The New Avant-Garde – Nubdug Ensemble and Amanda Chaudhary Share Cerebral Prog-Jazz-Funk Fusion

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Two avant-garde San Francisco musicians boldly push the sonic boundaries of prog, jazz and funk.

Nubdug Ensemble’s Jason Berry and Amanda Chaudhary seamlessly fuse esoteric lyrics with experimental synths and cerebral instrumentation on their latest ingenious albums, Volume 2: Blame and Meow Meow Band, respectively.

“These albums have both really been connecting with a lot of people. They really inspire both of us to keep going … and things have been improving the past couple of months. Hopefully, we’ll be moving in a more positive place,” Berry said.

“With my music, I’m not looking for acclaim or huge financial sales. These things would be wonderful, but I just want to connect with people. If it makes somebody happy … then it’s like, ‘Mission accomplished.’”

Both Nubdug Ensemble and Chaudhary whisk listeners along genre-bending adventures filled with precious metals, mechanical wonders, white wine and public transportation. Each Volume 2: Blame and Meow Meow Band track instantly brings a welcome element of surprise and enthrallment and repeatedly plays inside appreciative minds.

“I wanted to try these individual sounds, and if you listen back to something like The Residents, I thought, ‘How did they make those sounds and what could I do with that?’ It’s very late ‘70s things with different kinds of technology to get that sort of raw thing, and they use different instruments here … or use this process or that process,” said Chaudhary, who also collaborates with Berry in Nubdug Ensemble.

“I thought, ‘What if I work with this drummer and this synthesizer player and see what happens?’ It turned out to be great, and that’s the genesis of some of the things like ‘North Berkeley BART’ and ‘White Wine.’ Once I started working with Calvin Weston in 2020, it was like this perfect vehicle for recording some of this music.”

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Supper’s Ready – Grooblen Hosts Creepy Dinner Party in New ‘Neuroplasticity’ Video

Grooblen eerily throws impromptu, nightmarish dinner parties.

The San Francisco cabaret psych-punk trio of Ellie Stokes (vocals, guitar, piano, synth), Jack Stancik (bass) and William Stokes (drums) celebrates creepy plastic cuisine, nervous guests and ghoulish mannequin hosts in their new immersive 360 video for “Neuroplasticity.”

“It’s all kind of weird CGI people, and you turn around and someone has a plate of eyeballs,” said Ellie Stokes about the interactive video. “The detail in it is amazing, and one guy sitting down has motor legs, and he keeps moving. You’re forced to look at people and figure out what’s going on in their heads.”

One step inside the “Neuroplasticity” characters’ collective headspace reveals the innovative mindset of Honeymoon Supply Co. Grooblen collaborated with the Los Angeles-based visual artist to direct and create the stunning video.

“I told her to include some stuff, but for the most part, it was just her and how she perceived the song,” said Ellie Stokes. “She was like, ‘Well, what about a dinner party?’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that would be so cool, and what if you included some creepy dish that could be misinterpreted?’”

Throughout the David Lynch-esque video, a pair of guests anxiously determines whether to sample eyeball appetizers, bloody cocktails and emerald gelatin molds. Their spooky hosts quietly observe as floors move below and flames erupt overhead.

“She was looking for creative projects, and it took her about a week to put it together,” said Ellie Stokes. “I love that kind of stuff, and I’m excited to put it out there.”

The video also perfectly reflects the spooky, haunting imagery depicted in Grooblen’s “Neuroplasticity” single, which spotlights the human brain and body’s resilience to heal and adapt from past traumas.

“‘Neuroplasticity’ is about how everything can change in a second and how our brains and bodies are so interlinked,” said Ellie Stokes, who was diagnosed with a rare optic nerve condition in 2020, but has since recovered.

“I wrote it from the perspective of the nerve in my brain telling me what was going on. It’s digging deep into this new part of myself that I hadn’t really thought about before.”

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Be Now Media – Max Preissner Helps Artists, Creatives and Entrepreneurs Achieve Success

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Kyla McGrath, Max Preissner, Chris Simpson and Carter Smeader provide marketing, consulting and production services through Be Now Media. Photo – Kyla McGrath

Max Preissner understands the importance of being present and helping others.

The Ann Arbor hip-hop artist, entrepreneur and educator follows this personal mantra as founder and CEO of Be Now Media, a newly rebranded marketing agency, media production company and record label.

“This entire rebrand is based on my strongest core value, which is helping people with my knowledge and experiences. I used to think that was only possible through my own music,” said Preissner, aka Max Price.

“However, I recently realized that through Be Now Media I can increase my positive effect exponentially by helping people who help others.”

