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A piece of writing from musician, JD Weaver

I had the pleasure of interviewing JD Weaver last fall. JD’s passion is music but he’s recently taken up writing as another means of communication. He posts fairly frequently so if you like what you’ve read, check back with his blog periodically.

This piece is my personal favorite and a great example of JD’s ability to mesh his pasison for music, life and writing. Click the link below:

The greatest music envelops diversity, transcends adversity. I will never give up on music as a disabled person, because others before me didn’t

Playlist: Summer Sounds Vol III

Deep in the depths of my inbox, sonic magic awaits:

singing saw

Album Review: “Singing Saw” by Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby hadn’t spent more than a few moments with a piano in his lifetime until he stumbled upon an old upright in his new home in Mount Washington in LA. With the piano, was some simple sheet music and a book of fundamental piano chords, enough to instill in Morby a new love for piano and the spark that became his newest record, Singing Saw. Within his neighborhood in LA, a dichotomy arose, a striking bifurcation between the expansive city skyline and the complex beauty of the natural world surrounding him. This, too kindled what became Morby’s stunning lyricism and storytelling material, the duality simultaneously reflected in the blooming instrumentals on the album.

Singing Saw is the journey of a man through life, from wakefulness to dreaming, joy to sorrow, acceptance, relief and surrender. The record is stitched together with mentions of the singing saw, both its power as an instrument and a tool and mentions of tears, always streaming, gathering in his eyes. The record opens with “Cut Me Down”, the first sound you hear, a singing saw. It is the perfect introduction to the album. It displays his simple lyricism that is deeper than each word’s surface value:

Take me as I am, a man.

And they’re going to do,

what they came here to do.

I can see it in their eyes,

They’re going to cut me down.

The following track is a powerful ballad with a commanding bass line, decorated with prevailing vocals and of course, the piano. Like many of the tracks on the record “I Have Been to the Mountain” has a blossoming quality. Morby’s songs grow, expand and became something more beautiful and sprawling than what they were at the start. A unique music video accompanies this song. According to Morby, “‘I Have Been To The Mountain‘ is a song for those struck down by the hands of evil – senseless killings which have always overwhelmed our planet, but especially recently,” says Morby. “It’s dedicated to and inspired by the death of Eric Garner.” It stars dancer, Nathan Mitchell.

Besides “I Have Been to the Mountain”, “Dorothy” is the most up tempo piece on the album. Fuzzy guitars surprise you from the get go and hold steady through the track, while Morby plays tricks with the song, it slows to a crawl, piano holding it together and all of a sudden, it’s back at full speed:

Tears will gather in my eye.

Hold my hand, ah babe you know I’ll cry.

The title track, “Singing Saw”, is the first time Morby literally describes the duality of the singing saw. The track is a dream, the singing saw cutting down willows, destroying what’s in its path and chasing after him. The song lingers on and on for 7 minutes, like those moments between sleep and wakefulness where voices echo in your mind, leaving you unsure of what is real and imagined. The singing saw prominent in the track, eerie and ominous.

One thing that makes Morby unique is his singing quality, it’s somewhere between speaking and singing, giving his music a gentler feeling. My favorite display of this on the album is “Drunk and On a Star.” His voice rises and falls as though he’s telling a story but he simultaneously is singing, changing notes.

After “Dorothy”, the latter half of the album is rich, slow and gorgeous, ending with the celebratory track, “Water.” It builds, flourishes and grows while Morby begs to be put out like a fire:

If you find water,

Please call my name.

Put me out like a fire,

Cover me in rain.

The Singing Saw is a special album and is constructed in a way in which the listener is brought full circle from the start of the album to its end. The record is out now on Dead Oceans and is available on iTunes among other music-purchasing platforms.

Check Kevin Morby’s website for his fall European tour dates.

 

twin peaks

Album Review: “Down in Heaven” by Twin Peaks

Down in Heaven is the third record to come to us by Chicago fellows, Twin Peaks. They set out on a recording mission in the comfort of a friend’s home in Massachusetts where the goal was to focus on creating an album that they themselves would want to listen to. Not restrained by the sound of their previous records and inspired by bands like The Velvet Underground who created albums that were each unlike their others, Twin Peaks came up with Down in Heaven.

 The record is a celebration of heartbreak, triumph, being a loser and not really giving a f#ck. The record is acceptance and acknowledgment of the life you live, what you can and can’t have and what you do and do not want. In the track ‘You Don’t’, over and over again we hear them sing “I don’t wanna be yours.” Plain and simple, sometimes love just doesn’t work out in both directions. Melodically the track is fun and low key, an easy jam with hoots and hollers in between the verse and the chorus. This mellow attitude is the overriding theme for the record.

