Tom Alter deeply examines art and life from different perspectives.
The Fraser indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist candidly depicts the thoughts, feelings and challenges of society’s creative voices on his latest insightful album, Poetry and Protest.
“I realized that so much of what I was writing about were things based on what I had read or had come from memories that had stayed with me for a long time and made me want to write about them. That’s the poetry side of it,” said Alter, who produced, mixed and mastered his own album.
“And the protest side blends in with that because a lot of the poetry is coming out and speaking to important matters. The last song I wrote for this was (the title track), and that was after thinking about this collection of songs. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of somebody who has a very different experience from me.”
Alter’sPoetry and Protest provides an enlightening narrative filled with bold tales about humanity, sacrifice, loss and compassion. It seamlessly ventures from the vast emptiness of space to the sparsely populated shores of Hudson Bay to the tightly packed streets of Hamtramck.
“The Poetry and Protest idea came from me being out on a walk and thinking about this collection of songs that I was putting together and realizing where the influences for them came from,” said Alter about his sixth album.
“There’s a song, ‘Four Blue Horses,’ that is directly from a Mary Oliver poem, and it comes from Franz Marc’s Blue Horses. She wrote a poem about that series of paintings, and she got so personally involved in the paintings. I just thought, ‘I want to write about this; it was as simple as that.’”
The indie rocker expresses deep appreciation for Ypsilanti and the memorable friendships and experiences that accompany it on their introspective new single, “Life Is.”
“Ypsilanti is the first place I ever said, ‘I want to live here,’” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who hails from Midland and recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. “It’s the hometown I got to pick.”
Throughout “Life Is,” tender piano, fuzzy electric guitar, strolling bass, steady drums and glistening cymbals instantly evoke sentimental images of people and places along Michigan Avenue and nearby neighborhoods.
Washington sings, “Watched the best minds of my generation/Stumbling back home, coming down the avenue/Yeah, they don’t even stop at the venue.”
“It’s based on this memory that I have of my friend walking home in front of a venue on Michigan Avenue on their way from work, and this really wonderful conversation I had with another friend about how our favorite songs have the ability to let us focus on a beautiful sunrise when we know something awful is looming just beyond the frame,” they said. “The original goal was to mash those two scenes into a song (with a few artistic liberties taken).”
With that vivid imagery in mind, Washington closes “Life Is” with a thought-provoking verse that prompts listeners to take chances and pursue their goals. In a sense, the city of Ypsilanti provides the ideal backdrop for Washington to fully realize their true sense of self.
Washington reflects, “Cuz I know I’m not scared to die/I know that I’m petrified/To try and fail.”
“The line alludes to my own history with depression. Personally, the worst days have never been the tough day; it’s usually the day after,” they said.
“Maybe I’m too optimistic, but who knows, maybe tomorrow I’ll get a raise; or a week from now I’ll bump into someone funny in line for coffee; or someone will send a really nice, thoughtful email about a beat-tape I put online five years ago. You just never know what can happen.”
For Daring Detour, the new year arrives at a long-awaited destination.
The Ann Arbor acoustic Americana duo of Kathi Dvorin (vocals) and DeVeaux Gauger (guitar) marks the return of their intimate live music performances after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
“We decided to put Daring Detour on hold early in the pandemic. Part of that was due to closing venues, and part was our general emotional state with all the upheaval going on at the time,” Gauger said.
“We tried writing virtually and that didn’t work out, so we agreed not to force the creative process and would pick it up when we both felt comfortable.”
With comfort now on their side, Daring Detour will share their emotive originals and covers Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse in Ypsilanti. It will be their second live show since December.
“Playing at the Ypsi Alehouse was a wonderful experience. We had quite a few friends show up despite it being on a weekday evening and lingering COVID concerns,” Gauger said. “All the rehearsal time and mentally being on the same page showed as the music flowed, and we told some stories in between songs.”
During their two-hour set, Daring Detour will perform poignant renditions of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Almost Home” and “I Feel Lucky.” They’ll also share an unnamed Taylor Swift cover.
“We draw cover material from decades of artists, much of it out of our generation. We wanted to expand our repertoire to include some more upbeat songs and have some fun in between the more introspective tunes,” said Gauger, who’s inspired by Harry Chapin, James Taylor and Jim Croce.
“It’s highly possible that Ted Badgerow, Alehouse owner and brewer, will make an appearance. I played there solo the week before Halloween, and Ted joined me for a couple of songs playing flute, harmonica and some backing vocals.”
Filled with vitality and passion, Rebekah Faidia boldly speaks her truth.
The Ann Arbor dream-soul singer-songwriter celebrates integrity and authenticity on her latest empowering single, “Songbird,” which dropped in December.
“It’s about speaking out, being real and doing what’s right. It was inspired by a real-life scenario. I was outside, it was really cold, and I saw one bird on top of a tree, and it was singing,” Faidia said. “It was really gray out, and there was no other bird expect for that one. I thought that was a cool metaphor for speaking truth.”
Throughout “Songbird,” serene tweets, uplifting piano, hopeful synths, calm bass, gentle electric guitars and booming drums encourage sharing your voice and being proactive.
