Michaela DeBenedictis glistens in vivid southern California sun.
The Los Angeles blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist radiates strength, positivity and growth on her debut sun-drenched album, Resilient, with The Sea Tease.
“All the songs are super personal, and I was diagnosed with PTSD five years ago. This album was, ‘Here’s everything that I had to process and all the people I had to process it with.’ ‘Resilient,’ the title track, really came out of that,” said DeBenedictis, frontwoman for The Sea Tease.
“My mother-in-law actually said to me when I was a couple of years into my recovery, ‘Baby girl, you’re resilient. No matter what happens to you, when you get knocked down, you just pick yourself right back up.’ That just really stuck with me, and I ended up writing ‘Resilient’ off of that.”
Released May 1, Resilient includes poignant lyrics beautifully draped in DeBenedictis’ soulful vocals and illustrious bluesy guitar solos alongside vibrant piano, rhythmic bass, soft percussion and tender acoustic guitar. Together, the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation unearth a “desert magic” vulnerability that emits courage and authenticity throughout The Sea Tease’s seven tracks.
Part of that vulnerability shines on “Gold,” a majestic track beaming with echoey sitars, bluesy electric guitars, light cymbal taps, bouncy percussion and bright acoustic guitar.
In a sense, DeBenedictis has become a “Gold Dust Woman” of the southern California desert weathered and worn as she sings, “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea/And that’s where you should be/You can only drain so much life out of my bones/Before they fossilize and turn to gold.”
“It’s been so long now, and I’ve noticed a part of the healing journey is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I used to think that hiding yourself, being tough and not letting anybody in, I thought that was strength. But I realized strength is when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your story with other people,” she said.
For Widetrack’s Ron Tippin, a new type of “mirror” reveals our hidden truths in a vast technological world.
That “mirror” doesn’t reflect our human faces, but instead displays our evolving digital personas on social media and the Interweb through multiple computer, tablet and phone screens. In a sense, we’re residing in a parallel world while interacting with one another in a dream-like state.
“The idea of The Unwakening is how we immerse ourselves in this digital landscape, and it just makes all our worst tendencies come out, and we just wallow in it. All of our wisdom just goes out the window and so does our better nature,” said Ron Tippin, Widetrack’s vocalist, guitarist and drummer.
Ron Tippin explores this haunting concept throughout Widetrack’s new otherworldly 12-track, alt-prog album, The Unwakening, which dropped yesterday. As part of a Waterford father-son duo with 16-year-old bassist-guitarist Zach Tippin, he travels through a dozen digital tales to uncover the conflicting dualities of our personal and online identities.
“I look at a show like ‘Black Mirror,’ and I’ve read the reviews, and people say, ‘Oh, I get it, digital media is bad.’ Well, it’s not that simple. It’s a fantastically great tool, it can connect us in ways it never could, and it’s the stuff of my childhood imagination,” said Ron Tippin, who released the album to coincide with his son’s 16th birthday.
Together, father and son plunge headfirst into a ‘Black Mirror-esque’ realm filled with an angry online influencer who trolls social media, online forums and discussion threads to create a polarizing digital culture. Each haunting track on The Unwakening chronicles the influencer’s rapid rise to power and eventual decline in a fickle virtual universe.
For Angelo Coppola, Michigan’s coronavirus quarantine feels more like a creative sabbatical.
The Detroit alt rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist dropped a new banger six-track EP, The Quarantine Sessions, Vol. 1, last week to satisfy growing Motor City cravings for additional releases in world currently without “traditional” live music.
“I’m kind of like a songwriting machine, I just can’t stop, and I have way more songs written than I’m able to put out, or I’m able to play with The Lows. I have this back catalog of 30 to 40 finished songs. All six of these are from the past year or so, but they’ve all been developed over time,” said Coppola, who’s also the frontman for The Lows.
“I thought these were the best of the bunch and didn’t know if The Lows would ever play them, but I just wanted to get something out. I’ve had the time now being home with my dad because he helps produce and mix it, and I can finally get a lot of these songs recorded and out that I didn’t have time for before.”
Throughout The Quarantine Sessions, Coppola seeks tantalizing ‘90s alt rock inspiration from genre-heavy royalty, including Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Oasis. A seamless head-banging fusion of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, charging bass and pounding drums immerse listeners in a grungy underworld.
