The Detroit alt-country duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric and steel guitars, backing vocals) explore and weather life-changing terrain on their new Odyssean album, On the Run.
“When we were trying to think of an all-encompassing title, we started realizing how much that theme goes through the record, the On the Run theme,” said Shepard about the album out today via Sweet Apple Pie Records.
“We didn’t have a specific theme before going into the record because we actually recorded about 20 songs at once. We picked half that we thought would go well together for this first one, and we have half that we’re hoping to release next year.”
As the first half, On the Run journeys through melodic Laurel Canyon soundscapes, ‘70s-inspired country-rock instrumentation fused with hard-rock, psych-rock, blues and funk elements, and daring tales of growth and reflection. Collectively, the album’s 10 tracks serve as the ideal sonic companion for an open-ended road trip.
“The last two records featured the same guitar and the same amp that I play with live all the time. I just brought different stuff in because I was playing different stuff … and some songs like ‘Billy’ seemed like it needed to be a little more aggressive,” Daversa said.
“I did a whole run-through of that song and sent it to some guitar-player friends of mine and one friend was like, ‘Yeah, I hear what you’re trying to do on that, but that ain’t it.’ At first I was like, ‘Forget you, man,’ and then I started thinking about it. He was right because I changed it to what we do now, and I think it turned out a lot better.”
The Detroit indie-rock sextet of Kate Hinote (vocals, lyrics), Erin Williams (backing vocals, keys, lyrics), Tony Hamera (guitar, synths), David Johnson (guitar), Bryan Talaski (bass) and Jim Faulkner (drums) chronicles pivotal moments of growth, heartbreak and change on their latest cathartic EP, Time Didn’t Matter.
“I certainly hope that people can relate to it and have that feeling,” Hinote said. “Any time you’re making music, you hope that people can react to it in some way, and I am considering that when I’m writing, but I also gotta get stuff out.”
As an emotional outlet, Time Didn’t Mattercarefully opens the floodgates of past relationships, present circumstances and future possibilities. Six passionate tracks flow alongside introspective lyrics, fiery goth-rock instrumentation and ethereal shoegaze sensibilities.
“That’s just what kind of comes out … I’ve always written that way and still try to write in a way that can be interpreted,” Hinote said. “It’s a little vague, so that it can be left open to interpretation, and there are certainly some specific relationships that are addressed on this EP.”
For Otto, a series of virtual songwriting sessions provided unexpected creativity and camaraderie.
The Detroit indie-pop quintet of Chesney Walters (vocals), Jonny Walker (guitar), Nate Dornfried (keys), Ryan Freitas (bass) and Austin Howard (drums) instantly gelled while penning new tracks over Zoom for their infectious debut EP, Still Picture You.
“In 2019, I was ready to call it quits with music, and then two weeks later, I just changed my mind. Austin and I decided to start doing our own project, and we started writing with no end-game in mind. And I knew Nate from where we grew up, and I ran into him and asked if he wanted to be a part of it,” said Walker, who previously played with Howard in another project.
“The three of us wrote together for a year and a half and auditioned 10 different singers, but couldn’t find anyone we were happy with. I was ready to call it quits (again) because we just couldn’t find anyone, and then Chesney just came out of nowhere. Austin and I also have known Ryan for a while. He ended up playing bass with us for one show, and now he’s here.”
With the right lineup intact, Otto started compiling a new batch of earnest tracks in 2020. Walters met regularly with Walker to write and refine the ‘80s-inspired, synth-pop songs that would become Still Picture You.
“I was living with my family at the time in the suburbs, and I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere except to Jonny’s house to write music,” Walters said. “We would just write and write for months while there was nothing else to do.”
During their writing sessions, Walters and Walker collaborated remotely with other Otto members until the pandemic subsided. It would be another six months before the entire band would meet in person.
“I hadn’t met them for months once we started, and we would all rotate at Jonny’s house and be there at different times,” Walters said. “But the first time we were all together in the same place was when we went to Nashville in March 2021 to record.”
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.
With new blood, Dirt Room continually thrives on organic growth.
