Categories
Interviews

New York City’s ‘Boy Next Door’ Presents “loverboy”

“It’s uncomfortably transparent.”

Jake Brewer needs a lot going on to be productive, as he’s equally indecisive and stubborn. “I’ve always been somebody who does their best work, and feels their best, when there’s so many things going on,” Brewer notes, before listing off each of the projects he’s currently pursuing. He’s currently writing an album, managing other up-and-coming artists, hosting a podcast, and performing live. He lives to be moving constantly. “That’s always been my favorite way to work.”

Brewer is the middle child, happily surrounded by two sisters. “We have such a unique relationship where I can’t even remember fighting with my sisters,” Brewer says. His sisters loved dance, and because of this, he found himself constantly surrounded by the performing arts. But it wasn’t an inconvenience to Brewer; it was where he began to mold his passion. In middle-school, his dance background pushed him into music and theatre. He notes that, “I owe those teachers everything because they really encouraged me to do music. They could tell I had a sense of rhythm.” Soon, he found himself exploring music outside of school.

“I’m a really stubborn person,” Brewer states. “So when I first began to play guitar, I didn’t like my guitar teacher teaching me how to play other people’s songs. I just wanted to play my own thing.” So he did.

Jake Brewer photographed by Rachel Leiner

He released his first few projects in his senior year of high school, really beginning to hone his craft at Boston University (where he graduated in December 2020). “I don’t think Boston gets enough credit for the kind of music scene that it has,” Brewer mentions. “I was really inspired by that environment.” 

Brewer released his debut album, Boys Do Cry, right before the pandemic. He was meant to tour that summer, but was unable to do so. Then, following some rest time and isolation at his parents’ home, Brewer put together an EP, What Love Did to Me. This EP was centered on the process of falling out of love and losing your identity.

During this time, he began speaking with some of his close friends involved in entertainment. Brewer came to the conclusion that the industry doesn’t take performers as seriously if they don’t have representation. To put together that first tour, he used a friend’s email address and emailed from that, pretending to be his own agent. “It kind of blew me away how seriously people took me,” Brewer reminisces. “It was the same press kit and everything.” The only difference being he now had “representation.” 

Brewer wasn’t, and still isn’t, the only one jumping over similar hurdles to make an impact on the entertainment business. He discovered that friends all around him were also in need of agents. Because of this, “we decided to start a management company that was much more fluid, gravitating towards trends,” to help artists in the ever-evolving industry, FRNDLY media.

With the new EP under his belt, Brewer was able to bring some content to FRNDLY. Their success has taken off from there. He established a podcast titled “Groundbreaking,” dotingly called the heartbeat of FRNDLY, where Brewer talks to other young creatives in the industry about ambition and artist branding. Brewer says, “it was such a great way to connect with people, especially during the pandemic.” He also had the opportunity to present as a TedX speaker, discussing the notion of different perspectives and letting go of control within his experience as a creator thus far. 

FRNDLY hosts an annual summer festival for new artists, describing it as the festival that welcomes everybody. “I really wanted it to be personal,” Brewer says. “I called each of the artists [for the first festival] and wanted to make sure they knew this was solely a platform to elevate them.” This was another experience that truly inspired Brewer to write and create, watching other young creatives express themselves in the live show.

Getting to perform live shows in the last year has been the highlight of Brewer’s beginning. “The process of recording a song isn’t as enjoyable to me as performing it live is,” Brewer admits. “It’s hard to conceptualize your reach as an artist, which is what makes the live performance so significant.” He lives for that butterflies feeling that clenches your stomach before you’re about to do something scary, like sing your heart out.

His new album, which is set to release late spring of this year, is an introspective and reflective study of life in your early 20s. “It’s uncomfortably transparent,” Brewer notes. “I wanted to release this album in a really unique way where I’ve slowly released the singles so you can hear the progression of the new sound.” 

For a long time, people have labeled Brewer as a “nice guy.” This is a notion that he’s taken the time to explore in his new music. “I’m not really sure how it happened,” he laughs. “But I’m just embracing it.” There’s a real contradiction between this identity and some of the themes presented in the new album, as he aspires to bring emotional breakdowns to life through lyrics and melody. After listening to this album, “I think people are going to see me in a really different, more comprehensive light.”

“loverboy,” the next single off his new album, is the first song Brewer has put together without overthinking. “I hate writing upbeat songs because I find it really hard not to be cheesy,” Brewer laughs. “So ‘loverboy’ was tricky for me.” But it was also the song that took the shortest amount of time to write. This new track is much more audience-focused than his earlier music, echoes and ‘oh-yeahs’ fill out the chorus, as Brewer wants this song to be fun for crowd engagement in the live performance. It’s available for streaming on February 2nd

After having accomplished so much in just a few years, Brewer advises that fellow young artists focus their attention on creating for them and developing a unique presence that’s going to draw an audience’s attention. He mentions that it’s okay to care what people think and how they’ll react to your art: “You just have to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the right kind of people.” People who will equally provide support and challenge. “If you want to relate to the masses, you have to understand how the masses feel,” he concludes. 

For the future, continuing live performances is at the top of Brewer’s To-Do list. He also plans to continue growing FRNDLY media and looks forward to the second annual FRNDLY fest this summer. Brewer states, “I’m going to keep doing things that scare me.” He chases that feeling of discomfort that comes from doing something frightening, knowing that overcoming obstacles in life is inherently the most relatable, human thing. This is how he registers his growth as an individual and as an artist. 

