interview

Interview: Greg Smith

Greg Smith of Ontario creats stunningly simple acoustic gems. He’s a supporter of music in its most minimal form but his storytelling and songwriting ability set him apart. Below we chat about how music and songwriting became important parts of his life, his album art and even his organic vegetable garden!

BEFORE I GO ON! You can catch Greg Smith live at Kimberly Hall in Kimberly on the 18th of March and hosting the Barn Open Mic in Meaford on the 19th of March!

MFL: Your knack for storytelling is clear. Were you a writer or a musician first or did they occur simultaneously?

GS: It really was a simultaneous thing. Growing up I always enjoyed telling stories. I think that’s because as a kid, if you tell a story well you can garner the attention of adults in a way that puts you on their level. Music very quickly became my main creative outlet once I entered my teen years. The first songs I wrote were metaphor laden and really just a means of expressing myself. The problem with this was I could only write when I myself was experiencing something emotionally. This eventually led me to create characters, I could use them as facades for my own feelings or create situations for them and empathize with how they would feel. This meant that I could write whenever I wanted to, regardless of how I may have been feeling. I began to get the same escapism in writing stories that some people feel in reading them. I’m still not sure I would call myself a writer, I have a long way to go in that regard.

 

MFL: You make very minimalist music. It’s stunning but very different compared to a lot of over produced music out there. Is that something you feel makes you unique or is it a result of resources?

GS: I saw Justin Townes Earle live when I was 14 and he said that he told his band to “play as little as possible!” That idea of minimalism was very appealing to me, space in music was important.

I grew up on a farm. I spent the majority of my time outside of school alone because I lived so far away from everyone I knew. I became accustom to playing music alone too. This of course, impacted my writing. I wrote songs to feel fleshed-out with just a voice and guitar, that was about all I could do. When it came time to recording it only ever made sense to have the recordings reflect the live performance. So it was a lack of resources that created this mentality for minimalism but the unique result that has kept me going forward with it.

MFL: What is different conceptually and musically between your current release, Morning Coffee, and your previous release, Iris?

GS: There isn’t a lot of difference in concept, they’re both short stories featuring female characters and their relationships. The main difference would be that Iris was the first story-based piece I’d written. In the beginning I had no idea what it would eventually become. I was writing the story as a I wrote the songs. With Morning Coffee I knew what I was trying to create as soon as I came up with the first lyric “She slams her mug down on the veneer”. It should be known that Morning Coffee is actually my third piece in this style. I have written but not recorded a sequel to Iris called Michael. Michael is more aggressive, this came as a result of the story it tells but also from my experiences playing live in Hungary, I wanted something raw. Something that would appeal to the emotions of those who might not understand the lyrics due to the language barriers. I sometimes joke that in Budapest if you weren’t loud, you weren’t anything. As a result of this change, I felt the need to return to my roots and write something similar to Iris, and so we have Morning Coffee.

 


MFL: I really enjoy asking people about their album artwork. Sometimes it has no meaning, it’s completely random. But, sometimes it carries the meaning of the entire EP or record. What is the meaning of the album art for
Morning Coffee and who created it?

GS: The artwork was created by Daniel Micsoda of Lone Waltz Records, or as he is better known Zanzinger. Daniel says my songs work on him like a detective novel. He says they have a literary vibe without having a classic literary beauty. He wanted to create something unexpected and a bit mysterious. At first I was a little apprehensive to the design but the more I looked at it the more it intrigued me as well. It does not look like anything else I’ve seen. It feels chaotic, which I think is fitting.

MFL: What is the music scene like where you live and how does it add or take away from your music?

GS: Right now I’m living in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario Canada. The scene here is incredibly developed given the small populations of the towns that it’s based on. There are a lot of arts spaces and groups dedicated to music. From the perspective of developing your artistry it’s great, a very supportive and involved community. However it can be tough to get enough gigs here to sustain yourself, I’ve been very lucky though. You definitely have to go elsewhere to expand your audience and grow, but it works great as a home base. The larger Ontario/Canadian scene has been a bit of a challenge for me to adjust to after coming up through Budapest. Things in Canada are more established, this has a lot of benefits but there is definitely a learning curve.

 

MFL: How did your upbringing contribute to your abilities as an artist?

