RSVP HERE: Shelley Thomas Livestreams via YouTube + MORE

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 

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

9/25 Modern English (Live from London) via AXS. $15, 8:30pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/25 Long Neck, Baby Grill, gobbinjr, Oceanator via Twitch (Around the Campfire). RSVP HERE

9/26 Angel Olsen, Beach House, Big Thief, Blood Orange, Charli XCX, Solange, Wilco & More via Hotel Figueroa (Pitchfork Drive-In). $39, 10pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/26 Oh Sees via Seated. $15, 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/26 Reggie Watts, John Teida, Girl God, Shannon Lay, Ramonda Hammer, & more via Echo Park Rising. 12pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/29 Pom Pom Squad, Charlotte Rose Benjamin via (Neon Gold Presents). 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/30 The Nude Party via Rough Trade UK Instagram. 1pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/30 Laraaji (Sun Piano) via NoonChorus (LPR Presents). $10, 9pm ET, RSVP HERE

INTERVIEW: Jen Baron of Girls Rock Helps Young Women Find Their Voices

It’s hard for a guy to interrupt you if you’ve got your amp turned up to 11. Many women know the feeling of being mansplained to or interrupted mid-thought with the words “just to piggyback on that.” Girls Rock Santa Barbara is all about getting girls in charge and on stage.

The Girls Rock mission is definitely one AudioFemme can get down with: “To provide a safe, diverse and inclusive space to female identified youth through music and arts education, mentorship, and community building. Our vision is to help shift girl culture to one where girls collaborate and support each other. We see a future where girls lift each other up instead of tear each other down. We see a future where girls and women lead.” #GirlPower much?

We sat down with Executive Director Jen Baron to talk about how she went from being an environmental science major to heading up an organization that has served over 4,000 girls aged 6–17 in the Santa Barbara area.

AF: Tell us about Girls Rock Santa Barbara. How did you first get involved?

JEN BARON: In 2011, I was finishing up my BA at Antioch University, single parenting and as a final project for one of my classes we had an assignment to create a blueprint of a dream job. When I presented this idea to my class, everyone was so excited and was like, “You have to totally do that!” I was an environmental science major, but had played music since I was four. It’s funny sometimes the things that you’re meant to do have been right in front of you the whole time. So I had this idea, but knew nothing about running a non-profit. I googled “rock camp for girls” and ended up finding Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls in PDX; I immediately contacted them to find out more information. They introduced me to the entire Girls Rock broader community. Seven years later, we’re the largest Girls Rock program in the world.

AF: Why is it important in 2018 to have girls only camp?

JB: Because…. equity, right? It’s so important for girls to have positive role models who show them that they are powerful. Statistics tell us that 70% of 10 year old girls don’t feel like they are good enough. This program exists to help change that statistic . Women have been conditioned throughout history to not take up space in the world, to be silenced, to feel like there is a competition between each other even.

We’re teaching them music and the creative arts, but really music is just the vehicle for building their confidence, showing them their power, acknowledging their most authentic self, teaching them to empower each other and support each other, and giving them the space to be loud and be heard and be seen.

AF: Do you feel like the learning atmosphere is more supportive when women are collaborating with one another?

JB: Not always. I think women (especially young women) are taught that there is a competition of who’s the best and that leads to these feelings of scarcity. So initially I think learning with all women can feel stressful and there’s loads of feelings, there’s a lot of working through these conditioned responses and helping shift the girls’ mindsets to one where we are being true supports to each other. When that shift happens and they see how powerful women are when they are working together, there is just nothing in the world like that, not only for our girls but also our staff.

AF: The school has five different “tracks” – Rockband, Film & Photography, Journalism & Creative Writing, Music Production & Engineering, DJ. How did the creative team at Girls Rock narrow it down to those subjects?

JB: We started with Rockband, which is the bread and butter program of all the Girls Rock programs world wide. Then a few years ago we added Photography and Filmmaking. This summer we added Journalism, DJ, and Music Production and Engineering to our sleep away camp with our teens. I only see us adding more creative tracks as time goes on. Next year I already want to add Live Sound Engineering and Slam Poetry.

AF: So exciting! I love how many technical aspects of music you’re tackling. Any synthesizer building? My husband’s been into them the last year or so.

JB: That’s so awesome! One day! Though we do partner with an amazing non-profit called Techne. The first year they came they taught the girls how to build contact microphones, another year they had them building hydrophones (so mics that can be submerged in water). It was pretty awesome – you’d have the submersible mic running though a guitar amp and the girls would put pop rocks in the water and make all these cool sound beds during their performance. This year Techne did a flashlight orchestra with the girls. They made oscillators that were triggered by different color light. At the end of the week we hid all the instruments they had made and gave the kids flashlights to go find and play each others’ instruments, like  a super rad rock camp scavenger hunt.

It was even more amazing because the very first time Techne was here, I was having dinner with [Techne founders] Suzanne and Bonnie and Suzanne was telling me her ultimate dream was to build this flashlight orchestra with the kids and I was like “Yes! I’m so in, when can we make that happen?” Then this year was the year. It’s so cool to see all those things pan out. Music Production was another thing that I wanted to be a part of our program from the beginning.

AF: This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara also partnered with the largest Syrian Refugee non-profit in the US, Syrian Community Network. 15 Syrian Refugee girls were able to come to camp. What was that experience like?

JB: It’s hard to describe what an impactful week it was. The stories of hardship that these girls have faced and are still facing is heart wrenching, but their resiliency and kindness and bravery – fuck! I’ve never been so moved in my life. What a gift they all are. Last week we had so many kids from all over the world: Denmark, Brazil, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, Syria. The girls were all so supportive of each other and so many friendships were made. There were so many brave kids and risks taken and the creativity that came from these girls feeling safe and loved and free to create without boundaries… it was mind blowing what they created. We just had this microcosm of how I wish the world truly was.

AF: How wonderful for all these girls to meet each other! I didn’t realize the program was so international – or was this a special event?

JB: Our sleep away kids come from all over the world (and our staff too); we are bringing 65 women from nine different countries to teach this summer. It’s so awesome! We’re always looking for rad female identified teachers every summer and workshop leaders and bands! 