“There’s no better way to motivate me than by telling me that I can’t do something,” Brewer says. The music industry should watch out for what this next something is, because there’s no doubt Brewer will tackle it head on.

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

Categories
Interviews Reviews

Soul-Pop Band, Couch, is Easy to Love

At one of Couch’s very first shows, playing in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Harvard Square, keyboard player Danny Silverston returned to his keyboard post-show to find a pillow with the face of Jeff Goldblum planted on the keys. To this day, the origin of the pillow remains a mystery. However, it has become a pinnacle of the band’s personality and charisma, making an appearance at each show. 

Initially formed in the summer of 2018, Couch consists of seven members: Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith, Jared Gozinsky, Danny Silverston, Will Griffin, Eric Tarlin, Tema Siegal, and Zach Blankstein. Being such a large group, everyone takes control of their own instrumentation. This, in turn, enables different flavors and a conglomerate of influences to create their cohesive sound that falls somewhere in the soul/pop category. 

Couch members, left to right: Zach, Jared, Eric, Tema, Jeffrey, Danny and Will

Couch is a long-distance band, with its members spread across the country. In their first few years, the recording process was completely remote. Each member added their instrumentation and vocals and passed it to the next, like Popcorn. The members play this same game as they rotate calling on each other to share their prominent influences. Jared, Jeffrey, and Eric discuss jazz, blues, and pop as their primary influences; Tema shares Carole King, Rachel Price, and Tracy Chapman as a few of her inspirations; Will highlights his love for classic and heavy rock, pointing to the Beatles album covers decorating his wall; Zach reminisces on growing up listening to Jewish music, motown, and modern pop soul bands such as Lake Street Dive and Lawrence. All of these different backgrounds mesh into the strong lyrics and melodic forms that make up Couch’s music. 

Lead singer, Tema Siegel discusses the development of their early songs, such as “Easy to Love.” After putting together the lyrics, Tema shared, “Zach and I would share voice memos back and forth of chord progressions, and we’d meet up over school breaks with ideas.” More of the members became involved during the pandemic and with the creation of the EP. 

For Couch, the songwriting process is morphing by transitioning to more in-person meetings and practice time. “Before, we’d cram like eight hours of rehearsing into a day, since we had limited time meeting together in person,” trumpeter Jeffrey Pinsker-Smith explains. “There were a lot of times when being a long-distance band was exhausting.” Because of these changes, Couch’s debut EP Couch , released in 2021, includes three or four credited writers on most tracks. 

The band explains how sometimes a song can start with one particular vibe and chord progression, but it ends up sounding completely different through the production and collaboration process. The identity of the song is flexible through all of the pieces beginning to come together through recording. 

“The identity of a song can seriously change,” saxophonist Eric Tarlin explains. “With ‘Still Feeling You’, that song was originally guitar and voice driven, an upbeat singer-songwriter song. But we pushed it more towards a disco-pop track, like Dua Lipa or Charlie Puth, with dramatic builds and a groovy chorus.” 

Through the recording process, the band is constantly keeping in mind the different ways in which the audience is listening, from streaming the music to the live shows. “When we play these songs live, we’re adapting to the arrangements to work with just the actual number of bodies we have on stage,” Tarlin says. “We rely more on our individual acts of brute force as we each contribute to the project.” Couch has managed to translate this immaculately on stage. 

This past fall, Couch went on tour for the first time as a whole, cohesive band, opening for Sammy Rae & The Friends, along with finishing the late fall tour with Juice. “This experience has been a dream come true. It was a joy,” guitarist Zach Blankstein says. 

Being around creative inspirations and meeting other musicians has helped the band transform their own sound and gain confidence in their performances. “It was so valuable and educational to simply watch them,” Siegel says of the experience. “Our personalities began to show more in the live performance. We became goofier on stage.” 

Couch performing at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT

The transition from completely remote production and collaboration to touring was unusual for the band, but seeing their hard work pay off and watching the audience react was worth the wait. “We’re all musicians who are used to performing, so I don’t think any of us joined a band with the idea that we’d be in a band for three years without playing any shows,” Siegel laughs. “Now we’re finally able to play together.” 

Couch’s entire catalog to date was released before the band had performed live this fall. With that in mind, the band has had to adapt their music for live performances, adding acapella moments, clapping, and improvised solos and riffs. “We’ve opened up a lot more with this and have gone in a more jammy direction,” Blankstein summarizes. “We’re combining the two processes, and trying to find the balance between studio and live performances.” 

The fall touring experience is just the beginning for this Boston-based band. Just before the new year, Couch was featured on Firehouse Music Sessions, where they played acoustic versions of some unreleased tracks. They’ve recently signed with the booking agency, Royal Artists Group, which represents some of their favorite artists. “We’re working with two people who’ve helped us book shows and gotten us into the summer festival scene,” Blankstein mentions. “It’s already helped a ton with our time management and making connections within the industry.” 

New music is in the works and two upcoming shows have already been announced: March 5th at the Knitting Factory in NYC and March 18th at the Met in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. For the latter show, Couch will be sharing the stage with another band, Orange Guava Passion, where the theme is Spring Fling. The band calls for fans to dress in their school dance attire, another testament to the importance of connecting with the audience. The band is active on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube with more updates and content. 

