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”

At Home – Ann Arbor’s Pajamas Hosts Headlining Show Friday at The Blind Pig

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Pajamas opens for Karina Rykman at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply in Ferndale. Photo – Austin R. Grinnell

Filled with gratitude and anticipation, Pajamas wants to show their hometown some love.

The Ann Arbor rock-funk jam quartet of Graham Low (drums, vocals), Nick Orr (guitars, vocals), Dan Schuler (bass, vocals) and Owen Kellenberger (keys, vocals) eagerly awaits their first headlining show Friday at The Blind Pig in nearly two years.

“Since we do perform in Ann Arbor pretty regularly, this one is going to be a love letter to our friends and fans, something unique and special. We’ve put a lot of work into making this happen. It’s a chance to celebrate our town, our community and where we are now as a band,” Orr said.

“I think people have a lot to look forward to with this show. We’ve hired a professional lighting engineer to accompany the music with an incredible light show. The Blind Pig is an Ann Arbor institution, and we’ve all been attending and playing shows there for years.”

As part of their show, Pajamas will share The Blind Pig stage with Toledo’s Cactus Jack, a quintet of talented friends quickly gaining traction with live Michigan audiences.

“We met Cactus Jack by putting a show together with them at the Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids. It was our first time playing together, but I think we fit together really well musically,” Orr said.

“They’re really talented players with very good original songs. We got along really well and are happy that they were available to play with us again for this upcoming show. This show will be their Blind Pig debut, so it’s extra cool for that reason.”

Another extra “cool” reason to celebrate Pajamas’ Blind Pig return – new material to preview and experience from their forthcoming second studio album as well as some improvised covers.

“I’m really proud of the music that we’ve written for it, and I think it showcases how far we’ve come and where we’re currently at as a band,” said Orr, who previously released Onesie with the band in 2018. “It feels like we are hitting our songwriting stride, and more importantly, finding our own sound and voice. I think with this second full-length album we just know who we are and what we are about musically.”

Continue reading “At Home – Ann Arbor’s Pajamas Hosts Headlining Show Friday at The Blind Pig”

Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’

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Chirp pauses during a recording session at Willis Sound. Photo – Joe Sleep

Chirp proudly follows their funky musical instincts.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet of Jay Frydenlund (guitar, vocals), Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Gastón Reggio (drums) listens to their collective creative conscience on their fervent new single, “Solo.”

“Vulfpeck and Cory Wong were a massive influence on the approach to this tune and the rest of the upcoming record. The old school, funky vibe they bring to their songwriting and playing has been a big influence on all of us,” Frydenlund said. “I’m not sure this song would have happened without a steady amount of Vulf in my listening diet. Or at least it would have come out through a very different lens.”

By peering through that groovy “Solo” lens, Chirp fans will encounter a group of lively musicians entrenched in jubilant electric guitars, shimmering keys and synths, pulsating bass, confident drums and ticking cymbals.

In tandem, Frydenlund soulfully sings, “And we all know you can shred the 32nds/But I wanna hear something from your soul/So take your time to find the truth inside you/And let it go.”

“Sam’s melodic lead guitar through the song adds a lot of texture and warms up the tune quite a bit, and he also complements Kevin (Gastonguay’s) solo toward the end of the song really nicely. Brian’s self-written bassline is really catchy throughout, to the point of being singable.” Frydenlund said.

“Both of them killed it on the smooth backup vocals. The different feels Gastón moves throughout are seamless, which is easier said than done on a tune like ‘Solo,’ where we’ve got a lot of dramatic change from section to section feel-wise and tempo-wise.”

Continue reading “Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’”

Imagine That – Becky Crosby Trades Reality for Fantasy on ‘Can We Pretend?’

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Becky Crosby’s “Can We Pretend?” addresses her frustration and forlornness during the pandemic. Artwork – Joey Affatato

For Becky Crosby, quarantine life provides the ultimate escape from reality.

The Purchase, New York pop-rock singer-songwriter openly shares her personal struggles with pandemic lockdown and emotional isolation on her latest jazz-funk ballad, “Can We Pretend?

“I wrote it in quarantine right after we got evacuated from school … when I think everyone was feeling especially lonely and confused at what was going on in the world,” said Crosby, who’s a jazz senior at State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase. “I had a crush on a friend of mine at the time, and I think the feelings about quarantine just heightened everything about it.”

A lush “Can We Pretend?” ensemble of thumping drums, tingly cymbals, pensive bass, gleaming electric guitar, delicate piano, melancholic trumpet and earnest baritone sax echo Crosby’s growing frustration and forlornness.

