Sticky Sounds – Nick Behnan Shares Delectable Funk on ‘Bad Sugar’ Instrumental Album

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Nick Behnan brings a funky authenticity to his latest instrumental album, “Bad Sugar.” Photo – Dan Plucinksi & Artwork – Sonoton Music

Nick Behnan knows how to funk things up.

The Detroit singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer concocts delectable doses of funk and soul on his latest “groovacious” instrumental album, Bad Sugar.

“Actually, a music publishing partner of mine in Germany called Sonoton Music had heard and liked a few of the funkier tracks on the Magic Trip album,” said Behnan, who regularly writes and records music for sync licensing opportunities.

“They asked how I felt about making a full album of pure funk, more like the songs, ‘Magic Trip’ and ‘Inner City Funk,’ and trying to keep it authentic as possible in tone and feel.”

Behnan brings a funky authenticity across 11 addictive Bad Sugar tracks, which feature soulful basslines, silky electric guitars, euphoric beats, intrepid drums and confident horns. Collectively, they provide the essential sonic swagger for a bad-ass hero in a gritty action flick.

Also a sticky successor to 2020’s Magic Trip, Bad Sugar’s tracks slowly emerged in Behnan’s home studio during the early days of the pandemic lockdown.

“I’d spend days just sitting alone with my guitar coming up with riffs and progressions and stuff. Then, I’d start recording a few … usually with a scratch guitar track just so I can really start working and focusing on the drum tones/grooves and bass,” he said.

“It’s currently being pitched for lots of film and TV placements, but that’s something that will take a bit of time before I start actually hearing the songs on shows. Music licensing is a really long, slow process. I always have to push myself to stay creative and move on to the next thing once I finish an album.”

Continue reading “Sticky Sounds – Nick Behnan Shares Delectable Funk on ‘Bad Sugar’ Instrumental Album”

Past Perfect – Bobby Pennock Shares Enduring Favorites on ‘The Vestiges of Art’ Album

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Bobby Pennock demonstrates his musical prowess on “The Vestiges of Art.” Photo – Kent Koller

Bobby Pennock strategically revisits past songs for future reflection.

The Detroit folk-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist shares insightful vignettes from an enduring canon of tales on his new power-pop-fueled album, The Vestiges of Art.

“Interestingly, most of the songs on this album are older songs that I’ve performed live over the years, but never recorded. Although a couple are older and have never been performed,” Pennock said.

“When I started selecting songs for the album, rather than thinking about a theme, I thought about which songs I had that are up-tempo and kind of pop-rock. I thought the phrase, ‘The Vestiges of Art,’ is what an album is, so the idea to name the album came pretty quickly and easily.”

Pennock proudly reveals 10 “vestiges” (and one new track, ‘Perhaps We Were’) bursting with melodic instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics and timeless pop-rock sensibilities.

Whether addressing internal struggles or changing relationships, each track places a vivid storyline inside listeners’ heads and delights their ears with infectious soundscapes.

“About 99 percent of the time when I sit down to write a song, I have no idea what I’m going to write about,” he said. “I don’t keep a writer’s notebook.”

Continue reading “Past Perfect – Bobby Pennock Shares Enduring Favorites on ‘The Vestiges of Art’ Album”

Sage Advice – The Steve Taylor Three Finds the Right Balance on ‘Travel Light’ Album

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The Steve Taylor Three’s Carey Waver, Steve Taylor and Bryan Frink share gratitude, wisdom and honesty on “Travel Light.” Photo – Daniel Roth

Steve Taylor follows a valuable piece of advice from his father.

The Lake Orion Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist carries an optimal load of “supplies” through life’s peaks and valleys with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, guitar, keys, vocals) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion, vocals) on The Steve Taylor Three’s insightful new album, Travel Light, out Friday.

“Once a year, my dad and I would go hike the Appalachian Trail in the Appalachian Mountains. He would always talk about how you had to bring everything with you because you’re going to be up in the mountains,” Taylor said.

“You’d have to carry all your water, and you don’t realize how heavy water is until you carry it with you all day. The idea is you only bring what you need. I thought the whole idea of camping and hiking and having to carry everything in your bag is a great metaphor for life.”

Inside The Steve Taylor Three’s Travel Light “bag” resides a comforting assortment of gratitude, wisdom and honesty across 11 transformative tracks. Each one introduces a past, present or future destination along an unpredictable journey filled with heartwarming experiences.

“The older we get, the more reflection there is. I seem to be writing a lot of songs now about the passage of time and what it means. That wasn’t the case when we were younger,” said Taylor, who last released Earn Every Scar with his bandmates in March 2020.

