The punk-rock solo project of Ferndale vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Patrick Sheufelt captures this fearless sentiment on their confident new single, “Rise,” out March 17.
“A lot of my family and friends have been falling on tough times in the post-pandemic era—lots of heartbreak, financial hardship and just general gloom going around. And I thought I’d write a song to try and fight back some of that darkness a little bit,” he said.
“It’s similar to what I said about ‘Firelight’ on the first record [2020’s Not Dead Yet], where I saw stuff happening (at that point it was the protests and the madmen running the country), and it prompted an emotional response and subsequently a pretty cool song from me.”
Throughout “Rise,” turbocharged electric guitar, bass and drums urge people to seize the day as Sheufelt’s raspy vocals proclaim:
“You danced with me under the snow and said / ‘They’ve got me on the ropes, this time I don’t think I can find my way out,’ / But here you are on your feet again, fighting to the bitter end, leaving these demons so far behind.”
“When I was writing it, one of my traveling friends, Xavier O’Luain, was staying here at the studio. He was a bit of a sounding board for some of the melodies and whatnot. As far as the recording, no one else was on this one; I just wrote all the parts as I picked up the instruments,” said Sheufelt, who started Pandemic Pat & The Murder Hornets in 2020.
“Of course, it started on vocals/acoustic [guitar], then drums, bass and guitars. I always do lead guitar last as sort of the cherry on top of the song. And on this note, I’m looking for band members for this project. If anyone wants to learn some relatively easy parts and go on tour, hit me up!”
Eric Ripper doesn’t see life as a glass that’s half-empty or half-full.
Instead, the Ferndale pop-rock singer-songwriter sees it as brimming with changing priorities on his candid new single, “Fill My Glass,” out March 17.
“I wrote ‘Fill My Glass’ about five or six years ago, so it’s an older song,” Ripper said. “I didn’t remake this one for my Story Notes album, but I’ve been thinking for a while that this one could be played a lot faster. This song is also on my Empty Place EP.”
Determined acoustic guitar, fiery electric guitar, hefty bass, thumping drums and crashing cymbals prompt sharing struggles of self-doubt and seeking validation from a confidant.
Ripper sings, “I think I’ve had enough / I just wanna give up / Will you tell me that I’m wrong / So I can think differently about myself.”
“I wrote this song about a girl I was seeing at the time,” he said. “I interpret the lyrics as the character speaking to a bartender, addressing his problems and wanting the reassurance that he’s not wrong about what he’s thinking and feeling. He wants to think differently about himself in general.”
After confiding in the bartender, the character shifts to confronting his partner and their lack of commitment toward the end of “Fill My Glass.”
Ripper sings, “So what you say / You gonna give me an input / We’ve been here for an hour / And I’m feeling quite sour / Said ‘I’ve had enough of the bullshit’/ ‘Are you ready for commitment?’”
“He’s tired, and he’s had enough of all of this. He doesn’t want to believe that they have given up though. He needs the reassurance that he’s wrong so he can think differently about the two of them,” Ripper said.
“‘Fill My Glass’ is saying how he needs validation from others on how to feel. He’s sticking up for himself to an extent, but he still needs the reassurance from others when he should truly be doing that on his own.”
“We found the right tones we needed and mapped out the song to slowly build up and have the second chorus be really heavy-hitting. He had the idea of the sounds backing away and coming back at the intro of the second chorus, a bit influenced by Travis Barker’s production style,” he said.
“We knew we needed a killer solo to end the song, and I asked Jonny if he could come in and lay something down, and he nailed it. The rest of the song is my guitar playing.”
Marty E. relishes returning to his old childhood stomping grounds in the Upper Midwest.
The Bessemer, Michigan garage-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist-drummer recently relocated to the western Upper Peninsula near Ironwood after living in New York City for more than 20 years.
“Everybody asks me, ‘Why did you move from New York City to goddamn Ironwood?’ The reason is I grew up in northern Minnesota, and my parents and grandparents all grew up in this area, like Ironwood, Michigan and the Hurley, Wisconsin area,” said Marty E., who’s also known as Marty Erspamer and hails from Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
“My great-grandfather had emigrated from Tyrol in Austria, and he went to Cleveland, but had heard the mining business was booming up here. Along with his brother and his cousin, he jumped a train, hitchhiked and somehow got here. The three of them started building houses up here, so I have deep roots here.”
Those deep, familial roots inspired some of the raw, honest tracks on Marty E.’s debut solo EP, Benevolent Criminal, which is now available on vinyl. The six-track EP features a seamless blend of gritty, lo-fi alt-rock, punk-rock and garage-rock instrumentation fused with introspective lyrics about change, loss and renewal.
