Recharge and Reset – The Soods Explore Renewed Mindset on ‘A Ray Rewired Vol. 2’ EP

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“A Ray Rewired Vol. 2” deeply explores The Soods’ internal terrain while focusing on the future. Photo – Jason Roy

Jason Roy instantly breathes a sigh of relief.

The Soods frontman and multi-instrumentalist quickly sheds a weathered emotional exoskeleton for a recharged future mindset on the collective’s latest contemplative indie rock EP, A Ray Rewired Vol. 2, via GTG Records.

“These songs feel like you’re shedding some skin, and you’re hatching out of an egg in a way. The world is a lot different now than it was two years ago, and it will be in a year, five years or 10 years from now,” said Roy, who’s based in Grand Rapids. “If you’re not shedding your skin every once in a while, then you probably need to do some self-reflection.”

As a cerebral outgrowth of A Ray Rewired Vol. 1, the second volume deeply explores sensitive internal terrain throughout pier houses, Haight-Ashbury and nearby neighborhoods and action-packed reveries. It also features an impressive roster of returning Soods collaborators, including Chris Coble, Matt Ten Clay, Steven Meltzer and others.

“There were a few things that kind of changed course a little bit along the way, and that was something a younger me wouldn’t have always been as open to,” Roy said. “The longer I get to make music, the more rewarding it is to come up with a really good idea and then have someone strengthen that with an equal or better idea.”

Continue reading “Recharge and Reset – The Soods Explore Renewed Mindset on ‘A Ray Rewired Vol. 2’ EP”

Adrenaline Rush – The Indigo Curve Kick-Starts Dormant Souls with Vigorous Self-Titled EP

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The Indigo Curve performs at their EP release show in August. Photo – Chris Sesta

The Indigo Curve provides the ultimate indie rock adrenaline rush.

The Detroit quintet of Ish Chowdhury (vocals, guitar), Adam Liles (guitar), Niko Kannapell (bass), Markus Kennedy (drums) and Mike Liles (organ, keys) instantly kick-starts dormant souls with a welcoming infusion of vigorous instrumentation, contemplative lyrics and emotive vocals.

“With this band, a goal of ours is to make music that’s a story of 2021. I don’t want a feeling of ‘this reminds me of 1995’ or ‘this takes me back to the ‘70s.’ It’s not like that’s bad or anything. That music is sweet as hell, but I just think we’re trying to make today’s song,” said Chowdhury, who formed the band with Adam Liles and their three bandmates in 2020.

Chowdhury, Adam Liles and their bandmates will bring that modern musical mindset to The Detroit Shipping Company live stage on Oct. 16. They will perform two 45-minute, action-packed sets at the Detroit-based restaurant collective.

“We’re a little over a year in, and with this music that we just put out with this EP, we’re starting to find where the five of us come together to make a sound that’s all of us. That’s compared to last summer when we just were playing and writing whatever came to mind,” Adam Liles said.

Continue reading “Adrenaline Rush – The Indigo Curve Kick-Starts Dormant Souls with Vigorous Self-Titled EP”

Perfect Match – Jake LeMond, Juliane Bednarz Combine Songwriting Powers for Hickey Eyes ‘Nosey’ Single

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Hickey Eyes’ Jake LeMond and Juliane Bednarz sparkle on their latest single, “Nosey.” Photo – Alayna Currey

Jake LeMond and Juliane Bednarz serve as an emerging, magical songwriting team.

The Hickey Eyes indie rock duo and real-life couple meld enchanting, lush harmonies with infectious, glistening pop soundscapes on their latest single, “Nosey.”

“‘Nosey’ started off as just a chorus I came up with. That same night I was on the phone with Juliane joking about how she’s nosey, and we thought it would be funny to use that as an idea for another Hickey Eyes song,” said LeMond, who’s based in Detroit.

“I sang her a melody of how I thought the verses should go, and she sent me the whole first verse. I thought her words were perfect, so all I had to do was write a second verse.”

Throughout “Nosey,” breezy, sleek Mellotron seamlessly fuses with ascending, vibrant acoustic strums, tranquil slide guitar, steady drums and mellow bass to overcome potential relationship challenges.

LeMond sings, “Electric start/I head for the airport/Every goodbye seems to be cut short/Wish we could talk/Dead on the weekends/Against the clock/Gone off the deep end.”

“Collaborating with Jules on this one was fun because I would just send her voice memos of my progress throughout the night while I was writing, and she sent a verse, so it all came pretty fast since the chorus was already written,” he said.

“We share music ideas with each other as they come to us, and being that we’re so close, we’re not afraid to share honest opinions. Jules is new to songwriting, so she is still figuring out her style.”