The Detroit experimental collective of Samuel “SJ” Sprague (vocals, bass), Patrick Norton (guitar, Octatrack), Nate Zonnevylle (synth) and Duncan MacKillop (drums) will cultivate their burgeoning sound through a series of upcoming Nice Place Presents live shows, including Feb. 4 at Small’s in Hamtramck.
“This is a completely new lineup for Dirt Room, but the synergy is there. Their musicianship and enthusiasm inspire me to keep going,” said Sprague, who co-founded the band in 2016.
“Pat has been an absolute rock for me over the past few years. Their ambition and work ethic astounds me, and the music we write together is truly a blessing in my life. Duncan and Nate are the young bloods in the group. They’ve been super enthusiastic about the new music we’re playing together and working really hard to make something special.”
“We’re very fortunate to be playing with such talented local artists, especially after being undercover for so long,” Sprague said. “I’ve known the Who Boy group as well as Mykel Andre for a few years now, so being able to put a show together with these guys is definitely special.”
The Flint indie folk rock singer-songwriter will perform his first headlining set in nearly 18 months at the Hamtramck venue.
“I can’t even express how good it feels to be playing shows again. I really hadn’t considered how vital that type of experience was in my life until it went away. I really had to push it away for a while when we didn’t know a timetable for the return of live music,” said Dylan Grantham, aka Young Ritual.
“Once the show was announced, all of those feelings came flooding back. I just want to make this night a loud and beautiful entry back into the music scene out here for Young Ritual.”
Hosted in partnership with Audiotree Presents, the show will allow Young Ritual to debut several new tracks since releasing his introspective, two-track A/B EP in March. He’ll be joined by Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter Au Gres, aka Josh Kemp, and Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter Emma Guzman.
“They are all pretty driving rock songs because that’s where my intent in writing has been, and the one I’m most excited about is called ‘Julianna.’ The song is kind of Springsteen and The Killers, but absolutely Young Ritual top to bottom,” said Grantham, who will include Au Gres as part of his live band.
“Josh from Au Gres is one of my closest friends, and I adore his band. He writes the sleekest indie pop imaginable and is just a pleasure to have around. I haven’t met Emma yet, but I’m a huge fan of what she’s been doing, so I’m really excited to have her on board.”
The Fraser folk rock singer-songwriter and guitarist will return to his family’s old stomping grounds to perform Friday night at the Polish Village Café.
“It feels pretty nostalgic to be playing in Hamtramck since my mother was raised there. She graduated from St. Florian High School. My grandparents lived in Hamtramck until they reached their 80s, and I have memories of visiting there when I was a child,” Alter said.
“Some of those memories are captured in my song, ‘Hamtramck.’ I grew up in suburban East Detroit, which was a very different environment. When visiting Hamtramck, my siblings and I were exposed to a very different culture, even with my grandparents speaking another language through much of our visit.”
Alter quickly revisits his childhood on 2018’s “Hamtramck” as sentimental acoustic strums, sunny electric guitars and ruminative bass repaint loving scenes from the past. He reflects, “Visit from suburbia/Dropped into this urban dream/It’s a new diversity/In the streets with rising steam/I feel this city claiming me.”
“I think that experience gave me an appreciation for the many cultures that make up our nation. I released the song, ‘Hamtramck,’ on Bandcamp a few years ago. Since then, I have played it as an acoustic piece, and I plan to release a new version similar to my live performance on a new album I’m working on now,” said Alter, who also performs as part of the soul-jazz-rock duo After Blue with Katie Williamson.
“It’s been just about a year since John Lewis passed. I think the impact of the equal justice protests of 2020 still resonate today, but unfortunately at a somewhat lower volume. I want to continue to put a light on John Lewis’ life and that cause in my own way,” he said.
Last spring, Skywerth watched a bewildered nation quickly unravel before his stunned eyes.
The Detroit multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter felt overwhelmed by the social, economic and political upheaval arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had just watched Ahmaud Arbery getting shot down in his own neighborhood and the music industry crumbling overnight all while looking at the incredible divide and conspiracy theories being pushed on social media,” he said.