“When I was singing, Jaime [Hansen] and Keith [Killoren] both really helped pull workable performances out of me and [taught me] how to think about it and how not to freak yourself out and have a whiskey or have a beer,” said Marty E., who’s inspired by The Replacements, the New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground.
“You want it to come out how you hear it in your head. Hindsight is always 20/20 when you’re recording, and you’re like, ‘I could have done this better, and I could have done that better.’ What it is … is a snapshot of the time, and I’m just really happy that I was able to come up with a recording that what you hear reflects what was here.”
The Detroit vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and founding member of Bill Grogan’s Goat fuses noble elements of Celtic music, hard rock, jazz and folk with political and mythological themes on his latest album.
“I love that line, ‘Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue,’ it’s from King Crimson’s song, ‘The Court of the Crimson King,’” said Smith, who plays guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, bodhrán, tin whistle and concertina. “I also had an idea for a lullaby rolling around in my head for a long time; it’s ‘Sweet Dreams and Soft Mornings.’”
Throughout Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue, Smith embarks on a prog-rock odyssey filled with pursuits for justice, courage and truth. The album’s storyline seamlessly shifts from fantasy to reality alongside melodic instrumentation, complex time signatures and world soundscapes.
“This album is a collection of songs, but these are all themes that I think about a lot. It’s the idea of the stress of living your life with political dissent,” he said. “It’s especially true with the way the lyrics fall out in ‘Standing Stones’ and the whole idea of propaganda and how people cannot think critically when they want to be part of a [group].”
Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue
Devoted to his cause, Smith challenges groupthink from the George W. Bush era and encourages allies to unite against lingering oppression on the steadfast opener, “Standing Stones.”
Determined electric guitar, bass, drums and uillean pipes rally behind Smith as he sings, “Division tears our people asunder / The vortex of lies pulls us under / Let’s put an end to this nightmare reign / And lift our land to the light again.”
“The way intellectually that I’ve always approached thinking about what goes on in this country and the absolute bullshit that his entire administration was throwing around … it’s like how would anybody believe this crap?” he said.
“That was back when people started this [idea] of … ‘We’re gonna take our country back.’ Well, it’s not your country; it’s our country. You gotta get on the stick and work with everybody else because it’s not [just] your country.”
Next, Smith shifts his resolve inward on the 10-minute anti-stress anthem, “Breathe,” which charges alongside fiery electric guitar, bass, organ and drums. It’s akin to Jethro Tull, Rush and Porcupine Tree uniting for an epic prog-rock track that urges releasing past troubles.
Smith sings, “Remember just to laugh, when you feel like you might cry / Don’t forget to live, when the script says you should die / Remember you must save, resist the urge to buy / Continue to speak truth, stand up to those who lie.”
“It originally started out as two separate ideas, and then I realized that those two ideas belonged together. For the beginning half, I tried to make it so that it gets more and more stressful to listen to it,” said Smith about the longest track from Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue.
“The whole concept of the song is about the stress of your life, and if you breathe, it will calm your stress down … and that’s also what the second half of the song is about. I’m pretty sure lyrically the back half mirrors the front half.”
Smith continues to destress on the summery acoustic ballad, “Sweet Dreams and Soft Mornings,” as serene acoustic guitar, viola, cello, harmonium, percussion and a chirping cricket provide peaceful sounds for a welcome night’s slumber.
The atmospheric, Steve Hackett-esque track also soars into the heavens, thanks to the backing vocals of Maggie McCabe, the viola and cello of V. Rose Cieri and the harmonium of Curvey.
Smith sings, “When the leaves rustle in the breeze / And Luna starts to make her rise / Moonbeams filter through the trees / And cotton clouds march through the skies.”
“I wasn’t thinking that it could have been influenced by [being a parent], but it could have been because it has the same kind of feel to it of ‘I hope my children are good to go,’” said Smith, who also included a single edit of the track on the album.
“That was supposed to be the simplest song on the album … we thought it would end up being acoustic guitar and voice for the whole thing. As we started working on it, it probably used more inputs than anything else. There’s so much going on in there.”
Intrepid electric guitar, bass and drums rise into the skies as he sings, “Come to me now, dove on your shoulder / White flame of love burns on your breath / Oh I am ready for flight / Oh my wings are so ripe / Come wake me / Take me from the nest.”
“One day my brother and I were at this market in Capac called Jolly Jim’s, and they had a little rack with cut-out records on it. There was this cut-out of a compilation from Columbia called The Music People,” said Smith about discovering Spheeris’ 1971 track.
“I dug into some stuff just from listening to this three-album set, and that was one of the songs. It sounds so mystical and everything; I was just totally enthralled by that song. I had always wanted to do a cover of this song to see how it would sound in a rock form.”
