For Athens Creek, The Road Home represents a poignant, personal mile-marker in a lifelong journey to overcome adversity and find redemption.
The metro Detroit Americana duo of Taylor Haring (vocals) and Nate Jones (vocals, guitar) proudly reflects on that introspective odyssey nearly a year after releasing their debut EP.
“Our original plan was to write a full album, and we wrote down on paper the ideas we had for it. The ideas that were there mostly came from that paper, which captured what we wanted to write over the next year. Unknowingly, we didn’t realize other things were going to come up,” Jones said.
“Right now, we still have a sense of pride about it. We’re glad we got through it and did it, despite the fact that it took a year and half for us to release it. It was worth it.”
Released last August, The Road Home beautifully documents Athens Creek’s original destinations of professional and spiritual growth, yet refreshingly chronicles the unexpected detours of divorce, nostalgia and sobriety across six tracks. It’s a realistic, relatable portrayal of life’s ups and downs zigzagging from one point of uncertainty to the next, especially in a pandemic.
“When everything first started to happen, we didn’t know how long it was going to last. First, it was only going to be a couple of weeks, and now it’s been nearly a year and a half later. We all had our own struggles and learning curves, but it allowed us to create and share in ways that we didn’t before as far as recording and having live meetings with each other,” Haring said.
The Ann Arbor pop-soul-folk singer-songwriter deeply reveals her personal metamorphosis on “I Say,” an authentic, fearless anthem about taking charge of one’s life.
“It encapsulates exactly how this last year has gone for me. It’s just been a huge transformation in realizing if you can let go of the ‘supposed tos’ and the ‘shoulds’ and just live more boldly with conviction and confidence life opens up so much more,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht carries her courageous mindset forward as beating electronic drums, delicate cymbals, mellow bass, contemplative piano and tranquil synths provide internal strength. She soulfully sings, “Silence the voices/Chin up/Look into the mirror/Lock eyes with the face/And finally the fog begins to clear/Biting my nails down/But alone/Nowhere to hide/I breathe the same air/With a fresh new pair of eyes.”
“I’ve been diving into passion projects rather than thinking, ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should do that.’ I’m finally having the confidence of living in every moment and being present. This time, I say I’m not going to listen to those outside voices like I had been for a long time,” said Albrecht, who’s inspired by Sara Bareilles.
Albrecht teamed up with younger brother Andrew Albrecht to co-write and produce “I Say” in their home studio. Andrew provided the thoughtful piano instrumental while Albrecht penned the personal lyrics during a brief, torrential downpour.
“Two seconds later, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun beautifully shined. I was like, ‘That is such a metaphor for the song, and I need this right now.’ I tried to harness that sort of energy, and we wrote the song real quickly. It’s definitely one of my favorites,” she said.
The Albrechts sent the finished track to Jim Kissling at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studio for mastering. Once the single was released in March, the siblings started developing a concept for the upcoming “I Say” video, which will drop later this summer.
“We’re so lucky to live in an era where we can do things ourselves. I’m all about authenticity and trying to know exactly who I am and who we are. I think capturing video and audio in spaces where we feel comfortable gives the audience great insight into who we are,” Albrecht said.
Backed by hip-hop swagger and emo pop-punk tenacity, FROSTisRAD provides the ultimate confidence boost for angsty listeners.
The Detroit alternative rapper infuses courage, strength and authenticity into his latest insecurity-smashing single, “McLovin/The Ugly One,” now available on all streaming platforms. FROSTisRAD’s fearless multi-genre anthem delightfully draws inspiration from “Superbad’s” much-adored McLovin character.
“He was the man in that movie, like a lot of people overlook that. He was the realest one. He wanted to tell the homeboy, ‘Like Yo, we’re going to be roommates together. You just need to tell him,’” said Jeremy Ian Doneghy-Horrington, aka FROSTisRAD.
“He’s the only one who ended up with the girl at the end. He was rolling with the cops shooting the guns, like he was the man. He was overshadowed; he needed more props.”
