Category Archives: Interview

215 Feature: Ghana to Philly… STEMbees creating a buzz

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Story by Olumide Yerokun and Aran Hart. 

We can’t deny the impact that mobile technology continues to have on how the world dynamically interacts. Our society is increasingly attached to our devices, plus we’re starting to wear more of it, and undoubtedly the impact has real effects. Not only does technology keep us connected to loved ones and drive business, it advances our understanding of the world around us — For example, collecting soil moisture levels, gathering, transmitting, and analyzing critical data as we strive to make improvements to vital industries such as agriculture to help feed a fast growing international population.

As women’s history month comes to an end we remember the past, and look to the future of women’s contributions to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. Examples like Emmy Noether and her contributions to mathematics are certainly worthy of our praise as we consider who overcame obstacles to succeed in STEM.

Now, we consider the always interesting question for each new generation: How will the young women of today take the spark made by Noether (and others) and pave new paths?

We sat down with Linda Ansong, Nana Essuman and Dr. Jamie Bracey of STEMbees. STEMbees is a non-profit based in Accra, Ghana focused on encouraging and mentoring more young African women to pursue their dreams and careers in STEM.


Beyond STEMbees, Ms. Ansong is also Co- Founder of Vestracker AB, Dr. Bracey is Founder of Creative Tech Works Design Studio (CTW) in Philadelphia, and Mr. Essuman is the lead mentor at CTW who is now guiding the replication of CTW Design Studio in Ghana .

We discussed the upcoming City Streets Race during Philly Tech Week 2015, their experiences in STEM, influences, and the significance of striving for more involvement of women in the tech world.

Olumide Yerokun: How was STEMbees Started?

Linda Ansong: In undergrad I studied actuarial science which is very math focused. After college I found myself in an institution called Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology for two years. A majority of my classes were male dominated and I saw this as a problem. I wanted to do something that would motivate and empower more young women to venture into STEM industries. Once I was able to tell Nana about my idea he introduced me to Dr. Bracey and we went from there.

Linda Ansong and STEMbees participants in Ghana (via Facebook)

OY: What is the goal of STEMbees and Creative Tech Works?

Nana Essuman: Both organizations have similar goals. The main focus is developing youth to build tech products that create stability and enrich their local communities. Creative Tech Works just happens to focus on youth as a whole and STEMbees focuses on young women. So through this we are able to take what Creative Tech Works has created with City Streets and work on transferring that model to Accra, Ghana. The first pilot is in December ’15, in Ghana, so we are working toward making it a great event for the youth.

OY: What is the inspiration behind the City Streets Race?

Dr. Bracey: We have a culture that likes to play games whether it is on the phone, a board game, or in real life. The goal was to figure out how to get people, specifically young people, to appreciate where they live and interact with technology at the same time.

We had the young people in the program write the code for the mobile app that will be used in the race. We then created a game around the race and we get the young people to engage with cultural icons in the city. It really stems from civil engagement where participants in the race are engaging and learning more about their city.

OY: What unique advantage do women bring to STEM industries?

Linda Ansong: Women are strong, critical, and systematic which is needed in the process of building technology. Having women on our team is the best thing that can happen because women have patience and an ability to bridge the gap in a lot of work environments.

Being outnumbered in most classes 10 to 1 gave me a unique perspective of where women can excel. It wasn’t that women couldn’t do the work it’s just that women needed to be motivated to pursue further education in STEM, past secondary school and through college.

OY: How did your culture influence you growing up?

Linda Ansong: Growing up I was the girl that wanted to know how this or that happened. I would watch Sci-Fi movies and be amazed by what was going on. I really enjoyed math and took a software development class in college that sparked my interest in tech. Both my parents are entrepreneurs which really influenced me, especially my mother. They gave me the strength to work toward my own dreams. Being from Ghana and having the ability to travel opened my eyes to a lot and gave me a new perspective on the opportunities of traveling. My mother told me I can either go travel just to shop or I can go travel learn a lot and create bigger opportunities for myself.