AF: You’re a songwriter yourself, with pieces like “Vespertine” and “Gypsy Heart” even making it into a Sharon Stone film! How did you go from being an eight year old writing songs in her bedroom to a writer / producer working with artists in a professional setting?

JB: Music has always been my whole heart. I think growing up I mostly thought that being a musician (for a living) was almost like saying unicorns exist. I was really scared for a very long time to share my music. I would just create and create and the songs would come and go over the years. When I was recording my first record, Beautiful Mistake, which is the one those two songs are on, my engineer helped build my confidence so much as an artist. He taught me my way around the studio and engineering and my brain started to expand. One day I just walked into the studio and was like, “I think I want to write a bunch of pop songs!” I’d never written pop before and once I started, I’ve been super hooked ever since. This is the first pop song I wrote and produced:

I’ve got a new song coming out this year called “Glass Heart” that I recorded at 137 Productions. I’m really proud of it!

AF: It’s great that the girls get to work with so many talented women in the industry!

JB: Our teachers are so so creative! They are the coolest. Every summer I end up falling in love with all these new bands.

AF: Who are a few of the bands you’ve become a fan of through the camp?

JB: So I am a super diehard fan of Ramonda Hammer and Spare Parts For Broken Hearts. Lauren Kop’s project Mini Bear is just insane. Blush is probably one of my favorites right now and for sure and Marley Ferguson’s project Fade will blow your mind.

AF: In January, Neil Portnow, the president of the Recording Academy, received a great deal of backlash when he said that women in the music industry need to “step up.” It led to the hashtag #GrammysSoMale and may have convinced Portnow to step down. What do you think actually needs to happen within the industry for women to be seen and heard more clearly?

JB: So, it’s really hard for young girls to dream up what they can’t see. So number one, dismantle the boys club. Hire women. Everyone hire women. Hire so many women that men start complaining that women are getting all the jobs. Then young girls will see what’s possible for them and the cycle will shift. A movement creates visibility which is always great, but actions have to follow. Women are so smart and powerful and talented. The future is female!

AF: What words of advice do you have for the next generation of female musicians who are currently dreaming, writing, and noodling in their bedrooms?

JB: Let people see you when you’re ready. Support your friends in their dreams. Don’t gossip about other women (even if you think they deserve it) – be a part of the solution. Be as honest as you can be with your music, and when you think you’re being as vulnerable as you can, try to push yourself even further. Focus on being brave and not perfect. See the world and get to know all kinds of people from all walks of life; our differences are beautiful and what connects us as woman is so powerful. Women together are unstoppable. Rock On!

Are you interested in joining the team at Girls Rock Santa Barbara? Check out the volunteer & teaching opportunities on! If you know someone who’d like to attend camp, Girls Rock is already taking registrations for next year and for their after-school program. 

AF 2017 IN REVIEW: Hardest Working DIY Bands on Tour in 2017

Vanessa Silberman (LA)

Over 200 shows

Vanessa Silberman is nothing less than a super human. She has been on the road since January, totaling about ten tours solo, as a two piece with LA transplant via Madison drummer Dave Boson, and as a three piece (the Vanessa Silverman Band) featuring Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity and musician/producer Mikel Ross. She’s also toured as a two piece with Jimmy Dias of San Francisco band The Love Dimension, featuring their friends and different musicians from around the country.

Silberman only took one week off to record a band in Chicago in February (she’s also an engineer/producer!) and also a few weeks off to write and do pre-production work. Of her 200 shows this year (including TV/radio/press ops), for 75 of them Silberman was on double duty playing drums for The Love Dimension and for a few of those shows she even played a third set backing Boston rocker Carissa Johnson.

Top 3 Cities: That’s hard!! Ok right now Los Angeles, Shreveport & Boston

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Buckeys, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, Loves, Panera Bread, Chipotle

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

There are so so many crazy things that happen on tour… My top crazy story and positive outcome was probably when me and Jimmy played in El Paso and had to get to Fort Worth for a show the next night so we had to drive after the show. We were driving, I fell as sleep and at about 5am Jimmy woke me up and noticed something wrong with the van (it wasn’t going past 50 miles an hour). We ended up finding a mechanic a few hours away in the middle of Texas (praying the car would get there as we drove), slept a few hours til they opened and found out the whole engine needed to be replaced but they couldn’t get the engine ordered and received til four days later. There was no place to rent a car in the entire town! We couldn’t believe it. So we had no choice but to drive the van on the highway as slow as we could and pray we could get to the nearest town with a car rental, leave the van to be fixed and come back and get it. Amazingly we did and just barely made our Fort Worth show (we were supposed to open but instead closed the night!) and then played four other shows the next few days in Texas. We drove back East after the car was fixed and just made it to our Houston show. We never missed one show or had to cancel!

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

I love connecting with people, fans and other artists on a very intimate level when it’s smaller DIY shows. The connection is so direct. It’s also absolutely one of the most fulfilling things I have ever felt because I pretty much do everything myself (booking, driving, marketing, social media, performing, etc.) on my solo tours. When you do it alone, at least for me, I find a belief in my music, in what I do. I’m willing to drive any amount of miles and put in any amount of work to share that. I feel empowered and I hope other artists read this and know if they’re willing to put in the work they can tour too!

The least favorite thing is at times it’s a bit difficult to balance other things in your life – personal time, personal care and relationships – because the work load is unreal, especially if you are constantly touring. It’s such a particular lifestyle and most people aren’t willing to put in the work and you really notice it when you play with other artists around the country when you tour so much. But I’m so grateful and feel lucky every day that I can do this.

Vanessa Silberman Tour Tips

For bands who are just starting out, start with weekend runs around where you live. I recommend planning a tour three months in advance; if you’re gonna do your own press, announce shows four or five weeks in advance. For more info and touring tips, is a great touring database, and you can also check out my artist development label


The Accidentals (MI)

187 shows

30 weeks

The Accidentals have averaged about 240 shows a year for the past 3 years, but even after chilling out a little bit they still are the second highest DIY touring band on this list! They’ve hit every state in the U.S. except Hawaii and Alaska, finding and developing their audiences where their music resonates the most. It takes a while to find where a new band’s biggest support will be and The Accidentals are touring smart by hitting the places who demand them the most!

