While the live music industry is slowly returning to normal, there’s still something to be said for a filmed concert performance. It doesn’t pack the exact same punch as a live show, which is not to say that it packs no punch at all, but rather that its significance rests more in its posterity. It means that we can revisit, that we can both relive the joy of a live concerts we actually attended, but also experience the magic of ones we did not, even ones that took place before our lifetimes.
With that in mind, we are thrilled to present, alongside BrooklynVegan, Anna Fox Rochinksi playing selections from her debut solo album Cherry at TV Eye in Ridgewood, Queens. Perhaps best known until now as a vocalist and guitarist for psych rock four-piece Quilt, Rochinski has refined her taste for contemporary pop artists like Madonna, Midnite Vultures-era Beck, and circa 1995 Robyn into her own unique brand of effervescent pop meets plucky ’70s art funk.
This production was directed by Alex “Otium” LaLiberte, who has directed Rochinski’s videos for singles “Cherry” and “Everybody’s Down.” Rochinski and LaLiberte list some of their own favorite concert videos as the 1984 Talking Heads performance Stop Making Sense, Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour, Gorillaz: Demon Days Live and Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompei. With influences like that, you know they brought the heat here.
“There is a type of collective energy associated with a live performance,” Otium says. “Knowing this [performance] was going to be watched in the comfort of one’s own home, perhaps alone, we had to find a way of substituting that excitement from the collective, with something that would be as stimulating, so we went with a different place and idea for each song in the concert – something you wouldn’t expect or be able to achieve in a traditional concert setting.”
And so they filmed the tracks in different rooms of Ridgewood’s TV Eye. The collaborative duo’s taste for unique, aesthetically appealing settings shines through strongly in the videos they created together, especially with “Cherry.” Its effectiveness lies in the trust they place in their own tastes: “I think that whatever visual you give people, they will find a way to connect it to the music, so it’s important not to overthink it and just do whatever you want to do,” Rochinksi says.
Otium agrees, adding, “I think visuals for music, whether it be a music video, concert video, or the projections/lights during a concert, should always aim to give the eye a complementary experience to the ears. When it’s really effective it can elevate the music to a place it can’t go strictly sonically, whether that’s because the video is tackling the theme or sonics obliquely, or perhaps it just adds an extra layer of congruency.”
So sit back and enjoy. Just because we can go to live shows again doesn’t mean there isn’t still a place for a thoughtful, beautifully filmed gig that you can absorb from the comfort of your couch.
Make a suggested $10 donation via NoonChorus and catch the stream here when it goes live at 9pm EST – the set will be available for 72 hours following the performance.
On her latest EP Echo Mountain, singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jenny Owen Youngs uses everyday storylines to dive into themes like powerlessness, self-compassion, and complicated relationships – big ideas rendered in small-scale details from childhood games to natural scenes. The songs give off a stripped-down, whimsical folk vibe, with languid guitar-strumming and mournful strings. Youngs wanted to make Echo Mountain a continuation of her 2019 EP Night Shift, but one more connected to the details of daily life than its predecessor, with a “body of vignettes that kind of melt into one another.”
“I was interested in, rather than a God’s-eye view, kind of a microscope,” she says. “I was excited to explore a sonic space that was a little more intimate.” Youngs pulled inspiration from pastoral scenes and childhood memories, her vocals sung slowly and clearly, painting vivid pictures of emotionally-laden events.
On her latest single “Dungeons and Dragons,” for instance, she juxtaposes the role-playing game she enjoyed as a kid against a far more foreboding reality: “Inside the game, you’re okay/longswords and spellcasting keeps all the bad away/and the monsters look how monsters do/not like neighborhood kids with their hands full of rocks for you/and not like the grown ups who should be protecting you.”
“When you have so little power as a kid to affect your surroundings or circumstances, it’s incredibly powerful to enter the world of a game like Dungeons and Dragons, where you can get wherever you want to be and whatever you want to do and the world can look any way the dungeon master wants it to,” she recalls.
“Sunfish” deals in a different way with escapism, recalling the New Jersey house where Youngs grew up and the woods, streams, and bears surrounding it, where she’d retreat when she needed time alone.
In “Little Bird,” she addresses her teenage self, who was struggling with being in the closet about her sexuality in high school, and offers herself the compassion she didn’t get at the time.
“I think at least for me, it’s very easy to look back on earlier iterations of myself and just kind of shake my head like, ugh, what an idiot! But I think the older I get, the more I’m able to kind of move past that and into a space where I can have compassion for myself,” she says. “I think it’s much easier to have compassion for other people than myself, but once I sort of let myself find some peace and stop stressing out so much about that part of myself, I think it became a lot easier to feel the compassion for somebody else.”
The EP takes a melancholy turn on “Long Long Gone,” a song grieving the end of a relationship with natural imagery, almost whispered vocal layers, and minimalistic instrumentals.
“Follow You,” a meditation on the inscrutable nature of relationships, has more of an indie pop aesthetic than the rest of the EP, with the catchy refrain: “Follow you all of my life/chances I can’t leave behind/I can believe what I want/but I can’t believe what it cost/how’d I get lost.”‘
Youngs’ friend John Mark Nelson remixed “Follow You,” giving it a fast-paced, fun, danceable feel by bringing up the tempo and using synths to add a dreamy vibe. “I sent him stanzas and just kind of said, ‘the reigns are yours, do as you will,’ and I think he has fantastic instincts and I love his sonic tendencies,” she says. “He brought in these elements that make me think of artists like Pale Saints and Kate Bush — there’s a certain kind of jangliness but also this sort of fretless, flighty feel he brought into the mix.”
Echo Mountain was released on March 10th, and in the absence of live touring, Youngs is playing the EP in a livestream performance at 8 p.m. ET on March 25th (tickets are for sale at NOONCHORUS).
Youngs, who is currently based in Southern Maine, released her first album Batten the Hatches in 2005, followed by 2009’s Transmitter Failure and 2012’s An Unwavering Band of Light. Over the course of her career, she has toured with Regina Spektor, Against Me!, and Motion City Soundtrack, co-written songs like Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” Pitbull’s “Bad Man,” and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Miss America,” and played in the band The Robot Explosion.
Currently, she’s in a new band called L.A. Exes with Sam Barbera, Rachel White, and Steph Barker, which she describes as “a quartet of queer women making kind of jangly Beatles-y surf pop.” L.A. Exes released their first single, “Temporary Goodbye,” in February.
The highlight of her career, though, was having one of her songs, the emotional, key-heavy “Wake Up,” played during the credits of BoJack Horseman‘s season four finale. “I was a huge fan of the show, and when they reached out to me, it was a tremendous honor,” she says. When she’s not making music, she hosts two podcasts centered on popular TV shows: Buffering the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars Investigations.
Though her interests and professional activities have been wide-ranging, her goal with her music is simple: “What I hope is that somebody listening to a song that I’ve made will hear something that is true for them in whatever way it can be true for them,” she says, “and for that to make their experience of listening to the song yield a slightly better vibe for them than three minutes ago when they started.”
Anyone who has seen the Spice Girls’ 1997 film Spice World will remember their incredible tour bus. The group’s multi-level home-on-wheels was decked out with fire poles and a swing, and personalized nooks for each member that, while varied to match their “Spice” persona, all managed to coordinate to create one of the coolest shared spaces ever put on screen.
