Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’

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Chirp pauses during a recording session at Willis Sound. Photo – Joe Sleep

Chirp proudly follows their funky musical instincts.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet of Jay Frydenlund (guitar, vocals), Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Gastón Reggio (drums) listens to their collective creative conscience on their fervent new single, “Solo.”

“Vulfpeck and Cory Wong were a massive influence on the approach to this tune and the rest of the upcoming record. The old school, funky vibe they bring to their songwriting and playing has been a big influence on all of us,” Frydenlund said. “I’m not sure this song would have happened without a steady amount of Vulf in my listening diet. Or at least it would have come out through a very different lens.”

By peering through that groovy “Solo” lens, Chirp fans will encounter a group of lively musicians entrenched in jubilant electric guitars, shimmering keys and synths, pulsating bass, confident drums and ticking cymbals.

In tandem, Frydenlund soulfully sings, “And we all know you can shred the 32nds/But I wanna hear something from your soul/So take your time to find the truth inside you/And let it go.”

“Sam’s melodic lead guitar through the song adds a lot of texture and warms up the tune quite a bit, and he also complements Kevin (Gastonguay’s) solo toward the end of the song really nicely. Brian’s self-written bassline is really catchy throughout, to the point of being singable.” Frydenlund said.

“Both of them killed it on the smooth backup vocals. The different feels Gastón moves throughout are seamless, which is easier said than done on a tune like ‘Solo,’ where we’ve got a lot of dramatic change from section to section feel-wise and tempo-wise.”

Continue reading “Creative Conscience – Chirp Follows Funky Musical Instincts on ‘Solo’”

Symphonic Tsunami – Skywerth Turns Pandemic Tide with Refreshing ‘Waves’ Single

Skywerth
Skywerth blends metal, psych rock, industrial, prog and hip-hop on “Waves.” Courtesy photo

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.

Continue reading “Symphonic Tsunami – Skywerth Turns Pandemic Tide with Refreshing ‘Waves’ Single”

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.

Leader of the Pack – Michael Snyder-Barker Celebrates Local Lineup on ‘Bark & the Pack’ Live Album

Michael Snyder-Barker, center, poses with his bandmates at Adrian’s Cotton Brewing Company.

Michael Snyder-Barker leads the ultimate live music pack.

The Tecumseh singer-songwriter and drummer joins forces with an all-star local lineup – John Lowe (guitar, vocals), Mike Hintz (bass, vocals), Chris Broski (guitar, vocals), Michael Rozich (guitar, bass, vocals) and David Roof (guitar, keys, vocals) – for a bluesy, rock-infused live album, Bark & the Pack, now available on all streaming platforms.

Recorded live at Adrian’s Cotton Brewing Company in January, Bark & the Pack features 12 timeless classic rock, jam-fueled tracks spanning nearly three decades of Snyder-Barker’s prolific, multi-genre career. He’s assembled a fiery sextet of collaborators from The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, Barker & Broski and other solo projects.

“The lineup was based on my current band, The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, as the core, and David Roof, who played all of the instruments on the studio recordings. Chris Broski and I did a set as the opener in which we performed Barker & Broski’s The Ballad of Billy Bob and Other Generic American Folklore in its entirety. I thought it would be fun to have him play on a majority of the other tracks as well,” Snyder-Barker said.

“‘Godsparrow’ was a song we had written and recorded with the group Soylent Green/Edgar Allen’s Toe in the ‘90s, and I wanted this to be somewhat of a retrospective. I had written and recorded some music with Michael Rozich and wanted to highlight those originals as well.”

Throughout Bark & the Pack, Snyder-Barker spotlights life-changing musical stories about internal growth, personal loss, rowdy adventures, stolen moments, long-lasting friendships, renewal and the fleeting passage of time. For his second live album, Snyder-Barker decided to drop Bark & the Pack after recording a prior CD release party for Bark’s Wagon Tales at Cotton in 2017.

