Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single

Josh Kemp embraces uncertainty on his latest Au Gres single, “At Home in the Dark.” Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Au Gres, not every problem requires an immediate solution.

Instead, the Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter finds instant relief in uncertainty on his latest introspective, self-comfort single, “At Home in the Dark,” which dropped Feb. 26 via all streaming platforms.

“I hope this song might encourage others to be more present with each other during hard times, though not necessarily in the physical sense, pandemic and all. I wrote it specifically about someone dealing with depression, but I think it applies to much more than that,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“These moments don’t always call for ‘solutions.’ Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just let them know you’re available to talk and reassure them that they aren’t ‘broken.’”

Au Gres beautifully provides a sense of solace as ascending, sheeny synths, thoughtful electric guitar, delicate drums and soft bass surround listeners while they’re feeling “At Home in the Dark.” Kemp reveals, “I wanna be there when it rains/I wanna know you on your bad days, baby/I wanna be there when you start/To think the wrong things in the right time frame.”

“So much of this track is inspired by my experience with depression (i.e., the dark). I’ve had moments in my life where I really needed someone to help me feel less alone. I’ve also been the one to do that for others,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit, Phoenix and The Smashing Pumpkins.

“The thing about depression is that it’s usually episodic, and when you’re in it, you usually don’t want or need to hear solutions. Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just sit with them while they’re in it. Bringing over a cheap bottle of wine often helps, too.”

Continue reading “Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single”

Root System – Tree No Leaves Plants Lush Conceptual World on ‘The Eyes of Xylem’ Album

Tree No Leaves plants a vivid, lush conceptual world that challenges widely held notions about the cycle of life on “The Eyes of Xylem.” Artwork – Andy Thomas of Ando Illustration

Last year, Dustin Galish instantly took root in a new adventure.

The Bowling Green, Ohio-based Tree No Leaves vocalist and multi-instrumentalist planted a vivid, lush conceptual world that challenges widely held notions about the cycle of life.

“I had a dream one night, and there was a narrative that showed up and made sense. I wrote it down in the morning and went into work that day, but continued to scribble on this piece of paper that was very small and kept cramming everything on it,” he said.

Galish showed his initial scribbles to artist Andy Thomas of Ando Illustration, and the two carefully cultivated an alternate universe for Tree No Leaves’ new thought-provoking concept album, graphic novel and multimedia experience, The Eyes of Xylem.

“The real raw theme is perception and the cycle of life. At the end of the day, all of us have a very different perception of what that cycle of life is, and it can be religious, spiritual or atheistic. We all deal with that cycle of life, and we’re all trying to come to terms with what it is. Some of us have a very cool explanation for it while others have a sad, barbaric or magical one,” Galish said.

Along with Tree No Leaves bandmates Steven Guerrero (bass, f/x, EBow), Garrett Tanner (sax, recorder), J.P. Stebal IV (drums, electronics) and Billy Gruber (congas, percussion), Galish magically chronicles a condensed life cycle across eight compelling, multi-genre tracks on The Eyes of Xylem, which is now available via all streaming platforms.

Also available as a four-track, clear 7-inch vinyl on Bandcamp, the insightful concept album lyrically and visually depicts the story of anthropomorphic tree characters, Willow and Elder, who rapidly experience a series of life-changing situations in a haunted town. Each track features an accompanying mystical illustration by Thomas that sets the scene for listeners as they join The Eyes of Xylem journey.

“My goal is to have two characters that experience the full cycle of life and death in a short period of time, but in an amazing way. They’re both experiencing things simultaneously while their perspectives of what they’re experiencing are different,” Galish said.