Waltzer, helmed by singer/guitarist and lyricist Sophie Sputnik (a.k.a Sophie Pomeranz), and its debut album Time Traveler are kind of like the Spice Bus (if you will): a coordination of Sputnik’s selves over the past 10 years, and friends she’s made along the way, travelling across the country to get to the big show on time… and alive.
When Audiofemme connects with Sputnik over the phone, she laughs at the comparison. “I think Spice Girls are a huge reason why I do what I do, too,” she says. “I was obsessed with Spice World.”
After six years as half of Florida blues-grunge duo Killmama, her howling voice emanating from behind a drum kit, Sputnik found herself at a crossroads. She’d been writing her own songs – tracks including “Lantern” and “Ugly Misfits” – but didn’t know what to do with them; they felt different and her vision stretched beyond the limitations of a two-piece. Billie Holiday and Roy Orbison became mainstays in her record rotation and she dove deep into girl groups of the 1960s, enamored with singer Ronnie Spector after hearing Oakland, California-based outfit Shannon and the Clams’ rockabilly-flavored reimagination of the sound at a show in South Florida.
Clearly, Sputnik was itching to move on from the constriction of a scene dominated by garage rock infleunces, and she and her then-bandmate weren’t . “You can only do the ‘Ty Segall’ thing for so long,” she says, half-jokingly, noting that relentless touring had driven a wedge between herself and her bandmate. “I knew that we’d kind of hit a wall and I needed to figure out what was next.”
With the hope of finding inspiration in new surroundings, she moved to Wisconsin with her previously long-distance girlfriend Amanda, who had planned to relocate there for a new job. While one final Killmama tour followed, performing took a backseat, but Sputnik kept writing, penning stories of love, fear, obsession and loneliness, and the disorienting effects that come with each.
That feeling of personal unease, of teetering on the edge of destruction, dances across Time Traveler. It’s a moody rock ‘n’ roll album pulling from the best of country’s emotional storytelling and complimentary twang, capturing the tension between desire and distraction, the slow spiral of depression, the head-spinning crashes brought on by drinking too much and getting too high, and the catharsis of saying the hard things out loud.
Sputnik sings of life and death intimately – unfettered by selling anything resembling pop music’s idealistic reframing of even the saddest of themes. Well, with the exception of “I Don’t Want to Die,” a catchy Wanda Jackson-meets-The Ronettes warbler masquerading as a love song. While it introduces Sputnik’s more theatrical side, the lyrical narrative is confessional; Sputnik has faced death head on.
“I’ve lost a couple of friends to overdoses, suicide and things like that. I had cancer as a kid and have kind of been speaking about mortality for a really long time,” Sputnik says. “It felt really good to admit the truth of it: I don’t want to die. I’m not done yet, because sometimes I have felt like I wanted to, but I love being on this crazy planet. It’s fucked up, but it was important for me to realize how grateful I was; that I didn’t want to leave it.”
Honesty has shaped much of Sputnik’s core, and you get the sense that writing those things down in song as opposed to internalizing them ultimately stripped away any need for her to be someone or something else. “It felt really fucking good to say ‘I feel ugly,’” Sputnik admits, her relief practically audible over the call. “It felt good, like none of that even mattered, and then that translated to ‘Time Traveler’ [the song]. All these songs were just things I needed to say so I could hear it back and believe it.”
She chuckles. “That’s also scary.”
That energy derived from feeling unworthy, ugly, lost and then found is woven through the eight-song album’s finale – a one-two punch of the titular track and “Destroyer,” an organ-grounded, haunting ballad about taking the risk in stepping into what’s unknown, with a guitar solo that will make you miss seeing and hearing live music (more than you already have been).
It took patience to get there. First, a move to Chicago; Sputnik was offered a job at a chance meeting while waiting tables in Wisconsin, Amanda agreed to relocate, and the couple did so in 2017. While Sputnik’s day gig and “living like a normal person” weren’t the right fit, “Everything I did in Chicago gave me clues of what to do next,” she says. She bought a loop pedal from producer/musician Charlie Kim (professionally known as Tuffy Campbell) via re-sale app LetGo; that interaction proved to be a key that unlocked Chicago’s D.I.Y. music scene for her and eventually helped solidify her commitment toward making Waltzer a realized, full-band project.
“I wasn’t sure how I was gonna play my stuff live and he introduced me to a few people to jam with,” she explains. At the time, Sputnik was considering joining a band as a drummer. “After writing with Charlie a bit, he told me I should check out [Treehouse Records]. I immediately called them and Barrett [Guzaldo, owner/engineer] told me to stop by.” She had a few songs, but needed a producer. Guzaldo suggested she contact Rookie guitarist Chris Devlin and, as she puts it, “the rest is history!”
To this day, her band remains a revolving door for anyone whose energy feels right and is up for the challenge (mainly of listening to Sputnik’s fantastical introductions of them, as heard in the band’s recent Audiotree session). The current group spotlights the talents of Sarah Weddle on drums, bassist Kelly Hannemann, Harry Haines on the keys, and guitar player Michael Everett.
Rooting in active creative communities and providing space for all types of artists to belong as a means of giving back comes through her complimentary passion, Waltzer TV. A hybrid musical showcase and sketch show, the hour-long YouTube episodes have included performances from the likes of Y La Bamba, Reno Cruz and more.
Between sets, Sputnik transforms into a myriad of costumed characters in episodes – even a loose interpretation of her uncle. In Florida, she dabbled in improv as a kid and loved musical theatre in high school. A similar style comes across in the band’s music videos. The web series was partially born out of necessity due to the onset of the COVID pandemic (Waltzer had been scheduled to make a SXSW debut in 2020, having played only a handful of local shows). But it’s also an outlet for Sputnik’s multifaceted performance – spoken and sung, comical as well as serious.
On Thursday, February 25, Waltzer TV will serve as the format for the band’s proper (re)introduction. Written and directed by local filmmaker Robert Salazar, Time Traveler: An Album Release Movie will be streamed via Noonchorus. Admission is “pay what you want” and viewers can tip the band during the broadcast. Please note: there is also an accompanying pizza, “The Ugly Misfit,” available thanks to a collaboration with Sicilian-style pizza spot, Pizza Friendly Pizza.
Shot at beloved Chicago venues the Hideout and Empty Bottle, the movie’s guests include Ratboys, Kara Jackson, “Lonesome” Andrew Sa, WOES and Helen Gilley, with an appearance by noted performer, actor and future legend-about-town, Alex Grelle. “It’s not heavy. It’s really silly. There’s a puppet,” Sputnik jokes. “I think people are gonna feel happy watching it. Then all of it will be over in a hour and we can go back to our chaos.”
Joking aside, Sputnik consistently uses her platform to pay it forward and celebrate others’ joys and successes, and she hopes to be a model of perseverance and creation in spite of depression. “Even if your depression is trying to isolate you, tell you you’re not worth trying, ignore it. Just show up to fucking everything, even if it ends up being a waste of time,” she recommends.
“I feel like it’s not necessarily ‘cool’ for a woman to talk about their own struggles with self-worth when they’re trying to empower other women,” adds Sputnik, “but I really want to inspire other women to speak up and go for it – just put it out there.”
