A new Michigan-based nonprofit will unite activism with artistry Saturday in Detroit.
Title Track, a nonprofit dedicated to clean water, racial equality and youth empowerment, will host a launch party at MusicTown Detroit featuring local artists and speakers, including Seth Bernard; Audra Kubat; Juuni, aka Wayne Ramocan; Vespre; Amber Hasan; Nicole Lindsey and Baldomero Gonzales.
“It gives me great joy to have this Title Track launch party in Detroit where the roots of resistance run deep and the fruits of community resilience are delicious,” said Bernard, a Michigan singer-songwriter and activist who launched Title Track on Earth Day. “This bill is populated with artists, activists, organizers and changemakers, and we’re going to make a joyful noise bringing this new organization into the community.”
Through Title Track, Bernard offers a broad set of programming based on his lifetime of music making, community organizing and advocacy for the environment and social justice.
Saturday’s launch party will echo those causes and creative endeavors while spotlighting emerging indie folk, R&B, soul, pop and world-inspired sounds from the Motor City’s up-and-coming artists.
“Detroit is one of the greatest cities in the world. Home of Aretha, Dilla and Grace Lee Boggs. Epicenter of urban farmers, culture creators and movement builders,” Bernard said. “A soul that can’t be commodified, gentrified, disassociated or appropriated. Detroit is the city of tomorrow.”
For Calum Galt, Ann Arbor represents a bittersweet homecoming.
The former After Hours Radio vocalist will reunite with his old bandmates for Saturday’s show at Club Above. It will be his first appearance with the Ypsilanti progressive groove-heavy indie rock trio of Greg Hughes (bass), Nate Erickson (vocals, guitar) and Mark Dunne (drums) in nearly three years.
“It was actually Greg’s idea to have a reunion show. He reached out to me when he found out I was returning home for the first time in years to see if I was interested, and I agreed right away,” said Galt, who moved from Ann Arbor to Japan in 2014. “I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to play with the band again after so long, and I hope we can recreate some of the same energy our shows had back then.”
Along with Hughes and Erickson, Galt honed his musicianship while attending open mic nights at the University of Michigan’s Nakamura and Luther Buchele co-ops. Together, they formed After Hours Radio and became synonymous with Ann Arbor’s burgeoning underground, do-it-yourself (DIY) music community.
“Forming the band was equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking – I had never really written or performed my own music, which I think is an inherently intimate and scary thing to do,” said Galt, who’s inspired by of Montreal, The Strokes and Radiohead. “I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive friends and be involved in the co-op community, which has always been a fertile environment for budding musicians.”
As After Hours Radio, they recorded their self-titled, six-track debut EP in 2015 before Galt moved to Japan. Four years later, Galt is ready to revisit the EP with his old bandmates through an older, wiser and fresher perspective.
“There are a lot of memories tied up in those songs so revisiting them has been an interesting experience,” said Galt, who graduated from U-M with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and cultures. “I’ve changed a lot in the intervening time so it’s strange to hear those songs, which really encapsulate the weird head-space I was in at the time.”
Five singer-songwriters will bring their Nashville sound to Detroit Friday night.
Wil Nance, Danika Holmes, Jeb Hart, Rob Taube and Mark Barnowski will share their Americana, country, folk and pop sounds through the Nashtown Songwriters Round at the Farmington Civic Theater as part of the “Friday Night Live” concert series.
As the final show in the concert series’ winter season, “Nashtown” will allow the singer-songwriters to mix elements of Music City with Motown through their live performances and musical storytelling.
“It’s going to be a great show at the Nashtown Songwriters Round,” Wil Nance said. “I hope people will be moved, laugh and cry some, have a good time and hear some great stories behind the songs.”
The Plymouth singer-songwriter, aka Matt Sauter, combines his down-to-earth indie folk rock roots with lush new alt-rock growth on his latest single, “Back to Normal,” which drops today.
Akin to Kings of Leon and Mumford and Sons, Sauter’s catchy 4.5-minute single features his signature raspy vocals backed by brightly-toned guitars and pulsating drum beats. “Back to Normal’s” clever lyrics include an infectious play on words ranging from “cooking dishes” to “growing lawns” to “breaking fences” to “painting songs.”
“It’s a concept song, first it was kind of like a joke, I was writing it and trying to sing everything backwards,” said Sauter, who wrote the track while attending the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME). “The chord progressions are churchy and powerful, and once we got a full band with it, it became this super, big and powerful song, and we’ve been playing it live for a year now, and it’s one of our fan favorites.”
That live fan favorite also features the talents of Dan Sauter (bass), Jon Staten (drums) and Jimmy Showers (guitar), who now serve as official band members for Adventures with Vultures. He also worked with Jake Rye of Social Recording Company in Adrian to produce and mix the track.
“We go in there with Jake, we plug in, and we play our shit loud,” said Sauter, who originally started as a hip-hop artist and honed his drumming skills while growing up in Plymouth. “We’re going for an early 2000s indie alt rock sound with these new songs.”
