Detroit’s Guitar Hero – Kyle Mikolajczyk Reigns as Musical Mastermind Behind Motor City Rock Bands

Kyle Mikolajczyk, left, performs with Michael Kalb of Swizzille Trip.

For Kyle Mikolajczyk, “Psychedelic Friday” will serve as the ultimate end-of-summer sonic head trip.

The Detroit bassist and vocalist will share that groovy musical ride tonight at The Blind Pig with his Swizzille Trip bandmates as well as Detroit Trouble, The Kenny Hill Group, Frame 42 and XLR8.

“When I was first offered the opportunity to be in Swizzille Trip, I thought, ‘Psych rock and jam rock, that must be like rock and roll, right?’ The deeper I dig into it I realize the structure, philosophy and approach are totally different,” said Mikolajczyk, who also plays guitar and bass for several Detroit bands.

“Right now, I’m still studying it very deeply and getting into The Grateful Dead, Phish and Dead & Company. It’s very much a learning process I’m going through with Swizzille Trip. The entire project is very open-minded. We just let it flow, and it’s natural.”

Mikolajczyk recently added psychedelic rock to his extensive repertoire when he joined Swizzille Trip last year. He teamed up with Michael Kalb (guitar, vocals) and Preston Preiss (drums, vocals) after they performed at a release party for Detroit alt rock band Black Feather (another Mikolajczyk project).

“They were in search of a new bassist, and I’m always open-minded to new endeavors,” he said. “I very much see eye-to-eye with Michael Kalb.”

That strong musical partnership has manifested into a series of far-out singles from Swizzille Trip’s latest album, “Interstellar Wonderlove,” which carries themes of peace and unity. The band’s latest single, “Water,” serves as a heartfelt acoustic rock anthem while “Sand” provides an intergalactic, bass-fueled cover of the 2000 Phish classic.

Swizzille Trip will continue to record and release tracks from “Interstellar Wonderlove” in the coming months. In September, they’ll return to Tempermill Studio in Ferndale to hammer out additional songs, including the holiday-tinged “Zombie Snowman” for a November release.

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Positive Vibes – John Kay & Who’s To Say Gets Upbeat with New ‘So Fine’ EP, Video

John Kay & Who’s To Say will drop their new “So Fine” EP and video tomorrow. Photo by Adam Barnett

A new EP and video from John Kay & Who’s To Say will keep the positive vibes of summer alive well into the fall.

The Detroit progressive pop duo of John Kay (lead vocals, guitar) and Steve Lupinski (bass, vocals) have dropped “So Fine,” a new upbeat, funky three-song EP, and released a new video for “So Fine” today.

“We were using a back catalog of songs I had written mostly on my own, and then we started writing collaborative songs,” Kay said. “Something we realized was that a lot of our tunes, while they have a message of inspiration and going through suffering but coming out on top, can be interpreted as being negative. We sat down specifically to write some songs with a positive message, that are more upbeat, don’t dwell on the negative so much and are a little bit lighter and happier.”

The EP’s title track opens with a soft acoustic guitar and quickly transitions into a dancy, optimistic jam focused on the present: “I don’t need to go gangster/I just need to be so fine/I don’t need to get angry/I just need to be so fine.” It’s a strong reminder about having integrity, living in the moment and following your own path.

“Being the entrepreneur that I am, I don’t want to be known as somebody who is a hustler in the negative sense,” said Kay, who releases a new song each month with Lupinski. “I just need to be the best person I can be and focus on my work and make it as undeniable as possible, and that’s what ‘I don’t need to go gangster, I just need to be so fine,’ is about. I just need to be a fine human being.”

John Kay & Who’s To Say also has included a “stuck-in-your-head” acoustic version of “So Fine,” the group’s first stripped-down track since “Bartender” from 2016’s “Dealing with People.” It also ties nicely into the band’s beach-flavored video for “So Fine” as well as their “Beach Sessions” video series that launched on YouTube earlier this month.  They collaborated with videographers Joseph S. Quick and Bradford Clark to film the videos at Portage Lake near Jackson.

“Steve came up with the idea to do a beachy acoustic music video, and we set aside a day to do the filming,” Kay said. “We filmed all those Beach Sessions and the music video in about 3.5 hours. We didn’t really go too deep with it, we just wanted to keep it simple.”

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After Dark – Dani Darling Releases Dreamy, Haunting ‘Nocturne’ Debut EP

Dani Darling hangs outside Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti with Joel Harris and Noor Borealis of The Dreamers. Photo by Kyla-Rose.com

Dani Darling believes life’s true answers emerge in a vivid dream-like state.

The Ann Arbor alternative soul singer-songwriter reaches deep within her nighttime subconscious to tackle unanswered questions on “Nocturne,” an enchanting six-track, jazz-filled journey that lands in between the lo-fi chillwave world of today and the old Hollywood film scores of yesterday.

Throughout her emotive sonic journey, Darling reveals her inner struggles with breakups, loss, anxiety and depression.  The recent passing of her grandfather caused many sleepless nights and served as the overall inspiration behind her debut EP.