It’s no question the past four years have drastically changed our lives, and alt-country staple Lydia Loveless is no exception. Last Friday (9/25) marked the release of Loveless’ first album in 4 years, titled Daughter. The making of the record coincided with the parting from longstanding label Bloodshot Records, the divorce from her bassist, and a big move to North Carolina from her hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Created in a more independent mental and physical state, Daughter grapples with the lack of familial feelings, divorce, disconnection, and death. These transformations allowed Loveless to hone her lyrical honestly and a dive into an expansion of her pop sonic palette.
Last week Loveless played Daughter in its entirety with her band for the first time. You can catch her via NoonChorus again this week on Thursday 10/8 performing a career-spanning solo set that showcases all sides of Lydia Loveless. We chatted with Loveless about changes in the music industry, starting her own label, and why you shouldn’t physically exfoliate.
AF: How do you feel now that your new album is out in the world?
LL: Relieved and excited!
AF: Did being further away from your band and not playing live recently affect the writing and recording process of Daughter?
LL: I think so, yes. It caused me to be more focused on different instrumentation to be alone while I was writing the record. I could hear drums, keys and atmospheres in ways I normally wouldn’t.
AF: What made you decide to start your own label? Will you be releasing other artists, too?
LL: It felt like a good time to believe in myself. I don’t think I am anywhere near being able to sign anyone, but eventually I would love to.
AF: What are some of the biggest changes in the music industry that you’ve seen over the span of your career?
LL: More acceptance and respect for young songwriters, in a lot of ways. Genre-bending becoming much more acceptable. My age group and younger taking the reins to make weird things more acceptable.
AF: Are there any genres, sounds, or musical ideas you haven’t explored yet that you would like to in the future?
LL: Yes, I always want to try something new. Probably not jazz.
AF: What is something you’ve done and/or learned in the past six months that has surprised you?
LL: Watched a lot of TV. Played more piano. Not completely broken under severe stress.
AF: If you could give your younger self advice now, what would it be?
LL: Don’t physically exfoliate – it causes your pores damage. Use a chemical exfoliator.
AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
LL: Stay alive, write music, kick some bad habits.
RSVP HERE for Lydia Loveless via NoonChorus Thursday 10/8. 9:30pm ET, $10
10/2 St. Vincent, Jason Isbell, IDLES, The Free Nationals, Carlos Santana, Vernon Reid, Joe Bonamassa, and more via Guitar.com. 8pm ET, RSVP HERE
10/2 U.S.Girls, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Cierra Black, Cerena Sierra via Venus Fest YouTube. 8pm ET, RSVP HERE
10/8 Come Together: Mental Health Music Festival feat. Smith & Myers, Jason Isbell, Kiiara, American Authors, Jade Bird, Yola, Shamir, Son Little, & More via The Relix YouTube Channel. 8pm ET, RSVP HERE
Shelley Thomas composes and produces lush orchestral arrangements that she has dubbed “world chamber pop.” She has figuratively and physically gone around the world with her compositions, traveling to 17 countries and studied with over 40 music teachers that have influenced her style that melds Balkan, Arabic, Hindustani, African, and classical music. She can sing in 15 different languages and plays the oud, which is like a short scale pear shaped lute that has been used in Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asia for thousands of years.
Shelley’s latest single release, “Mirror,” guides you through a sonic journey to the beautifully haunted side of yourself. Her vocal harmonization traps you in a trance that eventually leads towards acceptance and healing. If that isn’t enough to meditate on, her recent video for “Cancer Moon” captures her immense live band while boiling down all the intense emotions the moons of this past summer have ushered in. The next chance you’ll have to catch Shelley making her world music magic is September 25th at 1pm via YouTube. She also does a livestream from her Patreon on the last Friday of every month. We chatted with Shelley about the transformative power of music, what rituals inspire her and shaman drums.
AF: What got you into the oud, qanun and composing world orchestral music?
ST: I grew up with a classical pianist mother, and took dance, piano, voice and guitar lessons as a youth. I studied World Music Performance at CalArts (BFA ’08), where I had a six-piece band called Blue Lady I wrote songs for. I got into Arabic music shortly thereafter via a vocal class. I fell in love with the style, and picked up the oud a few years later to accompany myself while singing Arabic music. Then another few years later, I felt inspired to start composing again after years of only singing traditional music – but with a bigger vision, for more instruments, including strings and qanun, because I love the delicate and emotive textures. After many years of absorbing and learning from masters, the music started pouring out of my mind. And that’s the album I’m working on now. I’ve always felt that music is the soundtrack to my life, and enjoyed profound journeys and transformations through listening. I hope to give listeners such an experience.
AF: Can you tell us some stories about some of the countries you’ve traveled to and music teachers you’ve worked with?
ST: Two of my incredible vocal teachers were Rima Kcheich and Ghada Shbeir, whom I studied with in Lebanon and also at Simon Shaheen’s Arabic Music Retreat in Massachusetts. Rima taught me to pay attention to the details and sing maqam, and Ghada taught me to improvise and add different vocal timbres to my toolbox. Simon himself teaches me passion, discipline, and affirms music as my greatest love. I spent about six months in Lebanon and loved the culture, nature, and its music especially. I also studied Manned drumming from Guinea with Jebebara ensemble there.
My mentor at CalArts was Alfred Ladzekpo, a Ghanaian chief and master drummer. I was obsessed with Ewe drumming, and my friends and I spent all of our free time playing and learning those rhythmic compositions. He taught us to know when we’re “OFF!” While at CalArts, I also studied Bulgarian choral music with Kate Conklin, and Hindustani music with Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan. Aashishji said, “You can’t sing both rock and Raga.”
I’ve traveled to Morocco several times, also toured with Vlada Tomova’s Bulgarian Voices Trio in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and Russia. I’ve studied Fado singing in Lisbon, Portugal, and Bulgarian Folk Singing at Plovdiv Academy of Folk Music. I sang with Petrana Kucheva, a fantastic vocalist and mentor whom I met there, for a few years. I’ve toured with Black Sea Hotel in the states, Sweden and Denmark and performed at Emirates Palace in UAE with Mayssa Karaa. I’ve been to Turkey, where I witnessed Ottoman music in the otherworldly cave-chimneys of Cappadocia, and Oman, where I saw an exquisite concert of Amal Maher singing Oum Kalthoum at Muscat Opera House. I’ve studied oud with Charbel Rouhana, Wassim Odeh, George Ziadeh, and Bassam Saba, a dear mentor and Artistic Director of the NY Arabic Orchestra. Bassam has taught me style, taste, humbleness and soul.
AF: What’s it like learning to perform a song in a language you aren’t fluent in? What language do you enjoy singing in the most?
ST: It’s a fun challenge. Language lights up my brain. Just as an opera singer learns to sing European art songs well, I study and dedicate to the linguistic nuances the same way. I’d say it’s 80% listening, and 20% translating that into your body. I watch old-timey videos of singers and study the shapes of their mouths. I had a fantastic Arabic diction teacher, Dr. Iman Roushdy-Hammady. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to Arabic and Bulgarian singing, but I am now enjoying the most singing my own songs in English. You have to learn to lighten up, let go of perfectionism, and not take yourself so seriously. It’s okay to make mistakes! At the end of the day it’s about following your heart to what’s interesting, and joyful expression through music and cross-cultural understanding.
