music blog

MUSINGS: In Search For the Favorites

words by Shabnam Ferdowsi

What's your favorite band? What kind of music do you listen to?

As someone who runs a music blog, who's constantly going to shows, who's deeply  passionate about all things music, I get asked those questions a lot. Until now, I've been very broad in my answers: "Some folk rock, some synth pop, a lot of bands I guess",  "a lot of stuff" or, the worst, "indie music." 

Recently a friend pointed this out to me. Why don't I have an answer? Sure, music is still a relatively new passion, and sure I didn't grow up with it affecting me the way it does now. But that's the thing: it does now.  I listen to so much music, I care so much about it, that I should have favorites, right?

Do you get attached to any of these bands? my friend asked. Somehow, that question hit the nail on  the head. I've been so focused on constantly finding new music I forgot to get attached. 

So now I'm on a quest to find my favorites. How do I know they're my favorites? That requires a whole different blog post and research project. I'll leave that for later. For now, I'm going to begin by compiling music  that has deeply made its mark on me, whether it's old goodies like The Lumineers, or new loves like The Drums. What kind of mark? Again, one question at a time!

So far the process has made me realize how much music I'm intaking, a lot that goes in one ear and out the other, a lot that has its own time and place but isn't necessarily a listening tune but just a fun beat, a lot that ends up being devoid of much connection, and therefore attachment. 

This will be an ongoing project, in the hopes that I'll understand music, my taste and myself a little better. And so I can tell people what my favorite bands are, like a normal music blogger, you know?

Follow along by following my Spotify playlist!

NEW MUSIC: FutureFeel- Orion

words by Shabnam Ferdowsi

FutureFeel is an LA-based duo that's been creating electro-infused indie-rock. Today they released their third single "Orion". The track is consistent with their uplifting vibes that sounds like OneRepublic with a 2015, synthetic twist. The chorus lines beg you to sing along, windows down, chasing dreams: "With you I'm a fire / I'm lighting up the sky/ Burning like the stars of Orion"

Their music is fun, light and bound to put a smile on your face. Take a listen to the single below and stay tuned for more form these dudes!

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NEW MUSIC: Alexa Melo debut LP

Words by Shabnam Ferdowsi

Alexa Melo is a 20 year old singer and songwriter currently based in LA. She's been in and out of record deals since the age of 14 until finally deciding to go indie. She's just released her first official LP that's filled with soulful rock and wispy angst. 

Read our little interview and listen tot he full LP below!

 

Your debut  self-titled album has such a raw, rock-influenced sound, something that's harder to find these days in new music. How do you think you've been able to hone in to and maintain your distinct sound?

While I was signed for almost my entire teenage hood, I was constantly being challenged to prove myself. There was this echoing criticism that kept being brought up- that I didn't know who I was as an artist. especially in my younger years, I was constantly experimenting with my sound and trying on different genre DNA. Nothing ever stuck. I would enjoy the process of creating something new but then immediately feel the urge to move on again and create something completely different. This obviously annoyed the label as they had no idea how to market an indie/experimental teenage girl, so the label didn't spend a lot time on my project and for even 6 months at a time I wouldn't even hear from them. I was homeschooled and being ignored by the label, so in those pockets of spare time I'd basically spend my days writing new songs and producing. I honed my sound by writing and producing in a constant state of transformation. I've recorded 13 albums by myself in my room from age 13 to now and each one wears its influences loudly. You can hear that i was obsessed with Bob Dylan when I was 14, and you can hear my Pixies phase clear as day on an album I made when  I was 16. I still don't feel I've settled on a sound. That's one of the reasons why I left the record label- so I can be in an environment that will allow me to continuously evolve as an artist. 

You've been in an out of so many different places and phases of the music industry. What's been your biggest take-away?

Never to trust anyone in this industry. I know how cynical that is but it's true. You got to go with your gut and trust YOURSELF whole heartedly. You got to make a best friend out of the voice in your head and move forward knowing that whatever happens, whoever fucks you over, you still have yourself and your love for music and that will always allow you to prevail and move along. Being a female and an artsy fartsy type has made me an easy target for some because I'm very vulnerable at times. I've learned to NEVER make myself an easy target. I have to believe with all my heart and soul that I'm the shooter and they're the targets. 

How do you want to leave your listeners feeling with this album?

That's tough to say. I want listeners to feel the way I feel after I listen to a piece of music that I relate to and thoroughly enjoy. Just fulfilled, inspired and intoxicated. Thats a stretch and quite a lot to hope for but if I could choose how people would feel when listening, it would be those things.


If you could collaborate with any current artist,who and why?

AH! My head just exploded. This question could give me an anxiety attack! Jack White or Thom Yorke. I'd say that those two are the biggest current rock stars of our time, alive today and I think i would learn a million new things by simply being in the room with them.


CONNECT WITH ALEXA MELO

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LISTEN: The Mispers- Weekend

Words by Shabnam Ferdowsi

Who: The Mispers

Where: London, UK

The Mispers are currently on tour in the US right now, playing School Night tomorrow 6/15/15 and Hotel Cafe 5/16/15. Their newest track "Weekend" has got me so ready to see them live! I love the scratchy vocals, the pop-infused anthemic rock that's simultaneously a dance party and an underground rock show. 