“All six are a wide variety of genres within the rock genre, and I wanted to spread out the styles on the album. It was kind of random the ones we decided to start, and we have eight more that we started, and that I’m going to put out,” Coppola said.
“We’re going to do The Quarantine Sessions, Vol. 2 for sure in the next couple of weeks. It only took us a week to get all six of these done. It was basically like a song a day working down there, and we’re gonna grind out some more, too.”
“The bassist/singer/founder Chip Z’Nuff is a major inspiration to very much of what I do. His style, approach, couth and constant love for his audience is astounding to me,” said Kyle Mikolajczyk, the band’s bassist who named the act after the legendary West Hollywood rock club.
“I cherish learning as much as I can from the legends in rock and roll that have already been where I wish to be. He is a fountain of knowledge and that alone gives me a lot to forward to on Friday.”
Along with infamous Detroit legend Guy Williams (vocals), Brandon Fields (guitar) and Garrett Ramsden (drums), Mikolajczyk will shred his way through collection of timeless hard rock hits. In a sense, the tribute quartet brings the look, feel and sound of the late ‘80s Sunset Boulevard rock and roll lifestyle to the Motor City.
“Individually, each member embodies and fits the style we’re attempting to pay tribute to perfectly. We’re all major ‘80s sleaze rock fanatics, so we take a lot of pride in the small details within each song to properly display them to our audience,” said Mikolajczyk, who also will celebrate Ramsden’s birthday with the band Friday.
“Some call it a blast from the past, but we’re just paying homage to our favorite artists and era, and we’re having a fun time recreating the atmosphere of one of the greatest eras in live entertainment history.”
After discovering their shared love of the music and era, Mikolajczyk and Williams formed Whiskey A Go Go five years ago and later brought Fields and Ramsden into the fold. Mikolajczyk and Fields also share a mutual admiration for Izzy Stradlin and Slash as members of Pretty Tied Up, a Guns N’ Roses tribute band that performs regularly in Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“I built the backing band that has evolved over the years, and we recently put Brandon in the lead guitar position,” Mikolajczyk said. “It’s really helped take us to the next level.”
As a prominent fixture in Detroit’s hard rock and metal scene, Mikolajczyk developed a deep appreciation for the genre while growing up in Canton. At age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and later sold merch and volunteered as a roadie for the Motor City metal band Kro-Magnon as a teenager.
After becoming Kro-Magnon’s bassist, Mikolajczyk quickly became a well-respected musical mainstay in Detroit and later formed HazardHead, a band influenced by ‘80s hard rock and GNR, in 2011.
He also performs as a solo artist and books, manages and promotes local and national pop, rock and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions. Mikolajczyk books acts regularly through the Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore, including the Jan. 25 Ultimate Tribute Fest!, and other hard rock and metal shows.
With a myriad of projects, Mikolajczyk relishes sharing The Token Lounge stage with an impressive roster ‘80s hard rock icons, including Winger, Slaughter, Faster Pussycat and Enuff Z’Nuff.
“Enuff Z’Nuff might not be the biggest chart-topping act, but their music is very cutting-edge. Their last album, ‘Diamond Boy,’ has many musical masterpieces on it for being released only a year or two ago as well as the rest of their discography. They are definitely one of my favorite bands that’s still touring,” Mikolajczyk said.
Wilson will take their final bow of fuckery Saturday night in Pontiac.
The Detroit multi-genre quartet will host three farewell banger shows filled with debauchery and shenanigans for longtime, hardcore fans at The Crofoot.
“The shows will be closure for us and everyone who’s been involved. It will be emotional, but relieving at the same time,” said Jason Spencer, Wilson’s co-founder and guitarist. “We’ve always been transparent with our fans, that’s always been important to me, but all in all, the fans have been polite and supportive.”
Along with bandmates Chad Nicefield (vocals), James Lascu (bass) and Matt Puhy (drums), Spencer announced Wilson’s indefinite hiatus and “Thank You, Goodnight” farewell shows Nov. 6 via the band’s Facebook page. After a decade filled with in-your-face rock, hip-hop and all things ‘90s, the band will celebrate an explosive era three different ways:
1. A “Wilson’s House of Fuckery” 4:30 p.m. pre-party in The Crofoot’s Vernors Room with band conversations and a past, present and future walk-through as well as a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Lighthouse of Oakland County and MusiCares.
2. A 6 p.m. performance of “Tasty Nasty” and “Right to Rise” in their entirety on The Crofoot Ballroom stage. The Messenger Birds, Red Stone Souls and Ladysse will provide support.