“Paco had just started opening the studio, so we started to get together to go through some stuff and then the pandemic hit. We did it over Zoom and exchanged ideas over email,” said Smith, who’s inspired by Jethro Tull, Blue Öyster Cult and Rory Gallagher.
“We went back into the studio later and did the drums and the bass stuff together. Working with Paco was fantastic … I would just kinda say, ‘You know what, do you know what I’m thinking right now?’ and he would say, ‘Weirdly enough, I think I do.’”
The duo assembled a talented cast of collaborators to solidify the prog-rock sensibilities of Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue. Musicians included Tom Phillips (bass), Timothy Seisser (bass), Justin Velic (drums), Simen Sandnes (drums) V. Rose Cieri (viola, cello), Curvey (harmonium), Patrick Grant (synth), Ryan Yunck (organ), Alex Kane (guitar), Colleen Shanks (uilleann pipes) Maggie McCabe (vocals).
“V. did her stuff in the studio and then Tom and Justin were there … we did all that stuff together [with them]. Maggie also came in to do that vocal part, which I thought turned out beautiful because it’s so angelic,” Smith said.
“Alex never left Arizona when he was doing that; he’s been the touring guitar player for Stars. He totally brought something that neither myself nor Paco would have thought of on ‘Standing Stones.’”
While Lullabies in an Ancient Tongue is currently satisfying the musical appetites of prog-rock fans, Smith is already considering his next release. He has a bunch of lyrics and music coming together for a concept album about growing up in the country.
“I want it to be like [Jethro Tull’s] Thick as a Brick where it’s all one song or like Porcupine Tree’s The Incident,” Smith said. “That’s a great piece of work right there.”
Outside of songwriting, Smith performs live regularly in metro Detroit at venues like Sullivan’s Public House in Oxford and The Celtic Knot in Leonard, including a St. Patrick’s Day weekend show on March 18.
The Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist revived the initial stripped-down track from the 2018 World War II era play and transformed it into a sweeping, cinematic ballad.
“The song was only two verses with a chorus and was performed with only voice and a simple, lonely acoustic guitar part. There was a lot of anguish and longing at its core at that point,” said Phillips, who’s from Dexter and teaches at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
“Since then, there has been another verse added, and the arrangement grew quite dramatically. The instrumentation of this new version is several layers of both acoustic and electric guitars, piano, bass, percussion, background vocals and a violin orchestra.”
Out Feb. 10, “Dance Again” soars and flourishes as Phillips’ debut songwriting single. As a longtime sideman, he’s spent most of his musical career playing acoustic guitar, mandolin and violin with Michigan-based artists, including Jeff Daniels, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, The Verve Pipe and May Erlewine.
“For years, I had wanted to be a songwriter, but I could never get out of my own way enough to let it happen. It wasn’t until I was given permission to be and encouraged to be exactly who I am that I was able to let the music in my heart flow freely,” Phillips said.
“I think I always wanted to share this song with the world beyond its place in Willow Run. This song really represents one of those rare moments in creativity in which it feels like someone else wrote it, and I was simply the conduit through which it was transmitted.”
Back in 2019, the Detroit hard-rock guitarist summoned those creative influences for his serene instrumental and fully embraced the moment.
“I was trying to find different chord patterns and landed on the acoustic/rhythm guitar pattern that you hear in the song and then recorded what I was doing on my phone,” Mikolajczyk said.
“During the moment I was recording it, I had ‘The Office’ on the TV in the background, and right before I started playing, the character Dwight yelled, ‘Whatever you do in this life echoes in eternity!” Every time I would play it back, that’s what I would hear first. It seemed like a sensible working title, so thanks, Dwight, or Rainn Wilson!”
That unexpected artistic fusion resulted in the soothing sounds of “Echoes in Eternity.” Everlasting waves of bluesy electric guitar, radiant acoustic guitar, humming bass, shimmery synth, soft drums and ticking percussion immerse listeners in unexpected bliss.
“After years of putting out music with different groups, it’s been a totally different game releasing music as a solo musician. I’m able to go any route I like, and that’s a great feeling,” said Mikolajczyk, who plays in about a dozen different Detroit bands.
“Listeners have been extremely receptive and supportive … since I’m usually known for straight-forward rock ‘n’ roll. Within the construction of the song, I made sure there was an undeniable sense of comfort, care, love and beauty.”
To bring the track’s tranquility to life, Mikolajczyk worked with Dearborn engineer Robert Cadena and Detroit drummer/percussionist Garrett Ramsden.
“I’ve been developing the song over the last few years, and I finally got into the studio this [past] fall to get to work on releasing it,” he said. “They were both able to add so much to this track … very professional and thorough.”
