For LovelyOcean, the right words bring a welcome songwriting sea change.
The Los Angeles hip-hop singer-songwriter poetically shares her innermost thoughts about authenticity, self-awareness, passion and growth on her vintage-inspired debut album, LovelyOcean Forever, which dropped Aug. 14 via all streaming platforms.
“Forever started off with the idea of manifesting how I wanted my 2020 to go. I wanted to speak my wishes into existence through music. Words are some of our most powerful forms of manifestation. The themes in this album just came naturally since they’re real experiences,” she said.
LovelyOcean beautifully turns the hip-hop tide through eight reflective tracks infused with shiny synths, slow jams, catchy rhymes, euphoric beats and palpitating electronic percussion. Forever serves as a modern underground mixtape to inspire emerging and established female hip-hop artists looking for a new musical shoreline.
It’s the type of cassette artists would pass back and forth to create a stronger sense of camaraderie, collaboration and community. The exquisite “Forever (Intro)” sets an ideal old-school tone as the mixtape instantly clicks into a worn boombox and compelling skits from “The Maury Povich Show” are interspersed throughout the brief track.
Quiet, thoughtful piano echoes LovelyOcean’s introversion and peaceful presence as she reflects, “I could try to be louder or extroverted, but there’s beauty in my silence. From my silence comes observation, awareness, a story, a song, a forever.”
“I want to say that I started writing in February of this year, but once quarantine started I put everything on pause because I was super uninspired. One day I woke up, listened to two beats and then just started writing. All in all, it took three months to get everything written, recorded and edited. We converted a closet in the living room into our studio so every track recorded was in the closet,” LovelyOcean said.
“This will be the first Foundation of Funk virtual show, and we’ll be doing a few covers and originals. With the virus, we haven’t been able to incorporate any of our new material yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to add some new things soon. The guys are so talented; we just want to have a funky, good time,” Barrymore said.
Thankfully, Barrymore and her bandmates will return to a metro Detroit stage, an online one albeit, after going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re one of 400 local acts performing virtual shows and drive-in concerts Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 as part of a new Arts, Beats & Eats socially-distanced festival called “The Beats Go On.”
“The Beats Go On” aims to raise $500,000 for artists placed out of work due to the pandemic, which has shuttered live music venues nationwide since March. Viewers will be able to donate individually to different artists and contribute to “The Beats Go On” Musicians Fund, a broader public fundraising campaign to provide donated funds to artists who receive over 50 percent of their income from music.
Despite the ongoing challenges with live music, many artists, including Barrymore, continue to write, record and release new material. In April, Barrymore released her latest single, “I’m Here for You,” a groovy, romantic ode to long-term relationships and lifelong love.
Glistening retro synths, pulsating electronic drums, vibrant acoustic guitars and funky bass surround Barrymore as she soulfully sings, “You came home and you talked to me/Tellin’ me how bad things might be/Askin’ if I’d still love you if things messed up financially/Money’s not what attracted me, no, no/Money cannot control me/You took my heart, and it’s yours, boy/So everything else is noise, boy.”
“‘I’m Here for You’ is a song about my love for my husband (Steve Somers), and regardless, I’ll be there for him. The music for the track was written by a friend of mine, Tobias Smith, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually did 10 or more songs for an album called L.O.V.E., but today they say to release singles and not albums. We recorded a while ago, and it took me a little to start letting them go,” Barrymore said.
Barrymore also collaborated with Smith last year on “Do It for The Kids,” an upbeat, bouncy social justice anthem about putting children first. Shimmering electric guitars, rhythmic percussion, whirring synths and humming bass propel Barrymore as she optimistically sings, “One plus one and now you are three/You are a family, what a blessing/Commit to love and commitment/Let no one in and destroy it/Grow and love/Do it for the kids/You got to do it/Do it for the children.”
“Children are so precious and should be treated as such. You see horrible things happen to the beautiful children, and it just hurts. Children should be loved and protected,” she said.
The Rio de Janeiro guitarist-bassist-producer strategically connects discrete audio pieces to create captivating film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio.
Together, those emerging instrumentals unfold a hidden classic-meets-alt-rock world filled with enticing people, places and experiences. With limitless possibilities and choose-your-own-adventure storylines, listeners travel to an undiscovered, intergalactic dimension, a drug-infested Edinburgh and a nocturnal-inspired Hollywood.
“I like to dismantle all the pieces that I put together, like a puzzle, and then dismantle them again to make the music neat and clear,” Hendrik said.
For his latest score, the forceful, driving “Russian Dance” jumps to hyperspace as charging, vibrant electric guitars, booming drums, throbbing bass and crashing cymbals provide a Black Sabbath-esque space jam.
