Suburban Stories – Matthew Milia Revisits Metro Detroit Memories on ‘Keego Harbor’

Keego+Harbor 2
Matthew Milia’s “Keego Harbor” captures a beautiful legacy of life unchanged in the metro Detroit suburbs. Photo – John Hanson

For Matthew Milia, Keego Harbor represents a nostalgic, winding metro Detroit pathway from youth to adulthood and back again.

The Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and Frontier Ruckus frontman eloquently drifts through deep childhood recollections, gritty suburban landmarks and dichotomous neighborhood adventures on his well-crafted second solo album.

“This has been a lifelong obsession, especially with the suburban world. It’s inspired by the fact that the suburban experience is not monolithic. It’s all these mingling beautiful dualities and contradictions of the human experience that live in this space,” said Milia, who grew up in Keego Harbor.

“I’m juxtaposing Pontiac and Bloomfield Hills because those places are contiguous, and they couldn’t be more different. That’s a hard thing for people that don’t live in this area to understand. My endless personal quest is to give as much vivid description and detail of these contradictions that I’ve experienced.”

Throughout Keego Harbor, Milia intricately constructs snapshots of mundane Michigan experiences – junk mail, rotten mulch and phone chargers – and static places – party stores, drive-thru lanes and nail salons – across 10 introspective tracks to capture a beautiful legacy of life unchanged.

“I think this record is a bit more about generational inheritance. My parents met in Keego Harbor at a place called the Back Seat Saloon that’s no longer there, and the first placed they lived together was in a little loft above a house. The age I am now is when they were doing all that. It’s a bit of time travel while seeing myself as my parents and all the things that entails,” he said.

While much of Keego Harbor remains in the rear-view mirror of the mind’s eye, another portion welcomes the uncertain future with outstretched arms. It’s a matter of looking toward the past to better understand who you’ve become and where you’re headed, whether that’s in a city or a suburb.

“I’m also thinking on another level about my experience in the music industry. It’s such a weird commerce to toil in, and my life since 2006 has been writing these songs and making these records with my friends and putting them out into the world and seeing where they take me,” Milia said.

“I think that a major trope of this record is the recalibration of one’s dreams and expectations. And knowing that immense beauty and surprise can be hiding there. Once you recalibrate what you think you wanted or were working toward, you might just find something even more rewarding.”

Continue reading “Suburban Stories – Matthew Milia Revisits Metro Detroit Memories on ‘Keego Harbor’”

Beacon of Hope – The Legal Matters Bring Power Pop Shine to ‘Chapter Three’

The Legal Matters 2
The Legal Matters’ Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith chronicle the pandemic, politics and personal struggles on “Chapter Three.” Courtesy photo

The Legal Matters brilliantly shine a light during a lingering time of uncertainty.

The mid-Michigan and metro Detroit power pop trio of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith combines sunny melodies, lush harmonies and spirited instrumentation over a dozen contemplative tracks chronicling the pandemic, politics and personal struggles on Chapter Three.

“Music lovers value music even more now than they did before the pandemic. We hope people enjoy this record, and that it’s another decent thing that’s come out of this crappy time. We want people to put their ears on it and give it a chance, and we think there’s a little bit of something there for everybody,” Reed said.

Now available via Klingensmith’s Futureman Records, Chapter Three serves as The Legal Matters’ third infectious, compelling release since 2014. Each track provides an intimate, thoughtful perspective about moving forward in today’s ambivalent, precarious world.

“This record was mentally one of the most helpful things through all of this because it gave the three of us a chance to work on something that we really enjoy doing. We’re ridiculously pleased with the results,” Reed said.

Continue reading “Beacon of Hope – The Legal Matters Bring Power Pop Shine to ‘Chapter Three’”

Symphonic Tsunami – Skywerth Turns Pandemic Tide with Refreshing ‘Waves’ Single

Skywerth
Skywerth blends metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop on “Waves.” Courtesy photo

Last spring, Skywerth watched a bewildered nation quickly unravel before his stunned eyes.