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PHOTOS: Popshop West 027 w/ Parade of Lights/Tove Styrke/Dark Waves/ Golden Coast

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!

PREVIEW: My Double, My Brother @ The Satellite 1/12/15

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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.


CONNECT WITH MY DOuBLE MY BROTHER

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INTERVIEW: UniversalThee

Universal Thee is an Edinburgh based band. This interview was conducted inside Cabaret Voltaire, part music venue, part pub, part nightclub over a few pints of beer and cider. A little taste of the Scotland for you.

What's the music scene in Edinburgh like, and how has it affected your band?

It's not a large city, but I think there is an appetite for it out there. Places put on shows 7 nights a week, and I think they could be focusing it on nights where people are up for it. We've seen really good bands playing on a Tuesday night to no one, and it's disheartening.

But you go elsewhere in Scotland, and you can get a brilliant reception. People seem to go to gigs. In Glasgow people seem to go to gigs. Maybe it's just the timing here?Timing and price, it's rather expensive. 

What's been your favorite show you've played so far?

The rehearsal room we use, 7th Harmonic, needed people to help support them when they were going. They put on a 1st birthday gig, and because we'd been such supporters of them, and because we'd like to think they liked us, they asked to play at it. That night everything was just perfect. It helped that there was a huge crowd, and it's easy tog et a great shows when you're getting great feedback. 

What's going on in the next 6 months?

We're releasing a single in a few months, and a few more we'll be hitting the record studio for soon. We also keep intermittently releasing DIY videos for our youtube channels and whatnot. It's really all sorts of fun. Then we have a tour getting arranged around the single, around Scotland, hopefully England and potentially Belfast. 

We're due to possibly play Finland next year, at the Festival of the Midnight Suns, for three days of daytime. That would be a dream come true: it's about 20 thousand people a day at the festivals, so hopefully that's pans out. 


CONNECT WITH UNIVERSAL THEE

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Music-Induced Tears (Brought To You by Scotland)

words and feelings by Shabnam Ferdowsi

Music doesn't make me cry. Sure, the right song with the right minor chords can make me feel sad for no particular reason, but there has never been a song that has moved me whether lyrically or melodically to the point of tears. 

Until 3 weeks ago. 

Hamish James Hawk is an Edinburgh-based artist I met first while I was in St Andrews. He's released some music under Common Records and happened to be there during my little chat with Andrew Pearson (for the Heartbeats feature I wanted to write up). He gave me a copy of his latest album before we went our separate ways and that could have been that. But I decided to give the album a listen that night, and to say I was blown away is an understatement.  I was heading to Edinburgh the day after, so naturally I sent him a Facebook message and we set up a shoot for that Friday. But I digress.

This specific song,"Th Right Amount of Blue", immediately struck some chord in me, and such a strong chord that my heart would start hurting and tears would start welling up five seconds into the song. And this kept happening for days, every single time I listened to it.

Which begged the question: WHY?  I can in no way whatsoever relate to the lyrics. Not in the slightest bit. And he's not even using any minor chords!

So then, is it simply Hawk's  deep and melancholic vocals? The rich guitar sounds? The lyrical storytelling that, even though I can't relate, makes me feel like I can?

Or the combination of the three that, in my mind, sounds like Scotland? And therefore brings the tears because I was so affected by the country and my time there? Yeah, I think I'll go with that. 

Then today, it happened again ("it" being music-induced tears)

I was browsing through older Common Records music when I stumbled onto  a release by Tommy Telescope and the Notorious B.A.M., which I found out was Andrew Pearson's project a couple years ago (2012). Its lo-fi, electronic, wordy, fluttering instrumental goodness had me instantly. 

This one particular song, "Albert The Kid", is a spoken word electronica piece about a phrase spray painted under a bridge that the narrator passes by on the train. 

This is how the song ends, and this is where something happened in my heart/mind:

"And here's the thing that's brilliant / Here's the thing that makes me breathless with excitement / This gender indiscriminate street artist and poet has decided that this phrase, these 5 words that they have found hiding in the corners of their imagination / Are worth something / Worth the paint/ Worth the time / Worth crossing railway lines in the middle of the night just to [crudely dob and write] a written rescue from the oppression of anonymity not with a name but with an idea a feeling as not just another assertion of property but rather a reclamation from property, for poetry. / So whether you can dance or draw or walk the dog with a yo-yo make Albert The Kid a hero for our times and reclaim the streets tonight. "

I'm still figuring out what happened in my mind that brought the tears. I think in the end it's the combination of the beautiful guitar riffs, the fluttering electronic notes, and the words about hope, passion and creativity that made me feel. The street artist felt those words worthy enough to spray them onto a wall, and Andrew Pearson felt impassioned enough, "breathless with excitement" as he says, that he wrote a whole song about it. Thus, leaving me breathless with excitement (to the point of tears), because there's nothing more magical than passion, in my humble opinion. 

