Detroit Artists Keep the Music Coming During Quarantine

courtesy of Vinny Moonshine

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

“Unknown Landscape” – Vinny Moonshine

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

“Hectic” by Saajtak

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

white ceilings – whiterosemoxie

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

“Sleeper” – Zilched 

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

“Get Your Love” – Jacob Sigman  

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

“Last Money” – Sam Austins

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

Quarantine – Ytl77232 (Prada Leary)

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

PLAYING DETROIT: Sam Austins Teases Next Release

Detroit R&B artist Sam Austins has been completely killing the game since his 2017 release, Angst, and he shows no signs of slowing down. After his recent ode to queen Rhi Rhi’s cosmetic empire, Fenty, he’s gearing up for another mixtape release later this year. But he plans to tie fans over with an upcoming double single release, ROTY, and to tease the single Austins has gifted us with this painfully adorable and nostalgic 1-800-BALL-SAM ad.

The video is a spoof on the iconic Detroit ads for infamous lawyer Sam Bernstein, a Detroit staple in the ‘90s and early 2000s that anyone who grew up in or around the city would immediately recognize. This clever mix of nostalgia and authenticity is part of what has made Austins such an instant local favorite, earning him the nickname “Star Boy” from other Detroit artists and members of his team at Assemble Sound.

A born and raised Detroiter, Austins is all about encouraging the youth in the community here, and he’s hinted that his next release is one “for the kids”.  “I just wanted to give something to my fans that they can hold onto while we finish up another very special project that I’ve been working on,” says Austins. “ROTY will be a soundtrack to the kids’ summer days and nights.”

We’re ready for it. ROTY will be on all streaming platforms on July 20th.

PLAYING DETROIT: Sam Austins Shines on Ode to Rihanna, “Fenty”

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photo by Bre’Ann White (@breannwhlgn)

Twenty-one-year-old alternative-R&B artist Sam Austins released a fun as hell single this week, named after Rihanna’s cosmetic line, “Fenty.” The song is a lighter follow-up to Austins’ anxiety-ridden 2017 debut album, Angst, and celebrates widening cultural perceptions of beauty. The release was accompanied by a massive billboard in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood that shows a gorgeous Austins donning bold lips and a glimmering eye, a testament to his allegiance to the brand.

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Photo: @alecaretakis

Although Austins isn’t the first hip-hop artist to challenge societal stereotypes of beauty, masculinity, and gender, he is one of the few. While icons like David Bowie, Prince, and Boy George made room for more fluidity in the rock/pop realm, hip-hop culture has been historically less forgiving of alternative expressions of masculinity and style. Frank Ocean helped in starting to shift hip-hop’s homogeneous image in his 2017 music video, “Nikes,” where he spends part of the video clad in eyeliner and glitter. Austins’ glamorous cover art follows suit and has inspired people all over to share their own versions of feeling themselves.

Since the release of “Fenty,” dozens of fans – including beloved Detroit visual artist, Ellen Rutt – have sent Austins and his affiliated residency, Assemble Sound, videos of themselves singing, dancing, and glowing the fuck up to the infectious song. Produced by Sergio Romero and Detroit’s Ice Pic, the song’s bouncy beat and entourage of background hype-men are the perfect compliments to Austins’ feel-good lyrics: “I’m still fresh off the drop like it’s Fenty / Sitting front row at the show like a Fenty.” There’s arguably no better high than feeling like you are Rihanna.

“Fenty” is a continuation of Austins’ artistic evolution and an excuse to sing into your selfie camera at full volume, no matter who you are.