Lucas Powell deeply digs into buried experiences and emotions of the past.
The metro Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist delicately exhumes old selves and uncovers entombed painful memories on his cerebral, haunting debut album, Michigan, which dropped in August.
“One of my favorite songwriters as a kid was Jon Foreman because I grew up religious and liked Switchfoot. He once said songwriting is like archaeology for him. He just digs inside and finds something. I saw that in an interview a couple of years ago and realized that’s my songwriting process,” Powell said.
“If I can’t write something, then I know that it’s because I need to meditate and get it out of me. Michigan is very embodying of a young, coming-of-age kid trying to get it all out. I could just see me trying to find the right words to say, and I love it for that reason.”
On Michigan, Powell slowly unearths fragile thoughts about spirituality, growth, self-worth and loss throughout his 12-track personal excavation. Filled with vivid religious imagery and layers of swelling cinematic soundscapes, the album thoughtfully chronicles his cathartic journey toward inner enlightenment and existential freedom.
“I’m exploring those themes to use that language as my own narrative. Artists use Christianity or religion as a way to talk about themselves or question it. It’s a mix of sometimes I’m addressing it, and sometimes I’m just using the language that I have,” Powell said.
The Detroit quintet of Ish Chowdhury (vocals, guitar), Adam Liles (guitar), Niko Kannapell (bass), Markus Kennedy (drums) and Mike Liles (organ, keys) instantly kick-starts dormant souls with a welcoming infusion of vigorous instrumentation, contemplative lyrics and emotive vocals.
“With this band, a goal of ours is to make music that’s a story of 2021. I don’t want a feeling of ‘this reminds me of 1995’ or ‘this takes me back to the ‘70s.’ It’s not like that’s bad or anything. That music is sweet as hell, but I just think we’re trying to make today’s song,” said Chowdhury, who formed the band with Adam Liles and their three bandmates in 2020.
Chowdhury, Adam Liles and their bandmates will bring that modern musical mindset to The Detroit Shipping Company live stage on Oct. 16. They will perform two 45-minute, action-packed sets at the Detroit-based restaurant collective.
“We’re a little over a year in, and with this music that we just put out with this EP, we’re starting to find where the five of us come together to make a sound that’s all of us. That’s compared to last summer when we just were playing and writing whatever came to mind,” Adam Liles said.
Editor’s Note: Proof of full vaccination is required for attending Ohly’s Friday headlining show at The Loving Touch.
For Ohly, Friday’s headlining show is bucket-list worthy.
The Ferndale indie folk rocker will relish performing his growing catalog of vivid, thoughtful tracks with Tom Mihalis (guitar), Matt Jones (keys), Brodie Glaza (drums), Pia Roa (bass, vocals) and Ian Lukas (trombone) at The Loving Touch.
“I’ve been doing music for eight or nine years now, and I started playing at coffee shops when I was 15 or 16. I think this is the first-ever proper headlining show that Ohly has ever done. We’re super excited and trying to invite all of our friends out,” said Christian Ohly, aka Ohly.
As part of Audiotree Presents, Friday’s show will allow Ohly to debut his latest contemplative single, “Steady,” and spotlight songs from his current seven-track EP, Landlines, before a metro Detroit audience.
“There are some songs that I’ve never really played live and definitely haven’t played them live with the ability that we’re at now. I’m really looking forward to playing them with a few years of experience. The more people I have up there, the livelier and more organic it will sound,” Ohly said.
“These are three bands that I’ve looked up to for years. My childhood friend used to be the bassist for Kimball, so he introduced me to them years ago before I was doing original music. I saw them live a couple of times and being on the same bill as them is pretty surreal,” he said.
“Two years ago, Jackamo opened up for Remnose. I heard their set and had to run up to them right afterward. I was like, ‘You guys took my breath away.’ The Michigan Ordinary’s Steve Davis used to be in a band called The Fragile, and I saw him at the coffee shop I used to play when I was 15 or 16. My brother and I grabbed his CD, and we were like, ‘Wow, how is this guy playing in a little coffee shop?’”
Lisa Danaë beautifully carves a refreshing pathway to self-love and personal empowerment.
The Pasadena, California dark pop artist quickly surmounts unexpected peaks and valleys along challenging internal terrain on her latest single, “Focus on Me.”
Throughout “Focus on Me,” pulsating synths, exuberant bass and hopeful electronic drums push Danaë toward a courageous, rewarding future.
She boldly sings, “I’m feeling mesmerized/I don’t know just why/But can’t look away/I need to control my mind/Have so much to say/I won’t be afraid.”
The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Danaë about her uplifting new single, current releases, background and plans for 2022.
Focus on Me
TSS: “Focus on Me” highlights the importance of being your best authentic self, having a positive mindset and staying true to your dreams. How did those experiences inspire the track for you?
LD: I have been on this journey of self-love and empowerment for the past couple years as I navigated through a huge breakup and dealt with executives in the music industry telling me how to dress, what to sing, etc. I got really tired of non-industry people telling me that a career in music was unattainable, so I started cutting them out over time.