As the live album’s ‘70s hard rock-inspired opening track, “Sea of Sand (He’s a Lost Boy)” features crunchy metal guitars, pounding drums, crashing cymbals and calm bass as Snyder-Barker chronicles a man’s eternal soul-searching journey for self-acceptance.

He reflects, “You see a young boy screamin’/Across the desert plains/Runnin’ for his life/He never found his peace/Jealous men never revealin’/What they hide away/For diamonds and silver.”

“The album has four new tracks with The Mighty Rhythm Bandits – ‘Sea of Sand (He’s a Lost Boy),’ ‘I Lost My Money,’ ‘Bats Riot in the Hen House’ and ‘The Mighty Rhythm Bandit’ – and two other songs written with Michael Rozich, ‘Weak Eyed Willie’ and ‘Soul Sacrifice,” he said.

Continue reading “Leader of the Pack – Michael Snyder-Barker Celebrates Local Lineup on ‘Bark & the Pack’ Live Album”

Fall Fusion – Chirp Leads Stellar Equinox Party Lineup at Grove Studios Saturday

Chirp’s Jay Frydenlund and Sam Naples groove at Danfest in August. Photo – Mark Samano

Filled with progtastic, funkified fusion, Chirp will bring upbeat, dancy grooves to celebrate autumn’s upcoming arrival Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet will headline the Ypsi rehearsal and recording space’s annual fall-themed Equinox Party before intimate in-person studio and virtual livestream audiences.

“Ypsi audiences are always some of our favorites to play for, so we are extremely excited to play our first show at Grove Studios. It has a great music/arts scene, and my favorite part of playing for Ypsi audiences is all the creative folks we get to bump shoulders with at our shows there,” said Jay Frydenlund, Chirp’s vocalist and guitarist.

Frydenlund and his Chirp bandmates Brian Long (bass), Sam Naples (guitar) and Gastón Reggio (drums) will share the Grove Studios stage with some of the area’s most talented musical acts, including Violet Sol, Edison Hollow, Las Drogas, Fernando Silverio Solis, Jackamo, the Steve Somers Band, Ki5 Loops, Diont’e Visible and DJ Nitro.

The Equinox Party will feature seven hours of live music across three mini concerts in a small, socially distanced gathering as well as livestream sets from each artist. Attendees can purchase limited in-studio VIP tickets for afternoon, evening and night shows as well as tickets for individual artist livestream performances to watch at home.

“The Equinox Party is our annual anniversary celebration and largest event of the year where we showcase a diverse collection of artists, many of whom we’ve worked with or met throughout the year,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and director of community engagement.

“We’ve decided to really blow it up with the Equinox Party this year. We’ll be hosting three, two-and-a-half-hour shows with three to four artists each and an hour of transition in between shows to cycle the artists and audiences in and out to follow the 25-person gathering rule Ypsi is currently under.”

Grove Studios has flourished in the virtual music space since launching Grove Sessions, a regular livestream performance and interview series, in March. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists and musicians in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.

“We’re already six months into our third year on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti, which is super dope considering we’re still weathering the effects of a global pandemic and a previous three-month shutdown,” Friebel said.

“That reality, along with social distancing and gathering restrictions, encouraged us to rethink how we support the music community by moving our events to a virtual format and becoming a burgeoning media production company. We also activated our outdoor courtyard stage in May with audio and video production, which has evolved into a high-tech livestream performance format with small in-studio audiences.”

Continue reading “Fall Fusion – Chirp Leads Stellar Equinox Party Lineup at Grove Studios Saturday”

Rise Up – Asklepius Shares Majestic, Curative Transformation on New ‘Relative to a Mood’ EP

Asklepius carries a soothing, restorative sound on “Relative to a Mood” as glistening elements of prog, post-rock, jazz, ambient, psychedelia and electronica revive the soul. Artwork – Joe Groppuso

Asklepius triumphantly rises to the occasion.

The Detroit experimental post-rock trio of Justin Groppuso-Cook (keys), Dave Alpern (bass) and Matt Smiley (drums) undergoes a majestic and curative transformation on their latest aspirational four-track EP, Relative to a Mood.