“I researched symbolism relative to trees and what they represented in different cultures. Willow and Elder represent the duality of the world in any place and in anything that exists. I think it’s important to understand people’s perspectives and how we’re all different, but we’re experiencing things together as part of the same cycle. ”

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Heroic Tale – Blank Tape Tax Honors Change Agents on Anti-Trump Anthem ‘Hey Donnie’

Blank Tape Tax combines pithy hardcore punk and bebop jazz elements throughout their anti-Trump anthem, “Hey Donnie.” Artwork – Mikaila Downing

For Blank Tape Tax, Bobbi Jean Three Legs and Yolanda Renee King serve as the true heroes of our time.

The Detroit experimental group seeks inspiration from the two activists as they push the boundaries for equality and change in a polarizing post-Trump world. Today, Bobbi Jean Three Legs and Yolanda Renee King continually inspire a new generation of political and creative leaders speaking up about the nation’s growing social divide.

That new generation of leaders includes Blank Tape Tax drummer-vocalist Ben Yost and a rotating collective of members and collaborators, including Emily Parrish (vocals), JJ Stanbury (keys), Ja’Vahn “Jay VII” Peterson (production) and Greet Death’s Logan Gaval (guitar). Together, they poetically channel that political struggle on Blank Tape Tax’s latest single, “Hey Donnie,” via Kickpop Records.

“From my perspective, Bobbi Jean Three Legs was the leading voice in the fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. To this day, her eloquence and bravery makes me emotional to think about when it comes to the clear abuses that took place surrounding DAPL, not only in regard to the brutal treatment of protesters, but also to the sheer disregard on behalf of the American government toward indigenous people in general,” Yost said.

“Yolanda Renee King is the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and in 2018 spoke at the March for Our Lives, which I saw replayed on TV. I was inspired by her because of her poignancy and age. She was very young, and her message was very succinct. Seeing so many young people stepping up to the plate, so to speak, at that time in my life made me want to make music that reflected the emotions I felt seeing all of this happen.”

Along with Yost, Blank Tape Tax wraps that intense emotional spirit in pithy hardcore punk and bebop jazz elements throughout the 44-second, anti-Trump anthem, “Hey Donnie.” Enraged drums, roaring sax, buzzy electric guitars and fierce bass sonically protest the opposition as Parrish defiantly sings, “Hey Donnie, I want to know.”

“I’m not sure ‘Hey Donnie’ comes close to serving as a fitting anthem. They should have sent a poet. But sometimes just trying can mean the whole world, and we may not have gotten it perfect with this song, but maybe someone will come along and do it better. That’s what I learned from Bobbi Jean Three Legs, to try your best, even if you’re not a Malcolm X, MLK, Bob Dylan or Woodie Guthrie,” said Yost, who initially wrote the track in 2017, but believes it takes on new relevance in 2021.

“The meaning of the track has not changed; we won’t back down. That being said, I’m not a great political activist. I’m just an average musician. Real activists are people like Nakia Wallace here in Detroit. I just write songs.”

Continue reading “Heroic Tale – Blank Tape Tax Honors Change Agents on Anti-Trump Anthem ‘Hey Donnie’”

Livestream Universe – Eck’s Men Hosts Virtual Show Tonight at Bowery Electric

Eck’s Men will perform an 80-minute livestream set tonight at The Bowery Electric in New York City.

Eck’s Men will magnetize a virtual audience in the livestream universe tonight.

The New York City power pop-abilly quintet of Drew Eckmann (vocals), Rick Norman (guitar, backing vocals), Roger Astudillo (bass, backing vocals), Tom Wise (sax) and Dennis Vallone (drums, backing vocals) will perform a supercharged 80-minute livestream set at The Bowery Electric.

“There will be 20 songs, seven of which are on Who Knew?!?!?, 12 newer songs and one cover. There are probably songs that we’ve never played and two or three that we’ve played only once. The rest we’ve played a few times,” Eckmann said.

“Though it’s not the first New York City club we’ve played, Bowery Electric has a great vibe because it’s run by musicians. The audiences are ‘music smart,’ so we have to be on our A-game when we play there. It was at Bowery Electric that Jesse Malin and Joseph Arthur told me separately that I should start writing songs. The club has supported us from the start.”