Self-love isn’t something that you achieve and then you’re done, like you will always be in that mindset. It’s a constant roller coaster, but learning how to control it and knowing how to overcome a slump without getting stuck too far in that rabbit hole is the lesson and key to staying there.
You hear that in “Focus On Me,” lyrically and musically. I know that I am great and have purpose, but I’m telling you the story of what makes me forget all of that as well as what snaps me back and the affirmation-like chorus that pulls me out of the dark.
I know how relatable this topic is, and it’s inevitable that you will not lose track of yourself. I hope “Focus On Me” encourages listeners to take time to study their mind and explore methods that can help them get back on track to focus on themselves.
One summer night, Marty Gray casually walked into a Marquette bar and unexpectedly experienced a life-changing conversation with a random stranger.
The Ann Arbor indie pop artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer went to Flanigan’s Bar with high school friends to sing karaoke and decided to get a drink. Right away, a 36-year-old regular sitting at the bar started chatting with Gray.
“This whole conversation happened the summer before the pandemic. We went on a Wednesday, and there were maybe four people there. This guy says, ‘You have a great voice. Where are you from?’ I said, ‘I’m from Ann Arbor, but I grew up here, and I just wanted to see what this bar was all about,” said Gray about that infamous night in 2019.
“For the next half an hour, the guy starts telling me everything he’s thinking about. His demeanor was friendly and non-weighted. He didn’t present the information like he was suffering or in a bad spot. It was literally, ‘Hey dude, this is what I’m doing. As long as you’re gonna listen, I’ll just keep telling you.”
The regular told Gray about missed opportunities and regrets in his life, including breaking up with his fiancée, being stuck in an unsatisfying job, longing for the carefree days of his youth and feeling scared about the future.
“He clearly felt like he had missed his life, and it was too late for him to experience those early thirties things that all his friends had experienced. The whole conversation left me in a very different mood. It was really nonchalant, but really heavy,” Gray said.
For some reason, that 30-minute interaction resonated with Gray and later served as the inspiration behind his soulful, introspective concept album, The Regular. It beautifully recounts that memorable conversation and glides through the regular’s experiences, preoccupations, choices and uncertainties.
“The whole very human thing that hit me so hard in the gut was that mentality. This guy had been backed into a corner so many times in the last 10 years of his life, and he was in such a desolate, horrible spot where he was just drinking alone at the bar every night or with a couple of friends,” Gray said.
“There’s something about the way he was talking about leaving and the way he was talking about changing something. The whole sentiment was human and on the same wavelength as a fight-or-flight response. You can either lie down and die or give up, or you can make a drastic change.”
Ray Parker Jr. found his groove way before 1984’s mega-smash, “Ghostbusters.”
The R&B-pop vocalist, songwriter and guitarist strummed his way into Motown studios and onto live stages recording and performing with Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and other legends in the late 1960s as a teenager.
A Detroit native and guitar prodigy, Parker brought a signature rhythmic groove to his session work that quickly captured the attention of arrangers, songwriters, artists and musicians.
“For me, I was just trying to play the guitar the best I could to get everybody to like it. Now, in hindsight, it’s becoming, ‘Oh, he was doing great rhythm guitar.’ But at the time, I didn’t really think of it like that. I was just trying to play a guitar part or something that would work on the record,” he said.
Parker revisits his five-plus decades in music through a compelling new 90-minute documentary, “Who You Gonna Call? A Portrait of Ray Parker Jr.,” which premiered Thursday night at Detroit’s Redford Theatre as part of the Freep Film Festival.
Directed by Fran Strine (“Hired Gun”), the documentary “traces Parker’s path from the segregated streets of Detroit in the 1960s to the top of the charts and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, offering a candid look at a complicated artist whose musical legacy is overdue for wider appreciation.”
“That’s what this film is about. I mean, ‘Ghostbusters’ came out, and it was such a huge hit. It just overshadowed everything; people didn’t even know I played the guitar or where I came from,” said Parker, who attended the documentary’s premiere with Strine. (Another screening without Parker will be shown Sunday at Emagine Birmingham 8.)
“They were like, ‘Where did he come from? He was born under a broccoli patch, and he just appeared one day.’ This film actually takes you back and says, ‘There was a lot more going on before that. It didn’t just sprout out of nowhere.’”
Backed by propulsive electric guitars, melodic vocals and gritty soundscapes, ASNT beautifully unearths the tender, vulnerable side of deep-seated pain.
The Irvine, California dark hard rock and husband-wife duo of Christina Baldwin (vocals) and Bruce Baldwin (guitar, drums, bass, piano) embarks on an emotive journey to release the guilt, shame and despair of the past on their latest album, Bleed Like Us: Evolution of Sorrow.
“‘Bleed Like Us’ is about ‘Westworld,’ and it’s about machines that look and bleed like us. That ended up being the name of the album on Bruce’s urging because it captures the theme of the whole thing. There is a certain bleeding happening in one way or another, but then there’s a positive resolution in some,” said Christina Baldwin.
