Fresh Sounds – WSU Students Launch Old Main Records Label to Support Emerging Artists

The WSU student-run label and organization will host a multimedia launch event Jan. 17 in Detroit.

A new homegrown record label will cultivate fresh sounds in the Motor City.

Known as Old Main Records, the Wayne State University (WSU) student-run label and organization will help local, regional and national artists record, release and perform original music.

“The idea of actually doing a record label at Wayne State as a student organization had been around for a while since I was a freshman taking the classes. People would say, ‘Oh, it would be great if it happened,’ but nobody actually really did it,” said Brendan Derey, Old Main Records president and a music business senior.

“Another friend and I actually did start it together. Over the summer, we got a small group of people in the room talking about our ideas, and then it snowballed from there.”

Today, Old Main Records has 20 student members, including three other leads besides Derey – Patrick Norton, creative director; Christopher Simpson, social media and marketing director; and David Jackowicz, recording and distribution director.

Named after and housed in the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues, Old Main Records also partners with two WSU Department of Music lecturers Jeremy Peters and Michael Shellabarger.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with the label is create a hub. One of the benefits of being a Wayne State student organization is that there are a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, whether that’s art, film, business, music tech or music business,” Derey said. “There are just a ton of people around who are willing to do this kind of grassroots organization.”

Patrick Norton and his Dirt Room bandmates are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label. Photo by Matt Hamilton

With a team in place, Old Main Records is currently setting up the independent label’s infrastructure, accepting and reviewing artist submissions, applying for grants and creating internal processes. It also will provide students with opportunities in event promotion, marketing, recording and distribution and launch a crowdfunding campaign soon.

“They want to turn this into a class or an outlet for music business majors to use. It helps everybody out because part of the goal of the record label is to give resources out to artists,” said Norton, a music technology senior and director of do-it-yourself (DIY) Detroit music-art space Nice Place. “We’re really looking to help build the local community and give promotional and marketing support to artists.”

To demonstrate that support, Norton’s band Dirt Room, a Detroit experimental indie rock quintet, is serving as a pilot artist for Old Main Records. Along with Norton, Dirt Room bandmates Samuel Sprague, Simon Sprague, Cam Frank and Matt Hagger are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label.

Dirt Room is also featured on a “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground” Spotify playlist, which includes dozens of emerging Motor City artists across a multitude of genres. All artists added to the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to Old Main Records.

As Old Main Records finalizes its first round of artists to sign, it will host a multimedia launch event in partnership with Nice Place and feature live music and visual art Jan. 17 at St. Andrew’s Church in Detroit. Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood will perform at the label’s event.

“We’re taking twice as much time to do every small step now with the label, so in the future, these will be easy processes, and everybody will know what to do going forward,” Derey said. “We’re hoping for January and February to start recording projects with those groups, and then have our first releases as well coming down this year.”

Finally, Old Main Records will partner with WSU to preserve and digitize an extensive catalog of audio archives that date back to the ‘30s. It will be a multi-year project to convert audio recordings on cassette, vinyl and wire to digital formats for future preservation.

For details about Old Main Records, visit the label’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Interested artists also can submit their music for consideration to oldmainrecordssubmissions@gmail.com. General label inquiries can be sent to oldmainrecords@gmail.com.

Sing the Blues – Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue Opens for Anthony Gomes Friday at The Token Lounge

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An emerging Motor City quartet will cry the blues Friday night in Westland.

The Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue will share gritty blues rock tunes while opening for Canadian blues legend Anthony Gomes at The Token Lounge.

“This will be my third time opening for him. It’s going to be a 30-minute set with a montage of my favorite covers and representations of the blues ranging from Chuck Berry to Son House to Robert Johnson,” said Mikolajczyk, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and harmonicist. “That’s the way I like to do it. I’m taking what they have, and I’m adding a Detroit rock and roll-flavored twist to it.”

Mikolajczyk will add Motor City fuel to Friday night’s blues fire with longtime bandmates Garrett Ramsden (drums) and Eric Noffz (sax, flute). The show also will feature the debut of the band’s new bassist Cameron Shawcross, formerly of the Detroit indie pop rock group Day Sleeper.

