79.5 Tune In to “Club Level” and Do Double-Duty Vocal Support After a Year Without Tours

Photo Credit: Rosie Cohe

Throughout much of September, Kate Mattison and Lola Adanna have been working double-duty at concert venues across the U.S. The New York-based vocalists are the core of disco-soul group 79.5 and they’ve been opening for Durand Jones & the Indications since earlier in the month. Mattison and Adanna are also the headliner’s backup singers. 

“We manifest it,” says Adanna of the touring situation. “We put that bug in their ear. I don’t think they really thought about it until we approached them with the idea.”

For the eight shows that had transpired before this interview, Mattison and Adanna performed as 79.5, wearing a different outfit for each opening set. Then, as the band and crew struck the stage post-performance, the two singers would quickly change into their outfits for the Durand Jones set, warm up with that band and then return to the stage. “We are on every day for soundcheck starting at 4 and we’re not done until midnight,” says Mattison. When Audiofemme caught up with Mattison and Adanna, they were enjoying time off in Las Vegas, in between gigs in Salt Lake City and San Diego. After this stretch of the tour ends on the West Coast, they’ll continue on the road as backup singers when Durand Jones & the Indications joins My Morning Jacket

This is their first time 79.5 has been on the road since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Mattison and Adanna are in agreement that the chance to be able to work again has been a big opportunity. “We just feel really blessed and really lucky and we’re going to keep going with it,” says Mattison.

The crowds have been varied from city to city. “I feel like every single crowd, every single night, has been different,” says Mattison. “Sometimes we get young kids and other times we get the grown and sexy crowd.”

It’s also giving them a chance to introduce audiences from Boston to Los Angeles to the sound that’s been evolving within the band. Their recent single “Club Level” is a funky disco jam wrapped up dreamy psychedelia, an amalgam of staticky radio transmissions like the imaginary station the band is named for. “The band now kind of morphed into this psychedelic jazz girl group-y harmonic freakout sometimes,” says Mattison. “It’s super cool and there’s a lot of space for this band to grow and we get to show off what we do to an audience that has maybe never heard us before.”

“We still have the 79.5 sound, but we’re also experimenting with different sounds and different types of music,” says Adanna. “So, I think that’s really exiting too, getting people prepared for it.”

Mattison launched the 79.5 project in 2010 and it long had a revolving lineup. By the time the group released debut full-length Predictions in 2018, a lot of the songs had been around for years. She and Adanna met as backup singers for Durand Jones & the Indications. “We just loved singing together,” Mattison says, so they continued to do that in 79.5.

In the process, 79.5 has become a more collaborative project. “I think that our voices blend together,” says Adanna. “We don’t necessarily have the same timbre of voice, but we complement each other so well.”

“Honestly, it just felt so natural,” adds Mattison. 

“I also think that with the times that we’re going through right now— race, gender, all that— I think it’s beautiful to see two women, one Black and one white, come together and have really strong men back us up as well,” says Adanna.

Their influences are varied as well. Mattison, who is also a pianist, mentions Janet Jackson, Todd Rundgren and Alice Coltrane. Adanna says that, when it comes to both aesthetic and vocal influences, she’s drawn to Donna Summer and Diana Ross for this project. It’s a different vibe for the singer, who describes herself as “beltastic.” With 79.5, though, she has to take a more understated approach. “For me, it’s easy to belt,” she says. “To pull it back was a challenge and it was a welcome challenge.”

On the road, where they’re singing in two sets per gig, they’ve had to take it easy on their voices when they can. “We have lots of remedies,” says Adanna; tea, honey and lozenges are among them. “Anything that can protect the voice because we’re singing double-time and you want to give 100% at every show, so you definitely have to take care of your vocals,” she adds. Mattison brought along her mat to do some yoga too, but finding time to practice in the midst of tour has been a challenge.

It’s been an intense schedule for Mattison and Adanna, but they seem to welcome it after more than a year without tours. “It feels amazing because we get to work again,” says Mattison. “Who knows what’s going to happen after this with the entertainment industry, but right now, we’re just trying to live in the present.”

Follow 79.5 on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

LIVE REVIEW: Magic City Hippies @ The Regent

Magic City Hippies at The Regent (photo by Ashley Prillaman)

“What kind of music was that?” my husband asked as we left The Regent on a Saturday night. We had just finished watching Magic City Hippies perform for the second time (the first at the That Tent during Bonnaroo 2019). I scrolled over to Spotify and found the band’s self-written description: “a mosaic of poolside grooves and lingering, sun-kissed melodies.” That, we agreed, was an accurate description.

Miami boys to the root, the band started on the streets of the “Magic City;” Robby Hunter had been performing as a one-man-with-a-guitar-and-a-loop-pedal band, but after meeting Pat Howard (drums) and John Coughlin (guitar) at a local haunt the Barracuda Bar in Coconut Grove, a trio was formed. Originally called The Robby Hunter Band, they performed ’90s rock and hip hop covers before hitting it big with 2015’s Hippie Castle EP; the EP led to a successful tour with bands like Hippo Campus and Moon Taxi, laying the groundwork for 2019’s LP Modern Animal.

The Regent has been home to some of my favorite nights out in Los Angeles. The crowd was already pretty thick for openers The Palms and unlike some shows where the crowd merely tolerates the opener, the audience was behind them from the first licks of “Future Love (We All Make Mistakes).” A duo comprised of Los Angeles natives Johnny Zambetti and Ben Rothbard, The Palms brought both swagger and swag (Zambetti paid homage to Kobe Bryant with a jersey draped across an amp) to the stage. The set was tight, with even the bouncer bopping his head along to Zambetti’s vocals, a bit of an Alt-J invocation at times, but clearly influenced by iconic Cali locales, with songs like “Beach Daze,” “Sunset Strip,” and “Mulholland Dr.” “Levitate” ended the set with a perfect shot of melancholy hope: “All these thing that they told me / Used to mold me / But that’s the old me / We’re going straight to the stars / ‘Cuz that’s who we are.”

The Palms (photo by Ashley Prillaman)

Magic City Hippies started their set in the dark and with the first beats of “Spice,” the party began. Robby Hunter has the kind of bravado one often finds at country music shows: he’s relaxed, confident, and clearly enjoys the music he’s making. It’s a rare treat to watch a band that seems equally into playing their b-sides as their singles. “Franny” was the first song that got the crowd seriously groovin’; a woman in front of me was sliding around in sneakers and a neon jumpsuit.

“How many lives are you gonna let expire / How many sparks of love have died in vain / How many nights will it take ’til you grow tired / Hunting the one that got away,” Hunter sings sweetly on “Limestone” (my tried-and-true favorite). Vocal manipulation is a mainstay throughout Magic City Hippies’ music and is sometimes jarring to hear in a live setting. At times, the effect was a little too auto-tune-tastic for my taste; at best, the manipulation created a distinct flavor that separated songs from each other. As with many great bands, the Hippies music has a feel to it, a vibe that’s altogether their own. So the occasional vocal change-up on songs like “What Would I Do” were refreshing.

