Deep Cuts – ASNT Heals Internal Wounds on ‘Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow’ Album

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ASNT’s “Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow” embarks on an emotive journey to release negative feelings of the past.

Backed by propulsive electric guitars, melodic vocals and gritty soundscapes, ASNT beautifully unearths the tender, vulnerable side of deep-seated pain.

The Irvine, California dark hard rock and husband-wife duo of Christina Baldwin (vocals) and Bruce Baldwin (guitar, drums, bass, piano) embarks on an emotive journey to release the guilt, shame and despair of the past on their latest album, Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow.

“‘Bleed Like Us’ is about ‘Westworld,’ and it’s about machines that look and bleed like us. That ended up being the name of the album on Bruce’s urging because it captures the theme of the whole thing. There is a certain bleeding happening in one way or another, but then there’s a positive resolution in some,” said Christina Baldwin.

Together, the Baldwins slowly slice through tightly sealed internal wounds to provide long-term relief and acceptance across 15 haunting, ruminative Bleed Like Us tracks. For ASNT (pronounced as “Ascent”), it’s an intense, therapeutic path for tackling mental health struggles, destructive relationships and regrettable actions.

“It depends where I am, the kind of writing that I do. I tend to go toward the dark side; it comes easier to me, and I have more words for dark things than I do for light. It’s a dark album, but it’s the evolution of sorrow, which means there is an end,” said Christina Baldwin, who’s inspired by Melissa Etheridge and Ann Wilson.

Continue reading “Deep Cuts – ASNT Heals Internal Wounds on ‘Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow’ Album”

Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’

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Act Casual’s “Livin’ a Lie” is the band’s first new studio release in nearly four years. Artwork – Sam Flynn

Act Casual eloquently recounts the everyday struggles of overcoming a romantic rough patch.

The metro Detroit jam fusion quartet of Ryan Yoskovich (drums, vocals), Ryan Stafford (keys, sax), Will Richardson (guitar, vocals) and Danny Flynn (bass, vocals) addresses these mounting interpersonal encounters on their latest soulful, funkified single, “Livin’ a Lie.”

Throughout “Livin’ a Lie,” vivid, wah-wah electric guitars, climbing bass, fluid drums, tingly cymbals and sheeny synths engulf love-stricken listeners and provide them with bluesy-induced relief.

Act Casual reflects, “Never the one/Now it’s all done/Trying to flee with nowhere to run/I’m a livin’ a lie/A total loss/But at what cost/Thinking about all that I’ve lost/I’m livin’ a lie.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Act Casual about their first studio release in nearly four years as well as their background, previous projects and upcoming live shows.

New Single

TSS: What initially inspired “Livin’ a Lie” for you?

AC: It was an initial exercise of just trying to write a set of lyrics to a groove we had been working on. The lyrics started coming together about disagreeing and arguing with a lover; it was in hopes of showing that everyone has the same arguments and quarrels with the ones we love. No one is alone in feeling some of the emotions played out in the song.

TSS: How long did you spend writing and recording the track?

AC: We spent a few weeks writing the song itself, which also developed as we played it out live. We spent two days in the studio laying down the majority of the tracks, following up with a couple of more sessions for vocals. The track was recorded at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. with Ryan Hyland as the head engineer.

TSS: What was it like to translate “Livin’ a Lie” from the stage to the studio? Any plans to release a video for the track soon?

AC: The track didn’t take on too many alterations for the studio recording. However, we did add vocal harmonies during the recording process, which stuck with us for live performances afterward. We filmed some of the recording process and plan on releasing a music video in the fall.

TSS: You mentioned in your Dunesville Music Festival live set that “Livin’ a Lie” is also the name of your upcoming album. What work do you have left to complete on the album?

AC: We will be dropping another single entitled “Fresh (Out of the Shower)” in October as well as another single in November with the full album dropping in the winter.