LeMond and Bednarz also expanded their Hickey Eyes “Nosey” collaboration to include Ian Ruhala (slide guitar, Mellotron), Chris Koo (vocal editing), Ben Fisher (drum editing), Jake Rye (mixing) and Mike Cervantes (mastering).

“I spent a good chunk of time demoing out this one in my bedroom while learning how to use Logic. It started out much slower and sounded pretty sad to be honest. Jules wasn’t all that crazy about that version, so I tried to give it more energy to balance out the somewhat sad lyrics,” LeMond said.

“I (also) tracked slide guitar and Mellotron at my friend Ian Ruhala’s house. Ben Fisher who mixed ‘Spoon Me’ helped edit drums. Chris Koo, who I’ve had the opportunity to write with a lot for this year for his project Yueku, edited vocals, and he’s definitely inspired me to put out more music recently with how consistent he’s been with his releases.”

Continue reading “Perfect Match – Jake LeMond, Juliane Bednarz Combine Songwriting Powers for Hickey Eyes ‘Nosey’ Single”

Back in the Day – Ben Yost Unearths Deep Cuts for ‘Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1’ EP

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A new alt-folk/emo/indie rock compilation project transports Ben Yost back to past shows, favorite venues and life-changing friendships.

The Blank Tape Tax vocalist-guitarist specially curated the five-track EP via Kickpop Records to share deep cuts from Greet Death’s Logan Gaval, For Once in My Life, The Flaks and Broadacre as well as his current band.

“The most important music to me is my music and the music of my friends because it’s the soundtrack to my life. It makes me think of old venues like the Genesis, the old Sanctuary, Toepfer House and Elijah’s (Q-Nails),” said Yost, who’s based in Detroit.

“It also makes me think of our friendships and our time together as a family. Starting Kickpop Records is about releasing music for me and my friends and to maintain the catalogs of a few artists so their music will always be out there to listen to.”

Yost launched Kickpop Records, a small DIY label, during the pandemic and released his first project, KP-005, or Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1, on 10-inch vinyl earlier this summer. While the vinyl release quickly sold out, listeners can still spin the compelling, cerebral project via Spotify.

KP-005 (or Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1) is just a little taste of what you might expect to hear in the future from Kickpop Records. The first three songs (Logan Gaval, Blank Tape Tax and For Once in My Life) all stick to a theme and were recorded on a Tascam Portatstudio. The last two songs are from out-of-print records of the two bands I drummed and wrote for – The Flaks and Broadacre,” Yost said.

“The idea for the (compilation) came from Broadacre bassist Matt Farrett. Matt and I were talking about releasing the nine-song Broadacre project, and he suggested we test the waters on a (compilation) first.”

Continue reading “Back in the Day – Ben Yost Unearths Deep Cuts for ‘Kickpop Records Sampler No. 1’ EP”

Instant Connection – The Soods Fuse Hopeful Tales on ‘A Ray Rewired Vol. 1’ EP

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The Soods’ “A Ray Rewired Vol. 1” EP serves as the quintessential companion for a short summer sonic getaway. Artwork – Tansy Harris

As a Grand Rapids musical connector, Jason Roy seamlessly wires together hopeful vignettes for the unknown days ahead.

The Soods frontman and multi-instrumentalist solders brief mesmerizing, impactful tales of renewal and release on the collective’s latest electrifying indie rock EP, A Ray Rewired Vol. 1, via GTG Records.

“I think the overall feel of these songs has an upbeat rhythm of life to it. At the root of it, there’s an emotion of love, and music is meant to uplift,” said Roy, who co-produced the project and named it after a lyric in The Soods’ single, “Symbiotic Mono Band.”

“Even with the saddest stuff there should be some connective tissue of ‘Hey, it’s not always gonna be this bad, or shit’s gonna get better.’”

Along with a talented cast of Soods collaborators, Roy elaborately threads seven thoughtful tracks into an emotive, cohesive 15-minute listen. A Ray Rewired Vol. 1 serves as the quintessential companion for a short summer sonic getaway during a hectic, stressful day.

“I approach it like an art project in a sense. Let me start it, and I’m gonna use my palette to paint as good of a picture as I can to set you up to put on the finishing touches,” Roy said.

“Sometimes, I’ll get a vocal back, or I’ll be recording one with Steven (Meltzer), and be like, ‘Oh OK, we need to change direction.’ Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s more of a ‘Ooh, I never thought to approach it that way.’”

Continue reading “Instant Connection – The Soods Fuse Hopeful Tales on ‘A Ray Rewired Vol. 1’ EP”

Days of Future Past – Major Murphy Reaches Personal Crossroads on New ‘Access’ Album

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Major Murphy’s Jacki Warren, Brian Voortman, Chad Houseman and Jacob Bullard revisit personal struggles and explore newfound intrinsic possibilities on “Access.” Photo – New Archive

With Access, Major Murphy beautifully arrives at the emotive intersection of past and future.

