Buffalo Sunn is a Dublin-based band who are cool enough to be heading to SXSW this year!
So excited I was able to shoot with them during my trip to Ireland last month.
Buffalo Sunn is a Dublin-based band who are cool enough to be heading to SXSW this year!
So excited I was able to shoot with them during my trip to Ireland last month.
photos and words by Shabnam Ferdowsi
Last Thursday 1/15/15 was Neon Gold Record's Popshop West show at The Echo in Echo Park, CA with Parade of Lights headlining the night.
The entire night was filled with electric feels and synth-rock vibes. It was such a fun show and was definitely a dance party for a few seconds there. From Golden Coasts's cali-inspired electric grooves, to Dark Waves' sultry and magnetic pop-rock, to Tove Styrke's light and sway-able beats and finally ending with Parade of Lights synth-heavy, alt/rock anthems, it was one stellar line-up of upcoming artist you're going to want to keep you on your radar.
Take a listen to some of our favorite hits from the night and check out the photos!
My Double, My Brother is an independent band based in LA who's sound I was hooked on to instantly when I heard them for the first time last week. Perfect timing too, since they're playing a free show at The Satellite here in LA tomorrow 1/12/15!
To preview the show, I was able to ask the band a few questions about 2015 and their new album coming out next month. Hit play below and read on.
For new ears, describe your music in a few words:
Percussive indie alternative rock.
What's been your favorite show you've ever played so far?
We've played a few shows that have been really fun for us. One that sticks out is several months back we played at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa (before it was renovated into the Wayfarer) and a bunch of people came out who knew all the songs from our first album and were singing along super loud and acting out all the drum parts. It was a ton of fun to see everyone enjoying the music in a very honest and raw way. It made us feel like we were offering something really special to those people as it was a palpable example of people appreciating something that we care about so much.
What can you tell us about your upcoming album?
We put a lot of work and effort into making it sound how we thought it should sound. It's pretty different from the last album, as I've learned a lot about song writing and poetry within the past few years, and we have all grown as musicians. The songs sound more refined and more honest, in some senses, and I think because of that, this album is a lot more effective in conveying a certain ethos. The album has a certain arc to it so that the songs, both in lyrical and musical content, function to play off of each other and contrast each other, not in the sense of telling a story, but more in a sense of creating a space where ideas and emotions become merged together; ideas and emotions that I hope people will be able to feel and think.
How has your sound changed since the band formed?
I think our sound has had a sort of consistency to it since we started writing music several years ago, but I think throughout the years we've developed more of a sensitivity to pop sensibilities and writing music that is fun to listen to and easy to digest. We've always been very critical with our work and have tried to create music that is interesting and pleasing, but our roots are kind of in more esoteric forms of art and music. I think in the past we really praised more avant-garde forms of art and our music was an attempt to flesh out those ideals, but recently we've attempted to primarily operate under the notion of writing for accessibility and for enjoyability, then expanding on that in the most creative and interesting ways that we see fit.
What else can we look forward to from My Double, My Brother in 2015?
Well, first and foremost, the album comes out February 10th, but then after that we plan to do a series of mini-tours up the coast and what not, and possibly a tour in the summer.
words by Shabnam Ferdowsi
The Neighbors were one of the first bands to play a Beating Lights show last January, and they had me hooked ever since. Their live show was and still is one of the most captivating and passion-infused performances I've seen. After adding a few members, the band started recording their debut EP over the summer and has finally begun sharing their magic with us.
Their second single, "Black River", off their upcoming EP is always a crowd favorite. What really gets me with this particular song is the imagery they're able to set up, both lyrically and instrumentally, then completely shatter down. You find yourself flowing down this river they're talking about, where everything is going real smoothly, then the tide builds up and the chorus hits hard bringing with it an intense rhythmic storm of strings, percussion and guitar solos.
It's simply and beautifully mind-blowing.
Listen below and expect more great music from these guys soon.
"If you can't cut it live, and you build a lot of who you are on that promise, that's a bit disingenuous, know what I mean?".- Ben Sunderland
bunderland is the solo project of Ben Sunderland, vocalist of what used to be Chasing Owls. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland and I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting up with him while I was across the pond in the Uk for a session and quick chat.
How has your songwriting changed since going solo?
I think whatever had changed with the writing had already changed before the band came to an end, so it was more of me realizing that change.