3. A 10 p.m. performance of “Full Blast Fuckery” in its entirety on The Pike Room stage. Strange Magic will provide support.
Each show will encompass part of Wilson’s history at their “hometown” venue and allow devoted fans to engage one last time with these genre-bending titans. In a sense, it will be like viewing the exhilarating and exhausting journey through each band member’s eyes.
“The Vernors Room pre-party will consist of props/outfits from old videos, stage props and a bunch of visual aspects. Our fans have always loved the gimmicky parts of the band, so we figured this could be a fun way to obtain items for their Wilson collections … no joke, we have fans who have made entire rooms out of Wilson items,” Spencer said.
“The Ballroom will be a standard Wilson headliner with some visual aspects. But the final show in The Pike Room will be the most intense show because it’s the type of room that has played a big part in our history. You know, punk-rock club style … just wild.”
“Let’s just say everything from ‘Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide’ up until ‘Spaghetti Incident’ is going to be on the table,” said Brandon Fields, aka Slash. “That’s the good thing about being in a tribute to Guns is that they’ve got such a deep catalog. We might have some special guests jamming with us as well.”
Fields will jam with bandmates Kevin Shannon (Axl Rose), Kyle Mikolajczyk (Izzy Stradlin), Dustin Witt (Duff McKagan) and Garrett Ramsden (Matt Sorum) for one of their final 2019 appearances in metro Detroit.
He formed the project earlier this year with Mikolajczyk and Ramsden after their previous GNR tribute band, Uzi Suicide, went on hiatus.
“Guns N’ Roses is my favorite band of all time. These are songs I’ve always wanted to play live and couldn’t necessarily pull off in my other projects,” Fields said. “I made the Facebook page before the band lineup was even finished, and Kyle instantly shot me a message asking what was up with it.”
After teaming up with Mikolajczyk and Ramsden, Fields invited longtime best friend and multi-instrumentalist Witt to join the lineup as well as hard rock vocalist Shannon. The quintet quickly blew up the hard rock music scene in Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee with growing roster of live dates.
“Obviously, whoever is doing Axl’s job is going to have the main attraction in my opinion, so you’ve got to have somebody who’s going to put on a show. Kevin does a good job. Kyle, Dustin and Garrett do an awesome job of holding the rhythm section down as well. Garrett is an absolute monster behind the kit, and I don’t think there’s anybody who would be a better fit for us,” said Fields, who lives in Lexington, Ky., and named the band after a GNR “Use Your Illusion II” track.
“Dustin’s a very smart musician and has been my partner in crime for a few years since he joined my solo band. You never have to worry about him messing up. Kyle plays everything he needs at the right time. He’s in like 10 different bands, and you definitely don’t get to a point like that being an amateur.”
“When I was first offered the opportunity to be in Swizzille Trip, I thought, ‘Psych rock and jam rock, that must be like rock and roll, right?’ The deeper I dig into it I realize the structure, philosophy and approach are totally different,” said Mikolajczyk, who also plays guitar and bass for several Detroit bands.
“Right now, I’m still studying it very deeply and getting into The Grateful Dead, Phish and Dead & Company. It’s very much a learning process I’m going through with Swizzille Trip. The entire project is very open-minded. We just let it flow, and it’s natural.”
Mikolajczyk recently added psychedelic rock to his extensive repertoire when he joined Swizzille Trip last year. He teamed up with Michael Kalb (guitar, vocals) and Preston Preiss (drums, vocals) after they performed at a release party for Detroit alt rock band Black Feather (another Mikolajczyk project).
“They were in search of a new bassist, and I’m always open-minded to new endeavors,” he said. “I very much see eye-to-eye with Michael Kalb.”
That strong musical partnership has manifested into a series of far-out singles from Swizzille Trip’s latest album, “Interstellar Wonderlove,” which carries themes of peace and unity. The band’s latest single, “Water,” serves as a heartfelt acoustic rock anthem while “Sand” provides an intergalactic, bass-fueled cover of the 2000 Phish classic.
Swizzille Trip will continue to record and release tracks from “Interstellar Wonderlove” in the coming months. In September, they’ll return to Tempermill Studio in Ferndale to hammer out additional songs, including the holiday-tinged “Zombie Snowman” for a November release.
The Detroit hard rock quintet draws inspiration from Kurt Cobain’s gritty guitars, Dave Grohl’s pounding drums and Layne Staley’s signature vocals on their new 3.5-minute fist-pumping ode to ‘90s grunge.
