For Angelo Coppola, Michigan’s coronavirus quarantine feels more like a creative sabbatical.
The Detroit alt rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist dropped a new banger six-track EP, The Quarantine Sessions, Vol. 1, last week to satisfy growing Motor City cravings for additional releases in world currently without “traditional” live music.
“I’m kind of like a songwriting machine, I just can’t stop, and I have way more songs written than I’m able to put out, or I’m able to play with The Lows. I have this back catalog of 30 to 40 finished songs. All six of these are from the past year or so, but they’ve all been developed over time,” said Coppola, who’s also the frontman for The Lows.
“I thought these were the best of the bunch and didn’t know if The Lows would ever play them, but I just wanted to get something out. I’ve had the time now being home with my dad because he helps produce and mix it, and I can finally get a lot of these songs recorded and out that I didn’t have time for before.”
Throughout The Quarantine Sessions, Coppola seeks tantalizing ‘90s alt rock inspiration from genre-heavy royalty, including Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Oasis. A seamless head-banging fusion of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, charging bass and pounding drums immerse listeners in a grungy underworld.
“All six are a wide variety of genres within the rock genre, and I wanted to spread out the styles on the album. It was kind of random the ones we decided to start, and we have eight more that we started, and that I’m going to put out,” Coppola said.
“We’re going to do The Quarantine Sessions, Vol. 2 for sure in the next couple of weeks. It only took us a week to get all six of these done. It was basically like a song a day working down there, and we’re gonna grind out some more, too.”
The Detroit hard rock quintet draws inspiration from Kurt Cobain’s gritty guitars, Dave Grohl’s pounding drums and Layne Staley’s signature vocals on their new 3.5-minute fist-pumping ode to ‘90s grunge.
Together, they breathe new Motor City life into the original underground Seattle sound inspired by Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
“I wrote that song a long time ago when I went to Ferris State University for a year. I had moved up there by myself, and I didn’t know anybody,” said Angelo Coppola, frontman for The Lows. “I got inspired to write that song based off the media, social media and people in general, and it felt like there was a loss of love in the world.”
“Love Xtinction” is The Lows’ first new single since releasing their self-titled debut EP in 2017 and the first recording to feature the entire band lineup, including Nick Behnan (guitar, vocals), Brandon McNall (guitar), Johnny “Wolf” Abel (bass) and Duane Hewins (drums).
“For ‘Love Extinction,’ we picked it up and transformed each part of it into being even better, while the original EP was pretty much me just playing every instrument,” Coppola said. “We’re also going to release another single, ‘Love Will Find a Way,’ later this month or in early August. It’s the opposite viewpoint to ‘Love Xtinction.’”
Both singles will be featured on a new two-song EP called “The Love Sessions,” which will be sold at the band’s upcoming shows. In addition to their new singles, The Lows have played an impressive roster of live shows with several iconic ‘90s bands, such as Stone Temple Pilots and Candlebox.
They’ll also play several shows this month, including the Uncle Sam Jam with Sugar Ray in Woodhaven on July 13, the Pig & Whiskey festival in Ferndale with Verve Pipe on July 19 and Tommystock in Lake Orion on July 26.
“We’re going to be playing a lot of shows with Sponge because we’re part of the same management team,” Coppola said. “We’re also getting on the bill for a couple of out of town shows in Ohio and Pennsylvania in August.”
Before playing with iconic ‘90s artists, Coppola formed The Lows, a wordplay on his first name, while attending the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) as a music business student in 2017.
Initially a solo project, he wrote and recorded the band’s first track, “Purple,” an homage to Prince, for the DIME Sessions (Vol. 3) compilation album. With the success of “Purple,” Coppola teamed up with Chuck Alkazian to produce and record The Lows’ debut EP at Canton’s Pearl Sound Studios.
While growing up in Macomb, Coppola developed an ear for rock music thanks to his father, who’s also a musician. He started playing drums at age three and won a contest at age seven while playing KISS songs on the former “America’s Most Talented Kid” TV show.
By high school, Coppola developed an obsession with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins, taught himself guitar and learned how to write songs. He also played drums in a band called Shockwave and studied music business at Ferris State University before transferring to DIME and forming The Lows.
Two years later, Coppola and The Lows have played several metro Detroit music festivals and performed at Saint Andrew’s Hall and The Fillmore. Next up, they’re going to record more singles and possibly revisit their debut EP.
“I have 30 completed songs, and I have a home studio where I demo them out there first,” Coppola said. “We going to go single by single for the moment until we compile enough. We may even remix the first EP and put it together with a bunch of new singles that we have.”
“We’ve made a music video surrounding this song because we think it’s important to shed light on it,” said John Kay, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist, in an interview the band released March 8 through their YouTube channel. “This is our opportunity to tell this type of story in a way that hopefully is impactful and makes people think.”