We will continue to work with Ryan (Hyland) at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. to finish any additional touches, and with Max Preissner, who has been helping us with the promotion and release of these songs as well as building our presence online. People can expect to hear more vocal-driven songs like “Livin’ a Lie” as well as instrumental pieces.

Continue reading “Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’”

Let’s Dance – The Dropout Brings Fierce Grooves, Infectious Hooks to ‘Bubble Boy’ EP

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The Dropout’s “Bubble Boy” EP shares insightful tales of overcoming addiction, finding renewal and instilling vitality in others.

The Dropout instantly transforms any space into a nonstop, explosive dance party.

The Orlando, Florida indie pop, post-EDM singer-songwriter and saxophonist employs fierce grooves, infectious hooks and lush soundscapes on his latest EP, Bubble Boy, to get fans moving.

“This (EP) has more of a dancey vibe, and it feels more like a pop EDM-like crossover. It has pop song structures, but EDM sort of tones underlining live instrumentation and my vocals. It feels like Dropout songs, but they have an energetic, live feeling,” said Ficker, who’s originally from metro Detroit.

The Dropout captures that contagious, hopeful spirit across six dazzling Bubble Boy tracks, which chronicle a highly personal journey filled with insightful tales of overcoming addiction, finding renewal and instilling vitality in others.

“I like to think by the time the songwriting happens, the learning is already done. It’s almost like the life experiences have been chewed on and now I’m fully digesting them. I definitely tried to be more intentional about the inspirational themes, but if I had to write about everything I learned this year, this might end up being a lot of text to read through,” said Ficker with a laugh.

As a follow-up to 2018’s magnetic, groove-filled Old Parts, New Beginning EP, The Dropout spent three years writing and recording Bubble Boy’s tracks in his home studio. He nailed the saxophone, guitar and vocal parts while collaborating remotely with longtime friend Bob Lemon, who provided the project’s hypnotic, spirited beats.

“We grew up in the same area and had mutual friends, but never really crossed paths. (Bob) reached out to me one day online with a remix of an older song I did (‘Old Parts, New Beginning’), and I was blown away. We immediately started working together on new music and haven’t stopped since,” Ficker said.

Continue reading “Let’s Dance – The Dropout Brings Fierce Grooves, Infectious Hooks to ‘Bubble Boy’ EP”

Perfect Match – Jake LeMond, Juliane Bednarz Combine Songwriting Powers for Hickey Eyes ‘Nosey’ Single

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Hickey Eyes’ Jake LeMond and Juliane Bednarz sparkle on their latest single, “Nosey.” Photo – Alayna Currey

Jake LeMond and Juliane Bednarz serve as an emerging, magical songwriting team.

The Hickey Eyes indie rock duo and real-life couple meld enchanting, lush harmonies with infectious, glistening pop soundscapes on their latest single, “Nosey.”

“‘Nosey’ started off as just a chorus I came up with. That same night I was on the phone with Juliane joking about how she’s nosey, and we thought it would be funny to use that as an idea for another Hickey Eyes song,” said LeMond, who’s based in Detroit.

“I sang her a melody of how I thought the verses should go, and she sent me the whole first verse. I thought her words were perfect, so all I had to do was write a second verse.”

Throughout “Nosey,” breezy, sleek Mellotron seamlessly fuses with ascending, vibrant acoustic strums, tranquil slide guitar, steady drums and mellow bass to overcome potential relationship challenges.

LeMond sings, “Electric start/I head for the airport/Every goodbye seems to be cut short/Wish we could talk/Dead on the weekends/Against the clock/Gone off the deep end.”

“Collaborating with Jules on this one was fun because I would just send her voice memos of my progress throughout the night while I was writing, and she sent a verse, so it all came pretty fast since the chorus was already written,” he said.

“We share music ideas with each other as they come to us, and being that we’re so close, we’re not afraid to share honest opinions. Jules is new to songwriting, so she is still figuring out her style.”