The Detroit multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter felt overwhelmed by the social, economic and political upheaval arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had just watched Ahmaud Arbery getting shot down in his own neighborhood and the music industry crumbling overnight all while looking at the incredible divide and conspiracy theories being pushed on social media,” he said.

That lingering frustration, disappointment and anger prompted Skywerth to pen his latest striking multi-genre, emotional-fueled single, “Waves,” featuring Hamtramck indie folk duo Jackamo.

“It was so apocalyptic, so I just wrote exactly what I was observing. Social media is tailored for you, so if anything pops up on your feed that is outside of your belief system, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb, and your friends are going to say it’s wrong, too. No matter what it is, you are constantly being told that you’re right.” he said.

Now available on all streaming platforms, “Waves” elegantly rises with the genre-bending tides of metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop into a symphonic tsunami. Thumping drums, tingling cymbals, swirling electric guitars, crawling bass and expansive synths quickly engulf listeners in a welcoming sense of relief and escape.

Skywerth reflects, “Alone in the waves with your eyes open wide, living in a paradise/Stare into the light/Hands upon the shore, eyes are getting sore/Here we are, caught in the eye of the storm/As the rain starts to fall, as the rain starts.”

“Lyrically, it’s a bit of a pessimistic song. If the song can make two people put their phones down and reconnect with one another in real life for two days, then it would make the year for me,” he said.

Skywerth also forges a beautiful musical connection with Jackamo’s Alison and Tessa Wiercioch, who provide somber, thoughtful harmonies on “Waves.”

“I fell in love with Jackamo the moment I heard them. We have mutual friends, and they also work with Steve (Lehane) at Rustbelt Studios. After writing the lyrics, I knew Ali, Tessa and I could do something pretty cool,” he said.

Along with Jackamo, Skywerth collaborated with Eric Hoegemeyer (soundscapes, synths), Matt Voss (drums) and co-producer Steve Lehane (bass, drum machines, production) on “Waves,” which initially started as an instrumental track.

“After the pandemic hit and I wrote the lyrics, I had this sort of organized chaos. Instead of being consumed by this confusion surrounding me, I had all my thoughts and observations laid out on something that was familiar and felt like home to me,” said Skywerth, who recorded the track at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios and credited Lehane with transforming “Waves” into a vocal track.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision to weave all of these (multi-genre) elements together. I’ve got a bit of ADD, so when something sounds the same for several minutes I get bored. I need to change things a bit to keep me interested. I think the dynamics of the tune help outline the emotions felt from the pandemic.”

Skywerth brings those heavy emotions to life in his wistful new video for “Waves” as he ponders the pandemic’s ongoing impact with Alison Wiercioch in Hamtramck. Filmed and edited by Sara Showers and Cheyenne Comerford, the video also features footage of Skywerth performing live inside a vacant Magic Bag in Ferndale.  

“We started tossing around ideas for a video in late 2020, and we shot at The Magic Bag in February. It was quite unsettling being in the venue during the pandemic. We also shot in Hamtramck back in the spring, and it was a group of friends running around with a camera,” he said.

Continue reading “Symphonic Tsunami – Skywerth Turns Pandemic Tide with Refreshing ‘Waves’ Single”

In Season – Chain of Lakes Debuts Intimate Live Video of ‘Next Few Winters’ EP on Sunday

Chain of Lakes Next Few Winters EP artwork
Chain of Lakes’ “Next Few Winters” EP commemorates the all-weather experiences of home, relationships and family. Courtesy photo

Chain of Lakes beautifully recreates the cozy, peaceful feel of winter in the midst of summer.

The Alto indie folk singer-songwriter brings a relaxed, reflective mood to a new live virtual performance of his latest EP, Next Few Winters, premiering 8 p.m. Sunday via The Stratton Setlist’s Facebook page and newly launched YouTube channel.

“We went in there with the idea of recreating the tracks. It’s a cool way to revisit the songs and get together with the boys. There are only three people that can play ‘Next Few Winters,’ ‘Black Ice’ and ‘Where It Starts,’ and it’s us recreating that space sonically while being in the same room together,” said Kyle Rasche, aka Chain of Lakes.

Rasche (vocals, guitar) teamed up with Jeffrey Niemeier (violin) and Kyle VanderVeen (ambient guitar) to record the intimate live show at Grand Rapids’ Second Story Sound in June. Mixed and mastered by Greg Baxter and filmed and edited by Drew VanderVeen, the video features Chain of Lakes performing inside a dimly lit, wood-paneled, red-walled studio.

“I was not envisioning sweating in shorts and a tank top while I was practicing for Next Few Winters. We had to dress a little warmer for the video so people might actually believe it was recorded back in the winter,” said Rasche with a laugh.

Continue reading “In Season – Chain of Lakes Debuts Intimate Live Video of ‘Next Few Winters’ EP on Sunday”

Time Machine – Dani Darling Unites Past with ‘The Future’ on Latest Psychedelic EP

The Future
Dani Darling transports listeners to a boundless cosmic frontier filled with vintage-neo soundscapes on “The Future.”

Drenched in psychedelic sensibilities, space-age rhythms and funky prog-jazz fusions, Dani Darling vividly constructs an insightful time machine that revisits past reflections and welcomes future possibilities.

The Ann Arbor chanteuse-guitarist instantly transports listeners to a boundless cosmic frontier filled with vintage-neo soundscapes and never-ending stories on The Future EP, which dropped June 25.

“The kind of energy we need is that kind of New Year’s Eve vibe, like having a fresh start, feeling adventurous and wanting to see what’s out there. When it comes to these current times, I think it’s about being hopeful for the future and the energy that people have when they’re anticipating it and feeling positive about it,” said Danielle Davis, aka Dani Darling.

“That’s why New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday; that whole energy is unmatched when everyone is hoping for something greater and looking forward to letting go of what’s in the past.”

Darling initially envisioned The Future during a winter solstice 2020 recording session at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios. At the time, she recorded the album’s astral, improvisational jam, “The Age,” and embraced the hypnotic, psychedelic sound that emerged.

“After we all finished playing it, we stopped and looked at each other and said, ‘Whoa that was exactly it.’ Then we were like, ‘Let’s do it again,’ and the New Year’s Eve session was the one heard around the whole project. It was a seven-hour lock-in, and most of it came out of that,” said Davis about her third release and follow-up to 2020’s mystical Mage EP.

“I was also thinking about the next phase of Dani Darling coming from a very lo-fi, toned-down sound where I’m pretty limited with my resources to suddenly having this ability to bring my friends and people I really respect in musically. That really changed the game.”

Continue reading “Time Machine – Dani Darling Unites Past with ‘The Future’ on Latest Psychedelic EP”

Begin Again – Kenyatta Rashon Starts New Chapter with ‘The Art of Keeping It Real’

The Art of Keeping It Real
Kenyatta Rashon reflects on her transition as an emerging artist and expectant mother on “The Art of Keeping It Real.” Photo – Chris Hollis

Kenyatta Rashon delightfully turns the page to a new life chapter.

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.”

Continue reading “Begin Again – Kenyatta Rashon Starts New Chapter with ‘The Art of Keeping It Real’”

Brand Name – Sam Watson Honors Neisha Neshae in Celebratory Video

Sam Watson eloquently pays tribute to Neisha Neshae in a laudatory new video.

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.”

Filmed by Xerox Visuals, the “Neisha Neshae” video features Watson, Young’n Destined and a bunch of friends celebrating together at a lively house party. Watson and Young’n Destined each serenade Neshae as the party’s guest of honor at an Airbnb in St. Clair Shores.

“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.”