Faidia confidently sings, “The trees are bare and the air is cold/The forest is full of stories untold/Of how they suffer, of how they fought/To not be silenced/To not be bought/She’s not hiding/She’s not hiding/She’ll soon be flying.”
“I like that music can give a message to people of what they need to hear,” she said. “It can be different for each person, and it can speak to them individually.”
Chirp proudly follows their funky musical instincts.
The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet of Jay Frydenlund (guitar, vocals), Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Gastón Reggio (drums) listens to their collective creative conscience on their fervent new single, “Solo.”
“Vulfpeck and Cory Wong were a massive influence on the approach to this tune and the rest of the upcoming record. The old school, funky vibe they bring to their songwriting and playing has been a big influence on all of us,” Frydenlund said. “I’m not sure this song would have happened without a steady amount of Vulf in my listening diet. Or at least it would have come out through a very different lens.”
By peering through that groovy “Solo” lens, Chirp fans will encounter a group of lively musicians entrenched in jubilant electric guitars, shimmering keys and synths, pulsating bass, confident drums and ticking cymbals.
In tandem, Frydenlund soulfully sings, “And we all know you can shred the 32nds/But I wanna hear something from your soul/So take your time to find the truth inside you/And let it go.”
“Sam’s melodic lead guitar through the song adds a lot of texture and warms up the tune quite a bit, and he also complements Kevin (Gastonguay’s) solo toward the end of the song really nicely. Brian’s self-written bassline is really catchy throughout, to the point of being singable.” Frydenlund said.
“Both of them killed it on the smooth backup vocals. The different feels Gastón moves throughout are seamless, which is easier said than done on a tune like ‘Solo,’ where we’ve got a lot of dramatic change from section to section feel-wise and tempo-wise.”
Interested artists or bands from any genre can enter the contest through Feb. 28. To be considered, entrants can submit audio demos/recordings that best demonstrate their musicality and artistry.
“Submissions can be any type of audio,” said Katona, producer-engineer for Bird Fight Records and owner of JK (Not Kidding) Studios. “It’s more about the songwriting than it is about production. We’ll take it from wherever it is to a fully produced song.”
The winning artist or band will have their material produced by JK (Not Kidding) Studios and released via Bird Fight Records. They also will receive marketing and video production support as part of the winning package.
“The people in Michigan and Detroit are so talented,” said Penn, graphic designer and social media manager for Bird Fight Records. “There are so many incredible artists around … we don’t want them to go unrecognized.”
“To me, this is the magical part. I look for souls, and that’s what wisdom has taught me. I look for good people who want to work together like a family, and that’s when the magic starts,” said Mike Cross, MC Roads’ lead vocalist-guitarist and Sponge founding guitarist. “The songs are there, but the band comes in and embellishes it and makes it that bluesy alt-rock, guitar-driven sound.”
“We’ve been working up the set, and there’s going to be some surprises. All of the tracks fromNo Nostalgia will show up in the set, and we have some new music that we’re excited to get out there in front of people,” Cross said.
“And we even have some covers. You never know, there might even be a song from my previous band in the set. It should be a good time with Stompbox and The Analog Dogs.”
With new blood, Dirt Room continually thrives on organic growth.
The Detroit experimental collective of Samuel “SJ” Sprague (vocals, bass), Patrick Norton (guitar, Octatrack), Nate Zonnevylle (synth) and Duncan MacKillop (drums) will cultivate their burgeoning sound through a series of upcoming Nice Place Presents live shows, including Feb. 4 at Small’s in Hamtramck.
“This is a completely new lineup for Dirt Room, but the synergy is there. Their musicianship and enthusiasm inspire me to keep going,” said Sprague, who co-founded the band in 2016.
“Pat has been an absolute rock for me over the past few years. Their ambition and work ethic astounds me, and the music we write together is truly a blessing in my life. Duncan and Nate are the young bloods in the group. They’ve been super enthusiastic about the new music we’re playing together and working really hard to make something special.”
“We’re very fortunate to be playing with such talented local artists, especially after being undercover for so long,” Sprague said. “I’ve known the Who Boy group as well as Mykel Andre for a few years now, so being able to put a show together with these guys is definitely special.”
The indie rock singer-songwriter and guitarist explores identity, society and purpose on her latest philosophical concept album, Daeus x Machina.
“It is actually the outline for a novel that I’m working on … all I want to say is that it follows a protagonist in a new world, and that it’s science fiction-fantasy with elements of romance,” said Dee, who hails from Los Angeles. “It also contemplates mortality, myth, the idea of land ownership and immigration, cultural identity and purpose/destiny.”
Steeped in celestial, lo-fi soundscapes and intoxicating, psychedelic sensibilities, Dee’s Daeus x Machina provides a vulnerable journey of personal and societal transformation.
“It’s not that I set out to write about these things, but they’re so present to me in my daily life as we are watching this rapid transformation of our consciousness and society/systems,” she said.
“The idea of failing to control our consumption of resources on a planet that we evolved to exist on, but thinking that we could more easily establish life on a new planet … it’s just so ignorant and ridiculous to me, but it’s something that real billionaires and supposed geniuses are contemplating.”
The Stratton Setlist chatted with Dee about her ingenious album, past projects and releases, background and future plans.