“Some of the songs that are on that album we’ve been playing for a really long time. Those songs themselves evolved over time, and then Dave jumped in, and the bass gave the music more heart and more life,” Groppuso-Cook said.

“When the songs started to evolve with Dave, and we started to write new stuff for fleshed-out, different ideas, I think that additional bass added this uplifting thing, and I think we just went with it. I don’t think there was this intentional way to make it like that, and I think in certain ways, it was weird for it to sound uplifting. The music we were writing at the time didn’t sound like that was the groove.”

Incidentally, Relative to a Mood carries a soothing, restorative groove as glistening elements of prog, post-rock, jazz, ambient, psychedelia and electronica spin into a silky, sonic cocoon. All four tracks invite increasing moments of euphoria, self-reflection, progression and enlightenment as listeners beautifully emerge from an inner sanctum.

Asklepius created their own inner sanctum last summer at Detroit’s High Bias Recordings with Chris Koltay. Groppuso-Cook, Alpern and Smiley spent several days recording different live takes for Relative to a Mood with loop pedals and later added layers of keys, guitar and tenor sax.

Jubilation to Ascension

Relative to a Mood slowly unfolds with the euphoric “Jubilation” as banging drumsticks, bright and lingering piano, proggy bass, glistening synths, steady drums, light cymbals and reassuring electric strums from guest guitarist Matt Romanski bring merriment and optimism. The track also eases the mind into a therapeutic seven-minute reverie.

“We just went into the studio and started with ‘Jubilation.’ We just ran through it 10 times to get the best take, and then we were like, ‘Let’s go to the next song,’ and then we would take a break for a couple minutes and listen to all the different takes and see which one was the best one,” Groppuso- Cook said.

Continue reading “Rise Up – Asklepius Shares Majestic, Curative Transformation on New ‘Relative to a Mood’ EP”

The Other Side – Nektar Revisits Past, Present Influences on Latest Album, Performs Tuesday at The Token Lounge

Nektar’s current lineup includes Ron Howden, Derek “Mo” Moore, Ryche Chlanda, Mick Brockett, Kendall Scott and Randy Dembo. Photo by Jay Petsko

Back in 1974, Nektar left a promising sonic door open in Detroit.

The British progressive rock band shared a pulsating new track, “Devil’s Door,” during a show at The Michigan Palace.

“That’s where we wrote it. We had a couple of days in the theater. We were able to jam and play, and we did a lot of that. Then, we played it for the first time at the Palace theater,” said Derek “Mo” Moore, Nektar’s bassist, vocalist and co-founder.

Nektar only played “Devil’s Door” a few more times live that year before stashing it away. The soaring track remained hidden in the band’s vault for nearly 45 years before including it on their majestic new album, “The Other Side,” which dropped in January via Esoteric Antenna.

The eight-minute gem features the band’s late original frontman and co-founder Roye Albrighton on guitar and vocals at the track’s intro. Recorded live by then-sound engineer Vinny Schmid via a soundboard in Detroit, “Devil’s Door” beautifully blends Albrighton’s vibrant guitar and enthusiastic “yeah, yeah, yeahs” with Nektar’s stunning new version of the track. Sadly, Schmid passed away six years ago while Albrigton died in 2016.

“We were able to get the two of them on the album. It just felt right, it was so clear when we played that into the headphones, and then the band came in, and Roye stayed with us for a little while with his parts,” Moore said.

“Then, we dropped the original band and brought up the new band. It just felt great. I called Roye’s wife, and I said, ‘I know I don’t have to ask you for permission, but I’d like your blessing. Is it OK for us to use Roye?’ She was thrilled, and I sent her a copy of it right away. She was blown away.”

Metro Detroit audiences will be blown away Tuesday when Nektar reopens “Devil’s Door” live at The Token Lounge in Westland as part of a current 36-date North American tour. The long-awaited track will be featured as part of the band’s three hour-plus set amidst a stunning video and lights show by visual artist and co-founder Mick Brockett.

