Stars and Stripes Demystified – Audra Kubat Tackles Nation’s Divisive Legacy on ‘Gray Glory Parade’

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Audra Kubat and Jessica Care Moore challenge the nation’s antiquated, divisive legacy on “Gray Glory Parade.”

Audra Kubat boldly brings the gray undertones of the red, white and blue to the surface.

The Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter brilliantly unravels the antiquated, divisive Confederate legacy, traditions and mindset that still permeate our racial, social and political fabric on her latest single, “Gray Glory Parade.”

“Originally, the song was called ‘The Next American Revolution,’ and it was so bold in a way. I was exploring other titles, and then it hit me this line, ‘Gray Glory Parade,’ and it had this really strong ring to it,” Kubat said.

“‘Gray glory’ is sort of the southern pride around the uniforms of the Civil War. The first lines of the song, ‘Sculpted and praised/A gray glory parade/Hollow men disgracing pedestals,’ show this pride and glory around a misunderstood history, like sort of a parading around. I thought it was a stronger title than the other one.”

Throughout “Gray Glory Parade,” Kubat thoughtfully unstitches each worn, destructive gray thread as luminous acoustic strums, reflective synth and tranquil bass provide newfound strength and hope. She reveals, “Our silence now is damaging/Time for a reckoning/A great awakening/The next American revolution.”

“The revolution is that we have to deal with a falling apart first. I’m ready for the fall-apart part to happen in a bigger way, and the scary thing is so many comforts and things that we’re used to will have to change to make the real change that is needed,” said Kubat, who started writing the track during a July 4, 2020 trip to Washington, D.C.

“There’s so much to address, and it’s going to be so painful for everyone. That’s why it’s taking so long, and it takes so much self-steadiness to be able to stand up and say, ‘My lifestyle is not only destroying other people’s lives, but the environment and social structure beyond that is so flawed, that it really must be taken out thread by thread.’”

Kubat continues removing each thread as she reflects, “Yet I’m quiet and listless/Do no more than bear witness/But it’s not enough as warm blood runs from broken bodies.”

“Prior to that trip, I had been trying to write a song in response to the things that were going on, and everything I wrote just seemed so flimsy. I couldn’t find the right words, and I also felt like it was a big undertaking to try to share what I was feeling and without it sounding uninformed and as an observer,” said Kubat, who also included lyrics from the national anthem throughout her track.

“I really didn’t know how to do that at the time, and it wasn’t coming. When my partner and I went to D.C., we were walking among the protests that were going on and sharing space with folks there. Going to the monuments and being a part of everything else that was going on along with the tourists and seeing the capital was an interesting juxtaposition.”

That juxtaposition inspired Kubat to think about the American flag unraveling and how that served as a timely metaphor for the nation’s growing racial, social and political tensions. She quickly wrote “Gray Glory Parade’s” first three verses, but struggled to find the last line.

“It took me a couple of weeks to come up with the line, ‘The silence is victory beckoning.’ If we don’t have to shout anymore about it, that’s us being victorious,” Kubat said.

Continue reading “Stars and Stripes Demystified – Audra Kubat Tackles Nation’s Divisive Legacy on ‘Gray Glory Parade’”

High Spirits – Magenta Moody Pairs Favorite Morning Substances on ‘Coffee and Reefer’

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Magenta Moody, right, and James Miller bring a rock feel to the alternate version of “Coffee and Reefer.” Photo – Dominic Smalls

For Magenta Moody, each day starts with a chill morning routine.

The Roseville EDM-dream pop artist combines java and Mary Jane to soothe the senses and calm the mind on her latest carefree, reggae-inspired single, “Coffee and Reefer.”

“I love to make a nice cup of hazelnut coffee, pack a raw cone and head to my balcony to start my day. I have a beautiful balcony, and the trees are so dense that you can’t see the surrounding neighbors or anything for that matter,” said Mercedes Jefferson, aka Magenta Moody.

“It’s just trees, sunlight and a couple of very vocal birdies. Coffee picks me up and warms my soul while smoking soothes my nerves and clears my mind, so the combination is magical.”