AF: What types of symbolism and ritual inspire your music?
ST: I love psychology and Jungian symbolism of the shadow and the divine child archetype, also expressed by Carolyn Myss. I love the artwork of Alex Grey, which portrays us as multidimensional beings, and I’ve performed in his sacred space at CoSM. I’m fascinated by many rituals around the world, from Amazonian ayahuasca healings and their beautiful icaros songs, to the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, to West African dance drumming, to Episcopal church services with epic organ arrangements, incense and flags, to sound baths and crystal energy healings. Drumming is very important to me and I maintain a strong rhythmic element to my music. Drums and shakers, in particular, have been used in healing rituals since ancient times. When I’m around drums, I can hear them speak, and feel them cleansing my body and shaking energy up inside. Also language, poetry, and the power of the spoken word, with sound and intention, is an important element of ritual. Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way is my anchor, and I write morning pages regularly. Essentially, I’m interested in the all ways humans have created meaning, healing and transformation, and connect to higher realms through music and sound.
AF: What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen this month?
ST: The most inspiring thing I’ve seen this month is the sun setting over the ocean, and the sea’s iridescent colors of dusk; the way they work together to create something more beautiful than they could be individually.
AF: What would you want listeners to take away from your latest release?
ST: “Mirror” is specifically about shadow work and integration of all parts of yourself into one loving whole. The more we can accept and understand ourselves, the more we can begin to accept and understand others. Transformation begins from within, and it takes time, patience, and humility. The way forward to a better world, in my vision, is with greater compassion, sensitivity, and this knowledge of self, which can be catalyzed by music. So we can become less violent and reactionary, and more inspired, loving and proactive. We are creative beings, meant to create, meant to shine, and meant to enjoy life, not just to suffer. We can heal, we can let go of our old stories. We can become friends with ourselves and create a life we don’t need to escape from. It’s up to us to choose joy in each moment, to make the best of our current situation and find a positive way forward, and to choose to be willing to move towards this healing with honesty. When we make this choice individually and then come together, with all of our gifts and solutions and ideas, that is the power of community. Then, we can truly live and flourish in harmony, and fulfill our potential.
AF: What is your livestream set-up like?
ST: I use the streaming platform Stage Ten, link it to my Youtube Live, and press go. I have a BOSS RC-300 loop station that I improvise with and program vocals into with some beats. I have a Shure Beta-58 microphone, my oud with pickup mic attached, and various percussion like shaker, frame drums, and riq, which I layer with the looper. I have a Fishmann Loudbox Mini amp, so I plug 1/4’ cables from my loop station into that. I plug the mic and oud directly into the loop station.
AF: What are your plans for 2020 and beyond?
ST: I am in pre-production for recording my first full album of original music with a ten-piece microtonal chamber ensemble! I’m finishing the scores, arrangements, and parts in Sibelius, and planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support this work. First I’ll record and make a music video for my next single, “Dreamtime.” Once the world opens up again, I’ll be touring a lot with this ensemble.
My ultimate goal is to open an artist retreat & performance center with music and photo/video production studios. This space will be available to artists from around the world from all socio-economic backgrounds to come and create the art that’s meant to be made through them, in a supportive, inspiring, and unpretentious atmosphere.
RSVP HERE for Shelley Thomas livestream via YouTube at 1pm ET. To pre-order the upcoming album, email email@example.com.
More great livestreams this week…
9/25 Langhorne Slim, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Mt. Joy & More via Philly Music Fest. 7pm ET, RSVP HERE
We are excited to be featuring an in-person, socially distant event for the first time since March! Arts For Arts, an NYC organization that is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Free Jazz is hosting Artist for a Free World Protest Concert Series September 12th at The Clemente, La Plaza and September 26th in St. Marks Churchyard.
The headliner for this Saturday’s event is Sam Newsome Trio. Newsome is a soprano saxophonist, jazz improviser, solo performer, sound enthusiast, and music professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus. Solo soprano sax has not been explored as thoroughly as other saxophones, allowing Newsome to pave the way with his creativity and sonic explorations. Newsome has a broad palette of sounds with experimental techniques such as prepared and modified saxophones. Newsome’s most recent 2020 releases, Sonic Journey: Live at the Red Room, and Free Wyoming (Sam Newsome Trio: Live at the Metro Coffee Co.) capture their live free-form abstract compositions.
This Saturday (9/12) you can catch Sam Newsome joined by Hilliard Greene on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums live at The Clemente in La Plaza, 114 Norfolk Street. The Larry Roland Trio and Dickey Spell will also be performing at 3 and 4pm respectively. The event is sold out on preregistration, but they will accommodate walk-ups as capacity allows (approx 30 people). It will also be live streamed via Facebook and YouTube. We chatted with Sam Newsome about his favorite visual artists, musical routine and why jazz students should be awarded for getting it wrong.
AF: What led you to jazz and the soprano sax?
SN: I was attracted to the artistic freedom that jazz afforded me. Society often teaches us to be cogs in a wheel, to follow the rules, and to be good soldiers. Jazz challenges these expectations. Jazz musicians are encouraged to shake up the status quo, or sometimes simply move around it. As far as the soprano… because it’s the least explored of all the saxophones, I saw it as a blank creative canvas that allowed me be under-influenced by the music’s history.
AF: What are some ways you prepare and modify your sax?
SN: I have an expansive set of preparations that I utilize, that’s constantly growing—for better or worst. The ones most commonly used are my plastic tube extensions, my hanging wind chimes, the tin foil that I attached to the horn’s bell, the balloons stuffed with bells that I attach to my fingers, the noise makers that I place inside of my instrument, and lately, I’ve been experimenting with attaching a dishwasher drain hose to the neck of the instrument. It’s a pretty wild sound. My creative process is guided by the simple idea of altering the way that air enters and exits my instrument.
AF: Are you inspired by any non-musical mediums?
SN: Absolutely. Picasso, Pollack, Yayoi Kusama, and nature are huge sources of inspiration. Simply put, I’m inspired by things of beauty.
AF: Has the quarantine affected your musical routine?
SN: Most definitely. I did not practice as much in the conventional sense. With few opportunities to play, it’s pretty understandable. Actually, I spent more time outside enjoying nature: hiking, camping, bike riding, ziplining, all the fun stuff I normally don’t make time for. But now I’m getting back to practicing in a more rigorous way. It feels good after so many months of laying off.
AF: What have been some of your favorite records to listen to over the past few months?
SN: Oddly enough, I don’t listen to a lot of music. I do listen to things every day, but only in small doses. Just hearing a few bars sets off my creative juices like a flowing river, then I’ll to have to turn it off so that I can deal with my creative thoughts. It’s one of the curses of being an artist. My wife, Meg Okura, is prolific composer. I’d say I probably listen to her music more than anyone else’s, just from being in such close proximity.
AF: You’ve taught jazz for many years. Do you feel there’s an approach to teaching that achieves more innovative and creative playing?
SN: For sure. Innovation and creativity only flourishes when students take chances and fail. However, they won’t go out on a limb if they’re punished for it. If we started awarding students for getting it wrong instead of only patting them on the backs when they get it right, we’d see a significant change in students’ creative output. When need to start giving A’s for fucking up. Make wrong the new right.
AF: What has been your favorite live performance experience and why?