The Grand Rapids indie rock quartet of Jacob Bullard (vocals, guitar), Jacki Warren (bass, vocals), Brian Voortman (drums) and Chad Houseman (guitar, keys, percussion) seamlessly navigates undiscovered internal roads filled with uncertainty, contemplation and growth on their boundless sophomore album.

“You have to go rock bottom to be able to adequately move forward. At times, it can be a little dark, scary or intense, but ultimately if you don’t face some of those things, then you’ll be missing the point. Anxiety and stress are definitely fused into the record, but it’s for the purpose of being able to identify things and put them to rest,” Bullard said.

Major Murphy deeply revisits personal struggles and explores newfound intrinsic possibilities across nine introspective, cinematic and experimental tracks on Access, which arrived April 2 via Winspear on all streaming platforms.

Each thoughtful, captivating track weaves a reflective, relatable tale about arriving at an unexpected crossroads and grappling with the amount of control one has in life. Layered with choose-your-own-adventure insights, Access prompts listeners to decide the direction of their next fateful turn.

“I was going through a lot of big changes, and I started writing songs in 2017. Part of the optimism is saying even when everything around you shifts and you don’t really recognize it, the old way of being doesn’t need to hold precedent. You have the find the strength within yourself to accept the new reality and adapt,” Bullard said.

Continue reading “Days of Future Past – Major Murphy Reaches Personal Crossroads on New ‘Access’ Album”

Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single

Josh Kemp embraces uncertainty on his latest Au Gres single, “At Home in the Dark.” Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Au Gres, not every problem requires an immediate solution.

Instead, the Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter finds instant relief in uncertainty on his latest introspective, self-comfort single, “At Home in the Dark,” which dropped Feb. 26 via all streaming platforms.

“I hope this song might encourage others to be more present with each other during hard times, though not necessarily in the physical sense, pandemic and all. I wrote it specifically about someone dealing with depression, but I think it applies to much more than that,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“These moments don’t always call for ‘solutions.’ Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just let them know you’re available to talk and reassure them that they aren’t ‘broken.’”

Au Gres beautifully provides a sense of solace as ascending, sheeny synths, thoughtful electric guitar, delicate drums and soft bass surround listeners while they’re feeling “At Home in the Dark.” Kemp reveals, “I wanna be there when it rains/I wanna know you on your bad days, baby/I wanna be there when you start/To think the wrong things in the right time frame.”

“So much of this track is inspired by my experience with depression (i.e., the dark). I’ve had moments in my life where I really needed someone to help me feel less alone. I’ve also been the one to do that for others,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit, Phoenix and The Smashing Pumpkins.

“The thing about depression is that it’s usually episodic, and when you’re in it, you usually don’t want or need to hear solutions. Sometimes the best thing to do for someone is just sit with them while they’re in it. Bringing over a cheap bottle of wine often helps, too.”

Continue reading “Pain Relief – Au Gres Finds Comfort on New ‘At Home in the Dark’ Single”

Beyond the Horizon – Darity Shares Hopeful Message of Gratitude on ‘Everything’

Darity’s “Everything” serves as a hopeful anthem for 2021. Artwork – Olivia Sergi

For Darity, a new year faintly shines in the distance.

Specks of wintry sunlight peer through thick January clouds and serve as a hopeful reminder of better times ahead. Those far-flung rays symbolically represent the gratitude Darity expresses in her latest uplifting single, “Everything,” which dropped Tuesday via all streaming platforms.

“I wrote this song for myself initially. I just think it’s so easy to think about all the things we don’t have. This song started like a long journal entry. I went on a tour with a band pre-Bitterroot and had a lot of conversations of the leader of that band about the struggles of being an artist and a band leader. I noticed that a lot of it was centered around being on the edge of losing hope and feeling like we didn’t have what we needed to be an artist,” said Darity, aka Linsley Hartenstein.

Throughout “Everything,” Darity, a Cincinnati indie rock singer-songwriter, poignantly captures the fight for hope as twirling synths, pulsating bass, vivid electric guitar, delicate drums and soft cymbal taps slowly surround and envelope listeners. She calmly sings,” Run after it/Desire breathes by design/You’re my dream not a fault line/And disappointment’s bound to dig a cliff/But I will walk with you through all of it/You were made for this edge.”

“Recording vocals for this song was painful because this is such a hard truth to swallow. All of the things, all of the outside support that maybe we think we need, or that we do need, we are all put on this planet to do something specific. If that is your worldview, then you as a person have everything you need. That’s a power and a posture that’s so hard when the whole world is telling you that you lack something,” said Hartenstein, who initially wrote the track in 2017.