Moody quickly creates a magical three-minute “Coffee and Reefer” escape for listeners as stormy beats, jingling tambourine, placid synths, light hand claps and breezy bass seep into the body and mind.

She shares, “I know I’ve been really sketchy/Bad decisions seem so tempting/I’m just you, and you’re my best me/You’re my best me/I’d like to meet ya/Coffee and reefer/Hot like a fever/I’d like to meet ya.”

“The song is meant to be a light, feel-good song, and I want people to start their day on a bright and chill note. I wrote ‘Coffee and Reefer’ on the aforementioned balcony, of course. Besides my car, it’s my favorite place to write,” Jefferson said.

Moody also released an alternate version of “Coffee and Reefer,” which features guitarist James Miller playing thoughtful, deep-tone electric strums alongside her echoey vocals.

“I was looking for a guitarist to a do a show with me, and James responded to an inquiry I posted. We’ve been jamming ever since. As we practiced in my living room, I showed him my version of the song,” Jefferson said.

“His interpretation of the song that he played in response to hearing it was so beautiful. He asked if I had recorded yet and insisted on being part of it. I think he adds a groovy, yet alternative vibe, and his instrumentation fits perfectly with the lyrics.”

Moody recorded both versions of the track at Parallel Sounds Studio in Sterling Heights with engineer Tony Boguth. The original version features production by SYBLYNG and mixing by Mark Ringold Jr., aka Krypto Divine, while the alternate version is mixed and mastered by Boguth.

With both versions of “Coffee and Reefer” out, Moody wants to record a video with a “That ‘70s Show” concept and feel.

“It could be some friends and me sitting in a circle getting a smoke session in like they do in every episode. I’d love to work with Joe Hendo again or Tiffadelic Media to make the vision come to life. They both are great with creative direction and execution,” she said.

Continue reading “High Spirits – Magenta Moody Pairs Favorite Morning Substances on ‘Coffee and Reefer’”

Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’

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George Montrelle shares his gratifying journey of true love and commitment on “Paradise.” Photo – Steve Selvaggio (c) 2020

George Montrelle elegantly celebrates a life filled with love, beauty and tranquility.

The Ferndale rock-soul singer-songwriter and guitarist shares that personal mindset on his latest electrifying single, “Paradise,” as a romantic, grateful ode to his longtime partner.

“I’ve had that song more since the beginning of my relationship with my partner, and I wanted to validate how much I appreciate his love for me. This was one of the songs I felt strongest about early on, and I’ve been showing it to people for a while now,” said George Wilson, aka George Montrelle.

Montrelle beautifully chronicles his gratifying “Paradise” journey of true love and commitment as propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, fiery electric guitars and galvanic bass surround him.

He reveals, “Here for you till the end/Amaranthine love my friend/The very heart on which you can depend/Here for you for the rest our lives without a stress/Baby, forever, we will love no less.”

“I’ve tried to record this song a handful of times, and I finally just said, ‘I just need to get this done.’ I decided not to overanalyze it, but I also gave it my best,” said Wilson, who recorded and produced the track in his home studio.

For Montrelle, “Paradise” not only acknowledges the growth of his relationship, but also the evolution of the track from the stage to the studio. In 2018, he started performing a live version of “Paradise” with a full band before audiences at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).

“I didn’t have a steady band all the time, so when I wanted to put this song out, I was either gonna hire a drummer and record all the guitars myself, which I did. Or I was gonna track the drums using the sequencer in Ableton, and that’s what’s on the release,” Wilson said.

“I tried to embody what might feel good on stage, and I tried different arrangements. I also developed the verses so it felt progressively fluent throughout the whole song and understood how the drums and guitars needed to work while the vocals sat through everything.”

Continue reading “Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’”

Homegrown – Tom Alter Returns to Old Stomping Grounds Friday for Hamtramck Music Fest

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Tom Alter will perform an assortment of tracks Friday at Hamtramck Music Fest. Courtesy photo

For Tom Alter, this weekend’s Hamtramck Music Fest provides a welcome homecoming.

The Fraser folk rock singer-songwriter and guitarist will return to his family’s old stomping grounds to perform Friday night at the Polish Village Café.

“It feels pretty nostalgic to be playing in Hamtramck since my mother was raised there. She graduated from St. Florian High School. My grandparents lived in Hamtramck until they reached their 80s, and I have memories of visiting there when I was a child,” Alter said.

“Some of those memories are captured in my song, ‘Hamtramck.’ I grew up in suburban East Detroit, which was a very different environment. When visiting Hamtramck, my siblings and I were exposed to a very different culture, even with my grandparents speaking another language through much of our visit.”

Alter quickly revisits his childhood on 2018’s “Hamtramck” as sentimental acoustic strums, sunny electric guitars and ruminative bass repaint loving scenes from the past. He reflects, “Visit from suburbia/Dropped into this urban dream/It’s a new diversity/In the streets with rising steam/I feel this city claiming me.”

“I think that experience gave me an appreciation for the many cultures that make up our nation. I released the song, ‘Hamtramck,’ on Bandcamp a few years ago. Since then, I have played it as an acoustic piece, and I plan to release a new version similar to my live performance on a new album I’m working on now,” said Alter, who also performs as part of the soul-jazz-rock duo After Blue with Katie Williamson.

For Friday’s Hamtramck Music Fest set, Alter will share tracks from his thought-provoking 2020 EP, Songs for an American Hero, which pays tribute to the late U.S. Rep. and civil rights activist John Lewis.

“It’s been just about a year since John Lewis passed. I think the impact of the equal justice protests of 2020 still resonate today, but unfortunately at a somewhat lower volume. I want to continue to put a light on John Lewis’ life and that cause in my own way,” he said.

Continue reading “Homegrown – Tom Alter Returns to Old Stomping Grounds Friday for Hamtramck Music Fest”

Instant Connection – The Soods Fuse Hopeful Tales on ‘A Ray Rewired Vol. 1’ EP

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The Soods’ “A Ray Rewired Vol. 1” EP serves as the quintessential companion for a short summer sonic getaway. Artwork – Tansy Harris

As a Grand Rapids musical connector, Jason Roy seamlessly wires together hopeful vignettes for the unknown days ahead.

The Soods frontman and multi-instrumentalist solders brief mesmerizing, impactful tales of renewal and release on the collective’s latest electrifying indie rock EP, A Ray Rewired Vol. 1, via GTG Records.

“I think the overall feel of these songs has an upbeat rhythm of life to it. At the root of it, there’s an emotion of love, and music is meant to uplift,” said Roy, who co-produced the project and named it after a lyric in The Soods’ single, “Symbiotic Mono Band.”

“Even with the saddest stuff there should be some connective tissue of ‘Hey, it’s not always gonna be this bad, or shit’s gonna get better.’”

Along with a talented cast of Soods collaborators, Roy elaborately threads seven thoughtful tracks into an emotive, cohesive 15-minute listen. A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 serves as the quintessential companion for a short summer sonic getaway during a hectic, stressful day.

“I approach it like an art project in a sense. Let me start it, and I’m gonna use my palette to paint as good of a picture as I can to set you up to put on the finishing touches,” Roy said.

“Sometimes, I’ll get a vocal back, or I’ll be recording one with Steven (Meltzer), and be like, ‘Oh OK, we need to change direction.’ Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s more of a ‘Ooh, I never thought to approach it that way.’”

Continue reading “Instant Connection – The Soods Fuse Hopeful Tales on ‘A Ray Rewired Vol. 1’ EP”

Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video

Jeremy Porter and The Tucos elegantly bring grit and glam to their stylish new video for Candy Coated Cannonball’sPut You on Hold” single.

The Detroit rock trio of Jeremy Porter (guitar, vocals), Gabriel Doman (drums, vocals) and Bob Moulton (bass, vocals) seamlessly fuse energetic live performance footage with colorful animation to illustrate “Put You on Hold’s” storyline about a girl becoming captivated with city life.

“I wanted to go for a bit of a throwback to the Aerosmith videos with Alicia Silverstone – sort of a very loose plot about a party girl that maybe worked with the song, but didn’t necessarily follow the song’s lyrics to a tee,” said Porter, who worked with director-photographer David Kellogg on the video.

“There are nods to the lyrics here and there, and in general, like the song, it’s about a crazy night out for a not-so-crazy girl, but the concept and its tie-in to the lyrics aren’t overthought. We glammed the look of the band up a bit for shits ‘n giggles to do something different, get out of our comfort zone and have some fun.”

Porter and The Tucos demonstrate that glamorous fun while dressing head-to-toe in white or black and adorning sunglasses and scarves, thanks to stylist Alessandra Lipman. They proudly sport those hip stage fashions in a darkened gym located at the Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex (PARC).

“PARC is an old high school here in Plymouth that’s been converted into an art space with studios that local artists can rent and stuff like that. I wanted something big like a high school gym, and it just seemed perfect,” said Porter, who’s partnering with Ghettoblaster Magazine to premiere the video today.

“I also like to keep my money in my community when possible and support the arts when I can. David and I met the manager there, and she showed us around, and we agreed it was our spot. The gym has the feel of the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video a bit, which I liked.”

In tandem with the band’s live performance footage, the “Put You on Hold” video includes compelling animated characters and background scenery by Jones William. It explores the main character’s social outings with friends as well as her dating life and city adventures.

“(Jones) answered a Craigslist ad and was honestly one of the very few worth following up with. We never talked, just through email, a language barrier was an issue, and I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get. In the end, he delivered, and I was pleased with the work he did,” Porter said.

The band’s “Put You on Hold” video ultimately came together with Kellogg, who brought a “youthful, enthusiastic energy” to the camera.

“I met David through Instagram when we were recording. His work caught my eye, and he ended up doing all of the photography, including the cover, for the record. And even though he’s younger, he still gets the ‘70s/‘80s references we were throwing out – he’s well-traveled, so to speak,” Porter said.

“He didn’t have much to do with the concept or animation part, but he was very involved in scouting and choosing the location and everything that went into the performance part – lighting, setup, direction and all that. He and I also edited it together.”

Continue reading “Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video”

Fun Fest – Fundamental Sound Co. Hosts Local Music Festival Aug. 7 in Ypsilanti

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Fun Fest will spotlight local artists who have recorded with Taylor Greenshields’ Fundamental Sound Co.

For Taylor Greenshields, a recent conversation quickly morphed into hosting a local music festival.

The Ypsilanti audio engineer, producer and drummer chatted with Ma Baker guitarist Guy Williams about putting on a daylong music event at Frog Island Park.

“Both of us have talked about how cool it would be to have something on the stage at Frog Island. We were sitting on the grass, and I said, ‘I’m done talking about it. Let’s do it for real. I’m going to follow through on this idea,’” said Greenshields, who owns and operates Ypsi-based recording studio Fundamental Sound Co.

“This year, I invested in a bigger PA system. After that, I thought, ‘We have to do this because I don’t want to have all this stuff and not use it. It’s meant to be used for the people and the community. I’m so lucky to work with so many amazing, dope artists that it’s like, ‘Well, why not?’”

That epiphanous “why not” quickly led to Fundamental Sound Co.’s Fun Fest, a one-day Ypsi music festival showcasing a star-studded lineup of local artists at Frog Island Park on Saturday, Aug. 7. The festival will feature ANA, Al Bettis, Ma Baker, Travis Aukerman, Jesse Clayton, Dani Darling, The DayNites and a secret set with some special guests, plus visual artists and vendors.

“It’s so eclectic with Travis and Al each bringing their own jazz vibes for you to bask in. Jesse’s set is going to be more electronic, and he’s going to take you on a roller coaster of all sorts of dynamics. They each will bring something different,” said Greenshields, who’s previously recorded, produced and performed with all the artists on the Fun Fest lineup.

“I’ll be playing with Dani, Jesse and the secret set, which will include some familiar faces. People might get called up from the audience to jam during the secret set.”

