Fresh Sounds – WSU Students Launch Old Main Records Label to Support Emerging Artists

The WSU student-run label and organization will host a multimedia launch event Jan. 17 in Detroit.

A new homegrown record label will cultivate fresh sounds in the Motor City.

Known as Old Main Records, the Wayne State University (WSU) student-run label and organization will help local, regional and national artists record, release and perform original music.

“The idea of actually doing a record label at Wayne State as a student organization had been around for a while since I was a freshman taking the classes. People would say, ‘Oh, it would be great if it happened,’ but nobody actually really did it,” said Brendan Derey, Old Main Records president and a music business senior.

“Another friend and I actually did start it together. Over the summer, we got a small group of people in the room talking about our ideas, and then it snowballed from there.”

Today, Old Main Records has 20 student members, including three other leads besides Derey – Patrick Norton, creative director; Christopher Simpson, social media and marketing director; and David Jackowicz, recording and distribution director.

Named after and housed in the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues, Old Main Records also partners with two WSU Department of Music lecturers Jeremy Peters and Michael Shellabarger.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with the label is create a hub. One of the benefits of being a Wayne State student organization is that there are a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, whether that’s art, film, business, music tech or music business,” Derey said. “There are just a ton of people around who are willing to do this kind of grassroots organization.”

Patrick Norton and his Dirt Room bandmates are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label. Photo by Matt Hamilton

With a team in place, Old Main Records is currently setting up the independent label’s infrastructure, accepting and reviewing artist submissions, applying for grants and creating internal processes. It also will provide students with opportunities in event promotion, marketing, recording and distribution and launch a crowdfunding campaign soon.

“They want to turn this into a class or an outlet for music business majors to use. It helps everybody out because part of the goal of the record label is to give resources out to artists,” said Norton, a music technology senior and director of do-it-yourself (DIY) Detroit music-art space Nice Place. “We’re really looking to help build the local community and give promotional and marketing support to artists.”

To demonstrate that support, Norton’s band Dirt Room, a Detroit experimental indie rock quintet, is serving as a pilot artist for Old Main Records. Along with Norton, Dirt Room bandmates Samuel Sprague, Simon Sprague, Cam Frank and Matt Hagger are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label.

Dirt Room is also featured on a “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground” Spotify playlist, which includes dozens of emerging Motor City artists across a multitude of genres. All artists added to the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to Old Main Records.

As Old Main Records finalizes its first round of artists to sign, it will host a multimedia launch event in partnership with Nice Place and feature live music and visual art Jan. 17 at St. Andrew’s Church in Detroit. Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood will perform at the label’s event.

“We’re taking twice as much time to do every small step now with the label, so in the future, these will be easy processes, and everybody will know what to do going forward,” Derey said. “We’re hoping for January and February to start recording projects with those groups, and then have our first releases as well coming down this year.”

Finally, Old Main Records will partner with WSU to preserve and digitize an extensive catalog of audio archives that date back to the ‘30s. It will be a multi-year project to convert audio recordings on cassette, vinyl and wire to digital formats for future preservation.

For details about Old Main Records, visit the label’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Interested artists also can submit their music for consideration to oldmainrecordssubmissions@gmail.com. General label inquiries can be sent to oldmainrecords@gmail.com.

Power Chord – Ania Shreds Big and Bold in New ‘Doors Close’ Video

Ania studies guitar at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In her latest video, Ania shreds her way through the streets and stages of Los Angeles.

The heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso released a gritty new video today for “Doors Close,” a 4.5-minute banger filled with fast alternate picking and arpeggios against a raw bassline and driving drumbeat.

“We wanted to show a modern rock band playing, and we went around LA and filmed in public places and highlighted the rock-grunge scene,” said Ania, a University of Southern California (USC) guitar student. “We also filmed some of it at USC in our songwriting theater where we have a tiny stage and wanted to showcase that we can play instruments, have fun and rock out.”

Ania eloquently demonstrates her electric guitar chops alongside USC classmate and drummer Megan Adcock on stage while simultaneously wandering the nighttime streets and sitting in front of a rainbow-colored graffiti wall. Bassist Carson Rhode also plays on the track, but isn’t featured in the video.

While the “Doors Close” video artistically captures dingy LA nightlife, the single politically tackles the complications of Catholicism in Ania’s native Poland.