Top 3 Cities: That’s a tough question.  We have more than three. If we had to choose though, it’d be Denver, Grand Rapids, and Chicago.  We kind of have homes away from home in those cities and people very organically support live music and turn out for our shows. They also have really great restaurants (the food is important to us). The venues in those cities feed us well! Phoenix, Albany, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Boston, Austin, Columbus, Fort Wayne would be in the top ten.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Every time we see a Sheetz, everyone in the van collectively cheers.  They have decent sandwiches and coffee in the dead of night. As far as fast food is concerned, we try to avoid it. We let ourselves have ONE Taco Bell stop for the entire tour.  One really great thing about our fans is that they know we are really trying to stay well on a 70 day tour so they’ll send us Panera gift cards and Whole Foods cards in the mail…so we’ve seen a lot of Panera and Whole Foods – thankful for that.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

We have put 230,000 miles on Black Betty in the last three years. On the last tour she broke down 4 times and we lost our brand new trailer. The craziest breakdown was at the peak of Vail pass, an hour and half from Denver, at midnight. We stopped to cool down before heading down the mountain pass and the van computer shut down the vehicle completely due to overheating. We lost all the power (including the lights). There were semi-trucks flying by us 70mph and they couldn’t see us, because we were in a black van in the middle of the night with no lights. Luckily, we got ahold of a 24 foot bed tow truck, and the driver stuffed all 7 of us (band and crew) into the cab, with the van and trailer and all our gear on the bed and flew down the mountain at 85mph scaring the crap out of our tour manager in the bucket seat. We made it to Denver at 2:30am and then proceeded to drop the van at a GMC dealership to get fixed, only to be swarmed by police who thought we were stealing our own van! We finally made it to our host home an hour or so later. Thankfully, our “host mom” made us pizza and gave our manager tequila (at that point, she really needed it).

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Touring is living in extremes all the time. The best part is definitely traveling the country, seeing amazing landscapes and meeting amazing people. It really allows us the opportunity to experience things we’d never get to do if we didn’t play music full time. Our least favorite things about touring are gas station bathrooms and missing time with people back home. We exist on the opposite schedule of everyone we love, and it can be really hard to maintain your relationships along with keeping yourself emotionally, physically and mentally healthy on and off the road. In the end, it’s really important to prioritize, balance, and manage your time wisely.

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B.Hockensmith Photography

The Accidentals Touring Tips

Here’s a comprehensive bullet list of things you’ll need to bring on tour and prepare ahead of time.

  • EZ Pass – so your van can fly through those tolls with no time to waste.
  • GPS – because we’re directionally challenged.
  • Hotel Chain Memberships – so you can get hotels for a discount or rack up points.
  • AAA Roadside – 8 breakdowns on the last tour.  We’re on a first-name basis with them now.
  • Neck pillow
  • Podcasts – We recommend Song Exploder, RadioLab, 99% Invisible, and Meet the Composer.
  • Books – Start reading a book on the road and make sure you still have some chapters left of it when you get home. It builds consistency from one part of your life to the other.
  • Waze App – This app will show you what kind of construction work and traffic jams are along the route.
  • Expedia App – Adding up these points will get you flight/hotel discounts.
  • AirBNB – Homes away from home!
  • Trip Advisor – They always list the coolest restaurants.
  • Google Maps – Just in case your GPS stops being nice or you’re in Canada.
  • Water bottles – It’s good to have one that you can use over and over, but just in case you lose it, keep a 24 pack of extra waters in the van.
  • Protein bars
  • Some sort of multi-tool – Mine is one I got for $10 at a Cracker Barrel in Pennsylvania. It has a hammer on it!

Some general advice: Book your hotels before midnight. Advance your shows a week out. Check the venues’ websites to make sure your times are right, and to find out who was booked alongside you. Carve out some sight-seeing. Be honest with each other. Ask for what you need. ​

(Interview by Sav Buist)

The Coax (MN/NY)

116 Shows

18 Weeks

I met The Coax  and their incredible purple velvet tour van this year at SXSW. They came to all the Little Dickman Records showcases, stayed on the ranch in Austin with us, and soon after they released a split 7″ with High Waisted on LDR and did another massive six week tour. These guys are the sweetest down-to-Earth dudes who will play slap the bag around a camp fire any day.

Top 3 Cities: We have been fortunate enough to have more cities that we enjoy playing than cities that we don’t. I think New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis are the big three for us, but we have met some of the most amazing people in unassuming towns like Lawrence, KS, Fayetteville, AR, Sioux Falls, SD, Saratoga Springs, NY, Springfield, MO, Denton, TX. 

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Wawa takes the cake on this one. The buffalo chicken mac and cheese has fueled us through quite a few night drives. 

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

I feel like all of the (negative) crazy stuff happened to us in our first year of touring. We were a little more reckless then. Not so experienced on the road. I think it’s crazy how many awesome bands we got to see and become friends with this year. The number of towns we got to explore that we’ve never been to. The amount of burritos we ate. We saw the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Lake Superior… twice! We went to five different Six Flags. We played right AFTER King Gizzard at Mohawk in ATX. Now, that’s fucking crazy.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring? 

The best thing about DIY touring is definitely the intimacy. It’s all about the hang. I feel like that is something that is missed on the bigger stage. The relationships you make with fans, promoters, and other bands doing it yourself are incredibly valuable and satisfying. 

The worst thing about DIY touring is definitely being broke. That shit sucks. 

The Coax Touring Tips

Work hard. Don’t give up. Make it happen. If it’s truly what you love to do then you will find a way. Sleep in the van. Get dirty. Make sacrifices. Make friends. Make rad music. Drink Hamms.

(Interview by Tom Lescovich)


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photo by Christina Salgar Saieh

Fruit & Flowers (NYC)

About 100 shows

11 Weeks

It’s no secret Fruit & Flowers are my buds. We went on tour together last February with my band Ex-Girlfriends, driving from Brooklyn to California in less than four days, touring up the West Coast and then driving straight from our final show in Seattle, WA to Austin, TX (I got off the bus is LA), only making one stop for the night at their drummer’s sister’s house in San Francisco. They’re the only band on this list that is also on Oh My Rockness’ Hardest Working Bands in NYC of 2017 list, which seems like an impossible feat.