It's a lot more self-reflective in terms of content. And I think writing changes with the seasons; I'll be writing in a different headspace today than in the summer. And since I'm writing all the time it's a good measure of me, I suppose? There's constantly a record of where I'm at.
Have you been gigging a lot since you started this project?
I was quite aware of the risk of making it work in the studio, then if it worked live it'd be a bonus. Whereas the way I'd brought myself up in music has always been live first and everything follows thereafter.
[...] It's lovely because most things that come in, I can say Yes to, where previously with a band you're thinking "Well, will drums work in that space? will you be deaf by the end of it?".
What's been your favorite show you've ever played?
[Chasing Owls] played Glastonbury 2013, and that was amazing. It just feels really like a family, with a huge spectrum of ages. And therefor our show was just amazing, so lovely. I would genuinely tell everyone to go, regardless of you are.I'd tell my mum to go!
What would be your favorite kind of place to play?
There's something about art centers: you have a gallery, a cafe, a studio space, a performance space... kind of purpose built for that.
At that building's inception, they're making it for the arts. It's really easy to tap into that ethos when you arrive and you're like,"Ah, this feels like I'm welcome here."
What's the next 6 months looking like?
I want an album. I'm really keen to collaborate [with a producer] in doing that. There's loads of space in my music that I think someone could have a lot of fun with. I'm more excited about that potential than the "fear of letting go".
CONNECT WITH BUNDERLAND
Our "Heartbeats" features aim to showcase the creative minds behind passionate projects in the fields of music and all other artforms.
words and photo by Shabnam Ferdowsi
What: Common Records
Who: Andrew Pearson (and friends)
Where: Edinburgh,Scotland, UK
In their own words, Common Records is "an independent-sub-micro-DIY" Scottish record label. Founded by Andrew Pearson around two years ago, the label has turned into a collective of incredibly talented musicians from different cities and small towns across Scotland.
During my trip across the pond, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Andrew in St Andrews (where he's in his last year of university) along with a couple other musicians (also his good friends) under the Common roster.
When it comes to running the mechanics of the label, from tasks such as getting the album cover graphics, printing physical copies and sending releases out for press, Andrew runs the show mostly on his own. Interesting fact though: he's not making a dime off it. Any money made goes straight back into running the label, and in the end it's more of a hobby (read:passion) than a living (read: financial gain). Surely he must make enough to pay the photographers, audio engineers and other contributors to the various projects right? Not quite. The Common Records community is run on the simple desires of creating the perfect work of art in a collective effort. It's a group of friends and friends of friends doing favors for one another, in the simple desire on collaborating on a passionate work of art.
Over the past two years, the roster has grown from Andrew's own circle in Fife and Edinburgh further into the musical city of Glasgow, and smaller towns such as Perth, and now reaches into different corners of the country. Together, the artists play shows, throw house parties, produce videos and generally support one another in their art-making.
Common Records' main aim is a simple one: to create a supportive community of artists and help them produce and release the best work they can. And from what I've seen, they've hit the spot quite perfectly.
I feel so lucky to have stumbled onto Andrew's music before I got to the UK. His label, his collective and the work of the artists within his community restore my faith in my own Beating Lights project and how I want to partake in the music scene.
"You don't need to sell out stadiums to have an effect" - Hamish James Hawk (a Common artist) put it quite perfectly I'd say.
To listen to all the Common Records releases, head over to their Bandcamp and show them some love! It's independent Scottish music at its finest.
words by Shabnam Ferdowsi
LA artist Kiki Halliday just released her first EP, Love Notes, today.
The production is simple and straightforward, highlighting Kiki's soulful songwriting and emotion. The favorite seems to be the title track, "Love Notes", that got everyone singing along with the catchy chorus at her EP Release Show over the weekend.
My personal favorite though has to be "Beautiful Soul". The harmonies and general arrangement of the song compliment Kiki's emotional vocals and get you swaying along in no time. (I'm all about that sway-ability!)
First releases like this one are always an exciting time for an independent artist, and we can't wait to see what's next!
Take a listen here and let us know what you think!
words by Shabnam Ferdowsi
I don't usually listen to Hip-Hop, and I definitely never write about it. But I'm going to make an exception for GameBrand because I've had their newest release on repeat all morning.
GrameBrand is hip-hop duo Brandon Canada and Derek Gramlam, currently based out of LA, and they just released their newest single, "Junkie". In a smart move they released the official music video for the track at the same time.