SN: They’ve all been special in their own way. Any time I’m able to simultaneously connect with my instrument, have synergy with other players, and play for an appreciative audience, it’s nothing short of magical. It’s an enlightened state that can’t be judged, only experienced.
AF: Have you done many socially distant shows?
SN: Quite a few. I just returned from playing the 2020 Detroit Jazz Festival with a Afro Horn, a high- energy Afro Cuban-influenced jazz ensemble I’ve been working with for several years. They flew us from New York to Detroit, and we played on a big stage for no live audience, just tech and camera crew. All of the performances were streamed via their website and YouTube. It was very bizarre, to say the least. However, it was a sign of progress. This would have been unthinkable back in April.
AF: How did you get involved in the Artists for a Free World Protest Concert series and what can we expect from the performance?
SN: I’ve been involved with them for at least five or six years. I admire the work that they do. We need more people like them out here trying to make a difference. On Saturday, I’ll be performing with my trio with Hilliard Greene on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums. And we’ll do what we do, which is take ourselves and the audience on a sonic journey. Hopefully, we’ll all come out on the other side in a better place.
AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
SN: My plans moving forward are simple. Enjoy life, stay safe, and create.
RSVP HERE for Sam Newsome trio, Dickey/Swell, and Larry Roland Trio at The Clemente, La Plaza 3pm ET on 9/12.
Looking to unblock your pineal gland with some otherworldly guidance this fall? You’re in luck! Los Angeles proto-punk psych-rock band Death Valley Girls will open your third eye with their new space gospel soaked record Under the Spell of Joy due out October 2nd. Dipping their feet into the Akashic records isn’t new territory for the band, who are brave enough to write their lyrics the morning before they record with the help of spirits from other layers of our universe. Their latest record was inspired from the text of t-shirt that guitarist/vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden wore every day for five years – its words ‘Under the Spell of Joy’ became a motto and inspiration for Bloomgarden to manifest her desires. With Larry Schemel on guitar, she wrote the record with the intention to bring people together with its hypnotic choirs and chorus’ to chant along to. The next chance to raise your vibration with Death Valley Girls live is the Levitation Sessions livestream via Seated on Saturday, September 5th! We chatted with Bloomgarden about her favorite alien race, connecting to alternate dimensions and the pandemic’s effect on her views of life, death and societal growth.
AF: What experiences, records, and other media forms inspired your upcoming release Under the Spell of Joy?
BB: The main sources of inspiration were studying the dream state, Terrence McKenna, trying to access the akashic records, the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast, his guest Mitch Horowitz, and learning about Neville Goddard.
AF: After writing a record that channels something from “somewhere in the future,” has your perspective on what the future holds changed?
BB: The more I think about it, I think what we channeled was not necessarily in the future or the past or even time as we understand it at all! I think we just connected to an energy, alternate dimension, or some type of higher being and that gave us access to these songs.
AF: Do you feel like the pandemic as a whole will lead to a greater spiritual evolution/awakening for society?
BB: We believe so, because we have to. It is horrible and terrible that anyone has to suffer or that our society seems like it has to completely implode for justice to prevail. However, the only way we can look at this all is as an opportunity for growth. When we grow we become strong and compassionate; this is just part of that journey.
AF: What have you learned in the past few months about yourself as a musician and how you operate as a band?
BB: Mostly the last few months I’ve realized I was only a musician the last few years, not really a human. We were on the road like five tours a year for I think three years. I built no life for myself at all! I basically gave everything I had energetically for a month on tour, then cocooned silently in my room until we had another tour, nothing in between. Now that we don’t have tour I’m learning how to not cocoon (while also quarantining, so that’s pretty far out!). I got my first plant! And got a printer so I can make art. Trying to get excited about stuff like that.
AF: Now that the fall is creeping up on us, do you have any accounts of paranormal activities you’d like to share? Are you partial to any specific alien race?
BB: Haha! I’m not actually a contactee! I’m involved with contactee and abductee support groups, but I’m not one myself. I definitely love the Pleiadians and their message. I would love to hear from them someday!
AF: I read in a past interview that you were kind of excited for end times because you really want to have a compound to be with your friends. Have you created or thought out your apocalypse compound or have any other doomsday plans?
BB: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it non-stop! I lived on a compound-esque farm in upstate New York so I kind of have an idea of what I would want. And if I were alone in the world I would definitely make it happen. But I live with my little nephews now, and being with them and them being safe is the most important thing. Freedom and compound will come when the world is safe for them!
AF: Have these past months in lockdown changed your views on life, death, the afterlife, and spiritual transcendence?
BB: That’s a good question! When I thought about the black plague or other major world altering events I never really thought of the individual people and their experiences. I think this time has given me a new perspective in the sense that we are like caretakers for the earth. We come and go and teach and learn, and in the end hopefully we leave the earth better than we found it.
AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
BB: Learn, grow, create, write, sing, fight, love, and on and on…
RSVP HERE for Death Valley Girls via Levitation Sessions on 9/5, 8pm ET. $3.98-100
Oceanator is the Brooklyn-based solo project of Elise Okusami, who writes honest grunge-pop tunes that range from solo acoustic folk to synth pop. Okusami’s current live band includes Andrew Whitehurst and Anthony Richards, but her newest record Things I Never Said (released today!), also features performances by Eva Lawitts on bass and Mike Okusami and Aaron Silberstein on drums. Lead singles “A Crack in the World,” “Heartbeat” and “I Would Find You” have earworm qualities that belie their sonic heft. Though grunge is often associated with angsty feelings, Things I Never Said is actually comforting, with snippets of positive lyrical affirmations like “I’ll keep trying to keep the skies blue anyway.” The record was recorded at Wonderpark Studios by Eva Lawitt and Chris Kasnow and by Okusami’s brother in his studio in Maryland, and was released by Okusami’s new label Plastic Miracles. You can celebrate Oceanator’s record release tonight 8/28 on BABY.TV at 8pm EST! We chatted with Elisa Okusami about her Dead Kennedys cover, creating her own label, and her recommendations for must-download material for next Bandcamp Friday (September 4th).
AF: The first time I saw Oceanator was at Shea Stadium in fall of 2016 and you were completely solo. How has the project and your songwriting style evolved over the years?
EO: I miss Shea! I was playing a lot of solo stuff in the beginning because I wanted to get out there and play those songs, and I didn’t have any people to play them with yet. I still love playing solo for sure, but it’s very exciting to be able to play these songs big and huge with a full band. Andrew Whitehurst and Anthony Richards have been my touring bandmates for the past year and they’re amazing. I was also playing shows with Eva Lawitts, Aaron Silberstein, Zoe Brecher and a few other folks, and knowing that I had people I could ask to play shows I think made me feel freer to write songs for a full band and write less acoustic stuff, maybe? Not sure, I guess. I’ve always written both and I’m excited to get to perform both ways these days!
AF: Do you have a quarantine routine? Has lockdown affected your creativity in any way?
EO: I’ve been making cold brew coffee every few days – that’s about as much of a routine as I’ve got right now. In the beginning I was doing better with it and also doing walks and stuff. I need to get back into it. As far as creativity, I’ve been having an extra hard time writing lyrics. I’ve been writing a bunch of music, but any time I try to think about lyrics at all it’s this big grey blur.