“We wouldn’t be the band that we are without that initial remote time,” Tarlin concludes. This experience allowed Couch to go into their first tour with a fan base already established. “It was really rewarding and cool to see people familiar with our songs, singing along in the audience.” 

For Couch, being able to perform live, meet fans, and connect with them through shows has been the most notable part of their musical journey. “Without listeners and without fans, Couch wouldn’t really be a thing,” drummer Jared Gozinsky says. “In one way or another, we’re always writing for the people who are listening to us.”

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

Categories
Roundups

2021 Roundup

Dear friends,

If 2020 was purgatory, 2021 was hellfire. Both personally and universally, 2021 was an absolute mess. Throughout the year, I felt as though I was missing something from music. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to enjoy it. One could call it depression, some may call it “being in a funk.” However you spin it, I was frustrated with myself. Here, with the world at my fingertips, with the help of the supercomputers we’re all so dearly attached to– and yet, no interest in what once was my refuge. So imagine my annoyance when I sat down to write the annual roundup for TGG. No, really, just imagine it. Me, staring at a blank white page on my computer screen, sifting through my library, in an attempt to scrounge for enough to create a list worth writing about. “Impossible,” I thought to myself with Imposter Syndrome pumping through my veins, “Nobody cares and nobody wants to read old news.” 

Upon further reflection of the previous year, I’d realized that I had actually enjoyed quite a lot of music this year. Then– faint, like a whisper in a long hallway, a different thought came to me. What if you just wrote about what you want to write about, how you want to write about it? The little devil on my shoulder taunted me. I couldn’t do that, could I?

I could, and I did. Enjoy. 

XOXO, Jessica

Heaux Tales – Jazmine Sullivan (2021)

At the top of a somewhat chronological list, we have Jazmine Sullivan’s EP, Heaux Tales. Although 2021 ultimately felt like scraping the barrel for music, there were a few exceptional releases. Sullivan’s January release of Heaux Tales presented me with hope for the year to come. As a single woman in her late 20s, it felt like Jazmine was singing directly to me. With anecdotal interludes about relationships and sex, Sullivan and company created an experience similar to a night in with the girls, sipping wine and talking shit.
Favorite tracks & interludes: “Put It Down,” “On It” (with the ever-lovely, ever-real Ari Lennox), “Donna’s Tale”

Come Over – Kowloon (2021)

Up next, we have Los Angeles musician and filmmaker, Kowloon’s Come Over. In addition to the ladies of R&B, Kowloon’s debut album restored my faith in music in 2021. Written, recorded and mixed entirely in Kowloon’s apartment, Come Over is, essentially, a post-apocalyptic love story with hefty amounts of tragedy weaved throughout. Kowloon’s voice– reminiscent of Matt Berninger of The National– exudes a natural melancholy that bodes incredibly well in contrast to the somewhat upbeat, 80s-inspired instrumentation.
Favorite tracks: “Life In Japan,” “Wake Up,” “Paradise”

Skin – Joy Crookes (2021)

British singer-songwriter and TGG favorite, Joy Crookes, released her debut album, Skin, in October. A soul album with jazzy instrumentals (think: brass, wind, bass– all of our favorites, and lots of it), Skin was a breath of fresh air among some questionable releases this year. Crookes’s raspy vocals paired perfectly with timeless lyrics and violins on “To Lose Someone” should be enough for you to consider giving the rest of the album a spin.
Favorite Tracks: “Skin,” “To Lose Someone,” “When You Were Mine”

Vince Staples – Vince Staples (2021)

July was, by far, the best month for music in 2021. With artists like Charlotte Day Wilson, Snoh Aalegra, Isaiah Rashad and many others releasing full length albums, I was almost overwhelmed. Joining my July playlist of “to-listen-tos” was Vince Staples, who released a self-titled EP, produced by Kenny Beats. Clocking in at just over 22 minutes, Vince Staples was easily one of my favorite releases this year. A more mature project, Vince Staples highlights Staples’s best attribute: his ability to interweave humor with somewhat grim lyrical content. Vince Staples is an artist with an abundance of personality; with this EP, we’re privy to just one evolution (of, hopefully, many more) of the spectrum of his character.
Favorite tracks: “The Shining,” “Take Me Home,” “Law of Averages”

Inside Out – Nilüfer Yanya (2021)

London-born singer-songwriter, Nilüfer Yanya, released 7-track EP, Inside Out ahead of her upcoming sophomore album, PAINLESS, in October. Yanya’s unique voice maneuvers itself over airy melodies and ear-catching chord progressions so well that you almost forget about the somber lyrical content. A collection of previously released and unreleased tracks, Inside Out‘s sequencing is what left a lasting impression on me. The steady transition from anger and confusion on “The Florist” to dismal melancholy and fear on “Sliding Doors” presents a full range of emotion to sift through, both sonically and lyrically.
Favorite tracks: “Sliding Doors,” “Thanks 4 Nothing,” “Small Crimes”

Limbo Cherry – LAUREL (2021)

“I was expecting a lot of people who did listen to my old music to maybe say they weren’t liking the new music,” LAUREL shared with Pile Rats earlier this year. “Sometimes people want us to just stay the same, and not change anything.” As a continuation of her 2020 pop rebrand, UK’s LAUREL released her EP, Limbo Cherry in June. The artist made last year’s roundup with the first ideation of her newfound sound, Petrol Bloom. With the four-track collection, Limbo Cherry seems an apt sequel of exploration of sound and artist persona for LAUREL. 
Favorite tracks: “You’re the One,” “Wild Side”