“We are here for one reason and one reason only and that’s to mother fucking party with you!” Hunter shouted into the crowd midway through the set. The group didn’t shy away completely from their cover band past, covering Anderson .Paak’s “Make It Better” and Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps.” The band doesn’t rest; there were no water breaks or long stories. From drummer Pat Howard’s relentless beats to Hunter’s occasional Sprechgesang, the band members never let up, understanding that this a paid performance and the audience is going get what they came for: the funk. I left wanting to revisit 2019’s Modern Animal… and will admit that it’s been on heavy rotation for the last few days now. With two MCH shows under my belt, I’ll be front row and center the next time they make their way back to the City of Angels.

PREMIERE: Fay Ray “Up & Away” and “Restless Sleeper”

Photo by S. Fuehring

Fay Ray is not a defunct new wave band. Okay, Fay Ray IS a defunct new wave band, but it’s also a very active eight-person funk-tastic soul-pop band out of Chicago. The band’s latest double single, “Restless Sleeper /Up & Away,” is effervescent, the perfect taste of champagne fizz on a hot, humid summer day.

Lead singer Mariel Fechik’s silvery vocals remain cool and calm on “Up & Away,” creating a nice dissidence between herself and the rest of the band: Noah Gehrmann (Guitar), Erik Opland (Bass), Tom Kelly (Drums), Rob Osiol (Keys) and Joe Meland (Organs/Synth). The changeup around 2:30 offers a satisfying release of tension, the kind of beat drop made to lure wallflowers onto the dance floor.

“Restless Sleeper” is about “the experience of watching a loved one have nightmares and night terrors, and the sense of helplessness that accompanies that experience”, according to Fechik. The tone is cooler, the vibe more laid back than “Up & Away”; the song may be about restless nights, but the feel of the music is afternoon magic, hours spent wandering city streets, the ice in a glass of cold tea melting in the sun.

We spoke to Mariel about what it’s like to write in an eight-person band and how the city of Chicago shapes Fay Ray’s funk.

AF: Where did the name Fay Ray come from? My initial google search popped up a new wave band.

MF: A couple of years ago now, we went through a name change. We actually used to be Church Booty. This was a name that served us well through college, but started to get a little tired once we moved up to Chicago. After a very long process of name brainstorming, I suggested Fay Ray because I liked the way it sounded, and it stuck! It’s based off of the actress Fay Wray (known as the original scream queen) of King Kong fame. It wasn’t until after I suggested it that my mom told me my family was related to her by marriage! Unfortunately it was also after we’d settled on the name that we found out about the defunct British new wave band with the same name.

AF: Fay Ray started out as a ten-piece band. How in the world do did y’all navigate songwriting? And has the process changed since members have left?

MF: It was a lot, as you can imagine. Typically, someone would bring something in and we’d go off of that. Our previous sax player and singer did the bulk of the writing. Since they’ve left, it’s become a little more group-oriented. Often, a smaller group of us will just hang out in someone’s bedroom and work on ideas. Once we have the bare bones, we’ll often rehearse in full, working on arrangements. It’s become a really enjoyable and collaborative process that’s led to some exciting stuff.

AF: Can you give us some insight into band dynamics? Who’s the foil?

MF: We’re one big dysfunctional family! We’ve all been friends for so long, and so many of us have lived together in various formats through college and after, we’re just kind of like a big group of siblings at this point. Up until very recently, I was the only girl in the band, and I’ve always been the little sister that gets picked on (but still supported). We all annoy the hell out of each other sometimes, but we’re all very loving and supportive friends. Hmm…the foil. Probably our guitarist, Noah. He’s a goof and a ham and will frequently quote songs like Inspector Gadget or the Imperial March in the middle of his solos.

AF: What role does the city of Chicago play in your music? Does the city effect the sound and subject matter at all?

MF: Since coming to Chicago after graduation, we’ve found a really wonderful community of fellow musicians. We definitely take inspiration from a lot of our peers around the city, and of course, Chicago has such a specific sound to so much of its music. It’s almost impossible for it not to affect our sound!

AF: What are your favorite Chicago music venues to play in?

MF: Part of the beauty of having so many members is that a lot of us are involved in many other projects, as well. Our keyboardist Joe Meland works under the name Uuskhy. I sing with Emily Blue and we have a band together called Moon Mouth, and I sing in Tara Terra. Noah, Tom, and Rob are in a band called Miss April. Erik is in a cover band called The Hitmen. So lots of us have played in venues that the others haven’t. Some of the favorites are The Hideout, Schubas, Sleeping Village, Tonic Room, Lincoln Hall, and Subterranean!

AF: Do you ever listen to music together as a band? What groups are y’all listening to? Any new music we should keep an ear out for?

MF: Since there are so many of us, we bring a lot of eclectic tastes to the table. We’ve often had albums or bands that we’re collectively obsessed with. A few years ago it was Hiatus Kaiyote’s Choose Your Weapon. And then I apparently ruined it by loving it too much. We loved Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. We love NAO and Louis Cole and PJ Morton and Vulfpeck and Stevie Wonder and a million other things. We even have a “listen to this” channel in our Slack! Some great Chicago bands we’ve been loving lately are Astro Samurai and Human Bloom, both of whom have some great new music out. Melvin Knight, our former vocalist, also has an incredible project and a brand new single called “Pass the Time.”

AF: I recently visited Red Rocks Amphitheater and was blown away by the setting. If you could perform in any venue, anywhere in the world, where would you perform?

MF: To be honest, mine would actually be Red Rocks! I’ve never been and it’s definitely one of my top destinations. I would also love to play at the Whiskey A Go Go in LA. It’s iconic. Some other thoughts were Austin City Limits, Madison Square Garden, and Tiny Desk.

AF: What can an audience expect from a Fay Ray show?

MF: We always try to bring the funk. Our live shows are loud and energetic, and we always love when a crowd gives us that energy back. Some of our most fun shows have been in tiny venues where the audience is practically on top of us. We always love to throw a surprising cover or two in there, too. Lately it’s been “thank u, next” and Thundercat’s “Them Changes.” We want to get people dancing!


6/15 – Griffith, IN @ Rockopelli Fest
6/23 – Chicago, IL @ Ravenswood On Tap
7/11 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village

PLAYING DETROIT: Sarkis Mixes Motown and Funk with L.A Sunshine on ‘Tangerine’

Gabe Smith has wandered far from his small hometown of Waterford, Michigan, but hasn’t forgotten the role that his neighboring city of Detroit had in shaping him as an artist and songwriter. After moving to LA in 2014, Smith spent two-and-a-half years touring on the John Lennon Educational Tour bus, helping students write/record original music and videos. Landing back in L.A earlier this year, Smith started working at Shangri La Studios in Malibu and recording his debut LP, Tangerine, under the name SarkisThe record is an amalgamation of Smith’s roots in the Motown sound, time spent traveling the country, and the glimmer of L.A. sunshine that seems to rub off on all ye who enter there.

While Smith says a small part of the album was written during his time on the Lennon bus, the majority was written and produced at Shangri La studios, with the help of his writing partner Tyler Bean and other friends that work at the studio. “I had a lot of guys playing on it and helping me record it and write it,” says Smith. “It was a cool collection of people from all over making music… that was kind of a whole other layer of creativity that I hadn’t had in any of my music before.”

