Endless Summer – BESTMAN Invigorates Nostalgic Synth-Pop Senses on New ‘August’ Single

BESTMAN’s Greg Gaffud, Jay Spiwak, Adam Bonich and Brian Clouthier. Photo – Jay Spiwak

BESTMAN instantly creates the perfect summer adrenaline rush.

The Chicago synth-pop quartet immediately invigorates the nostalgic senses on their shimmering ‘80s-fueled new single, “August,” which dropped May 29 via all streaming platforms.

“I’ve always wanted to write a song for Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. That’s my equivalent to Pacific Coast Highway or Route 66 – my Don Henley ode. I really wanted that song to feel the energy and excitement about possibilities. I always picture it as windows down on the way to see your lover. A lot to look forward to, and a hint of sexiness,” said Brian Clouthier, BESTMAN’s vocalist, guitarist and synthesist.

Clouthier and his BESTMAN bandmates Jay Spiwak (synths), Greg Gaffud (synths) and Adam Bonich (drums) beautifully capture the sonic essence of a humid Midwest ‘August’ night as pounding electronic drums, glistening, echoey synths and swirling electric guitar solos transport listeners to summer 1985.

Imagine speeding along in a convertible with your first love toward Lake Michigan as Clouthier sings, “You were dancing in my head/Since the night down on the west side/And I picture you in bed/How the light would touch your body/And you wanna see the beach when there’s time before the sunset.” It’s the ideal track to put on a mixtape between Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and Phil Collins’ “Sussudio.”

“The song itself had been in the repertoire for a few years actually. It took me a while to get the recorded sounds where I wanted them. I do all my recording in my home studio, and ‘August’ was the type of song that initially came together quickly, but took a while to find the finishing touches,” Clouthier said.

Continue reading “Endless Summer – BESTMAN Invigorates Nostalgic Synth-Pop Senses on New ‘August’ Single”

The Remedy – Ania Expels Personal, Societal Toxicities on New ‘Poison’ Single, Video

Ania holds her emerald Ibanez at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Photo – Summer Speck

With an emerald Ibanez, Ania strums toward a new antidote for personal and societal toxicity.

That antidote appears as her latest melodic pop-rock single, “Poison,” which combines slow, vibrant electric guitar, delicate cymbal taps, rhythmic bass, steady drums and swirling synths into a soothing remedy with bassist-drummer Matt Ward.

“This song was about me letting go of a toxic relationship. Lyrically, I wanted to be vague and express how this relationship broke me. This relationship literally broke my ‘shit’ in a grunge way. I feel as if I lost my sense of self and who I am,” said Ania, a Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso.

Throughout “Poison,” Ania cathartically sings, “Complications come from meditation/Your privilege gets me down again/Dusky skies are filling up with poison/And we keep breaking our own shit/Air is filling up with poison, and you keep breaking my shit/Air is filling up with poison, and you keep breaking my shit.”

“I tried to create a dark pop song that’s similar to ‘The Hand That Feeds’ by Nine Inch Nails. I also wanted to incorporate some synth electronic modern textures that I have been hearing in St. Vincent’s music to make the song more current,” she said.

Ania will extend her personal undertones of “Poison” to growing societal struggles in a new video out June 26. Wrapped in vivid shades of neon pink and green, the “Poison” video transports Ania to Hollywood’s infamous Melrose Avenue where she laments society’s self-destructive tendencies.

Throughout the “Poison” video, Ania adorns a white long-sleeve T-shirt, pink pants and black combat boots while shredding her emerald Ibanez, smashing records on alley walls and battling an evil Trump-masked drummer. This contrasting mix of vivid and muted colors also symbolizes Ania’s lingering frustrations with the superficiality of life and image of perfectionism in Los Angeles.

“I wanted the ‘Poison’ video to expose the inauthenticity of the beautiful and vibrant image that many people associate with Los Angeles. Hollywood glamour is part of the city, but it’s got an angsty side, too,” said Ania, who teamed up with filmmakers Will Milvid and Alex Ioanoviciu for the video.

“We all have an impact on the world around us. I want people to wake up and think critically for themselves and understand that we can all fight for change if we aren’t absorbed in our own image. Sometimes we’re blinded by it, but if we look up from our phones, we can fight for change and a better future.”

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Into the Sun – The Phoenix Process Honors George Shuntov’s Musical Legacy, Releases New Raw Compilation Album

George Shuntov of The Phoenix Process. Photo courtesy of The Phoenix Process

For George Shuntov, music embodies a phoenix-like quality.

