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”

Coming Home – Young Ritual Performs Headlining Set Saturday at Sanctuary Detroit

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Young Ritual will perform his first live show in nearly 18 months at Sanctuary Detroit on Saturday. Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Young Ritual, Saturday’s live show at Sanctuary Detroit feels like a long-awaited homecoming.

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.”

Continue reading “Coming Home – Young Ritual Performs Headlining Set Saturday at Sanctuary Detroit”

Light Year – Michigander Rediscovers Purpose on ‘Everything Will Be OK Eventually’ EP

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Michigander’s “Everything Will Be OK Eventually” EP offers hope and optimism for the future. Photo – Kris Herrmann

For Michigander, a new release lights the way after a dark year.

The Detroit indie pop singer-songwriter shares a renewed sense of personal and creative purpose on his third optimistic, six-track EP, Everything Will Be OK Eventually, out today on all streaming platforms.

“I’m hoping these songs will become a soundtrack of a return to normal. I tend to write sad music, but it sounds nice and happy, and that usually kind of tricks people. People resonate with each EP and every song coming out at certain time frames in their lives,” said Jason Singer, aka Michigander.

“It feels weird to know this one will do the same thing, and I know one day I’ll look back on this time, so I try to enjoy it now. I hope it serves as a time stamp and takes people back to where we are right now.”

Released via C3 Records, Michigander’s Everything Will Be OK Eventually instantly transports pandemic-fatigued listeners to a hopeful nearby future filled with highly anticipated face-to-face interactions and group gatherings. Each melodic, expansive track allows people to release pent-up sighs of relief and shed lingering worries as they progress from one song to the next.

That cathartic return to normalcy starts with Singer’s latest exhilarating, spirited single, “Better,” as ascending, vibrant synths, roaring electric guitars, pounding drums and buoyant bass reveal a promising road ahead and a peaceful disruption in time.

Singer reflects, “You’re always scared of getting caught/Always questioning your thoughts/But you can’t hide how you feel/I wanna know how you feel/Feels like time is moving quicker, but I’m getting slower/Guess that’s just a part of getting older/Wish I could look away.”

“I tend to write music with the intention of knowing what’s the opener and what’s the ender, and I fill everything in the middle. ‘Better’ and ‘Together’ are purposely where they’re at on the EP, and it was very intentional to open it massively and close it softly. My favorite albums have great openers and great endings, and it’s something I always want to replicate when I make my music,” he said.

Continue reading “Light Year – Michigander Rediscovers Purpose on ‘Everything Will Be OK Eventually’ EP”

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”

Tale from the Crypt – Melanie Pierce Buries Painful Past on ‘Your Grave’

Melanie Pierce entombs her past on “Your Grave.”

With an eye on the present, Melanie Pierce wants to leave the past dead and buried.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter beautifully entombs former relationships, painful experiences and destructive thoughts into a secret crypt on “Your Grave,” a heartfelt, courageous anthem about moving forward.

“It was several situations that were not ideal and that happened at the same time. When the song was originally written, I had a lot of rage because it felt like so much was going wrong,” said Pierce, who released the track Oct. 30 via all streaming platforms.

“My mindset when I was younger was more angsty and negatively focused, and I was in a band at the time, and they were breaking up and a relationship was failing. It felt like too much at the time, and this song was born out of it.” 

Throughout “Your Grave,” murky, alternating synths ping-pong between yesterday and today while pulsating drums, calm bass and intermittent piano ultimately lower Pierce’s past six feet underground.

She bravely sings, “Turn left because I ran out of rights/Done pretending to be so nice/So formal like we’re supposed to/Keepin’ tabs on people livin’ my dream/I’m livin’ with the ghost you left for me/Remember when you said this was just a dream/And that’s all it will ever be/I’ve been pickin’ up the pieces slowly.”

“It’s taking the next step and acknowledging things aren’t going your way and have ended. I’m literally speaking through the lyrics that I’m throwing this in a grave, moving on and seeing the other side of the bad situation and stepping into a positive, new beginning,” Pierce said.

“I think everybody has the ability to change in all aspects of life, and I feel like I’ve shifted toward a much healthier perspective. Being able to cope with change also comes with time as you grow and learn more about yourself and the world around you. I was put on this planet to make music, write songs and perform. I’ve really stepped into the artist that I’ve always wanted to become and learned how to navigate this musical journey.”

Continue reading “Tale from the Crypt – Melanie Pierce Buries Painful Past on ‘Your Grave’”

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”

July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments

Melanie Pierce reflects inward on her latest single, “Illusions.” Artwork – Jenya Po

Melanie Pierce magically travels to the other side of the mirror.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter ventures beyond the looking glass and reflects on misunderstood life moments in “Illusions,” a spellbinding glimpse into vivid realizations and intense ruminations.

“I was in this relationship for a long time and had felt misunderstood on so many levels throughout that period of time. And not just by that person, but also by my family because they were not super on-board with music. I also lost some friends in a short amount of time due to music and that relationship,” Pierce said.

“I was really reflecting on that time, and I remember exactly what I was doing when that song came out of me. The first line that actually came out was, ‘Painted words on paper-thin walls,’ and I was watching this TV show, and I paused it and went to the piano. That song was written in like 40 minutes, and it was written very easily and clearly, like I knew in me what I wanted to say and what I wanted to get out.”

Featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Illusions” blends somber synths, sorrowful piano, shimming electric guitars, soaring electronic drums and throaty bass into a hypnotic, sonic head-trip.