“It’s got a lot more feeling into it. It’s not all piano-driven type stuff,” Mikolajczyk said. “It’s real in-your-face, gritty vocals to get the point and emotion across.”

Another show highlight will include two special guitars from Detroit’s Woodward Guitar Co. Mikolajczyk will use a Fender Telecaster-inspired guitar made from reclaimed wood from Detroit homes called The Telegraph. It’s the very first guitar (e.g., serial number 001) that was produced by Woodward Guitar Co.

Mikolajczyk also will play new custom-built, semi-hollow red guitar also made from reclaimed wood called Big Brother, the first of its kind and similar in style to a Gibson Les Paul Studio.

“Between both of those two guitars, I’m very excited for it, and it’s always a great time opening for Anthony,” said Mikolajczyk, who formed the Blues Revue in 2015. “He’s a major influence to me as a blues artist because he’s a little bit harder than the standard blues artist.”

Mikolajczyk developed his immense passion for music while growing up in Canton and watching his dad play drums. By age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and played Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” cover of the 1964 Kinks classic. Like Gomes, he quickly decided to trade in his hockey stick for a guitar.

“One day came around, and I was like, ‘It seems like a better idea to play guitar instead of getting chucked into the boards all day – you know, getting concussions,’” Mikolajczyk said. “At one point, it seemed more realistic to be a rock and roll star instead of an NHL star. Like how many people play hockey? How many people my age were playing guitar? I was the only person my age playing guitar pretty much.”

At age 15, he sold merch and volunteered as a roadie for the Detroit metal band Kro-Magnon and later became the band’s bassist. Mikolajczyk quickly became a well-respected musical mainstay in Detroit after forming HazardHead, a band influenced by Guns N’ Roses and ‘80s hard rock, in 2011.

Today, he plays in more than a dozen projects, including Black Feather, Sever It All, Seven Story Fall, Swizzille Trip and The Johnny Fangers Band, as well as the Whiskey A Go Go (‘80s hard rock), Bloodstone (Judas Priest), Little Liars (Joan Jett) and Pretty Tied Up (Guns N’ Roses) tribute bands.

Mikolajczyk also performs as a solo artist and books, manages and promotes local and national pop, rock and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions. He books acts regularly at the Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore.

Despite balancing a myriad of music projects, Mikolajczyk looks forward to sharing the stage with the Blues Revue and Gomes again Friday night.

“Anthony has showed me that it’s easy to be yourself, and there’s no need to produce anything that’s inauthentic,” he said. “He has guided me on several different aspects the same way that B.B. King has guided him. Anthony’s truly a great friend and inspiration.”

Show details:

Anthony Gomes with The 519 Band and Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue

Friday | Doors 7 p.m. | Show 7:30 p.m.

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road in Westland

Tickets: $15-$25, ages 21 and up

Favorite Worst Enemy – Grass Bat Tackles Inner Demons on Latest Synth Pop Single

Grass Bat’s Noel Herbert has released three synth pop singles in 2019.

For Grass Bat, the biggest victory includes defeating the powerful Demogorgon lingering within his own version of the Upside Down.

The Los Angeles synth pop singer-songwriter obliterates his inner demons on his latest infectious ‘80s-inspired single, “Favorite Worst Enemy,” or “FWE,” which dropped Oct. 25.

The track features soaring synths mixed with echoey vocals as Grass Bat prepares for an epic 3.5-minute battle of the mind – “It’s rushing through my blood like you’re my only friend/My heart’s beating fast like you’re the only one/You’re the only one/I know you’re my favorite worst enemy.”

“I felt like I was holding on to these demons, and I was dealing with depression. It’s a lot of what I’m talking about in the song, and I don’t know if I knew that upon writing it,” said Noel Herbert, aka Grass Bat. “After listening to it and realizing this is what was going on in my head at the time, I was holding on to things I should be able to let go. The only times I felt free from it was going out and dancing and getting my head out of the negative space.”