GS: I grew up without much pressure to be creative or practice an instrument. That came naturally and was then encouraged, I started playing guitar around 7 and had quit by the time I was 8. Later around 12 I picked it up again. I think that kind of freedom from structure has allowed me to be more open to my creativity. It wasn’t hard to find my own sound in music because that’s all I’d really ever done. The lack of pressure mixed with support and encouragement also helped me perform without much fear, I was only really doing it for myself. The first show I ever played was opening for Wilderness of Manitoba at the Gayety Theater in Collingwood Ontario, I was 15. It didn’t feel like a very big deal at the time, I was just doing something I enjoyed but looking back it was pretty monumental for me.

MFL: Who do you have to thank musician-wise for inspiration and motivation to write, create and put yourself out there as a musician and why?

GS: If I follow the development of my taste in music back to its root there is one band that really changed things for me, although I haven’t listened to them for some time and they were always a bit generic, Mumford and Sons had a dramatic effect on my taste in music. I was 13 when I first heard them, before that I had mainly been listening to classic rock:The Beatles, The Who, CCR, stuff like that. They were my first connection to anything resembling folk music. While learning their songs I discovered alternate guitar tunings which have become an integral part of my sound. Through them I found the artists that would later inspire me to become a musician. The most important of these being The Tallest Man on Earth. His music expanded my guitar technique, enriched my love of lyrics and made me seek out the captivation of whole audiences with only a guitar and a microphone.

MFL: Do you have plans to write a full length or do you prefer to release singles and short EPs?

GS: As I said before I still have to record and release Michael, I would like to do something full length eventually. If my sound does change into something bigger, I would like to rerecord Iris and Michael into a full length instead of two Eps. I may also step away from the concept work at some point and release some of the other stuff I do. I often write songs that don’t end up being performed or recorded. For me one good song writes another, this is how the stories come about. When they don’t lead to another I often let them fall to the wayside, however there are a few songs that I’m too fond of to forget.

MFL: How have shows been going since the release of Morning Coffee? Give me some highlights!

GS:Shows have been pretty good, on the night of the release, Marshall Veroni, Pat Maloney and I did an after hours show at a cafe in Owen Sound Ontario and it was sold out. It’s always very gratifying to play for an audience who specifically came for the music. The bar and restaurant gigs can get you by, but shows like that keep me in it.

 

 

MFL: Finally, what is your life outside of music?

GS: These days I am working on an organic vegetable farm, this works well with my music as the schedule is pretty open for me to book shows and working outside is wonderful. I’m also moving into and renovating an old farmhouse which will hopefully serve as my base of operation while I’m touring over the next few years.

 

Thanks to Greg Smith for doing the interview and Lone Waltz Recors for connecting us! You can find Greg Smith’s music, including Morning Coffee, on his Bandcamp page and follow him Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

Interview: Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt

I had the pleasure of interviewing a somewhat mysterious musician, whose name I will not reveal to you but, whom creates indie folk-rock music with a refreshingly unique perspective. His musical moniker however, he is quite proud of. Inspired by a random line of text picked up from the Kurt Cobain journals, this San Diego-dwelling musician settled on the band name, Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt. Check out our interview below!

 

MFL: First off, I’ve been dying to know more about your band name! Tell me the story.

Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt (HHC): Story goes….I had signed my first album to a small label (Gulcher) before I had ever settled on a name and was really struggling to think of one. I had some really awful ones in mind at the time. I would have been 18 and was going through the Kurt Cobain journals and found the phrase “hypocrite in a hippy crypt” somewhere in there. I thought the imagery was hilarious and it really stuck out to me. Most people seemed confused by it or thought it was a very hipster title. LA weekly put it on a “worst ironic indie band names” list or something stupid like that.

https://friendlycyborg.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/kurt.jpg?w=1548

 

MFL: I see your based in San Diego now. Where did grow up and when/how did San Diego become your home?

HHC: I grew up In the Midwest and learned all things music there. I came out to San Diego almost 3 yeas ago and have been living with overpriced rent and beer ever since.

 

MFL: Are you a one man band? You say “we” but also say that the band is made up of one dude! Explain, I’m curious!