Eck’s Men also will spotlight Wise and join forces with rootsy singer-songwriter Kelley Swindall to invigorate fans throughout their electrifying set.

“Since a bunch of songs are on the newer side, everyone will be trying to put the songs in a place where they’re just second nature. Tom will be playing the sax. He adds a drive to the fast songs and an underlying echo to the melody in the slower songs,” Eckmann said.

“Kelley was introduced to me by Jesse Malin about five years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. Kelley’s going to join me on a duet I’ve written called ‘Just Don’t Know It Yet.’”

Thursday’s livestream show also will allow Eck’s Men to reintroduce their timeless 12-track, rockabilly-infused debut album, Who Knew?!?!?. Released in August via 2WIN DISC Records, the album shimmies, sways and bops through powerfully succinct tales about love lost and found against a soulful, energetic backdrop.

“A lot of the songs, even though they were completed at the time, they’re still kind of new to us. Now when we do a livestream, we can say we’re gonna play some new songs and old favorites. We have a loyal core audience of people who come to see us, so it’s encouraging and refreshing that we have people we can count on,” Eckmann said.

Continue reading “Livestream Universe – Eck’s Men Hosts Virtual Show Tonight at Bowery Electric”

Heavy-Duty Blues – Paper Bags Enters New Terrain on ‘Shifting Metaphor’ EP

Geoff Hornby trades his acoustic guitar for an electric one on “Shifting Metaphor.”

One fateful day, Geoff Hornby made a seismic shift in sound.

The Paper Bags singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist traded his acoustic guitar for an electric one and ventured into Delta-inspired blues.

“The current sound – bluesy garage rock – was something that had been brewing inside me for a long time, since the days of playing with The Johnny Timbers during and right out of high school. I wanted to make kind of a blues-infused Nirvana record. And I had grown tired of the acoustic troubadour act – it was time to get heavy,” said Hornby, who lives in Southgate.

Hornby intricately fuses heavy-duty blues with raw, underground garage rock sensibilities on his latest five-track EP, Shifting Metaphor, with drummer Jason O’Dea. The gritty Paper Bags project quickly seeps into the thematic crevices of acceptance, anticipation and appreciation across timeless, authentic tracks inspired by Hornby’s favorite authors.

“As far as those themes, I didn’t intentionally write about any of them. I try not to write with so much intention anymore. It’s all going to get interpreted differently in the end anyway. When I write a set of lyrics, I start with a basic line or idea and just see where it takes me. I feel like most of the time they write themselves and take on a life of their own,” he said.

“Three of the tracks on the album were inspired by novels I’d read in the last few years – “6,000 Stars” was inspired by Graphic: The Valley by Peter Hoffmeister, “Thank You” by Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, and “Butterflies” by Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov. And “Always The Same” is tinged with some concepts found in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.”

Continue reading “Heavy-Duty Blues – Paper Bags Enters New Terrain on ‘Shifting Metaphor’ EP”

Groundbreaking Ceremony – Jackamo Constructs Resilient Emotional Framework on ‘Foundations’

Jackamo brings listeners a sense of comfort and closure on their debut single, “Foundations.”

Jackamo eloquently builds from the ground up.

The Hamtramck indie folk sibling duo of Alison Wiercioch and Tessa Wiercioch seamlessly constructs a resilient emotional framework comprised of growth, wisdom and reflection on their poignant debut single, “Foundations.”

“We both hope this song helps people to find closure. No matter what, if you keep trying, and you keep working at something, you don’t have to give up just because of the foundation being cracked,” said Tessa Wiercioch, who formed Jackamo with Alison in 2019.

Together, Jackamo instantly seals delicate “Foundations” cracks as sorrowful acoustic strums, thumping drums, pensive strings, tearful electric guitar, thoughtful bass and heavenly First Aid Kit-esque harmonies solidify the soul.