That lingering frustration, disappointment and anger prompted Skywerth to pen his latest striking multi-genre, emotional-fueled single, “Waves,” featuring Hamtramck indie folk duo Jackamo.
“It was so apocalyptic, so I just wrote exactly what I was observing. Social media is tailored for you, so if anything pops up on your feed that is outside of your belief system, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb, and your friends are going to say it’s wrong, too. No matter what it is, you are constantly being told that you’re right.” he said.
Now available on all streaming platforms, “Waves” elegantly rises with the genre-bending tides of metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop into a symphonic tsunami. Thumping drums, tingling cymbals, swirling electric guitars, crawling bass and expansive synths quickly engulf listeners in a welcoming sense of relief and escape.
Skywerth reflects, “Alone in the waves with your eyes open wide, living in a paradise/Stare into the light/Hands upon the shore, eyes are getting sore/Here we are, caught in the eye of the storm/As the rain starts to fall, as the rain starts.”
“Lyrically, it’s a bit of a pessimistic song. If the song can make two people put their phones down and reconnect with one another in real life for two days, then it would make the year for me,” he said.
Skywerth also forges a beautiful musical connection with Jackamo’s Alison and Tessa Wiercioch, who provide somber, thoughtful harmonies on “Waves.”
“I fell in love with Jackamo the moment I heard them. We have mutual friends, and they also work with Steve (Lehane) at Rustbelt Studios. After writing the lyrics, I knew Ali, Tessa and I could do something pretty cool,” he said.
Along with Jackamo, Skywerth collaborated with Eric Hoegemeyer (soundscapes, synths), Matt Voss (drums) and co-producer Steve Lehane (bass, drum machines, production) on “Waves,” which initially started as an instrumental track.
“After the pandemic hit and I wrote the lyrics, I had this sort of organized chaos. Instead of being consumed by this confusion surrounding me, I had all my thoughts and observations laid out on something that was familiar and felt like home to me,” said Skywerth, who recorded the track at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios and credited Lehane with transforming “Waves” into a vocal track.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to weave all of these (multi-genre) elements together. I’ve got a bit of ADD, so when something sounds the same for several minutes I get bored. I need to change things a bit to keep me interested. I think the dynamics of the tune help outline the emotions felt from the pandemic.”
Skywerth brings those heavy emotions to life in his wistful new video for “Waves” as he ponders the pandemic’s ongoing impact with Alison Wiercioch in Hamtramck. Filmed and edited by Sara Showers and Cheyenne Comerford, the video also features footage of Skywerth performing live inside a vacant Magic Bag in Ferndale.
“We started tossing around ideas for a video in late 2020, and we shot at The Magic Bag in February. It was quite unsettling being in the venue during the pandemic. We also shot in Hamtramck back in the spring, and it was a group of friends running around with a camera,” he said.
Released today, the video adds an emotive, solid layer to the Hamtramck indie folk sibling duo’s wistful debut single, which dropped Feb. 19. It features sisters Alison Wiercioch and Tessa Wiercioch firmly planted in the middle of a sparsely furnished living room while people and objects move around them.
“We’re going to give our roommate Molly a shout-out. We were sitting together back in October, and we said, ‘Gosh, we really want to do a video for this song, but we have no idea what we should do.’ We were shooting off ideas, and Molly said, ‘How cool would it be if you two were in a room and things were moving around you, but you remained at a standstill,” said Alison Wiercioch.
With an initial video blueprint in mind, Jackamo contacted high school friend and director Zach Noonan to bring the “Foundations” concept to life. The Wiercioch sisters developed the video’s storyline and creative approach with Noonan over multiple Zoom calls until he emerged with a script.
“Zach drove around listening to the song, and that’s how he found his creative juices. The song really resonated with him, and when we got his script idea, we were enamored. Zach was the one who had the idea of having different sets,” said Tessa Wiercioch.
Throughout the “Foundations” video, Jackamo and Noonan seamlessly showcase three visual scenes to bring the track’s raw vulnerability to life. The initial living room scene features the Wiercioch sisters singing next to each other as a large stone fireplace provides additional emotional support.