AF: What are you most proud of about your new record and what do you want listeners to take away from it?
EO: I hope people take away a feeling of enjoyment and also a feeling of hope. I think the record goes through a lot of dark and heavy stuff, but I think overall it’s an optimistic record. That’s also why I ended it with “Sunshine,” because after all the disasters, etc, it’s like “Okay, we’re gonna be okay.” I’m pretty proud of the record as a whole, to be honest. I like the way it flows and I think these are some of the best songs I’ve ever written.
AF: How was recording your cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck“?
EO: It was super fun! I did it at my brother’s studio and played all the instruments. I was having a super fun time just jamming on everything as we recorded. I was nervous about doing the vocals ‘cause Jello’s got that distinct voice, but I tried to just be me and I’m happy with how it turned out.
AF: What was the process like of creating your own label to release the album?
EO: Well, the label had been planned for a while, actually. I was always planning to launch it this year, and the original plan didn’t include me releasing any of my own music at all. Then I left the label I was on, so we were shopping the record around and with everything going on it was taking a while so we decided to self-release, and then I was like, well since I’m launching the label anyway might as well put it on that! It’s been a fun learning process. A lot of folks from other labels have reached out to offer to chat if I have questions, and that’s been super helpful. I’m really excited about the future of the label. We have four more releases coming in the fall and just put our first release of 2021 on the calendar.
AF: What is your favorite piece of Oceanator merch and how did you get the idea for it?
EO: I don’t know if I have a favorite right now! I’m very very stoked on the entire run of stuff I did around the record. I guess if I had to pick it would be the post cards or the temporary tattoos? The postcards were designed by Kameron White and the tattoos by Haley Butters and they’re both perfect. The post cards my friend Gretchen suggested doing. The temporary tattoos, I got the idea because I was thinking about what other fun ’90s stuff I could do since I was doing pogs. Temporary tattoos just popped into my head and I knew Haley had made flash sheets before so I asked them if they wanted to do the temp tattoo designs and they sent back this perfect thing with a tattoo for each song inspired by that song. It’s so cool.
AF: What bands/labels do you recommend to support on Bandcamp day next week?
AF: You’ve also drummed in various bands – are you still drumming in any projects or will you be in the future?
EO: I’m not actively right now because of the pandemic. Most of the drumming I was doing for folks was on tours, but yeah, I’ve been talking to some friends and I think if scheduling works out when touring starts again I’ll be playing some drums! I hope so. I miss the drums.
AF: What is your livestream setup like?
EO: Recently I have been doing the guitar through pedals just direct in to the mixer so I don’t bother the neighbors as much. At the beginning of quarantine I was mic’ing my amp but now that I’m doing more streams at later times and stuff, so I’ve been doing direct in and it has actually been sounding pretty great. Then I’ve got a mic for the vocals. Those both go into this little mixer, and I connect the mixer either to my interface and then into my computer or directly into my phone depending on what platform I’m streaming on.
AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
EO: Mostly just seeing how things play out with pandemic and stuff. I don’t think shows will happen anytime soon which stinks. But I’m trying to stay busy. Got a bunch of things coming out on the label, so I’ll be working on that stuff. And I have a bunch of songs that I wanna work on for the next record, and also maybe an EP.
RSVP HERE for Oceanator’s Things I Never Said Release Party via BABY.TV, $5-50 8-9PM EST
More great livestreams this week…
8/28 Yaeji via Boiler Room Instagram. 7pm EST RSVP HERE
8/28 Angel Olsen via Noonchorus – Cosmic Stream 3. $15 adv/$17 dos, 9pm EST RSVP HERE
8/29 Ben Gibbard, Arlo Guthrie, Glenn Mercer (of The Feelies), and more via Coney Island Mermaid Parade Tail-a-thon. 8pm EST RSVP HERE
8/29 The O’My’s, Dehd, Frank Waln, Bomba con Buya, Andrew Sa via Square Roots Festival. 7pm EST RSVP HERE
8/29 Charlie Parker’s 100th Birthday Celebration: Sam Turvey, Jason Moran, Jaleel Shaw via SummerStage Everywhere. 10pm EST RSVP HERE
8/31 Goat Girl via Working Class Movement Library Facebook. 2pm EST RSVP HERE
Behind the screen, so much of the live show magic can be lost, but when I saw BL Shirelle during the Die Jim Crow Records P.P.E. Into Prisons Zoom benefit I couldn’t look away. Her energy was so palpable it felt like we were in the same room together. BL Shirelle is a Philadelphia-based hip-hop artist that blends genres of rock, blues, and R&B in her recent debut LP ASSATA TROI. The record title translates to “she who struggles is a warrior,” and the record holds true to the title with personal, hard-hitting lyrics that speak truth to her journey from ignorance to enlightenment. BL Shirelle is the deputy director of Die Jim Crow Records, the first non-profit record label for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated musicians in history. As a formerly incarcerated artist herself, she has fostered an incredibly supportive community dedicated to social change.
For the past few months BL and Fury Young have booked Zoom benefits that showcase the talents of a wide variety of musicians and writers and have raised more than 20K to get PPE into Prisons via this GoFundMe. BL Shirelle is headlining the next Die Jim Crow benefit this Sunday 8/23 8-9:30pm EST. All funds raised this week will be going to a TBD facility in Florida, where COVID cases are increasing statewide and in certain prisons and jails. We chatted with BL about the making of her record, what recording in prison looks like, and her favorite zoom moments.
AF: Tell us about the making of your debut record ASSATA TROI. What’s the working dynamic with your producer Trvp Lyne like?
BL: So the making of this album was very natural. It was me reflecting on past relationships and situations in my life. Some past, some present relationships, with everyone from God to society itself. At times I’m in a very vulnerable position and at times I’m deflecting and defensive. It’s definitely a range of human emotions. I wanted to include every part of hip-hop I embody. Lyricism (“SIGS,” “Generational Curse”), storytelling (“Conspiracy”), Philly flows (“Phantom Cookie”), melodic R&B (“Ex Bitch,” “Bestie”). Sonically I wanted to embody hip-hop at its core with a sophisticated sound that travels between worlds loosely… hints of R&B, rock, blues, even gospel. That’s where Trvp comes in. He’s a phenom who plays six instruments. He also understands the sound I’m attempting to go for and it’s a very collaborative effort.We work really quickly and efficiently together. Me and TRVP have a very cohesive collaborative relationship.
AF: What does the music video for “SIGS” mean to you and how was the filming of it?
BL: The filming of it with Brian Goodwin was very concise. We wanted a focus on the lyrics due to that song being filled with wordplay and hard hitting lyrics. We wanted to cut to images from past decades due to the song being so reflective and introspective of the past. So we really keyed in on the era of the crack epidemic which impacted my life in a very significant way. A lot of the images are for you, the viewer, to determine how they make you feel, so I’ll set the stage for you but I encourage you all to interpret it how you may.
AF: How do you discover the musicians on your label Die Jim Crow and what does the process of recording in a prison look like?