New music evolves from past encounters and emotions that leave an indelible mark on the soul. In turn, those experiences ignite another musical spark and regenerate the soul into a new creative being.

“George in a sense is like the phoenix, and he’s no longer with us in the physical world, but in an artistic and spiritual one he’s still with us. It’s amazing, and The Phoenix Process is still in effect, and George really is the phoenix,” said Julian Cumpian, Shuntov’s longtime friend and collaborator.

Cumpian reflected on Shuntov’s profound musical legacy Sunday night along with his former bandmates, Brandon Salazar and Théo Caen, in The Phoenix Process. Shuntov, the prolific frontman for the Chicago electro alt-rock quartet and a highly-regarded, do-it-yourself (DIY) music champion, suddenly passed away March 20 at age 34.

“The places where he was active in and in communication with, he did leave an impact, and that’s something that will be remembered and will continue to leave an impact on more people. I’ve been sharing his music with people I know who are artists, and they are floored at the level of musicianship he had and just the way he did everything. He was all self-taught and all self-produced. He didn’t need a lot to make it sound amazing,” Cumpian said.

Cumpian met Shuntov, a Chicago native with Bulgarian and Ecuadorian roots, through a mutual friend on MySpace in 2006. Over the next decade, Cumpian and Shuntov became fast friends and musical collaborators who performed live together. By 2013, Shuntov formed The Phoenix Process with another friend, who soon departed the project, and later brought Cumpian into the fold.

Forming The Phoenix Process

Julian Cumpian, George Shuntov, Brandon Salazar and Theo Caen of The Phoenix Process. Photo courtesy of The Phoenix Process

Together, Cumpian and Shuntov developed multi-genre musical concepts and visual elements for The Phoenix Process and created an eclectic live sound built around electronic beats, world influences, electric guitars and hand percussion. In May 2014, they played their first live show in Rogers Park at the now-defunct Red Line Tap.

“It was a good start, and we figured out what worked and what didn’t, and we got people exposed to the sound in a live setting. Fast-forward to 2015, Brandon and Théo joined the band, which continued until 2017,” said Cumpian, who left The Phoenix Process in 2016. “The band didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough I’d say for us to develop a sound, get to know George and have people get to know George’s music. He left a big impact in such a short amount of time.”

Meanwhile, Salazar met Shuntov through a Facebook group called Chicago Musician Exchange after seeing a “want ad” post for a drummer and guitarist. While only age 16 at the time, Salazar reached out to Shuntov about a possible collaboration, and the two started working together with Caen.

“I heard his music, and I was like, ‘This guy is the real deal, this guy is a fucking professional. There’s no way he would take a little guy like me.’ I showed him some of my stuff, and I put myself out there into the world, and he saw me and Théo through that,” said Salazar, drummer and percussionist for The Phoenix Process.

Continue reading “Into the Sun – The Phoenix Process Honors George Shuntov’s Musical Legacy, Releases New Raw Compilation Album”

Jam-packed – Desmond Jones Mixes Multiples Genres for Latest ‘Hello, Helou’ Album

Desmond Jones’ “Hello, Helou” album features longtime friend and fan Antoine Helou on the cover.

For their latest release, Desmond Jones has fans at “Hello, Helou.”

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet masterfully mixes multiple genres across seven tracks on their second full-length and latest album, “Hello, Helou,” which dropped in July. It includes an eclectic batch of captivating tracks from Desmond Jones’ expansive catalog of more than 40 original songs.

“These songs were already written before we went into the studio, so it wasn’t a collective effort to write all of the music for an album,” said John Nowak, drummer, guitarist and vocalist for Desmond Jones. “Since all of the songs already existed, it was really a matter of choosing which ones we wanted to go on the next album.”

Nowak and bandmates Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, drums, vocals) and John Loria (bass, vocals) spent eight months recording “Hello, Helou’s” tracks with manager Kevin McKay of Innovative Music Solutions in Webberville. The band also recorded a few tracks in the band room at East Grand Rapids High School where Nowak and Berkowitz attended.

In typical Desmond Jones fashion, all the tracks from “Hello, Helou” received initial live improvisational treatment before being reimagined as studio versions. With a fun, upbeat sound, the album features a collection of shorter songs compared to tracks from the band’s 2017 self-titled, full-length debut.

Four of the five band members also penned tracks for the album, which include spatial, culinary, relational, existential and fantastical themes. Listeners encounter a dynamic sonic journey while venturing from one track to another.