Continue reading “Fun Fest – Fundamental Sound Co. Hosts Local Music Festival Aug. 7 in Ypsilanti”

Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots

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Adam Kennedy continues to conduct virtual photo shoots with artists throughout the pandemic. Photo – Adam Kennedy

Adam Kennedy unexpectedly became a globetrotter during the pandemic.

The Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. music photojournalist ventured to Finland, the U.S., Australia, Russia, Israel, Italy, Japan and other far-flung locations to shoot established and emerging artists – all from the comfort of his own home.

In fact, Kennedy’s international photographic jaunts have occurred online as part of a successful virtual photo shoot project he launched in April 2020. To date, he’s conducted more than 570 virtual photo shoots with rock, metal, jazz and blues artists over Facebook, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and other online platforms.

“It’s just to create a feel of coming together online and being in the moment. After an hour, you usually have something cool. Every session has been completely different, and every artist brings something different to the table,” he said.

“Every environment is different because I’m not working in a studio. I’m predominantly working out of someone’s home, or a person takes me out on location. I’ve been in Los Angeles on the strip, in Sochi overlooking the Black Sea, in Jerusalem at a park and in Victoria near the Great Ocean Road.”

Continue reading “Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots”

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

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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’”

Beyond the Studio – South Main Street Marketing Promotes Artists, Albums

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A new music marketing firm is amplifying artist voices beyond the recording studio.

Known as South Main Street Marketing, the firm advises, supports and promotes musicians in their marketing efforts. Launched earlier this year by David Roof and Stephanie Reed, it’s already achieved a growing roster of multi-genre artists, including Linden Thoburn, Jeff Adams, Mary Beth Howell and Dirk Kroll among others.

“Every record that I’ve made has ended with the same conversation – ‘Hey, I’ve got a record, but what do I do now?’ I’ve been producing about 12 to 15 albums a year for more than a decade, and in total, I’ve probably been part of over 200,” said Roof, who also owns and operates Rooftop Recording.

“I know the time-intensive efforts that go into what musicians have to do to promote a record. There aren’t many formal resources for musicians to consult to answer that question. I sensed there was a void in filling that need for musicians.”

Roof shared that thought with his business and creative network and quickly connected with Reed through Chris McCall, an Ann Arbor singer-songwriter, voice coach and meditation counselor.

“I had been working with Chris on her marketing, website and social media and learned through her that Dave was looking for someone who did this kind of marketing,” said Reed, an experienced marketing, creative and business development executive/consultant.

Within a few weeks, Reed and Roof assembled a business plan and company framework to launch South Main Street Marketing, which is named after Ann Arbor’s famed downtown thoroughfare and honors both Reed and Roof growing up in Michigan.

For their new venture, the duo developed a suite of marketing and creative services which range from digital experience design and digital media to social media management and marketing consulting.

Each new artist relationship begins with a discovery session to identify goals, expectations and next steps. An artist can choose from à la carte or bundled services depending on their needs and budget.

“I use the same philosophy I’ve used with all my clients through the decades. Our goal is to discover who a client is and where they’re coming from as well as their goals and voice. We give them the plan, tools and encouragement needed to have their voices heard,” Reed said.

“South Main Street Marketing’s operating premise is to listen to people, provide the resources they need, and educate and set them free. We want artists to not feel tethered. We’re all about supporting an artist’s individual needs and goals.”

Additionally, the firm’s focus allows artists to spend valuable time honing their musical craft instead of getting absorbed in ancillary activities. At South Main Street Marketing, Reed and Roof want musicians to take back their opportunity costs.

“All the time that musicians spend marketing themselves is not time they’re practicing their instrument, writing a new song or experiencing the world. If we can help take that burden off of people, then we’re helping create more art by freeing up artists’ time,” Roof said.

Looking ahead, South Main Street Marketing will continue meeting their goal of quietly remaining behind the scenes to ensure artists stay front and center. As part of a collaborative approach, they’re creating clear plans to elevate artists and support their uniqueness while helping grow the music community.