Throughout “McLovin/The Ugly One,” FROSTisRAD instantly adds a sonic backbone as vivid, ascending electric guitars, booming bass, light cymbal taps and intermittent electric drums push listeners into unfamiliar territory.
In tandem, AV CLUB bandmates Armando De Jesus III (guitar, audio engineer), Antonio De Jesus (drums, film), VA (bass, multi-instrumentalist) and Myron “TheMrMr” Watkins (film/DJ) help FROSTisRAD solidify his bold and brash mindset.
FROSTisRAD reveals, “Pops told me right/Keep ’em at a distance/And everything is tight/I’m mostly talking shit/Yo/I don’t believe the hype/Lambo for the weekend/They can’t believe my life/I don’t give a fuck/This is nothing/Bitch I’m super bad/I’m McLovin/Yea/Got two on me/You the one I’m fucking/Bitch I’m super bad/I’m McLovin/Yea.”
That newfound “McLovin” self-assurance also prompts FROSTisRAD to accept his true self and look past others’ shortcomings and hang-ups. He developed the initial reflective concept for the track while recording it in his home studio.
“I know I’m gonna be friends and forgive people when they do shit. Because that’s just my nature, it’s the kinda guy that I am. It’s just a battle in my head if I’m gonna stay mad at people,” said Doneghy-Horrington.
“I feel everyone doesn’t do things purposely or intentionally to hurt each other. It’s just based on how they’re feeling that day, and they don’t know how to fucking manage the way that they feel or treat people sometimes.”
With raw, dark sensibilities and passionate, mystical lyrics, The Fragile Corpse instantly sends an alt rock rush of blood to the head.
The Ann Arbor goth-grunge collective pierces the flesh, seeps into veins and ingests troubled souls on their new vampiric demo single, “Let Us Prey,” now available on Band Camp.
“I tried to add a little bit of vampire imagery in the song to help create a sense of the existential dread that life can feel like when you’re at a low point. Life keeps going and never stops, and sometimes you feel like you need a break,” said Matthew “Thew” Vayle, The Fragile Corpse’s vocalist-guitarist-drummer.
“Let Us Prey” deeply explores that murky internal abyss as coarse, turbulent electric guitars, gentle cymbal taps, steady drums and spirited bass submerge listeners in a raging emotional underworld.
Vayle calmly reflects, “I refine my taste on crimson wine/The ambrosial waste of god’s divine/If love is a sickness/I must be terminal/An immortal blight on the bloodline.”
“I find having that ability to relate to a piece of art often makes me feel less dreadful. The lyrics in songs like that can get pretty overdramatic at times, but I love that. Being in that state of mind can turn small things into daunting obstacles, and it can literally feel like the world is ending,” said Vayle, who’s inspired by The Smashing Pumpkins (think Adore) and Type O Negative.
“I wrote and recorded the song about three to four years ago and didn’t really touch it since. I was trying to put together a goth band at the time and wrote a few other gothy songs that are unfinished as well.”
The Ypsilanti R&B vocalist and Amplify fellow welcomes a new era of artistic growth, emotional strength and inner enlightenment on her latest album, The Art of Keeping It Real, out now via all streaming platforms.
“I didn’t come up with the title until afterward. The word that stuck out to me was ‘honesty.’ A lot of it has to do with emotional passages whether it’s friendships, relationships or fun; it’s everything that’s deep in your spirit,” Rashon said.
“When I got the chance to work with the fellowship, Rod (Wallace) and I spoke, and he was like, ‘Well, what would you like to do?’ And I was like, ‘I want to put it all out,’ but I explained to him that it’s very hard for me because I get writer’s block. He said, ‘I want you to write everything down,’ so I began to write everything down.”
That journaling process allowed Rashon to deeply reflect on her transition as an emerging artist and expectant mother. She spent five months crafting the seven authentic, insightful stories that would become The Art of Keeping It Real. (The project also features her 2020 single, “Ymmfb.”)
“I found out I was pregnant, and I went through all the emotions you can imagine from being pregnant. By the time it all came together, I’m like, ‘This is a story; this is something interesting that someone can relate to on many levels,’” said Rashon, who’s inspired by Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige.