She thoughtfully sings, “How did this happen to me?/I was oh so happy living life lonely/But when you come near/I smile ear to ear/Cause you made me different/Than the girl who used to share my mirror.”

“I wrote ‘Can We Pretend?’ as a way to not only work out my feelings, but to get out some of the anger that I had about my life changing so much overnight,” Crosby said. “I do think that it’s always a good idea to go with your gut. So if your gut says to tell them you like them, then do it. Life is short!”

Crosby brought “Can We Pretend?” to life with several collaborators, including Simon Ribas (drums), Sameer Shankar (bass), Ethan Johnson (guitar), Harry Graser (piano), Noah Mattison (trumpet) and Lee Altsher-Wood (baritone sax).

“This song automatically just had a funky feel to it. Being a jazz major, I am surrounded by horn players, and I was so happy to be able to feature them on this track,” she said. “Sameer Shankar shaped this horn arrangement, and Lee Altsher-Wood and Noah Mattison did a great job bringing it to life.”

Continue reading “Imagine That – Becky Crosby Trades Reality for Fantasy on ‘Can We Pretend?’”

Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’

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Act Casual’s “Livin’ a Lie” is the band’s first new studio release in nearly four years. Artwork – Sam Flynn

Act Casual eloquently recounts the everyday struggles of overcoming a romantic rough patch.

The metro Detroit jam fusion quartet of Ryan Yoskovich (drums, vocals), Ryan Stafford (keys, sax), Will Richardson (guitar, vocals) and Danny Flynn (bass, vocals) addresses these mounting interpersonal encounters on their latest soulful, funkified single, “Livin’ a Lie.”

Throughout “Livin’ a Lie,” vivid, wah-wah electric guitars, climbing bass, fluid drums, tingly cymbals and sheeny synths engulf love-stricken listeners and provide them with bluesy-induced relief.

Act Casual reflects, “Never the one/Now it’s all done/Trying to flee with nowhere to run/I’m a livin’ a lie/A total loss/But at what cost/Thinking about all that I’ve lost/I’m livin’ a lie.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Act Casual about their first studio release in nearly four years as well as their background, previous projects and upcoming live shows.

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TSS: What initially inspired “Livin’ a Lie” for you?

AC: It was an initial exercise of just trying to write a set of lyrics to a groove we had been working on. The lyrics started coming together about disagreeing and arguing with a lover; it was in hopes of showing that everyone has the same arguments and quarrels with the ones we love. No one is alone in feeling some of the emotions played out in the song.

TSS: How long did you spend writing and recording the track?

AC: We spent a few weeks writing the song itself, which also developed as we played it out live. We spent two days in the studio laying down the majority of the tracks, following up with a couple of more sessions for vocals. The track was recorded at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. with Ryan Hyland as the head engineer.

TSS: What was it like to translate “Livin’ a Lie” from the stage to the studio? Any plans to release a video for the track soon?

AC: The track didn’t take on too many alterations for the studio recording. However, we did add vocal harmonies during the recording process, which stuck with us for live performances afterward. We filmed some of the recording process and plan on releasing a music video in the fall.

TSS: You mentioned in your Dunesville Music Festival live set that “Livin’ a Lie” is also the name of your upcoming album. What work do you have left to complete on the album?

AC: We will be dropping another single entitled “Fresh (Out the Shower)” in October as well as another single in November with the full album dropping in the winter.

We will continue to work with Ryan (Hyland) at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. to finish any additional touches, and with Max Preissner, who has been helping us with the promotion and release of these songs as well as building our presence online. People can expect to hear more vocal-driven songs like “Livin’ a Lie” as well as instrumental pieces.

Continue reading “Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’”

Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’

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Desmond Jones takes a refreshing vintage country detour on “Pink Moon.” Artwork – Daniel Benayun

Desmond Jones elegantly casts twangy lunar magic throughout West Virginia’s sprawling Appalachian Mountains.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) takes a refreshing vintage country detour on their latest jamboree-filled, celestial single, “Pink Moon.”

“The song is actually named after a music festival that used to be held in West Virginia called ‘The Pink Moon Music Festival.’ The festival was named after the lunar phenomenon we call The Pink Moon, which is a unique yearly full moon that occurred last week,” Bota said.

“I guess you could say it’s a love song I wrote to the moon. It’s meant to be sung while I’m hanging out in the Appalachian Mountains on the outskirts of a small West Virginia mountain town dancing to some wonderful live music under the moon and the stars.”

As a timeless, torchy ode to our favorite pastel-tinged satellite, “Pink Moon” awakens the youthful, nocturnal spirit as swift drums, rich pedal steel, propulsive bass, soulful sax, jubilant mandolin and vigorous violin gallop into a bright summer night.