Together, they breathe new Motor City life into the original underground Seattle sound inspired by Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
“I wrote that song a long time ago when I went to Ferris State University for a year. I had moved up there by myself, and I didn’t know anybody,” said Angelo Coppola, frontman for The Lows. “I got inspired to write that song based off the media, social media and people in general, and it felt like there was a loss of love in the world.”
“Love Xtinction” is The Lows’ first new single since releasing their self-titled debut EP in 2017 and the first recording to feature the entire band lineup, including Nick Behnan (guitar, vocals), Brandon McNall (guitar), Johnny “Wolf” Abel (bass) and Duane Hewins (drums).
“For ‘Love Extinction,’ we picked it up and transformed each part of it into being even better, while the original EP was pretty much me just playing every instrument,” Coppola said. “We’re also going to release another single, ‘Love Will Find a Way,’ later this month or in early August. It’s the opposite viewpoint to ‘Love Xtinction.’”
Both singles will be featured on a new two-song EP called “The Love Sessions,” which will be sold at the band’s upcoming shows. In addition to their new singles, The Lows have played an impressive roster of live shows with several iconic ‘90s bands, such as Stone Temple Pilots and Candlebox.
They’ll also play several shows this month, including the Uncle Sam Jam with Sugar Ray in Woodhaven on July 13, the Pig & Whiskey festival in Ferndale with Verve Pipe on July 19 and Tommystock in Lake Orion on July 26.
“We’re going to be playing a lot of shows with Sponge because we’re part of the same management team,” Coppola said. “We’re also getting on the bill for a couple of out of town shows in Ohio and Pennsylvania in August.”
Before playing with iconic ‘90s artists, Coppola formed The Lows, a wordplay on his first name, while attending the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) as a music business student in 2017.
Initially a solo project, he wrote and recorded the band’s first track, “Purple,” an homage to Prince, for the DIME Sessions (Vol. 3) compilation album. With the success of “Purple,” Coppola teamed up with Chuck Alkazian to produce and record The Lows’ debut EP at Canton’s Pearl Sound Studios.
While growing up in Macomb, Coppola developed an ear for rock music thanks to his father, who’s also a musician. He started playing drums at age three and won a contest at age seven while playing KISS songs on the former “America’s Most Talented Kid” TV show.
By high school, Coppola developed an obsession with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins, taught himself guitar and learned how to write songs. He also played drums in a band called Shockwave and studied music business at Ferris State University before transferring to DIME and forming The Lows.
Two years later, Coppola and The Lows have played several metro Detroit music festivals and performed at Saint Andrew’s Hall and The Fillmore. Next up, they’re going to record more singles and possibly revisit their debut EP.
“I have 30 completed songs, and I have a home studio where I demo them out there first,” Coppola said. “We going to go single by single for the moment until we compile enough. We may even remix the first EP and put it together with a bunch of new singles that we have.”
The Detroit-based hard rock band will join more than 120 artists, including Ace Frehley, The Dead Kennedys, Belinda Carlisle and Sponge, during the free festival, which includes seven stages of music and a muscle car showcase today through Sunday in downtown Detroit.
The Lows will take the stage in Detroit’s Hart Plaza at 3:15 p.m. Saturday for their hour-long, 15-song set. Fans can expect original Lows’ tunes and covers from Detroit music legends, including Alice Cooper and The Stooges, as well as ‘90s grunge classics.
For Angelo Coppola and his Lows bandmates, the festival is an incredible chance to help revive the rock music scene in the Motor City.
“Basically, I think there’s not enough of the straight-up rock sound going on anymore,” said Coppola, frontman for The Lows. “There are some great bands like Greta Van Fleet and some others from Detroit doing it. I think the world needs more of it, and I think tons of people personally want something to change with mainstream music. We’re just trying to hopefully be part of it carrying the torch and bringing it back around.”
Coppola learned his band would join the all-star rock music festival lineup after he submitted “Road Trippin’,” a track from The Lows’ 2017 self-titled debut EP for a 12-song Motor City Muscle compilation album.
“The criteria for that was the song had to be about cars, and it had to mention Detroit in the song,” he said. “I went back into the studio where I recorded the EP, and I just changed one line of the first verse with producer Chuck (Alkazian) to include a reference to Detroit in there, then I submitted it, and they picked it for the album.”