“I have a very active dream life so I kept seeing my grandfather on a park bench, and he’d turn to me and open his mouth to say something, but then nothing would ever come out,” said Darling, aka Danielle Davis, who sang in church, choir and theater and listened to musicals with her grandfather while growing up in Tree Town. “I kept having it over and over, and I kept getting ready just in case if I had the dream again, and then each time, nothing.”

To give her late grandfather a voice, Darling wrote “Two for Joy,” a haunting two-minute ode wrapped in lo-fi vintage vocals and delicate acoustic guitars alongside a scratchy, warm vinyl soundscape – “An old man sat down/Removed his little cap/Put his hand to his heart and turned my way/And he said baby girl I know, I know that smile is a voice/He sighed and he said what’s the sorrow, but two for joy.”

“I wanted to give him words to say about why he was there, and I felt like he was probably trying to help me out in my sadness by saying, ‘It’s OK, you’re gonna be all right,’” she said. “The other songs are just a series of random dreams that I had around that same time where I’d turn into a bird or things like that.”

Continue reading “After Dark – Dani Darling Releases Dreamy, Haunting ‘Nocturne’ Debut EP”

Rule of 3 – Kate Davis Drops Trio of Indie Rock Singles from Upcoming ‘Trophy’ Album

Kate Davis will release her debut album, “Trophy,” on Solitaire Recordings in November.

For Kate Davis, good things come in threes.

The New York City indie rock singer-songwriter has released a trio of emotionally-charged singles – “Open Heart,” “Cloud” and “rbbts” – since June on Solitaire Recordings.

Davis’ three stellar breakout singles serve as an instant sonic addiction with their beautiful verses, breathtaking melodies and brilliant arrangements. Her refreshing, relatable music will leave ears buzzing for more when Davis’ heartfelt debut album, “Trophy” drops Nov. 8.

“Each of the singles has their own identities and sonic worlds. Since this album is a culmination of my writing, there are huge gaps of time between their conceptions, especially the first two singles,” she said.

“The production style and arrangement choices help bring these songs together on the album. Obviously, these songs all come from me, but at very different times in my development as a writer. I think more than anything, the singles capture moments in time.”

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Sonic Storytellers – 4 Michigan Artists Host Singer-Songwriter Show Tonight at Detroit’s Cadieux Cafe

Four Michigan artists will share the stories, successes and secrets behind their music tonight in the Motor City.

Brian Perrone, Shawn Butzin, Mike Gentry and Mark Jewett will host a “Singer-Songwriter Night” today at Detroit’s historic Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux Road, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For the artists, it’s a rare chance to share their eclectic, timeless music in a live, intimate acoustic setting on the city’s east side. Perrone, a Livonia singer-songwriter, relishes any opportunity to bring talented local artists together.

“I try to find artists who are somewhat similar, but still different enough for the audience,” said Perrone, who’s organizing tonight’s show.  “I like to set it up where we either all take the stage at the same time and take turns rotating songs, or we each go up, play two songs and do a round like that. That way, it’s not just one act for four or five songs.”

During tonight’s show, each artist will reveal past and present tunes from their musical catalogs and introduce their favorite covers. They also might surprise the audience with a new song.

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The Doozers, Craig Brown Band to Open Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Sunday

The Doozers will share their indie rock Sunday at Mo Pop.
The Craig Brown Band will bring some twang Sunday to Mo Pop.

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.

Two Michigan bands will heat things up tomorrow at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival.

The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will perform Sunday afternoon opening slots and join 26 emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park.

Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which returns for its seventh year. Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with performances from Michigan-based artists to expose people to some of the area’s rising local acts.

The Stratton Setlist recently talked with The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band about playing Mo Pop and sharing their eclectic music with a growing audience.

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Top Flight – The Messenger Birds to Navigate Saturday Opening Set at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival

The Messenger Birds’ Parker Bengry (left) and Chris Williams will kick off Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival Saturday with an opening set.

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.

The Messenger Birds love the name “Kevin.”

The Detroit alt rock duo heavily reference “Kevin” in their Facebook and Instagram posts, ranging from “Kevin is a place on earth” (imagine hearing it to the tune of Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’) to “Kevin hard at work making a record” to “Lights, Camera, Kevin.”

But who the heck is Kevin, anyway? “Kevin is all of us, Kevin is everywhere,” said Parker Bengry, the band’s vocalist and guitarist.

Chris Williams, drummer and vocalist for The Messenger Birds, esoterically added, “We refer to each other as Kevin, we see ourselves as Kevin, and everybody who listens to our music is Kevin.”

While The Stratton Setlist hasn’t cracked the case about “Kevin” yet, we do know “Kevin” will be invading the Mo Pop Festival Saturday to see his favorite band, The Messenger Birds, play a coveted 1:30 p.m. opening slot on the River Stage.

The Messenger Birds will join 27 other emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival this weekend at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park. Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the boutique and niche festival, which returns for its seventh year.

Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with opening performances from Michigan-based artists to expose attendees to some of the area’s rising local acts. The Messenger Birds and Siena Liggins will perform Saturday while The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will take the stage on Sunday.

It’s been nearly three years in the making for The Messenger Birds to perform at Mo Pop. Back in 2016, festival organizers asked the band to join the lineup after another act dropped out.

Continue reading “Top Flight – The Messenger Birds to Navigate Saturday Opening Set at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival”