This month’s edition of “The Soundcheck” deciphers a range of relationships, whether they’re fleeting or everlasting. Some pull the “Ripcord” to break a scary free fall while others cherish “Every Heartbeat” and say a belated “Thank You for Breaking My Heart.” It also reveals the wisdom that comes with age and experience—I Know a Thing and Ronronner—and the potential for future growth.
Adam Liles, “Ripcord”
The Indigo Curve guitarist shares an instant headrush of emotion and energy on his debut solo single “Ripcord.” Produced by Anton Pastoria, the track’s swirling, indie-rock array of pounding drums, glistening electric guitar and humming bass propel Detroit’s Adam Liles into a brief infatuation until the “ripcord” of reality takes over. In raspy, reverb-filled vocals, he sings, “And I’m feeling it all / As far as feeling it goes / She came in like a star / Oh, but she left like a ghost.”
The punk-rock solo project of Ferndale vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Patrick Sheufelt captures this fearless sentiment on their confident new single, “Rise,” out March 17.
“A lot of my family and friends have been falling on tough times in the post-pandemic era—lots of heartbreak, financial hardship and just general gloom going around. And I thought I’d write a song to try and fight back some of that darkness a little bit,” he said.
“It’s similar to what I said about ‘Firelight’ on the first record [2020’s Not Dead Yet], where I saw stuff happening (at that point it was the protests and the madmen running the country), and it prompted an emotional response and subsequently a pretty cool song from me.”
Throughout “Rise,” turbocharged electric guitar, bass and drums urge people to seize the day as Sheufelt’s raspy vocals proclaim:
“You danced with me under the snow and said / ‘They’ve got me on the ropes, this time I don’t think I can find my way out,’ / But here you are on your feet again, fighting to the bitter end, leaving these demons so far behind.”
“When I was writing it, one of my traveling friends, Xavier O’Luain, was staying here at the studio. He was a bit of a sounding board for some of the melodies and whatnot. As far as the recording, no one else was on this one; I just wrote all the parts as I picked up the instruments,” said Sheufelt, who started Pandemic Pat & The Murder Hornets in 2020.
“Of course, it started on vocals/acoustic [guitar], then drums, bass and guitars. I always do lead guitar last as sort of the cherry on top of the song. And on this note, I’m looking for band members for this project. If anyone wants to learn some relatively easy parts and go on tour, hit me up!”
Eric Ripper doesn’t see life as a glass that’s half-empty or half-full.
Instead, the Ferndale pop-rock singer-songwriter sees it as brimming with changing priorities on his candid new single, “Fill My Glass,” out March 17.
“I wrote ‘Fill My Glass’ about five or six years ago, so it’s an older song,” Ripper said. “I didn’t remake this one for my Story Notes album, but I’ve been thinking for a while that this one could be played a lot faster. This song is also on my Empty Place EP.”
Determined acoustic guitar, fiery electric guitar, hefty bass, thumping drums and crashing cymbals prompt sharing struggles of self-doubt and seeking validation from a confidant.
Ripper sings, “I think I’ve had enough / I just wanna give up / Will you tell me that I’m wrong / So I can think differently about myself.”
“I wrote this song about a girl I was seeing at the time,” he said. “I interpret the lyrics as the character speaking to a bartender, addressing his problems and wanting the reassurance that he’s not wrong about what he’s thinking and feeling. He wants to think differently about himself in general.”
After confiding in the bartender, the character shifts to confronting his partner and their lack of commitment toward the end of “Fill My Glass.”
Ripper sings, “So what you say / You gonna give me an input / We’ve been here for an hour / And I’m feeling quite sour / Said ‘I’ve had enough of the bullshit’/ ‘Are you ready for commitment?’”
“He’s tired, and he’s had enough of all of this. He doesn’t want to believe that they have given up though. He needs the reassurance that he’s wrong so he can think differently about the two of them,” Ripper said.
“‘Fill My Glass’ is saying how he needs validation from others on how to feel. He’s sticking up for himself to an extent, but he still needs the reassurance from others when he should truly be doing that on his own.”
“We found the right tones we needed and mapped out the song to slowly build up and have the second chorus be really heavy-hitting. He had the idea of the sounds backing away and coming back at the intro of the second chorus, a bit influenced by Travis Barker’s production style,” he said.
“We knew we needed a killer solo to end the song, and I asked Jonny if he could come in and lay something down, and he nailed it. The rest of the song is my guitar playing.”
Back in 2019, the Detroit hard-rock guitarist summoned those creative influences for his serene instrumental and fully embraced the moment.
“I was trying to find different chord patterns and landed on the acoustic/rhythm guitar pattern that you hear in the song and then recorded what I was doing on my phone,” Mikolajczyk said.
“During the moment I was recording it, I had ‘The Office’ on the TV in the background, and right before I started playing, the character Dwight yelled, ‘Whatever you do in this life echoes in eternity!” Every time I would play it back, that’s what I would hear first. It seemed like a sensible working title, so thanks, Dwight, or Rainn Wilson!”
That unexpected artistic fusion resulted in the soothing sounds of “Echoes in Eternity.” Everlasting waves of bluesy electric guitar, radiant acoustic guitar, humming bass, shimmery synth, soft drums and ticking percussion immerse listeners in unexpected bliss.
“After years of putting out music with different groups, it’s been a totally different game releasing music as a solo musician. I’m able to go any route I like, and that’s a great feeling,” said Mikolajczyk, who plays in about a dozen different Detroit bands.
“Listeners have been extremely receptive and supportive … since I’m usually known for straight-forward rock ‘n’ roll. Within the construction of the song, I made sure there was an undeniable sense of comfort, care, love and beauty.”
To bring the track’s tranquility to life, Mikolajczyk worked with Dearborn engineer Robert Cadena and Detroit drummer/percussionist Garrett Ramsden.
“I’ve been developing the song over the last few years, and I finally got into the studio this [past] fall to get to work on releasing it,” he said. “They were both able to add so much to this track … very professional and thorough.”
The Waterford blues-rock quintet’s debut album reveals personal thoughts about loss, growth and ambition, especially from lead vocalist-guitarist Frank Grimaldi and organist Peter Zajicek.
“I wrote ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ when I was 17 after my first bad breakup. It’s just a heartbroken kid who thinks he’s never gonna fall in love again. ‘Long Road Ahead’ was me trying to write a song that sounded like a Jimi Hendrix song,” Grimaldi said.
“What comes out from me lyrically are things that I don’t have the courage to say directly to people, or they’re something I just wanna get off my chest. They’re also mantras, even if they’re negative. I feel like Pete [Zajicek] writes out of frustration as well.”
Those shared experiences from Grimaldi and Zajicek truly produce “something good” for Slowfoot listeners.
With bandmates Mike Conley (guitar), Kris Grieg (bass) and Tony DiDio (drums), they present a profound release filled with soulful vocals, introspective lyrics, vintage Hammond organ solos and bluesy instrumentation.
“If you asked all five members of the group, you would get five different favorite bands. There’s a lot of different stuff melting into our sound, and you know who wrote what song,” said Grimaldi, who’s influenced by Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin and Derek Trucks.
“It’s only me and Pete who have been writing the songs, but you can feel my writing tendencies versus Pete’s. He has a lot of words in his songs … and my songs are more Hemingway in their approach.”
The Detroit alt-country duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric and steel guitars, backing vocals) explore and weather life-changing terrain on their new Odyssean album, On the Run.
“When we were trying to think of an all-encompassing title, we started realizing how much that theme goes through the record, the On the Run theme,” said Shepard about the album out today via Sweet Apple Pie Records.
“We didn’t have a specific theme before going into the record because we actually recorded about 20 songs at once. We picked half that we thought would go well together for this first one, and we have half that we’re hoping to release next year.”
As the first half, On the Run journeys through melodic Laurel Canyon soundscapes, ‘70s-inspired country-rock instrumentation fused with hard-rock, psych-rock, blues and funk elements, and daring tales of growth and reflection. Collectively, the album’s 10 tracks serve as the ideal sonic companion for an open-ended road trip.
“The last two records featured the same guitar and the same amp that I play with live all the time. I just brought different stuff in because I was playing different stuff … and some songs like ‘Billy’ seemed like it needed to be a little more aggressive,” Daversa said.
“I did a whole run-through of that song and sent it to some guitar-player friends of mine and one friend was like, ‘Yeah, I hear what you’re trying to do on that, but that ain’t it.’ At first I was like, ‘Forget you, man,’ and then I started thinking about it. He was right because I changed it to what we do now, and I think it turned out a lot better.”
The Detroit hard-rock quartet of Tyler Chernoff (vocals, guitar), Jordon Stockdale (lead guitar), David Vida (bass) and Aaryn Lindow (drums) confronts a friend about destructive behaviors on their new cautionary single and video.
An impenetrable force of steadfast electric guitars, bass and drums protect Chernoff as he sings, “Your pride will be what kills you / You just can’t let it go / Oh no time left to convince you / You got nothing to show / So much time spent / Your body’s guest.”
We recently chatted with Edison Hollow about their new release as well as their background, previous album and singles, live shows and upcoming plans.
New Single and Video
TSS: Your new single, “Body’s Guest,” chronicles a person’s unwillingness to face the consequences of their actions. What initially inspired this track for you sonically and thematically?
Edison Hollow: Musically, “Body’s Guest” was a step forward for us as a band and as songwriters. We had a riff from Jordon [Stockdale], and we built the rest of it together, just doing what felt right to us. Lyrically, the melodies flow with the dynamics of the music, the verses are very remorseful and express feelings of pity and regret, and the choruses are defiant and strongly proclaimed like the music that lies beneath those sections.
From the get-go, we wanted a Halloween-adjacent release for this [track] since we recorded it. It just has that feel to us, and we had a clear idea of how we wanted the release to go and the video that accompanies it.
The San Francisco indie-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist deftly uncovers and deciphers a multitude of emotional traumas, violent conflicts, racial injustices and political tensions on his insightful debut album.
“It was gonna be called ‘Dreaming of Guns’ based on that one song. At some point, somebody else recommended another title, and I tried that for a little while, but that didn’t quite resonate,” Newman said.
“And then Scott (Mickelson) and I were talking about it, and I said, ‘What if I just called it What Am I Afraid Of? ’ Then, the two of us went, ‘Oh my God, of course, that’s what everything’s about.’”
For Newman, “everything” serves as an umbrella of personal and societal challenges ranging from everyday anxieties to teen suicide to homelessness to gun violence. The album’s 11 gripping tracks provide a poignant wake-up call for the nation to strongly unite, take action and instill change.
“The thing about this album is essentially the same paradigm that’s kind of dictated my entire life,” he said. “I don’t exactly know what’s happening until I look in the rear-view mirror and go, ‘That happened.’”
Allye Gaietto candidly shares an internal monologue with her younger self.
The Detroit indie folk-pop singer-songwriter and pianist reconciles past expectations, relationships and interactions on her perceptive new album, Hoping for More, which drops Aug. 26.
“It’s so much discovering of who you are, what your beliefs are and where you stand on all sorts of different things. I think, for a lot of us, our identity is about who’s around us and how we interact with people and how they see us,” said Gaietto about previous life experiences in her early 20s.
“I think for this record there are a lot of things … like I had my first serious relationship and then got dumped for the first time, and that’s one of the songs on the album. That was huge for me.”
With Hoping for More, Gaietto provides a huge release of deeply buried emotions that still feel tender and raw. Whether encountering relief, heartache or courage, she beautifully documents those experiences through contemplative lyrics, haunting melodies and lush instrumentation.
“It’s this funny contrast of me trying to reconcile like, ‘What do you think about me? What do I think about you? How do we feel about each other?’ with friendships, romantic relationships and parent relationships,” said Gaietto, who also released the single, “I Guess I Don’t,” earlier this year.
“After the album was finished, the new stuff I’ve been writing … sometimes I have to put myself back in that early 20s, new relationship mindset because it’s a goldmine for feelings and content.”
The metro Detroit jazz vocalist and jazz pianist relish the importance of self-love on their latest cathartic single, “My Lonely Heart.”
“I think we all have experienced poor timing with relationships or life in general. I definitely drew inspiration from the feeling of being in between healing and having to say no to take care of myself,” said Van Goor, who co-wrote the track with Bennett.
“Will had given me the working title, ‘My Lonely Heart,’ and I knew I could either take it literally and write about being sad or try to put an alternate meaning. The second option was more enticing, and because I like a challenge, I came up with a positive spin on being lonely.”
Throughout “My Lonely Heart,” Van Goor strongly upholds the positive side of being single while Bennett responds with wistful piano.
She sings, “But for now it’s spared from needing repairs, my lonely heart/Do not try to sway, my mind has been made up/How can I give love from my own empty cup?/Love feels like a trick, I can’t take the risk/I’ll keep my lonely heart.”
“I hope it helps people not feel alone in the struggle of wanting to jump into something exciting, but knowing that it’s best to wait until you’re ready,” Van Goor said.
Van Goor and Bennett sought inspiration for the track after learning the 1937 Billie Holiday-Teddy Wilson classic, “Foolin’ Myself,” during the pandemic lockdown. With creativity flowing, they penned “My Lonely Heart” and took it to producer-engineer Josef Deas at Ann Arbor’s Big Sky Recording.
“Will showed me a tune he wrote inspired by that style, and it became ‘My Lonely Heart,’” she said. “Josef totally got what we were going for and even added some effects that gave it a full, warm vintage feel.”
To accompany “My Lonely Heart’s” release, Van Goor and Bennett shared a new live performance video filmed at Big Sky Recording. Director Becca Messner captured the duo bringing an intimate club-style feel to the track.
“Becca had made a video I was in for the Miss Paula Quintet last winter for the tune, ‘Baby’s First Christmas,’” Van Goor said. “I loved how that turned out, and she got the idea perfect.”
In fact, Van Goor and Bennett will share another perfect performance of “My Lonely Heart” and other material at two upcoming live shows in Ann Arbor: Aug. 25 downtown and Aug. 26 at the Blue LLama for Bennett’s birthday.
“August 25 will be very fun playing outside downtown Ann Arbor, which was organized my Matthew Altruda. I think the audiences in Ann Arbor appreciate a variety of music, and that helps our efforts,” Van Goor said.
“(August 26) will be very special because Will is going to be bandleading. I’m looking forward to it, and I don’t get to be a ‘sidewoman’ very much. We will be joined by University of Michigan grad Reuben Stump on bass and Ann Arbor guitarist Jake Reichbart.”