Next, listeners instantly shift to Scotland as “Skag Boys” propels into an alt-punk rock frenzy with swift, crunchy electric guitars, pounding drums, banging cymbals and driving bass in an Irvine Welsh-like heroine culture.
After sonically leaving the U.K., a third Hendrik stop includes a late-night stroll down Sunset Boulevard on “Hollywood Moon” as bluesy, fuzzy electric guitars, shimmering cymbals, delicate drums and thoughtful bass echo along the concrete jungle.
“I have an inclination for making soundtracks, especially because Hollywood has this feel of a classic place. If you see the buildings, it looks like you’re in the ‘50s, and the people you see on the street are totally different. It’s like you’re in a time warp,” said Hendrik, who studied audio engineering abroad at Los Angeles’ Musicians Institute in 2016.
“I put myself in the shoes of somebody who’s delusional walking around Hollywood searching for something that may fulfill their delusion. Sometimes I would go to Jameson’s Irish Pub, and if I got loaded, I would leave the whiskey bar and start walking around Hollywood to talk to everybody.”
“Hollywood Moon” also features Hendrik’s mesmerizing instrumental collaboration with Ania, a Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso, who beautifully shreds throughout the haunting psych rock track.
“I found her online during social isolation. I was building my website for my production company, and I started reaching out to people saying, ‘Hey, do you want to produce or record something?’” he said.
“I was on Facebook, and I added Ania because I saw she attended the same school I that did in Hollywood. After we had a conversation, I realized she was just like me, a musician who wanted to record. It was amazing because she brought me results within a week.”
JanaeSound triumphantly overcomes internal self-doubt and anxiety.
The Portland, Maine pop-rock singer-songwriter holds intense conversations with her inner saboteur in “Feared,” an upbeat, take-charge anthem about personifying and conquering your fears.
“I wrote this tune because I really struggled with fear at the beginning of my career. I would experience extreme paralyzing anxiety whenever I did something new and just before each breakdown. I was fighting panic attacks before some of my biggest gigs and opportunities, which is not sustainable or healthy,” said Janay Woodruff, aka JanaeSound.
“I began to acknowledge my fears, thanking them for trying to keep me safe, and then I try to release them. This is something I continue to practice. With COVID-19, everything I worked so hard for seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. It was fear I couldn’t talk myself out of, and it just seemed like the right time to release the track.”
Throughout her latest single, “Feared,” JanaeSound crushes lingering worries as she soulfully sings, “I know you wanna keep me safe/I know you want me in my place/Even if this dream’s just a wild chase/I’m runnin’ out of time/I gotta face my fears.” A strong sonic army filled with bouncy bass, zippy synths and pounding drums help JanaeSound emerge victoriously from her emotional battle.
“In the track, I have a conversation with my fear. She’s doing the whole ‘let’s panic about a million things that could go wrong’ thing. I really do have that voice, ha-ha! She tries to talk me out of some of my best ideas. If I listened to her, life would be so boring,” said Woodruff, who released the track in June.
“I like to think of her as someone who means really well and wants the best for me. I let her know that growth (which I want) and being comfortable and safe (what she wants) aren’t compatible, and that I’m running out of time to reach my goals.”
JanaeSound will squash any remaining struggles in an upcoming video for “Feared,” which will drop this fall. The video will remind listeners about banding together to fight recurring fears, worries and anxieties.
“I want anyone who listens to know that you are not alone if you are experiencing anxiety or fear, especially given current events. Take care of yourselves first. Then smash those goals one step at a time. Even the tiniest step forward is progress. If all we did today was exist and feel kind of OK, that’s progress, too! I believe in you!” Woodruff said.
As a fresh community-based hip-hop album, Formula 734poetically encapsulates shared stories of struggles and successes for men of color in Washtenaw County.
“I feel as though we’ve created a historical document for this particular time in history for Washtenaw County that people can refer to, or they can gain some primary source analysis of what it was like to be in Washtenaw County during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest related to the death of George Floyd,” said Rod Wallace, who co-executive produced the project with Jamall Bufford.
“Jamall and I started to talk about our desire to engage young people with hip-hop in a positive way that taught a number of different skills. We started planning for the project, and our first meeting was in November,” Wallace said.
“One of the intentions of WMBK is to engage in discussions with men across generations as opposed to only focusing on young men. There are men across the spectrum of color who need support and who need positive experiences, so we try to bridge that gap, and through this project, we were able to do so,” Wallace said.
Concocting Formula 734
With Wallace and Bufford at the hip-hop helm, Formula 734 weaves introspective rhymes, thoughtful monologues, crisp beats, old-school jams and deep grooves while authentically amplifying the voices of local men of color. All 12 tracks challenge false narratives about men of color and raise awareness about the underlying causes of systemic racism.
