For Premium Rat, writing and recording a debut EP brings unexpected moments of clarity.
The Ypsilanti indie rock singer-songwriter finds truth and comfort while addressing deeply buried emotions on Cope, a poignant six-track introspection, dropping on Friday.
“Making and releasing Cope has honestly been one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. It’s funny, one of the reasons I named it ‘Cope’ is because the EP itself helped me cope with certain things, so it’s kind of meta in a way,” said Mer Rey, aka Premium Rat.
“Songwriting is absolutely something I use for reflection and processing, and sometimes I’ll write a song and figure out what it’s about after it’s written. It’s like I can access my emotions with a certain clarity when I’m songwriting that I don’t have otherwise.”
Premium Rat extracts her raw Cope vulnerabilities from a myriad of places – drug store parking lots, internal acknowledgements, post-breakup analyses and crystalized memories. Each track is beautifully wrapped in confessional lyrics, melancholic soundscapes and cathartic instrumentation.
“It’s very honest, and we live in a society that does not prioritize emotional honesty. So it’s, of course, nerve-wracking and very vulnerable to release these songs, but I think that’s also why it feels important to me,” Rey said.
“I want my music to make people feel less alone and to give them permission to feel their feelings. If even one person feels comforted or validated by what I’ve written, then I’ve accomplished my goal.”
Immersed in sophisticated jazzy soul-pop sensibilities and refreshing, colorful sonic textures, Hannah Baiardi beautifully steps outside her comfort zone.
The Ann Arbor vocalist-composer and pianist provides a calm, soulful reassurance to embrace our authentic voice and rediscover our true calling on her latest hopeful single, “Reason.” It’s her first new material since releasing her genre-bending album, Straight from the Soul, in March.
“There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders right now, but it’s also a very inspiring time. Lightworkers are individuals who come with a purpose and are very driven to make social change and be their true selves and not hide their identities out of fear or shame,” Baiardi said.
“I was blown away when I got responses from other musicians saying, ‘Hey, that really resonated with me and made me feel like you’re standing up for the underdog.’ That’s totally my whole MO, even from being in high school and resonating with clique-busting and trying to be a friend to the friendless.”
Throughout “Reason,” shimmering piano, spirited drums, luminous slide guitar, fervent finger snaps, smooth electric bass and Baiardi’s confident vocals drench listeners in a sultry, protective dreamscape while inspiring a renewed, united social consciousness.
Once inside her encouraging, hypnotic sonic realm, Baiardi thoughtfully sings, “You never fit in/Stood out from the crowd/You waited you turn/Took courage to speak out loud/But now’s your time/You have to see/Your worth.”
“If someone feels alone or thinks it’s a really tough period of time … know there are others out there who see them and want to champion them. We’re all in this mess together while riding the waves. Water and waves are a theme in the song, and I’m trying to incorporate more sounds with nature and more sounds that evoke a feeling of tranquility,” Baiardi said.
Baiardi magically creates a peaceful “Reason” atmosphere with producer Marty Gray and bassist Ryan King of Stormy Chromer. Together, Baiardi and Gray spent two to three months recording the track in the studio for a late summer release.
“The rough melody and rough sketch of the lyrics came over a couple of weeks. The magic really happened when I brought it to Marty, and I was introduced to him through a mutual friend, David Magumba,” Baiardi said.
“We knew each other from the University of Michigan, where we were both students. Our paths didn’t really cross because he was a vocal major and I was a jazz major. We got together to work on this track, and instantaneously there was this sense of creative synergy. I came with the bones and left with a wonderful song, thanks to Marty.”
Baiardi also translates “Reason” into a gray-tinged lyric video filled with placid, flowing waters. While watching the video, viewers float above and reflect on their personal challenges as snippers of white light permeate the screen.
“The grayness of it conveys the uncertainty of the murky waters that we’re in right now. My social media manager Melissa (Zhuang) played a huge role in helping me craft that, and she’s very adept with Adobe,” said Baiardi, who’s also working on a new video for “How Do You Want Your Love.”
“I was like, ‘Hey, we just need water and some gray, so run with it.’ I think lyric videos are powerful so that someone can contemplate as they’re watching the visual element.”
One summer night, Marty Gray casually walked into a Marquette bar and unexpectedly experienced a life-changing conversation with a random stranger.
The Ann Arbor indie pop artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer went to Flanigan’s Bar with high school friends to sing karaoke and decided to get a drink. Right away, a 36-year-old regular sitting at the bar started chatting with Gray.
“This whole conversation happened the summer before the pandemic. We went on a Wednesday, and there were maybe four people there. This guy says, ‘You have a great voice. Where are you from?’ I said, ‘I’m from Ann Arbor, but I grew up here, and I just wanted to see what this bar was all about,” said Gray about that infamous night in 2019.