The song itself has got me grooving, but I'm especially liking the video.
I loved the movement throughout both in terms of cinematography as well as visually through color and lighting. The party scenes complemented the day shots at the beach, rather than overpowering them, and the overall vibe reminded me of the last days of college before the start of an endless summer.
Not to mention, those underwater scenes were too cool.
Check out the video, download "Junkie" here and share away!
words and playlist by Shabnam Ferdowsi
I don't drive, so I take the bus a lot. LA being the urban sprawl that it is, it takes me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and half to get to where I want to go across town. Listening to music is my favorite pastime, and I can do it for hours on end (it also helps me ignore that occasional smell of urine...)
Here are 15 songs that kept me sane on my bus rides in October, in no particular order:
1. Oberhofer- Away from U
2. Barretso- Celeste
3. Midi Matilda- Daydreams
4. On and On- Ghosts
5. Fink- Looking Too Closely
6. Matthew P- On Top
7. Bunderland- Son
8. Imaginary Future- April
9. Milo Greene- Autumn Tree
10. Bear's Den- Above The Clouds of Pompeii
11. Wake Owl- Wild Country
12. Kishi Bashi- The Ballad of Mr Steak
13. Human Life- Wherever We Are
14. StaG- It Worked For Him
15. Night Terrors of 1927- When You Were Mine (ft. Tegan and Sara)
words and photos by Shabnam Ferdowsi
Introducing a new series... Heartbeats: Portraits of the Passionate Heart.
There are a lot of cool things going on around us, and this series will shine a [beating] light (see what I did there?!) on the faces behind the various passion projects we'll be featuring.
We're so excited to get the show started!
Who: AJ Frydman and Harris Mayersohn
What: Prom Night, a bi-weekly stand up show featuring some of the best comics around held at Nature's Brew in Downtown Los Angeles.
If you've ever been to a stand-up comedy show before, you know it takes a lot of resilience to get on that stage. Crowds can range from super energetic and responsive to just downright apathetic, and it takes a certain amount of dedication, and rather, passion, to keep getting back up there.
AJ Frydman and Harris Mayersohn, respectively current student and alumni of USC's School of Cinematic Arts, have been hosting a bi-weekly stand-up show at a local coffee shop since this past February. Every show, they curate a line-up of talented, local comedians, while bringing their own bits to the table every now and then. It's not easy with a crowd of students whose opinions and tolerance levels you can't predict, whose sense of humor you can't quite gauge, and night classes that prevent some friends from making it out.
I met up with them before their last show on October 23rd to chat for a bit. As I got there about an hour before showtime, they were only just talking about what their intro would look like. Procrastination seems to be a part of their process, and personally I think it's working! Improvisation is what makes stand-up performers stand out (not to be redundant), and as the two put it, there's no way to practice than by throwing yourself into it.
It's a no-pressure space, and the hosts often try new bits between acts, or occasionally taking their own set-times. Depending on the crowd, any bit is a hit or miss...And if it's a miss, AJ loves the failure, Harris hates it. But like I said, no pressure! They just hand it back over to the next comedian if everything really hits the ground.
Every show is different than the last because every crowd is different, and every line-up is different. I've been a few times at this point and I've only ever had a good time. Who doesn't like to laugh, right?! The comedians are hilarious, and it's always fun seeing what AJ and Harris come up with something new. Sure, sometimes I don't get the jokes, sometimes I can feel the crowd cringing at the raunchier bits, but that should be expected: we don't all have the same sense of humor.
As Harris put it perfectly, "you just gotta suck" sometimes to see what does and doesn't work. And the way I see it, not getting a laugh or two is part of the whole process. Like writing a blog post and getting no reads, or releasing a video and getting a measly 15 views...
Not trying at all would be true failure.
PROM Nights happen every other Thursday night in Downtown LA, so make sure you like their Facebook page to stay updated!
words and photos by Shabnam Ferdowsi
This year's Honda Civic Tour featured three fantastic artists all quickly making waves in the mainstream.
Echosmith is an LA-based pop band. Their live show was energetic and their radio hit "Cool Kids' had the entire venue singing along. Frontgirl Sydney is such a sweet stage personality at just 17 years old, and I felt like I was having a conversation with her even when I left the photo pit and head to the very back of the standing area.
The Mowgli's are by quite far the best live performers I've ever seen. This was my thirs time seeing them and every time is the like the first. They strive to make their audience members feel happier leaving the show than when i started, and every time they kill it. I saw them at the Troubadour over the summer and the crowd there was a little more present and into the show, but perhaps that's only because it was a more intimate venue.