HHC: I’m a one-man band. I’ve written all the songs and have been running it all these years.  But I have had some friends play on albums. A good friend helped me record, produce, play piano and what not on Tweaker In the Park. Tweaker Two has that same friend along with another friend on drums. Better Days was all me I guess. New Friends has a beautiful sounding singer named Katy Kirby. It’s nice to throw some people in there and get their ideas on songs.  Also it makes yourself not look as weird if you say “we” in emails.

 

MFL: What is it like to be a musician in San Diego?


HHC: I moved to San Diego about 3 years ago and honestly it’s not the best scene for music. The mindset is…If you are really good and ambitious you go up to LA…. if you aren’t (don’t have the balls or lazy I guess) you stay in San Diego. It’s the kind of city that people move to and can never leave. Not to say it’s a bad city at all, but people get stuck here and refuse to leave even if opportunity is calling. Also there aren’t really any local labels here and some of the typical local music scene traditions don’t really exist as much.

 

MFL: When does the inspiration to write music usually strike?

HHC: It used to come from heartbreak or from random interactions. A lot of songs about lovers and the confusion that transpires. A lot of songs came from coming home drunk from a party and writing about the people I met there or the situation that happened. Most songs of mine have a small once of truth behind them. It gets a little bit harder these days and it’s a bit more calculated I guess. I really enjoy mixing morbid and upbeat concepts. I try to look for that mix in all aspects of life and put it into music.

 

MFL: How did sales go for your “New Friends” single? Sounds like you had a pretty sweet little package all set up! I’ll buy one if there are still some left!

HHC: uhhh It went good I guess. The label was willing to do a really cool release so I went with it. Stickers and buttons along with a really unique package that technically could function as a post card (if you get it you’ll understand by looking at the front and back). Still a few copies at my website. (https://hypocriteinahippycrypt.bandcamp.com)

MFL: Who are your musical inspirations and do they influence your music?

HHC: It changes over time. I think that as I was first starting to write and especially during my younger years certain artists really inspired me. So much to the point I would write songs similar in their style with little references here and there. Now days it’s a bit more self inspired. But a band that’s really doing it for me is Big Star.
MFL: Do you have plans to write another full length any time soon?

HHC: I don’t know. I have the songs and ideas. It is a lot of work. I had the idea to record an EP of all Piano songs. I have a few I have been writing like that. I have some studio time booked at a place my friend works in late March to just get some songs properly done so we will see.

 Thank you to Hypocrite in a Hippy Crypt for interviewing with MFL! Be sure to follow him on Bandcamp and Facebook for more releases. 

Interview: Trapdoor Social

Trapdoor Social found its way into my inbox via their powerful music video for the track, “Never Stop Listening”, featuring incredible footage from Standing Rock. Before I go on, check it out:

 

 

I was stunned when I read their bio. This has to be one of the most community-oriented, generous group of fellows who also make music, that I’ve heard of! They’re always seeking out opportunities to give back to their community, to music and other groups that need support. I asked the band about their music, generous endeavors and their stunning footage from Standing Rock. The band is Merritt Graves, Skylar Funk, Louie Gonzalez, Patrick Griffen and Ben Ebert. Skylar Funk represents the band and their answers below:

 

MFL: The philanthropic nature of your band is incredible. How do you find time to support so many environmental, and other, causes while also maintaining a healthy touring and songwriting schedule?

Skylar Funk of Trapdoor Social (SF): Thank you. We try to leverage our existing endeavors – for example, pre-selling the Science Of Love EP to fundraise for Homeboy Industries, or using festival revenue from Sunstock to help Kids Cancer Connection. There can be a lot of energy generated in the entertainment world… if we can use some of that to affect change, we can do it sustainably and still take care of ourselves.

 

MFL: Tell me the story of how you ended up at Standing Rock. Who from TDS was there to represent the band?

SF: The struggle at Standing Rock got our attention in the fall and especially after the election, feeling the need for direct action, we decided to go for the first week of December, when the Army Corps first threatened to remove protesters. Patrick, Louie and I went, along with a handful of other friends. We took the TDS tour rig with the solar trailer to charge devices for people and otherwise support the camp with our electricity.

 

MFL: What were the steps you took after visiting Standing Rock to create the stunning video for “Never Stop Listening” and why was this song fitting for the footage?

SF: Mexican filmmaker Alexandra Velasco was one of our crew, and upon arrival she applied for a press pass to shoot this project. She explored the camp, striking up conversations, helping with chores, and asking permission to take video portraits. I think you can feel the warmth of her connections in those portraits, and her scenery work is beautiful as well.