“I wanted to go with these songs and focus on transparency and honesty, so I decided to go with The Art of Keeping It Real. Everything I’m summing up is art, and the art I’m projecting is keeping it real.”
The Ann Arbor R&B artist-engineer-producer honors the emerging Detroit R&B trap songstress in a four-minute, MTV Cribs-style video for her namesake track. Neshae co-stars in the video with Watson and Ypsilanti hip-hop artist Young’n Destined.
“Having Neisha in the video was dope; I appreciate her coming through. In fact, I speak for everyone who was there at the video shoot. We all appreciated and loved her for being there. I’m not sure how she found out exactly,” said Watson, who’s racked up over 25,000 views on the video.
“We were promoting the upcoming shoot so I assumed someone tagged her and kept sharing the post. Her presence brought more life and more energy to the video. Everyone was bringing their best to the table, but Neisha brought some more light to this bright environment.”
“MTV Cribs was always a great show so I figured why not bring that back to life in the video. Recruiting everyone was pretty easy. Everyone who had heard the song did tell me that they wanted to be part of the video if it ever came up,” Watson said.
“We contacted all of our friends and told them to come and bring their friends, too. Everything fell into place. We’re all about good vibes so everyone knew what to bring to the table; besides everyone was good people.”
“We decided to create the Barebones Music Festival with the intention of leveling the playing field for local artists. The pandemic has put a hold on in-person events, and we have been trying to come up with new ways to virtually bring artists together,” said Joseph Corless, Old Main Records’ incoming president.
“A common problem we came across was that many artists did not possess the recording equipment necessary to perform virtually. We decided to embrace this and set the criteria for submissions to utilize only a cell phone with audio and video recording capabilities.”
In response, interested artists submitted individual performance videos for consideration regardless of genre. Next, the Old Main Records team assembled artist submissions into two cohesive virtual music showcases.
“This allows the songs themselves to shine and not be filtered by editing techniques and mixing. Artists had to be creative in their spacing to have a sonic balance between instruments. These limitations forced artists to think outside the box when choosing the song’s instrumentation and performance location,” Corless said.
“We chose artists whose songs could easily flow into one another while still utilizing various genres. Their choices of lighting and filming locations added to the ambiance of their individual styles.”
The Barebones Music Festival is one of several recent virtual events hosted by Old Main Records since the pandemic hit last year. With the shutdown of in-person live music events, the WSU student-run record label has flourished with a series of online artist shows and conversations, music industry panels, songwriter summits, and jazz and dance performances.
“It’s a nice way to bring together many of our past collaborators in a platform showcasing them all individually. I would personally love to see this festival grow into an in-person event in the future, but some changes may need to be made to its format,” said Corless, a WSU business management and music technology student and drummer for Detroit metal band Passing Thought.
“With venues and in-person events opening back up, I would love to start setting up more live shows. I also would like to see us branching out into different genres. Detroit has some phenomenal punk, hardcore and metal scenes that we have barely tapped into.”
Old Main Records hasn’t hosted an in-person live event since their multimedia launch party in January 2020. The party showcased a series of local artists who expressed interest in signing with the label, which is named after the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues.
“Chris Simpson, our departing president, has taken the lead in getting Old Main Records back up and running despite the pandemic. Darcy Moran, Calder Laidlaw, Anna George and several others have taken the lead in various other projects for the label,” Corless said.
“Wayne State is also slowly opening up again, and it would be great to utilize our recording studio. Old Main Records has been recruiting new members, and their enthusiasm to be more involved in our organization has truly been inspiring.”
London Beck beautifully reveals the earnestness and empowerment of being vulnerable.
The Ann Arbor R&B vocalist-instrumentalist-producer and Amplify fellow openly shares a personal, emotive journey of defeating inner demons and embracing newfound strength on their latest album, The Black Satin Sessions.
“This project really showed me that it’s OK to be vulnerable and ask for help. It’s OK to use the resources that are available to you if you feel like you’re giving it your all and nothing’s really working. Even though there’s this outspoken, loud and formidable essence of London, I want people to understand there’s a softer, more thoughtful side of me,” Beck said.
