Month: February 2017

Interview: Husband and wife pop duo, New Portals

Ruth and Mike Aicken met at a concert when they were teenagers and their common passion for music has stitched them together for life. Both grew up playing folk music so their instinct was to write folk music which manifested as The Jepettos. To challenge themselves, the duo took on the electro/pop world and brought to life the project, New Portals. Check out their recent music video/single, “Stereo”, and read below to get the full interview with Ruth Aicken.
MFL: How have you two been able to balance writing, recording and performing music while also raising two children? Incredible!
Ruth Aicken of New Portals (RA) : Hey there, Ruth here – thanks for having me! Writing songs was always part of our lifestyle. We have gone through periods of writing lots and then periods of taking months off but for the most part we have always been writing amidst the background of everyday life; it’s just who we’ve grown into- individually and as a partnership. Now that our kids are older 11yrs & 9 we are able to do music at a pace we that we weren’t really able to before and we have made life choices recently to do music at this faster pace. We are loving it.  
 
MFL: What do your kids think of your music and are they showing interest in music or music-related activities? 
RA: Our eldest girl is really keen and anything ‘performance art’ comes really naturally to her. She comes up with some really great tunes and I call upon her when I’m stuck for ideas.  Excitingly, we have a first cowrite with Freiah-Beth coming at some point soon… Our youngest is bombarded with music 24/7 and for now at least, she has rebelled against it! 
 
MFL: What decade of music inspires you two the most?
RA: I’m honestly really inspired by this wave of indie electronica- so from 2015- present day. Also 90’s R&B  the fast and snappy vocal melodies always blew my mind.
 
MFL: How did you two meet and how was music part of your relationship?
RA: Unsurprisingly we met at a gig when we were teens. Singing was a massive part of my life. He whipped out the guitar on the 1st date. I remember being really impressed. We’ve pretty much inhaled music together from that point on.
 
MFL: The Stereo EP release is just around the corner! Any finishing touches that need to be addressed?
RA: We are just finalising the artwork but we are happy to share the finished tracks with you very soon!
 
MFL: Is the project, The Jepettos, still alive or has New Portals taken over? What is different between the two?
RA: Oh The Jepettos project still very much alive. I just wish there were more hours in the day so we can work on them both. We do keep releasing material as The Jepettos, so go check it out on Spotify if you haven’t already! Most of our time is spent on New Portals currently because we felt we needed a change and had been doing Alt Folk for a few years.  We grew up playing folk and it’s in our bloodstream so felt we needed another challenge. We had to learn new instruments and rejig our songwriting style a little for New Portals. But we believe that if a song is any good it will have legs if it is performed in any genre.
 
MFL: Where do you two draw inspiration for writing material?
RA: Interesting.. we love to write with a theme. So GrooveBoy is about a  cheating partner and the innocent party catching on that the cheating party is behaving differently, overcompensating and making more of an effort in the relationship and that’s how the affair is revealed. Yea, even though our songs are chirpy they mostly have a pretty dark edge. ‘Cage’ is about Human Trafficking. ‘Sunshine’ is about dissatisfaction with a ‘normal’ life, and a jealousy over people who have given up on their childhood dream and moved on to just enjoying what they have in front of them. ‘Fill me up’ is about addiction,  ‘Move so Slow’ is about how difficult this music industry is and how slowly things lumber on- waiting for labels to scrutinise our work, waiting for music videos to be edited, waiting for mixes to come in, waiting for release dates – one line in the song is ‘these things move so slow, it’s hard not to lose control’.  ‘Stay here tonight’ is about chemotherapy!  Ha! we are pretty dark writers but try not to be too literal with our themes. We balanced out that last one by getting two comedians to perform the music video.
 
MFL: Is a tour in the works for Stereo? Along those lines, what are some of your favorite places to play both local and non-local?
NP: We are heading to SXSW next month and I’m sure we will work on a plan for a tour ASAP but for now we are working on SXSW and summer festivals. We did a SOFAR sounds tour in NYC in November which we totally adored! We played in Madrid last year too. The Spanish have great taste and I’d definitely love to tour Spain ASAP- we just need an agent out there and we can make it happen. According to Spotify, our biggest fanbase is in Manhattan, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Brooklyn – for New Portals and The Jepettos – so we need to figure out how to get a tour organised over there too.
Thank you to Theresa Montgomery of 24West for setting this up and Ruth for taking the time to answer my questions! Follow New Portals and The Jepettos on Facebook and don’t forget to look for their new EP, Stereo, this March 10th.