LeMond and Bednarz also expanded their Hickey Eyes “Nosey” collaboration to include Ian Ruhala (slide guitar, Mellotron), Chris Koo (vocal editing), Ben Fisher (drum editing), Jake Rye (mixing) and Mike Cervantes (mastering).

“I spent a good chunk of time demoing out this one in my bedroom while learning how to use Logic. It started out much slower and sounded pretty sad to be honest. Jules wasn’t all that crazy about that version, so I tried to give it more energy to balance out the somewhat sad lyrics,” LeMond said.

“I (also) tracked slide guitar and Mellotron at my friend Ian Ruhala’s house. Ben Fisher who mixed ‘Spoon Me’ helped edit drums. Chris Koo, who I’ve had the opportunity to write with a lot for this year for his project Yueku, edited vocals, and he’s definitely inspired me to put out more music recently with how consistent he’s been with his releases.”

Continue reading “Perfect Match – Jake LeMond, Juliane Bednarz Combine Songwriting Powers for Hickey Eyes ‘Nosey’ Single”

Back in the Day – Ben Yost Unearths Deep Cuts for ‘Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1’ EP

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A new alt-folk/emo/indie rock compilation project transports Ben Yost back to past shows, favorite venues and life-changing friendships.

The Blank Tape Tax vocalist-guitarist specially curated the five-track EP via Kickpop Records to share deep cuts from Greet Death’s Logan Gaval, For Once in My Life, The Flaks and Broadacre as well as his current band.

“The most important music to me is my music and the music of my friends because it’s the soundtrack to my life. It makes me think of old venues like the Genesis, the old Sanctuary, Toepfer House and Elijah’s (Q-Nails),” said Yost, who’s based in Detroit.

“It also makes me think of our friendships and our time together as a family. Starting Kickpop Records is about releasing music for me and my friends and to maintain the catalogs of a few artists so their music will always be out there to listen to.”

Yost launched Kickpop Records, a small DIY label, during the pandemic and released his first project, KP-005, or Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1, on 10-inch vinyl earlier this summer. While the vinyl release quickly sold out, listeners can still spin the compelling, cerebral project via Spotify.

KP-005 (or Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1) is just a little taste of what you might expect to hear in the future from Kickpop Records. The first three songs (Logan Gaval, Blank Tape Tax and For Once in My Life) all stick to a theme and were recorded on a Tascam Portatstudio. The last two songs are from out-of-print records of the two bands I drummed and wrote for – The Flaks and Broadacre,” Yost said.

“The idea for the (compilation) came from Broadacre bassist Matt Farrett. Matt and I were talking about releasing the nine-song Broadacre project, and he suggested we test the waters on a (compilation) first.”

Continue reading “Back in the Day – Ben Yost Unearths Deep Cuts for ‘Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1’ EP”

Seismic Love – Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack Chronicle Passionate Relationships on ‘Worth the Trouble’ EP

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Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack’s “Worth the Trouble” EP documents the rise, fall and resurgence of a romantic relationship. Artwork – Tom J. Reed

Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack beautifully chronicle the rugged emotional terrain of a passionate relationship.

The Ypsilanti alt-rock trio of Jerry Heiss (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion and programming), James Johnson (bass) and Danarus Greene (drums) spotlight that fervent rise, fall and resurgence of romantic love throughout their latest reflective, five-track EP, Worth the Trouble.

“I did realize in retrospect that these songs fit together because it is a roller coaster ride of the different feelings you have with losing someone, breaking up or apologizing. I put a pretty vague story to the album myself of trying to link the songs together and seeing if it was coming from one point of view in chronological order. That wasn’t necessarily the intention, but I’m glad it does feel that way,” said Heiss, aka Jeremiah Mack.

“The same way that writing these songs was kind of therapeutic for me, I hope that other people are able to listen to them and feel that same wave of relief that someone else has gone through this and that it’s been OK.”