BL: One thing about prison is you can count on word spreading. A lot of our connections have been made really organically through word of mouth, or through someone referring us to this person one way or another. We have band directors in each prison we work in. Their position is to make sure everything is in order prior to us arriving. They coordinate practice times (which, in order to make work, participants have to sacrifice some other activities), they develop structure to songs and compositions with other collaborators, they funnel in new musicians and artists. All our band directors have great character and leadership qualities, a unique writing and musical prowess of their own. That’s most important when recording in a prison because when DJC is granted access we are on a VERY strict time limit. We are usually allotted about five days. We’re granted entry around 7am, leaving around 6pm. First thing first, we have to build a sturdy studio in whatever conditions they give us. Could be a group room or a janitorial closet. You never know. This is most important to gather the best possible vocals we can as our mission statement is to provide a high quality platform to incarcerated musicians. Our collaborators could be two or fifteen depending on the project. We spend that time maximizing vocal deliveries, arguing (lol), creating different sounds and frequencies depending on the mood, laughing, sharing life experiences and current events, sweating, writing… Musicians are coming together creating live compositions, usually in a separate room. We eat what they eat, drink what they drink. For that moment in time we are all musicians in a creative space. No one is free or in bondage. We’re all literally just doing what we live and love to do.
AF: How did you and Fury Young meet and when did you start collaborating to host the Sunday Zoom fundraisers for P.P.E. into Prisons?
BL: Me and Fury met in 2014. I was in prison. He seen a Ted X event I was a part of and reached out to my band member. My band member gave me the mail because I was the writer, composer, and arranger for the band. We started collaborating on the PPE benefits three and half months ago. It started from a donation I made to a transitional center here in Philadelphia of some PPE masks. Fury loved the idea and wanted to expound upon it so we created a campaign to raise money to send masks into prisons. We figured a good way to raise the funds would be to do a digital show where we invite other artists on and extend our platform to raise awareness. The first show went really well and the rest is history.
AF: What are some special moments from the Zoom live streams?
BL: The special moments are really trippy for me. Like one time this kid read a short story about being a piece of bread and having sex and getting baked and shit… I’ve never done acid but I imagine it similar to that lol… we have a lot of trippy instances like that and I look forward to that person whoever they may be every week.
AF: What are other actions people can take to help promote general health care inside of prisons?
BL: That’s a very loaded and naive question. Healthcare in prisons is third world country bad. I’ve seen peoples lose 100 pounds constantly complaining they’re dying and something’s wrong while being ignored until they’re diagnosed with terminal cancer. I’ve seen that numerous times. I’ve seen medical convince people to get hysterectomies for benign cysts, I’ve seen people die from appendicitis, backed up bowels… maybe I’m too trauma riddled to answer that. I guess the first step is educating yourself on the medical conditions in prisons and then applying your strengths to attempt to make it better. My strength is making music so I highlight these conditions whenever I can, but if I had those answers I wouldn’t have seen so much death due to deliberate indifference to incarcerated people’s health. There’s a reason state-funded prisons need our masks, right?
AF: What is your advice for everyone balancing fighting a pandemic as well as fighting for social justice?
BL: Stay safe, wear your masks, walk and chew bubble gum. Don’t have a one-track mind. We can’t afford to be reckless nor can we afford to be crippled with fear.
AF: What’s the first thing that you want to do once the quarantine is over and what are your plans for the rest of 2020?
BL: I’ll be going out of the country wherever they’ll have me pretty much!! My plans for the rest of 2020 is I’ll be Executive Producing our artist B. Alexis! She’s been incarcerated since she was 17. Serving 30 years. She’s undoubtedly talented and such a beautiful, smart, focused, and driven person and it is an honor to have such a gig!
RSVP HERE (Zoom) or HERE (Facebook) for BL Shirelle, Don Kody, Elliot Skinner, Ahomari, Shawn May, Yung Hitta, Zachary, Kindkeith, and J Dot Brwn from 8-9:30pm est. Donate to PPE Into Prisons Campaign HERE.
Mike Borchardt, frontman of Brooklyn DIY punk outfit Nihiloceros, is a stellar show-goer. He is always stage-side, taking photos and promoting every show happening that week on his band’s social media accounts. From the looks of Instagram, he has taken the transition from IRL gigs to virtual shows in stride, continuing to post live stream schedules and Insta-live screen shots.
Mike started what has become Brooklyn’s most supportive band in his hometown of Chicago. They were originally called Samantha, but changed their name to the much more Google-able Nihiloceros. The trash pop trio’s rhythm section is filled out by Alex Hoffman on bass and vocals, and German Sent on drums. They released a self-titled EP in 2017, and are putting the finishing touches on their follow-up EP in a socially distant manner. You can catch Mike of Nihiloceros doing a solo set this Tuesday, June 2nd on Radio Free Brooklyn’s Instagram at 8pm. We chatted with Mike about commuting during lock down, creative livestreaming, and being quarantined with band mates.
AF: Has Nihiloceros been able to get together or collaborate remotely during lockdown?
MB:Luckily Alex lives right downstairs so he and I have been able to work on music a bit. We’ve built a little recording booth in the basement for a few finishing touches on the new Nihiloceros record. I’m still taking the subway into Manhattan every day for work, and Alex’s wife is pregnant, so we’ve been trying to socially distance the “upstairs people” from the “downstairs people” as much as possible. I’m definitely the black sheep pariah of Nihiloceros Castle.
German has been quarantined with his family in New Jersey. I haven’t seen him since our last show the first week of March, but we’ve been talking through musical concepts we are excited to start exploring. German drove back into Brooklyn a couple times to go play drums in isolation at our rehearsal space. Alex and German are both in the middle of home construction projects, so they’ve also been swapping notes on demolition and rehab. German and I have been workshopping prototypes for new merch, including Nihiloceros soap and Nihiloceros Chia Pets.
AF: What are some of the things you’ve done to support bands and venues in lieu of not being able to go to shows?
MB: It’s been really important to us to stay involved with the scene as we all navigate this crisis together. I’ve written a handful of songs for some quarantine compilations (Dim Things, Shred City, NYC Musicians for NYC) all to raise money for Artist Relief Tree, Food Bank for NYC, etc. We’ve done a series of video sessions and livestreams for a lot of the venues like Our Wicked Lady and The Footlight to help them pay their staff and hopefully keep their doors open on the other side of this. Everyone should check out the work NIVA [National Independent Venue Association] is doing through #SaveOurStages to drum up congressional support and secure funding on a national scale for all these stages that make up our DIY tour circuits.
Alex and I are both lucky to still be working, so we’ve been buying merch and music from bands as much as possible. And also obviously we’ve been catching and sharing as many artists’ livestreams as possible. From a photography standpoint, those screenshots on the phone aren’t as fun, but they’re much easier to edit.
AF: Do you have any creative tips on screen shooting live streams? What’s your approach to live streaming like?
MB: I think we are all still trying to figure that out. I remember the first week of the lockdown, we played a couple shows on the Left Bank Magazine Virtual Music Fest, and we all spent a lot of time looking to see if we had hit the right button, if we were live, if people were watching, and asking viewers if everything sounded okay. In the weeks and months since, I think we started to figure things out. I believe Ilithios was the first I saw who just shut up and put on a great show. Since then, I’ve tried to make our livestreams be more like a real performance and less like my dad trying to use the internet.