Playlist: New Sounds of 2017 Vol II

Welp, here’s to more amazing music from 2017! It just keeps coming.

 

Interview: North West New Jersey singer-songwriter, Emily Barnes

Emily Barnes is a singer-songwriter originally from Camden, Maine who is now based out of lil town in Warren County in New Jersey. Her unique vocal qualities grabbed me immediately, but according to Barnes, it took some time for her to find confidence in the voice she was born with. Despite the release of her sophomore record, Let in the Light, being just around the corner (March 10th!), she found the time to answer some questions and offer us a peek into her musical life.

MFL: Your voice is gorgeous on its own. Is your voice something you’ve always had confidence in or did it take time to nurture this?

Emily Barnes (EB): Thank you! I had always wanted to sing, and have always loved it but confidence in the voice I was given is another story. When I was starting out, I used to get frustrated often that my voice was deeper than I wanted it to be. When I was younger I was always involved in chorus programs and musicals, and I never had “the right voice” and that definitely was a confidence deflator. It wasn’t until I began writing my own songs, and embracing its unique quality that I started loving it for all of its imperfections and owning its flaws. 

MFL: You mention that your upcoming release, Let in the Light, involved a lot of “elbow grease” in addition a little help from some friends. Touch on some of the hardest times in creating the record and some of the most rewarding.

 EB: By far the most challenging part for me was song selection. I had a different list of tracks going into the project than I came out with and I wanted to make sure it was just right and fit the sentiment. Some other challenges I faced and often face with music include money and time. I didn’t have the funds for a full studio production, and the time was quickly slipping away when takes took longer than expected, or I couldn’t get musicians in for the perfect session time. The most rewarding aspects to creating this album are learning new instruments to achieve the sounds I heard in my head, and watching these talented friends of mine I’ve met along the way really feel the songs and help create these parts that gave them a life of their own. I also really enjoyed the late nights at my friend Mike Herz’s cabin where we made all of these songs using Logic. We had no idea what we were doing half of the time to be honest, we just tried a bunch of things until we heard the sweet spot and that was a really exhilarating challenge.

 

MFL: I love the sounds that happen at the end of “Into the Dawn” that bleed into the start of “Uncertainty.” What inspired the use of these sounds and where did they come from?

 EB: Those sounds were actually just recorded using my phone on a voice memo! I have always loved the real indie feel when listening to some of my favorite songwriters such as John Elliott or Josh Ritter, and I wanted songs that fit the quirkiness of the person I am, and helped paint the picture for where these songs came from. I knew some people wouldn’t understand it, or maybe wouldn’t even like hearing loons singing, or dishes clanking, but when I hear these songs that’s the memory that is created and I really wanted to make that come to life.

 

MFL: Give me your geographical story. Meaning, where did you grow up, where have you lived and where are you settled now?

 EB: My geographical story isn’t that interesting to be honest. I grew up in Camden, Maine for the first portion of my life which was spectacular and my family moved to New Jersey when I was in elementary school, and we never left. I am living in a tiny town in Warren County right now that is home to more farm animals then people!

 

MFL: What is the story/concept behind Let in the Light and how does the title track tie into this?

 EB: I wrote the title track after reading this daily calendar my mom has with these cheesy little quotes on it, and on this particular day, the quote had reference to everything needing cracks to let the light in and I loved that concept! So I took it and wrote the song, one of my quickest ones to date. I knew immediately after writing it that I wanted it to be a theme for the album. There is beauty in the little glimmer of light in a period of darkness, you know hope. So I wanted to really play that up with these songs.

 

 

 

MFL: Discuss what happened between the release of your first record, Beautiful Goodbyes, and Let in the Light. How is your newest release different than Beautiful Goodbyes?

 EB: When I made “Beautiful Goodbyes” I didn’t have any idea what I was doing to be honest. I didn’t know what it meant to have an album out, or what I was going to do with it once I had the physical copy in my hand. I knew I wanted to tour, and I wanted to share the songs so I did a lot of research and a lot of traveling in the period between the two. I also recorded and released an album with my duo project “Closer to Home” with singer/songwriter Mike Herz and together we kind of were able to learn the ropes and how to actually do an album release, and how to say no when it isn’t what you want. This release I am more excited about to be honest. I am doing a pre-release this time which I didn’t do the first time around, as well as CD release shows which I also didn’t know to plan. All in all I am just really overjoyed with the turnout of the songs, and I hope listeners are as well!

