Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’

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Act Casual’s “Livin’ a Lie” is the band’s first new studio release in nearly four years. Artwork – Sam Flynn

Act Casual eloquently recounts the everyday struggles of overcoming a romantic rough patch.

The metro Detroit jam fusion quartet of Ryan Yoskovich (drums, vocals), Ryan Stafford (keys, sax), Will Richardson (guitar, vocals) and Danny Flynn (bass, vocals) addresses these mounting interpersonal encounters on their latest soulful, funkified single, “Livin’ a Lie.”

Throughout “Livin’ a Lie,” vivid, wah-wah electric guitars, climbing bass, fluid drums, tingly cymbals and sheeny synths engulf love-stricken listeners and provide them with bluesy-induced relief.

Act Casual reflects, “Never the one/Now it’s all done/Trying to flee with nowhere to run/I’m a livin’ a lie/A total loss/But at what cost/Thinking about all that I’ve lost/I’m livin’ a lie.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Act Casual about their first studio release in nearly four years as well as their background, previous projects and upcoming live shows.

New Single

TSS: What initially inspired “Livin’ a Lie” for you?

AC: It was an initial exercise of just trying to write a set of lyrics to a groove we had been working on. The lyrics started coming together about disagreeing and arguing with a lover; it was in hopes of showing that everyone has the same arguments and quarrels with the ones we love. No one is alone in feeling some of the emotions played out in the song.

TSS: How long did you spend writing and recording the track?

AC: We spent a few weeks writing the song itself, which also developed as we played it out live. We spent two days in the studio laying down the majority of the tracks, following up with a couple of more sessions for vocals. The track was recorded at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. with Ryan Hyland as the head engineer.

TSS: What was it like to translate “Livin’ a Lie” from the stage to the studio? Any plans to release a video for the track soon?

AC: The track didn’t take on too many alterations for the studio recording. However, we did add vocal harmonies during the recording process, which stuck with us for live performances afterward. We filmed some of the recording process and plan on releasing a music video in the fall.

TSS: You mentioned in your Dunesville Music Festival live set that “Livin’ a Lie” is also the name of your upcoming album. What work do you have left to complete on the album?

AC: We will be dropping another single entitled “Fresh (Out the Shower)” in October as well as another single in November with the full album dropping in the winter.

We will continue to work with Ryan (Hyland) at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. to finish any additional touches, and with Max Preissner, who has been helping us with the promotion and release of these songs as well as building our presence online. People can expect to hear more vocal-driven songs like “Livin’ a Lie” as well as instrumental pieces.

Continue reading “Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’”

Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’

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George Montrelle shares his gratifying journey of true love and commitment on “Paradise.” Photo – Steve Selvaggio (c) 2020

George Montrelle elegantly celebrates a life filled with love, beauty and tranquility.

The Ferndale rock-soul singer-songwriter and guitarist shares that personal mindset on his latest electrifying single, “Paradise,” as a romantic, grateful ode to his longtime partner.

“I’ve had that song more since the beginning of my relationship with my partner, and I wanted to validate how much I appreciate his love for me. This was one of the songs I felt strongest about early on, and I’ve been showing it to people for a while now,” said George Wilson, aka George Montrelle.

Montrelle beautifully chronicles his gratifying “Paradise” journey of true love and commitment as propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, fiery electric guitars and galvanic bass surround him.

He reveals, “Here for you till the end/Amaranthine love my friend/The very heart on which you can depend/Here for you for the rest our lives without a stress/Baby, forever, we will love no less.”

“I’ve tried to record this song a handful of times, and I finally just said, ‘I just need to get this done.’ I decided not to overanalyze it, but I also gave it my best,” said Wilson, who recorded and produced the track in his home studio.

For Montrelle, “Paradise” not only acknowledges the growth of his relationship, but also the evolution of the track from the stage to the studio. In 2018, he started performing a live version of “Paradise” with a full band before audiences at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).

“I didn’t have a steady band all the time, so when I wanted to put this song out, I was either gonna hire a drummer and record all the guitars myself, which I did. Or I was gonna track the drums using the sequencer in Ableton, and that’s what’s on the release,” Wilson said.

“I tried to embody what might feel good on stage, and I tried different arrangements. I also developed the verses so it felt progressively fluent throughout the whole song and understood how the drums and guitars needed to work while the vocals sat through everything.”