We also always try and partner a livestream with an organization or label/blog/venue (BandsDoBK, Ms. Understood Records, Songwriters Salon, etc.) as a vehicle to raise money or awareness for something we care about. Gillian Visco (Shadow Monster) and I came up with a super fun weekly music hangout stream idea called #TagnSplit that’s been touring around the community for a few weeks now. We got some stuff we are working on with Bloodless Management, Street Wannabes, as well as some live podcasts in Staten Island and Philadelphia and St.Louis. And this Tuesday night 6/2, Nihiloceros is going live on Radio Free Brooklyn to play some songs and talk about ways we can all help out.
AF: You’re an essential worker and still commute to your job everyday. How has navigating the city been during this time and has the experience changed your perspective of New York City?
MB: Taking the subway into the city everyday amidst the pandemic has definitely been an experience I won’t soon forget. It’s been a constantly evolving situation that I’ve witnessed ranging from terrifying to extremely heartwarming. On one side there’s the Mad Max post-apocalyptic Manhattan streets and the homeless camp territory wars on the subways. But at the same time I see a heightened sense of care and humanity as we reach out and help one another, and as we take responsibility to safely share our limited social spaces. The other day, a stranger pulled over and got out of her car to give me her canvas bag and helped me gather my groceries that had fallen, broken eggs all over the sidewalk, and humus that rolled into the street. This pandemic has had a real polarizing effect, but it has reaffirmed my perspective of NYC and everything that defines it. Everything great and everything awful about this city will still be here after this crisis is over. And that’s kind of comforting to me. Though hopefully we carry forward a little more of the good than we do the awful.
AF: What do you think life in NYC as a musician will be like post-lockdown?
MB: I think humans have a short memory and an amazing ability to adapt and pivot. That can be both a good and bad thing. We are extremely resilient, but we often don’t learn from missteps and end up repeating the same mistakes. I think our communities will make some adjustments as we ease back into our new normal. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like. It might be a little while before moshing, crowd-surfing, and hugs make a huge comeback. People are itching to get back out into our creative outlets and social circles, but we are also justifiably apprehensive. It will just take time.
I hope we learn to appreciate what matters a little more, both in and out of music. Maybe we won’t feel the need to scramble all over each other all the time. Maybe we can slow down and enjoy the process a little more. This has been a unique opportunity to reset who we are as artists and who we are as people. It’s an opportunity to rebuild the community the way we want it built. I really hope we continue to build each other up and come to appreciate the journey rather than the destination.
AF: Is Nihiloceros planning to release any new music in 2020?
MB: That’s the million dollar question right now, and I really don’t know the answer. Our new record was almost finished before the pandemic hit. Alex and I had been in the studio writing and recording and it with Chris Gilroy, who drummed with us on the record before German joined the band. We are super proud of it, and were already extremely eager to release it. But as a band that defines themselves so heavily on their live show, it just doesn’t feel right to put it out there without the ability to play and tour on it properly. We’ve had to push both our Summer and Fall 2020 tour plans, so we may hold off on releasing it until we have a better idea of what the future of live music looks like.
I’ve been losing a lot of sleep over this the past few months. We still have to get Stephanie Gunther (Desert Sharks) and Gillian Visco (Shadow Monster) into the studio to do some vocals on a couple songs once it’s safe. Maybe we’ll release a song later this year, and release two records in 2021 since we’ve already started writing new songs.
RSVP HERE for Mike of Nihiloceros livestream on Radio Free Brooklyn’s Instagram 8pm Tuesday 6/2.
Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.
More solo endeavors are sprouting up now that many musicians have been left separated from their bands due to social distancing. Most recently, Manny Nomikos of Catty released a music video of him dancing alone in quarantine and a cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” featuring Rosie Slater. His latest project, Illithios (meaning idiot in Greek), stemmed from a collection songs that never fit well enough to bring to a band. All musicians write songs sometimes that come out of left field, but for Nomikos, a true New Yorker born and raised by a Greek father and Korean mother, the project has its roots in an identity of not feeling a true sense of belonging to either side of himself. The project’s namesake serves as a cover so that “no matter how idiotic it all turns out, at least it’ll be in character,” while the songs themselves range from Thom Yorke-inspired pop to personal drum machine fused folk. Never having performed live before the quarantine, Nomikos will have the unique experience of debuting this project via Instagram livestream. There are only a few tracks available online, so tune in for Illithios surprises tonight (4/27) at 8pm. We chatted with Illithios about how to get better livestream sound quality, Dodge Caravans, and his spirit animal quiz.
AF: You’re livestreaming your live show debut on Instagram. Is that as nerve wracking as having your first show in person?
MN: I hadn’t considered that really, but I suppose it’s way more nerve-wracking. Besides performing on your own, there’s also no physical audience to engage with, which makes the whole performance feel very unfamiliar.
AF: What is your live stream set up like? What’s your favorite piece of gear?
MN: This was the hardest part for me cause I was debating how much I should actually play vs. using samples/pre-recorded parts. I felt that rather than just play the guitar the whole time, I’d use a sampler and tape deck to trigger parts and focus more on a performance. Wasn’t sure I’d be very entertaining just playing a guitar for 30 minutes on the internet. So with that said, my fave piece of equipment is my Critter and Guitari Organelle which I’m using as the central part of the sound.
AF: It says your live stream will be presented in Hi-Fi, what does that mean exactly?
MN: Since being stuck at home I’m sure we’ve all been catching streaming shows and they all sorta have their ups and downs. Instagram live has the best foot traffic for live-streaming but their audio is garbage. So I’m running a bunch of software stuff I found to get IG live running off a laptop and using a proper audio interface so the audio doesn’t have that streaming washiness. Hopefully people put on their headphones and I don’t blow it in the mix and we all have a good time.
AF: One of your cover photos is what I think is a ’90s Dodge Caravan. I owned a 1995 Dodge Caravan named Patrick that was very dear to my heart. Do you have any good Dodge Caravan stories?
MN: There’s a special camaraderie of ’90s Dodge Caravan people. I have yet to meet someone who drove a Caravan who’s not a pretty alright person. I married a Caravan driving gal. One story that sticks out was driving with friends to the mall to get Doom 2. We were so excited to get home that I started to drive before my bud Lamar had closed the sliding side door. And I suppose the momentum or gravity or science did its thing and the door slid back so fast it flew off which was not good. We got it back on but it was never the same.
AF: What is your quarantine anthem?
MN: “Play at Your Own Risk” – Planet Patrol. Or Forest by Stella (with a Greek sigma).
AF: I saw on your Facebook invite you made a spirit animal quiz. What is your spirit animal?
MN: Ooooh… well first off, wanna make sure it’s clear that it’s not like a spammy quiz where I collect data or anything like that. I keep getting butterfly mixed with baby deer. Which is sad cause I made the quiz so I wouldn’t get butterfly but I suppose it can’t be avoided.
AF: What spirit animal do you think I am?
MN: We’ve had limited interactions so I’m gonna guess, based on your Kurt Cobain persona from your Sharkmuffin Halloween show… I’d guess you’re a bat mixed with a little bit of dog spirit. Bats have good intuition, they’re night creatures, are highly motivated but on their own schedule. Like you will make a plan to do your taxes, and you will do it and it will be well done, but like you’ll miss the tax deadline by like a few months. Dog mix gives loyalty and playfulness. I dunno, take the test and see how off I am!
AF: I took the quiz and turns I am 48% an Owl (so you were on track with the night creature), and 43% a Panda.