Influenced by Detroit techno and new wave, synth pop icons The Cure and Depeche Mode, “Favorite Worst Enemy” serves as a cathartic mechanism for tackling personal struggles and eliminating the stigma of mental health.

“This is something I haven’t been talking about. I haven’t been open until very recently. I’m going through avenues like therapy, and I just want people to know this is a normal thing,” said Herbert, who relocated to Los Angeles last year after growing up in metro Detroit. “It’s super important that I feel like I let not just my audience know, but as many people as possible who are dealing with this kind of stuff.”

Continue reading “Favorite Worst Enemy – Grass Bat Tackles Inner Demons on Latest Synth Pop Single”

Cosmic Odyssey – Torus Eyes Blends Space, Mythology for Introspective ‘Pythia’ Debut EP

Torus Eyes will celebrate the release of their debut EP, “Pythia,” tonight at UFO Factory.

For their debut EP, Torus Eyes enters a new sonic orbit toward another mythological dimension.

That dimension blends ethereal synthscapes, intergalactic drumbeats and Greek myths to form “Pythia,” an otherworldly, prophetical release from the Detroit-based electronic music duo of Rho Solomon and Gwendolyn Dot.

“Pythia was a Delphic oracle back in the day, and she was really respected and someone who we consider as a person of deep intuition and wisdom,” Dot said. “That’s something we both value in a person, but also in a woman, so we’re talking about the goddess within us all like this intuition and free spirit that we all have within us that guides us.”

Together, Dot and Solomon serve as wise, spiritual EDM leaders throughout their introspective four-track journey filled with intuition, chance and growth. On “Pythia,” they effortlessly move through a spectrum of new sonic boundaries ranging from darkwave to synth and goth pop to Italo disco.

Their musical journey encompasses heady, uplifting lyrical content aimed at evoking a soulful, calm intensity. At first listen, “Pythia,” which drops Friday, results in a space odyssey of the mind filled with endless possibilities and seeks creative inspiration from Enya, I Break Horses and Chairlift.

“I think in general we have a healing philosophy, it’s something that is in our personal lives. It’s like health and wellness, but it’s not so catchy like that. It’s a deep, spiritual aspect to both of our lives independent even of each other that we bring through to our creative work,” said Dot about the EP’s overall inspiration and creative direction.

“We don’t journal lyrics, we’re not diary lyricists. We’re both into concepts and big ideas and working with the collective unconscious and archetypes. I think mythology is something we’re both influenced by, and we both read a lot. Carl Jung is an inspiration for us.”

Continue reading “Cosmic Odyssey – Torus Eyes Blends Space, Mythology for Introspective ‘Pythia’ Debut EP”

Three’s Company – Stephen Clark, Steve Taylor and Steve Acho to Join ‘Even Steven Songwriters Round’ in Farmington Friday

The Even Steven Songwriters Round will feature Steve Acho, Stephen Clark and Steve Taylor in Farmington Friday.

A metro Detroit crowd will experience the live music of “Three’s Company” Friday night in Farmington.

While it won’t involve Jack, Janet or Chrissy, it will spotlight three “Steves” who’ve made a lasting sonic impression on the Motor City and Music City.

Stephen Clark, Steve Taylor and Steve Acho will bring their catchy acoustic country, Americana roots and pop-rock classics to the “Friday Night Live – Even Steven Songwriters Round” at the Farmington Civic Theater. It will be an intimate evening filled with live music and laughter all round.

Let’s take a closer look at each “Steve” and how they will even up the musical score Friday night in Farmington.

Continue reading “Three’s Company – Stephen Clark, Steve Taylor and Steve Acho to Join ‘Even Steven Songwriters Round’ in Farmington Friday”

Shining Through – Trey Simon Drops Hopeful New Single ‘When the Lights Turn On’

Trey Simon has released his latest single, “When the Lights Turn On,” today via all streaming platforms.

Trey Simon knows how to deliver the ultimate ray of hope in the darkest hour.