Originally, Adventures with Vultures started as an emerging indie folk solo act for Sauter, who released his brilliant, introspective four-song debut EP, “Junction,” in 2017 through Original 1265 Recordings, an independent label owned by CND America, DIME’s parent company.
Sauter expanded the project into a full band after playing a growing roster of live dates in Michigan and going on his first national headlining tour last year. He’s also transitioned from being part of Original 1265 Recordings to becoming an independent, do-it-yourself (DIY) artist.
As a DIY artist, Sauter recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help support releasing new music as well as an upcoming tour. To date, he’s raised nearly $2,000, thanks to his burgeoning fan base, and sponsoring additional casino bus and golf outing fundraisers.
“Being a DIY artist is more community-based, and it feels more organic,” he said. “With the support of our fans, we’re going to release a new single every three months for the next year.”
As a next step, the band will release a new video soon for “Back to Normal” and return to the studio in April to record their next single.
Adventures with Vultures also will perform a series of upcoming live shows, including April 13 at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor with LVRS and Jackamo, April 26 at New Way Bar as part of Ferndale Spring Fever and May 24 at Mac’s Bar in Lansing with Joshua Powell.
“We’re going to keep course, we’re going to do our thing, but we want to be part of SXSW’s Michigan House next year,” Sauter said. “We’re going to keep the name growing, and people keep telling us to come back down to Nashville and Milwaukee. Every year, more and more keeps happening, and as long as we stay on our path, we’ll be pretty fucking happy.”
“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.”
With a vibrant new single and lineup, Honey Monsoon is floating in a new musical stratosphere.
Earlier this week, the metro Detroit jazz-fusion quintet dropped their latest single, “Cloud,” a five-and-a-half-minute peaceful sonic journey filled with funky guitars, bright synths, gentle cymbal crashes and slow grooves.
“It’s a dynamic love song about being in an amazing state, realizing that you’re there, being present and preserving that,” said Ana Gomulka, Honey Monsoon’s vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. “It’s a complex song where I put myself in a character role and follow a floaty, vibey path that’s immediate and accessible.”
That uplifting musical path soars to the sky-high auditory intersection of jazz, disco, rock, funk, soul and R&B – think Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, George Benson, Sade and Toro y Moi combining their signature styles into an atmospheric sound.
Honey Monsoon will release a new video soon for “Cloud” that features footage from some of their local favorite spots in Detroit, including the Fisher Building and the Renaissance Center. Additional footage was shot at a local church in Ypsilanti.
“Cloud” is the first single from Honey Monsoon’s forthcoming album, “Opal Soul,” a follow-up to their 2017 jazzy, soulful debut, “Rose Gold,” due out March 22. It also features a fresh lineup with new members Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Binho “Alex” Manenti (bass, keys) along with Taylor Greenshields (drums), Leo Willer (paintbrushes) and Gomulka.
“We’ve been in the studio collaborating with so many incredible people in the area on horns, keys, strings and vibraphone,” said Gomulka, who started writing songs for “Opal Soul” in September. “We’ve been in the trenches putting together this eclectic production for ‘Opal Soul.’”
Produced, engineered and mixed by Greenshields and Naples at Fundamental Sound Co., “Opal Soul” will feature eight tracks and include former member Andrea Holther-Cruz on two to three songs written with the previous band’s lineup.
“Opal Soul” also will feature a more diverse sound that draws influences from pop, rock, Latin, funk, Afrobeat and world music. For “Rose Gold,” Honey Monsoon intertwined jazzy, soulful sonic textures against a rock-infused backdrop with bright vocals and saxophone solos.
“‘Opal Soul’ is based on a concept of reflection, and I was inspired by that while writing for this album,” Gomulka said. “It highlights the reflection and soulfulness that we put into the creative process.”
“I think we’ll pull from all of our experiences of working together and songs that we’ve written together, songs that we’ve done solo, songs that are cover tunes, songs that we’ve performed and recorded, and maybe have some new stuff, too,” said Krist, who’s recovering from a broken shoulder. “I have a couple of new songs that I’m hoping we’ll be able to play.”
Together, Krist and Bizer will perform as part of a fun, formidable duo where the sum is greater than the already substantial parts. Their performances mesh and interlock with lyrics and melodies that interweave in surprising and intriguing ways.
Originally hailing from Detroit, the duo has played together for more than 40 years and first crossed musical paths as teens during the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Krist absorbed Joni Mitchell’s folk, rock, jazz and pop-inspired tunes while Bizer studied James Taylor’s catchy folk rock. They also developed an affinity for the Motown sound coming out of Detroit.
“Both of us had independent careers and achieved a bit of notoriety on our own, and then we decided it would be fun to tour together,” said Bizer, who started out playing cover songs in local bars and restaurants. “We’d perform as a duo and take turns performing each other’s songs. We got more and more developed into that kind of show, and we started writing together, and the songs became more crafted for a duo, which is where it really got fun.”