Continue reading “Brand Name – Sam Watson Honors Neisha Neshae in Celebratory Video”

Barebones Music Festival – Old Main Records Hosts Two-Day Virtual Showcase for Detroit Artists

Old Main Records Barebones
The Barebones Music Festival will feature two nights of virtual recorded performances from Emma Guzman, ATMIG, Jackamo and others. Courtesy photo – Old Main Records

For Wayne State University’s Old Main Records label, this week’s Barebones Music Festival will showcase the creativity and ingenuity of emerging Detroit artists from the other side of the screen.

The two-day virtual music festival will spotlight a compilation of smartphone-recorded video performances from 23 artists on Wednesday and Thursday starting at 7 p.m. via Old Main Records’ Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Featured festival artists will include Emma Guzman, ATMIG, Jackamo, Of House, Ohly, C3, Darcy Moran, Weeknight Motion and 14 other rising local acts.

“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.”

Show details:

Barebones Music Festival | 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 16 and 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17

Old Main Records Facebook page & YouTube channel

Sand Down – Easy Beach Uncovers Personal Losses, Struggles on ‘Selena Gomez/Blurry’

Selena Gomez Blurry
Easy Beach’s new single “Selena Gomez” is a two-minute, rage-filled banger in response to losing a best friend. Photo – Sean Tarolli

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.”

Continue reading “Sand Down – Easy Beach Uncovers Personal Losses, Struggles on ‘Selena Gomez/Blurry’”

Dream Theater – Weekend Lovers Creates Psychotropic Realm on Vibrant ‘Baby’ Video

Weekend Lovers delightfully brings the vivid, hallucinogenic dream world of REM sleep to life.

The Tucson, Arizona dream pop-post rock collective unveils a kaleidoscopic collage of masked fashionable friends, trippy desert adventures and vintage landline phones on their latest video for “Baby.”

“I wanted a nonlinear narrative, and the song is told in bites as a tale of emotions. I think our brains also remember things not necessarily in order, and I wanted some of the best visuals I took over the course of some time,” said Marta DeLeon, Weekend Lovers’ vocalist-bassist.

“It’s basically a day in the life of my life in Tucson, and the city is one of the characters too representing the southwest and its beauty. Thrift and dollar store finds and the Halloween section at Target brought the fantasy mood and props to help my cast be funny or interpretive.”

As the video’s director, DeLeon intricately stitched together a series of brief psychedelic vignettes through a Videoleap app on her iPhone. Together, those colorful scenes created the carefree, experimental world depicted in “Baby” along with additional footage from Luke Ralston.

“I carry my iPhone everywhere, so there were more opportunities to shoot things I’d run into daily in my life that might be cool little visuals. Videoleap is a more developed aka Instagram venture with abilities like timing, speed, filters and mixers that allowed me to overlay the double exposure you see,” she said.

“That really helped me pull together all the 2-second to 4-second videos I was strewing together and gave the overall video some seamless pace and movement. I already had some random quirky storyboard images, and I love movies and write lyrics cinematically.”

DeLeon also recruited a fun cast of bandmates and friends to reside within her psychotropic realm. Along with Jungle Jazzy and Laura Eliason, Weekend Lovers’ Brandon Douglas (keys, guitars, backup vocals), Danny Perez (guitar) and Gabriela Lisk (drums, guitars) join DeLeon throughout “Baby.”

“I can’t really say the song wouldn’t soar as well or hit as much without Gaby Lisk or Danny Perez. I wrote the song with this Portishead bassline and vocal phrasing, but Gaby’s hard joyous drum downbeat propelled the opening ‘ooh-ahhs.’ Danny’s guitar is a creepy, crawling beauty, but then his smacking, slinky strumming hits you in the face,” said DeLeon, who’s inspired by shadows and murals in Tucson’s Barrio Viejo neighborhood.

“My engineer Matt Rendon came up with the backup vocals, which give the chorus its tension musically and emotional necessary angst. They were all open to my preconceived ideas with the props or locations. Some moments were just great mistakes.”

Continue reading “Dream Theater – Weekend Lovers Creates Psychotropic Realm on Vibrant ‘Baby’ Video”