With Access, Major Murphy beautifully arrives at the emotive intersection of past and future.
The Grand Rapids indie rock quartet of Jacob Bullard (vocals, guitar), Jacki Warren (bass, vocals), Brian Voortman (drums) and Chad Houseman (guitar, keys, percussion) seamlessly navigates undiscovered internal roads filled with uncertainty, contemplation and growth on their boundless sophomore album.
“You have to go rock bottom to be able to adequately move forward. At times, it can be a little dark, scary or intense, but ultimately if you don’t face some of those things, then you’ll be missing the point. Anxiety and stress are definitely fused into the record, but it’s for the purpose of being able to identify things and put them to rest,” Bullard said.
Major Murphy deeply revisits personal struggles and explores newfound intrinsic possibilities across nine introspective, cinematic and experimental tracks on Access, which arrived April 2 via Winspear on all streaming platforms.
Each thoughtful, captivating track weaves a reflective, relatable tale about arriving at an unexpected crossroads and grappling with the amount of control one has in life. Layered with choose-your-own-adventure insights, Access prompts listeners to decide the direction of their next fateful turn.
“I was going through a lot of big changes, and I started writing songs in 2017. Part of the optimism is saying even when everything around you shifts and you don’t really recognize it, the old way of being doesn’t need to hold precedent. You have the find the strength within yourself to accept the new reality and adapt,” Bullard said.
For LovelyOcean, a full-time focus on music will pay dividends for years to come.
The Los Angeles hip-hop singer-songwriter relishes the freedom and gratification of pursuing her emerging creative endeavors on “No Down Payment,” now available on all streaming platforms.
“I like to think of ‘No Down Payment’ as a form of background motivation. It’s like, ‘Yeah, this music isn’t paying any of the bills yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t someday.’ I think it’s important that we continue to work on things we love as to not get worn down by work, life and other bullshit,” said LovelyOcean.
“Up until this point, I had been working in the social work field, and it was killing my spirit. But it served as the biggest motivation to work on music so I could get out. I quit my job back in March, and I’ve never felt better.”
LovelyOcean celebrates her “No Down Payment” independence as shiny, cyclical synths, jumpy bass and gentle percussion smoothly glide alongside hypnotic, ‘90s-esque beats.
She reflects, “Just trying to break the mold/They warned me as a youth/Back when I played with dough/Things come natural/Need it off top/The world is gonna feel my flow/No static/We live from the radio/Tryna make it through/Ima shine like I was radial/And have a packed house/Up at SoFi Stadium.”
“Somedays I’m like, ‘Damn, I really wish this shit would pay off soon.’ It can be really discouraging to put your all into music, but no one is really fucking with it. I don’t like to have to ask people I’m close with if they’ve listened to the song. I don’t like begging for support,” LovelyOcean said.
“I’ve been using this time to recover and refocus so I can work on an album, but at this moment my songwriting waterfall is kinda dry. I’m glad I don’t feel stressed by work anymore, but I do feel more pressure to be artistic.”
LovelyOcean started co-writing her creative autonomy anthem with Chuck Chill in January. They recorded the track together in their magical closet studio and watched it quickly flourish over several days.
“It took about two days for the song to be written and probably two days to record it. I’ll spend one day recording it so I can get comfortable with it, and then I’ll record it another day so I can really solidify the vibes. Chuck Chill came up with the concept for the song and the majority of the lyrics,” she said.
“This is the first time I have ever let someone else take over the writing, but I knew he would do the song justice because he’s an excellent artist. Chuck Chill and I have collaborated on multiple tracks so far. He was featured on ‘Theta Waves’ on my last EP, and I’ve been featured on a few of his mixtapes.”
Editor’s Note: According to John Hopkins Medicine, 26 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness. That means for every 100 people you meet, 26 of them are struggling with mental illness. NAMI research also shows roughly 5 percent of adults in the U.S. struggle with serious mental illness, and 1 percent of Americans suffer from psychotic disorders.
The Detroit experimental group and rotating collective boldly recounts the internal anguish associated with lingering mental illness battles on “My Book,” which is now available on all streaming platforms.