OY: What is the hope for women in STEM?

Dr. Bracey: The goal is for women to go from consumers to producers. To understand the value of technology, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur but at least understand the process of how the technology that you are using works. It’s developing women to be strategic and tactical at the same time.

Linda Ansong: My hope is to help young girls understand that it’s more than just understanding software or programming. I want young girls to understand that there is a large opportunity to create jobs, sustainability, and wealth for their community. It’s tough but it’s an amazing journey and experience to go from working for someone else to working for yourself. It’s powerful knowing that I’m helping show more young girls that they can do it as well.

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215 Exclusive Interview: Circa Waves

Liverpool quartet Circa Waves recently released their U.S. EP titled T-Shirt Weather via Virgin Records. Produced by Dan Grech and recorded at the historic RAK studios in London, the 5 track EP features their newly debuted single T Shirt Weather.” The title-track is the latest in a startling run of singles which has seen them make the Radio 1 daytime playlist with tracks “Fossils” and “Young Chasers.”

They are set to release their debut album “Young Chasers” March 30th.


The last 12 months have been building to this U.S. EP release. They were one of the runaway successes at CMJ with the New York Times comparing their performance to the “relentless rhythm-guitar drive of the Strokes.” In addition, they were given the 2015 Best New Band Award by NME on top of the coveted opening slot on the NME Awards tour. Circa Waves also performed in front of packed tents at several festivals including Glastonbury and Reading / Leeds plus played alongside The 1975, Interpol, and Royal Blood.

Circa Waves are: Kieran Shudall (guitar / vocals), Joe Falconer (guitar), Sam Rourke (bass) & Colin Jones (drums).

Guest contributor Ryan Quint talked with Kieran about their upcoming tour, their recent recognition, and what it means to make and play ‘live’ music…

Ryan Quint [RQ]: I want to start off by talking about your upcoming tour. You guys are heading out on a huge Tour in April all throughout the UK and Europe…. and have been touring pretty consistently — doing both festivals and your own headlining shows — which do you prefer?

Kieran: I say headline shows. You’re playing to the audience that is solely there for you. You can enjoy all of the people singing every word back to you. I do think festivals have their own merits too but we enjoy having own our headlines all over the world the most.

RQ: What songs from the new album are most looking forward to performing on this tour?

Kieran: All songs really. I really enjoy playing “Stuck in my Teeth.” Its a song that people seem to really connect with and go a bit crazy to. Obviously the singles are the ones people know the most so they’re always fun to play. Sometimes I don’t even have to sing much, I just let the room takeover which is pretty cool.

RQ: You previously toured with the 1975, did you guys have a previous relationship with them?

Kieran: No, we just got asked to do it. We got to play in huge rooms in Australia and the UK that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own this far into our careers so we felt that it was a good opportunity for us to be playing in front of 5,000-10,000 people at a time. That sort of experience is great. Once you play in those size rooms, going back to our size rooms (1,000 people) is easier because we know how to work the room a bit more

RQ: What is current your relationship with them?

Kieran: We still speak to them a bit. When we’re down in London, we sometimes go out with them, but they tour loads and we tour loads so its not as easy as we’d like
to go and party with them.

RQ: Apple’s iTunes Store “New Artists of 2015” and Zane Lowe played “Stuck in my Teeth” as his “Hottest Record” in February 2014. Would you consider these accomplishments? And if so, how much do things like this mean to you in the grand scheme of things?

Kieran: Not too much to be honest. I mean its nice to be told these things but I think the real accomplishments come from selling tickets and making the performances as memorable as we can. People high up like Zane Lowe, its very nice that he says these things but he’s not the one who comes to the shows or who necessarily buys the records. Its the people who come to the shows and who buys the records that I want to please. They’re the ones who are going to keep us making music for as long we possibly can.

RQ: I agree, I think a lot of times, artists get caught up with their co-signs and fail to produce where it really matters.