“The simplicity of that phrase, ‘It Doesn’t Take Long,’ I try to take that title or that refrain and just come at it from family, relationships and everything. You realize when you get to close to 50 … I’m going to turn 49 here in a couple weeks and Bryan and Carey have already turned 50. You think, ‘Wow, 50.’ When we were younger, we thought people who were 30 were old.”

Continue reading “Sage Advice – The Steve Taylor Three Finds the Right Balance on ‘Travel Light’ Album”

Ready to Go – Liam Taylor Delivers ‘Wasting Time’ Debut Single with Sam Vallianatos

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Sam Vallianatos and Liam Taylor bring a soulful indie-pop sound to “Wasting Time.” Photo – Miles Walker Whitworth

Liam Taylor clearly shares his personal expectations for long-term relationships.

The Chicago indie-pop artist declares a readiness for true love and commitment on his latest soulful single, “Wasting Time,” via Appealing Orange Records.

“I wrote this song when I was starting to like this boy. I had never been in a serious relationship before, and I definitely yearned for one, but I was so guarded back then as well. I didn’t want to let that guard down for someone who was going to eventually take advantage of me, resent me and just waste my time,” Taylor said.

“And the end of the song though, it’s like I’ve gotten to the point where I’m in deep with this person. Although it’s scary, at that point I was like, ‘How can it be a waste of time if you’re with this person you love?’”

Throughout “Wasting Time,” Taylor unearths a deeply buried vulnerability as sparkling electric guitars, contemplative bass, intimate drums and gentle cymbals gradually ease his hesitation and fear.

He sings, “I’ve only known you for one small bit of my long-ass life/But the way that you’re pressing your lips against mine/Well, it feels so right/Oh, it’s almost as if I have known you for an eternity/So let’s take our time/And get high on each other before we leave.”

“Overall, the song’s theme has appeared in my life multiple times since I’ve written it, but I mainly hope people’s takeaway is that life is short,” said Taylor, who’s currently studying music at Columbia College in Chicago.

“The song is fun and groovy, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with a relationship. It’s a bad-bitch anthem overall, because there’s no reason anyone should be wasting your time.”

Taylor created his “bad bitch” anthem with Detroit producer Sam Vallianatos and Chicago bassist Andrew King. “Wasting Time” initially took shape in Taylor’s home studio with Vallianatos early last year.

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Taylor and Vallianatos about “Wasting Time” as well as their backgrounds, previous releases, current collaboration and upcoming plans.

Continue reading “Ready to Go – Liam Taylor Delivers ‘Wasting Time’ Debut Single with Sam Vallianatos”

Transition Period – Dan Hazlett Crafts Life-Changing Stories on ‘Turning Stone’ Album

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Dan Hazlett shares compelling characters and narratives on his latest album, “Turning Stone.” Photo – Robin Scully

As a gifted storyteller, Dan Hazlett eloquently crafts life-changing tales.

The Waterford folk-jazz singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares insightful stories steeped in transition and growth on his latest anecdotal album, Turning Stone.

“Every person in every song is a character, even if you’re the person, because you’re not that person anymore. Even if you were when you wrote it, you’re someone else now. Every song, in its own way, is a tiny piece of musical theater. That’s now my approach. This is a world … this is a little novel or a little painting all unto itself,” Hazlett said.

“At some point, you just have to let the characters speak for themselves, and they will say surprising things. And that is really fun, and you end up with material you would never have written if you focused on ‘What would I say?’ It’s more interesting to learn ‘What would this person say?’”

With Turning Stone, Hazlett examines life through the lens of an inquisitive mathematician, a courageous child, a lost soul, a lonely housewife and other people facing life-changing circumstances. The album’s tracks convey the thoughts, feelings and actions of intriguing characters who tackle their own challenges within a jazzy, acoustic-pop landscape.

“This project turned out to be the one that’s fully produced, like a band and sort of poppy and just a different kind of record. The songs ended up being in there because musically they kind of wanted to be together. It was more like, ‘How do these songs sound together?’” he said.

Continue reading “Transition Period – Dan Hazlett Crafts Life-Changing Stories on ‘Turning Stone’ Album”

Going Strong – ATMIG Demonstrates Musical Prowess, Honors Majesty Crush on ‘Avec Muscles’ EP

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ATMIG’s Drew Borowsky, David Jackowicz, Tobias Lipski and Dan Clark build a robust sound on “Avec Muscles.” Photo – Scott Millington

ATMIG strongly flexes a new creative muscle.