“It’s a story about living with bipolar 1 disorder and what recovering from a psychotic break and subsequent hospitalization has been like in a recovery process that has lasted four years. Only recently has mental illness become something that is seen as less stigmatized to talk about in certain circles,” said Ben Yost, Blank Tape Tax’s drummer-vocalist.
“However, in most places, there is still a misunderstanding surrounding mental illness, especially with a disorder like bipolar psychosis, which affects 1 percent of all Americans. Although it was not written with this intention, ‘My Book’ has come to start a dialogue about mental illness and remind people that feelings are mentionable and manageable. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.”
Throughout “My Book’s” lo-fi home demo, Blank Tape Tax beautifully reveals that inner strength with Emily Parrish (vocals) and Kavon Williams (piano). Surrounded by somber piano, Parrish poignantly sings, “The words for me are hard to say/I suffer through them every day/And I just want you to hear my pain and to relate/I want to say some old cliché/But oh what the fuck/Here it goes anyway.”
“That being said, I feel conflicted about the lyrics of ‘My Book’ because I felt initially when I wrote them that they were too negative and self-pitying, but after hearing Emily perform it, I’ve come to think that the song is ultimately a positive thing,” Yost said.
“‘My Book’ was written in a few minutes as a stream-of-consciousness poem. I often write this way using free association. I recorded Logan Gaval’s first full-length, Number One, on Flesh and Bone Records, and I was listening to that at the time. I liked the way he sounded like Elliott Smith, and I wanted to write a song in that style (sort of like ‘Needle in the Hay’).”
Yost initially wrote “My Book” as a waltz on his guitar and recorded a demo. The track later blossomed once Parrish added her thoughtful vocals and Williams performed his haunting piano part in Wayne State University’s Old Main Guitar Room.
“I had always planned on re-releasing ‘My Book’ as a single. It took this long primarily because we were still forming a lineup while it was recorded, and then the pandemic hit. When Emily first sang it for us, it was awesome. It reminded me of Janis Ian, but more emotive. Emily really made the song her own while Kavon’s piano was perfect for the song,” Yost said.
Blank Tape Tax also filmed a VHS camcorder-inspired video for “My Book,” which features warm snippets of home movie style footage interspersed with a live performance of Yost, Parrish and Williams. Yost developed the raw, vintage concept for the video after watching two seminal early ‘90s skateboard videos, Blind Skateboards’ “Video Days” and Alien Workshop’s “Memory Screen.”
“The Blind video was a major influence on me as a young kid, and later in life when I saw ‘Memory Screen,’ my imagination had totally been captured by that style of filmmaking. I had also been a fan of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, and the first two Blank Tape Tax videos for ‘Baby’ and ‘Peachy’ had been done in a similar style by visual artist Genevieve Kuzak,” said Yost, who worked with Ethan Long and Nathan Wilkey to edit the “My Book” video.
“I actually ended up being the one behind the camera while filming ‘My Book’ just out of necessity. The footage fits the audio nicely because they were both captured on tape, which gives it a warm home movie quality. All but the editing and mastering were done using analog technology and magnetic tape.”
Looking ahead, Yost and his current Blank Tape Tax lineup of Michael King (upright bass), William Marshall Bennett (piano), Mark Royzenblat (guitar), Isaac Burgess (guitar) and Parrish (vocals) will release additional new material soon.
“We have no previews of anything other than lo-fi home demos. We’re trying to do more stuff in high fidelity, and we plan on a single and an EP. We’re also debating doing a full-length since there’s no touring,” Yost said.
Filled with sensual, soulful grooves and mellow, jazzy soundscapes, ANA beautifully embarks on a newfound path of self-discovery and intimacy.
Along her transformative journey, the Detroit neo-soul singer-songwriter shares her deepest emotional reflections and vulnerabilities while poignantly embracing personal growth and exhilaration on “Fall With Me.”
“This song is a trifecta of things. A lot of it is about exploring intimacy and being open to that. But self-love was a big one, especially during the pandemic because we have spent so much time being isolated from each other. I feel like a lot of the things we desire become a lot more physical and manifest in a way of self-care while deepening the expectations we have for ourselves and the things that we love to do,” said Ana Gomulka, aka ANA.