“For the next half an hour, the guy starts telling me everything he’s thinking about. His demeanor was friendly and non-weighted. He didn’t present the information like he was suffering or in a bad spot. It was literally, ‘Hey dude, this is what I’m doing. As long as you’re gonna listen, I’ll just keep telling you.”
The regular told Gray about missed opportunities and regrets in his life, including breaking up with his fiancée, being stuck in an unsatisfying job, longing for the carefree days of his youth and feeling scared about the future.
“He clearly felt like he had missed his life, and it was too late for him to experience those early thirties things that all his friends had experienced. The whole conversation left me in a very different mood. It was really nonchalant, but really heavy,” Gray said.
For some reason, that 30-minute interaction resonated with Gray and later served as the inspiration behind his soulful, introspective concept album, The Regular. It beautifully recounts that memorable conversation and glides through the regular’s experiences, preoccupations, choices and uncertainties.
“The whole very human thing that hit me so hard in the gut was that mentality. This guy had been backed into a corner so many times in the last 10 years of his life, and he was in such a desolate, horrible spot where he was just drinking alone at the bar every night or with a couple of friends,” Gray said.
“There’s something about the way he was talking about leaving and the way he was talking about changing something. The whole sentiment was human and on the same wavelength as a fight-or-flight response. You can either lie down and die or give up, or you can make a drastic change.”
The Ann Arbor pop-soul-folk singer-songwriter deeply reveals her personal metamorphosis on “I Say,” an authentic, fearless anthem about taking charge of one’s life.
“It encapsulates exactly how this last year has gone for me. It’s just been a huge transformation in realizing if you can let go of the ‘supposed tos’ and the ‘shoulds’ and just live more boldly with conviction and confidence life opens up so much more,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht carries her courageous mindset forward as beating electronic drums, delicate cymbals, mellow bass, contemplative piano and tranquil synths provide internal strength. She soulfully sings, “Silence the voices/Chin up/Look into the mirror/Lock eyes with the face/And finally the fog begins to clear/Biting my nails down/But alone/Nowhere to hide/I breathe the same air/With a fresh new pair of eyes.”
“I’ve been diving into passion projects rather than thinking, ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should do that.’ I’m finally having the confidence of living in every moment and being present. This time, I say I’m not going to listen to those outside voices like I had been for a long time,” said Albrecht, who’s inspired by Sara Bareilles.
Albrecht teamed up with younger brother Andrew Albrecht to co-write and produce “I Say” in their home studio. Andrew provided the thoughtful piano instrumental while Albrecht penned the personal lyrics during a brief, torrential downpour.
“Two seconds later, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun beautifully shined. I was like, ‘That is such a metaphor for the song, and I need this right now.’ I tried to harness that sort of energy, and we wrote the song real quickly. It’s definitely one of my favorites,” she said.
The Albrechts sent the finished track to Jim Kissling at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studio for mastering. Once the single was released in March, the siblings started developing a concept for the upcoming “I Say” video, which will drop later this summer.
“We’re so lucky to live in an era where we can do things ourselves. I’m all about authenticity and trying to know exactly who I am and who we are. I think capturing video and audio in spaces where we feel comfortable gives the audience great insight into who we are,” Albrecht said.
After surpassing each academic milestone, DASHpf brilliantly takes poetic license with his musical endeavors.
The Stony Brook University postdoctoral associate and New York City attic folk singer-songwriter openly reflects on life changes, internal revelations and professional accomplishments on Fully Licensed, now available on all streaming platforms.
“In 2020, the pandemic slowed things down, and I’m a little backlogged on academic milestones to mark, but Fully Licensed is sort of a catch-all marking my full license as a therapist along with a PhD and other stuff,” said Peter Felsman, aka DASHpf or “-pf,” who earned a doctorate in social work and psychology from the University of Michigan in 2019.
Filled with intimate, thoughtful storytelling, DASHpf’sFully Licensed chronicles the rewarding, yet challenging parallel paths Felsman pursues in his personal and professional life. Each track highlights an achievement or contemplation that invites listeners to deeply connect with Felsman’s rich, concise tales.
“I have a creative process where between recording and releasing an album I get severe writer’s block, and I’m excited to release this album so I can free my brain up to keep writing,” he said.
Like Father, Like Son
Felsman first shares the creative fruits of his latest DASHpf writing spurt on the heartfelt opening track, “Not Not a Morning Person,” which honors his late father. Tender acoustic strums, sorrowful vocals, buzzy electric guitars, thumping drums and spirited bass elegantly capture Felsman’s vivid memories and sorrowful moments.