“In that vulnerability, it’s OK to move toward a path of healing, and it’s OK to heal with people who have your best interests at heart. I can still encourage people and open doors for them while making space for me to have my needs met.”
Beck openly chronicles confronting dark emotional terrain while uncovering an enlightened path of self-redemption across 13 passionate, metamorphic tracks on The Black Satin Sessions. Each multi-genre track shifts, shimmies and soars over introspective lyrics, exquisite instrumentation and fiery vocals.
With Beck at the helm, listeners seamlessly absorb enchanting sonic snippets of R&B, electro pop, dance, Motown, rock, classical and folk rolled into a refreshing auditory experience.
“I had initially intended to put out two smaller EPs, one that was rock, acoustic-focused and one that had the electro vibes that people typically know me for. As we were working through this project and with the Amplify fellows, I was really thinking about my journey, and it all came together in the most beautiful, unexpected way,” said Beck, who’s also a classically trained violist.
“I decided to write and make music that’s on my heart and my mind. Once I had finished all of the music, and I listened to it, I was like ‘Wow, this really tells my story.’”
Easy Beach didn’t intend to share a song title with Selena Gomez.
The Detroit emo-punk rock trio of Ian Cruz (guitar, vocals), Bradley “Beau” Stone (bass, backing vocals) and Sean Tarolli (drums, backing vocals) originally called their latest single “Forget Forever,” but quickly learned the track duplicated the name of the pop singer’s 2013 song.
“It became a joke at practice to call the song ‘Selena Gomez,’ and it stuck. The song took a couple practices to finish; it’s probably the only song we have that took less than a month to write. The song is about giving up my dog for someone who didn’t love me,” Cruz said.
Officially called “Selena Gomez (Took the Name of This Song),” the Easy Beach track fuses buzzy, roaring guitars, clobbering drums and propulsive bass into a two-minute, rage-filled banger in response to losing a best friend. Cruz sadly reflects, “You left last holiday/Without you I’m all dead/Now I can’t see my friend/Without him ever again.”
“I was doing some workshopping with Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings when I was writing this song, and he had a few ideas for the guitar parts that I used – particularly the lead guitar in the second chorus,” said Cruz, who co-produced the track with Tyler Floyd.
“Selena Gomez” also features a dark, gritty basement jam video filmed by Mark Larsen of Static Screen Productions. Easy Beach cathartically processes their frustration while rehearsing, hanging out and eating pizza together.
“When I saw Mark’s video for ERODERS’ ‘Lose My Mind,’ I knew I wanted to do a video with him. Originally, the video was going to be us playing at a house party, but that’s exactly what the ERODERS video was, and Mark didn’t want to make the same video again,” Cruz said.
“He came to us with the idea of doing a video reminiscent of old emo/punk videos where the band is playing in a basement and just hanging out doing weird stuff. The video is just a peak into a regular practice for us, except we don’t usually eat pizza. It was shot in April at Bradley’s house/practice space.”
The Ann Arbor musicians will revive their long-running live music backyard showcase, Broken Branch Summer Series, after last year’s pandemic-induced hiatus.
“Many people have been locked in their houses, and they haven’t had an opportunity to do anything. Musicheads are shriveling up inside and really need to get out,” said Labeaux, whose Broken Branch ranch is located near Dixboro.
“But then there are the performers and gig workers who have had no place to play, and we have a place where people can gather safely. We can support the musicians who have been hit, provide a place for people to see shows and marry that together here.”
Together, Labeaux and Gibson will reunite those eager musical forces through eight free biweekly Saturday shows from June to September. The eclectic lineup will include a rich blend of country, folk, jazz, alt rock, soul pop, world rock and bluesy funk sounds to appease live music diehards:
This specially curated lineup of emerging and established artists stems from Labeaux and Gibson’s desire to support and join different collaborators on their tree-lined, wraparound deck. Labeaux started the Broken Branch Summer Series in 2014 as a way to his friends perform live at home.