Now available on all streaming platforms, “Fall With Me” magically transports listeners to a carefree, breezy spring day that provides instant relief and ample time to recharge. Thoughtful, enduring trumpet, delicate drums, mellifluous bass, fluttering synth and vivid electric guitar provide a mesmerizing escape into ANA’s dreamy world.
Gomulka beautifully sings, “Cause when you show up at my place/And ring my bell/I’ve been feelin’ for ya/You know very well/But if this is too much for you, yeah/We can just kick it like we used to.”
“I decided to put this song out first because I’ve been working on a lot of music that’s going to be coming out in 2021. I also wanted to make this a love song to my audience and the people who have supported me throughout the whole time I’ve been making music,” said Gomulka, who also fronts the jazz-fusion group Honey Monsoon.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was 13 years old, and this is the first time I’ve ever officially put out a single myself as a solo artist. I wanted to make this single to invite people to follow me into the joy of what I’ll be sharing. I’ve always been a really sensual, vulnerable person, and I think a lot of authenticity lies there.”
“Fall With Me” also serves as ANA’s first new material since releasing Honey Monsoon’s 2019 enchanting album, Opal Soul. She invited an all-star team of collaborators to join her on the track, including Haruki Hakoyama (bass, trumpet), Sasha Kashperko (guitar), Todd Watts (drums) and Barry Chambliss (keys), and meld captivating R&B grooves with jazzy, hip-hop beats.
“This song was actually something that just came to me. I had studio time booked already for different songs, but this song was the newest and the freshest one. I had just laid down the guitar part first for the demo,” said Gomulka, who recorded the track at Fundamental Sound Co.
“I did the instrumental, and then the vocals came while the lyrics came afterward. I just reflected and manifested in feeling what I really wanted people to get out of this song. I’ve also been making a lot of electronic music, but I thought it was important to have actual instrumentation on it. I think that comes with the realness of my music, and it’s a reflection of my musical spirit.”
Two local bands will funkify the livestream universe from Grove Studios Saturday.
Sabbatical Bob and The DayNites will share soulful grooves throughout their energetic, danceable sets for Grove Sessions from the Ypsilanti rehearsal and recording space’s newly renovated Deluxe Studio.
“Sabbatical Bob comes from more of a jazz-funk fusion realm with some killer jazz-trained musicianship. The DayNites speak more of a blues, neo-soul and psychedelic language to get their vibe across. Regardless, we imagine our virtual audience will be bobbin’ their heads and shakin’ it a bit at home,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder/director of community engagement and drummer for The DayNites.
As Grove Studios’ second in-studio livestream performance, viewers will experience a jam-tastic show filled with bouncy wah-wah guitars, hypnotic bass, pulsating drums, upbeat horns and shiny keys.
Sabbatical Bob’s Ben Green (trumpet, vocals), Ian Eylanbekov (guitar), Ben Wood (bass) and David Ward (drums, vocals) will perform tracks from their dynamic, rhythmic 2019 debut EP,Sabbatical Bob:Live and in Person. (Keyboardist Jordan Anderson won’t be able to join the band for the show.)
“We plan on doing what we always do, bringing the exciting loud funk. We are playing some oldies from the EP, a cover or two, and some music that is soon to be released on our next record, On the Run,” Ward said. “We have never been able to share the stage with The DayNites, but they are friends, and we’ve all got to hear them play before.”
In December, Sabbatical Bob released a colorful, inspiring video for “Alright,” their peppy, spirited instrumental that defeats corporate drudgery with enthusiastic, bouncy funk. Created by Filmic Productions, it’s a much-needed cure from being trapped inside lifeless, institutional walls.
“‘Alright’ was super fun because we had a team work up the idea and present it to us. The people at Filmic are really dope and had it all ready to go. We kinda got to be super stars – even the idea for the video was intuited by the team just by listening to the music. They ran it by us once, and we were sold,” Ward said.
In tandem with Sabbatical Bob, The DayNites will bring moonlit melodies, gravitational grooves and rotational rhythms to a virtual audience. Kristianna Bell (vocals), Ryan Greene (keys, piano), Tim Blackman (bass), Shaun Maazza (guitar) and Friebel (drums) will share tracks from their R&B-rock flavored self-titled debut EP, which dropped in October.
