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.
Editor’s Note: According to John Hopkins Medicine, 26 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness. That means for every 100 people you meet, 26 of them are struggling with mental illness. NAMI research also shows roughly 5 percent of adults in the U.S. struggle with serious mental illness, and 1 percent of Americans suffer from psychotic disorders.
The Detroit experimental group and rotating collective boldly recounts the internal anguish associated with lingering mental illness battles on “My Book,” which is now available on all streaming platforms.
“It’s a story about living with bipolar 1 disorder and what recovering from a psychotic break and subsequent hospitalization has been like in a recovery process that has lasted four years. Only recently has mental illness become something that is seen as less stigmatized to talk about in certain circles,” said Ben Yost, Blank Tape Tax’s drummer-vocalist.
“However, in most places, there is still a misunderstanding surrounding mental illness, especially with a disorder like bipolar psychosis, which affects 1 percent of all Americans. Although it was not written with this intention, ‘My Book’ has come to start a dialogue about mental illness and remind people that feelings are mentionable and manageable. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.”
Throughout “My Book’s” lo-fi home demo, Blank Tape Tax beautifully reveals that inner strength with Emily Parrish (vocals) and Kavon Williams (piano). Surrounded by somber piano, Parrish poignantly sings, “The words for me are hard to say/I suffer through them every day/And I just want you to hear my pain and to relate/I want to say some old cliché/But oh what the fuck/Here it goes anyway.”
“That being said, I feel conflicted about the lyrics of ‘My Book’ because I felt initially when I wrote them that they were too negative and self-pitying, but after hearing Emily perform it, I’ve come to think that the song is ultimately a positive thing,” Yost said.
“‘My Book’ was written in a few minutes as a stream-of-consciousness poem. I often write this way using free association. I recorded Logan Gaval’s first full-length, Number One, on Flesh and Bone Records, and I was listening to that at the time. I liked the way he sounded like Elliott Smith, and I wanted to write a song in that style (sort of like ‘Needle in the Hay’).”
Yost initially wrote “My Book” as a waltz on his guitar and recorded a demo. The track later blossomed once Parrish added her thoughtful vocals and Williams performed his haunting piano part in Wayne State University’s Old Main Guitar Room.
“I had always planned on re-releasing ‘My Book’ as a single. It took this long primarily because we were still forming a lineup while it was recorded, and then the pandemic hit. When Emily first sang it for us, it was awesome. It reminded me of Janis Ian, but more emotive. Emily really made the song her own while Kavon’s piano was perfect for the song,” Yost said.
Blank Tape Tax also filmed a VHS camcorder-inspired video for “My Book,” which features warm snippets of home movie style footage interspersed with a live performance of Yost, Parrish and Williams. Yost developed the raw, vintage concept for the video after watching two seminal early ‘90s skateboard videos, Blind Skateboards’ “Video Days” and Alien Workshop’s “Memory Screen.”
“The Blind video was a major influence on me as a young kid, and later in life when I saw ‘Memory Screen,’ my imagination had totally been captured by that style of filmmaking. I had also been a fan of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, and the first two Blank Tape Tax videos for ‘Baby’ and ‘Peachy’ had been done in a similar style by visual artist Genevieve Kuzak,” said Yost, who worked with Ethan Long and Nathan Wilkey to edit the “My Book” video.
“I actually ended up being the one behind the camera while filming ‘My Book’ just out of necessity. The footage fits the audio nicely because they were both captured on tape, which gives it a warm home movie quality. All but the editing and mastering were done using analog technology and magnetic tape.”
Looking ahead, Yost and his current Blank Tape Tax lineup of Michael King (upright bass), William Marshall Bennett (piano), Mark Royzenblat (guitar), Isaac Burgess (guitar) and Parrish (vocals) will release additional new material soon.
“We have no previews of anything other than lo-fi home demos. We’re trying to do more stuff in high fidelity, and we plan on a single and an EP. We’re also debating doing a full-length since there’s no touring,” Yost said.
For their debut release, the Kate Hinote Trio beautifully assembles the ideal Detroit songbook.
The Motor City acoustic three-piece of Kate Hinote (vocals), David Johnson (acoustic guitar) and Matthew Parmenter (violin) carefully handpicked an exquisite collection of melodic, mesmerizing tracks from their own catalog as well as from other local songwriters for Near.
“When we were finalizing Near a couple of months ago, I told the guys, ‘One thing that’s going to be compelling about this album is the other songwriters’ contributions.’ Those songs are much different than how I would write or what Matthew Parmenter and I would write together,” said Hinote, who’s previously performed with The Blueflowers, Sound of Eleven and Ether Aura.
“I knew I wanted to have a Detroit songwriters’ album, and every song is so different because of their contributions. It gave the album some variety, and I’m just drawn to songs that have relationship elements. I think that’s the nature of everybody I included,” Hinote said.
The Detroit neo-soul singer-songwriter opted for a classic Motown-inspired sound on her debut EP, Purpose, after forging an initial electronic, trip-hop pathway.
“I love the sound of Emancipator and FKJ, but after touring and performing with them, I realized I wanted to capture more of that Amy Winehouse-Sade vibe. At that moment with electronic music, I wanted to go more in an organic direction of being live with everyone in the studio, and I think these songs lend themselves to that,” Grant said.
“I’ve got this combination of songs, and they sound like Motown, Al Green, Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder. They don’t sound like sound like trip-hop, FKJ or Emancipator. The people who helped arrange these songs with me were U-M jazz school alumni, and they added some jazz influences in there.”
Grant beautifully jazzes up her nostalgic, soulful project across five introspective, fervent tracks. Out today via all streaming platforms,Purpose delves beneath the surface and explores the challenges of reaching self-actualization during a personal transformation.