“I just wanted to write a song that changed the key signature, and it’s funny because the song is about Adam and Eve and how the whole Catholic thing is very weird,” Ania said. “We grow up, and we’re like, ‘Wow, religion is just kind of fake,’ and everyone has a different perspective.”

Ania developed her own perspective about religion and music after moving from Koszalin, Poland to Chicago with her mother at age 15. While growing up near the Baltic Sea, she watched Polish MTV and longed to play electric guitar.

“I didn’t play instruments until I moved to the States because where I come from in Poland we never had music schools,” Ania said. “It would be impossible to play electric guitar or be in a rock band. There was one music school, and all the kids that went there had been trained since they were four years old.”

Continue reading “Power Chord – Ania Shreds Big and Bold in New ‘Doors Close’ Video”

Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album

Mark Jewett is working on a follow-up album to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Photo by Tom Sorensen

One late August night Mark Jewett stumbled upon an enigmatic vision while heading home from a show in Port Huron.

That vision illuminated the night sky while its reflection danced on the water and beckoned Jewett to stop and observe.

“As I drove south out of Port Huron on Military Street, which runs close and parallel to the St. Clair River, I looked out my side window, and I could see the Canadian shoreline, south of Sarnia,” Jewett said. “I saw a spectacle that lit up like something from a sci-fi movie. All I could think was, ‘What was that?’ I was stunned.”

Jewett turned his car around, drove up to the river’s shoreline and saw the “industrial monstrosity” known as “Chemical Valley,” which is home to more than 60 refineries and chemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario.

“The vibe I got standing alone on a dark river bank in very peaceful quiet was very calming,” said Jewett, a Plymouth-based Americana singer-songwriter. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, in spite of this hideous pollution-spewing industrial megaplex in very close proximity to a population of people, everything will be all right.’”

Jewett captured that peaceful, nocturnal moment in his latest single, “Saint Clair’s Promise,” a twangy, torchy ode to beauty, mystery, faith and hope that’s available  via Bandcamp. Billy Harrington (drums, percussion), Michael Harrington (pedal steel, electric guitar), Ken Pesick (bass) and Dale Grisa (piano) accompany Hewett on the track.

The track features a driving bassline and a mellow slide guitar beautifully intertwined with Jewett’s Johnny Cash-inspired vocals while Amy Petty provides soothing harmonies – “It might have been the water/It might have been the light/It might have been a silent voice calling out to me that night.”

Saint Clair’s Promise” is one of two new tracks that will be featured on Jewett’s untitled third album, which will drop in spring 2020 and serve as the follow-up to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Produced by Billy Harrington, Jewett’s new album will sonically immerse listeners in personal tales about different moods, feelings and experiences.

“When Billy heard my demos, he said he could imagine taking these tunes down a sonic road similar to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ ‘Raising Sand,’” Jewett said. “Ironically, I see my sound growing by getting simpler. With exceptions, I feel like music that I write for a conscious purpose needs room to breathe.”

Continue reading “Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album”

Math Rock – Nate Erickson Drops New 310AM Solo Track ‘Expectations of a Failed Equation’

Former After Hours Radio member Nate Erickson has launched a new indie rock solo project called 310AM.

A new 310AM track poetically proves not all problems have a right answer.

Written and recorded by Ypsilanti indie rock vocalist/guitarist Nate Erickson, “Expectations of a Failed Equation” explores the twists and turns personal relationships take when they’ve reached a breaking point. At times, the best solution may include moving forward without questioning why certain life chapters end.

“It’s one I held onto for a while and reworked bits and pieces for a couple of months before it ever got put into record format,” said Erickson, former lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock trio After Hours Radio. “I wasn’t really consciously thinking about where I wanted to take it lyrically. I think it ended up being the experiences of what my house situation and the band situation were like at the time.”

In August, Erickson and his After Hours Radio bandmates Greg Hughes and Mark Dunne ended their five-year run as one of Ypsilanti’s most notable do-it-yourself (DIY) bands. Together, they released two EPs, performed regularly throughout southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio and ran their own Ypsilanti-based DIY venue, The Late Station, to showcase emerging artists across a multitude of genres.

Earlier this year, After Hours Radio celebrated their five-year anniversary and briefly reunited with original lead singer Calum Galt for a special one-off performance. Together, Erickson and his bandmates decide to pursue their own solo projects instead of forging ahead.