This collaborative effort resulted in a sound that blends funk, hip-hop and soul. One of the most obvious funk elements is the presence of consistently strong bass lines throughout the record. “I played a lot of bass this year,” says Smith. “I’ve never considered myself a bass player but now I wish that I was a dope bass player – those (musicians) are the legends of funk.” Smith cites meeting Bootsy Collins last year as one of his most transformative musical experiences. “That changed my whole perspective of funk music,” Smith says. “He even listened to some of my music and that was a big moment for me – he is definitely a life-altering person to meet.”

Funky bass lines, bright vocals, and different musical textures characterize Tangerine, and keep it feeling bright and optimistic, even on “Messed Up,” a song about the disenchanting state of the world. “I always try and remain positive, so I try to put that into the music too,” says Smith. “The music itself is upbeat and trying to make people dance and feel good. Even on a song that’s saying ‘the world is messed up,’ I still want to have a positive twist on it.”

Smith also cites Stevie Wonder, Mac Miller, Ice Cube and NWA as influences on this record. He says he didn’t really start listening to West Coast hip-hop until he first moved to L.A. “The year after I moved to LA was when that movie [Straight Outta Compton] came out,” says Smith. “We saw Ice Cube at an IHOP or something and I was like, ‘oh my god.’ That was when I started listening to that music.”  

Smith’s recent hip-hop influence is obvious on the record’s kick-heavy, bombastic track “Dreamland” and on “Messed Up,” when he makes his first foray into rapping. “I think I wrote that right after Mac Miller died,” says Smith. “I listened to Mac Miller in high school and he was at the studio a couple months before he passed away… I was kind of feeling sad and he was doing this fast rapping thing on one of his songs, so I tried to do it on one of mine and I was like – I guess that sounds okay?”

While Smith takes cues from the artists he lists as inspirations, his music serves more as an homage than an imitation, putting a unique twist on funk and hip-hop and making it his own. For those enduring the blistering cold this winter, Tangerine serves as a light at the end of what can feel like a never-ending tunnel. And for people residing in sunshine-y states, it’s a reminder to appreciate what you have and try not to take life so seriously. You can stream Tangerine exclusively here today, and listen to it everywhere this Friday, December 15th.

Sarkis will hold a listening party for Tangerine at The Dessert Oasis (1220 Griswald St, Detroit, MI, 48226) on Friday, December 15. The party is free and open to the public. 


PLAYING DETROIT: April Releases Flaunt Detroit’s Musical Depth

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Photo by Landon Speers

The past week has been a prolific one for Detroit artists, with singles being released from all sides of the genre spectrum. Instead of highlighting just one, I decided to choose a few of my favorites. From Virginia Violet and the Rays’ punchy “Modern Motown” to Tunde Olaniran’s “soft femme trap anthem,” these songs model the deep talent and vast diversity of Detroit’s music scene.

“Vulnerable” – Tunde Olaniran

Flint, Michigan native Tunde Olaniran has proven himself to be an absolute force of nature over the last few years, and “Vulnerable” is no exception. Following in the vein of 2017 releases “Hunger” and “Symbol,” the newest track is an empathetic, empowering ode to self-love, delivered with a sharp tongue and set to a dreamy, danceable beat. Repeating the mantra “What love can I give if I can’t love myself / Go in and go out of this world by ourselves / I just wanna be vulnerable,” Olaniran harps on the importance on discovering your true self and sharing it with the world. And with a voice like Olaniran’s, it’s hard not to be convinced.

“Apartment Fire” – Moon King

Moon King, a.k.a Daniel Benjamin, adds to his euphoric, funk-infused body of work with “Apartment Fire.” Combining ‘80s inspired deep synths with ‘70s funk guitar patterns and a silky sweet falsetto, Benjamin creates a languid, decade-defying sound. The song’s infectious beat and mesmerizing vocals can persuade anyone to move their hips, whether they can understand the song or not. This is a plus for Benjamin, who’ll be heading out on a lengthy European tour this spring.


 “Go on Without Me” – Virginia Violet and the Rays

Virginia Violet and the Rays’ high-charged single “Go on Without Me” puts a soulful spin on the classic Bonnie and Clyde narrative. Virginia Violet uses her robust vocals to tell the story of a lovers’ heist that goes from enthralling to fatal. Her blustering eight-piece band plays an equal hand in spinning the narrative, with Tommy Porter’s apprehensive guitar riffs and a screeching four-piece horn section (Garrett Gaina, Adam Dib, Chris Kendall and Dave Vasella). It’s the perfect song to blast when you’re stuck in rush hour traffic but pretending you’re involved in a high-speed chase. 

“Haunt” – Alexander Lynch

Detroit via Grand Rapids via Norway, Michigan artist Alexander Lynch has a penchant for making sultry songs that make you want to text your ex at 11:00 am on a Tuesday. “Haunt” is one such of those songs. Co-produced with Jon Zott, “Haunt” is a weighty, synth-driven track that accurately captures the feelings of longing and infatuation. While the song’s heavy bass and synth elements recall Flume and Chet Faker, Lynch’s strong, emotive vocals place him on the border of electro-pop and R&B.



PLAYING DETROIT: Rhye and Boulevards Romance El Club

Rhye — the sultry bedroom R&B project of Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist, Michael Milosh — came to Detroit’s El Club last night with special guest Boulevards. With both artists’ subject matter centered around the art of love-making, the show ended up feeling like a two-hour sex marathon, starting out hot and spicy and unwinding into a blissful embrace of sultry sweet nothings.  

Funk god Jamil Rashad, aka Boulevards, opened the show with a high-energy and heavily oiled set. The glistening performer took the stage with a demanding presence, stunner shades, and an unbuttoned, Hendrix-esque shirt. Performing songs from his latest record, Hurtown, USA, Boulevards transformed the room into a ‘70s funk palace. You didn’t have to know any of his songs to be completely enraptured in Rashad’s euphoria-inducing performance. Taking cues from Greats like James Brown, Prince, and Rick James, the Raleigh, NC native shined on tracks like “Feelings,” and “Donezo.”

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all photos by Sara Barron

“Feelings” is a synth-powered anthem about trading vices for love – or maybe, letting love take the place of a more damaging vice. Rashad’s languid, spoken-word delivery is joined by an unmistakably funk-infused voice singing, “Give me something good to feel, show me how to feel” that had even the shyest dancers with their hands in the air. For his last song, “Sanity,” Rashad jumped down from the stage and parted the sea of adoring fans, making a pathway for a soul train and hopefully rubbing some of his virtuosic dance moves (and maybe a little body oil) off on the audience.

I honestly needed a cigarette after that set, but Rhye’s voice soundtracked an even more satisfying refractory period. If Boulevards was the climax, Rhye was the seraphic, post-coital spoon sesh. Milosh’s soft, androgynous crooning was so intimate it sometimes felt like he was whispering to the audience from under the covers. Although Rhye’s most recent release, Blood, has been critiqued as a less sincere, more manufactured version of 2013’s Woman, his incredible performance sent a clear message: haters be damned.

Milosh was joined by a full band, consisting of an organ, electric violin and cello, trombone, drums, guitar and bass, and occasionally took to the drums and keys himself. While his voice translated the exact chilling luminosity heard on both records, the added instrumentation allowed for precious moments of improvisation that could only be seen live, creating even more intimacy – if that’s even possible.