Kay thought twice about gun violence in schools after hearing about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year that killed 17 students. That tragic event quickly inspired Kay to write and release “Maybe (Armed to the Teeth),” an emotionally-charged track that calls for stronger gun control laws.
“It impacted me more than any other school shooting or mass shooting news that I’ve seen. It could be because of the resolve of the kids who survived,” Kay said. “I was touched by it and just really angered. I sat down with the guitar and started plucking the first notes of the song and just started singing the first things that came to mind, and the song poured out of me in five minutes.”
For the “Maybe (Armed to the Teeth)” video, Kay turned the creative reins over to videographers Joseph S. Quick and Bradford Clark and bandmate Tamara Marla Laflin (synthesizer, vocals, percussion) to develop the overall concept, which features several talented southeast Michigan teens as cast members.
“Tamara storyboarded the whole thing, and she was the artistic director for it while Joe and Brad were the camera operators and directors of photography,” Kay said. “It’s our first foray into a music video, and there’s a lot of learning involved with it. Joe and Tamara have learned how to work together and have a better idea of how they want to do the next music video.”
The teens featured in the video will attend Friday’s John Kay and Who’s To Say show to celebrate its premiere as well as the band’s one-year anniversary. Last year, Kay teamed up with Steve Lupinksi (bass, vocals), Brandon McNall (lead guitar), Jason Rauschenberger (rhythm guitar, percussion, vocals), Angelo Coppola (drums, vocals) and Laflin to form the band.
Together, Kay and his bandmates have been building a strong live music presence in Detroit and throughout the Midwest after performing their first sold-out show at PJ’s Lager House last March. They’ve also performed at Mulligan’s Pub in Grand Rapids, Howard’s Club H in Bowling Green, Ohio, The Elbo Room in Chicago and The Parliament Room at Otus Supply in Ferndale.
“It’s been a very interesting year for me being the leader of the team and seeing the team grow and develop,” said Kay, who’s influenced by Prince, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Queens of the Stone Age. “Just watching everyone work toward the common goal is a pretty doggone good feeling.”
As the band’s frontman, Kay takes an unconventional approach to leading John Kay & Who’s To Say. He’s identified seven core values known as SMARTER – sacrifice, measurable growth, accountability, a reputation for excellence, time, energy and respect – for the group and teamed up with bandmates who share these values.
Kay also launched the band’s official club, Bullfighters, last year through a subscription-based content service called Patreon. For $5 a month, fans receive the band’s music in a digital format, updates and happenings, merchandise discounts, free U.S. shipping and two concert tickets per year to local shows. They also have access to new song demos and are encouraged to provide feedback directly to the band.
After Friday’s show, the band will develop a new video for another single and return to the studio to write and record new material. As a follow-up to “Dealing with People,” Kay said the band is focused on releasing a series of new singles and recording more video content for their YouTube channel.
“We’ve got a good group of people on this team, and they know where my loyalties lie,” Kay said. “They know that I’m working hard and doing my best to set the tone for what we need.”
The Detroit-based hard rock band will join more than 120 artists, including Ace Frehley, The Dead Kennedys, Belinda Carlisle and Sponge, during the free festival, which includes seven stages of music and a muscle car showcase today through Sunday in downtown Detroit.
The Lows will take the stage in Detroit’s Hart Plaza at 3:15 p.m. Saturday for their hour-long, 15-song set. Fans can expect original Lows’ tunes and covers from Detroit music legends, including Alice Cooper and The Stooges, as well as ‘90s grunge classics.
For Angelo Coppola and his Lows bandmates, the festival is an incredible chance to help revive the rock music scene in the Motor City.
“Basically, I think there’s not enough of the straight-up rock sound going on anymore,” said Coppola, frontman for The Lows. “There are some great bands like Greta Van Fleet and some others from Detroit doing it. I think the world needs more of it, and I think tons of people personally want something to change with mainstream music. We’re just trying to hopefully be part of it carrying the torch and bringing it back around.”
Coppola learned his band would join the all-star rock music festival lineup after he submitted “Road Trippin’,” a track from The Lows’ 2017 self-titled debut EP for a 12-song Motor City Muscle compilation album.
“The criteria for that was the song had to be about cars, and it had to mention Detroit in the song,” he said. “I went back into the studio where I recorded the EP, and I just changed one line of the first verse with producer Chuck (Alkazian) to include a reference to Detroit in there, then I submitted it, and they picked it for the album.”
“This is the crème de la crème of our student body who are in a position to write and record at the time or who may have songs even if they’re in the simplest form,” said Sabrina Underwood, label manager for Original 1265 Recordings at DIME. “This is their opportunity to know what it feels like to have a record released internationally on a major label. They can use this as a calling card to open up other doors.”
DIME released its third annual album Aug. 25 on Original 1265 Recordings, which is an independent label owned by CND America, DIME’s parent company, and distributed by Caroline Distribution.