Welp, here’s to more amazing music from 2017! It just keeps coming.
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!
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!
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:
- “She Sends Kisses” – the Wrens
- “Humming” – Turnover
- “Where Your Heartache Exists” – the Menzingers
- “Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis
- “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:
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
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:
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!
Hayes Peebles has almost reached a quarter of a century in age but his voice sings tunes that are mature beyond his years. Peebles’ voice was made for music and his mind for writing songs as he’s been at it since he was in high school. Originally from Greenwich Village, Peebles pursued a philosophy degree in Boston while at the same time, writing music that would set the groundwork for his first EP.
Check out his delightfully upbeat but perfectly melancholic country single, “Home”, while you read more about him. I hope you enjoy his charming, heartfelt and genuine answers to my questions as much as I do!
MFL: Your EP release is just around the corner! What is left to be done before release and do you have any events lined up to celebrate the release?
I’ve been so used to cooking up demos in my bedroom and circulating them the very same day, so going through a proper recording and release process has definitely tested my patience, but has been well worth it.
Fortunately, I think the only thing that needs to be done over the course of the next week or two is make sure that Tim, Nate, Abe and I don’t all wear the exact same shirt to the release show we’re playing, which will be at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on February 23rd.
MFL: Was there a core inspiration for the Ghosts EP or is it a collection of tracks that are not necessarily connected to one another?
On my end, the most difficult part of making this EP was probably the song selection. That’s in part because the folks who played on and helped imagine this record with me are super talented and make life easy, but also because I’ve been writing songs for a long time now and my “songbook” contains things I love from totally different phases that sound and think totally differently. In the end, I went for a little bit of everything, two oldies and two newer tunes that’ll hopefully display a few different sides so you all can get to know me. I would love to make some sort of continuous-playing concept album that comes in an immersive double LP set, but I’m going to have to wait until people trust me enough and until somebody’s willing to pay for the studio time to do it.
MFL: Musically, who do you draw inspiration from?
I am shamefully weak in the face of a good melody and will go in for pretty much any well-thought out song. That takes me to some very different places as far as genre, content and sound are concerned. The other day Yves Montand shuffled into Action Bronson and it made sense to me. But I know that it’s no fun to play the “I like everything” card so I’ll admit that I’m going to see Julia Jacklin and Andy Shauf share a bill this spring and am probably going to be the most embarrassing fanboy in the crowd, those two have gotten a lot of spin time in the Peebles household lately.
MFL: What is the source of your lyrical material? Do you prefer to draw from personal experiences or create fictional material? Feel free to comment on your two released singles, “Ghosts” and “Home.”
The majority of my lyrics come from my own experiences. I write mainly about the things that make an impression on me and these things usually end up being personal and cliche but hopefully relatable, too. “Ghosts” is that kind of song.
The past year or so I’ve gotten out of my own head more and have tried to work more on storytelling and characters- which probably has to do with my increased intake of Country and Americana and because it’s honestly more fun. “Home” is that kind of song. Not accidentally, there’s a bit of both of those approaches on the EP.
MFL: How and when did music make its way into your life?
I always loved singing along to my parents’ music in the car and as early as I could I started taking piano lessons. At that age most kids didn’t really want to practice piano or show up to lessons and resented it but I pretty much loved it since day one and never found any good reason to stop.
MFL: What did you gain from your college experience in Boston besides a degree in Philosophy?
Most importantly, I gained a really excellent and inspiring set of friends (cue that Vitamin C song) who have given me the confidence to do what I’m doing now. Many of them are now in New York entertaining my bullshit on a weekly basis and it’s great, having smart people to spend time with cannot be taken for granted.
Stepping out of the Hallmark aisle for a moment, I also got to spend some time away from New York City, which is almost always good for one’s perspective. There’s a great DIY scene in Boston and its suburbs and my time there led me to appreciate just how incredible those bands (hearing Pile for the first time was a revelation) and those spaces and the people supporting them are. For all its diversity, the sceney-ness of New York can feel really constrictive and priorities get way out of line. Spending time in Boston I learned that it’s possible and important to function differently, and tried to bring that back with me.
MLF: Do you have any plans to tour in the near future and what would be some top destinations?
I would love nothing more than to go on a mini-tour of sorts. But before I jump into all that, I have to first make sure that Tim, Nate, Abe and I are not all wearing the same exact shirt at the Ghosts EP release show at Rockwood Music Hall on February 23rd.
MFL: If you were to make a mix CD for me, what would five of the tracks on it be?
MFL: What does making music do for you, personally and are you artistic in other ways?
I tried painting once or twice but all that did was waste canvas and reinforce the fact that music was always the thing for me. My sister stole all of the visual art talent from the gene pool.
I could go on about how songwriting is some mix of therapy and catharsis, an opportunity to define myself in my own eyes and the eyes of others and how it’s the easiest way to frame the world and communicate with the people in it. That stuff is all true to a certain extent, but the simplest truth is that it’s the thing I love the most, am most comfortable doing and the thing I want to spend my life working on.
MFL: After the release of the Ghosts EP, what is next for you?
The hope is to do it all: put out some sort of a full-length record, travel around playing it for people I’ve never met, find some time to sleep and write in between and then do it all over again.
Follow Hayes Peebles on Facebook and keep your eyes and ears peeled for his upcoming EP, Ghosts, due out February 10th! Thanks to Hayes Peebles for answering my questions and Theresa Montgomery of 24West for making the interview possible!
Secret Company is a dynamic pop foursome originally from Chelmsford. The group is set to release their debut record, The World Lit Up and Filled With Colour, March 10th of this year. In advance of their record release, they’ve shared a gorgeous single and video titled, “Alive”, filled with heart thumping drums, soaring vocals and a colorful video to match.