Bota nostalgically sings, “Once a year, my dear, I’ll spend a night with you/Lookin’ at sunlight through your view/Whistlin’ a tune until the sun’s had enough of you/As you drift into the sky.”

“I wrote the song very late at night five years ago after the second Pink Moon Music Festival that we played and attended. I touched it up over a week or two of playing and singing it solo on my acoustic guitar. We recorded the drums, bass, two guitars and saxophone live at our manager Kevin McKay’s studio in the fall of 2019 three years later,” Bota said.

“The vocals, pedal steel and instrument solos were recorded at everyone’s own homes during the winter of 2020-2021. We have one guest on this track who happens to be one of our favorite Michigan musicians, Don Julin. We had the pleasure to play with Don during two of our sets at the Cowpie Music Festival in 2019, and he agreed to lend his musical talents on this album.”

Continue reading “Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’”

Funky Vibes – Grove Studios Hosts Saturday Livestream Show with Sabbatical Bob & The DayNites

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Sabbatical Bob will share groovy jazz-funk fusion during Saturday’s Grove Sessions livestream show. Photo – Kyla McGrath & Mural – Joanna Farben

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The DayNites will bring blues, neo-soul and psychedelic rock to Saturday’s livestream show. Photo courtesy of The DayNites

Two local bands will funkify the livestream universe from Grove Studios Saturday.

Sabbatical Bob and The DayNites will share soulful grooves throughout their energetic, danceable sets for Grove Sessions from the Ypsilanti rehearsal and recording space’s newly renovated Deluxe Studio.

“Sabbatical Bob comes from more of a jazz-funk fusion realm with some killer jazz-trained musicianship. The DayNites speak more of a blues, neo-soul and psychedelic language to get their vibe across. Regardless, we imagine our virtual audience will be bobbin’ their heads and shakin’ it a bit at home,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder/director of community engagement and drummer for The DayNites.

As Grove Studios’ second in-studio livestream performance, viewers will experience a jam-tastic show filled with bouncy wah-wah guitars, hypnotic bass, pulsating drums, upbeat horns and shiny keys.

Sabbatical Bob’s Ben Green (trumpet, vocals), Ian Eylanbekov (guitar), Ben Wood (bass) and David Ward (drums, vocals) will perform tracks from their dynamic, rhythmic 2019 debut EP, Sabbatical Bob: Live and in Person. (Keyboardist Jordan Anderson won’t be able to join the band for the show.)

“We plan on doing what we always do, bringing the exciting loud funk. We are playing some oldies from the EP, a cover or two, and some music that is soon to be released on our next record, On the Run,” Ward said. “We have never been able to share the stage with The DayNites, but they are friends, and we’ve all got to hear them play before.”

In December, Sabbatical Bob released a colorful, inspiring video for “Alright,” their peppy, spirited instrumental that defeats corporate drudgery with enthusiastic, bouncy funk. Created by Filmic Productions, it’s a much-needed cure from being trapped inside lifeless, institutional walls.

“‘Alright’ was super fun because we had a team work up the idea and present it to us. The people at Filmic are really dope and had it all ready to go. We kinda got to be super stars – even the idea for the video was intuited by the team just by listening to the music. They ran it by us once, and we were sold,” Ward said.

In tandem with Sabbatical Bob, The DayNites will bring moonlit melodies, gravitational grooves and rotational rhythms to a virtual audience. Kristianna Bell (vocals), Ryan Greene (keys, piano), Tim Blackman (bass), Shaun Maazza (guitar) and Friebel (drums) will share tracks from their R&B-rock flavored self-titled debut EP, which dropped in October.

“We’ll be playing the entire self-titled EP along with some of our own renditions of classic soul and R&B jams. We’ll also be debuting a new original written with Ryan Greene, the keyboardist from Violet Sol, who became an official DayNite last July,” Friebel said.

Viewers can purchase $10 tickets for Saturday’s livestream show via Grove Studios’ website and Facebook page. Grove Studios has flourished in the virtual music space since launching Grove Sessions, a regular livestream performance and interview series, in March 2020. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.

Show details:

Grove Sessions livestream with Sabbatical Bob & The DayNites

7 p.m. | Saturday, April 3

Tickets: $10

Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey

Nick Behnan glides from one genre-filled world to the next on his latest instrumental album, “Magic Trip.”

Backed by timeless grooves, majestic electric guitars and funky beats, Nick Behnan effortlessly embarks on an enchanting instrumental journey.