The room – which was mostly attentive but upheld a light murmur of buzzed conversation in the back – came to complete silence during the violin riff that kicks off Rhye’s biggest hit, “Open.” The violin captured attention and then the band teased the crowd by holding a trance-like, bare interlude until Milosh’s sensual voice released the tension. Other standout songs were the gentle and pleading, “Please,” where Milosh hopes to heal his lover’s sadness, and “Waste,” a reflection on a painful, unsuccessful relationship – both themes that everyone in the audience could likely cling to.

The entire set felt like an extended lullaby, putting everyone in the mood to go and curl up with a lover, or wish that they could.  


LIVE REVIEW: Nikka Costa @ The Teragram Ballroom

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Nikka Costa at The Teragram Ballroom
Photo via Entertainment Focus

In New York City, it’s common for Broadway stars to do small, intimate shows for upper crust elderly women from the Upper East Side. I once got discounted tickets to one of these events (Michael Feinstein‘s show at The Regency), and was surprised by hooting, hollering, and general frenzy of the small crowd, which I was reminded of by the similar atmosphere of Nikka Costa’s Teragram Ballroom show. I walked in expecting a boozy, laid-back night of strings and left wondering where the afterparty was.

Nikka Costa’s career is a true Hollywood story, from her start as a child star recording a single with Hawaiian singer Don Ho to getting a big break when her song “Like A Feather” was featured in a Tommy Hilfiger commercial. Nikka has come a long way since then, producing several albums and starting a family; she recently took a two-year hiatus to concentrate on raising her two children. Her new album Nikka & Strings, Underneath and In Between trades in her usual funk for more sensual, laid back faire.

The Teragram Ballroom is a sexy venue in itself. As you enter, you’re greeted with lush, textured wallpaper and dim lights. The string section was just setting up when we entered the performance space; the gentle tuning of the instruments melted into the beginning of “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Nikka’s voice entered dramatically from offstage in that distinctive, careening tenor that’s sure to excite a crowd; as she came onstage she transitioned the intro into hit single “Like A Feather.” It was instantaneously clear that this was a gathering of Costa fans.

“It’s all about the strings,” Nikka cooed as she gave us some background on the album. Nikka and the band just finished an unofficial residency at The Largo in West Hollywood. It was through those performances that the album started to take shape. Nikka bragged that the process was so smooth that the album was recorded in one day. Although the album is mostly comprised of covers like Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and the classic standard “Stormy Weather,” there are a few new songs that made the cut. “Arms Around You” was written after a friend of Nikka’s passed; the performance was particularly moving, with Nikka telling the audience to “tell people you have now that you love them.”

Nikka is adept at working an audience, and clearly enjoyed the rowdy one she got. The show was sprinkled with winks. After an audience member asked what was in her drink, she answered “Ginger and honey and water. No chaser.” When Nikka entertained the idea of taking requests, the audience got loud and belligerent, causing her to giggle “I started a riot.” The music undulated between standards and Nikka’s more funk-driven offerings. After she performed “Everybody’s Got That Something” to much applause, she teased, “Don’t make me do another funk record now!” The band matched Costa’s energy note for note, the perfect accompaniment to her theatricality.

The night felt very New York. Whiskey was drunk. Couples fondled each other. Girlfriends bumped butts and shouted lyrics. An encore was demanded and we were pleased to hear Costa’s rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” We swayed happily, heads resting on the shoulders of our dates. The night was a success. As I ran toward my Lyft, a woman joked with me that they took down Costa’s name before she could get a shot of the marquee. Los Angeles moves fast, but with nights like this in the bag, Nikka Costa is bound to be performing on the regular for long time.

Nikka Costa’s new album Nikka & Strings, Underneath and In Between is out now. Get it HERE[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYING DETROIT: Will Sessions Tease New Album, Deluxe

The word “fusion” doesn’t begin to skim the surface of the rich and diverse stylings of Detroit’s hardest working band, Will Sessions. Not easily categorized, Will Sessions’ influence spans decades and their accumulative sound swells with an authentically reimagined funk renaissance. Equal parts 70’s jazz, soul, hip-hop and yes, pure, sweet funk, the only thing this recipe calls for is more. The eight-piece, whose output modernizes and anthologizes Detroit’s sonic roots, celebrates the release of their first full length record, Deluxe, comprised of previously released, newly remastered tracks in addition to some fresh collaborations. The first single, “Run, Don’t Walk Away (feat. Coko)” is as sly as it is seductive and embodies what it means to strut. What is achieved here is a sense of empowerment. The marriage between growling funk beats that roll like patient hips and vocalist Coko’s insatiable determination makes “Run, Don’t Walk Away” less of a plea and more of a motivational command.

Deluxe drops 4/21 on Sessions Records. Get your groove on below:

PLAYING DETROIT: Sheefy McFly “Neon Love Affair”

Electrified funk master Sheefy McFly blessed us this week with “Neon Love Affair,” a fresh futuristic time-warp that channels the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog (ala rumored composer Michael Jackson) with a serious dose of technicolor sass. Released as a companion piece to his solo art exhibition of the same name this Friday at Two James Distillery in Corktown, “Neon Love Affair” embodies the rawness of the lovestruck renaissance man Sheefy truly is.

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“The Last Kiss” by Sheefy McFly

Enlisting producer and multi-instrumentalist Gabe Gonzalez and mix masters Hir-O Beats, the collaboration is an undeniably layered trip into the rabbit hole. The track grinds with lip-smacking drum licks, deep house bass beats and synths that level up while Sheefy unapologetically asks “Do he treat you liked I do?/Do he trust you like I do?/Do he know you like I do?/Do he fuck you like I do?” But “Neon Love Affair” is no pity party. Instead, the track is an invitation to dance the pain away, moonwalking forward, looking back only once.

Get the deets on Sheefy’s exhibition here and get down and move on with “Neon Love Affair” below:


TRACK PREMIERE: Citrus & Katie “Sludge”

citrus and katie

Citrus & Katie’s latest track “Sludge” embodies its title, dredging its way through your system and sitting contentedly in your ears. It’s parts garage rock, funk, soul, and pop, making for an upbeat fusion track that’ll leave you smiling. For the most part, “Sludge” is true to its name as a slow moving track, until the end when it really picks up pace, kicking up the rock ‘n’ roll vibes and ending on a fun note. Take a listen to it below! Their new album, NSTYLDY is out this month.

PLAYING DETROIT: The Gories Return!


Forged from the weightiness of post-war blues and the primally riotous audacity of 60’s garage punk, Detroit‘s scuzz rockers the Gories return to their hometown his Friday. Mick Collins, Danny Kroha and Peggy O’Neill formed the Gories (sans bass) back in 1986 and released three records between 1989 and their tumultuous break-up in ’92. During their undisclosed reign as underground groove-punk royalty, their influence was more wide reaching than their dismal record sales or crusty notoriety. Like true punks, the Gories’ reputation was marred with scowls and “wtf is this shit” variety, mostly due to their raunchy, primitive approach to rock. It’s an attitude that would later have Detroit’s prodigal son and father of Third Man Records, Jack White, exclaiming that the Gories “made people with Les Pauls and Marshall amps look like idiots.”

After a 17 year hiatus (during which punk died, was reincarnated into radio-friendly sewage, died again and is only now beginning to wear its old skin) the Gories reunited in 2009 for a European tour and again in 2010 to hustle their grime across North America. Since then they have played a handful of shows, though sparingly, but enough to remind us that true punk never really dies and what the Gories have given us is more than half-assed nostalgia on life support; it’s a tantrum.