“We’re changing the sets every night, especially when we did four days in New York, and we did two days in Baltimore. We try to do a lot of the old classics like ‘Remember the Future,’ ‘A Tab in the Ocean,’ and ‘Recycled,’ and we do a variation of that, and then we intersperse them with the new album, ‘The Other Side,’” Moore said.

Continue reading “The Other Side – Nektar Revisits Past, Present Influences on Latest Album, Performs Tuesday at The Token Lounge”

‘Prime Mover’ – My Journeys with Rush’s Neil Peart

Neil Peart performs with Rush at a 2010 Rogers Bayfest in Sarnia, Ontario.

Editor’s Note – Brian Stratton reflects on his lifelong love of Rush and Neil Peart’s untimely passing.

By Brian Stratton

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen

– Prime Mover

I never got to meet Neil Peart, though I did see him many times. Nonetheless, I feel like I know him through his lyrics, and consider him a companion of sorts. It was his lyrics that first appealed to me when my brother played some Rush music for me. The science fiction and fantasy themes were ripe for my young imagination. Over time, I grew to appreciate other themes in his lyrics, about human nature, loss, triumph and all the events that make a life worth living.

As most people know, Peart enjoyed journeying on his motorcycle between tour dates, or on his own time. It gave him time to explore, think and write about life. In fact, I feel that the overriding theme of all his lyrics, whether fantastic or realistic, is about one’s journey through life. Indeed, “anything can happen” in life and often does.

On that note, here are some moments where Peart’s lyrics, Rush’s music and my life all intersected.

Rush’s Alex Lifeson at Rogers Bayfest in 2010

Drawn like moths, we drift into the city

– Subdivisions

I’ve always been drawn to Detroit. For me, it was the big city where my dad worked at Channel 4 and anytime I got to go there when I was growing up was exciting. Probably none more so than the time in 1990 when my family attended Channel 4’s holiday party and then went to Trappers Alley in Greek Town to do some shopping. While wandering around the many levels of the mall, I found a Harmony House store, and in it Rush’s “Caress of Steel” CD. At the time, I was reading Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring,” so it was no surprise that I was attracted to the cover art with the necromancer on it.

When it was time to go home, we found that our car had been stolen. More tragically for my teenage self, my copy of “Fellowship of the Ring” was in the car at the time. At least I had “Caress of Steel,” with its songs about wizards and mythical fountains, to console me. However, all ended well, and our car was found a few weeks later, complete with my book! Not one to hold a grudge, I still love Detroit and look forward to going there to this day.

When we are young
Wandering the face of the earth

– Dreamline

Sometimes it’s the small stops on a larger journey that make the trip complete. At the end of summer in 1991, we were on a family trip to Colorado to visit my brother during his first year at the Air Force Academy. It was my first time out west, and I finally got to see mountains! It was awe-inspiring and profoundly moving for me.

Now, the trip happened to coincide with the release of “Roll the Bones.” This was the first new album that the band had put out since I became a fan, so getting it was a big deal for me. My parents said we could stop and get the CD on the way home from the airport. I remember landing back in Michigan and how vividly green everything was in comparison to the reds and browns of Colorado. A quick stop to Harmony House (again!) in Novi was the perfecting ending to a great vacation.

Continue reading “‘Prime Mover’ – My Journeys with Rush’s Neil Peart”

Selling England by the Pound — The Musical Box Covers Peter Gabriel-era Genesis in Detroit

The Musical Box performs Genesis’ “Watch of the Skies” at Motor City Casino’s Sound Board in Detroit.

French-Canadian Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box, covered the prog quintet’s famous 1973 “Selling England by the Pound” tour Sunday at Motor City Casino’s Sound Board in Detroit.

The two-hour show celebrated the best of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis with “Firth of Fifth,” “Watcher of the Skies,” “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,” “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” “The Knife” and other favorites.

The Musical Box singer Denis Gagné wore memorable and colorful Peter Gabriel-inspired costumes from the era — Bat Wings, Britannia, the Old Man, The Reverend, The Flower Mask and Magog.

It was like stepping back in a 1970s British prog rock time machine and never wanting to come back. At least I didn’t.