The Detroit indie-rock quartet of Tobias Lipski (vocals, guitar), Drew Borowsky (bass), Dan Clark (guitar) and David Jackowicz (drums) demonstrates their musical prowess with a fresh lineup and a new tenacious EP, Avec Muscles, which drops Saturday.

“A lot of that comes from the current crew. Dave can do the things on drums, Dan can do the things on guitar, and Drew can do the things on bass that I like to hear in the music that I listen to and that I sure as heck can’t do myself. We get each other’s vibe, so it can actually happen,” Lipski said.

Throughout Avec Muscles, ATMIG, or After The Money Is Gone, seamlessly builds a robust sonic system from several digestible, multi-genre “proteins,” including shoegaze, indie-folk, ambient, post-punk, dream-pop and indie-rock. Each “protein” evolves into a mighty, cohesive listen.

“For Avec Muscles, I think we still have variety, but overall, it’s a heavier album. It’s not just hard rock, it’s not just shoegaze, and it’s not just folk. It’s just us trying to put forth what the band and I do best,” said Lipski, who formed the band in 2006.

A follow-up to 2019’s Wishes album, Avec Muscles also pays tribute to Majesty Crush, a highly regarded Detroit dream-pop/shoegaze quartet that formed in 1990. The band featured the late David Stroughter (vocals), Hobey Echlin (bass), Michael Segal (guitar) and Odell Nails (drums) as part of a regal lineup that released their final EP, Sans Muscles, before splitting in 1995.

“It’s supposed to be the reverse of the Majesty Crush EP, Sans Muscles, because ‘Muscles’ was Hobey’s nickname. That was the last EP they did knowing Hobey was leaving the band,” said Lipski, whose new EP, Avec Muscles, means “With Muscle.” (“Avec” is French for “With.”)

“The whole concept is that I’m a huge Majesty Crush fan, and maybe Hobey will play with us. And if he’s going to play with us, then why don’t we name the song and EP after him? Who knows? Maybe he’ll come out to the show and play some Majesty Crush songs with us.”

Continue reading “Going Strong – ATMIG Demonstrates Musical Prowess, Honors Majesty Crush on ‘Avec Muscles’ EP”

Quick Changeover – Three Spoke Wheel Adapts to New Situations on ‘Metamorphosis’ EP

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Three Spoke Wheel’s Jeff Whitmore, Justin Gumina and Ryan Thomas confront daily stagnation and acquiescence on “Metamorphosis.” Courtesy photo

Three Spoke Wheel quickly transforms with each anticipated change.

The Detroit psych-progressive alt rock trio of Justin Gumina (guitar, bass, keys, backing vocals), Ryan Thomas (bass, guitar, lead vocals) and Jeff Whitmore (drums, percussion) seamlessly shifts and evolves amidst life’s ongoing challenges on their latest mind-altering EP, Metamorphosis.

“You can point to the pandemic as an obvious, big change for our society in general and how we’re gonna take control of that change and kind of own it and move forward from it. A lot of the lyrics are from people in my life who don’t really know how to change or need to find a way to take control of their own lives,” Thomas said.

“I hope people who listen to the lyrics get something out of it. It’s just a way to reflect on how change happens and how we don’t just have to let change happen. We can take control of it and guide it in the right direction.”

With Metamorphosis, Three Spoke Wheel boldly confronts daily stagnation and acquiescence across six fluid, purposeful tracks. Immersed in psychedelic, proggy and grungy sensibilities, the band fuels their thematic transformation with shapeshifting instrumentation and adaptive production.

“I think it captures a little bit more of a mature recording compared to our first album because we’ve all been growing together. We’re getting tighter as a group, and I came from a point of not singing at all to singing on a lot of stuff and trying to learn harmonies,” said Gumina, who recorded, mixed and mastered the band’s sophomore studio release.

“As far as the writing process, it’s been interesting because the ideas are coming from other places. Jeff wrote a lot of the original, acoustic versions of some of these songs, and we took and twisted them and made them into full songs.”

Continue reading “Quick Changeover – Three Spoke Wheel Adapts to New Situations on ‘Metamorphosis’ EP”

Deep Headspace – Inside the Mind of Johnny Gets Vulnerable and Spiritual on ‘Hope’ EP

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Inside the Mind of Johnny’s “Hope” EP provides an immersive soundscape experience within a beat-filled, musical world.

Inside the Mind of Johnny openly shares the most vulnerable parts of his headspace.

The Detroit deep house and lo-fi hip-hop DJ and producer unearths past pandemic-filled experiences of heartbreak, depression, loss and other personal struggles on his latest revelatory EP, Hope.

Hope is about me finding faith and rebuilding my relationship with God as I understand it through music and self-expression and being as honest as humanly possible with how I was feeling while battling overwhelming sadness and depression,” said Johnny Malek, aka Inside the Mind of Johnny.