“We want change to happen in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our schools. One album probably won’t accomplish that, but we want this to be a stepping stone in the right direction to some of the systemic changes that we want to see for black men and young men of color in our community and around the country. We want this to hopefully be a catalyst for the conversation that needs to take place about what’s happening in our communities,” said Bufford, who’s a WMBK project specialist and Formula 734 co-executive producer.
The Detroit psych-blues rock septet of Nina Ledesma (vocals, acoustic guitar), Daniel Decker (guitar), Oscar Sosa (guitar), Mike Fritz (keys), Ramiro Romero (bass), Chris Kaszuba (drums) and Baba Bohmbaedio (percussion, djembe) will headline Grove Sessions Live, an outdoor studio production session hosted by Grove Studios, before a masked and socially-distanced small audience.
They’ll share the intimate Grove Studios courtyard stage with three Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti acts, including progressive jam quartet Stormy Chromer, funk-soul-rock sextet Sabbatical Bob and jazz composer-guitarist Adam Kahana.
“It’s always great to connect and share stages with bands we have never met before. The more we can get together, the more we can learn from one another instead of competing. We have played with Stormy Chromer before, but none of the others. Stormy is always very entertaining – their music is incredible as well as their off-stage presence,” Ledesma said.
Ledesma and her Buffalo Riders bandmates are among a growing roster of local artists, including Dani Darling, Doogatron and Louis Picasso & The Gallery, performing at monthly Grove Sessions Live production events, which offer 50 people ticketed VIP access to four hours of live music. Those live performances are recorded and later combined with Grove Sessions livestream artist interviews every Wednesday and Friday at 4 p.m.
“The Grove Sessions livestream series began online out of necessity in March due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order here in Michigan. We were determined to continue connecting with the music community and our clients by offering them a virtual space to share their creativity, even though our revenue had dropped to zero since we had to close our rehearsal and production space,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and director of community engagement.
“Bringing performances and other content to livestreaming was something we had envisioned doing long-term, but our new reality pushed us to innovate sooner and quicker than we planned. The monthly production event gives artists an opportunity to be directly involved with our team in spreading their music and stories.”
Outfitted with a Fender Telecaster and a worn pick-axe, Nick Juno unearths a treasure trove of Detroit musical gems twice a month.
The Motor City folk singer-songwriter carefully excavates and shares priceless song lyrics from local artists through the newly discovered The Detroit Song Mine, which launched today via Facebook.
“For the last several months, we’ve had online access to such wonderful and varied music on all different levels. Oftentimes when hearing people play their songs, I think, ‘That was great live! What did they say?’ And I thought it would be great to see the lyrics to some of these because as a writer I’m always reading the lyrics,” he said.
“It’s all about ‘the song,’ and then I was thinking about how in the ‘60s Greenwich Village had the ‘Broadside,’ which became ‘Sing Out!’ magazine. I thought it would be great to have something like that on a very small, basic level here. I didn’t want to have a contest, review or critique; I just wanted to have the bare bones skeleton lyrics of people’s songs.”
“The first batch of writers in issue No. 1 were chosen randomly from the first handful of people who sent in songs. When I first envisioned doing this, I thought with hat in hand maybe a few people might want to do this monthly, but I got a terrific response. Now, I will be doing this twice a month to keep things moving,” Juno said.
Juno also sought inspiration for The Detroit Song Mine from the city’s historic salt deposits, which date back 400 million years and were left behind by the retreat of an ancient inland ocean. In a sense, he captures that timeless tradition and aesthetically transfers it to publishing song lyrics. Each online issue of The Detroit Song Mine invites artists to discuss and share each other’s songs.
“The idea of mining for rock salt or digging your way for songs out of thin air rang familiar, and I hope people would pick up on that. As writers, it’s often useful to play for other people and get feedback about what they think, what they heard or how things worked out,” Juno said.
“None of that’s happening right now with the ongoing shutdown, so I thought it might be good for people to have an outlet to put their songs out there good, bad or otherwise just for others to see them.”
With the next issue launching Aug. 14, Juno will announce and publish another six or seven songs from a different group of singer-songwriters. He’s interested in highlighting creative lyrics from a multitude of genres, including folk, rock and hip-hop.
“I want this to be like putting up show flyers on a kiosk or wall where you slap up your song with wheat paste and walk away. The people sending in songs are varied and different, so whatever we get I’m happy to put up. Ideally, I’d like to see this in printed form available for people to have in their hands, but I just wanted to get it started,” he said.
“Being online is a good thing because I’ve had people way outside of the Detroit area interested. My hope is that when we finally start up again playing live music readers might say at a show, ‘Oh, I know this song! I’ve seen these lyrics.”