Akin to Vanessa Carlton, Pierce’s soulful vocals implode her romantic mirage as she ponders, “I thought I’d figured it out/Wide-eyed, I mapped it out/But you say I’m too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I try to pull back/Quiet the noise inside my head/But you say it’s too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I’ll never let this go.”

Pierce recorded “Illusions” earlier this year with producer Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. He helped Pierce crystallize the track’s vision and added majestic arrangements to quickly transform it in the studio.

“We would go back and forth like, ‘What do you hear for this part?’ and he had a good direction of where the production was headed. He came up with an awesome, meaty bassline, and I can’t really say enough positive things about him,” said Pierce, who learned about Rye through his collaborations with Michigander.

Continue reading “July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments”

Silver Linings – Katie Pederson Shares Hopeful Words of Wisdom on ‘The Tracking Room Sessions’

Katie Pederson has recorded three new tracks for her latest EP, “The Tracking Room Sessions.” Photo by Savannah Wilde

Katie Pederson magically creates her own silver linings.

The Nashville pop singer-songwriter sprinkles hopeful words of wisdom and growth after recovering from heartbreak on her latest poignant, three-track EP, The Tracking Room Sessions, which dropped May 1 via all streaming platforms.

“I think at that time in my life I was going through a lot of that in different areas. A lot of times for me, breakup songs are so much more than that. I think there’s a lot of loss in different areas of my life, and that was just the best way that I could articulate it,” Pederson said.

Pederson beautifully articulates her personal reflections about love and loss throughout her fourth piano-centric release recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville. Soulful, emotive vocals and hypnotic, uplifting piano chords immerse listeners in spirit-healing waters after experiencing the unexpected sting of rejection.

That first drop of relief arrives in “Quiet Waters,” which blends deep, sparse piano, delicate bass and sweeping drum brushes with Pederson’s melancholy, velvety vocals as she laments, “Take me back to that night/Manhattan and a glass of wine/When my hope was alive, you had that fire in your eyes/Ritter on the radio, singing I’m coming home/And the stars in the sky were aligned/All the things we didn’t know such a short time ago/All my days I thought you’d be mine.”

While initially ruminating in “Quiet Waters,” Pederson confidently embarks on a therapeutic journey throughout “Recover.” The self-assured track weaves soulful hums, rhythmic finger snaps, lingering piano, delicate synths and light bass as she emphatically declares, “I’m moving to Alaska/Lord knows I am never coming back,” and “There is no amount of red or white to calm this anxious mind.”

“‘Quiet Waters’ and ‘Recover’ were songs that I had written in June or July of last year, and I had written quite a few in that time period. Those two were the ones that stuck out to me the most,” said Pederson, who’s originally from Ann Arbor.

Perhaps Pederson’s most striking track includes a new soaring acoustic version of “The Landing” as vibrant, thoughtful piano entwines with sorrowful, optimistic vocals. Throughout her turbulent flight, Pederson tries to “soften the landing” as she sings, “Oh the road has been long and lonely/And one of my darkest nights/I swear you saved me/I was high as hope could’ve ever let me fly/And we were alone, you and I.”

Continue reading “Silver Linings – Katie Pederson Shares Hopeful Words of Wisdom on ‘The Tracking Room Sessions’”

Adventures with Vultures Embraces Duality on Latest Single, ‘Youth & Danger’

Adventures with Vultures latest single, “Youth & Danger,” seamlessly blends two songs into one.

Adventures with Vultures wishes he could thank Freddie Mercury.

The Plymouth indie folk-rock singer-songwriter credits the late Queen frontman with inspiring his new single, “Youth & Danger,” which blows past the traditional 3.5-minute mark.

“I recently watched the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ movie, and they were telling Freddie Mercury how the song, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ was way too long to be a single,” said Matt Sauter, aka Adventures with Vultures. “He’s like, ‘Fuck you, if I want a 15-minute single, then I’m going to put a 15-minute single out.’ Then, I was thinking about ‘Youth & Danger,’ and I said I’m just going to make it one long song.”

Adventures with Vultures’ latest single, the alt rock, indie folk-tinged “Youth & Danger,” clocks in at 7.5 minutes and originally started as two separate songs. During live shows, Sauter and his bandmates brother Dan Sauter (bass), Jon Staten (drums) and Jimmy Showers (guitar) would merge both songs since they’re in the same key.

“The first part of the song, ‘Youth,’ is about my grandma. I wrote that song about a week after she passed away, and it was one of those songs that took me not even 30 minutes to write,” Sauter said. “I also decided to write a song, ‘Danger,’ about how I was growing up with drinking, smoking, partying and girls. My brother is in the band, and he was like, ‘Blend the two together, man,’ and the name stuck.”

A gorgeous track, “Youth & Danger” opens with a quiet acoustic guitar solo while a slide guitar echoes in the background. This complementary guitar work sets the stage for a quiet, reflective tune as Sauter sings in a raspy voice, “Well, heaven’s gates won’t let me in/When I die I’ll guarantee they’ll sing so they can come down.”

A set of quiet, delicate cymbals crash in response to Sauter’s solemn tone – “They married young and they raised their kin/They had two young daughters and my mother Kim/And a son named Joseph/But oh I cry every time I sing this song.”

Continue reading “Adventures with Vultures Embraces Duality on Latest Single, ‘Youth & Danger’”

Adventures with Vultures Explores Alt Rock Sound on New ‘Back to Normal’ Single

Adventures with Vultures has released their latest single, “Back to Normal,” which features a new alt rock sound.

Adventures with Vultures is bringing a new normalcy to acoustic indie folk rock.

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.”

Adventures with Vultures’ Matt Sauter

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.”