After struggling with anxiety and depression in his early 20s, Preissner read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and learned how to be present.

“I learned that most of my suffering was coming from my thoughts. By focusing my attention on the present moment and my senses, I could calm or stop the thoughts and the suffering,” Preissner said. “I have tested this extensively, and it still holds true to this day.”

To focus on the present, Preissner started meditating and created a personal development plan that was inspired by different programs and teachings. Those efforts resulted in a renewed mindset, which helped him revisit his daily priorities and recalibrate his outlook on life.

“I’ve meditated every day for the past two years, and I decided to make self-management my No. 1 priority,” said Preissner, who holds a Master of Arts in music business from Berklee College of Music and teaches a “Self-Management for Artists” course at Washtenaw Community College.

“I have developed a routine and structure for myself that allows me to live in the most effective, efficient and authentic way possible.”

As a next step, Preissner decided to rebrand his MindState Marketing and Media company as Be Now Media. The rebrand better reflects the skills, values and passions he’s developed in life.

“This has provided me with an ultimate sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, and I want to share that experience with others,” Preissner said.

“It has led me to a place where I have turned my dreams into reality. The idea for the rebrand just came to me, and the name ‘Be Now’ represents everything that I’m about.”

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Strike a Chord – The Indigo Curve Hits Hard with New ‘But I Wanna Write Love Songs’ Single

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The Indigo Curve seeks inspiration from Arctic Monkeys on their latest single, “But I Wanna Write Love Songs.”

Ish Chowdhury couldn’t get a hypnotic guitar riff out of his head.

The Indigo Curve vocalist repeatedly heard the punchy, terse chord progression of Arctic Monkeys’ 2007 track, “Teddy Picker,” and felt a rush of inspiration.

“I was just listening and thinking, ‘Damn, what a simple thing that is … it hits so fucking hard,’” said Chowdhury, who fronts the Detroit indie-rock quintet.

“I wanna write something like that, so I called our guitarist, Adam Liles, and showed him the riff I came up with. He replied, ‘That’s cool. Now figure it out in bar chords. That’s a good way to kill 45 minutes.’”

Those crucial 45 minutes produced a crunchy electric guitar riff, which Chowdhury also shared with bandmates Niko Kannapell (bass), Mike Liles (organ, keys) and Markus Kennedy (drums).

“I told Markus to go full-out, early Arctic Monkeys mode on it,” said Chowdhury about the band’s first new release since 2021’s “Lucidiscene.” “And Markus fucking did it. That dude is just the best drummer, man. Dude is an artist to the max.”

That maximum overdrive produced The Indigo Curve’s latest propulsive single, “But I Wanna Write Love Songs,” which fuses fiery electric guitar, thunderous drums, smashing cymbals, pulsating bass and smooth organ.

In tandem, Chowdhury sings, “Jekyll & Hyde in the back of the bag/The fact of the matter is a matter of fact/I don’t wanna fall in love/But I wanna write love songs.”

“I’m always in the middle of writing a song as Dr. Jekyll until the Hyde in me takes over … It’s funny because this song has absolutely nothing to do with love, but all the lyrics ended up leading to that,” he said.

“Mike named the song, and that’s how it really came together in the end. He just randomly said, ‘But I wanna write love songs,’ and that’s what we rolled with.”

The band rolled with the track at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios and invited engineer Jake Halkey to help shape it. Also a drummer, Halkey added a larger-than-life drum sound to “But I Wanna Write Love Songs.”

“I think that was the most important part … the song is just meant to feel like driving 120 miles per hour against a marmalade sunset, head-first into a herd of goats crossing the road,” Chowdhury said. “I love goats. No goats were harmed in the making of this song.”

Goats aside, The Indigo Curve also dropped a frantic new video for their latest single. Directed by Andrew Brumfield of Love Streams Films, the kaleidoscopic video accelerates through retro pop-culture images, vintage TV screen shots and recent band studio footage.

“Andrew’s work lined up so well with the track, it was ridiculous. I couldn’t imagine any other music vid for that song,” Chowdhury said.

“Homie styled so hard on that thing. He was in the studio with us. ‘Brummy’ asked if we had any preferences or requests. I just remember saying, ‘Involve as little of us and more zombies,’ and I think he nailed that.”

With a new single and video out now, The Indigo Curve plans to drop additional releases, including singles or an EP, later this year.

“A full-length album is obviously what we want, but we’ll never do that until we know every single song belongs on there,” Chowdhury said. “But our new shit, man, that stuff is miles ahead of anything we’ve just released. You find yourself a little more each day, and we’re chillin’ in that sphere these days.”