“In our live shows, we definitely take the liberty to extend songs as long as we want. Some songs are a better platform for that, but songs like ‘Split Again,’ ‘Sylvia’ or ‘Instructional Dance Song’ are similar to how we play them live,” said Nowak, who formed the band in 2012 while attending Michigan State University. “With streaming and attention spans, we want songs that are easily digestible for people to listen to before they come see us.”

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High Times – Stormy Chromer Celebrates ‘420’ Blind Pig Show with Pajamas, Earth Radio

Stormy Chromer performs at The Blind Pig during a New Year’s Eve 2018 show in Ann Arbor. Photo by Evan Greig

Ann Arbor area music fans will inhale good tunes and times Saturday night at The Blind Pig.

Ypsilanti’s Stormy Chromer will host a “420” show with Pajamas and Earth Radio to celebrate a fluid night of live music on the infamous Mary Jane-centric holiday.

“We have a fun lineup, and we haven’t played with Pajamas in Ann Arbor in a couple of years. We’re really happy with how they’ve been progressing as well, and every time we see them, we want to share a bill with them,” said Amin Lanseur, Stormy Chromer’s drummer and vocalist.

“As for Earth Radio, we found them through Purchase Productions, who manage our friends Chirp. They brought Earth Radio to Club Above six months ago, and they really made an impression on some friends of mine.”

It will be the homegrown progressive jam band’s first appearance at The Blind Pig since their New Year’s Eve show. Together, Stormy Chromer will mix elements of rock, jazz, heavy metal, ska and hip hop to perform a danceable set with Pajamas, a Tree Town improvisational rock, funk and fusion trio, and Earth Radio, a Grand Rapids future soul quintet.

“The energy in the room is very loving and fun, and we’re blessed to have the people who come out and see us,” Lanseur said. “We’re striving for that same type of energy for ‘420’ as well, so obviously it will be the whole pot thing.”

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Audiotree Music Festival Brings Emerging Indie Rock to Kalamazoo Today, Sunday

Local Natives will headline the Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo today.

Indie music lovers will rejoice today with the start of Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival.

The two-day music festival kicks off at noon in Arcadia Creek Festival Place and features nearly 30 artists on two stages.

Denver psychedelic pop group Flaural will open the festival on the WIDR Discovery Stage while Los Angeles indie rock quintet Local Natives will perform a headlining set on the Main Stage.

New Jersey indie pop quintet Real Estate and Los Angeles indie folk rocker Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) will headline on Sunday.

Founded in 2013 by Kalamazoo natives Michael Johnston and Adam Thurston, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

In 2015, Audiotree purchased two Chicago venues, Schubas Tavern and Lincoln Hall, adding a live concert booking, promoting and streaming division to the company. Since 2011, Audiotree’s online following has grown to include more than 350,000 YouTube subscribers. Now, the Audiotree Music Festival is expanding the match the scale of the entire company.

“While this year’s festival is very guitar-driven, we’re really excited about the variety we’ve still been able to cover,” said Patrick Van Wagoner, a talent buyer for the Audiotree Music Festival and Lincoln Hall, in a festival press release. “Attendees will find elements of rock ’n roll, punk, folk, pop, funk and more, while seeing plenty of acts with Audiotree history.”

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Montréal’s Common Holly Branches Out to Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival This Weekend

Common Holly, aka Brigitte Naggar, will perform at Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival on Sunday.

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a multi-part series this week previewing the Audiotree Music Festival and profiling artists from the lineup.

Common Holly will grow her West Michigan following with a first-time appearance at Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival this weekend.

The dark indie folk singer-songwriter will perform a noon Sunday set on the main stage at the two-day festival in Arcadia Creek Festival Place. She will join nearly 30 other acts, including Father John Misty, Local Natives, Real Estate, Khruangbin and Chicano Batman.

Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

Common Holly – otherwise known as Brigitte Naggar – will share her hauntingly intimate songs with Audiotree festivalgoers during a highly-anticipated 50-minute set.

She’ll be playing tracks from her 2017 critically-acclaimed debut album, “Playing House,” on Solitaire Recordings. Naggar also re-recorded six of her tracks for an “Audiotree Live” session last December.

“I’m bringing a band with me this time. And yes, we’re going to do new songs – three or four, I think,” said Naggar, who hails from Montréal. “I like them much better than the old songs. I hope fans will, too.”

Continue reading “Montréal’s Common Holly Branches Out to Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival This Weekend”