The House is Burning – Isaiah Rashad (2021)

The long awaited third studio album from TDE’s Isaiah Rashad presented another glimmer of hope for music in the previous year. This one, I couldn’t wait to spin. With a five-year gap in his discography, it’s guaranteed that Rashad felt the pressure of millions to conceive a project that would be as indelible as 2016’s The Sun’s Tirade. I’d wager he succeeded in those endeavors with The House Is Burning. Rashad enlisted the talents of several others on THIB, including the talented Amindi. 
Favorite tracks: “Darkseid,” “HB2U,” “Lay Wit Ya”

A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – Aly & AJ (2021)

Keeping up with the alt-pop rebrand trend, up next we have Aly & AJ‘s Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun. The duo’s fourth studio album follows 2020’s We Don’t Stop, a project that I also thoroughly enjoyed (“Take Me” was at the top of my “Dance Alone and Drink Wine” playlist– don’t judge me). A Touch of the Beat is a 47-minute drive along the coast, with the wind and groovy basslines intertwining your fingers and tangling your hair. Forgive me, but listening to it makes me wanna leave it all behind.
Favorite tracks: “Slow Dancing,” “Lost Cause”

soft thing – LOONY (2021)

Neo-soul songstress, LOONY released soft thing, an 8-track EP in June. LOONY wears her heart on her sleeve with soft thing. Beautifully narrating the charms of unabashed vulnerability and trust in love with tracks like “raw” and “mine,” soft thing ended up being one of my favorite releases this year.
Favorite tracks: “beg,” “ours”

A Good Night in the Ghetto – Kamaiyah (2016)

This one is just for fun. Although fashionably late to the kickback, coming across Kamaiyah‘s 2016 mixtape was the most enjoyable musical experience I had this summer. When personal problems felt overwhelming, I called on Kamaiyah to remind me to, despite everything, “live every damn day like it’s Friday.” With bangers like “Ain’t Goin Home,” A Good Night in the Ghetto transports us back to a simpler time, when going out was more socially acceptable.
Favorite tracks: “Freaky Freaks,” “Mo Money Mo Problems”

Honorable Mentions:

Elephant in the Room – Mick Jenkins
Home Video – Lucy Dacus
the melodic blue – Baby Keem
Not Your Muse – Celeste
Both All the Time – Faye Webster
USEE4YOURSELF – IDK
Alpha – Charlotte Day Wilson
Lionel Boy – Lionel Boy
Lyrics To Go Vol. 2 – Kota The Friend

Categories
Interviews Reviews

Can You Always Go Home? Canadian Folk Singer-Songwriter Cassidy Waring Debuts Lonesome Reunion

An album that feels like an unchaperoned walk through dark and empty streets on a holiday back home– Lonesome Reunion is Cassidy Waring’s tormented debut.

Picture: families cozied up in warm houses, with bellies full and throats sore from a healthy balance of laughter and bickering as you carry on with your solitary stroll. Canadian folk singer-songwriter, Cassidy Waring‘s Lonesome Reunion is comparable to holding a snow globe. As an omnipotent outsider, you peer into a world so perfect, it’s almost fictitious. Knowing that life imitates art somehow makes beholding this tiny treasure more isolating– to know there are little towns with little houses and little families as happy as the replica you hold in your hands and yet, still so far removed from you.

Cassidy Waring photographed by Emile Benjamin

Everything you lose, needs to lose you.

Waring, “Everything You Lose”

A poignant, personal display of loss of innocence, Lonesome Reunion is somewhat of a study on the complexities of family and grief. Recorded and mastered by producer Jonathon Anderson, Lonesome Reunion features deep, folk-rooted instrumentals and sweeping, catchy melodies. Waring’s debut came to fruition after she sat for hours on end watching old VHS tapes of her family. The album’s intro, “Everybody’s Good,” features audio from one of these tapes. In the intro, we hear intimate, playful banter between Waring’s grandfather– to whom she affectionately refers as “Grandug”– and then-3-year-old Waring. “The tapes have become fascinating to watch because they are such a contrast to my painful memories as a teenager,” Waring stated in an email to The Greater Good.

The tapes, to Waring, are an ode to the glory of innocence and blissful ignorance only possessed in early childhood. “Part of me is comforted by them, they have served as proof that I have never been wrong about the amount of love and warmth that surrounded me as a kid and that we really were as happy and healthy as everyone remembers. It’s also confusing and devastating to watch these videos knowing what will happen for us in the future,” Waring stated. “When I was seventeen my mom died and her cause of death was chronic ethanol abuse,” the artist shared with me. “She and I were still very close when she passed. The main statement from anyone in and around my family is usually ‘But they were so happy, what happened?'”

Lonesome Reunion cover photo by Emile Benjamin

On the outside, Waring’s family could have lived in that aforementioned snow globe: “We were one of those families that went on bike rides together every week and talked about our feelings at the dinner table. It’s something I am still trying to understand, what pulled both my parents into addiction when I was about twelve. Very quickly, our house became a dangerous place to be, physically and mentally. I’ve just been trying to understand both of my parents and their relationship in a deeper way, after the fact.”

Waring released a music video for the fourth track on the album in September. In it, we see the songwriter through several days of sitting in front of an old CRT TV, captivated by family pictures in motion. “Leaving” is a wistful track about managing grief, with guitars sounding similar to what you may find yourself doing after listening this song (crying). I’d wager it nearly impossible not to feel a catch in your throat as Waring sings, “If I believed in ghosts, would you haunt me just to talk?”