The song is about fighting for what you believe in, even when it hurts. It’s inspired by the burnout sensation you get when there’s so much bad news… As an environmentalist, personally, I’ve found it crushing at times to take in what’s happening to the world around me (especially since last November…) but I believe that we must stay engaged, informed, on the front lines.

I don’t think I need to explain much more… it felt like an obvious fit when we were planning the trip north and didn’t have a video yet for NSL.

 

MFL: What did you learn from your time at Standing Rock as musicians and as humans?

SF: It was incredible to learn more about native american culture and follow their leadership. There were plenty of other people there to help – folks who had dropped what they were doing to come from all over the world to help as well… Fantastic, generous, super interesting people everywhere.

Really the only kind of music in the camp was indigenous. There was a PA by the sacred fire where folks spoke and sang from the crack of dawn until late every night. We heard some beautiful vocals and flutes… definitely a kind of music I didn’t have much exposure to before.

 

MFL: How did TDS go from being a duo to a 5-piece and what has that transition been like?

SF: We have grown and changed shape since Merritt and I started the band in 2011. Mostly a process of changing members for better compatibility of vision and more belief in what we’re doing. I mean, what are the chances you have all the right guys from the very beginning? Growing can be painful but as a result everything gets better and better.

 

MFL: If possible, tell me how each of you found yourself living the life of a musician and reflect on one of your first memories of music.

SF: It was fun hearing from the guys on this.

Patrick talked about his first band in 8th grade being “horrible” and playing for an audience that was “either laughing or looking appalled at what they were enduring”… yet he had the time of his life, and knew in that moment he wanted to do it forever. He says music “is how I make sense of the world and how I deal with pain.”

Louie said “As a child, every time I found myself playing some sort of musical instrument, I found a certain peace within myself that I couldn’t find with any other thing. As I grew older and took playing music more seriously I knew it was something that I had to do for a living.”

For me, it was always a hobby – musical theater, jazz and marching band, a cappella and a funk jam band in college, songwriting here and there – until after college. I started working desk jobs with my degree, but I was watching some friends get into the LA music scene professionally and decided to go for it myself.

 

MFL: Are there any musicians out there today that inspire the sound and/or style of TDS?

SF: Death Cab For Cutie has long been an influence of Merritt and mine, and in fact their drummer Jason McGerr recorded drums on our first couple EPs… such an honor. Other influences include Muse, Radiohead, Tame Impala, alt-J, etc., etc.

 

MFL: Discuss a couple highlights of your current tour and name a couple destinations your looking forward to.

SF: We played the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, one of our long-time favorite venues anywhere, on the booker’s birthday. We had a great time with him and a beautiful crowd. We also had extremely warm welcomes to our first shows in Chattanooga and Knoxville… so Tennessee is definitely a new high-priority stop on future tours. We’re really looking forward to a solar festival in Gainesville, FL, and a run up through the Pacific Northwest (my homeland) later this spring.

 

MFL: SXSW! Have you ever been? If so, how was your experience? If not, what are you anticipating most about this venue?

SF: Yeah, Merritt and I played it a few years ago when there wasn’t really much of a core band beside the two of us. It was pretty crazy… a million shows going on at once. Looking forward to being there but not 100% what to expect – we’ll set up the solar stage if we get a chance. Either way it’s an awesome town and I’m sure we’ll have a great time.

 

MFL: Finally, once your tour is up in March, what’s next?

SF: Touring off and on all spring, probably through the summer too. See, we really want to get back to LA for a while to get started on another album, but that’s when the weather gets really good for solar shows… So I imagine we’ll be on the road a lot this year.

 

Thank you to Jessica Mora for connecting me with the band and for Skylar for answering my questions and gathering the band to answer some of my questions as well. You can catch the band touring this month:

March 7th, Charleston, SC, The Royal American
March 8th, Awendaw, SC, Barn Jam
March 11th, St. Augustine, FL, Genungs Fish Camp
March 14th, Austin, TX, SXSW
March 15th, Austin, TX, SXSW
March 16th, Austin, TX, SXSW
March 17th, Austin, TX, SXSW
March 18th, Austin, TX, SXSW
March 19th, Huston, TX, Super Happy Funland
March 20th, Dallas, TX, The Door
March 22nd, Wichita, KS, Mead’s Corner
March 23rd, Omaha, NE, Down Under Lounge
March 24th, Iowa City, IA, Yacht Club
March 25th, Chicago, IL, Moe’s Tavern
March 27th, Milwaukee, WI, Cactus Club

March 29th, Minneapolis, MN, Nomad World Pub

 

 

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.