“We’ll be playing the entire self-titled EP along with some of our own renditions of classic soul and R&B jams. We’ll also be debuting a new original written with Ryan Greene, the keyboardist from Violet Sol, who became an official DayNite last July,” Friebel said.
Viewers can purchase $10 tickets for Saturday’s livestream show via Grove Studios’ website and Facebook page. Grove Studios has flourished in the virtual music space since launching Grove Sessions, a regular livestream performance and interview series, in March 2020. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.
Gaucho Major keenly uncovers the duplicitous side of human nature.
The Los Angeles pop-rock duo of Max Espinosa (vocals, guitar) and Mike Pappas (songwriting, production) shines a jazzy, truthful light on “Blue Ribbon,” an eye-opening, witty new single that instantly challenges people to reveal their true identities.
“It’s basically a song about the American lie in privilege. There’s a lot that goes into that, and there’s a lyric in there, ‘Be happy that you’ve left where you’ve come from.’ While growing up in LA, I saw people come here from all walks of life,” said Espinosa.
“I noticed a difference with someone coming from Detroit, St. Louis or Cleveland; they just wanna erase where they came from. They’re happy to shed it. But when I go to New York, people are like, ‘I’m from Pittsburgh, or I’m from Ann Arbor,’ and they’re just proud about it. They’re past lives aren’t thrown away.”
Throughout “Blue Ribbon,” Gaucho Major elegantly retrieves those discarded past selves as thoughtful piano, soulful sax, mystical electric guitars, sauntering bass and cozy drums unearth the importance of living authentically.
Espinosa playfully sings, “Be happy to leave where you came from/There’s everything here under the sun/The crowd back there/They ain’t got much to go on/Careful where you step, son/We just did the lawn/It’s good to be on the board/Even if you’re a pawn.”
“The verses are very much like a parody and a caricature’s story. When I get to the chorus, I actually sing and do my normal voice. It’s a wink, a smile and a nod to what people expect in life, especially with the rise in social media, and people filtering out 90 percent of their real life to give you a 10 percent glimpse of the good times,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa and Pappas started delving into “Blue Ribbon’s” refreshing theme of uncovering inauthentic selves last summer. The duo received a songwriting prompt for the track from the KDC Guild’s Kristopher Malone, who will include “Blue Ribbon” on his upcoming multimedia concept album, Welcome to the Cise Pavilion.
“We basically brainstormed this certain segment of the story, and it was this long scene of what an ideal life would look like. It’s the notion of a trophy family and how you’re supposed to live in America, and I thought it was perfect for me to write about it. That was enough for me to get going on creating the soundscape and everything for the song,” said Espinosa, who’s influenced by Steely Dan.
To solidify the track’s first-rate, jazz-inspired sound, Gaucho Major invited a talented roster of musicians, including Kevin Hannah (drums), Kateri Lirio (piano) and Kapil Raman (sax), to collaborate remotely for “Blue Ribbon” over a six-month period.
“We started in July with the skeleton build to get the bones of the track, and that’s just the thematic elements of the song and not even the lyrics or anything. When it came to recording the parts, we did a rough demo in August to send out to our drummer,” Espinosa said.
“We picked Kevin because he’s got amazing gospel chops; he’s got groove. When we got the drums back, we decided to build everything on top of it. We ended up getting those back in late September and recorded everything else in October. And then we sent it off to get mixed in November.”
For their debut release, the Kate Hinote Trio beautifully assembles the ideal Detroit songbook.
The Motor City acoustic three-piece of Kate Hinote (vocals), David Johnson (acoustic guitar) and Matthew Parmenter (violin) carefully handpicked an exquisite collection of melodic, mesmerizing tracks from their own catalog as well as from other local songwriters for Near.
“When we were finalizing Near a couple of months ago, I told the guys, ‘One thing that’s going to be compelling about this album is the other songwriters’ contributions.’ Those songs are much different than how I would write or what Matthew Parmenter and I would write together,” said Hinote, who’s previously performed with The Blueflowers, Sound of Eleven and Ether Aura.