Even still though, all they had to do was end with their hit "San Francisco" and the crowd was having just as much fun as the band was on stage.
American Authors headlined the show, and I was more than pleasantly surprised to say the least. From the very first drum beat, it was one heck of a show. Production value? On point. Whether it was the lighting designers at Club Nokia or from the Honda Civic Tour itself (i don't know how these things work), it was so cool to watch. The band played a mix of old and new hits, and the entire venue was one big dance party.
Haven't heard of Lincoln Jesser yet? It's about time you did. This local LA artist is making that synth-pop that makes you groove and writes the lyrics that make you roll down the car window and sing at the top of your lungs.
Take a listen and get to him a little better below!
If someone’s never heard your music before, how would you describe it to them in one sentence? Psychedelic synth pop.
If you could collaborate with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why? Marvin Gaye...I'd want to produce for him. His voice and his message were both amazing beyond words.
As an artist, what’s on your long-term bucket list? Scoring a film.
What do you want listeners to take away from your music? I'd hope my music inspires them to take risks in the name of happiness, and to let the people they love know that they do in fact love them.
What’s your favorite concert you’ve been to? Daft Punk at Coachella 2006, MGMT in Brooklyn 2007, and The Strokes at Lollapalooza 2010
Who are you listening to right now? Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Lemaitre, and CHVRCHES
CONNECT WITH LINCOLN JESSER on Facebook
Photos and Words by Shabnam Ferdowsi
The Secret Someones are a Brooklyn based rock band that made me realize we need more girl-fronted rock bands! They opened the night with some real, raw energy up there and were able to mesmerize even the audience who didn't know the lyrics (like yours truly).
Wolf Gang nailed it. The British band has a decent following at this point, and their live show was so fun and had the crowd dancing in minutes. Their vocals made you swoon and their grooves made you smile; they pleasantly surprised us all.
Finally, by the time Sir Sly went on, the El Rey was packed. You could smell the anticipation growing as we waited for the curtains to open. When they did, and the bassist played his first note, I honestly had to resist the urge to start jumping up and down from the photo pit. The synth/pop/rock that they produce is the perfect formula for the ultimate dance party, especially when it's played live like it was last night, and even more especially with that deep bass.
The set design was phenomenal, playing on the same concepts of lights and dark that was also very prevalent in their most recent music video for "You Haunt Me".
The show was everything from entertaining, to talented to just straight up fun.
If someone’s never heard your music before, how would you describe it to them in one sentence?
I've always been terrible with this question, but maybe this is a time for me to lock down an answer. I've been tossing around "aggressive indie folk" a little recently but honestly I'm not sure what that even means. Maybe "indie folk punk"? I like to think I have a little of every genre in some songs somewhere but maybe thats a little too pretentious of an answer for me to commit to. Sorry this wasn't one sentence, and sorry I didn't actually lock down an answer. I failed.
If you could collaborate with any musician, dead or alive, who it be and why?
This is a toughie. I think I would have to pick Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! That band taught me a lot about being a human when I was 14 and discovered "Reinventing Axl Rose" at Ear-X-Tacy (a local record store in Louisville KY. Fun fact: It's now a Panera Bread). The Do It Yourself attitude is something that that particular album really instilled in me and my friends at a young age and to this day is still an important part of my life. That album inspired me to tour at an early age with my best friend in a band called Eat This McKinley, which was heavily influenced by Against Me. Against Me has always felt like a constant in my life and "Reinventing" is a grounding force for me and reminds me of my roots. You can also just feel the passion bleed through on that record. It's pretty incredible. I saw them recently and they played a lot of songs from that record and it was a big push for me to start playing music again.
As an artist, what’s on your long-term bucket list?
I think I would completely lose it if one of my songs was used in a Scorsese film. I could probably die a happy man if that ever happens. To me, he is the master of using music to create an interesting atmosphere. I'm not saying he is the only director to do so, but he just seems to really care about music and it shows. Watch any of his movies, it's such a huge part of it. He also is my favorite director. If any big time directors want to use any of my songs, I would be beyond stoked.
I would also be completely happy just packing a bar/house full of friends and strangers who sang along to every word and then I'd buy everyone a round of shots after. That seems fun.
I also need to find a different shirt to play shows in because I've been playing in the same one.