He reflects, “When you first got your diagnosis/And I was stuck laying in bed/You said, Kid go smell the trees/And I knew exactly what you meant/I’m not not a morning person/I just wake up missing you/Missing all your motivations/Missing all you’d love to do.”
“It was a tribute to my dad who died of lung cancer the summer before I moved to Ann Arbor to start my undergrad. He knew that I would be a student at the University of Michigan, and I did that for 10 years. It felt important for me to acknowledge the role of grief in my Ann Arbor life,” Felsman said.
“At one point in the song, I say, ‘Stay close to your brother/Take care of your mother, too.’ Those were his last words to me. He was always supportive of my musical life, which I think was partly a consequence of his music teacher as a kid telling him to lip sync in choir because he couldn’t carry a tune. He lived vicariously through his kids being musical.”
Bettye LaVette brings a magical soulfulness to her 60-year career, including Bob Dylan’s legendary songbook.
The iconic soul songstress and Michigan native beautifully interprets an era of treasures ranging from ‘60s R&B to British rock to deep Dylan cuts. Her latest release, “Things Have Changed (2018),” unearths Dylan’s extensive catalog from 1979 to 1989 as well as other cherished favorites.
“Well, there isn’t a ‘like’ to it, it’s just the way I hear the songs, and that’s the way I sing it. But as I said, I’m really not that much of a music enthusiast, so there are not a great many songs that sat around that I wanted to sing for a long time,” said LaVette, who was born in Muskegon and grew up in Detroit as Betty Jo Haskins.
“It’s the songs that appeal to me most, that’s why the Bob Dylan album worked so well for me because the lyrics have to be absolutely solid and be there. I’m almost 75 years old, and I can’t look my audience in the face, and people who are sitting close, I look at them even more intently, so I can’t have a whole bunch of gibberish coming out. It has to say something because I’m holding a conversation with them.”
LaVette will hold an engaging conversation with Ann Arbor audiences Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival, which also will include Nathaniel Rateliff, Mandolin Orange and Cold Tone Harvest. In her first-ever Folk Festival appearance, LaVette will share her career highlights and interpretations with a nearly sold-out crowd of 3,500 at Hill Auditorium.
“Most of those (Dylan) songs, I think there were 10 or 12 tunes on that album, I only knew four of them before I sung them. It’s interesting having almost a clean slate because I didn’t grow up listening. Many of these things didn’t make it to black radio, but ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ did and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ I certainly know who he is,” she said.
After five years, the progressive groove-heavy indie rock trio of Nate Erickson (guitar, vocals), Greg Hughes (bass) and Mark Dunne (drums) will call it quits and perform their final shows tomorrow in Ypsi and Friday in Bowling Green, Ohio.
“We had a lot to celebrate this year with our five-year anniversary and the brief return of our original lead singer, Calum Galt. No matter how successful a band can be with longevity, ultimately, there are going to be some challenges on an interpersonal level between people,” said Hughes, co-founder of After Hours Radio.
“There have been a lot of changes in our lives as well as ideas about how we want to approach being in the band and writing songs. We’re just trying to end things so we can explore opportunities that better align with our interests, goals and preferences.”
Hughes co-founded After Hours Radio with Erickson in 2014 after performing at the Nakamura and Luther Buchele co-ops while attending the University of Michigan. Together, they cut their musical teeth at co-op open mic nights and introduced a freeform musical approach that incorporated several genres.
That freeform musical approach resulted in the band’s self-titled debut EP in 2015 and their follow-up EP, “What Happened?,” in 2017. With Hughes and Erickson at the helm, After Hours Radio went through some lineup changes, including several drummers and the recent departure of keyboardist and synth player Jordan Compton, and expanded their sound to include more electronic effects.
Last year, After Hours Radio launched their own do-it-yourself (DIY) music venue, The Late Station, in Ypsi to showcase local emerging artists and musicians across a variety of genres. Bandmates and friends helped promote events, run the door and assist with gear at The Late Station.
Throwaway knows how to easily extract the spirit of “Evil Cooper.”
The Detroit art rock/no wave vocalist-guitarist musically summons the demonic alter ego of Dale Cooper from “Twin Peaks” in “Julep,” a brilliant six-minute track filled with raw guitars, deep distortions and dark feedback.
“I’ve always had this affinity for it because it has a very dramatic arc itself, and it’s oblique, enigmatic and strange. The affinity for that particular recording came out because I wanted to bring some guitar feedback to the end of the track, and we were recording it right in the middle of ‘Twin Peaks: The Return,’” said Kirsten Carey, aka Throwaway.
“You know those scenes where it’s just Evil Cooper driving in the car, the camera is focused on his face and you hear all these uncomfortable bumpy drones? When I was recording that feedback, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it sounds like Evil Coop.’”