Top 3 Cities: Ana Becker: Other than New York? I’d say Athens, GA, Toronto, and either Nashville or Chicago.

Jose Berrio: Austin is also really fun.

Caroline Yoder: Athens Certainly.  Nashville has its moments. Chicago. Canada, at large.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: AB: Favorite gas station chain is Love’s – one time I left my wallet in one, and they found it and mailed it back to me, everything still inside!

CY: Not a big fast food person. Does Waffle House count? Definitely Waffle House. We can usually make Subway or Taco Bell work in desperate measures. Gas stations in old towns are the best. Any gas station with coffee and a decent bathroom must not go unappreciated.

Lyzi Wakefield: Allsups has the best burritos.

JB: My favorite gas stations are always the smaller ones, usually surrounded by trees or old houses in the middle of nowhere. I particularly remember one in a tiny solitary town called Blakesburg, in Iowa. Great characters.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

AB: I’m sure I’m forgetting many crazy moments, but the one that sticks out the most in my memory is when I made a cop shake my hand in the middle of the night in Oklahoma. I won’t get into the surrounding circumstances, but that was a REALLY close call.

LW: Night swimming in Athens. Driving from San Fran to Austin without rest.

JB: Somebody stole my backpack with a lot of stuff in it (including my passport) at a SXSW show. The next day a random woman messaged me on Facebook claiming she had found my passport. We set a meeting at a gas station on a highway near to where I was and I got it back.

Also, on our West Coast Tour the drummer of the other band we were touring with quit in the middle of the trip, so I had to fill in for the remaining shows. It was fun.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

AB: I have so many favorite things. I love the feeling of freedom, and when it’s all going well, feeling like the band is a team and that together we can do anything. Something about seeing a road stretched out ahead is very inspiring in that way. I love playing music in a new city every night, the people you meet, and the special bonds you form that way. My least favorite thing is the significant strain on my mental health. It also makes me sad to be apart from my partner.

LW: Favorite: we do it by our own standards and terms. Seeing old friends across the country. Least favorite: it’s almost impossible to make $$.

JB: I like the uncertainty of not always knowing where you are going to sleep. That usually leads to meeting super nice people and seeing really cool places. Least favorite thing is, as Lyzi said, how hard it is to make money.

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Photo by Jose Berrio Lesmes

Fruit & Flowers Touring Tips

AB: Eat some vegetables occasionally and attempt to exercise. Keep journals. Read books in the van instead of messing around on facebook. Don’t freak out. Check the spreadsheet!!!

JB: If you have an analogue camera, make sure to check if it has batteries before you start taking photos. Last tour I shot four rolls that came out blank after developing. Also, as Ana said, keep journals. Make copies of important documents and put them in safe places (in case somebody steals your backpack).

CY: Go to a good grocery store and stock up on necessary food and beer. Keep extra pillows, batteries, tools and blankets handy. Change the oil on time. Have a decent stereo and listen to good podcasts and explore fresh music, new and old.  

LW: Maintain a good attitude. Read. Take your space if you need it. Do your own thing now and again.

High Waisted

Over 100 Shows

10 Weeks

I was lucky enough to catch High Waisted and The Coax play their the final show of a six-week run together in Saratoga Springs, NY at a small jazz bar called One Caroline. The last day of tour can sometimes be the worst – everyone is exhausted, possibly sick of each other and eager to get home. Even if this were the case, it didn’t affect their fun, high-energy show one bit. They play 100% no matter what. This really comes as no surprise as they’ve been named the ‘Best Party Band’ by GQ and host an annual rock ‘n’ roll booze cruise in NYC that is highly recommended!

Top 3 Cities: We love Austin, D.C. and Chicago. But our favorite state is Ohio!

Favorite Gas Station & Fast Food Chain: I have an unhealthy love for Taco Bell and they have options for all dietary needs. Wawas are the best gas stations!

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

We were never late and managed to stay healthy and happy. But there were other memorable moments. We retired our first tour van after 350,000 miles, we watched the sunset sitting on top of a giant dune in white sands, we saw a man get arrested for assault in Texas, we spent two days in a double-wide trailer in Kentucky when our van broke down (thanks to the kindness of strangers), we went skinny dipping in the Pacific Ocean for my birthday, we survived getting hit by another car going 70 mph at dawn in Alabama and we drove through Death Valley in the summer with no AC.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

My favorite thing is the faith we place in strangers all over the country. Tour is one big trust fall. Perhaps I’m jaded but the kindness and support we’re met with will never cease to amaze me. My least favorite thing about DIY touring is the lack of accountability. If a venue owner or promoter is a total sleazebag there’s not really a network in place to protect you or other bands from facing the same bad fortune.

High Waisted Tour Tips

Bring a cooler and grocery shop. Always have baby wipes and paper towels in the van. Use sites like Priceline to score cheap hotels after shows – bonus if you can book ones with pools and hot tubs. Always bring valuable gear in overnight or have someone sleep in the van. Don’t travel with drugs. Don’t drink and drive.

Pre-download movies and albums to your phone for dead zones. Make yourself read and write every day. Be kind to your bandmates even if you’re cranky – the group morale is always more important than your own. Put the group first and they’ll take care of you. Play every show at 100%, even if there’s only eight people watching – they still deserve your best performance. Treat tour like vacation; find fun things to sightsee in every town so your days are more than just time spent in bars. Take photos and keep a journal. Lastly, stay grateful and appreciative of your opportunity.

(Interview by Jessica Dye)


A Deer A Horse (NYC)

99 Shows Booked and 95 Played

(4 cancellations due to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey)

16 Weeks

I met A Deer A Horse in 2016 in Nashville during the peak of my mid-tour drunken meltdown triggered by leaving my tote bag with my wallet and everything else important to me inside of it at a gas station somewhere between Georgia and Tennessee (which was later sent to my mom’s house by a good samaritan). A Deer A Horse’s music is dark, sludgy and serious but by hanging out with them that night and the following day they helped to cheer me up and pull me out of that unhappy situation. Thanks guys!

Top 3 Cities: We have 4 because we’re too keen….