“After listening back to these songs and realizing this intense process I went through creating this EP, I had this image of a butterfly that kept coming into my mind. When moths and butterflies go through this transformation and reach their final stage, they have to go through this intense cycle. It’s not always pretty, but in the end you’re left with something that’s worth waiting and being patient for,” she said.
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.
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.
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.”
As its first ever in-studio livestream performance, Grove Studios will share three hours of heavy-duty rock for fans to enjoy at home. Broadcast live from the newly renovated Deluxe Studio, viewers will experience a searing show filled with shredding guitars, pulsating drums and thumping bass.
“We’ve had a variety of themed shows over the years and thought it was time to have a collection of heavy rockers this time around. I’m personally looking forward to feeling pounding drums and bass in my chest while wild guitar riffs and vocal runs fill the ether,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and Director of Community Engagement.
Ann Arbor power trio Electric Huldra will launch the show’s heavy-duty night with new tracks from their upcoming self-titled album. It will be the band’s first new material since releasing their latest thunderous single, “Letting Go,” in 2019 and their blazing five-track debut EP,Roadburner, in 2018.
“We will be playing every song except for the one cover song that we put on the record, and we won’t say what that song is to keep the surprise for people listening to the new record. We just hope to go in and show people that rock and roll is alive and well and give them a taste of what to expect when we can hopefully be playing live again soon,” said Bobby Marks, the band’s vocalist and guitarist.
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, last March. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists and bands in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.
“By presenting in-studio livestream performances, we’re not only giving artists a platform to express themselves and maintain a music livelihood, but we also want to share what Grove actually is with the broader community. We’re more than just simply a performance venue or rehearsal and music production space,” said Friebel.
Grove Studios Livestream with Electric Huldra, Edison Hollow & V*A*S*E
One fateful day, Geoff Hornby made a seismic shift in sound.
The Paper Bags singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist traded his acoustic guitar for an electric one and ventured into Delta-inspired blues.
“The current sound – bluesy garage rock – was something that had been brewing inside me for a long time, since the days of playing with The Johnny Timbers during and right out of high school. I wanted to make kind of a blues-infused Nirvana record. And I had grown tired of the acoustic troubadour act – it was time to get heavy,” said Hornby, who lives in Southgate.
Hornby intricately fuses heavy-duty blues with raw, underground garage rock sensibilities on his latest five-track EP, Shifting Metaphor, with drummer Jason O’Dea. The gritty Paper Bags project quickly seeps into the thematic crevices of acceptance, anticipation and appreciation across timeless, authentic tracks inspired by Hornby’s favorite authors.
“As far as those themes, I didn’t intentionally write about any of them. I try not to write with so much intention anymore. It’s all going to get interpreted differently in the end anyway. When I write a set of lyrics, I start with a basic line or idea and just see where it takes me. I feel like most of the time they write themselves and take on a life of their own,” he said.
“Three of the tracks on the album were inspired by novels I’d read in the last few years – “6,000 Stars” was inspired by Graphic: The Valley by Peter Hoffmeister, “Thank You” by Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, and “Butterflies” by Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov. And “Always The Same” is tinged with some concepts found in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.”
The Hamtramck indie folk sibling duo of Alison Wiercioch and Tessa Wiercioch seamlessly constructs a resilient emotional framework comprised of growth, wisdom and reflection on their poignant debut single, “Foundations.”
“We both hope this song helps people to find closure. No matter what, if you keep trying, and you keep working at something, you don’t have to give up just because of the foundation being cracked,” said Tessa Wiercioch, who formed Jackamo with Alison in 2019.
Together, Jackamo instantly seals delicate “Foundations” cracks as sorrowful acoustic strums, thumping drums, pensive strings, tearful electric guitar, thoughtful bass and heavenly First Aid Kit-esque harmonies solidify the soul.
Alison Wiercioch reveals, “I’ve been trying lately/Caught up on the other side/And I’ve been crying lately/Trying to do what they think is right/And I’ve been crying, I’ve been crying/But it’s the fire that makes the ore/And I’ve been dying, I’ve been dying/But I’m tired and I’m sore.”
“I hope all of our songs bring comfort and that people feel something through our music. It’s a huge thing that we always keep in mind when we’re writing and putting music out,” said Alison Wiercioch, who’s the elder sibling by three years.
The Wiercioch sisters invited a team of metro Detroit musical architects to design and shape “Foundations” at Royal Oak’s Rustbelt Studios in 2019. Sammy Boller (guitar), Jimmy Showers (guitar), Steve Lehane (bass) and Steve Stetson (drums) created an emotive, folky infrastructure while Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd (string arrangements), Sarah Cleveland (cello), John Madison (viola) and Joe Deller (violin) added cinematic soundscapes.
“When we had material to record, we thought about who we wanted to work with, and Steve Lehane immediately popped into our heads. We went out to coffee with Steve, and he was this ray of light. Steve was beaming with creativity, and he wanted to see us play our songs. He wanted to bring his friend Sammy along and said they both wanted to work with us,” said Alison Wiercioch.
With Lehane and Boller at the production helm, Jackamo recorded five initial tracks at Rustbelt Studios to lay the groundwork for the duo’s timeless, all-weather sound. They continued to write additional material and perform live throughout the Motor City until COVID-19 shuttered music venues last March.
“Something Ali and I have both realized about these songs is that they haven’t aged a bit. We’re hoping that comes across to others as well. It’s been two years, but we still love them the same. We want to make sure that our music is timeless because we like artists from every decade, and we hope our music won’t have an expiration date,” said Tessa Wiercioch.