Alison Wiercioch reveals, “I’ve been trying lately/Caught up on the other side/And I’ve been crying lately/Trying to do what they think is right/And I’ve been crying, I’ve been crying/But it’s the fire that makes the ore/And I’ve been dying, I’ve been dying/But I’m tired and I’m sore.”

“I hope all of our songs bring comfort and that people feel something through our music. It’s a huge thing that we always keep in mind when we’re writing and putting music out,” said Alison Wiercioch, who’s the elder sibling by three years.

The Wiercioch sisters invited a team of metro Detroit musical architects to design and shape “Foundations” at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios in 2019. Sammy Boller (guitar), Jimmy Showers (guitar), Steve Lehane (bass) and Steve Stetson (drums) created an emotive, folky infrastructure while Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd (string arrangements), Sarah Cleveland (cello), John Madison (viola) and Joe Deller (violin) added cinematic soundscapes.

“When we had material to record, we thought about who we wanted to work with, and Steve Lehane immediately popped into our heads. We went out to coffee with Steve, and he was this ray of light. Steve was beaming with creativity, and he wanted to see us play our songs. He wanted to bring his friend Sammy along and said they both wanted to work with us,” said Alison Wiercioch.

With Lehane and Boller at the production helm, Jackamo recorded five initial tracks at Rustbelt Studios to lay the groundwork for the duo’s timeless, all-weather sound. They continued to write additional material and perform live throughout the Motor City until COVID-19 shuttered music venues last March.

“Something Ali and I have both realized about these songs is that they haven’t aged a bit. We’re hoping that comes across to others as well. It’s been two years, but we still love them the same. We want to make sure that our music is timeless because we like artists from every decade, and we hope our music won’t have an expiration date,” said Tessa Wiercioch.

Continue reading “Groundbreaking Ceremony – Jackamo Constructs Resilient Emotional Framework on ‘Foundations’”

Buried Pop Treasure – The Mommyheads Unearth Experimental ‘Coming Into Beauty’ Album

The Mommyheads travel back to 1992 for the reissue of “Coming Into Beauty.” Photo – Tina Lane

For The Mommyheads, it’s time to unbury a past sonic treasure.

The New York City indie pop quartet of Adam Elk (vocals, guitar), Michael Holt (vocals, keys), Dan Fisherman (drums, percussion, vocals) and Jason McNair (bass) recently excavated and restored their experimental sophomore album, Coming Into Beauty, after nearly three decades.

“It’s a trip reintroducing this lost record. In all honesty, I’ve always been embarrassed by the recording quality and artwork of the original version. Most people who knew about it called it the quietest record in their collection. It was the closest thing to looking at those horrible pictures of yourself in high school before shoving them back into the attic,” said Elk, who co-founded the band in 1987.

“It was such a relief to commission new artwork. Marc Strömberg in Stockholm has done an amazing job coming up with designs for the last batch of records. On this one, he fused five different songs into the cover image. In this day and age, when everything is so accessible, it just didn’t make any sense to keep having this gem off the radar any longer.”

Now available on all streaming platforms, Coming Into Beauty features a refreshing, remastered sound across 15 quirky, inventive tracks from The Mommyheads’ formative years. Originally released in 1992 via Small Machines, Elk co-wrote and recorded the project across two cities with two iterations of the band, including then-bassist Matt Patrick and then-drummer Jan Kotik as well as Fisherman and Holt.

“It’s the closest thing to stepping into a time machine and hitting one of those big brass Victorian H.G. Wells buttons for us. This really is an album about pushing the boundaries. It also helps to know that we were only 18-20 years of age at the time and didn’t know why boundaries and formulas even existed,” Elk said.

The Mommyheads push those creative boundaries through zippy electric guitars, spirited acoustic strums, bouncy bass, pulsating drums and flavorful keys while exploring timeless pop sensibilities and unconventional storytelling.