  • Austin, TX: it’s a great scene filled with close friends. The audiences are always massively supportive, and they really seem dedicated and attentive.

  • Chicago, IL: one of the best scenes in US with crazy spaces to play. You can definitely feel a unique scene when you’re there, which isn’t always the case in big cities.

  • Norfolk, VA: a hidden gem for us. The audiences are always amazing and supportive, and we’ve made a lot of good friends there since we played our first gig in town.

  • St. Louis, MO: STL feels like a city on fire. It’s a city that really comes together in hard times. The city is going through a lot of internal struggles, but when you’re there you feel like part of the scene, which feels like one big family.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: For gas stations, Tim Horton’s in Canada is a rad hoser delicacy. For food, we normally buy groceries at Trader Joe’s or local markets/co-ops to save money and eat healthy. But we did drunkenly indulge, once or twice, in Taco Bell – except Dylan who was probably eating trail mix.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

It was like the Forrest Gump/current events tour of 2017. We were on the West Coast for the wildfires, in Salem, Oregon for the solar eclipse, Texas for Hurricane Harvey, Florida for Hurricane Irma, and St. Louis for widespread protests against rampant police brutality/corruption.

We also camped at Saddlehorn Canyon at Colorado National Monument.  It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places we have ever been.  We also got to swim in the most beautiful conditions at Pensacola Beach one day before Irma hit Florida.  It was surreal – you would never have known a hurricane was looming just hours off the coast.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Our favorite is the research you get to do into all of the scenes around the country. You learn about so many bands/venues/cities you would never have known about otherwise and you make amazing friends.

Not including the excessive driving, our least favorite part is the sheer amount of work you have to do. You really have to do everything yourself and stay on top of people just to ensure every gig goes smoothly. It’s exhausting. It would be a dream to have a booking agent, but not having one will not stop us from setting up and going on the road.

A Deer A Horse Tour Tips

Do whatever you have to do stay healthy mentally and physically. Get a big cooler and buy groceries and avoid eating road/fast food. Get gym memberships (ours are with Planet Fitness) so you can work out (get those gains, bruh) and (ProTipAlert) utilize their *24 hour* shower services.  Drink the booze in moderation or not at all most nights. And maybe most importantly, understand as a band that it’s important to have alone time on the road – take as much of it as you can, ideally outdoors, and you’ll love yourself and your bandmates more after doing it.

If you are at a place with your band where you want to start touring, start small.  Do weekends and short 5-7 day regional tours in order to build a fanbase close to home. Slowly branch out to 2-3 week tours, a little further away each time. Do a lot of those so you get to know your own and your bandmates’ personal needs. If you have any personal issues, DO NOT let them fester. Talk about them immediately before you develop resentments!

Also, we have learned the hard way many times that the only way to get shit done is to do it yourself – this is where DIY really holds meaning. No one is going to book the tour for you. We no longer rely on anyone we don’t know very very well to set shows up for us. Since having this realization, booking has gone way more smoothly and we have had very few shows fall through.

The Big Drops

61 Shows

5 Weeks

Following the release of  their debut album Time, Color, The Big Drops toured the U.S. and Canada, playing their fair share of hippie festivals, Sofar Sounds gigs, and duo sets. When I went to Canada to tour manage them, I was was quickly re-named tour ‘Mama-ger,’  their drummer caught a bad cold and turned into ‘Baby Grandpa’ (poor Baby Grandma!) and an exceptionally friendly man driving an Ottawa mail truck hit the right side mirror off of my van. But I swear I had a great time…

Top 3 Cities: Savannah GA, Montreal Canada, Harrisonburg VA

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Definitely Couche-Tard in Montreal. It’s a pretty off the chain, and has the best name of any gas station I’ve ever seen.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

During MacRock Festival in Harrisonburg, we walked into a super smokey smoke machine basement bar to some sort of sexually charged jungle music, and saw the frontman wearing a hockey mask and revving a chainsaw. The show was immediately shut down as soon as we got there.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Being on tour is kind of like being on vacation. If you start working on your tour dates 3+ months in advance, you can typically just pick the cities you want to go to, and find a way to make a show happen there. Getting to experience new places via music is pretty awesome. If possible, try to set aside some time to enjoy the places you go!

Our least favorite thing about DIY touring is the amount of time and energy it takes to schedule, plan, and book all the dates yourself. You think, wouldn’t it be great if being in a band was all about being a musician?? But it is really rewarding to put together a good show, meet other cool bands and people who support your music.

The Big Drops Touring Tips

Tour is difficult for different people in different ways, so try to be extra considerate of your bandmates when on the road. Bring headphones, a book, something to keep you occupied while driving 5+ hours a day.

Getting sick on tour is no fun. Stay healthy! Don’t eat or drink too much garbage-y food. We usually bring a cooler packed with hummus, granola, nuts, apples, bananas, PB&J materials. Everyone in The Big Drops is pretty keen on eating raw garlic to keep us healthy and safe from estranged vampires.

Pack lightly, but bring extra socks. A small towel is useful for washing/ drying your face if you can’t take a shower. We also bring some essential oils like lavender or sage, so we emit a nice, pleasant odor.

(Interview by Greg & Vramshabouh)

Nihiloceros (NYC)

57 shows

4 weeks touring

Singer/guitarist Mike Borchardt of Nihiloceros is not only in one of the most hardworking touring bands, but is also the hardest working show-goer I’ve ever met. I see him at almost every show I attend, he takes 30+ photos of every band and then promptly uploads them to social media and tags everyone, helps promote shows when he can’t make them, and is super helpful in connecting touring musicians to other musicians/promoters/venues around the country when necessary. Thank you Mike, you’re awesome! This year his band transitioned from being Samantha (she’s dead) to Nihiloceros, released an EP, and in between being at every show possible in Brooklyn, also spent four weeks on the road.