Next, it quickly transitions to the gallery scene as Jackamo kneels together singing on the floor while extras move pieces of their mother’s artwork in and out of the room. The camera continues to circle around the duo into the “nothing scene” as they strongly embrace one another while the extras struggle to pry them apart.
“Zach brought his friend Liam Adams in as the videographer. The entire video is one shot, and they made that light themselves. We told Zach we wanted it to look like the golden hour, and he said, ‘I can definitely make that happen.’ They had their lights fixed up, and that’s the light that’s showing in the camera,” said Alison Wiercioch.
Along with Noonan, Adams and a cast of extras, the Wiercioch sisters filmed the “Foundations” video inside their Howell childhood home. One of the video’s most eye-catching objects includes a white two-story birdhouse that’s shifted throughout the living room. In a sense, the birdhouse captures the structural spirit of the larger home and encapsulates the essence of the track.
“That was Zach’s idea, and he clung on to the fact that we want our song to be taken however the listener takes it. The birdhouse was another object that we could move, but the table it sits on is still there. Somebody moves the table at one point, and that spoke to me. The house is already gone, but the table or the foundation is still there,” said Tessa Wiercioch.
Jackamo keeps their “Foundations” intact as they lie together on the home’s hardwood floor at the video’s close. It’s a subtle reminder the Wiercioch sisters are ready to build additional levels throughout their evolving musical framework.
“We hope it doesn’t make anybody think too much of what they’re supposed to feel in the song. We’ve had a couple of people who have said and thought different things about the video. It’s fun and exciting for us to hear people’s new perspectives,” said Tessa Wiercioch.
Border Patrol masterfully builds a lasting sonic bridge between Detroit and Windsor.
As musical architects, the American-Canadian “folk-everything” duo of Dave Toennies (guitar, vocals) and Cody Howard (banjo, vocals) creates a timeless infrastructure supported by candid lyrics, robust string instrumentation and impassioned vocals on The Worst Excuses.
Released last week, Border Patrol’s second, soul-stirring album spans eight raw tracks layered with shared stories of self-doubt and second guesses wrapped in daily struggles and victories of incremental growth, minor adjustments and hopeful moments. Each Worst Excuses track poignantly and irreverently addresses a spectrum of inner hurdles and identifies novel ways to overcome them.
“It started from my personal experience, and that’s the only way that I’ve managed to make real progress growing in recent years. I’m easily overwhelmed sometimes at the prospect of self-improvement and all the things that have to come with it,” said Toennies, who lives in Hamtramck.
“Because I tend to get real busy and involved in things and overwhelm myself, I try to focus on just the one little thing in front of me that I have to do, get that one done and then move on to the next. Once I started trying to scale that up and applying it to a much more broad growth thing, it’s been the only thing that’s really worked for me.”
Uncovering ‘The Worst Excuses’
With Toennies and Howard at the storytelling helm, Border Patrol invites listeners into a raw, recognizable head trip that crosses international waters and lands directly in the midst of relatable chaos. Their internal journey begins with “A Little Bit Better (Still Bad)” as a tight-knit fusion of folky acoustic guitar, banjo and drums quickly launches into an ongoing tale of feeling stuck personally and professionally.
Despite the track’s initial, dark mood, Toennies eloquently finds a small silver lining, “But there was nothing that could hurt me in that moment/And there was nothing for me in the life I knew/In that moment something unexpected happened/Out of nothing, something grew.” Occasionally, an optimistic, hopeful thought briefly wins over an anxious, weary mind on the toughest of days.
“I hope it’s a positive thing, and there are just a lot of running jokes that we perpetuate, too. It can be sort of depressing music, but I think that it’s depressing in the way that it’s trying to be frank and talk about things that we have a hard time talking about sometimes,” Toennies said.
“We’ve always tried to take these serious topics, and rather than having it sound super serious, maybe make it a little fun, bouncy and upbeat. I hope that it’s relatable and positive in spite of all the things that are wrong.”