Originally recorded at New York City’s 6/8 Studios and Cloud 9 Studios in Chico, California, Coming Into Beauty eloquently depicts growth, relationships, self-worth and animal symbolism through the lenses of five eclectic musicians ripe for early adulthood.

Coming Into Beauty’s whole purpose is about taking chances, and it really makes it a fun listen all these years later. There were so many studios and environments involved that it’s really developed a sonic patchwork of sorts. Even the engineers all had extremely different styles of recording, ranging from experimental to conservative,” Elk said.

“Matt (Patrick) and I had very different approaches to songwriting. Matt was more of an emotionally intuitive writer, where I had a more quirky, mental and angular approach to songsmithing.”

Continue reading “Buried Pop Treasure – The Mommyheads Unearth Experimental ‘Coming Into Beauty’ Album”

‘Tuesdays’ with Ania – New Single, Video Celebrate Escaping Manic Mondays

Every Tuesday, Ania breathes a sigh of relief.

The Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso slowly exhales after getting through another manic Monday.

“I’ve found that most people are tired and angry on a Monday. By Tuesday, they seem lost and ready to procrastinate again. I make it a point each Tuesday to escape a bit and visit a local hiking spot to get through the rest of the week,” said Ania Thomas, aka Ania.

Ania appropriately celebrates her favorite workday and weekly nature jaunt through a thrash-tastic new single, “Tuesdays,” now available on all streaming platforms.

Boisterous Black Sabbath-esque electric guitars, galvanic bass, propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, fuzzy synths and delicate strings instantly release inner workplace tensions and rejuvenate weary minds throughout the 4.5-minute therapeutic banger.

Ania calmly sings, “And the road, and you climb some more/To find that one path about you/Still shines down on you/Are you forgetting it?/Climb, climb to get to the road you once knew/Where it shines down on you/Stairs are up the way, you know.”

“I think ‘Tuesdays’ bring a sense of relief by sharing a positive message, especially through the lyric, ‘You’re gonna find a way.’ It’s all about wanting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and staying positive while living through our current times. For me, nature has always brought a sense of healing both physically and mentally,” Ania said.

“Romantic and transcendentalist poets created a movement in which freedom and emotion were favored over intellectual growth. True inspiration is beyond our human reasoning and intelligence can only take us so far as people. There is more to life than just intelligence, including freedom of self-expression, intuition, inspiration and the pursuit of truth. It’s really a matter of taking care of ourselves in a spiritual way.”

Along with director Joseph Cordova, Ania beautifully conveys the spiritual power of nature in a compelling video for “Tuesdays,” which features breathtaking overhead shots of Los Angeles’ Runyon Canyon Park against a hazy city backdrop. A gold pocket watch slowly dangles in the video’s opening sequence to symbolize the gradual passage of time in an isolated world.

“Joseph and I went to one of my favorite places that I regularly visit whenever I feel down or need a break from the world. It’s my favorite hiking spot in Los Angeles,” said Ania, who climbs throughout the hills while shredding her green Ibanez.

“We used a pocket watch because I wanted to show the concept of time and how it’s always running away from us as creative people. At the same time, it’s also a social construct. It took us a year and a half to finish the video due to complications from the pandemic, but finishing this project proved to me that you have to keep going in spite of what else is happening around you.”

Continue reading “‘Tuesdays’ with Ania – New Single, Video Celebrate Escaping Manic Mondays”

Ebb and Flow – Chris DuPont Surges through Personal Upheaval on ‘Floodplains’

Chris DuPont intricately weaves a series of reflective, tender vignettes into a cathartic, cohesive whole on his exploratory new album. Artwork – Emilee Petersmark

Chris DuPont doesn’t envision Floodplains as a stand-alone musical chapter.

The Ypsilanti indie folk singer-songwriter intricately weaves a series of reflective, tender vignettes into a cathartic, cohesive whole on his exploratory new album. Filled with ethereal soundscapes, hypnotic guitars and mesmerizing vocals, Floodplains surges through the vast peaks and valleys of the soul to unify past and present experiences into a hopeful future.