Favorite Cities: Chicago IL, Philadelphia PA, Lawrence KS (and obviously Austin TX during SXSW)

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Food in Canada it’s Tim Horton’s, in the U.S. it’s probably Taco Bell, though we seem to hit more Dunkin Donuts than anything else. For gas, it’s whatever is around right before we run outta gas. We do love those big truck stop gas stations that have fast food and big gift shops with silly souvenirs – great time to get out of the car and stretch your legs. I always make a point to stop at the Iowa80 outside of Des Moines and Mars Cheese Castle driving between Chicago and Milwaukee.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

The craziest overall thing had to be our SAdpop tour in October where the 3 of us spent 2 weeks driving across the East Coast and Canada jammed into a Mini Cooper with all our stuff. That many miles stuck in a clown car will make everything crazy.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

The hardest thing about any DIY tour is the actual booking of it yourself. We use all our vacation and sick days from work for touring, so we really gotta maximize our time. It takes a lot of time working with venues and bands, getting dates confirmed in a geographical route that makes sense to drive, while also trying to book it so you don’t end up with too many wasted days off.

The best part though is meeting new bands and making new fans, exploring new cities, being inspired by new people outside of NYC… and hopefully inspiring something in them as well.

Nihiloceros Touring Tips

If you can share a leg of your tour with another band that is more well known in the area, that can really help a lot with some of the logistics like routing, confirming venues and places to stay. That didn’t end up working out for us on this year’s tours, but we are sharing a stretch of shows in the U.S. and Canada with another band next year which we are pretty excited about.

Oftentimes tours take you across varying temperatures, so bring proper layers for the season, and that extra hoodie or jacket will be better suited on your body or in your lap than taking up wasted space in your bag. Get really good at packing your gear efficiently before you hit the road, and then it’ll be a breeze every night fitting everything in the car. Apart from that, drink way more water than you think you need to, bring plenty of Advil PM which will help you sleep when you do get a chance to crash, and will double assist for the aches that come with playing every night, lugging gear, sleeping on couches/floors, and being crammed in the car for long stretches of time.

(Interview by MikeBorchardt)

Giantology (Chicago)

50  Shows

12 Weeks

I mentioned Giantology in one of my first Check The Spreadsheet columns, because I was so impressed with how their bassist, Gina Davalle, basically just picked up the bass guitar and then decided to go on tour for three months without having any previous touring experience. I also love their space suits and weirdo glasses.

Top 3 Cities: Austin, Portland, and Atlanta

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: LOVES is my favorite gas station/truck stop. McDonald’s would definitely be our fast food chain of choice. McDonald’s was like our home in every city. We drank their coffee every morning and indulged in their free wifi.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year? 

Honestly, I think the craziest thing is what did not happen. During 3 months on the road we never had any serious car troubles, or major set backs. I have heard so many touring horror stories, and being that this was my first tour I didn’t know what to expect. I was fully prepared for things to go awry and to get stranded somewhere in need of a mechanic. We were very lucky in that sense!

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?  

My favorite thing about DIY touring is meeting new people in every city, wether it be people at the shows or bands we played with, DIY touring would hardly be possible with out these people doing their part to keep their city’s music scene alive. We met a lot of great people, whom we now consider friends.  I think the best thing about touring is getting to visit different cities, and getting to play shows every night.

My least favorite thing about DIY touring is the tole it took on me physically at times from eating too much fast food to sleeping in a van or on a floor every night, not getting quality sleep, it can leave you feeling pretty run down, and exhausted. Definitely, worth it though.

Giantology Tour Tips

Take care of yourself, sleep is so important. Get those hours in when you can!

Don’t drink too much before a show. It’s easy to drink a bit too fast when nervous. (i have learned this the hard way) It is a really shitty feeling to mess up during a show bc you got a little too drunk, but it’ll teach you your limits. Know your limits and stick to them.

Making friends and exchanging contact info with the bands you enjoy playing with is a great tool for booking future shows when looking to play in their city and vise versa. There are no booking agents or guarantees, DIY booking is all about reciprocity.

Do your research before buying a tour van! Take care of said tour van, for with out it, none of this is possible. Sign up for AAA, keep up with oil changes, etc. Always remember where you parked it, don’t stray too far away from it, or leave it unattended for very long.

Leave enough driving time in between shows to account for the unexpected, or spontaneous adventures.

Always play to your best ability even if you’re playing for only a couple of people.

Look out for your bandmates.

(Interview by Gina Davalle)

Ramonda Hammer (LA)

54 Shows

9 Weeks

Ramonda Hammer were the band that made me believe it was possible to book a tour from coast to coast yourself. I met them while playing in LA in 2016 with Sharkmuffin – we had flown out and rented a car to do our west coast tours a couple years in a row. It seems dumb, but when  Ramonda Hammer came to play with us in Brooklyn and I realized had driven the whole way, I was inspired to do the same the next time we planned shows on the west coast!

Top 3 Cities: Los Angeles, Nashville, and Brooklyn

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Favorite gas station is Kum & Go because we are all children and it’s always funny. Favorite fast food chain will be a band argument probably.

What is the craziest thing that happened on tour?

The GARMP saga!! We were getting ready for our September tour and there was gonna be a show with our homies in Nashville who run the amazing DIY record label Cold Lunch Recordings. They organized a rad house show for us, and at the show there was gonna be a stick and poke tattoo artist so we were stoked to partake in that. In the Facebook event page, the artist had asked people to comment what they were gonna get tattooed, and this one guy Jonathan (who we didn’t know at all) said he’d get any five letter word tattooed on his body. So our bassist Andy made up the word GARMP and was determined to have this random guy get GARMP tattooed on him. It turned into a crazy comment thread of people voting and Andy even made a campaign sign that read “GARMP FOR JONATHAN’S TATTOO 2017”. People were very confused. We thought it was hilarious. Flash forward to Nashville: we’re all anxiously waiting to meet Jonathan. We have no idea who he is. Randomly we see some tattooed bearded dude walking around the party with an actual baby in his arms and we think this is odd. Turns out that was Jonathan, who by the way we’ve just been calling GARMP the whole time because duh. Anyways we meet him, he gets his GARMP tattoo on his “gARMp-pit” (which is extra funny), and then I find out he’s from my hometown in Orange County and knows some of my friends. Super weird. Also, why did he have his baby at a basement kegger? Not sure. But at least he and Andy became best friends on the internet for a second and almost did karate in the garage together.

What is your favorite & least favorite thing about DIY touring?

My most favorite thing about DIY touring is all the love and support we encounter on our travels. It really surprises me and warms my heart every single time. People are so generous with giving us places to stay and making us food and making us feel welcomed. It’s so so so cool. My least favorite thing is being too cold or too hot and also when shows get cancelled.

Ramonda Hammer Touring Tips

Well, I would say plan for EVERYTHING that could go wrong to GO WRONG. That way when shit happens (and it always does), you’ll be prepared. We always bring jumper cables and a gas can and blankets to cover our gear with in the van, and we try to have a cushion of funds to pay for any unplanned hotel stays or van breakdowns. Also, don’t let your drummer and bass player conspire to trick you into watching the re-make of The Mummy with Tom Cruise.

(Interview by Devin Davis)

Note: This list was based on my own experiences with musicians I’ve met by living in Brooklyn and performing and touring for 21 weeks of 2017 with Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends & Kino Kimino. It is not definitive and I would love to hear from and about more bands that book their own tours and/or tour extensively in the U.S. & beyond. Feel free to contact me with your suggestions & stories at[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Highlights from Echo Park Rising

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Fartbarf at Echo Park Rising (taken from Echo Park Rising’s Facebook page)

Don’t believe what your bitter NYC friends tell you – Los Angeles is magical city. It sprawls magnificently in all directions, hiding its best gems in clear sight. Echo Park Rising is a free festival that offers the best parts of Los Angeles up front: good food, great music, free cold brew, & secret shows in questionable locations.

While the festival technically started on Thursday, I didn’t venture over from the Westside til Saturday. Parking was easy to find, as was the free food. We were offered Stumptown Coffee, RXBARs, and the impossibly good Impossible burgers. I mention this because while I normally leave a festival feeling like my wallet was stolen, Echo Park Rising makes a point of giving attendees value at every turn. The locations easy to walk to, and the drinks were priced in normal LA fashion (“That Modelo will cost you $6”) and best of all, the shows were great. Below are some of the highlights.

Ramonda Hammer @ The Echo

Ramonda Hammer is not a “grunge character study”; the band gives a clear nod to its Nirvana roots in songs like “Bender”, while “If, Then” gives the genre a fresh coat of paint. Lead singer Devin Davis is confident and controlled on stage, her voice fighting against Justin Geter’s guitar riffs. When I recently interviewed Davis, she struck me as a genuine & down-to-earth person; her on stage persona matched our Skype session, the intensity of her voice balanced by soft, pleasant interplay with the crowd in-between tracks. The set ended with Ramonda Hammer covering Nirvana covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World.” It was a bit meta, but the crowd was into it.

L.A.P.D. @ Taix Restaurant 

Taix Restaurant is a wonderful location for a music festival. The restaurant, est. 1927, is a trip through time, with dim lights and LA street scene photography lining the walls. The Champagne Room is down a long hallway in the back, past tables full of folks eating escargot for lunch. Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.) is the moniker for Ryan Pollie’s bedroom pop music act. Originally Pollie recorded his music from his actual bedroom in Los Angeles, creating a true lo-fi sound. Pollie talked to Impose Magazine about his writing process, saying “The cool thing about a lo-fi record is that I produced the record and mixed the record and it is all one voice consistently. I think that’s what a good producer does, anyway. There is so much music right now that it is often refreshing to hear something that isn’t from a studio.” Pollie may be signed to ANTI-Records nowadays, but his music continues to have that dreamy, lush, stripped-down sound that fans love.

Sam Morrow @ Little Joy

Upon entering Little Joy, a few things became apparent to me: I didn’t have a beer and I needed to dance. Sam Morrow’s blend of bluegrass and modern country is refreshing in a festival where rock, punk, and dream pop are fairly pervasive. The crowd wore the hipster equivalent of cowboy hats, whiskeys in hand while they shuffle-stepped in time to the music. Raised in Houston, years ago Morrow would have told you that he listens to “anything but country”; after a stint in rehab, Morrow revisited the music of his childhood, finding comfort in the storytelling and soulful twangs. Little Joy is a delightfully intimate venue, allowing the audience to get down right next to the singer himself. It was the perfect way to round out Saturday evening.

Bob Villain @ Little Joy

A man with stark white hair, dressed in a white tattered button-up and a blue hat, brushed past me and made his way to the stage. Bob Villain was running late to his set. It was early in the day Sunday, so I ordered a beer and waited. At 2:55pm, thirty minutes late, a man who I can only say looked like Freddy Krueger walked onto the stage. The man with the stark white hair was Bob Villain; he had put on a dark wig, a bandana, and had tied twigs to his hands. White face paint completed the terrifying look. The set felt like a deleted scene from Twin Peaks. Villain’s “Video Games” cover delighted the crowd and afterwards we sat quietly, dumbstruck by whatever evil magic just transpired.

Latumba @ An Undisclosed Location Off The Grid

After leaving Warm Bodies at The Echoplex (which sounds exactly as advertised), I set off to wander Sunset. I heard some noises to my right, and up a dark set of stairs I found an apartment complete with a bar, transcendental artwork, and a band setting up, especially intriguing due to their numerous saxophones. Latin fusion band Latumba is an experience from the very first note. The crowd rocked, swayed, shouted, strained along with music from this year’s Death By Conga LP, released via LA imprint Pure Weirdo. It’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to experiencing Jack Kerouac’s America: “We fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess–across the night…”.

It’s the hidden, secretive nature of Echo Park Rising that makes it special. It reminded me of my early twenties in New York, stumbling upon illegal shows in Brooklyn lofts, hoping that the strange pillow fort in the corner wouldn’t be set ablaze by a still-smoking American Spirit. In between sets, I stumbled upon artist Naia Izumi performing on the sidewalk, her striking voice cutting through the passing crowd. It’s that kind of happenstance that makes Echo Park Rising one of my favorite festivals of the year. It gives its audience what they want: the new, the fresh, the hotness.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

EP PREMIERE: Devin Davis of Ramonda Hammer Discusses “Destroyers”

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Ramonda Hammer is Devin Davis, Andy Hengl, Justin Geter, and Mark Edwards .

Ramonda Hammer is named after one of the contestants on the 90s reality show Cheaters. Lead singer Devin Davis, along with Andy Hengl (bass), Justin Geter (guitar), and Mark Edwards (drums), give a fresh twist to a modern classic: grunge. We sat down with Devin to talk about her favorite female grunge acts and the realities of writing from the heart. Listen to the premiere of Ramonda Hammer’s new EP Destroyers below!