Change Agent – Fernando Silverio Solis Chronicles Personal Growth on ‘When the Good Starts to Fade’ EP

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Fernando Silverio Solis processes past relationships on “When the Good Starts to Fade.”

Fernando Silverio Solis instinctively understands the rate of change.

The Flint indie-folk singer-songwriter and guitarist aptly evolves and shifts with changing relationships on his latest introspective EP, When the Good Starts to Fade.

“With this group of songs, there are definitely some huge life changes taking place. You’re arriving at a different point whether it’s literally or figuratively and are unsure where to go from there,” Solis said.

“There’s a big theme around friendships … you have to acknowledge that sometimes you outgrow people or maybe they outgrow you.”

Those keen observations thoughtfully address past connections and anticipate future ones across three astute tracks. For Solis, When the Good Starts to Fade acknowledges the nuances and notions that slowly arise as one chapter ends and another begins.

“A lot of times I compartmentalize these ideas, thoughts and processes into a time when I can finally let it out,” he said. “After the songs are written, it’s almost therapy in a way … you don’t always know that you feel or think a certain way about something until you are given that space to say it freely.”

Continue reading “Change Agent – Fernando Silverio Solis Chronicles Personal Growth on ‘When the Good Starts to Fade’ EP”

Remote Start – Otto’s ‘Still Picture You’ Debut EP Born from Virtual Songwriting Sessions

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Otto’s Nate Dornfried, Chesney Walters, Jonny Walker and Austin Howard create an ’80s-inspired pop sound on “Still Picture You.” (Not pictured: Ryan Freitas) Photo – Brooke Tiller

For Otto, a series of virtual songwriting sessions provided unexpected creativity and camaraderie.

The Detroit indie-pop quintet of Chesney Walters (vocals), Jonny Walker (guitar), Nate Dornfried (keys), Ryan Freitas (bass) and Austin Howard (drums) instantly gelled while penning new tracks over Zoom for their infectious debut EP, Still Picture You.

“In 2019, I was ready to call it quits with music, and then two weeks later, I just changed my mind. Austin and I decided to start doing our own project, and we started writing with no end-game in mind. And I knew Nate from where we grew up, and I ran into him and asked if he wanted to be a part of it,” said Walker, who previously played with Howard in another project.

“The three of us wrote together for a year and a half and auditioned 10 different singers, but couldn’t find anyone we were happy with. I was ready to call it quits (again) because we just couldn’t find anyone, and then Chesney just came out of nowhere. Austin and I also have known Ryan for a while. He ended up playing bass with us for one show, and now he’s here.”

With the right lineup intact, Otto started compiling a new batch of earnest tracks in 2020. Walters met regularly with Walker to write and refine the ‘80s-inspired, synth-pop songs that would become Still Picture You.

“I was living with my family at the time in the suburbs, and I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere except to Jonny’s house to write music,” Walters said. “We would just write and write for months while there was nothing else to do.”

During their writing sessions, Walters and Walker collaborated remotely with other Otto members until the pandemic subsided. It would be another six months before the entire band would meet in person.

“I hadn’t met them for months once we started, and we would all rotate at Jonny’s house and be there at different times,” Walters said. “But the first time we were all together in the same place was when we went to Nashville in March 2021 to record.”

Continue reading “Remote Start – Otto’s ‘Still Picture You’ Debut EP Born from Virtual Songwriting Sessions”

Pithy Tales – Blank Tape Tax Chronicles Self-Empowerment on ‘Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool’ Album

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Blank Tape Tax’s Hayley McNichol and Ben Yost overcome adversity on “Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool.” Courtesy photo

Ben Yost thoughtfully constructs personal vignettes of self-empowerment.

The Detroit punk-rock vocalist-guitarist-drummer vividly recounts past struggles to overcome adversity on Blank Tape Tax’s new pithy, punchy album, Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool, via Kickpop Records.

“There’s a quote from Ezra Pound where he says, ‘The image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy.’ The mission of my writing is to use imagery,” said Yost, who’s inspired by the late 20th century American poet’s development of imagism, a movement that stressed the precision and economy of language.

Alongside Blank Tape Tax bassist Hayley McNichol, Yost employs astute, concise lyrics and raw, brisk instrumentation to address internal challenges with mental health, relationships and loss. While only 21 minutes long, Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool provides a detailed analysis beneath the surface.

“‘Hospital’ is about me having a mental breakdown, but it’s also about a number of other things,” Yost said. “I have my interpretation as the author, but you, the listener, may have another interpretation based on the words, and your interpretation is just as valid an interpretation as mine is.”