The Detroit singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist beautifully glides from one hypnotic genre-filled world to the next on his latest 10-track, funkified R&B-rock odyssey, Magic Trip.  

Initially written and recorded for sync licensing opportunities, each fluid, spellbinding track showcases Behnan’s versatility, prolificacy and creativity as an evolving songwriter and producer.

“I’ve never released an instrumental album before that shows my love for all genres. My main focus was to pick songs that were groovy, funky and somewhat up-tempo, but I try to write and produce the same way that I listen to music as a fan,” Behnan said.

“I never just listen to one kind of music all night. It will roll from Gregory Isaacs to The Congos to The Bee Gees to Prince to Wilco to Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar to Beck and many others all in one night. The trick was picking the songs because I have so many; I could easily put out five albums right now.”

While Magic Trip eloquently blends Behnan’s eclectic, refreshing influences, it instantly soars into a laid-back, welcoming sonic adventure on the jam-tastic, improvisational title track. Shimmery, wah-wah electric guitars, majestic bass, whirring synths and soft drums recreate the sound and feel of a sunny, breezy spring day in the mind’s eye.

“Several of the songs were made mostly with TV and film licensing in mind while others were started a few years ago. Some songs like, “Magic Trip” and “Inner City Funk” are brand new. Overall, I hope people feel good when they listen to it and enjoy grooving and rocking out to the music,” he said.

Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey”

Root System – Tree No Leaves Plants Lush Conceptual World on ‘The Eyes of Xylem’ Album

Tree No Leaves plants a vivid, lush conceptual world that challenges widely held notions about the cycle of life on “The Eyes of Xylem.” Artwork – Andy Thomas of Ando Illustration

Last year, Dustin Galish instantly took root in a new adventure.

The Bowling Green, Ohio-based Tree No Leaves vocalist and multi-instrumentalist planted a vivid, lush conceptual world that challenges widely held notions about the cycle of life.

“I had a dream one night, and there was a narrative that showed up and made sense. I wrote it down in the morning and went into work that day, but continued to scribble on this piece of paper that was very small and kept cramming everything on it,” he said.

Galish showed his initial scribbles to artist Andy Thomas of Ando Illustration, and the two carefully cultivated an alternate universe for Tree No Leaves’ new thought-provoking concept album, graphic novel and multimedia experience, The Eyes of Xylem.

“The real raw theme is perception and the cycle of life. At the end of the day, all of us have a very different perception of what that cycle of life is, and it can be religious, spiritual or atheistic. We all deal with that cycle of life, and we’re all trying to come to terms with what it is. Some of us have a very cool explanation for it while others have a sad, barbaric or magical one,” Galish said.

Along with Tree No Leaves bandmates Steven Guerrero (bass, f/x, EBow), Garrett Tanner (sax, recorder), J.P. Stebal IV (drums, electronics) and Billy Gruber (congas, percussion), Galish magically chronicles a condensed life cycle across eight compelling, multi-genre tracks on The Eyes of Xylem, which is now available via all streaming platforms.

Also available as a four-track, clear 7-inch vinyl on Bandcamp, the insightful concept album lyrically and visually depicts the story of anthropomorphic tree characters, Willow and Elder, who rapidly experience a series of life-changing situations in a haunted town. Each track features an accompanying mystical illustration by Thomas that sets the scene for listeners as they join The Eyes of Xylem journey.

“My goal is to have two characters that experience the full cycle of life and death in a short period of time, but in an amazing way. They’re both experiencing things simultaneously while their perspectives of what they’re experiencing are different,” Galish said.

“I researched symbolism relative to trees and what they represented in different cultures. Willow and Elder represent the duality of the world in any place and in anything that exists. I think it’s important to understand people’s perspectives and how we’re all different, but we’re experiencing things together as part of the same cycle. ”

Continue reading “Root System – Tree No Leaves Plants Lush Conceptual World on ‘The Eyes of Xylem’ Album”

Take Solace – The Stratton Playlist September/October 2020 Edition Provides Everyday Escape

While the world turns to chaos outside, it’s time to search for solace inside.

Throw work, school and virtual commitments aside for some long overdue relaxation. With headphones in hand, adjust the volume and press play to start a new musical journey into uncharted local and regional waters.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist serves as a refreshing sonic escape from politics, pandemics and people. Visit country-filled skies, fuzzy lo-fi jams, jazzy hip-hop points, psych rock bangers, vibrant piano pop anthems and other new terrain.

Featured artists include Shawn Butzin, Zilched, Speak Mahogany, VVISIONSS, LoraDale, The Soods, The DayNites, Blank Tape Tax, J.E. Sunde, Major Murphy, Speelburg and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres welcome.