“As a project that’s loaded with very difficult emotional content, I just had to sit by myself and grind. It was a very frustrating, solitary experience, and I had to really develop my work ethic and show up. It’s really tough to show up literally in your bedroom when you have a whole list of things that you have to get knocked out,” DuPont said.

“I learned the value of solitude and just sitting with your feelings and allowing them to move through you without making a knee-jerk reaction about what they mean. That’s been a big growth point for me. Working on this record really forced me to sit with difficult feelings and hear them tossed back in my ears over and over again. But as valuable as solitude is, I also learned the importance of asking for help.”

For Floodplains, DuPont sought help from a talented team of collaborators, including Frances Luke Accord’s Nick Gunty (piano vocals), Billy Harrington (drums, orchestral percussion), Johannes Stauffer (piano), Luke Jackson (bass), Christina Furtado (cello), Lea Kirstein (violin, viola), Rin Tarsy (vocals) and Olivia Dear (vocals).

Together, they created and navigated the majestic Floodplains throughout apartments, houses and recording studios in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. The album slowly ebbed and flowed over two years alongside a period of personal upheaval and change for DuPont.

“Working with producer Nick Gunty was a fabulous experience. It was a big deal working with a producer, letting them in on your process and giving them creative push and pull as you’re letting go. That was a very important part of the process,” DuPont said.

“And toward the end wrapping it all up and getting the mastering done, I pulled in my dear friend Chris Norman, who’s an electronica producer out of Texas. I was running out of time and needed someone to master the record, and I knew he would love to do it.”

As an exquisite finished product, Floodplains rises and swells with intense emotion across 12 thoughtful, vivid tracks that steer listeners along a highly personal, poignant odyssey. It’s the ideal sonic outlet for releasing deeply buried troubles while seeking solace and starting anew in an uncertain world.

Continue reading “Ebb and Flow – Chris DuPont Surges through Personal Upheaval on ‘Floodplains’”

The Darkness and The Light – Mike Ward Balances Past, Future on Contemplative New Album

Mike Ward uncovers the delicate midpoint between two opposing forces in time and emotion on “The Darkness and The Light.” Photo – Mark Stevens of Blue H2O

Mike Ward eloquently strikes a balance between the past and the future.

The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter thoughtfully uncovers the delicate midpoint between two opposing forces in time and emotion on his reflective third album, The Darkness and The Light.

“I think it has a lot to do with my age; I got started in this late. I think it comes from a lot of experience and examination of that. I come from a really big family; we’ve had some losses and struggles over the last 10 years. These songs were all written well before the pandemic, but they tee up the emotions that people have,” Ward said.

“Since my dad passed and my mom died almost 10 years before that, I’ve been on that path of examining life as it is, life as it was and life after I go. I archived about 10,000 slides and photographs from my dad’s collection because he was an amateur photographer, and you can’t do that without diving into the faces, the eyes, the smiles and the tears. All those stories ruminate around, and I think for me as a writer I’ve realized that’s the way things have to happen for me.”

Ward’s initial ruminations unfold into 10 insightful tales about wisdom, gratitude, reality and altruism throughout The Darkness and The Light. As a majestic successor to 2018’s We Wonder, each Darkness and Light track sashays from shadows of struggle to flashes of hope as listeners travel from one experience to the next.

“I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything, and I’m not trying to be Pollyanna. Even when I sing ‘Our Turn to Shine,’ it’s done in a way that suggests taking it upon yourself. When one of us shines, we can all shine, and bringing a little light to the world is a good thing even as messed up as it is. That’s what I hope people will get from it. I’ve been told by a number of people who’ve listened to it that it’s calming and gives them a sense of relaxation,” Ward said.

Continue reading “The Darkness and The Light – Mike Ward Balances Past, Future on Contemplative New Album”