Led by melancholy piano keys, “Everything You Lose” is another painfully intimate look into the stages of grief. The song was written after Waring experienced a series of losses including the ending of a romantic relationship and the break-up of her last band, all while still grappling with the loss of family years later. “I lost the sympathy cards from my mother’s funeral,” Waring sings.

When asked about this line, Waring said she was with her boyfriend at the time when she lost them: “Someone broke into his car in the mall parking lot and stole everything, including my big stack of unopened sympathy cards everyone gave me– I wasn’t ready to open them yet. What are the chances! After that verse poured out, so did the rest of the song.” Waring sings, “Everything you lose, needs to lose you.” Perhaps that sentiment works in reverse and everything that finds you, needs to find you.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

Categories
Interviews

New York-based, Independent Artist Alé Debuts “The Party”

Parties are a very public experience. You’re surrounded by people. It’s loud. You’re meant to be happy. When Alé writes about the experience of a party, it’s much more personal. 

In his upcoming EP titled The Party, the singer, songwriter, and producer takes us through a real scenario he experienced over the course of just two nights. “I ran into an ex-girlfriend at a party, and I was thrown off by the fact that I was experiencing so many emotions seeing her, but I was in public.” It’s the idea of needing to show that you’re doing well, that you’re good and happy and positive, when you really need closure from that past experience. It was a challenging experience for Alé, managing “the emotional dynamic of trying to put on a brave face in the group of people you want to impress, while running into someone who you used to know. The hardest thing to do is fake the feeling.” It’s a blur of two moments in someone’s life. “It’s not like a party, it’s the party.” 

In speaking to Alé about this experience, he summarizes by stating, “overall, it’s just about being a kid in the city and taking influences from its madness. The cultural speed of the city makes it so I’m highly stimulated all the time.” Traditionally known as a phenomenal guitar player, Alé chose to base the majority of the EP on synthesis song design, with only one track based on guitar. He sees this as his own “act of rebellion” in  his musical journey, fully producing and mixing each track. 

“I’m in a scene of people who are messing with the rules of sound within music. It’s a wave we’re all riding.” 

For Alé, he wouldn’t want to put music out any other way. Knowing that he gets to choose every song and moment related to the song makes him feel that the tracks mirror himself artistically. He says, “a lot of the lyrical content is straight out of the actual story, so it’s about me getting closure for myself. This EP is a tale of being a teenager in love in a city where everything is so mad.” 

The theme of “The Party”  matches perfectly with Alé’s sound. In establishing this, “it always comes back to playing blues guitar.” He adds components of rock and roll, r&b, and soul that stuck with him throughout his experiences at the Conservatory and Little Kids Rock program, mixed with the aesthetic influence of hyperpop. Combining the classic pop 2000s song with his musical background and sprinkling in the sound design of hyperpop has led to his unique sound in “The Party.” Ultimately, Alé has resonated with the idea of pushing the boundaries of music sonically: “I really dig that on a scene level. I’m in a scene of people who are messing with the rules of sound within music. It’s a wave we’re all riding.” 

Credit: Alexis Marshall

To promote his first EP release on November 12th, Alé performed at the Elsewhere space in New York City the day prior. Though far from his first performance, he notes that this show is special for several reasons. Alé says, “I’ve always gatekeeped my music, but this week I celebrate it.” 

Alé’s background has not only influenced his music but the way he performs live as well. As a kid, he began playing guitar at age 7. Throughout his adolescence, Alé continued to perfect his craft at the Little Kids Rock program, where he was introduced to jazz guitar. At 15, he had the opportunity to share the stage with enigmatic artists such as Green Day, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, and Paul Shaffer. As a student at the Conservatory, “I always felt a bit nervous to share my singing and songwriting, because I’d always been the just the guitar player,” It wasn’t until he was accepted into the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch program, where he’s met artists who understand his musical persona, did he begin to feel comfortable enough to release and share his true sound. Ultimately, “this past Thursday performance was special because I celebrate the transition from being a musician for other people to an artist for myself.” 

For any artist, the goal is to keep writing new, influential music. For Alé, his goal is to write music and lyrics that wake people up to their feelings. By writing lyrics that are directed to you, the listener, he’s excited to think about where the future of his sound lies, and how he can develop a stronger sense of relatability. Alé said to me: “when you listen to music that you love, you feel like you can conquer the world.” It’s this mindset that makes me so sure of his future and so thrilled to listen to what’s to come.  

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

Categories
Look & Listen Reviews

Listen: Love Letterz – Marzz

“You don’t have to be like everybody else. This is your life. Live it and be happy with it.”

Marzz, Rated R&B

In astrology, Mars is the god of war; the planet of energy, action and desire. When we think of Mars, the first phrase that should come to mind is “do it.” A testament to the unwavering energy of the planet, Louisville R&B freshman, Marzz released her debut EP Love Letterz with Keep Cool/RCA Records last month.

Photo credit: Elizabeth “Eli” Wirija

I’ve come to a point in my life where I really don’t care what people say. I have to do this, I have to put my feelings out because if not, it’s going to eat me up alive.

Marzz, Uproxx

Written in the artist’s bevy of color-coded notebooks she keeps in her backpack to help process her synesthesia, the project is a collection of diary entries in the form of song. “I’ve come to a point in my life where I really don’t care what people say,” the artist stated in an interview with Uproxx, “I have to do this, I have to put my feelings out because if not, it’s going to eat me up alive.