Continue reading “Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’”

Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video

Jeremy Porter and The Tucos elegantly bring grit and glam to their stylish new video for Candy Coated Cannonball’sPut You on Hold” single.

The Detroit rock trio of Jeremy Porter (guitar, vocals), Gabriel Doman (drums, vocals) and Bob Moulton (bass, vocals) seamlessly fuse energetic live performance footage with colorful animation to illustrate “Put You on Hold’s” storyline about a girl becoming captivated with city life.

“I wanted to go for a bit of a throwback to the Aerosmith videos with Alicia Silverstone – sort of a very loose plot about a party girl that maybe worked with the song, but didn’t necessarily follow the song’s lyrics to a tee,” said Porter, who worked with director-photographer David Kellogg on the video.

“There are nods to the lyrics here and there, and in general, like the song, it’s about a crazy night out for a not-so-crazy girl, but the concept and its tie-in to the lyrics aren’t overthought. We glammed the look of the band up a bit for shits ‘n giggles to do something different, get out of our comfort zone and have some fun.”

Porter and The Tucos demonstrate that glamorous fun while dressing head-to-toe in white or black and adorning sunglasses and scarves, thanks to stylist Alessandra Lipman. They proudly sport those hip stage fashions in a darkened gym located at the Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex (PARC).

“PARC is an old high school here in Plymouth that’s been converted into an art space with studios that local artists can rent and stuff like that. I wanted something big like a high school gym, and it just seemed perfect,” said Porter, who’s partnering with Ghettoblaster Magazine to premiere the video today.

“I also like to keep my money in my community when possible and support the arts when I can. David and I met the manager there, and she showed us around, and we agreed it was our spot. The gym has the feel of the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video a bit, which I liked.”

In tandem with the band’s live performance footage, the “Put You on Hold” video includes compelling animated characters and background scenery by Jones William. It explores the main character’s social outings with friends as well as her dating life and city adventures.

“(Jones) answered a Craigslist ad and was honestly one of the very few worth following up with. We never talked, just through email, a language barrier was an issue, and I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get. In the end, he delivered, and I was pleased with the work he did,” Porter said.

The band’s “Put You on Hold” video ultimately came together with Kellogg, who brought a “youthful, enthusiastic energy” to the camera.

“I met David through Instagram when we were recording. His work caught my eye, and he ended up doing all of the photography, including the cover, for the record. And even though he’s younger, he still gets the ‘70s/‘80s references we were throwing out – he’s well-traveled, so to speak,” Porter said.

“He didn’t have much to do with the concept or animation part, but he was very involved in scouting and choosing the location and everything that went into the performance part – lighting, setup, direction and all that. He and I also edited it together.”

Continue reading “Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video”

Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots

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Adam Kennedy continues to conduct virtual photo shoots with artists throughout the pandemic. Photo – Adam Kennedy

Adam Kennedy unexpectedly became a globetrotter during the pandemic.

The Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. music photojournalist ventured to Finland, the U.S., Australia, Russia, Israel, Italy, Japan and other far-flung locations to shoot established and emerging artists – all from the comfort of his own home.

In fact, Kennedy’s international photographic jaunts have occurred online as part of a successful virtual photo shoot project he launched in April 2020. To date, he’s conducted more than 570 virtual photo shoots with rock, metal, jazz and blues artists over Facebook, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and other online platforms.

“It’s just to create a feel of coming together online and being in the moment. After an hour, you usually have something cool. Every session has been completely different, and every artist brings something different to the table,” he said.

“Every environment is different because I’m not working in a studio. I’m predominantly working out of someone’s home, or a person takes me out on location. I’ve been in Los Angeles on the strip, in Sochi overlooking the Black Sea, in Jerusalem at a park and in Victoria near the Great Ocean Road.”

Continue reading “Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots”

Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’

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Desmond Jones takes a refreshing vintage country detour on “Pink Moon.” Artwork – Daniel Benayun

Desmond Jones elegantly casts twangy lunar magic throughout West Virginia’s sprawling Appalachian Mountains.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) takes a refreshing vintage country detour on their latest jamboree-filled, celestial single, “Pink Moon.”

“The song is actually named after a music festival that used to be held in West Virginia called ‘The Pink Moon Music Festival.’ The festival was named after the lunar phenomenon we call The Pink Moon, which is a unique yearly full moon that occurred last week,” Bota said.