 

MFL: Why do you choose making music as your art form? Do you enjoy other types of art besides music?

 EB:  I chose music because it came really naturally for me. I loved writing, and I loved singing so why not do both? I love the way it taps into another side of a person, and connects everybody in some way. That might be my favorite part about it. I do enjoy all types of art. I love painting watercolors, and all of the album art this time features my own art! Which was really weird for me at first because I don’t think anyone is completely comfortable with looking at their own work, but I am glad I took that chance rather than going with straight photographs of my face like last time. I think that is even stranger to look at then your own paintings because most of the time they don’t even look like you!

 

MFL: Outside of music, what does your life consist of?

 EB: Outside of music, my life is pretty normal I’d say. I have the most beautiful 3 year old niece Evelyn who consumes most of my time when I am not traveling, she’s my best little friend. I love doing anything outdoors, and I really enjoy cooking.

 

MFL: March 10th just happens to be my mom’s birthday! I’ve never asked a musician why they choose a particular release date. So, why March 10th?

EB: Happy birthday! I love birthdays! Well that’s a tough question…I wanted to give myself enough time to finish the album, and get physical copies (the first time it was really rushed) and March 10th just looked like a good time for an album release. So I guess there really was no poetic reason for choosing it other than it seemed like a lovely day! Haha.

 

MFL: Finally, do you have any shows planned following release?

EB: I have some album release shows starting on March 10th and through until April in the North East and then in June I am hitting the road to go cross country for two months to release these songs in new areas! I am really excited to drive to the West Coast as opposed to flying. I can’t wait!

 

 

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You can find Let in the Light on Bandcamp for pre-order and follow Emily Barnes on Facebook.

 

Interview: Evan White, the man behind Howlie

Evan White contacted me a few months ago and it was only just recently that I got the chance to indulge in his brutally honest but brilliantly crafted lo-fi gems. To give you a taste, this was the first track he shared with me:

 

 

From his home in Greenfield, MA, Evan feeds his fire for high intensity lo-fi by purposefully giving his music that home made-bedroom-operated studio quality ,while simultaneously baring his soul for all to see and hear. Initially reluctant to share his music, Evan is now stepping out of his comfort zone full bore. Below, Evan discusses the origin of his musical moniker, Howlie, shares some of his favorite songs and much more.

 

MFL: You say that your music is very “diary-esque” and you clearly have a way with words. Do you actually keep a diary to record your writing material or do you have other methods for this?

Evan White of Howlie (EW): I have a few moleskin notebooks that I’m constantly writing flashes of inspiration in. These usually start as letters to whomever, or different lines of memories that I try to string together cohesively. I then highlight the best lines of these two methods and then form them into a song as best I can. I make sure to date everything at the top of the page to keep track of where I was mentally throughout the year. I also pull striking lines from earlier unused material and apply it to newer songs when I feel stumped.

 

MFL: Your music seems very honest in sound and content. Is this your intention and do you ever feel wary of sharing music that is so honest?

EW: Hey, thanks! I’m always hoping to convey total emotional transparency in my writing. Some of my favorite songwriters write lyrics that could be perceived as embarrassing, but the intimacy in doing so has hooked me since day one. When I started writing music at age 15, I immediately flocked towards putting in these lyrical nods to girls I knew and situations that had happened with them. I didn’t even think about it. My writing has definitely put me in some unpleasant conversations… it’s a rush to release these deeply personal songs and get this weight off of my chest, but when my friends and family start asking if I’m okay, I start to regret it a little.

 

MFL: How did music work its way into your life and when?

EW: Both of my parents are huge music lovers so music has always been in my life. My early years were rather unguided. I enjoyed whatever my parents played, from Aerosmith to Mozart, but I never heard anything that blew my mind and made me think, “I need to hear this again!” It wasn’t until I was 14 and heard Green Day’s new single “American Idiot.” It ignited a fire within me, I’m not even kidding. It sounds funny to say now, because a lot of my friends are music snobs and love to hate on pop punk. I’ve become accustomed to not mentioning it, but that album is still magical for me. I started writing horrible poetry after I fell down the Green Day rabbit hole; I felt so inspired to be a songwriter, but didn’t have the means to do so. Around a year later, my dad bought me my first bass, and after taking some lessons I was in a band within months. The rest is history!