Photo credit: Braylen Dion

Co-written by Timbaland, “Cleopatra” exemplifies the artist’s commitment to truth, even when it’s hard– especially the second verse: “I haven’t seen you shine in a long time, why? / Guess that means I gotta give you space, then bye / I see your true colors, please don’t make me / Feel your emptiness, you know that ain’t me / I got way too much on my mind, yeah we / Ain’t going back ’cause that shit ain’t healthy.” After stumbling upon it purely on accident, the first listen of “Cleopatra” resulted in an embarrassing amount of head nodding and shoulder shaking. In the music video for the track, you hear Marzz’s voice accurately preface what’s to come: “You are now entering a vibe.” And oh, what a vibe it is.

From childhood, the artist has used her color method to process and express her emotions as well. In an interview with Women In Pop, she dove into each color’s meaning, saying, “Blue is for when I’m excited. Purple is when I’m anxious, yellow’s when I’m sad, red is when I’m angry.” She continued, “I know for a fact that my red notebook was definitely my favorite. I used to write in that and whenever I got mad– I was never a verbal person –I’d hold my notebook up and be like, ‘No, listen, this is why I’m mad!’”

Marzz describes “Countless Times,” the latest single from the EP, as red and purple, saying, “You’re seeing a lot of anxiousness, a lot of worry. It was definitely a lot of draining emotion that definitely put a toll on me.” The track describes being on the precipice of the decision of whether to stay or walk away from an up-and-down relationship. “I know what I want now. The way that I want to be treated,” she stated, “I’m putting in the love and respect that I would want in return. I definitely believe in karma, so I feel like the good energy you put out is the good energy that you receive.”

Listen to Love Letterz here.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Look & Listen

Listen: “Can I Leave Me Too?” / “Float Away” – The Greeting Committee

It wasn’t overthinking. It just felt like a genuine stream of consciousness and self-expression. I hope that’s what people hear.

Brandon Yangmi on “Float Away,” Rice and Spice Magazine

Here’s the thing– are these singles particularly emo? Yes. Do they still hit the spot? Absolutely. And that’s what matters. Kansas City’s The Greeting Committee has managed to pry themselves out of the box they’ve been hiding in for 2 years with “Can I Leave Me Too?” and “Float Away.” The singles follow the alt-indie band’s 2019 EP, I’m Afraid I’m Not Angry and 2018 album, This Is It, a project that held my hand and my hair back through the majority of 2020.

The Greeting Committee consists of four members: bassist Pierce Turcotte, frontwoman Addie Sartino, drummer Austin Fraser and Brandon Yangmi on guitar.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Miranda

“Can I Leave Me Too?” aligns with the band’s brand of happy-sad music, with melancholic lyricism held afloat by buoyant instrumentation: “Why does everybody drive the same car you do? / I’m scared of myself without you / I’ll change my ways for a few days if it means you’ll stay / I’m filthy, creepy, clingy for you always,” the band’s frontwoman, Addie Sartino sings in the first verse. “Can I Leave Me Too?” touts the kind of emotional codependency we’d normally rebuke, but that didn’t stop me from giving it multiple spins. It shouldn’t stop you, either.

“My girlfriend drives a Nissan Rogue, and after we broke up I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing that car,” Sartino said of the single in a press release. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way there are this many Nissan Rogues in Kansas City’ — but I think that’s a pretty universal thing to have happen when you’re going through a breakup.”

The latest single from the band is equally as emo, but in the best way. “Glad it’s raining, so I don’t have to go outside / And pretend I’m happy just to be alive,” Sartino sings in the first verse of “Float Away.” This record provides the kind of catharsis one can only find in music; anyone who has battled with depression and/or loneliness can identify with the single’s sentiments. When in that frame of mind, it can feel as though you’ve stepped completely outside of reality and outside of yourself; it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re walking through mud and thorns to get there.

In an interview with Rice and Spice, the band’s guitarist, Brandon Yangmi spoke on the single, saying, “This was a song that felt really genuine to all of us. It wasn’t a song that we overthought much; it was the easiest song that we wrote on the album.” He continued, saying, “We sat down, started playing the music, and it all came out. It wasn’t overthinking. It just felt like a genuine stream of consciousness and self expression. I hope that’s what people hear.”

“Float Away” was released in conjunction with the single’s music video, which features striking animation by artist Kezia Gabriella.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

Categories
Look & Listen

Listen: “Off The Drugs” – TOBi feat. Mick Jenkins

“Life, to me, is a good trip if you let it be.”

TOBi
TOBi, photo credit: Stanislaw

Today’s song is one with some of my favorite elements: horns and Mick Jenkins. The third single from TOBi this year is one that’s been in constant rotation since its release last week. When I say “constant rotation,” I mean exactly that. Forwards and backwards, up and down, side to side, this song was run into the ground and dug back up just to be run into the ground again.

Based off of title alone, you may assume this single is in favor of sobriety, but on the contrary, this song is one that is encouraged to consume while elevated. “When I smoke, I see things clearer and I’m way more aware,” TOBi disclosed in a press release for the single, “So I’m intentional about how I use it.”