“I think at the time we were still trying to make things work the best we could,” said Erickson, who co-founded After Hours Radio with Hughes at the University of Michigan in 2014. “This track is kind of like a what-if scenario, that’s how I wrote it, and things kind of went where they did.”

Expectations of a Failed Equation single artwork

Released today, Erickson’s 310AM debut track, “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” opens with slow progressive guitar chords channeling disappointment and wonder – “You can hear everything that I think/Even though I blocked you out of this place we live in/They say actions make stronger statements that complement apologies/Or all those good intentions you claim.”

“I went through a couple of different iterations once I started adding other instruments to it because either way I felt like the parts I was writing were either too dark or way too bright, and none of it felt right,” said Erickson, who’s inspired by pop-punk emo bands Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eat World. “I had to go through a couple of iterations until I felt like everything meshed.”

Halfway through the track, Erickson’s guitar erupts into a firestorm mixed with thunderous bass and drums to mirror the building frustration – “Never said I’m right/And I’m not sure what more to say here/I’m not sure where to be/What to say/Or how to play this to avoid giving life the futures I fear.”

“Everything on there is me, and when I was working on this, it was meant to be like a side project from After Hours Radio,” said Erickson, who played all the instruments on the track and mixed it himself. “I didn’t take it to a nice studio or anything. It was just seeing what would happen if I just let myself run with the ideas I had in my head.”

After the release of “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” Erickson plans to drop two other new tracks in the next three to six months and continues to mix and engineer projects for local indie bands Stop Watch, Any Island, Forest Warren and Tryancareagain.

“I would like to start playing out again. For 310AM, the solo project stuff, I don’t want to do it unless I get the right group of people together to make it work like the recording,” Erickson said. “If I can get that to happen, then I would love to, but I’m not necessarily pushing for it. I’m waiting for the right fit.”

Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album

Bill Edwards released his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” in October. Photo by Chasing Light Photos

These days, Bill Edwards views love as the soundtrack of his life.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter eloquently chronicles his evolving thoughts about love on his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” which dropped in October on Regaltone Records.

“A year ago I decided I wanted to do an album of love songs. It seems like the times we’re going through right now we can use as much love as we can get,” Edwards said. “They’re not all songs that say ‘I love you.’ Some are about the complications and the darker side of some love relationships. I think they’re at least loosely related to the concept of love.”

Sounds Like Love” features 13 stellar tracks highlighting the ups and downs of love from different perspectives and moments in time – new love, lost love, lifelong love, past love and unrequited love. On each track, Edwards gently moves listeners from one soundbite of love to the next along a fascinating emotional path that includes paint, hurricanes and boxcars.

“I write about a song a week, and it’s just my creative outlet. I had accumulated quite a number of songs to choose from, and I just picked those 13 for the record,” he said. “I’ve long wanted to do an album all by myself in my own home studio, and I’ve accumulated an embarrassing amount of recording gear.”

Continue reading “Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album”

Sing the Blues – Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue Opens for Anthony Gomes Friday at The Token Lounge

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An emerging Motor City quartet will cry the blues Friday night in Westland.

The Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue will share gritty blues rock tunes while opening for Canadian blues legend Anthony Gomes at The Token Lounge.

“This will be my third time opening for him. It’s going to be a 30-minute set with a montage of my favorite covers and representations of the blues ranging from Chuck Berry to Son House to Robert Johnson,” said Mikolajczyk, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and harmonicist. “That’s the way I like to do it. I’m taking what they have, and I’m adding a Detroit rock and roll-flavored twist to it.”

Mikolajczyk will add Motor City fuel to Friday night’s blues fire with longtime bandmates Garrett Ramsden (drums) and Eric Noffz (sax, flute). The show also will feature the debut of the band’s new bassist Cameron Shawcross, formerly of the Detroit indie pop rock group Day Sleeper.

“It’s got a lot more feeling into it. It’s not all piano-driven type stuff,” Mikolajczyk said. “It’s real in-your-face, gritty vocals to get the point and emotion across.”

Another show highlight will include two special guitars from Detroit’s Woodward Guitar Co. Mikolajczyk will use a Fender Telecaster-inspired guitar made from reclaimed wood from Detroit homes called The Telegraph. It’s the very first guitar (e.g., serial number 001) that was produced by Woodward Guitar Co.

Mikolajczyk also will play new custom-built, semi-hollow red guitar also made from reclaimed wood called Big Brother, the first of its kind and similar in style to a Gibson Les Paul Studio.