In a sense, Evil Coop is the artistic and musical spirit animal of Throwaway, Carey’s alter ego who dons a paper bag. “Julep” is one of eight standout experimental rock tracks featured on Throwaway’s debut album “WHAT?” out tomorrow.
For Calum Galt, Ann Arbor represents a bittersweet homecoming.
The former After Hours Radio vocalist will reunite with his old bandmates for Saturday’s show at Club Above. It will be his first appearance with the Ypsilanti progressive groove-heavy indie rock trio of Greg Hughes (bass), Nate Erickson (vocals, guitar) and Mark Dunne (drums) in nearly three years.
“It was actually Greg’s idea to have a reunion show. He reached out to me when he found out I was returning home for the first time in years to see if I was interested, and I agreed right away,” said Galt, who moved from Ann Arbor to Japan in 2014. “I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to play with the band again after so long, and I hope we can recreate some of the same energy our shows had back then.”
Along with Hughes and Erickson, Galt honed his musicianship while attending open mic nights at the University of Michigan’s Nakamura and Luther Buchele co-ops. Together, they formed After Hours Radio and became synonymous with Ann Arbor’s burgeoning underground, do-it-yourself (DIY) music community.
“Forming the band was equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking – I had never really written or performed my own music, which I think is an inherently intimate and scary thing to do,” said Galt, who’s inspired by of Montreal, The Strokes and Radiohead. “I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive friends and be involved in the co-op community, which has always been a fertile environment for budding musicians.”
As After Hours Radio, they recorded their self-titled, six-track debut EP in 2015 before Galt moved to Japan. Four years later, Galt is ready to revisit the EP with his old bandmates through an older, wiser and fresher perspective.
“There are a lot of memories tied up in those songs so revisiting them has been an interesting experience,” said Galt, who graduated from U-M with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and cultures. “I’ve changed a lot in the intervening time so it’s strange to hear those songs, which really encapsulate the weird head-space I was in at the time.”
Five years ago, the University of Michigan’s co-op scene led to the formation of an emerging Ypsilanti band.
U-M’s Nakamura and Luther Buchele co-ops introduced Greg Hughes and Nate Erickson, co-founders of After Hours Radio, to a burgeoning underground, do-it-yourself (DIY) music community in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor.
Together, Hughes and Erickson cut their growing musical teeth performing at co-op open mic nights and formed After Hours Radio, a progressive, groove-heavy indie rock band, in 2014.
“The high energy and large crowds at co-op parties drove the band to write catchy grooves and riffs that co-oppers could dance to,” said Hughes, bassist for After Hours Radio. “This funk-inspired element flavored our initial indie-alternative style, which was influenced by open mic nights during the band’s infancy.”
Hughes also sought inspiration for the band while working as a late-night college DJ at WCBN-FM (88.3), a U-M student-run radio station. He used a “freeform” approach for the station’s programming and believed a similar philosophy could be applied to After Hours Radio’s musical approach.
“‘Freeform’ describes a perspective that doesn’t conform to a traditional setlist structure restricted by genre and embraces mixing different musical styles,” he said. “We’ve gained a strong sense of improvisation that has translated to the way we find influences for our original songs.”
That fluid musical approach resulted in the band’s self-titled debut EP in 2015 and the “What Happened?” EP in 2017. With Hughes and Erickson (vocals, guitar) at the helm, After Hours Radio went through several lineup changes, including several drummers, and expanded their sound to encompass keys, synths and other electronic effects.
Last year, the band launched their own DIY music venue, The Late Station, in Ypsilanti to showcase local emerging artists and musicians across a variety of genres. Bandmates and friends help promote events, run the door and assist with gear at The Late Station.
“I got acquainted with the whole DIY culture in Chicago, and I was so enamored with the scene there that I wanted to become more involved in it,” Hughes said. “That’s where the direct inspiration for The Late Station came, and we all decided we were going to move to the same location and start our own space.”
Today, Hughes and Erickson will celebrate the band’s evolution with a five-year anniversary show at Club Above, 215 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, and feature special guests Stop Watch, Approachable Minorities and Summer Like The Season.
“We decided to celebrate the band’s anniversary with a special show because we thought five years for any band was a big milestone,” Hughes said. “Almost none of the local bands existing when we started are around anymore, and most lasted just one or two years.”
For the show, After Hours Radio will play an extended setlist that encompasses the band’s entire career and feature visuals from GSW Art & Design, a southeast Michigan-based visual art, web and graphic design firm. It’s also a valuable opportunity for After Hours Radio fans to embrace the artistry and musicianship of the show’s three special guests.