Throughout Worth the Trouble, Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack thoughtfully document the volatile feelings, thoughts and concerns that quickly emerge as one partner responds to the unexpected actions of another.

Each poignant track seamlessly flows from one encounter to the next against an expansive sonic backdrop filled with pop-rock, emo-rock, alt-rock and folk-rock sensibilities.

“I try to make each song that I write like a different kind of song, and Worth the Trouble does jump from genre to genre for each song. I never want someone to listen to two of my songs and say, ‘Well, that song sounds like the other songs.’ It keeps me entertained because I like a bunch of different styles, and it’s fun for me to play in all these different styles,” Heiss said.

Continue reading “Seismic Love – Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack Chronicle Passionate Relationships on ‘Worth the Trouble’ EP”

Coming Home – Young Ritual Performs Headlining Set Saturday at Sanctuary Detroit

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Young Ritual will perform his first live show in nearly 18 months at Sanctuary Detroit on Saturday. Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Young Ritual, Saturday’s live show at Sanctuary Detroit feels like a long-awaited homecoming.

The Flint indie folk rock singer-songwriter will perform his first headlining set in nearly 18 months at the Hamtramck venue.

“I can’t even express how good it feels to be playing shows again. I really hadn’t considered how vital that type of experience was in my life until it went away. I really had to push it away for a while when we didn’t know a timetable for the return of live music,” said Dylan Grantham, aka Young Ritual.

“Once the show was announced, all of those feelings came flooding back. I just want to make this night a loud and beautiful entry back into the music scene out here for Young Ritual.”

Hosted in partnership with Audiotree Presents, the show will allow Young Ritual to debut several new tracks since releasing his introspective, two-track A/B EP in March. He’ll be joined by Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter Au Gres, aka Josh Kemp, and Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter Emma Guzman.

“They are all pretty driving rock songs because that’s where my intent in writing has been, and the one I’m most excited about is called ‘Julianna.’ The song is kind of Springsteen and The Killers, but absolutely Young Ritual top to bottom,” said Grantham, who will include Au Gres as part of his live band.

“Josh from Au Gres is one of my closest friends, and I adore his band. He writes the sleekest indie pop imaginable and is just a pleasure to have around. I haven’t met Emma yet, but I’m a huge fan of what she’s been doing, so I’m really excited to have her on board.”

Continue reading “Coming Home – Young Ritual Performs Headlining Set Saturday at Sanctuary Detroit”

Stand Tall – Fernando Silverio Solis Tackles Lingering Racial Injustices on ‘Keep Your Head High’

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Fernando Silverio Solis speaks volumes about the Black Lives Matter movement’s fight against an oppressive state on “Keep Your Head High.”

Fernando Silverio Solis eloquently raises his voice, holds his head high and advocates for solidarity amidst a sea of recurring racial, social and political struggles.

The Flint indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist speaks volumes about the lingering injustices against people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement’s ongoing fight against an oppressive state on his latest gripping single, “Keep Your Head High.”

“I was just reflecting an expression of what I felt or thought during so many of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and watching the news of people being murdered by police and then watching the police violence unfold. It was also in reaction to the past four years and what the previous administration brought out of people,” Solis said.

Throughout “Keep Your Head High,” Solis thoughtfully shares those reflections as contemplative acoustic guitar, somber pedal steel and placid cello echo his raw, honest sentiments. He quietly sings,” When did we justify to look each other in the eyes/And decide we are strangers/When all is said and done/And we’re sent to kingdom come/Will we see we weren’t so different.”

“I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries with making it about myself or attempting to speak on behalf of anyone. I really did my best to try to present it from a perspective of ‘I’m here, I’m watching, I do have my own reactions, and these are my thoughts regarding my own reactions as to what I’m seeing happen,’” Solis said.