Kieran: Yea you realize that these things from Apple or Zane Lowe only matter for so long and they forget about you. Its the people who truly like the music that will stick around with you.

RQ: Resurgence of UK Pop/Rock artists – Sam Smith, George Ezra, Ed Sheeran, The 1975, Bastille, Royal Blood, among MANY other. Why do you think UK artists have been having so much success recently in the states?

Kieran: I think everything is cyclical and everything comes in waves and at the moment theres a huge wave of that guitar music thats happening in England. Also, if the talent is there then people will recognize it. So I suppose we’ve come out at a good time and it seems that its all heading that way really. I think people may be desperate for guitar music. I suppose there’s a lot of Pop and Hip-Hop music in America so people were even listening to boy bands who play guitar just because they were desperate to hear guitar music. So it all seems that bands like Royal Blood, Catfish and the Bottlemen and all these other UK bands are getting popular because people in America are ready to hear that sound again.

RQ: I know you’re performing several times at SXSW this year. Recently SXSW has been criticized for being very corporate, as an artist do you still look forward to being apart of the festival and what do want to get out of it?

Kieran: We’re just going for the all the free shit.. nah I’m just kidding. But it is very corporate and it feels that way with all of the sponsors. Anyone would frown upon any band who sort of sells out in anyway so to go to SXSW for us is a bit unusual. We don’t necessarily agree with all that sort of stuff but I suppose with these festivals its necessary for them to be as big as possible with all of the sponsors. We do try and avoid big corporate things as much as possible but were willing to take some free shit off them.

RQ: Right, it is still a big outlet and I’m sure a lot of people will be discovering your music there.

Kieran: I hope so!

RQ: Liverpool/recorded at RAK Studios (David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Roger Daltry, Mary J. Blige, Adele, Arctic Monkeys). Does this inspire you knowing that multiple legends recorded there or do you view it as another studio and as a platform to record your music?

Kieran: It’s definitely cool but I don’t sit there and say “Oh, this is a the microphone that Thom Yorke used on the band’s record.” Stuff like that is cool but I honestly think that to make a great record you don’t necessarily have to do it in a big, expensive studio. Personally, we loved how the drums sounded in that room but in my opinion some of the best stuff I ever recorded was in my own bedroom. It’s really just opinion and taste and if the song is good enough, it can be recorded anywhere.

RQ: You mentioned there will be a “Live” aspect to album, how did you accomplish this sound specifically with this studio?

Kieran: We cranked the amps up as loud as they go and then we put them in their own little box with a microphone and we all played in the room together so it was very similar to a live experience in that we would bounce off each other. We wanted a natural sound, we didn’t layer any guitars really, most of it is really just me and Joe (Falconer – Guitarist) playing. I think for a baby (debut) record it’s a really cool thing

RQ: Definitely. Do you think this recording technique will help with your live performances?

Kieran: Yea for sure. If you record a record with a million little things done, the live show will be completely different and people may be slightly confused. I think it helps us knowing exactly what we’re going to be doing live and we can fuck around with it all.

RQ: Moving forward with the album, what can fans expect from the album and how does it compare sonically to the Young Chasers EP?

Kieran: The demos that were on the first EP we recorded ourselves so it’s definitely more scrappy. The album is also definitely more thought out but also we wanted to make sure the drums sounds were small and dry. There were a lot of records we referenced when recording the drum sounds on the album like Arcade Fire’s first record and The National’s early records. And our songs are quite big so we wanted to go the opposite way with the production of them in order to balance everything out. There was definitely a lot of thought that went into how everything sounds on the album

RQ: Last song on the album “Talking Out Loud” is your favorite. What is it about this song stands out?

Kieran: Well for one, its a really slow song so we always get a rest when we play it live. I think Joe liked that song the most, it has a lot of inspirations from Pavements and Brendan Benson with the chilled out sound. It’s a really cool sound that we haven’t really tried before and it came out really well and I think people will really attach themselves to that one when the record comes out.

RQ: Who’s idea was it to follow you guys around in Berlin for the “Fossils” music video and how did the video come about?