After laying the initial foundation for “Everything,” Darity teamed up with Coastal Club frontman and producer Alex Hirlinger and drummers Simon Alexander and Dan Crowe to record the track. Together, they infused the hopeful, whimsical sonic quality to evolve it.

“Alex is one of the best arrangers I’ve ever met, so he did all of the production around it. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I gave him what the band and I had been playing live, and he rewrote everything aside from the drums. He is responsible for the world around that song, and I’m really grateful,” she said.

Darity also dropped a stunning lyric video for “Everything,” which features her strolling along a deserted roadside near the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. It simply captures the personal time Darity needed to process her feelings and develop a mindset filled with gratitude.

“Josh and I made this lyric video here in Montana. When the pandemic hit, I was on tour on the west coast, so I figured I’d put that Easter egg in there and make a little video,” said Hartenstein, who developed the video with her partner Josh Kemp of Au Gres. (Check out Au Gres’ dreamy, pro-soulmate single, “Nervous.”)

Continue reading “Beyond the Horizon – Darity Shares Hopeful Message of Gratitude on ‘Everything’”

Necessary Nourishment – The Stratton Playlist November 2020 Edition Refuels for Road Ahead

With November’s upcoming arrival, some soulful sonic nourishment is needed to weather and withstand the remainder of 2020.

Fortifying morsels of lo-fi folk, shiny indie pop, fiery classic rock, breezy dance, garage-filled indie rock, heartfelt acoustic ballads and groovy, emotive hip-hop strengthen the mind and spirit for the unknown road ahead.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist shares a satiating sonic respite before the chaotic journey resumes. Featured sonic companions include Grooblen, Au Gres, Michael Snyder-Barker and The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, The Kodaks with Jemmi Hazeman and Quells, Lily Talmers, Louis Picasso & The Gallery and more.

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

Break the Ice – Au Gres Finds Instant Romantic Comfort on New ‘Nervous’ Single

Au Gres’ Josh Kemp celebrates a new relationship on “Nervous.”

Au Gres instantly creates the proverbial comfort zone.

The Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter quickly throws anxiety, hesitation and doubt aside in his latest warm, dreamy pro-soulmate single, “Nervous,” which dropped Oct. 16.

“The song was inspired by my girlfriend, and I don’t usually set out to write a song. Instead, I mess around with progressions until I get an idea of what I want it to be about, and the song kind of writes itself. But for this one, I just felt so comfortable with her, like right off the bat, and I wanted to write something that felt that way,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“I sat in my room for a long time, and I wrote that bendy hook and everything else around it because it felt perfect to me. It was just me with my laptop in my room. I think I wrote most of it in an afternoon, and then I came back to it quite some time later and added more and more to it.”

With glistening acoustic strums, whimsical electric guitars, vivid bass, pulsating drums and atmospheric synths, “Nervous” serves as the ideal romantic icebreaker that immediately puts apprehensive partners at ease. It’s the melodic, soaring anthem everyone longs to hear on a magical first date.

Throughout the Mac DeMarco-like track, Kemp reveals, “I think I overstayed my welcome/But I think you want me to/Stick around/To bring you coffee or a cigarette/I don’t think we’re done yet/Not for now.”

“It’s a reminder that the reward is worth it so to speak, and I’m talking about long-lasting, real relationships. It’s tough to make yourself vulnerable with people, and sometimes if you want to have that kind of relationship, then you have to be the one to take the plunge and let your walls come down,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit and Phoenix.

Eight months ago, Kemp shared bedroom laptop demos of “Nervous” with Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. Rye solidified the track’s final version while Noah de Leon (guitars, keys, synth) and Kemp (guitar, keys, synth) handled the arrangements and invited drummer Brodie Glaza.

“Noah and I had most of the arrangements filled out, but Jake would take a look at certain parts and help fill in the gaps a little bit. He gave things a lift where they needed and dove into those melancholic, indie feels. He was really good at drawing that part out,” Kemp said.

“I think it really grew into what I had in my head, like when I was in my bedroom. And to hear it come alive with real drums because I was just using samples, and even now listening to it and thinking about that experience, like COVID, and how strange it is to be back working on music, but also at the same time it felt very right and very good. It finally felt like a slice of something very nice.”

Last week, Kemp shared another slice of “Nervous” through a new lyric video recorded with Darity’s Linsley Hartenstein. The quirky video shows Kemp enthusiastically performing multiple parts on a flashy, portable ‘80s color TV (akin to Lindsey Buckingham’s 1981 “Trouble” video).

“It’s a little silly, and it’s my first go ever using a green screen,” said Kemp with a laugh. “We wanted to have fun with it.”

Continue reading “Break the Ice – Au Gres Finds Instant Romantic Comfort on New ‘Nervous’ Single”