Continue reading “Pithy Tales – Blank Tape Tax Chronicles Self-Empowerment on ‘Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool’ Album”

Recovery Time – Linen Ray’s ‘On the Mend’ Album Brings Comfort and Closure

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Linen Ray’s “On the Mend” reveals a majestic, internal transformation fueled by love, hope and gratitude. Photo – Mike Frieseman/Package design – Stephanie Eatherly

Linen Ray slowly breathes a long-awaited sigh of relief.

The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) releases deeply buried tensions and inner struggles on their latest cathartic album, On the Mend.

“We’re in a full-circle moment now … there’s been some closure and healing in different areas. We’ve never written anything more meaningful to us that’s so close to our hearts,” said Rebekah Craft, who relocated to Music City from Ypsilanti with her husband and children in 2018.

“When we were moving to Nashville, there were so many unknowns, but we knew we had to do it. And, now looking back, we can see that this move has been really good for our family. We got to step away from some of those situations to really look at it and see the whole picture now.”

Inside that new On the Mend picture, Linen Ray finds comfort and rejuvenation after weathering personal stress and pandemic challenges. Each therapeutic track reveals a majestic, internal transformation fueled by hope, love and gratitude.

“We can see more clearly now because we’re all human, and we all make our choices,” said Rebekah Craft. “Now … we have way more grace, compassion and understanding than we had before when we were living through those moments in Michigan.”

Continue reading “Recovery Time – Linen Ray’s ‘On the Mend’ Album Brings Comfort and Closure”

The Quest – Adam Padden Searches for Life’s Definitive Answers on ‘Dreamer’ Single

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Adam Padden gets introspective on his latest EP, “Oh No! It’s the Rapture.” Photo – Liz Wittman

Adam Padden boldly searches for change and truth in an uncertain world.

The Detroit post-punk rocker and multi-instrumentalist demands life’s clear-cut answers while trying to distinguish fantasy from reality on his latest turbo-charged single, “Dreamer.”

Punchy drums, hectic cymbals, intrepid bass, spirited keys and fiery electric guitars release an inner fury as Padden sings, “You better stop and ask why/The secrets always disguised/Another flimsy attempt/Was it just something you dreamt?”

In reality, Padden relishes the release of “Dreamer” alongside his insightful new EP, Oh No! It’s the Rapture, which dropped June 3.

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Padden about the EP, his June 10 show in Detroit, his roles in Tart and Handgrenades, his background and upcoming plans.

Oh No! It’s the Rapture

TSS: Your new EP, Oh No! It’s the Rapture, explores internal and spiritual challenges with taking risks, making changes and searching for truth in life. How did this EP help you embark on a quest of self-discovery? 

AP: In short, no, I did not purposely write these songs with that theme in mind. I think that turning 30 during a global pandemic made me a little introspective, to say the least. The lyrics to most of these songs came out super-fast. I honestly think I’m still deciphering what some of these songs are about.

TSS: How did a 10-day quarantine help produce the 7 tracks that would become Oh No! It’s the Rapture? What was it like to focus solely on writing and recording your own material during that time?

AP: I guess I was lucky enough to have the songwriting gates burst open when I had all the time in the world to write songs. It doesn’t always happen that way! It was a fantastic learning experience to write and record a collection of songs in such a short window of time.

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Evolutionary Perspective – Mike Ward Examines Passage of Time on ‘Particles to Pearls’ Album

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Mike Ward highlights the fleeting passage of time on “Particles to Pearls.” Photo – Danny Ward

For Mike Ward, a new album chronicles a thoughtful evolution of sound.

The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter carefully transforms a dozen acoustic tracks into an earnest collection of expansive tales on Particles to Pearls.

“I think the first track we added any instruments to was ‘All We Have Are Words.’ David Roof played the electric guitar on it, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what this can sound like.’ I’d been playing that by myself for two years,” said Ward about his third Psychosongs album.

“Because it’s been two years since I wrote most of those songs, and that’s right about now, every day on Facebook there’s a memory of the song, and I get to hear how I first wrote it.”

During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, Ward penned 31 new tracks as part of a 30 Songs in 30 Days songwriting challenge with New York City folk-rock singer-songwriter Paul Winfield. The poignant tracks opened his creative floodgates and pushed him deeper into the songwriting trenches.

“They’re all moments in time. The album has a number of those songs,” Ward said. “I’m pretty happy with the end results. David Roof plays bass on everything, but he also plays a 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar on ‘Back Again.’ We wanted a Byrds/Roger McGuinn-style sound on it.”

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