 

MFL: What’s the story behind your musical moniker, Howlie?

EW: I was in a long term, long distance relationship with a girl from Hawaii and had the opportunity to spend a cumulative five months there over the course of three years. In Hawaii, white people are referred to as “haole.” It’s not necessarily derogatory, but it’s kind of context-sensitive. Anyway, I loved it. It just has this sound to it. I remember being 19, and for whatever reason writing it down phonetically: “howlie.” It evokes this lonely image in my mind. Howling has a sadness to it, but having that “ie” at the end makes it sound friendly, approachable, like a nickname. I had been in a number of bands from 2009 to 2014 and when it came time to name a band, I always had Howlie in my back pocket but ultimately decided to keep it for myself. I’m really glad that I saved it.

 

MFL: Is performing live something that has happened for you yet? If not, is this something you’d like to do?

EW: After I released my first single “Alaina” in October of 2014, I played my first Howlie gig at the end of the month. It was my first solo acoustic show, and it was hell on my nerves. I was totally exposed without a wall of feedback and percussion to support any wrong notes or to mask the lyrical content… or to overpower the crowd talking. As the months went on, I got over being alone on stage, but the crowd talking while I spilled my guts on stage was heartbreaking. In the summer of 2015 I couldn’t take it anymore and threw in the towel for my solo shows. I wholly intended on never playing again, convinced that my songs must be lacking something. Thankfully, I received my first coverage from a music blog late last year, and I felt so inspired. I’m now averaging one or two shows a month and the talking has died down considerably!

 

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MFL: It seems like up to now, you’ve mostly written and recorded music solo. Do you foresee yourself collaborating with other people in the future?

EW: Actually, I play guitar in two other bands: Matt Byrde and Sleeping Terms! I love playing in a high energy, full band setting. I started Howlie because I became so tired of forming bands and pouring resources into them only to have them break up, and then start the process all over again. Ultimately, I have decided to write and perform my own music alone, but I still love playing with other people and helping other songwriters express their creative vision. 

 

MFL: If I were to check out the top 5 most frequently played songs on your iPod, Spotify, iTunes (you name your platform for listening to music), what would they be?

EW: I’m going to sound like such a dweeb, but I live for physical, analog media like records and cassettes. There’s something about holding an artist’s work in my hands. I’m also a front-to-back album listener… this is a tough one! Okay, here goes:

  1. She Sends Kisses” – the Wrens
  2. “Humming” – Turnover
  3. “Where Your Heartache Exists” – the Menzingers
  4. “Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis
  5. “The Sensual World” – Kate Bush

These are all songs that I continue to listen to on repeat for a half hour drive on multiple occasions.

 

MFL: Speaking of platforms for listening to music, what is your opinion on music streaming options like Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music?

EW: They’re a phenomenal tool for discovery. It’s so easy to find recommendations and the ability to hear any song in a matter of seconds is wonderful. But for as much money as Spotify is making, you’d think they could pay their artists a little more. Shawn Harris of the band the Matches has a daily podcast called “YOU [DON’T] KNOW ME,” and in one of the episodes he revealed that a listener has to listen to a song 300 times in order for that artist to earn one dollar. That’s mental! This is coming from me, a guy that listens to the same song for half an hour… but 300 times? Kinda messed up. Of course, that’s nothing for Beyonce or the Beatles, but what about the little guys? In a little over 2 years, subtracting the fees to host my music on streaming services, I think I’ve made a whopping $1.50 in profit from streaming. It’s a necessary evil, though. It allows people to easily find my music, and you can’t put a price on that.

 

MFL: The art that accompanies your music is really interesting. It seems most are photographs but the art for “Pretty Girls” is a different media. Where do the photographs and art come from?

EW: Wow, you’re the first person to comment on the art! I’m very conscious about it. As a listener, I love holding the artwork in my hands and looking at it as I’m listening. As a creator, I want to immerse the listener in a song with subtle visual nods to the history surrounding each single. I’m not going to go too deep into them because it feels good to have it be a little secret, but one notable example that I don’t mind sharing is from the artwork for “As I’m Dangling.” In the song, it ends with the line, “as I’m dangling from the tree in my backyard, I imagine you wrapped in my arms.” The artwork of the single is me at age 11 in my parent’s backyard. Just off camera, to the right, is a huge tree that I used to climb and “dangle” from, daydreaming about this one girl I had had a crush on for years. The picture was taken after my family had recently moved, and for a long time I wondered if I would ever see her again. I wrote the song after having moved back in with my parents after a horrible breakup. I spent my days wishing I could be with her again. Though the song refers to the “dangling” of another nature, I felt a closeness to my 11-year-old self and wanted to pay homage in my own way.

