Barebones Music Festival – Old Main Records Hosts Two-Day Virtual Showcase for Detroit Artists

Old Main Records Barebones
The Barebones Music Festival will feature two nights of virtual recorded performances from Emma Guzman, ATMIG, Jackamo and others. Courtesy photo – Old Main Records

For Wayne State University’s Old Main Records label, this week’s Barebones Music Festival will showcase the creativity and ingenuity of emerging Detroit artists from the other side of the screen.

The two-day virtual music festival will spotlight a compilation of smartphone-recorded video performances from 23 artists on Wednesday and Thursday starting at 7 p.m. via Old Main Records’ Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Featured festival artists will include Emma Guzman, ATMIG, Jackamo, Of House, Ohly, C3, Darcy Moran, Weeknight Motion and 14 other rising local acts.

“We decided to create the Barebones Music Festival with the intention of leveling the playing field for local artists. The pandemic has put a hold on in-person events, and we have been trying to come up with new ways to virtually bring artists together,” said Joseph Corless, Old Main Records’ incoming president.

“A common problem we came across was that many artists did not possess the recording equipment necessary to perform virtually. We decided to embrace this and set the criteria for submissions to utilize only a cell phone with audio and video recording capabilities.”

In response, interested artists submitted individual performance videos for consideration regardless of genre. Next, the Old Main Records team assembled artist submissions into two cohesive virtual music showcases.

“This allows the songs themselves to shine and not be filtered by editing techniques and mixing. Artists had to be creative in their spacing to have a sonic balance between instruments. These limitations forced artists to think outside the box when choosing the song’s instrumentation and performance location,” Corless said.

“We chose artists whose songs could easily flow into one another while still utilizing various genres. Their choices of lighting and filming locations added to the ambiance of their individual styles.”

The Barebones Music Festival is one of several recent virtual events hosted by Old Main Records since the pandemic hit last year. With the shutdown of in-person live music events, the WSU student-run record label has flourished with a series of online artist shows and conversations, music industry panels, songwriter summits, and jazz and dance performances.

“It’s a nice way to bring together many of our past collaborators in a platform showcasing them all individually. I would personally love to see this festival grow into an in-person event in the future, but some changes may need to be made to its format,” said Corless, a WSU business management and music technology student and drummer for Detroit metal band Passing Thought.

“With venues and in-person events opening back up, I would love to start setting up more live shows. I also would like to see us branching out into different genres. Detroit has some phenomenal punk, hardcore and metal scenes that we have barely tapped into.”

Old Main Records hasn’t hosted an in-person live event since their multimedia launch party in January 2020. The party showcased a series of local artists who expressed interest in signing with the label, which is named after the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues.

“Chris Simpson, our departing president, has taken the lead in getting Old Main Records back up and running despite the pandemic. Darcy Moran, Calder Laidlaw, Anna George and several others have taken the lead in various other projects for the label,” Corless said.

“Wayne State is also slowly opening up again, and it would be great to utilize our recording studio. Old Main Records has been recruiting new members, and their enthusiasm to be more involved in our organization has truly been inspiring.”

Show details:

Barebones Music Festival | 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 16 and 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17

Old Main Records Facebook page & YouTube channel

New Chapter – Blank Tape Tax Shares Mental Health Struggles on ‘My Book’ Single

Blank Tape Tax Record cover2
Blank Tape Tax raises mental health awareness on “My Book.” Photo – Colleen Rose

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.

Blank Tape Tax openly shares a personal chapter of past struggles.

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.”

My Book” serves as Blank Tape Tax’s latest compelling single after releasing the pithy hardcore punk-bebop jazz track, “Hey Donnie” and the jazzy hip-hop B-side, “Positive Force and the Discipline of Non-Violence pt. 2” earlier this year. They also dropped a refreshing modal jazz-based cover of Minor Threat’s “Filler” in October.

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.

Remote Start – Detroit Artists Release Quarantine-Inspired Rendition of ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’ via Old Main Records

Three Detroit artists beautifully preserve the romantic soul of a fallen New York love story.

Emma Guzman, Christian Ohly and Quasi-Bullfight’s Malcolm McNitt breathe new indie folk-pop life into Leonard Cohen’s 1974 one-that-got-away classic, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” as part of an Old Main Records-exclusive collaboration released via social media. It’s akin to Laura Marling collaborating with Pinegrove.