“I guess you could say it’s a love song I wrote to the moon. It’s meant to be sung while I’m hanging out in the Appalachian Mountains on the outskirts of a small West Virginia mountain town dancing to some wonderful live music under the moon and the stars.”

As a timeless, torchy ode to our favorite pastel-tinged satellite, “Pink Moon” awakens the youthful, nocturnal spirit as swift drums, rich pedal steel, propulsive bass, soulful sax, jubilant mandolin and vigorous violin gallop into a bright summer night.

Bota nostalgically sings, “Once a year, my dear, I’ll spend a night with you/Lookin’ at sunlight through your view/Whistlin’ a tune until the sun’s had enough of you/As you drift into the sky.”

“I wrote the song very late at night five years ago after the second Pink Moon Music Festival that we played and attended. I touched it up over a week or two of playing and singing it solo on my acoustic guitar. We recorded the drums, bass, two guitars and saxophone live at our manager Kevin McKay’s studio in the fall of 2019 three years later,” Bota said.

“The vocals, pedal steel and instrument solos were recorded at everyone’s own homes during the winter of 2020-2021. We have one guest on this track who happens to be one of our favorite Michigan musicians, Don Julin. We had the pleasure to play with Don during two of our sets at the Cowpie Music Festival in 2019, and he agreed to lend his musical talents on this album.”

Continue reading “Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’”

Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey

Nick Behnan glides from one genre-filled world to the next on his latest instrumental album, “Magic Trip.”

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.

Continue reading “Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey”

Livestream Universe – Eck’s Men Hosts Virtual Show Tonight at Bowery Electric

Eck’s Men will perform an 80-minute livestream set tonight at The Bowery Electric in New York City.

Eck’s Men will magnetize a virtual audience in the livestream universe tonight.

The New York City power pop-abilly quintet of Drew Eckmann (vocals), Rick Norman (guitar, backing vocals), Roger Astudillo (bass, backing vocals), Tom Wise (sax) and Dennis Vallone (drums, backing vocals) will perform a supercharged 80-minute livestream set at The Bowery Electric.

“There will be 20 songs, seven of which are on Who Knew?!?!?, 12 newer songs and one cover. There are probably songs that we’ve never played and two or three that we’ve played only once. The rest we’ve played a few times,” Eckmann said.

“Though it’s not the first New York City club we’ve played, Bowery Electric has a great vibe because it’s run by musicians. The audiences are ‘music smart,’ so we have to be on our A-game when we play there. It was at Bowery Electric that Jesse Malin and Joseph Arthur told me separately that I should start writing songs. The club has supported us from the start.”

Eck’s Men also will spotlight Wise and join forces with rootsy singer-songwriter Kelley Swindall to invigorate fans throughout their electrifying set.

“Since a bunch of songs are on the newer side, everyone will be trying to put the songs in a place where they’re just second nature. Tom will be playing the sax. He adds a drive to the fast songs and an underlying echo to the melody in the slower songs,” Eckmann said.

“Kelley was introduced to me by Jesse Malin about five years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. Kelley’s going to join me on a duet I’ve written called ‘Just Don’t Know It Yet.’”

Thursday’s livestream show also will allow Eck’s Men to reintroduce their timeless 12-track, rockabilly-infused debut album, Who Knew?!?!?. Released in August via 2WIN DISC Records, the album shimmies, sways and bops through powerfully succinct tales about love lost and found against a soulful, energetic backdrop.

“A lot of the songs, even though they were completed at the time, they’re still kind of new to us. Now when we do a livestream, we can say we’re gonna play some new songs and old favorites. We have a loyal core audience of people who come to see us, so it’s encouraging and refreshing that we have people we can count on,” Eckmann said.

Continue reading “Livestream Universe – Eck’s Men Hosts Virtual Show Tonight at Bowery Electric”

Giving Voice – Carolyn Striho Relives ‘Detroit (Maiden Energy)’ Words through New Audiobook

Carolyn Striho personally narrates her new audiobook for “Detroit (Maiden Energy).” Photo – Jacx Art

Carolyn Striho beautifully relives her poignant written words in a refreshing fashion.

The Detroit rock singer-songwriter personally narrates a new compelling audiobook version of Detroit (Maiden Energy), her 2019 intimate, eloquent collection of song lyrics and poetry.