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!

 

 

front-cover

 

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

 

Interview:Country singer/songwriter, Hayes Peebles

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?

Townes van Zandt- Tower Song

Julia Jacklin- Hay Plain

Pile- The Jones

Songs:Ohia- Farewell Transmission

R. Kelly- Sex Weed

 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!

Interview: Synth-poppers, Twist Helix

Twist Helix is a three-piece synth-pop group based out of Newcastle upon Tyne (Vocals & Keys: Bea Garcia, Bass: Michael Humble, Drums: James Walker). They are deeply influenced by the music that surrounds them at their homebase but are simultaneously concerned about its future. I asked them some questions about the origin of Twist Helix, their creative process and their upcoming single, “Pulse.”
MFL: What inspired the name Twist Helix for your musical project?
We took the inspiration for the name from the double helix model for DNA (a twist being the same thing as a helix); we are fascinated by concepts of evolution, change and identity.
MFL: Tell me about your upcoming record, Ouseburn. What is this story and why do you wish to tell it through music?
Music is an integral part of the Ouseburn Valley, it is the creative heart of the city of Newcastle, so to tell its story in music was only fitting.
Ouseburn [the album] is as much about a place as it is a person. It is about one individual’s rise and the corresponding decline of an area. The story is a fiction but is rooted in a real threat that the artistic spaces of the Ouseburn Valley will eventually be swept aside to make room for new building developments… The protagonist, [and ourselves as authors] are of course to an extent complicit in this process of gentrification, giving the narrative a bitter-sweetness and irony.
 
MFL: How and where did the three of you come together to make Twist Helix?
I (Bea) am originally from Alicante in Spain. I came to Britain to find work (as a result of the financial crisis) and eventually met James and we began writing songs together. A demo we recorded was picked up by our local BBC station. Not long after that we found Michael; grew from a recording project into a touring band and have been Twist Helix ever since.
 
 PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Murray
MFL: Are there any particular musicians that inspire your sound?
For us inspiration is different to influence; while our sound is influenced by many internationally known synth-pop groups, what inspires us has always been closer to home. We write from experience and are inspired by our community; the underground, unsigned and undervalued avant-garde that makes our city so unique.
MFL: What is it about the track, “Pulse”, that made you choose this to be the single that was released in advance of the full record? 
Pulse was not the obvious choice for a single; no chorus, sparse lyrics, jagged percussion and industrial rock bass on what is ostensibly a ‘pop’ song… And yet it is a song people remember. In live shows it is the song which people have always came to talk to us about. Moreover, being in Ouseburn as I write this, in the depths of this sea of change, I know Pulse to have a significance and a resonance which elevates it above all we have written before.
MFL: How is Ouseburn different than your previous release, Manifesto, in terms of both sound and content?
Ouseburn marks a significant shift in direction for us. The absence of guitar on the new record has given us a greater clarity and focus in terms of sound and composition. And while this album in parts taps into the energy and optimism of Manifesto, we do so knowing we must first build our home in order to tear it down.
MFL: How have the first shows of 2017 gone so far? Any highlights?
This year has gotten off to an incredible start. We started our tour in London at the New Cross Inn on the 04th of January before going on to Middlesbrough, then returning home to a Sold Out concert on the main stage of Newcastle’s iconic Cluny music venue [see pictures]… The Cluny has always held a special place in our hearts and that night with a new sound and lighting rig behind us, the atmosphere was electric.
MFL: Are there plans to make a music video for any of the tracks on the new record?
Yes! We’re happy to announce we’ve already shot the video for “Pulse” on location in the Ouseburn Valley under the direction of Ian and Matt Brown of Flashlight Films. The video is being edited and will be available for streaming in the run up to the single launch on 2nd Aprilat the Tyne Bar (Newcastle).
Thank you to Twist Helix for reaching out to MFL and agreeing to let me pick their musical brains! Follow them on Facebook and look out for their new record, Ouseburn.