Solis teamed up with several talented collaborators to bring a wistful Americana flavor to “Keep Your Head High” while recording it at Chesaning’s Oneder Studios with Nick Diener. Australian pedal steel player Jy-Perry Banks lends his virtuoso guitar skills while cellist Ian Legge brings a delicate string sensibility to the track.

“After I did the Wake Up Slow EP, there was a window of time before everything got really crazy. I was able to record more music with Nick, and I have another seven songs that haven’t been released yet. At that time, I came across (Banks) on Instagram, and I saw that he was open for sessions,” Solis said.

“I said, ‘Nick, I’ll record these songs with guitar and vocals, and then let’s flesh out the rest.’ That’s when we got to talking and said, ‘Let’s get this real country feel to it.’ Those songs were finished, and then they sat. We had to mix and master them, and as that was happening, the world shut down.”

Continue reading “Stand Tall – Fernando Silverio Solis Tackles Lingering Racial Injustices on ‘Keep Your Head High’”

Escape Artist – Kat Steih Creates Alternate Universe on ‘Songs from a Faraway Galaxy … and West Park Volume 1’ EP

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Kat Steih creates a captivating electro acoustic dreamscape on her latest EP. Artwork – Kat Steih

Kat Steih thoughtfully assembles a majestic, restorative alternate universe for near and far like-minded souls.

Inside that mystical world, the Ann Arbor alt-folk singer-songwriter invites listeners into a captivating electro acoustic dreamscape on her new EP, Songs from a Faraway Galaxy … And West Park Volume 1, which dropped Aug. 28.

“My music has a strong element of escapism. I’ll be in the middle of an experience that I don’t want to be having, feeling that inner roar of resistance, and then suddenly a melody with words and a vibe will pop right into my head,” Steih said.

“A big part of musical journey is increasing my skills so that I can capture those ideas to convey them to others. It’s really important to me to share (the ideas) because they arrive like gifts from the universe.”

Throughout her latest release, Steih packs an expansive, cerebral and folky sound across four hypnotic, ethereal tracks while venturing through past experiences, changing relationships, personal growth and long-awaited renewal. It’s a mesmerizing, introspective follow-up to her breathtaking, spiritual 2019 Americana album, Hymns of the Huron.

“I’ve always loved theatrical music production like Pink Floyd, Queen and Kate Bush. The sound of this album is influenced by my collaboration with Samn Johnson while the sound of Hymns of the Huron was very influenced by the band that Ben Lorenz put together,” she said.

“I bring the melodies and chord progressions, but the final product is colored by who’s there and the vibe of the environment we’re in.”

Continue reading “Escape Artist – Kat Steih Creates Alternate Universe on ‘Songs from a Faraway Galaxy … and West Park Volume 1’ EP”

Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album

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Bill Edwards’ “Whole Cloth” serves as a poignant, reflective novel of Americana songs.

For Bill Edwards, the basement provides the ideal music lab and creation space.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist retreated to his subterranean studio during the pandemic and experimented with his recording gear.

“When we went into lockdown and realized we weren’t going to be playing live for several months, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of my recording software. I wanted to get better acquainted with MIDI instruments, or musical instrument digital interfaces,” Edwards said.

“MIDI instruments have come a long way since their invention, and the sampled instruments that are available now are just incredible. It gave me the opportunity to do things like drums, bass and pedal steel, and a whole world opened up.”

Eighteen months later, Edwards’ MIDI software explorations have resulted in an ambitious, yet prolific 30-track double album, Whole Cloth, out Friday via Regaltone Records.

“It feels like birthing a very large baby, and I’m really proud of it for a lot of reasons. I think the songs are good, and the fact that I was able to do it all by myself feels like a pretty big accomplishment,” said Edwards, who spent 15 months writing and recording his new album.

“Over that period, I probably had 70 songs, and I would finish one and then move on to the next and start building it together. I didn’t plan to do a double CD, but then I had all this stuff, and I thought, ‘Well, why not just put it all out?”

Continue reading “Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album”