Oozing with sexual deviance, masked by the hip-shaking, beer-bottle smashing juxtaposition of aggravated shimmy and shake, “Nitroglycerine,” from the band’s sophomore record, I Know You Fine, But How You Doin’ manages to box the un-boxable sticky, sweaty, no-fucks-given tale of Detroit’s premier garage punk pioneers.  A perplexing mix of John Lee Hooker and the Cramps, the Gories hoot and howl while channeling some Velvet Underground-level chaos as the guitars suffer battling seizures, and the drums find home in a constituent heartbeat-beat reminding us that the band’s homeostasis, although compromised, is far from expired. The lyrics “She’s volatile/she’s my baby”  are delivered with some 1950’s innocence or doo-wop cadence but is quickly dismantled by a rapid-fire sex-beat that keeps us guessing even 26 years later.

Get weird with the Gories 1990 video for “Nitroglycerine” below and catch the Gories with Pretty Ghouls, Mexican Knives and Trash DJ’s at El Club Friday August 5th, 2016 | Tickets $20

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PLAYING DETROIT: When The Party Ends/Begins: A Detroit Techno Playlist

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In the 80s, Detroit took on Chicago House and European electronica and quickly became pioneers in the creation of techno and the myriad of sub genres that followed. As an adverse counterpart to popular music, techno challenged radio ready hits and the contradictory exclusivity of punk while maintaining a sonic political retaliation against inner-city struggle. In doing so the city created a sphere in which bass lines and drum beats invited the world to move both inward and outward.

This past weekend marked what most of Detroit consider to be more holy than Christmas. The  Movement Festival honors the birthplace of techno and electronic music by throwing the most playfully outrageous three-day party where freaks can be freaks and non-freaks can unearth their spiritual resonance. Whether you’re finding yourself, losing yourself or just curious enough to feel something new, there is no better opportunity than Movement. Yes, like any festival you can anticipate $4 bottles of water and over policing and under-supplying of toilet paper, but what Movement offers the techno community is a true celebration of one of the most unexpectedly poetic musical revolutions in the history of the city and quite honestly, the world. A culture was born. People found home. And while our pillowcases may feel abandoned as we collectively remove glitter out of our tear ducts,  we are still coming down from the trip. Below are some of my favorite sedated, ambient tracks for the end of the after-after party (or just as suitably for the beginning).

  1. Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale “The PeeKs” (2016)
    [fusion_soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/255276600″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]The Godmother of Detroit House, Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale has stood her ground and made waves with her distinct thrashing funk. But in her track “The PeeKs” she finds an ambient softness that is the ideal soundscape for post-party come down.
  2. Jon Zott “Make Plans” ft. Yellokake (2015)
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    Most notably one of the busiest most desirable producers in Detroit, Jon Zott has a remarkable ear for bass line heartbeats. “Make Plans” flirts with pop vocals and muffled beat subtlety that feels sexy and sad.
  3. Carl Craig “At Les” (1997)

    Carl Craig is one of the most influential producers and DJ’s in Detroit’s rich techno history. His catalog swells and deflates with a subversive consciousness that gives the aural illusion of time travel; sounds bouncing back and forth off of one another like a psychedelic paradox. “At Les” is a prime example of this restraint vs. release vibe while still remaining stoned and ambient.

    4. Cybotron “Techno City” (1984)

    Formed in 1980 by Juan Atkins and Richard “3070” Davis, Cybotron paved the way for the echoing, intergalactic seduction that has been a cornerstone of Techno for years. “Techno City” feels grimy and sludgy yet invites you into their underground with a sexual pulse.

    5. Kevin Saunderson “E-Dancer” (1996)

    One cannot mention techno without recognizing one of the most detrimental founding fathers of the genre, Kevin Saunderson. Having reshaped electronic music with his insatiable knack for channeling both the past and future through trance-like grooves and dizzying tremors, Saunderson’s “E-Dancer” is a great example of his distorted snake funk.

    6. BLKSHRK “Arm Floatties (Night Swim)” (2015)

    Eddie Logix and Blair French teamed up to form BLKSHRK, an underwater groove that pulses and pumps with a delicacy suited for a tangled dance of sea amoeba and space-age mer-folk.

    7. Stone Owl “Chemtrails” (2013)

    An elusive twosome, Stone Owl is a local techno cult favorite. Although dance-able, Stone Owl latched onto an underlying sinister playfulness that pokes and prods the darkness out of the light. “CHEMTRAILS” is calming with bursts of anxious energy that sizzles like electricity in water, creating a chasm that shakes you from your hiding place.




LIVE REVIEW: The Harpoons @ The Delancey

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Bec Rigby of The Harpoons.
Bec Rigby of The Harpoons

In the basement of The Delancey in the heart of LES, The Harpoons quickly got the groove going late on a Saturday night. Music export initiative Sounds Australia put together an edition of their Aussie BBQ, a showcase of Australian bands, right here in New York City.

Funk and R&B vibes with a techy-modernized twist is the best way to describe the way they warmed up the dingy little room. Clad in a relaxed white power suit, gorgeous lead singer Bec Rigby swooned and crooned while the energy from brothers Henry and Jack Madin and Marty King’s harmonies get the crowd to melt right into the beats.

The Aussie BBQ showcase put each band on a pretty tight schedule, as all day, they had each of the twenty-one acts coming out one after another since 2 pm.  Still, by midnight, the crowd had plenty of energy up until the last song of the set, where we begged for one more, and The Harpoons were happy to oblige. It was a quick set, but the band were around to chat and enjoy the other Aussie bands up next, like Pearls and friendships, both of whom I really came to enjoy.

The Harpoons are headed back home to Melbourne soon for Melbourne Music Week, and will be playing a few shows around Australia to close out the month. Check out their latest music video for the single “Ready For Your Love,” made to accompany the video diary for their Japanese tour:


TRACK REVIEW: Ava Luna “Billz”

ava luna

Ava Luna, that soulful quirky five-piece from Brooklyn, are releasing a new album on April 14th via Western Vinyl. Wow, that’s a long ways away, isn’t it? Well, you can stream one of their new songs right now, on Bandcamp. 

“Billz” is the ninth track on Infinite House, Ava Luna’s latest release since 2014’s Electric Balloon. Typical of the band, it mixes the old-school sound of Carlos Hernandez’s passionate crooning and eclectic, jazzy pop with modern life. Putting words to what we’re all thinking as we go about our lives, he sings “Will it elevate me? Will it educate me?/ But is it gonna pay my bills?”

When the time is right, you can download Infinite House here. In the meantime, check out “Billz” below:

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Track List for Infinite House:

1. Company

2. Tenderize

3. Steve Polyester

4. Roses and Cherries

5. Coat of Shellac

6. Infinite House

7. Black Dog

8. Best Hexagon

9. Billz

10. Victoria

11. Carbon




The collective of musical oddities and mystery known to Earthlings as GLOVES have announced an album release for 3/3/15 entitled Get It Together. GLOVES self-classifies their sound as “Anti-Garage,” elaborating with the description: “the use of Rock & Roll instrumentation to produce music that is not based on popular American/British Classic Rock sensibilities.”

Translation: This shit’s like nothing you’ve ever heard.