Together, the Baldwins slowly slice through tightly sealed internal wounds to provide long-term relief and acceptance across 15 haunting, ruminative Bleed Like Us tracks. For ASNT (pronounced as “Ascent”), it’s an intense, therapeutic path for tackling mental health struggles, destructive relationships and regrettable actions.
“It depends where I am, the kind of writing that I do. I tend to go toward the dark side; it comes easier to me, and I have more words for dark things than I do for light. It’s a dark album, but it’s the evolution of sorrow, which means there is an end,” said Christina Baldwin, who’s inspired by Melissa Etheridge and Ann Wilson.
Act Casual eloquently recounts the everyday struggles of overcoming a romantic rough patch.
The metro Detroit jam fusion quartet of Ryan Yoskovich (drums, vocals), Ryan Stafford (keys, sax), Will Richardson (guitar, vocals) and Danny Flynn (bass, vocals) addresses these mounting interpersonal encounters on their latest soulful, funkified single, “Livin’ a Lie.”
Throughout “Livin’ a Lie,” vivid, wah-wah electric guitars, climbing bass, fluid drums, tingly cymbals and sheeny synths engulf love-stricken listeners and provide them with bluesy-induced relief.
Act Casual reflects, “Never the one/Now it’s all done/Trying to flee with nowhere to run/I’m a livin’ a lie/A total loss/But at what cost/Thinking about all that I’ve lost/I’m livin’ a lie.”
The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Act Casual about their first studio release in nearly four years as well as their background, previous projects and upcoming live shows.
AC: It was an initial exercise of just trying to write a set of lyrics to a groove we had been working on. The lyrics started coming together about disagreeing and arguing with a lover; it was in hopes of showing that everyone has the same arguments and quarrels with the ones we love. No one is alone in feeling some of the emotions played out in the song.
TSS: How long did you spend writing and recording the track?
AC: We spent a few weeks writing the song itself, which also developed as we played it out live. We spent two days in the studio laying down the majority of the tracks, following up with a couple of more sessions for vocals. The track was recorded at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. with Ryan Hyland as the head engineer.
TSS: What was it like to translate “Livin’ a Lie” from the stage to the studio? Any plans to release a video for the track soon?
AC: The track didn’t take on too many alterations for the studio recording. However, we did add vocal harmonies during the recording process, which stuck with us for live performances afterward. We filmed some of the recording process and plan on releasing a music video in the fall.
AC: We will be dropping another single entitled “Fresh (Out the Shower)” in October as well as another single in November with the full album dropping in the winter.
We will continue to work with Ryan (Hyland) at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. to finish any additional touches, and with Max Preissner, who has been helping us with the promotion and release of these songs as well as building our presence online. People can expect to hear more vocal-driven songs like “Livin’ a Lie” as well as instrumental pieces.
The Dropout instantly transforms any space into a nonstop, explosive dance party.
The Orlando, Florida indie pop, post-EDM singer-songwriter and saxophonist employs fierce grooves, infectious hooks and lush soundscapes on his latest EP, Bubble Boy, to get fans moving.
“This (EP) has more of a dancey vibe, and it feels more like a pop EDM-like crossover. It has pop song structures, but EDM sort of tones underlining live instrumentation and my vocals. It feels like Dropout songs, but they have an energetic, live feeling,” said Ficker, who’s originally from metro Detroit.
The Dropout captures that contagious, hopeful spirit across six dazzling Bubble Boy tracks, which chronicle a highly personal journey filled with insightful tales of overcoming addiction, finding renewal and instilling vitality in others.
“I like to think by the time the songwriting happens, the learning is already done. It’s almost like the life experiences have been chewed on and now I’m fully digesting them. I definitely tried to be more intentional about the inspirational themes, but if I had to write about everything I learned this year, this might end up being a lot of text to read through,” said Ficker with a laugh.
As a follow-up to 2018’s magnetic, groove-filled Old Parts, New Beginning EP, The Dropout spent three years writing and recording Bubble Boy’s tracks in his home studio. He nailed the saxophone, guitar and vocal parts while collaborating remotely with longtime friend Bob Lemon, who provided the project’s hypnotic, spirited beats.
“We grew up in the same area and had mutual friends, but never really crossed paths. (Bob) reached out to me one day online with a remix of an older song I did (‘Old Parts, New Beginning’), and I was blown away. We immediately started working together on new music and haven’t stopped since,” Ficker said.
“The most important music to me is my music and the music of my friends because it’s the soundtrack to my life. It makes me think of old venues like the Genesis, the old Sanctuary, Toepfer House and Elijah’s (Q-Nails),” said Yost, who’s based in Detroit.
“It also makes me think of our friendships and our time together as a family. Starting Kickpop Records is about releasing music for me and my friends and to maintain the catalogs of a few artists so their music will always be out there to listen to.”
Yost launched Kickpop Records, a small DIY label, during the pandemic and released his first project, KP-005, or Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1, on 10-inch vinyl earlier this summer. While the vinyl release quickly sold out, listeners can still spin the compelling, cerebral project via Spotify.
“The idea for the (compilation) came from Broadacre bassist Matt Farrett. Matt and I were talking about releasing the nine-song Broadacre project, and he suggested we test the waters on a (compilation) first.”