He furthered his point of view by saying, “I think more money should go into researching things like cannabis and mushrooms for their healing properties. Just the way I look at it, so many things are actually drugs—alcohol, gambling, even social media cuz it affects brain chemistry, but all that shit is legal. Whereas things that can legitimately heal if properly understood and done correctly are stigmatized, it’s wild…. I just wanna live life to the fullest and enjoy this while it lasts. Life, to me, is a good trip if you let it be.”

The single features Mick Jenkins, who– to my knowledge, at least– can do next to no wrong, which he proves in his verse: “Reminiscing on them days when I would buy the pack to flip it / Couldn’t tell me I wasn’t gifted with the vegetation / Overdid it, sometimes too descriptive with my education / Edibles gon’ hit in ’bout an hour, that’s late registration / Class has been in session, we ain’t present.”

The single is the artist’s second release within a month’s time. Prior to “Off The Drugs,” TOBi released a collaborative track with one-of-a-kind Baby Rose titled “Come As You Are.”

“What does it mean to love someone as they are and not as a projection of who they portray to the world?”

TOBi
Photo credit: Patrick Duong

“I’ve been waiting to do this song for years,” TOBi stated in regards to the track, “I had the concept written but never brought it to life until the pandemic hit and I found it again. What does it mean to love someone as they are and not as a projection of who they portray to the world? Not the layers and titles that we have given to each other. To recognize the humanity in each other as a mirror of self. It’s a lesson in self-love as well.”

The record is a testament to patience and acceptance of another as a whole, regardless of status or perceived limitations. The artist continued, “We know we are both here right now but we have the potential to be greater versions of ourselves and I want to be there for your blossoming, as you’ll be there for me. Sometimes we forget how the simplest things are often the most overlooked but the most important parts of who we are.”

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Interviews Reviews

Eaglin: A Truly Dynamic Duo

Hailing from Denton, TX, sister duo, Eaglin, released their latest single, “Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon)” last month. The single is a goosebumps-inducing, blues-infused ballad that somehow sounds the way that homesickness feels, with an incredibly captivating bridge that will, without a shadow of a doubt, have you singing, “Thinkin! About you! Brings a smile to my face, even now.” The track was blessed by the hands of Grammy award winner McKenzie Smith and lauded guitarist Joey McClellan. When the single popped up in my inbox, I decided I would be remiss if I didn’t try to make contact.

“Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon)” is an ode to the pandemic in a way. Societal anxiety of the unknown became the cultural norm during the early days of the pandemic, which in turn, became a breeding ground for creativity for many artists. We have a cocktail of isolated free time and spiraling thoughts to thank for a good portion of the creativity that has been displayed in the last 15ish months. Eaglin is no exception to that.

Kenzie and Bailee Eaglin
Kenzie, 17 (left) and Bailee Eaglin, 24 (courtesy of FRNDLY media)

“I was laying outside at my family’s home in Texas, with the sun shining down, after being cold in New York for the past 6 months,” Bailee said, painting the picture of how the track was written. “There was a moment where I felt so hopeful for the future and what the next year might bring following the grim, sad reality the pandemic was sure to bring. I also remember feeling so unbelievably grateful to be at home with my parents and sister,” she continued, “I was missing friends who were far away but I knew there’d be a day when we could reconnect and thought about how sweet it would be.”

Kenzie offers a more melancholy and less optimistic perspective to the track. “When I wrote the second verse,” Kenzie stated, “I was feeling some emotions that were dark and confusing, and I feel as though this song paraphrased those feelings, which resulted in a beautiful body of work.”

The duo announced the upcoming release of their 5-track EP on social media shortly after the release of “Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon).”

We wanted to make a sunny, fun body of work that also showcases our different writing and music styles.

Bailee Eaglin, on what to expect from the duo’s upcoming EP

Eaglin released “Maybe” as a follow-up to “Vanilla,” which was released back in February. The tracks differ vastly in sound and subject matter, as “Vanilla” is a sweeter-than-candy pop-rock track. Eaglin’s self-titled debut EP, set to release later this month, will be an exhibition of their sweeping wingspan of talent. When asked what to expect of the debut, Bailee stated, “A range of different sounds with one common thread: summer! We wanted to make a sunny, fun body of work that also showcases our different writing and music styles. We have a lot of influences, Kenzie has a lot of vocal range, so we didn’t hold back. We really think there’s something for everyone, here.”

Those influences that Bailee mentioned include practically their entire family. I’m talking the whole roost. “We have a large family and are blessed to have known our grandparents and even our great-grandparents,” Bailee said, “We are multiracial and ethnically diverse as a family, so we really had access to so many different cultural norms and traditions.”

Eaglin’s multicultural rearing heavily impacted their musical preferences, which vary in genre. “Being biracial in the 2000s really effected my music taste,” Kenzie said, “I grew up listening to what our parents grew up listening to, as well as new artists they were into. Our dad played gospel and R&B, while our mom was super into Aerosmith, Journey, and Celine Dion. This introduced me to different worlds of music at a very young age, and I’m forever grateful.”

Bailee and Kenzie were blessed from both sides of their family with the musical gene; the duo’s aunt is a respected gospel singer in Houston and their father grew up singing in church choirs, but no one has inspired these sisters like their mother. “Our mother is an incredible singer as well,” Bailee said, “She’s my biggest inspiration without a doubt.”