Together, the trio’s nostalgic, heartfelt and upbeat rendition features dreamy, swift acoustic strums, pulsating bass, effervescent handclaps, jingling tambourine, glistening horns and whistling theremin as Guzman soulfully sings, “I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were famous, your heart was a legend/You told me again you preferred handsome men/But for me you would make an exception.”

“Old Main Records grouped the three of us together, and we went through a list of songs until we agreed upon ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2.’ I was the one to throw it out there, as I had recently started covering it, and it’s an amazing tune,” Guzman said.

“I’ve enjoyed Cohen’s music since I was younger, and his songwriting has such a rich, dark charm to it. His emotions reach below the surface, and that’s what inspires me most about his writing,” Guzman said.

Back in the spring, Guzman, Ohly and McNitt each responded to an Old Main Records call for a special quarantine-inspired artist collaboration. The plan included stimulating local artist creativity and partnership amid a new, unfamiliar socially distanced world absent of live music.

After the artists responded, Old Main Records, a Wayne State University student-run record label and organization, realized these three were a magical force. In a sense, it was a dream collaboration for a trio of emerging, complementary singer-songwriters.

“We felt we could do something to help artists meet and collaborate at the same time. We had recording engineers and graphic artists as well as our own platform to help promote these artists. We first gathered the artists to meet all together on Zoom,” said Chris Simpson, Old Main Records president and a Wayne State University student.

“Once the artists got to know each other and their music, they had to meet online to come up with a song to record. The artists picked the track based on their own recommendations of pitching each other ideas. It was a very organic process.”

Continue reading “Remote Start – Detroit Artists Release Quarantine-Inspired Rendition of ‘Chelsea Hotel No. 2’ via Old Main Records”

WSU’s Old Main Records Hosts Multimedia Launch Party Friday at St. Andrew’s Church

A new Detroit-based record label will celebrate fresh sights and sounds Friday night.

Old Main Records, a Wayne State University (WSU) student-run record label and organization, will host a multimedia launch party at St. Andrew’s Church in partnership with Nice Place Detroit. It will feature live music and visual art from some of the Motor City’s most promising artists and creatives.

“We want to help connect people who are interested in all forms of art under one roof and further develop a sense of community. People attending can expect to meet incredible people in the city and to enjoy a night that includes visuals and high-energy music,” said Patrick Norton, Old Main Records creative director, Nice Place director and a WSU music technology senior.

“The goal for this event for the artists and volunteers involved is to give a platform to show the city what we are made of. The ability to utilize the university has opened so many doors for connections to press and other music industry and art world contacts.”

Launch event attendees will encounter a broad spectrum of Detroit-based experimental, blues-punk-garage and indie rock from Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood. This emerging lineup represents the first round of artists who have expressed interest in signing with Old Main Records.

Old Main Records also has compiled “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground,” a Spotify playlist that features dozens of artists across a multitude of genres. All artists included on the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to the label.

To complement the music, nearly a dozen visual artists will display their creative vision and prowess throughout the night. They will include Sleepyboness | Sarah Brazeau, Caitlin C. Harvey, MLE, Anastasiya Metesheva, RELYDETROIT, Max Jurcak, Erin Theroux, Shelby Say, Synefeld, Kristal Michal-Brasseur and Tyler Sykes.

“We feel this particular lineup is cohesive in reflecting the high energy that we want for our organization to kick off. In terms of the overall aesthetic, we plan to make each event unique and make our selection of music as eclectic as possible while also maintaining a theme,” Norton said.

“We also want to bridge some gaps within the art world of metro Detroit. We wanted to include students from Wayne State, the College for Creative Studies, Eastern Michigan University and artists from Detroit to help expand the art community. We wanted visual artists for the event to help cross-pollinate between different scenes that don’t always work alongside one another.”

Continue reading “WSU’s Old Main Records Hosts Multimedia Launch Party Friday at St. Andrew’s Church”

Fresh Sounds – WSU Students Launch Old Main Records Label to Support Emerging Artists

The WSU student-run label and organization will host a multimedia launch event Jan. 17 in Detroit.

A new homegrown record label will cultivate fresh sounds in the Motor City.

Known as Old Main Records, the Wayne State University (WSU) student-run label and organization will help local, regional and national artists record, release and perform original music.

“The idea of actually doing a record label at Wayne State as a student organization had been around for a while since I was a freshman taking the classes. People would say, ‘Oh, it would be great if it happened,’ but nobody actually really did it,” said Brendan Derey, Old Main Records president and a music business senior.

“Another friend and I actually did start it together. Over the summer, we got a small group of people in the room talking about our ideas, and then it snowballed from there.”