Dressed uniformly in black turtlenecks and gold chains like a well-tailored early hip-hop crew, the quartet is composed of Salem Abukhalil, Ben Fisseler, Colton R. May and Ajit D’Brass. Allowing their protests of anti-classic rock; prominent funk stylizations are present such as a head thrashing electric bass and some pretty mean drums.

GLOVES was formed in 2013 in Austin, Texas. Their mantra-infused album title Get It Together fits like a, well, glove. The album whip brains out of fidgety angst into higher conscious cream with a repetitive vocals and in-your-face beats with the power of a voodoo ceremony. That is, if voodoo doctors looked and sounded like James Brown & The Famous Flames were taught to vogue by Madonna with Run–D.M.C. as a stylist.

Watch official video for their single “Hot Checks” here:

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The Ugly Club, “Passengers”

The Ugly Club AF

Brooklyn-based psych-pop quartet, The Ugly Club (Ryan Eagan, Talor Mandel, Rick Su-Poi & Ryan McNulty), has perfected an ability to craft songs that straddle the line between gleaming, exuberant dance hits and infectious, complex garage-rock throwback jams. Since their 2012 full length, You Belong To The Minutes they have shown us that walking this walk is an art unto itself. Each track employs punchy lo-fi drums and blistering electric guitar hooks, lush, orchestral embellishments, and Egan’s retro drawling vocals stretched over top like a layer of hand-woven lace. The result makes us nostalgic for the NYC musical behemoths of yore, who provided soundtracks to our comings of age…Interpol, The Strokes, The Walkmen….sigh.

With their new single “Passengers” out and a video to accompany, we’re getting a sneak peak of a new direction toward which The Ugly Club is meandering. And ironically it’s quite pretty. Unlike what we’ve heard previously from the band, “Passengers” is defined first and foremost by sweltering synth melodies that nod reverently to late 70s new wave and mid 90s dance pop. Funky, slapping bass underpins, while Egan’s vocals are freer and more expressive than ever, suggesting that he’s arrived as an artist. Though this may be the danciest track we’ve heard from the band so far, the boys clearly have not forsaken their signature moodiness. At the end of the song a gritty, grinding electric guitar hook enters the fray, brilliantly mimicking an earlier synth/bass low end melody combo, and somehow manages to anchor the whole thing, as if to bring a hot air balloon back to earth. Throughout, the video shows Egan escaping from what appears to be quite the sinister predicament, winding through various rooms of an apartment like he’s finding his way out of a nightmarish maze. At the end–coincidentally or not, when that garage-y guitar line comes in, shaking the listener out of a disco dream–our protagonist is finally liberated from the moors of what was laying beneath the metaphorical surface. He emerges on a rooftop, for a late afternoon dance party.

Watch the great escape below Via Youtube. The Ugly Club will play Mexicali on 10/16.



ALBUM REVIEW: crash “Hardly Criminal”


Awww yeah.

That’s my initial and abiding reaction to “Motion Animal,” the first single off Chris Richard aka crash‘s solo debut, Hardly Criminal. Crash, backup singer for the Magnetic Zeros and frontman for Deadly Syndromefinally gets to spotlight his tenor at its sultry finest on this dressed-down soul track, and the motown gods are surely pleased.

Anyone familiar with the singer’s work would be surprised to see him stick fully in one genre for a full album, though, and Hardly Criminal expands satisfyingly from soul outward. Crash grew up in Louisiana, imbibing a country-fied blend of Americana, folk, and New Orleans street-performer blues, and he can do all those styles with equally endearing swagger. “Motion Animal” comes two tracks in and holds its title as the catchiest number through the end of this record, but we hear plenty of that danceability on the down-homier “If God Was A Cajun” and the string-happy “All My Friends.” What’s especially impressive about Hardly Criminal, though, is how well crash pulls off the slower, sweeter stuff. On the succinct “Song For The Birds,” crash keeps his oddball charm in the lyrics (“Was feeding you worms/but I forgot that you don’t eat them”) but strums introspective layers of round-like, repetitive acoustic guitar, angling his voice away from soul flourish and towards a simpler, more vulnerable croon. “Britches Catch Fire,” one of the album’s most impressive demonstrations of crash’s sheer power to sustain a high note, hints at gospel in the harmonies. His versatility looms large, and surprises again and again on this record.

All told, the quieter tracks add up to a majority of Hardly Criminal, and I would have liked to see the album filled out with a couple more swingers – “Motion Animal” left me jonesing for more groove – but both in terms of songwriting and vocals, crash skillfully pulls off every style he ambles into on this collection. No matter the flavor, every single track on Hardly Criminal is worth a replay. This cat is it.

Hardly Criminal drops May 6th. You can preorder it here, and check the “Motion Animal” music video below for a soulful blast of groovy get-down:

BAND OF THE MONTH: Leverage Models


“My only rules were that I would shut my conscious impulses as much as possible (my impulse to interrogate and analyze every gesture, ponder what imaginative impulse every sound was for, worry about what outlet would be used to release the music) and just make,” Shannon Fields has written, regarding his approach to music and his new project–and AudioFemme’s Band Of The Month!–Leverage Models. Fields’ creative impulses and internal landscapes are at the heart of this group. Friends and cohorts appear on Leverage Models’ self-titled debut, too, in such high and ever-evolving numbers that trying to count them would be futile, but Sharon Van Etten, Sinkane and Yeasayer all number among Leverage Models’ contributers. Fields, who dreamt up his first band, Stars Like Fleas, in 1999 and played under that name for nearly a decade, has always been inclined towards collaboration.

Listening to Leverage Models is a fantastically colorful experience, so much so that the first few times through the album feel like being in a brand new, exotic and densely stimulating city–it’s hard to have concrete thoughts on the music when you’re so busy just trying to take it all in. In a wonderfully interior journey, Leverage Models presents a mostly-joyous, always-elaborate layering of futuristic soul music, electronic riffs and repetitive vocal lines that sound more like instrumental licks than voices. It’s hard to see the seams of this album: the music’s many aspects seem like they must have simultaneously sprung, fully formed, into being. Since the album bears so little comparison to anything else in its category, finding the songs’ trajectories requires enough listening to get past just being dazzled by the bright lights and shiny metals, but once you do, the album is actually pretty accessible. Some of the songs, like “Sweet” (with Sharon Van Etten) are surprisingly catchy, with strong R&B influence and an endearing sense of excitement swelling beneath the melodies.

In the fifteen-odd years he’s been recording–first with Stars Like Fleas, and now Leverage Models–Fields has put out only four full-length albums, with a few years’ space between each. It’s easy to see why: each complex, densely compiled release packs a hefty wallop. None more so than Leverage Models, which feels like the summation of the full five years Fields took to create it, with an elegant blend of complexity in its instrumental arrangements and sweet simplicity in its intent.

Listen to the oh-so-stunning, “A Chance To Go”, here via Soundcloud


If you can’t catch Leverage Models at our SXSW showcase this Wednesday, cozy up with Shannon right here instead! Audiofemme got in touch with him and asked him a few questions about music, and the internet, and resurrecting his teenage self who would then listen to the new album. Here’s what went down:

AF: Tell us about the process of beginning your new project, Leverage Models. How did you want it to differ from your work with Stars Like Fleas? What inspires your music writing?