 

MFL: Finally, what kind of goals do you have for yourself musically (or otherwise if you wish to share!) for the next year?

EW: I just spent the weekend working on my forthcoming EP called Dead Dog. This is my first Howlie-branded EP! I’ve been working on my full length for almost two years, but it’s been a huge project and I feel so anxious about it. I want it to be perfect. Some of the songs I’ve written don’t have a place on the album or don’t fit the Howlie formula, but I have really wanted to release them in some way. A couple of these I’ve sat on since the inception of Howlie. This EP is… very different from all of the singles I’ve released, and I’m nervous about how it will go over. My goal is to take the plunge and release it later this spring. I also hope to finally finish up my full length this year; it’s such a special group of songs and they flow so well together. The full length is comprised of most of my already released singles and a handful that I’ve been trying hard not to let slip! I’ve taken a lot of care assembling them chronologically and cohesively. They tell a story of my 20’s that I feel is worth telling.

 

Huge thanks to Evan for being so open during this interview process! This the FIRST time he has publicly announced the release of his upcoming EP, Dead Dog, and below is the album art:

 

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Stay tuned for more from Evan White (AKA Howlie) and follow him on Bandcamp and Facebook.

A glimpse into the inspiration for Joakim’s new album, “Samurai”

Joakim is an incredibly special musician. His musical abilites reach far beyond just making and sharing his music. I cannot summarize this better than was done by his PR representatives at Pitch Perfect PR so here is a direct copy and paste of his incredibly rich list of his talents:

a musician with five albums under his belt; an outstanding DJ with a huge musical spectrum; a label founder and manager (Tigersushi and the recent vinyl-only Crowdspacer imprint); a self-taught graphic designer (he designs his record covers and most of the label’s artworks); a producer (for Panico, Poni Hoax, Zombie Zombie, Y.O.U., Montevideo…); a high-profile remixer (Antena, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Todd Terje etc…); a fashion enthusiast (he launched Tigersushi Furs with his cousin); a sound designer for catwalks (Chanel, Margiela, Balenciaga); and a step into contemporary art, working on Camille Henrot’s installations and videos (who won the Silver Lion at the 2013 Venice Biennale with the video Grosse Fatigue) or making his own sound installations (Gwangju Biennale in 2014 curated by Jessica Morgan).

To Joakim, his new record, Samurai, is something geographical, it’s a location, a place he can go and where his listeners can go to get lost. While simultaneously being somewhere unfamiliar, he believes there are times on the record where you will stumble upon things that are familiar. Not only is the album inspired by his past years in New York City and his nightly wanderings through the always bustling city, it is also inspired by the Japanese culture and the samurai. While writing the record, he was reading Mishima’s ‘Hagakure : Samurai Ethics & Modern Japan.’ Joakim created a playlist that offers us a peek into what inspired the sounds and ideas that make up his new record, Samurai, due out March 17th of this year on Tigersushi/Because. Check out the playlist:

 

 

Photocredit: The Posternaks

New music video from duo, LACEI: “Sufferer”

A few months back, I got to talk music with Jessica Lombardozzi and Viktor Ahlgren the duo better known as, LACEI. The two met in a music business class during college and hit it off musically and now have released their first EP, 11:11, which you can find on iTunes now. Recently, they showcased another level of their artistic capabilities by releasing their debut music video for their track, “Sufferer.” LACEI together with video director, Andrew Choi, created a colorful and honest visual representation of the song, and the meaning behind it. About the song, vocalist Jessica Lombardozzi says:

“The song came from the idea that when you’re hurt or feel guilty about something, you make yourself suffer intentionally as a means of punishment and coping.”

LACEI and Choi  focused on utilizing wild visuals and colors overlayed on the two of them in their element (playing music) and interpretive dance. Check it out:

 

 

Follow LACEI on Facebook and Soundcloud.

YouTube Playlist: Sites and Sounds of 2017

I’ll be honest, the first video on this playlist (“Man’s Man” by SWIMM….whom I’ve covered extensively on MFL and is playing in Provo, UT February 18th if you’re near) is from 2016…but everything else is fresh 2017 goodness!