Today, Old Main Records has 20 student members, including three other leads besides Derey – Patrick Norton, creative director; Christopher Simpson, social media and marketing director; and David Jackowicz, recording and distribution director.

Named after and housed in the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues, Old Main Records also partners with two WSU Department of Music lecturers Jeremy Peters and Michael Shellabarger.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with the label is create a hub. One of the benefits of being a Wayne State student organization is that there are a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, whether that’s art, film, business, music tech or music business,” Derey said. “There are just a ton of people around who are willing to do this kind of grassroots organization.”

Patrick Norton and his Dirt Room bandmates are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label. Photo by Matt Hamilton

With a team in place, Old Main Records is currently setting up the independent label’s infrastructure, accepting and reviewing artist submissions, applying for grants and creating internal processes. It also will provide students with opportunities in event promotion, marketing, recording and distribution and launch a crowdfunding campaign soon.

“They want to turn this into a class or an outlet for music business majors to use. It helps everybody out because part of the goal of the record label is to give resources out to artists,” said Norton, a music technology senior and director of do-it-yourself (DIY) Detroit music-art space Nice Place. “We’re really looking to help build the local community and give promotional and marketing support to artists.”

To demonstrate that support, Norton’s band Dirt Room, a Detroit experimental indie rock quintet, is serving as a pilot artist for Old Main Records. Along with Norton, Dirt Room bandmates Samuel Sprague, Simon Sprague, Cam Frank and Matt Hagger are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label.

Dirt Room is also featured on a “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground” Spotify playlist, which includes dozens of emerging Motor City artists across a multitude of genres. All artists added to the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to Old Main Records.

As Old Main Records finalizes its first round of artists to sign, it will host a multimedia launch event in partnership with Nice Place and feature live music and visual art Jan. 17 at St. Andrew’s Church in Detroit. Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood will perform at the label’s event.

“We’re taking twice as much time to do every small step now with the label, so in the future, these will be easy processes, and everybody will know what to do going forward,” Derey said. “We’re hoping for January and February to start recording projects with those groups, and then have our first releases as well coming down this year.”

Finally, Old Main Records will partner with WSU to preserve and digitize an extensive catalog of audio archives that date back to the ‘30s. It will be a multi-year project to convert audio recordings on cassette, vinyl and wire to digital formats for future preservation.

For details about Old Main Records, visit the label’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Interested artists also can submit their music for consideration to oldmainrecordssubmissions@gmail.com. General label inquiries can be sent to oldmainrecords@gmail.com.

The Way-Back Machine – Shon Jay Melds Vintage R&B with New School Pop on Debut EP ‘Nothing Is Forever’

Shon Jay drops his debut EP, “Nothing Is Forever,” today on major streaming sites.

Shon Jay knows how to create a groove-fueled musical time machine.

The Southfield indie artist mixes retro R&B with current pop-inspired textures on “Nothing Is Forever,” his eight-track debut EP that drops today. He magically transports listeners to a personal sonic world that fuses late ‘70s, early ‘80s vibes with catchy 21st century melodies.

Jay, aka Shon Johnson, teamed with his father Lamont Johnson, a renown electric bassist from the Detroit-based funk group Brainstorm and a solo artist, to record and produce the beautifully crafted EP.

“There’s a heavy old school element in the entire project, but then I’m bringing my youth and whatever naiveté I want to try to recapture as I hit a career path,” Jay said. “We worked together to go through his catalog of songs that I’ve known since I was four or five years old.”

Jay and Lamont Johnson recorded “Nothing Is Forever” from September to December with Todd Johnson at Throne Muzik in Southfield. Together, they weave a powerful relationship theme throughout the Lamont Johnson-penned project – it exquisitely captures the rollercoaster of emotion with falling in love, becoming a couple, drifting apart, breaking up and moving forward.

The EP’s latest single, “Dreamin’,” includes a laid-back Earth, Wind & Fire feel surrounded by soul grooves, electronic finger snaps and gleaming synths.

“It has such a mellow mood, and it has ups and downs in terms of delivery for the notes and the melody. It’s very intricate and smooth. To do both, I would say that was the most challenging song to record because of how all over the place it is with intonations,” Jay said.

“That song is supposed to make someone think about what they’re really looking for in life and what types of things they want and how easy it is to obtain, but they just really need to go out and get it.”

Continue reading “The Way-Back Machine – Shon Jay Melds Vintage R&B with New School Pop on Debut EP ‘Nothing Is Forever’”