” 

That being said, the veins of positivity that run through Lellow indicate that Roach is taking everything in stride. His moment is now, and he’s not afraid to tell the world. Listen to Lellow below and catch Roach at Detroit’s AfroFuture Fest and Kindred Music & Culture Festival this summer. 

PLAYING DETROIT: Sammy Morykwas Pens Bouncy Ode to Sipping Arnold Palmers

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Photo by Jordan Isom

Here in Michigan, we are the type of freaks that wear shorts when it’s fifty degrees out. After a long, long winter, the sun has finally graced us with its presence, lifting Detroit from its collective seasonal depression. Just in time for this changing of the seasons, local producer and songwriter Sammy Morykwas released his first solo single, “AP,” and it is, in my humble opinion, the song of the summer.

“AP” is a deliciously nostalgic hip-hop track that flows as easily as those tall-ass Arizona Arnold Palmer ice teas, which Morykwas sings about with impressive ease (try saying Arizona Arnold Palmer five times fast). Railing off totems of yesteryear, like Hi-C, superman ice-cream, and the word “hyphy,” Morykwas brings us back to a simpler time when summers were spent drinking Four Lokos and passing out in a field somewhere. The song’s bouncy rhythm and Morykwas’ clever rhymes make the song feel like a more sophisticated, upbeat version of LFO’s “Summer Girls.”

After one play, you will undoubtedly be singing about Arnold Palmers for days and itching for a carefree summer fling. Listen at your own risk below.