At the time, Inside the Mind of Johnny struggled with a breakup, the loss of close friends and show cancellations as the pandemic hit. To cope with his growing depression and self-isolation, he spent time rediscovering his faith and spirituality.

“Writing this project was something that truly helped me change my life forever and opened my eyes back to what my purpose on this earth is. It’s to use my expression and creativity to hopefully help and heal people who have been through similar situations like me through my music and art,” Malek said.

Inside the Mind of Johnny’s Hope EP provides an immersive soundscape experience within a beat-filled, musical world. Entrenched in catharsis and enlightenment, the EP’s four “groovacious” tracks instantly soothe and energize the mind, body and soul with each step on the dance floor.

Continue reading “Deep Headspace – Inside the Mind of Johnny Gets Vulnerable and Spiritual on ‘Hope’ EP”

Snapshot in Time – Pia Revisits Past Friendships on ‘Old Days’

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Pia gets nostalgic on her new single, “Old Days.” Photo – AC Backus Photo

Pia thoughtfully shares a personal snapshot in time.

The Detroit indie rock singer-songwriter reminisces about a past friendship and recalls vivid moments of connection on her nostalgic new single, “Old Days.”

“It’s the singular event of a friendship not really ending, but dissipating and changing the way that it used to look. It’s a shorter realization of like, ‘Oh wow, this person that I used to either talk to every day or had this certain relationship with, it’s now different,’” she said.

Throughout “Old Days,” Pia wonders what her friend drinks for breakfast and whether they remember summertime highway jaunts or stolen firewood adventures.

Alongside those inquiries, an emotive swell of wistful electric guitar, quavering bass, thumping drums, shiny cymbals and jingly tambourine seamlessly transport Pia to the past.

She sings, “It makes me sad something changed in your eyes/Ask how you’re doing seems like a big disguise/December’s long and we both know/That the sun is coming and it’s melting the snow.”

“When I reached the end of writing ‘Old Days,’ it helped that I similarly was realizing, ‘Oh friendships and relationships end, but not always for the worst, and that time is still special,’” Pia said.

Pia penned her sentimental track in May and recorded it with a talented team of collaborators, including producer John Katona of JK (Not Kidding Studios), Minihorse’s Ben Collins (lead guitar), Tom Mihalis (lead guitar), Stoop Lee’s Ade Olaniran (drums) and Matt Jones (bass).

“I recorded the demo and basis of the whole song with Ben Collins and myself on guitar and vocals and Ade of Stoop Lee on drums. Then, I sat on the song for a little because I got busy with residency, and then ended up finishing it up at John Katona’s,” said Pia, who’s also a pharmacist.

To accompany the release of “Old Days,” Pia dropped a thoughtful new lyric video, which features her roaming around Belle Isle.

“I asked my 16-year-old sister to videotape me doing random stuff on my friend Matt’s camcorder. She was like, ‘Oh, I get to use a camcorder?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, try it out.’ She followed me around, and I used that footage in the video,” she said.

Continue reading “Snapshot in Time – Pia Revisits Past Friendships on ‘Old Days’”

One Love Symposium – This Week’s Events Aim to Unite Washtenaw County Communities and Public Service Providers

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This week’s One Love Symposium includes a series of public conversations, music events and expert panels focused on eliminating discriminatory behavior and racial inequities in the community.

A Washtenaw County symposium aims to forge stronger connections between local communities and public service providers this week.

Known as the One Love Symposium, the three-day event is geared to educate local residents and public service providers who make high-impact decisions for the community, including doctors, teachers and police officers.

Taking place Thursday through Saturday, it includes a series of public conversations, music events and expert panels dedicated to developing solutions for eliminating discriminatory behavior and racial inequities in the community.

Events will occur online and in-person in Ypsilanti and Detroit. They feature police administrators, public school officials, jazz musicians, local business owners, public policy experts and other participants.

Eastern Michigan University researcher Anna Gersh launched a survey and symposium in response to increasing racial, social and political tensions between public service providers and the public after George Floyd’s death in May 2020. She’s enlisted a team of youth data collectors and critical adult thought partners to assist with the survey and symposium.

The symposium also focuses on developing anti-bias training and creating a work certificate for public service providers, or “Human Services Professionals.” The ultimate goal is to create a “Human Services Professional Conference” for “the development of a common scholarship toward improved practices.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Gersh about the symposium, the work that’s been accomplished, this week’s events and what’s up next.

Continue reading “One Love Symposium – This Week’s Events Aim to Unite Washtenaw County Communities and Public Service Providers”