“There are so many people here that I know who make music, and they never do shows together, and they’re from different parts of the city. We have fantastic music here as good as any other music city, and we need to champion that,” said Westwood, who curates The Detroit Sound with WhistlePig Music Group producer-engineer-mixer Bunky Hunt.
“It’s like, ‘Well, what is the Detroit sound?’ Some people just think it’s garage rock, some people just think it’s Motown, but really what’s happening right now? It’s a lot of things, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be one thing, but for our intents and purposes, it’s going to be more roots-based.”
To amplify those roots sounds, Westwood and Hunt selected a lineup artists and musicians who advocate Detroit’s independent rock, country and blues music scene. They also assembled the all-star Motown-Shoals house band of guitarist Dylan Dunbar, bassist Chuck Bartels, drummer David Below and keyboardist Bones.
“They’re all uniquely Detroit, and these are people who are carving their own path. They’re not listening to the people who run the tech media giants … they’re sticking to their art. These guys all fall in that category,” Hunt said.
“We’ve also got this great house band. These are guys that both play in Jennifer [Westwood’s] band and support me in the studio as well. I kinda use them as my wrecking crew. It’s gonna truly be a Detroit experience, and that’s what we’re gunning for.”
The Detroit indie-rocker strikes an optimal balance between wit and sincerity on his refreshing new album.
“I’m a really goofy guy in my personal life, and I love making jokes and stuff. I wanted this album to be goofy and funny, but I still wanted the subject matter to be important,” VanZandt said.
“For artists, especially early on, everything can feel like it’s the art school film where it’s black and white and super serious. The big lesson I learned between the last album and this one is that a lot of my favorite serious art still has a lot of humor in it … and some of my favorite comedies are tearjerkers and have a real serious side to them.”
That ideal mindset flows throughout the 11 authentic tracks featured on Music to Your Ears. Filled with vivid tales of youth, nostalgia, and the passage of time, the album whisks listeners along from one memorable VanZandt adventure to the next.
Zany escapades occur at rock ‘n’ roll history museums, Wendy’s, Bruce Springsteen on ice shows, the Stranger Zone, mountaintops and other locales. Collectively, those stops provide greater insight into VanZandt’s past, present and future.
VanZandt also features brands and music artists as his ironic sidekicks throughout Music to Your Ears. These “pals” include AC/DC, Guitar Center, Jamba Juice, Eagles, Vineyard Vines, Enclave, Cat Power, Google Earth, McDonald’s and others to distinctly set each track’s scene and mood.
“When you go outside, it’s not like forests and rivers anymore, it’s Subway and Domino’s. If you’re going to do a modern-day landscape painting, like Jake Longstreth, it’s a painting of an abandoned Circuit City,” said VanZandt, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in art history from Wayne State University.
“I wanted it to have that feel and also in a pop-art way, like ‘What do brands mean and signify?’ That’s a big 21st century anxiety that we all deal with. I wanted it to feel true to actual modern life, and there’s something I love about how banal all that stuff is.”
“It’s definitely kind of like a prayer and an asking; I wrote it on my birthday, which is kind of funny,” said Talmers, a University of Michigan alumna.
“But I think the central image of the song is thinking about unfolding as a human … and it’s very vulnerable to be a human. It’s just admitting that and feeling often like when we bring our full selves to other people it’s hard to do that and not be embarrassed.”
Surrounded by wistful nylon guitar and strings, she sings, “So please excuse the hardness of my softening / If I’m unworthy, Lord, I swear I’ll fake it good.”
“It’s this image of wanting to be your full little sweet self and feeling ashamed of that,” Talmers said. “It’s also oscillating between those two things, like ‘I want to go back into the womb, and I don’t want to interact with anyone,’ and wanting to fully be with people and be loving and brave.”
The In a Daydream lead vocalist-guitarist candidly addresses the everyday challenges of recovering from addiction on the Detroit emo/indie-rock quintet’s latest single.
Alongside vulnerable synth and courageous electric guitar, bass and drums, Porter sings, “Yeah, I wanna say I’m all right today / But ‘clean’ feels like the wrong word to use / When it’s not just ‘what’ but ‘who’ you abuse.”
“I wanted this song to be the first one I put out after the last record, so I wanted to directly reference the last song on the last record. Toward the end of ‘Everything Hurt Beautifully (So It Goes),’ I sing, ‘I wanna say I’m alright today,’ and so I use those lyrics again in this song,” he said.
“The part where I say, ‘But ‘clean’ feels like the wrong word to use,’ means I’m not using drugs, like I’m technically clean, but that it doesn’t feel right still, and my work isn’t done.”
To learn more about In a Daydream’s strong work ethic, I chatted with Porter about his background, the band’s last full-length album, his road to recovery, the band’s latest single and their plans for the future.