“Between both of those two guitars, I’m very excited for it, and it’s always a great time opening for Anthony,” said Mikolajczyk, who formed the Blues Revue in 2015. “He’s a major influence to me as a blues artist because he’s a little bit harder than the standard blues artist.”

Mikolajczyk developed his immense passion for music while growing up in Canton and watching his dad play drums. By age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and played Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” cover of the 1964 Kinks classic. Like Gomes, he quickly decided to trade in his hockey stick for a guitar.

“One day came around, and I was like, ‘It seems like a better idea to play guitar instead of getting chucked into the boards all day – you know, getting concussions,’” Mikolajczyk said. “At one point, it seemed more realistic to be a rock and roll star instead of an NHL star. Like how many people play hockey? How many people my age were playing guitar? I was the only person my age playing guitar pretty much.”

At age 15, he sold merch and volunteered as a roadie for the Detroit metal band Kro-Magnon and later became the band’s bassist. Mikolajczyk quickly became a well-respected musical mainstay in Detroit after forming HazardHead, a band influenced by Guns N’ Roses and ‘80s hard rock, in 2011.

Today, he plays in more than a dozen projects, including Black Feather, Sever It All, Seven Story Fall, Swizzille Trip and The Johnny Fangers Band, as well as the Whiskey A Go Go (‘80s hard rock), Bloodstone (Judas Priest), Little Liars (Joan Jett) and Pretty Tied Up (Guns N’ Roses) tribute bands.

Mikolajczyk also performs as a solo artist and books, manages and promotes local and national pop, rock and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions. He books acts regularly at the Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore.

Despite balancing a myriad of music projects, Mikolajczyk looks forward to sharing the stage with the Blues Revue and Gomes again Friday night.

“Anthony has showed me that it’s easy to be yourself, and there’s no need to produce anything that’s inauthentic,” he said. “He has guided me on several different aspects the same way that B.B. King has guided him. Anthony’s truly a great friend and inspiration.”

Show details:

Anthony Gomes with The 519 Band and Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue

Friday | Doors 7 p.m. | Show 7:30 p.m.

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road in Westland

Tickets: $15-$25, ages 21 and up

Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday

The Judy Banker Band and Mike Gentry will close out the fall series of Friday Night Live Nov. 8 in Farmington.

Farmington Civic Theater’s musical guests will receive an early check-in at the “Buffalo Motel” Friday.

Upon arrival, they’ll hear the refreshing and comforting indie country rock sounds of the Judy Banker Band with special guest Mike Gentry.

The Ann Arbor quintet of Judy Banker (vocals, guitar), David Roof (drums), Tony Pace (guitar), John Sperendi (bass) and Alan Pagliere (pedal steel guitar) will headline “Friday Night Live” at the historic theater and preview new material from Banker’s forthcoming “Buffalo Motel” album.

“It’s our last band show before the end of the year, so we want to introduce people to the new album,” said Banker, who will release “Buffalo Motel” in January. “We’ll also be playing some cuts from other albums, and Tony and John are going to take the lead on a song. Playing in a band with five of us can be really intimate, and we just have this creative energy all around us.”

Banker will share that creative energy with the Farmington Civic Theater audience and include flavors of Americana, roots, country and rock music throughout the band’s eclectic set. For “Buffalo Motel,” Banker has evolved into a country rock sound with heavier electric guitars and driving drum beats compared to her acoustic-oriented predecessors, “Devils Never Cry” (2016) and “Without You” (2014).

“The sound we’ve created for ‘Buffalo Motel’ is more layered and complex, and it’s a bigger sound with a higher volume that has more percussion and is bass-driven,” said Banker, who teamed up with son Ben Sayler to produce the album. “It’s nice to play the new album in segments, and a theater feels perfect for that.”

Banker is putting the finishing touches on “Buffalo Motel” with Roof, who will master the album at his Rooftop Recording studio in Grand Blanc. Along with Roof Sayler and her band, Banker has created a strong sonic signature for each track on “Buffalo Motel” and taken creative inspiration from established indie rock acts like Beck and The National.

“You have the same instruments and the same band playing on the songs, but each song has such a clear identity – more confidence, more integration,” she said. “I like my old songs and albums, but there’s a more confident and sophisticated approach with this one.”

Continue reading “Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday”