Shady Groves – the culmination of Detroit songwriters Adam Fitzgerald, Dylan Caron, Jeff Yateman, Jamie Dulin, Colt Caron, and Sage Denam – recently released two singles from their upcoming record, Dreamboat, and both are worthy predecessors for an album with a title that hints at serenity. “Quiet Wolf” and “Backflips” stand on their own as separate entities – perhaps even representative of different genres, due in large part to the fact that each member of Shady Groves has a hand in composing songs, and each bring disparate styles to the table.
“Backflips” offers a fusion of shoegaze, funk, and electronic elements that join effortlessly to create an ambiance of nonchalance. The mantra of the song (“back and forth, knowing it doesn’t matter”) isn’t specific; Fitzgerald (on vocals) could be referring to love, inner turmoil, the actual act of making music – any number of things, really. The lulling synths and hooky beat settle into a casual, unbothered rhythm befitting the song’s terse themes.
“Quiet Wolf” taps into a different side of the band, with Caron’s vocals vulnerably recounting a journey down a path of self-destruction: “I want to clench my fist so fucking tight / Around that bottle of gin all day and night / I’ve been through this before.” Whether it’s a coping mechanism for a broken heart or a boomerang of a behavior pattern, the song accurately wraps the feeling of desperation and dependence into a tiny bow and presents it to the listener with a subtle emotional wallop.
All of the musicians in the band also release music under their own solo projects, and Caron’s latest also happens to bear the name Quiet Wolf (Yateman performs as Jemmi Hazeman both with and without the Honey Riders; Fitzgerald makes solo work under the name Quells). There’s no doubt the band is going places, both figuratively and literally – Fitzgerald is plotting a big move to Edinburgh, Scotland, though the band plans to continue writing music together from their home base in Detroit, even across the Atlantic. Keep an eye out for Dreamboat, which should see release sometime in the fall before the band goes on its official hiatus.
When you think about music festivals, it’s easy to picture giant stages, overcrowded drink lines, and teenagers in various species of headwear. Whateverfest – an all-genre, all-ages DIY festival based in Detroit – is pretty much the opposite of that. Born from a “what if” conversation between friends in 2011, Whateverfest has grown from a few bands occupying every apartment in the Hyesta building to over 40 bands, spanning nearly every genre, playing at the Tangent Gallery. This Saturday, May 12th, the fest is returning for its eighth year and is set to go from 12 pm to 6 am the next day.
The fest’s lineup includes a vast array of Michigan bands as well as acts from Toronto (Rooftop Love Club), Chicago (Aathee Records), and Indianapolis (Gwendolyn Dot). One of the original festival organizers, Soph Sapounas, says that the event’s musical diversity comes from the laissez-faire ethos indicated by its moniker. “Whoever wants to play plays,” says Sapounas. “We’re all just trying to have a good time – it’s whatever. That [word] starts getting thrown around a little too much on the day of but it’s okay.”
Though the organizers strive to be as inclusive as possible, the festival’s popularity attracts a slew of submissions every year, which the team reviews in a democratic fashion. They host listening parties and make sure that the roster of artists performing represents the city as a whole. “We want to be a platform for artists and musicians in Detroit in general. Not just for rock, not just for techno – we want to include all of it,” says Sapounas. “That’s one of the things that keeps recurring, is people telling me that they think it’s really cool to see all the different scenes here and everyone having a good time together and not having that cool kid standoff.”
With groups like Spaceband (a nine-piece experimental funk collective), Ex American (new age electronic), and a handful of techno artists holding down the late-night sessions, the festival undoubtedly reps staple genres Detroit is known for and everything in between. If you’re in or around Detroit, this fest is more than worth checking out. If not, check out some of the amazing under-the-radar artists below – I’m betting they’re more eclectic than your Discover Weekly playlist.
With their short film “Stay Strange,” Shady Groves gives us the love story we need – a sweetly cinematic tale of new lovers (that likely met by swiping right), refreshing in its lack of cynicism. The film bookends the title track with two other songs (“Me & You” and “Dysthymia”), resulting in a totally pure embodiment of the weightlessness of falling in love without expectation.
Via a mandolin couch serenade, the clumsy uncorking of wine bottles, and living room slow dancing, we are reminded of the quiet beginning of things. Like the suite of songs, the video (created by Elaine Smith) mirrors the anticipation and relief of blossoming romance without a shred of anxiety or sardonic disguise. The video’s red hue shifts into explosions of colors and shapes superimposed like a veil over footage of our adorably smitten twosome as they move from introductory hugs to L-shaped secret-swapping bed dwellers. A hybrid of several genres (and obvious inspiration from bands like The Lumineers), “Stay Strange” reminds us that intimacy is as simple (or as complicated) as looking at someone long enough to note the burst of color around their iris or tracing the outline of scars from childhood playground accidents. Intimacy is an invitation and Shady Groves make it feel pretty damn good. Clean off your couch and light a candle, we’ve got company.
Swoon with Shady Groves’ latest “Stay Strange” below, or stream their debut, Bitzer, via Bandcamp.
Shady Groves, a collective of singer songwriters/multi instrumentalists, is Detroit‘s newest indie pop formation. Having released their first single (ever!) earlier this week, “Plain Dreams” is an unassumingly sweeping adventure ballad. If it’s any indication to how the rest of the album, Bitzer, will sound (due to release early next year) Shady Groves could fill a long standing void in the Detroit pop patchwork. My first thought was “early Fleet Foxes b-side,” which is in no way a bad thing. I had forgotten that the ambient indie pop rock scene from seven-nine years ago fizzled out quietly and that, well, I sort of miss it. Yes, it’s easily digestible and is in no way a challenging listen. It evokes sensations of the climax scene in any Fox Searchlight indie romance film from when I was a teenager; the type of song 18-year-old me would want a boy to run across the airport to stop me from boarding a plane to. “Plain Dreams” oozes the lush harmonies and textural atmospheric tendancies of the aforementioned Fleet Foxes, and though not as elevated, sometimes reflective of Band of Horses’ Ben Bidwell’s vocals if they fused with Dan Auerbach’s solo work. The cadence in which the lyrics are presented is soft, but thoughtfully arranged in a way that gives the aural illusion of travel, which makes the track feel fully realized. It sounds strange to say that Shady Groves seems like a resurgence of a genre that has inherently had very little presence here in Detroit, but that is why something like “Plain Dreams” with its aptly titled plainness, feels new.