Tracks like ‘Butterfly’ feature a slightly more garage rock feeling with a catchy “Ba ba ba ba” bridge that sticks relentlessly in your brain. Twin Peaks’ ability to write catchy sound bites is apparent on Down in Heaven. The tempo is slightly more restrained on ‘Cold Lips’, ‘Heavenly Showers’, and ‘Stain’ but the boys’ energy is apparent, the record never losing steam.

They play with their musical abilities, featuring a variety of instruments on each track. The piano at the forefront of the whimsical track, ‘Getting Better’, and brass featured in ‘Lolisa’, the fellows showcase their knack for layering instruments and writing songs in a way that gives each track a unique sound. My personal favorite on this record is ‘Holding Roses.’ It has a familiar sound, there’s something retro about it but Twin Peaks puts their spin on it and creates the most ridiculously satisfying sound. Unfortunately, it’s one of the shortest tracks on the record! The chorus demands a belting sing-a-long.

Down in Heaven was the perfect record to kick off the 2016 summer and has remained a favorite of mine throughout. The record was released May 13th on Grand Jury and is available on iTunes, among other music-purchasing platforms. Catch them touring this fall!

9/06/2016 Columbus, OH @ The Basement
9/07/2016 Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
9/08/2016 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
9/13/2016 Orlando, FL @ The Social
9/14/2016 Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
9/15/2016 Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder / Union Productions
9/16/2016 New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
9/17/2016 Houston, TX @ Raven Tower
9/19/2016 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
9/20/2016 Austin, TX @ Mohawk Austin
9/22/2016 Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
9/23/2016 San Diego, CA @ The Irenic
9/26/2016 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Club Atrium
9/28/2016 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
9/29/2016 Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
9/30/2016 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey!
10/8/2016 Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue & 7th St Entry

fake guns

Debut track from Fake Guns: “Blue”

With Alex Fitts of The Kickdrums on vocals and his partner in crime, Chris Wall on drums , Fake Guns’ debut track, “Blue”, is the perfect resuscitation for summer. The track is laced with a killer chorus, sizzling summer synths and a melody that’s made to be blasted from your car stereo.

 

 

The duo has been remaining relatively mysterious and all they’re willing to reveal about themselves is that besides “Blue”, more music is to come!

ethan burns

New single from up and coming blues boy, Ethan Burns: “22 Knots”

Something about Ethan Burns’ voice speaks more than you would imagine coming from someone the age of 25. There is a maturity and a thick, rich quality to Burns’ vocals that absolutely make his music what it is. As a young boy, he grew up primarily on gospel music but music took on an entirely new meaning to him  when he discovered “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. It was then that he discovered his knack for learning music by ear. The rest is history.

Last month he released his latest single, “22 Knots”, a track Burns says is “about a lonely man taking to the emotional high seas to try and escape his worries, then has second thoughts.” The single is off of his upcoming EP which is due out on Fairfax Recordings on September 30th. “22 Knots” is blues, it’s pop, it’s retro and modern all a the same time. The track encompasses a vast spectrum of genres, gluing them together with his one of a kind voice. 

 

 

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Interview: Timothy Wojcik of Cup

First of all, I’d like to highlight my favorite bit of my interview with Timothy Wojcik of the garage (?)-rock (?)-noise metal (?) band, Cup.

“It might just sound horrible enough to make it into a Cup song.”

This should give you an idea of the kind of character Tim is. He doesn’t take anything too seriously, especially not the music he makes for Cup. He’s making music 100% just for the hell of it, just to make some noise that he and his bandmates hope reach some ears. Tim reached out to me a few months ago and I wasn’t quite sure what to think of his music and his newest album, More Cup. It was loud and I couldn’t quite figure it out SO, I asked him a series of questions and it cleared things up for me immensly, made his music make more sense. Throughout the interview Tim refers to his music as “garage shit” or “an album full of my idiotic songs” and also shares his stream of thoughts on EVERYTHING. His answers are long-winded but hilarious, genuine and thoughtful. I HIGHLY suggest you invest the time to check out what Houston-born noise rocker, Timothy Wojcik has to say about Cup.

MFL: How did your previous musical projects in NYC and experience as a drummer shape CUP?

 Timothy Wojcik (CUP): Before I started playing in Queen Giza (QG), a psych garage band I formed with a good buddy, Eric Casella, in NYC, I hadn’t drummed since high school, so around 6 years. There was no particular reason to the hiatus–I just didn’t bring my kit to college with me and didn’t pay much attention to it whenever I did go back home. So playing in the Geez got me back to loving playing music. It was like, why the hell haven’t I been playing all this time?? Eric recently moved out of the city, so QG has become a bit more sporadic. We’re just focusing on recording (actually just put out our first self-produced album this June, called Machine Master Demon Dream, available literally everywhere!) and playing shows whenever he’s able to take some time off work and come up here. 