SESSION: bunderland- Son

"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

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WATCH: GameBrand- Junkie (Official Music Video)

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!

 

CONNECT WITH GAMEBRAND

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Local Spotlight: Soft Swells

"Sun drenched indie rock in the vein of classic songwriters with modern sounds."
- Soft Swells

What has been the best part about your residency at The Echo?

Besides getting to hang with our new friends Fenech-Soler every week I really have loved playing all these new songs. It's been great fun discovering what will work live and what won't. Christopher Pappas, Kyle Fredrickson, Jack Lawless and I have really tried to keep our set uptempo and high energy. It's also been rad to see what people who liked the debut record think of the new record - as it's so different.

What’s one thing you want your fans to take away from your music, specially the new album?

I want both new fans and old fans to take away a sense of hope from Floodlights. A lot of the record is about the journey we all go through in life and the perspective we choose to give it.

As a band, what’s on your bucket list?

As a newish band we would really love to play venues we grew up loving like 9:30 club in DC, Newport Music Hall in Columbus (where I went to HS) and The Wiltern here in LA. We would also love to tour Japan and the UK next year - fingers crossed on those two!!!

What are you looking for in your upcoming tour?

We are really looking forward to exposing a lot of new people to our band, our new record Floodlights, and winning new fans over one by one every night. We have all toured and played in other bands before and know that as people consume and dispose of new music quickly it's important to make a one on one genuine connection with everyone we meet. (and we will do just that!)


Soft Swells is playing their last LA residency show at the Echo on Monday 9/22, you won't want to miss them before they head out on tour!

 

CONNECT WITH SOFT SWELLS

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Artist Spotlight: The Moderates

Who: Josh Taylor (guitar, lead vocals), Wes Mathison (bass) and Garret Huff (drums)

Where: Long Beach, CA

In One Sentence: "We're an alternative, indie-rock band who is seeking to be the best that we can be; push ourselves, captivate people and make a difference."

How they met

Wes: " I knew Josh in 3rd grade, when we first met. And we just hung out by default because our parents were friends and we were both homeschooled. We just grew up playing music together. And once we got into high school, I met Garrett on the wrestling team and just hit it off right off the bat. [...] I went to his house one day; he had a drum set and I was like, "I have a guitar we should jam!" So we started jamming together, and then we brought Josh into the mix. Then we got that great idea and went, "Let's start a band."

Musical Influences

Garrett: "We listen to all kinds of different things, and when we come together  [...] we put all of our musical influences together into one moderate sound."

Dream Collaborations

Josh: Jon Foreman of Switchfoot. 

Wes: Victor Wooten.

Garrett:  Taylor Hawking of the Foo Fighters.

Dream Venue

Red Rocks in Colorado. "Outdoor, completely natural, [...] carved out of the rock."

Bucket List

Josh: "I say Solar System Tour. Let's play on Mars" 

But in all seriousness, the guys would love to go on a  World Tour. 

CONNECT WITH THE MODERATES

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Soundcloud

New Music Tuesday: Smallpools - Killer Whales

Smallpools took the music world by storm when they released their first track ever, "Dreaming", last summer. The indie pop tune had people all over the world jamming and dancing instantly. Fans have been waiting for a new release for a whole year, and the band's newest track, "Killer Whales", was finally released today! With hints of Phoenix and dash of 5 Seconds of Summer,  the track still holds true to their dance-y, indielectro-pop vibes.

"Killer Whales" is available for a free download here.

We want to know, what you think about Smallpools' new beat?? Worth the wait?

DISCOVER: Friends With Cameras- Wake Me

Friends With Cameras is an LA-based group. ‘Wake Me’ is their first track released on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

I hope you like what you hear because you can most likely anticipate more awesome music from then soon! I’d recommend following them on Soundcloud,

An Interview w/ The Naked and Famous

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Answers by Thom Powers:

What was your inspiration behind In Rolling Waves?

Touring, living full time as a musician, the past, the present, the future, Passive Me, Aggressive You, success, failure, love, sex, trust, compassion, friendship, hunger, boredom and of course a sense of gratitude and responsibility to our wonderful fans.

How was it different than your first album?

We had less time, more resources, more refined skills, more refined ambitions and a desire to challenge ourselves as performers, song writers, producers and engineers.

Could you say your songwriting has changed or developed in the past two years?

Definitely. Where I normally would’ve remained fixated on production, timbre, layering and mixing, I tried to re-focus myself with basic songwriting: chords, lyrics and melody. We definitely tried to create greater dynamic impact with In Rolling Waves, both sonically and emotionally. Sticking to a very performance-friendly sonic template helped us achieve this. All the songs are “live” songs. Between the 5 of us we can perform each and every part. 

What’s been your favorite part about touring?

I think being able to meet fans is pretty special. Especially when they’re not expecting it! It’s hard to pick a favorite part though… the entire experience is a privilege.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

Coachella, More touring, Coachella again, The Governors Ball, Europe in the summer, American winters, writing, demoing, recording new music… making it through to 2015!

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