Courtesy of FRNDLY media

The familial inspiration doesn’t stop there, though. Bailee, 24, is a self-taught guitarist who picked up the instrument thanks to her aunt. “My moms sister, my aunt Amanda, if I really take a second to think about it, might’ve been one of my largest musical influences,” Bailee said, “She was always listening to the coolest albums and going to live shows. She’d take me to live rock concerts on week nights when no 6/7 year old on earth was probably out, and it absolutely shaped my perception of musicians and performance.” She continued, “She bought me my first guitar when I was six years old or something like that and signed me up for lessons.”

Despite taking lessons, Bailee struggled to hone her attention, saying, “I couldn’t sit still or focus on anything the instructor was trying to teach me, so I quit very soon after and would only pick up the guitar to pretend to play or try strumming along to something but I couldn’t read music, and I didn’t know any chords so I’d mainly pluck along with single notes. At ten, my uncle bought me a new guitar, and showed me a g chord. The rest was history! I played so much and began to write nearly every day.”

I asked the sisters what the next year has in store for them, as a duo and individually, and the two agreed on one thing: more music. “A year from now, I think we can count on several Eaglin projects that we are super proud of,” Bailee said. “We have plans for later this year that I can’t even believe we’re getting to share. Individually, I see myself someplace sunny, chugging along and continuing to expand the role of music in my life.” Kenzie plans to attend college in the fall, but says music will remain a high priority for her.

Listen to “Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon)”:

Categories
Love 'Em & Leave 'Em Reviews

Romantic Resonance: Celeste is Not Your Muse

UK soul singer-songwriter, Celeste released her debut album, Not Your Muse just in time for Valentine’s Day. From the romantic cover art to the project’s overall themes of love and loss, Celeste and her team knew what they were doing when they released in late January. Celeste, who has been on the radar since 2018, has seen a steady and gradual career incline, with accolades building in her treasure chest by the pound. The 26-year old is bringing back sounds of old with jazz and blues influence and a one-of-a-kind voice. The artist credits the loss of her father as motivation and inspiration to further her passion for purpose and music, telling Evening Standard, “Until that point my life had been rosy to an extent. It shocked me. Then after that I had so much more drive to do something I cared about. I focused everything on doing music from that point.”

“This song is like a conversation with an old friend.”

– Celeste on “Ideal Woman,” via Apple Music

On the album’s intro, “Ideal Woman” we have Celeste’s velvety voice singing against societal standards of what embodies an ideal woman. Coincidentally, the track just so happens to be constructed just like my version of an ideal woman: unexplainably sensual and almost effortlessly commanding of attention with humility and grace. The track, produced by Josh Crocker and Charlie Hugall, is the perfect foreplay for the main event that is the rest of the album. From the slow creep of guitar and gentle, modest chimes to Celeste’s smooth-as-butter voice, “Ideal Woman” lets you think it’ll do one thing just to do something different entirely. Just as you expect a sonic or vocal swell, production slows and Celeste takes a right when you’ve anticipated a left, resulting in the unavoidable tap of the “repeat” button.

“I took a much quieter and softer approach that was informed by the chord progression, but also, I was trying to conceal the fact that my voice was weaker. I had such a clear and loud thought: ‘This is an important song. Take your time with it.’”

– Celeste for The New York Times, on recording “Strange” during a wildfire

Following the intro is the project’s lead single, “Strange,” which was originally released in 2018 on the artist’s EP, Compilation 1.1. The track, which was previously featured on TGG, is what propelled Celeste into the spotlight, incurring international discussion of the artist’s future endeavors. The deluxe version of the album features the original, extended version of this track with an additional chorus and bridge. Recorded in LA during a wildfire, Celeste gives credence to the smoke in the air for the rasp heard in her voice at the time of recording. Those gravelly vocals gracefully escort us through a somber tale as old as time: the evolution of love and loss, by choice or by fate.
Picking up the pace and picking our jaws up off the floor, upbeat singles, “Tonight Tonight” and “Stop This Flame” come next on the project. The video for “Stop This Flame,” a tune about keeping love alive, sees the colorful city of New Orleans painting the scene.

On Not Your Muse, Celeste brings different varieties of love– romantic, familial, self– to the forefront. The album’s title track is a slow burn that gradually grows into a raging fire. The zenith of the project, the song is placed smack dab in the middle of sequence. The record deconstructs the dated damsel-in-distress and manic-pixie-dream-girl tropes with a delicate nature and beautiful simplicity only Celeste can dispense. Tugging gently on our heartstrings, “Beloved” is a declaration of longing. On the track, Celeste croons a letter written to a love unrequited. With its almost adolescent yearning fueled by the purest of intentions, “Beloved” holds its place as my favorite track on this project.

Immediately following the gentle plucky instrumentation on “Beloved” comes horn-infused ear-candy “Love Is Back.” The impenetrable swagger heard on this track is succeeded by the haunting, drifting mystique found in “A Kiss.” Continuing the trend of romance, the next track, “The Promise,” is a pledge of recommitment to an old flame.
The transition from one track to the next here is an example of what I like to call “peaks and valleys” in a body of work. Where there is a rise, there’s sure to be a fall. It’s almost as if Not Your Muse is its own breed of love story, with a prologue of self-love and self-acceptance, love coming and going throughout until finally, bittersweet acceptance with the project’s outro, “Some Goodbyes Come With Hellos.” With a damn near perfect debut, Celeste has managed to bust down the doors of 2021 with lyrical finesse and a natural talent that’s yet to be matched. Not Your Muse will remain in my personal rotation until further notice. If you’ve got time to sit down with the album, without distraction, I would highly recommend doing so.