 In the meantime, I’ve been playing with some other friends in a psych dream pop band called Trash Gendar (TG). The songs are very different from Queen Giza songs. A lot more parts, abrupt changes, angular and kinda odd riffs, a bit more vocally driven. Playing in TG was a bit of a drumming challenge, and I think playing with those dudes has made me an overall much better drummer. I’d never played songs in a 9/4 time signature before, you know? We’re playing a hell of a lot, tons of shows, recording, putting out an EP on cassette sometime very soon. It’ll be called Once, Child.

 Anyway, I think being a drummer is key to Cup. I’m coming at these songs thinking about the rhythm more than anything else. Each recording starts with a drum track (in the case of the last album, More Cup, it was two drum tracks in each song), and from there I build the guitar riffs and vocals. It’s a fun challenge: sit down at the miked up kit, and see if I can come up with 10-12 different, distinct, kinda punky beats.

 MFL: What are the pros and cons of being a solo musical project? One in which you are writing, recording and mastering everything yourself.

 CUP: Being on an island definitely has its benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, I can do whatever I want, play whatever beat or riff I want, make up whatever lyrics I want, mix the songs to sound however I want. Total creative freedom. On the other, I’m never sure if what I’m making is actually cool, or just stupid as hell. When you don’t have a full band all digging an idea for a song, or you don’t have another set of ears listening to mixes, that self-doubt creeps in very quickly.

 Mastering stuff myself has been a HUGE con. I don’t have any of the cool and pricy analog gear that a mastering pro might have, so I’m limited to the free plugins in the DAW I use, which is—don’t laugh at me—Reaper. I found a chain of plugins for mastering on some forum a while back, and have been using that since. I’ve tinkered with it a bit and think I’ve gotten better at it—More Cup definitely sounds much better than the previous albums, but it’s just lacking that punch that a pro can give masters. I’d love to use a mastering pro at some point, but don’t think I can bring myself to spend around $50 per song for a full album of my idiotic tunes.

Figuring out the live iteration of the band has also been a bit of a challenge, but fortunately I had a buddy, Alex Casella—actually the younger brother of my bandmate in Queen Giza—who I knew played drums and who has been willing to play my silly songs. And he had a buddy, Tim Askerov, who plays bass and keys, and who was down to play some keys for Cup. So we’ve got a nice little three piece playing my songs. But even just finding the time to practice has been super difficult. Tim is in a couple of other bands, and my TG practice and show schedule is usually very busy. So we’ve been limited to a couple hours on, like, Sunday morning, 10 AM. Kinda rough. Fortunately, I don’t think anyone expects Cup to be a tight and polished act—it’s more about having fun playing some noisy garage shit.

 MFL: Was sitting behind a drum kit your first musical experience or did you pick up any other instruments prior?

CUP: I actually started off playing the trombone, and man I loved it. I started back in the 4th grade and had this amazing teacher. I got to the point where I could jam and improvise with my dad, who is an amazing self-taught jazz guitarist. I played through to the 7th grade and then joined the school band, which totally sucked all the fun out of playing. I quit trombone and started playing drums then, which is super late to start drumming, but oh well. I’ve actually been thinking of trying to incorporate some trombone—maybe some sort of horn drone, through some delay and fuzz pedals. It might just sound horrible enough to make it into a Cup song.

Otherwise, I’ve always been around guitars. My older brother is also a great guitar player, actually started playing classical and then moved to electric, like most teenage boys are wont to do. So, being the younger brother, and also in a household of lead guitar players, I usually was handed an acoustic and told a series of four chords to play over and over again while my brother or dad would shred solos. I actually think that experience was hugely influential to Cup and my guitar playing. I can’t solo worth shit, but I can play the same 4-8 chord progression for 10-20 minutes straight. Not that that’s impressive, but you know, I can do it.

 

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 MFL: If you are not from NYC originally, how did you find yourself there? In a few words, describe the music scene in NYC from your perspective.

CUP: I’m actually from Houston, TX. I moved up to NYC after college at a small school, Hendrix, in central Arkansas, following a girl I had been dating for about a year. I was an English major, and eventually found a job in book publishing, at a literary agency.