“I knew I wanted to have a Detroit songwriters’ album, and every song is so different because of their contributions. It gave the album some variety, and I’m just drawn to songs that have relationship elements. I think that’s the nature of everybody I included,” Hinote said.
For Michigander, a new release lights the way after a dark year.
The Detroit indie pop singer-songwriter shares a renewed sense of personal and creative purpose on his third optimistic, six-track EP, Everything Will Be OK Eventually, out today on all streaming platforms.
“I’m hoping these songs will become a soundtrack of a return to normal. I tend to write sad music, but it sounds nice and happy, and that usually kind of tricks people. People resonate with each EP and every song coming out at certain time frames in their lives,” said Jason Singer, aka Michigander.
“It feels weird to know this one will do the same thing, and I know one day I’ll look back on this time, so I try to enjoy it now. I hope it serves as a time stamp and takes people back to where we are right now.”
Released via C3 Records, Michigander’sEverything Will Be OK Eventually instantly transports pandemic-fatigued listeners to a hopeful nearby future filled with highly anticipated face-to-face interactions and group gatherings. Each melodic, expansive track allows people to release pent-up sighs of relief and shed lingering worries as they progress from one song to the next.
That cathartic return to normalcy starts with Singer’s latest exhilarating, spirited single, “Better,” as ascending, vibrant synths, roaring electric guitars, pounding drums and buoyant bass reveal a promising road ahead and a peaceful disruption in time.
Singer reflects, “You’re always scared of getting caught/Always questioning your thoughts/But you can’t hide how you feel/I wanna know how you feel/Feels like time is moving quicker, but I’m getting slower/Guess that’s just a part of getting older/Wish I could look away.”
“I tend to write music with the intention of knowing what’s the opener and what’s the ender, and I fill everything in the middle. ‘Better’ and ‘Together’ are purposely where they’re at on the EP, and it was very intentional to open it massively and close it softly. My favorite albums have great openers and great endings, and it’s something I always want to replicate when I make my music,” he said.
Known as Amplify Kickback, the show is part of a concert and panel discussion series aimed at supporting Washtenaw County community organizations. Amplify Fellowship artists will be featured while local organizations will receive a portion of the show’s proceeds from the ticketed livestream event.
Sponsored by Leon Speakers and Grove Studios, The Amplify Fellowship supports and funds musicians’ creative efforts in exchange for volunteering with local nonprofits and agencies. It’s part of the overall Amplify Project, which supports community engagement and artistic expression in Washtenaw County.
“Bringing artists and organization representatives together in this way just makes sense. We’re hoping to show our audience the incredible journey of both the fellows and the communities they serve. Along the way, we hope to establish the Leon Loft as a community space, and we are extremely grateful for the sponsorship and support we have already received,” said Maia Evans, Amplify Project co-founder.
With Evans at the helm, The Leon Loft at Leon Speakers, On-Air Elements, Grove Studios and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival will produce the events. Grove Studios and Leon Speakers have been working together over the past year to share virtual content throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Detroit neo-soul singer-songwriter opted for a classic Motown-inspired sound on her debut EP, Purpose, after forging an initial electronic, trip-hop pathway.
“I love the sound of Emancipator and FKJ, but after touring and performing with them, I realized I wanted to capture more of that Amy Winehouse-Sade vibe. At that moment with electronic music, I wanted to go more in an organic direction of being live with everyone in the studio, and I think these songs lend themselves to that,” Grant said.
“I’ve got this combination of songs, and they sound like Motown, Al Green, Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder. They don’t sound like sound like trip-hop, FKJ or Emancipator. The people who helped arrange these songs with me were U-M jazz school alumni, and they added some jazz influences in there.”
Grant beautifully jazzes up her nostalgic, soulful project across five introspective, fervent tracks. Out today via all streaming platforms,Purpose delves beneath the surface and explores the challenges of reaching self-actualization during a personal transformation.
“After listening back to these songs and realizing this intense process I went through creating this EP, I had this image of a butterfly that kept coming into my mind. When moths and butterflies go through this transformation and reach their final stage, they have to go through this intense cycle. It’s not always pretty, but in the end you’re left with something that’s worth waiting and being patient for,” she said.