Shannon: Leverage Models didn’t really begin deliberately. Stars Like Fleas was a very large family of musicians that was so emotionally volatile, and so draining to keep afloat that when it finally ripped itself apart I just moved to the country and started spending all day in my home studio with absolutely no agenda except to find something to glue myself back together with. I suddenly had a surplus of time and space to create in. But also this sort of crushing weight of having a part of my identity, something I’d built for almost 10 years (Stars Like Fleas, my life in Brooklyn) vanish overnight. I felt free of the albatross it had become for me, but also a huge wave of “what now?” anxiety. The only way I could handle that was to entirely avoid thinking about the “what now?”, or about who I am or what I had to offer anybody. So that was a pretty radical change to my creative process. With the Fleas, the creative process was analytical to the point of compulsion – it was 2 parts sound creation / performance and 98 parts self-interrogation, willful deconstruction, avoidance of any convention, avoidance of anything that might work in an immediate or superficial way for anybody.  And I don’t regret a moment of that. But Leverage Models originated in my just making songs that made me feel better and that I enjoyed living inside, without questioning anything (because at the time I had no intention of doing anything with those songs). Honestly, this was and still is straight up therapy….an approach I hadn’t previously had much respect for.  I don’t want to suggest there isn’t still some of that going on with Leverage Models, but I try to keep the higher functioning parts of my brain out of the room until it’s time to take a step back and look at the big picture of an album, or a mix. Until then I let the lizard parts of my brainstem drive the bus. I think I’m more interested these days in the logic of craft and folk art rather than the trappings of modernism, that constant privileging of newness and confrontation of norms, so Leverage Models focuses much more on the shared conventions of pop music and just trying to be disciplined about writing and arranging well. (That said, lyrics are a different conversation entirely….a different ballgame, and equally important to me).

AF: Now that the album has been out for a few months, how do you feel about it? Do you have a favorite song? 

S: I spent a year on the record and I’m completely happy with it. It’s not the record I would make today, but it’s a good snapshot where I was at a year ago, and I’m proud of the response I’ve gotten from some of the people whose opinions I care the most about. I don’t actually listen to my own records and can’t say I have a favorite song. Right now my favorite song to play live is The Chance To Go.  With most of the songs I wrote and recorded them predominantly at home before bringing in the band to replace demo arrangements. But The Chance To Go came out of a live improvisational session with the band. One morning we woke up, I described a groove to the band, and maybe 15 minutes later we had that song. It feels more spontaneous and live than other things on the record because it is. Also….A Slow Marriage is one that ages well for me….it might be the most open, direct and personal…it feels simultaneously vulnerable and synthetic…which is how I feel most days.

AF: How do you feel about music in the digital age? Would you go to war in order to save the internet from extinction?

S: I’m a little bit confused and alienated by the new relationship to music that the culture has. Music is a little more of a disposable lifestyle accessory and a little less precious then it was when I was a teenager. I don’t know that I have a strong feeling about whether that’s a good or bad thing….I guess it’s a mixed bag, like all change. It’s what culture does. That said, I might not have any kind of social life or a career without the Internet….it’s easier to do everything (except make money), including just talking to people…which has always been difficult for me. It doesn’t carry over into performance, but offstage I have a crippling amount of social anxiety. So email is great. And I think when I moved to the country my music career might have been over in a pre-Internet world. Now it matters much less where I live.

AF: You’ve picked out of the way spots to do a lot of your recording, and Leverage Models was recorded in a farmhouse outside of Cooperstown, NY. Why do you choose such remote locations?

S: Ha!…because I live in that farmhouse in the country outside of Cooperstown! My band lives in Brooklyn but I left before Leverage Models happened. I record mainly in my home studio, in between barn chores (my wife and I are breeding horses) and other work around the property. Splitting my days between physical labor and creative work gives me a rhythm that’s really healthy for me. I feel like a better person for it…even if that’s sentimentalized nonsense, it’s a fiction that helps me get through the day. And I just feel physically and mentally more stable. NYC was breaking me. Also, I should mention that I generally record the full band and mix at The Isokon in Woodstock, NY, — mainly because D. James Goodwin, who runs it, is someone I trust and have a longstanding relationship with. He’s a powerful creative human and he gets me.

AF: What are your strengths as a musician? Would you say you have any weaknesses?

S: I’m not putting my head in either of those nooses. Is this a job interview, Annie?

AF: If one of your songs (while you’re in the process of writing it that is), were a small child (or pet), would you say that it would have a mind of its own or would it generally stay in line and follow the rules?

S: Oh I’m probably training feral animals here, metaphorically speaking.  In my writing process I make a conscious effort not to know where I’m going when I begin a song. Sometimes I do try to generate ideas by throwing myself curve balls (horrible cliché’s, instruments and mixing choices that are steeped in cheesy baggage, pastiche, etc.) but mainly I just work really fast and intuitively up front…so fast I don’t have time to question what I’m doing….following my reflexes and my pleasure centers. I write/record in manic highs and edit when I’m miserable. Then if I’ve painted myself into a corner, finding my way out usually leads to something that’s better than it would be if I tried to really over-direct and control the process.

AF: If you could have any person, living or dead, real or fictitious, listen to a song off Leverage Models, who would it be? What do you think they/it would think about that song?

S: Hmmmm….the only thing that comes to mind would be my teenage self. And….I really have no idea what I would think. But I think I’d be pretty down. I would probably question all the slap bass.

AF: If you could experience your own music through one of your other senses, which would it be? What would it taste/smell/feel/look like?

S: Can I experience someone else’s music this way? That seems like a pretty heavy gift to use in such a self-indulgent way. I’m a little food-obsessed. I think Maurice Fulton’s music would make for a pretty satisfying combination of salt, heat and sweetness, without a lot of heavy starchy proteins.

AF: What is one of your favorite cities to perform in? Do you have any weird tour bus necessities?

S: We’re lucky to get a bar towel and some hot water on a hospitality rider and we tour in my 2008 soccer-mom minivan, packed so full of shit none of us can move our legs. I look forward to having weird tour bus necessities though.

As for chosen cities, I just like performing anywhere that people seem hungry for music and aren’t so self-conscious that they’re afraid to move their bodies at a show. But to be honest, I was just as uptight and self-conscious for a long time. It took a long while to get to the point where I really internalized that I am going to die – I think that’s what it pivots on – and was able to full let go of all those kinds of very Midwestern, probably very male inhibitions. So we love playing smaller towns that are usually passed over; where you play to a small crowd but everyone who comes up to you is grateful and excited. It makes me remember being that kid in Kansas City…remembering the feeling you have – living in what you think is the ass-end of the universe — when you see something that changes the game for you, turns a light on, makes the world feel suddenly larger and more nuanced and more capable of possibility and not limited to the values of whatever oppressive cool-crowd you’re stuck under, shows you a way out or inspires you to remake yourself. Anyway, we seem to find a lot of these places in the south. On our current tour, D.C. (a huge house party with a few hundred people, put on by the Lamont Street Collective), Asheville NC, Charlotte NC, and Jacksonville FL were all surprisingly bonkers. I just like to feel like I’m making some kind of real connection with every person there. If I don’t, I feel like a complete failure as a performer and as a person…no matter how much people might have liked it or how ‘on’ the band was. I always take crowd reactions personally, I’m very motivated to feel that connection, even when I know I’m doing things onstage to actively bait or confront them a bit (which happens).