Now available via Google Play, iTunes, Apple Books, Nook, Scribd and Audible, Striho’s latest release commemorates the one-year anniversary of Detroit (Maiden Energy)s print version from Aquarius Press/AUXmedia. It features Striho reciting 28 selections from her expansive 50-piece “street princess” collection in a compact 41-minute audiobook.

“I recorded them with me reading over two days in the summer at the home studio while Scott (Dailey) engineered. I sang a couple of lines on some of the songs. It was very different to hear myself reading the poems. It was not that different from a song, in some respect, when I sing in the studio,” Striho said.

“But I felt more self-conscious as they were ‘naked’ and not being talked to or sang with music behind them. As I love hearing and watching poets read, I know it could turn out really well. We had thought about doing music behind it with some guitar and piano, but it felt really organic and natural to just read.”

Continue reading “Giving Voice – Carolyn Striho Relives ‘Detroit (Maiden Energy)’ Words through New Audiobook”

Celestial Grooves – The DayNites Radiate Soulful Rhythms on New Self-Titled EP

The DayNites gather at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Photo – Dimitri Kaf

With moonlit melodies, gravitational grooves and rotational rhythms, The DayNites soulfully shine across the metro Detroit stratosphere.

The Detroit-Ypsilanti R&B-rock sextet of Kristianna Bell (vocals), Ryan Greene (keys, piano), Tim Blackman (bass), Shaun Maazza (guitar), Erich Friebel (drums, percussion) and Rick Coughlin (guitar) share reflective stories about love, growth, freedom and wisdom on their celestial, self-titled debut EP.

“When I was writing, it was just things that I was going through at that time in my life. It wasn’t like one main theme. It was like, ‘This is how I’m feeling, and these are the words that are coming out right now.’ I would say listen to the words and the instruments, feel the music and let it take you somewhere,” said Bell, who’s the band’s primary lyricist.

“We all have a take on everybody’s liking, and we put a little bit of something from everyone into what we do. For the first album, it was just me writing the words. But for the music, it was all the guys working together and putting their own spin on their instruments to see what worked well together.”

Available through the band’s new website, the EP’s five emotive DayNites tales unearth a deeply personal universe filled with contemplation, consideration and transformation. The lush, dreamy opener, “Cherry Blossom,” provides a welcome, cosmic escape into the relatable thoughts, feelings and concerns of a lost soul.

Palpitating drums, intense hand claps, exuberant bass, glistening intergalactic synth and fervid electric guitar reveal the psyche as Bell sings, “But I know I need to come down/Collect myself somehow/Unconnected from the physical being of my perspective/The only thing I could create was hella questions/Answers too far off to see/Searching for something that would make my soul complete.”

“It’s about trying to find ways to escape realities that I didn’t want to face. The song is pretty upbeat, and people love it, but at first it was my least favorite song because of what it made me think of every time I sang it. Once the song was recorded, it had a different feeling to me, and now I love it. I’m no longer in that place so I can listen to the song from a different perspective,” Bell said.

While Bell experiences an existential crisis on “Cherry Blossom,” she quickly shifts to newfound freedom on the Motown-esque, pro-hooky anthem, “Not Tomorrow.” Throbbing bass, banging tambourine, soulful intricate electric guitar, pounding drums and sizzling cymbals celebrate a much-needed mental health day from work.

“When we wrote that song, we were in the studio, and I had to work at 6 a.m. the next day. I was like, ‘Look, I can’t do this. I’ll be right back.’ I went and called my boss, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I won’t be there tomorrow,’ and I came back in and wrote the song,” Bell said.

Continue reading “Celestial Grooves – The DayNites Radiate Soulful Rhythms on New Self-Titled EP”

Take Solace – The Stratton Playlist September/October 2020 Edition Provides Everyday Escape

While the world turns to chaos outside, it’s time to search for solace inside.

Throw work, school and virtual commitments aside for some long overdue relaxation. With headphones in hand, adjust the volume and press play to start a new musical journey into uncharted local and regional waters.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist serves as a refreshing sonic escape from politics, pandemics and people. Visit country-filled skies, fuzzy lo-fi jams, jazzy hip-hop points, psych rock bangers, vibrant piano pop anthems and other new terrain.

Featured artists include Shawn Butzin, Zilched, Speak Mahogany, VVISIONSS, LoraDale, The Soods, The DayNites, Blank Tape Tax, J.E. Sunde, Major Murphy, Speelburg and more.

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