The soulful Rochester singer-songwriter sheds sonic messages of optimism and growth on his passionate new single, “When the Lights Turn On,” which dropped earlier today.

The brilliant single opens with emotionally intense guitars while pounding drums echo a nervous heartbeat and reflect an initial hesitation about a new road ahead. It’s reminiscent of mid-80s pop-rock with Phil Collins-inspired lyrics and Michael McDonald-esque vocals.

“For me, it’s a reflection song. It’s realizing that I have so much to give, and I have so much to love for somebody. Overall, it’s about waking up and realizing you’re not where you want to be yet,” Simon said. “I think that song was birthed out of places like, ‘Dang, I just want to be better than what I am right now, and I want to be better for that person I meet down the road.’”

The single also eloquently showcases “the dirt” Simon personally experiences as an artist and individual overcoming internal challenges while heading down a new spiritual path. For listeners, it’s fighting chance to escape their fears and use Simon’s new single as an emotional shield against uncertainty.

“I think the greatest thing about being an artist is really putting it on display because it’s a healing process for you, but in the same time, you can really help people in giving them the courage to go after the things they have going on, too,” Simon said.

Simon started crafting his latest single on stage a few years ago and later transformed it into a recordable version, thanks to a friend’s encouragement. He teamed up with Rochester producer and musician Josh Colyer to record “When the Lights Turn On” at Kensington Church’s studio in Troy.

“It was a changeup from the music I’ve recorded in the past, and it’s a little bit more of a rock direction since my stuff has been a little bit more of an R&B, sultry vibe. I was really ready to showcase more of myself musically, too,” he said.

“I’ve got so much that inspires me, and I feel like there are different parts of me. I’ve only been showcasing one side of what I really do, and I’m ready to give a clearer vision of who I am as an artist and who I am as a person.”

Simon will drop a new video for his latest single Oct. 9 and allow the track to speak for itself visually. Filmed by a Chicago-based director, the video features Simon sitting on a stool in a large room giving a powerful performance of his latest single.

“We ended up getting a whole crew to come out, and we got all the lighting and everything,” Simon said. “It was my first big budget video with five crew members, and we used a film studio to cut it all in Troy. We were able to finish the whole thing in a day.”

Continue reading “Shining Through – Trey Simon Drops Hopeful New Single ‘When the Lights Turn On’”

Remnose to Open for Josiah Johnson at Detroit’s Creaky House Sunday

Marlon Morton and Remnose will open for Josiah Johnson at Detroit’s Creaky House Sunday.

Remnose will share their haunting indie folk with an intimate Detroit crowd Sunday night.

The Motor City indie folk-rock quartet will perform an opening set for Josiah Johnson, co-founder and former member of The Head and the Heart, at Creaky House, a Woodbridge neighborhood do-it-yourself (DIY) music space.

“It’s a really cool old house with a beautiful backyard and an old fireplace. We played a release show there when we put out our EP, ‘What We See in Our Sleep,’ so it’s been one of our favorite DIY venues in Detroit,” said Marlon Morton, Remnose’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist. “It’s really nice for Sunday nights because you don’t have to ask everybody to go out to a bar.”

During their Sunday night set, Remnose will include introspective tracks from their latest album, “Waiting on the Wind,” which dropped in June, as well as past gems from previous releases.

“We’ll do a full band show because the majority of our sets are pretty laid back, and they suit that sort of setting like a backyard show. There will be a sound system there, too,” Morton said. “They bring over a pretty nice sound system, at least they have for shows we’ve played there in the past. It gives it a real venue sound in a backyard, so you get the best of both worlds.”

Remnose has played a growing roster of local, regional and national shows since forming in 2013. Led by Morton and his older brother Carson Morton (drums, banjo, backup vocals), the band includes Sam Sparling (lap steel guitar, synth, keys) and Alex Wildner (bass, cello, violin, piano) and features a breathtaking sound built around inspirational melodies and highly-personal lyrics.

Continue reading “Remnose to Open for Josiah Johnson at Detroit’s Creaky House Sunday”