AF: Do you have any words of wisdom for Audiofemme? Any secrets you’d like to divulge?


1.  No wisdom, but a thanks to Audiofemme for helping to provide a balance to the music journalists’ boys club. I’m not sure boys clubs are our scene. I’m used to getting threatening looks in boys’ clubs.

2.  I’m very good at keeping secrets. You first.




FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Prince “Controversy”

Controversy Album Cover

Yesterday I spent a long time thinking about Prince. Someone on Facebook declared the lyrics to “Da Bourgeoisie,” a song released in 2013, “homophobic.” And Price has, in the past, made several statements, both in person and through his music, which were anti-queer and transmisogynistic. He still blows my mind with every new piece of music he creates, but since becoming a member of Jehova’s Witnesses in 2001, Prince has not only ditched his healthy respect for sexuality, he’s lost the thing that drew me to his music in the first place—his own, unashamed sexual ambiguity. It’s difficult to separate the person and the persona when opinions make their way into music. With that in mind, I’d like to take us back to the Prince of old, to my favorite Prince album, and some of the most brilliantly crafted, critical, rebellious, and inspiring work of the ’80s: Controversy.

The opening track is “Controversy,” arguably the most popular from the album, and perhaps deservedly. It’s a funky, thumping, personal anthem that questions everything about society and self. He directly brings up his ambiguous identity: “Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?” But he never actually tries to answer those questions. This seven minute-long song moves between catchy, rolling verses and textured sections meant to provoke “controversy.” Midway through the song, Prince, joined by other voices, recites the “Our Father” over the funky bass line. Then, a final section with some of the best lyrics of any rebel tune: “People call me rude / I wish we all were nude / I wish there was no black and white / I wish there were no rules.” This is a song about breaking the rules, not just for any cause, but for love. Prince, here, desires a world without boundaries on our physical, sexual, and social selves.

From there he moves into three of the most sensual songs he’s ever written. There’s the obvious, “Sexuality,” the fun and vulgar, “Jack U Off,” and the downright erotic, “Do Me, Baby.” “Sexuality” has a similar sound to “Controversy,” pounding and upbeat, and it also has a fairly direct message: “Sexuality is all you’ll ever need / Sexuality, let your body be free!” All the while he’s screeching, yelping, and beckoning the listener to him. Three quarters of the way through there’s the hypnotic mantra: “Reproduction of a new breed / leaders, stand up, organize!” It’s an electrical, in-your-skin kind of song. “Jack U Off” is the final song on the album and it has a crazy synth melody that paints visuals of a disco-lit ’80s-themed circus dance. This is a song about pleasing others. Where will Prince help you get off? In the back of a movie theater, in a restaurant, in a Cadillac. When will Prince help you get off? When you’re tired of masturbating, when you want to lose your virginity, when you’re menopausal.

And of course, there’s “Do Me, Baby,” the longest song on the album. It’s a slow, hypnotic melody in which Prince casts himself in the typically “feminine” role in a sex scene. He croons in a glazed, fragile falsetto, “Take me baby! / Kiss me all over / Play with my love” and his voice is beyond seduction. There’s no suggestion here: Prince doesn’t want to be teased, he demands to be “had.” But the actual erotica comes in at five minutes. A few funky notes pave the way for Prince to talk to his imagined lover. He sucks air in through his teeth and moans and groans, encouraging and guiding his partner. It’s dirty. It might be a little awkward if you play it in the car with your mom. But mostly it’s just entrancing.


Two tracks on “Controversy” are distinctly political or, at least, critical of the American government. “Ronnie Talk to Russia” is an overwhelming force of choral and synth melody and powerful guitar solo. It almost feels harsh, musically and lyrically. The electric guitar vibrates underneath all of the choral pomp. All the while, Prince implores Ronald Reagan to “talk to Russia before it’s too late / before they blow up the world.” At the end of the song, a jarring explosion is heard. Though this has a satirical tone, it’s cutting enough to hurt, rather than make you laugh. “Annie Christian,” though, is the song with the greatest connection to Prince’s new philosophies. It chronicles the actions of “Annie Christian,” a greedy, power-hungry, religious figure against the backdrop of a more minimalistic, experimental rhythm and tone. Prince’s voice, in particular, has an almost mechanical echo on this track. In the first verse, a glory-hound, Annie “bought a blue car” and “killed black children.” He tells her in the chorus that until she’s “crucified” for what she’s done, he’ll live his life in “taxi cabs.” The second verse focuses on the “bad girl” Annie who buys a gun and uses it to kill John Lennon. But it’s only when she tries to kill Ronald Reagan that everyone cries “gun control!” Prince highlights the actions of extremists—Christian, criminal, conservative—with Annie, the anti-Christ, standing in for the many crimes which have slipped under the radar. It was a great time when Prince was pointing out the misgivings and contradictions of American society and what they force people into.

This album, though only 8 songs long, exemplifies the kind of brilliance that can come out of a combination of risk-taking and strong ambition. These are incredibly dynamic, masterfully produced hits that curve around and between genre and theme. Personal ambiguity drips over every word. It’s fascinating. It belongs to a certain point in time, but it’s still very relevant, as a response to what is socially acceptable and as a look into the complexity of political and, particularly, sexual identity.

LIVE REVIEW: Eli Paperboy Reed 11/14

elireedmusicsep0ct20102Eli Paperboy Reed‘s live set at Union Pool last week showcased with gusto what his forthcoming album from Warner Bros, of which we’ve heard snippets, only intimates. Reed, who performs live with a full band, including a mighty talented brass section, drums, synth and bass, is standing squarely atop the tipping point on which artists find themselves right before they launch into mega fame (I will not be a bit surprised when I see him on stage at a mainstream music awards show. However I’ll be insanely surprised to find myself watching a mainstream music awards show). His talent, and the extent to which his songs will invariably garner mass appeal, is evident when watching him live in a way it’s not when listening to his studio recordings (see our track review for “Woo Hoo“, here). This is likely because his singles’ high gloss production quality (as amazing as it is to hear with headphones on), actually deters from the grittier, more compelling aspects of his musical style.
These creative leanings are shaped mostly by a 90’s era soul/funk throwback, whose revival we’re experiencing now in full force, transcending pretty much every strata of the music industry, and whose roots herald back to the days of Jamiroquai, New Radicals, Tribe’s The Love Movement, etc etc (btw can we talk about how “Virtual Reality” came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO?!?!). When performed live, with all the bells and whistles attendant with polished live performance intact (especially when that performance is perfectly executed as it was by him that night), his music translates into something more unique than I would have given him credit for previously. He played much of his new work, including the dancy “Woo Hoo” and others. My personal favorite, however, was his cover of Robyn’s ever-pertinent-to-my-life “Call Your Girlfriend”, which had me nearly swooning, not gonna lie, and even compelled me to cheer for an encore.
Union Pool was the perfect venue in which to debut his new work and showcase the ethos his music generates: retro but unique, and hip yet unassuming. Walking into the show felt like entering a movie set, with the small stage’s velvet curtains, vintage flood lighting and impeccably dressed hipsters framing the scene. And even from the band’s opening chords, the crowd was dancing. What better way to announce yourself to the world? We can’t wait to see more from this young talent.
Catch him on December 11th, performing on Letterman with Nick Lowe.