What do you want listeners to take away from your music?
A really great friend of mine once wrote this in an insert for our band's (Eat This McKinley) first album and it always stuck with me: "Forgive us for any wrong notes or off tuning, but I guess that's what music is all about: purpose, meaning, and emotion comes first. Hopefully skill will come later. Go out and start a band. Play the music you wanna play and don't worry if you think you're horrible. Don't let skill get in your way, write with everything you got and go play your fuckin' heart out"
I'm paraphrasing a bit but that's the gist of it. It's not to say that you can just throw up a disclaimer before any show or album and be bad on purpose. You should respect stage time and studio time and give yourself a chance to grow and develop the skills you find important, or what you like to hear in songs you like. At the end of the day I just want to inspire people to make music that means more to them than to anyone else and that it's okay for any art you make to have scars because that's whats going to stand out the most. I hope people take that away from my music. Most people probably just think I'm a sad bastard though, which I'm also fine with.
What’s your favorite concert you’ve been to?
I just recently went to my favorite concert I've ever been to! It was Mimicking Birds and Modest Mouse at Pappy and Harriets in Pioneertown, CA. Modest Mouse played a 105 minute set including the song "Broke" which I didn't think they'd play. It's probably one of my favorite songs ever written and I think it's almost 20 years old now which is crazy. If you ever get a chance to see a show at Pappy and Harriets, do it. It's a "wild west watering hole" under the stars in the mountains. It's gorgeous.
Who are you listening to right now?
Young Jesus is a Chicago based band I've been listening to a lot recently. Their album "Home" is probably in my top 5 favorite albums of all time. I really love it and can't seem to tire myself out from it. Everyone should check it out. It's on Spotify. They also just released a single called "G" after a two year hiatus, which is great. I heard they just moved to LA so hopefully they play a show soon. Everyone like them on facebook and tell them to play a show so I can see them!
CONNECT WITH CAMERON FIFE on Facebook
words and photos by : Shabnam Ferdowsi
LA-based Soft Swells played their last residency show at The Echo on Monday night 9/22. I'd personally never been to the venue for their renown free monday nights so I had no idea what to expect.
I got there at 10pm sharp, and already the place was packed: friends hanging in the bar area, couples lounging near the dance floor and solo music-lovers who you could tell where frequent concert-goers. It was that Echo Park vibe that I love and we all know well.
Soft Swells played what I decided was a dreamy, grooving rock show. I think the sound guys could have checked it better, because the drum levels were a little too overpowering for my taste, but for the live show it only added to the swaying, foot-tapping atmosphere.
My favorites were obviously "Lifeboats" off their last EP and "Floodlights" off their new album out September 30th (and I say obviously because those are probably their most publicized tracks).
Their month-long tour starts today, so make sure to check them out if you can!
A.F. Paxton just released "Our Way" last week with NY-based Go Rogue Records. The track is part of the label's Young Blood album out today, which is a compilation of edgy electronic pop tracks.
"Our Way"'s blend of acoustic instruments and digital production creates an extremely cool, dreamy feel. It's the perfect track to end summer with. My favorite verse has to be "Nothing can get in our way", the epitome of endless possibilities and a the feels of an unpredictable future.
Take a listen here!
New Music Empire returns to Old Towne Pub to host their second night of killer rock n roll. The night will feature three bands all current students and alumni of USC's Popular Music Program, and all bringing an incredibly high energy with their rock music:
The Hammers are an 80's inspired rock band, bringing those raspy vocals and intense guitar shreds that you remember from those days when the Sunset Strip was still cool. They deliver an energy-filled, hot and sweaty performance using actual hammers as mic stands. It's all kinds of entertainment in one place. They recently released an EP Hammer City and will be releasing a music video for "Hammer City" off the EP on September 24th.
Dolly Spectra is the project of Dani Ashjian. It's surrealist punk with a girl power edge. Their quirky live shows are brought to you by neon colors, men in dresses and a gut-wrenching tantrum pop that'll make you forget it's only 2014 and we haven't actually invented time travel yet. This show will be Dolly Spectra's single release show for her newest track, “Moving in Circles”.
Livia's angsty rock has been described as "gritty and full of longing". Her songwriting is honest and vulnerable, and her live performance is nothing short of raw and energetic. Livia is currently working on a full-length album as she prepares to graduate from USC.
This is bound to be a mind-boggling, head-banging, sweaty show!