 The NYC music scene is incredible. There are shows going on every single night of the week, and there are so many great bands around. And I’ve found it to be a very supportive crowd. For example, I set up a release show for Queen Giza this Thursday the 11th (at The Gateway, if you’re reading this and in NY, come on out!), and one of the bands had to drop out with pretty short notice. So I messaged a new music buddy and he had a list of bands for me to reach out to. I did, and I think we already have a replacement band. Maybe that’s not all that crazy, but it left me thinking that there are people here that actually care about your bands and shows and music and will help you out if need be.

 MFL: How would you describe the musical genre that is CUP and what musicians (past or present) have inspired this sound?

CUP: I think Cup sits pretty squarely in the garage rock genre. I could say psych garage rock, but then I’d be kidding myself—there’s nothing really psych about it, besides the weird vocals.

My main inspiration is Coachwhips, John Dwyer’s band prior to when Thee Oh Sees really took off. It’s really raw, loud, and messy sounding, and I love it. I wish I had gotten to see them live at some point, in a warehouse somewhere, in a huge, sweaty, throbbing crowd. Early Thee Oh Sees were a big inspiration too, of course, especially for this last album.

My other inspiration, perhaps oddly, was the first Eagles of Death Metal album. I hope I don’t get chastised for saying that, because I know the main dude in EODM has been getting in trouble with the media for some stuff he said lately. But that first album is just fantastic and totally rocking.

MFL: If you were to headline a show, who would be your opener? And, the other way around, who would be the dream band for you to open for?

 CUP: I can’t even fathom what series of events would lead to someone opening for Cup, so I’m not going to answer that first part. It would just be crazy for me to say anyone—and if I did mention anyone, and they found this interview, they’d be like, “Who is this idiot with the shitty sounding band that wants me to open for them?? “

But the other way around might be more in the realm of possibility. There are so many bands I’d love to open for! On the loftier end of the spectrum, Thee Oh Sees (Coachwhips if they ever do any more reunion shows), Ty Segall and whichever band he’s doing at the time. King Kahn and BBQ Show would probably be the most fun to open for—a friend has hung with King Kahn before and had some great stories to tell. Even though it would a stretch to call it a “fit,” I’d love to open for Wand.

 There are a lot of great NYC bands that I think would be cool to open for. Surfbort are fkin insane and fun. I just saw Cheena for the first time recently, opening for Goggs along with Surfbort, and they were awesome. I’d love to get another show together with Pink Mexico, who is taking off right now. I’d also love to get a show with Thick, who are an incredibly fun band to see live. Sharkmuffin are amazing. BOYTOY, Las Rosas, The Rizzos, Baby Shakes, GYMSHORTS; I could go on and on!

MFL: What do listeners need to know about your record, More Cup, before listening?

CUP: I guess that there are two drum tracks per song—I’m not sure if that’s all that easy to discern. But otherwise, nothing really. Oh, and that I know my singing is bad. And that I’m sorry for all of it.

MFL: What is the idea behind CUP? Is it an acronym or does it represent something besides the inanimate object humans drink liquids out of?

CUP: I was debating band names for a long time with buddies, and thought I came up with some good ones. But I wanted something really simple. One of my favorite bands right now is Wand, who I think possibly have the coolest band name ever. Very simple, but immediately connotes a larger conceptual idea. So then I was looking through other tarot-like terms, and Cup kind of called out to me, but in a “Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I named the band Cup” way. And then in a “Wouldn’t it be even funnier if I named the first album and song ‘I Am A Cup’” way. My buddies agreed that that would be pretty funny, so I went with it.

 

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MFL: When is your most productive time of day as a musician and why?

CUP: Oh, anytime I’m able to get into the studio. I feel like I can turn it on whenever I need to. For Cup recording, I’ve been going to the rehearsal studio early in the morning on weekends, mainly to ensure that the metal band next door doesn’t happen to be there, with their insane loudness bleeding into the recording. I mean, I try to be loud, but those guys—just, holy shit. But being in the studio while nobody else is there, with a huge cup of coffee, has been great for recording productivity.

In terms of writing lyrics or guitar parts, that usually happens on my couch in my apartment in the evening, after a beer or two. Just noodling while watching whatever bizarre comedy show I’m into at the time (Squidbillies and Eric Andre right now). Sometimes I’ll notice that something sounds cool, and will make a voice memo of it on my phone.

MFL: What is on the horizon for CUP in terms of live performances?

CUP: We’ve got a show 8/30 or 9/1 at Sunnyvale, a newish cool Brooklyn venue. But otherwise we’ve got nothing! Gotta go send some more booking emails out.

MAJOR “thank you” to Tim for all the emailing back and forth and for taking the time to check out MFL! You can find Cup’s music on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.