AudioFemme: Ramonda Hammer is Los Angeles-based. Are you native?

Devin Davis: I grew up about an hour(ish) south of LA, in San Clemente. But I’ve been living in LA for three years now. So close, yet worlds apart!

AF: I couldn’t help but notice a Fidlar album lurking in the background of the video for “If, Then,” Who are your musical influences in respect to Ramonda Hammer?

DD: YES! Andy our bass player bought me that record for my birthday a couple years ago. We do share a love for FIDLAR; we covered their song “Awkward” at an Anti-Valentine’s Day show once. I have many, many influences, but for Ramonda Hammer I’d say the main influences for my guitar vibes and vocal ideas are the Pixies, Nirvana, Pavement, Hole, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Lyrics come from everything I’ve ever heard or seen or experienced.

AF: You’ve been called a “grungier No Doubt” by a few publications. I don’t know if I hear that comparison per se, but I will say your music feels both fresh and retro. Do you think that with the oversaturation of EDM music, grunge will start to move to the forefront again?

DD: I think that grunge never really left! It just morphed over the years. There’s always kind of been artists making music for everything – pop, dance, hip hop, rock, butt rock, grunge, folk, country, whatever. So grunge is always there because it’s always needed for the people that need it, the angsties and the introverts, and the outcasts, and the ones who feel too much but still need to feel more. And now in this weird political climate, we’re even more confused and angry and sad and frustrated, and there’s too many emotions to not have grunge be at the forefront. Oh and there’s a LOT of female-fronted grunge inspired bands killing it right now, so I can’t wait to see what happens.

AF: Who are a few of your favorite bands in the grunge scene right now?

DD: Slothrust, Pile, Speedy Ortiz, Iress, Dilly Dally, Bully, Goon.

AF: Back in 2015, you raised money on Kickstarter to create your EP Whatever That Means. Tell us a little about how that first recording process went.

DD: Making a record is hard work! Takes a lot of time and money and favors. The Kickstarter was totally necessary at that point in our budding career, but I don’t think we could go through that again. So much work. Also, I wrote most of those songs myself before I met my bandmates so they were just adding in parts and we were still navigating how we all worked. I produced the record with some advice from one of my music professors at UCLA and help from our homie Morgan, who engineered and mixed the tracks. It was a really great learning experience and the record sounds dope for our first try! The new Destroyers EP though is something else. We now write everything together and it’s getting heavier and more unique with all the different moving parts. And Greg who runs the label produced it and his input really made a huge difference. Just so stoked where RH is headed.

AF: You recently told Consequence of Sound that the your single “Too Much, Too Recently” is about your ex-boyfriend and Ramonda Hammer’s bassist Andy Hengl. It sounds like it was a cathartic experience for you both working on the song. Was it scary coming to him with those lyrics?

DD: Actually not scary at all surprisingly! Andy is my one of my best friends and we have pretty great communication. Plus “Goddamn Idiot” and “See” are about Andy too, and he knows that! I think for how sad this song is, it really is cathartic like you said. We’re both trying to move on in our romantic lives and it’s been over a year now that we broke up, so we’re doing that. Well sort of – I don’t date! But I hope Andy finds someone because he is the best!!!

AF: Do you usually draw from personal experiences for your lyrics? Have you experimented with concept-driven pieces as well?

DD: Every single song comes from some sort of personal experience, but there are a few that are more concept-driven (or more like a social commentary).  “Strangers Love You” and “Zombie Sweater” for sure, and then then “Same Thing” from the new EP is actually a social/historical/political/pop culture commentary. But there’s always personal stuff in there.

AF: Tell us about your new EP Destroyers. What differences can fans of Whatever That Means expect?

DD: Grungier for sure. Still feely AF, but less sad and more sass!

AF: Is there another Ramonda Hammer tour in the works?

DD: YUP! We’re doing a bunch of U.S. dates in September, lots on the East Coast and Midwest-ish. People can check our website in the coming weeks for cities and dates! Also doing first two weeks of November on the West Coast.

AF: You’re currently up in Santa Barbara doing work with Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls. Have the girls taught you anything surprising about the process of making music?

DD: THEY ARE EVERYTHING. I learn a lot about life in general from these kids. Also, we call them campers because not everyone identifies as a “girl.” But yes, there’s so many personalities and levels of skill and we encourage them to build each other up and collaborate. I mean, they have to form a band and write an original song in just one week, and then perform it at the end of the week at a showcase! It’s incredible. I’ve definitely learned to get weirder with my music and be my most authentic self creatively and in general.

AF: You talked about the writing process for the single “Bender” saying that “The verses ask questions from the more sane, healthy part of one’s psyche, and the choruses respond from the anxiety-ridden, depressed, and very frustrated side….In a final cry, I end the song with, ‘I swear that I deserve good things’ because I think I do and I know other people feel the same.” How would you encourage a creative person caught in that cycle of depression and angst?

DD: I honestly think it’s good for creative people to just be with their emotions and feelings, because that’s how the art even happens. I mean of course I don’t wish depression on anyone because I know how debilitating it is. But it happens in so many people and it really does fuel creativity if you learn how to navigate yourself and take the time for self care and self love. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds, you gotta put in that work. I used to be way worse and have panic attacks all the time but I’ve found techniques through therapy and friends and listening and trial and error with my own body and learning from my mistakes, all to learn how to self heal. And you really don’t have to be okay all of the time – you can be sad or angry or numb or whatever, but accept it while it’s happening and know that feelings come and go. And use those feelings for your art! It’s actually kind of lucky in a way when a creative person is struck with an intense emotion because it’s an opportunity. I really love how in ancient Greece they would say that instead of someone “being a genius” that they were “with genius.” as if something passed through them and they were the vessel for the art being created. And it was so fortunate to be “with genius.” So I try to feel fortunate to have all spectrum of emotions!

Preorder Ramonda Hammer’s new EP Destroyers HERE

Native to LA? See Ramonda Hammer LIVE at Echo Park Rising (August 17th-20th).[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]