Kieran: It was something we had talked about for a long time, just including tour footage and stuff like that in our video. We really wanted to get across who we all really are. And we felt like none of our videos had really done that yet so we thought it’d be cool to get a guy to come and film us in Berlin and he came out with an awesome camera and just filmed everything from the few days we were in Berlin. I love it.

RQ: I know you said in a previous interview that you guys began the day of the video shoot with champagne and cigars; is this a common start of the day for you guys?

Kieran: Yea I start every day at home with champagne and cigars, I cant carry on without them. I’m just kidding. We went a bit extravagant on that day. None of us can afford champagne so we just found some money for that. But it’s definitely one way to start a day, I wouldn’t suggest it every day though.

RQ: Drinking has been the conversation in almost all of your interviews. Who is the heaviest drinker in the group and what alcohol do you have on your rider?

Kieran: We all have various nights where one of us will be up drunk at 7 in the morning but then they won’t be on the next night. We all hit it pretty hard. As for the rider, we usually have some beer then switch between rum and ginger, gin and tonic or bourbon and soda. We have a rotating spirits rider. Oh, and hummus.

RQ: It’s good to see that you take full advantage of the free liquor on your rider.

Kieran: Yea exactly, so 2 days of the week we’ll have gin, 2 days of the week rum, 2 days we’ll be bourbon so we don’t get bored ever and we are always alcoholically surprised.

RQ: I think that’s a pretty good problem you have with not knowing what alcohol to pick for each day.

Kieran: Exactly. And it keeps us drinking everyday which is a benefit.

RQ: Lastly, what are your plans for after the UK tour and will there be an American tour following?

Kieran: Yea, there’s talks of us going to America, it’s all up in the air at the moment though. If it was up to us, we’d be going for a long time so hopefully sometime in the middle or end of this year. We’ve only been (to America) once and didn’t get to explore much so we’d love to go back to LA or New York and also all the other places we missed last time.

RQ: Thank you very much, good luck with the upcoming album release and tour and safe travels to SXSW.


Pre-order their album, which comes out on March 30th HERE:

See upcoming tour dates and more info at:

Let’s Move It Philly: Black Thought and Hometown Heroes Party with Purpose

Story by Franceska Rouzard

Many in the region may remember Saturday, February 21st as the night of a wicked wintry storm. However, the funkiest and flyest of Philadelphia will remember it as the night they shared a dance floor with brilliant activists like Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, and talented artists and pioneers the likes of Philadelphia’s own Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Rich Medina [yea we’re claiming you too Rich!].


Hosted by the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, an organization co-founded by long time friends Black Thought and Dr. Johnson Dias, The 5th Annual Let’s Move It: Philly aimed to raise money for Linglebach Elementary [learn how you can help #SaveLingelbach], one of many educational institutions in Philadelphia who received laughable, in a not so funny kind of way, discretionary funding for this school year. Held at Trilogy [formerly Palmer Social Club], attendees described it simply as, “a good time for a good cause.”

Many who braved the weather and ventured to the event, from near and far, expressed openly they were “glad they came out!”


Personally I, as a Philly transplant, was in awe of the entire evening. It is difficult to pinpoint a sole source of wonderment. It could have been the overwhelming turn out given the weather. Perhaps, it was bankhead bouncing to Busta Rhymes with an accomplished, well dressed sociology professor. Conceivably, it was the easy-going nature of Grammy-Award winning, world-renowned artists mingling with guests just like all the others.

No doubt it was the DJ sets and live performance from Black Thought, which so well complimented the energy of the evening – originating with the cause(s) the GrassROOTS Community Foundation stand for.


I was afforded the privilege of speaking with Dr. Johnson Dias, Rich Medina, and Black Thought about the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, the Linglebach Elementary cause, and future plans for Philadelphia.

FR: On the home page of the GrassROOTS Community Foundation’s website, there is a big banner that says “A Tribute to Tanji Dewberry”. Who is that?

Dr. Johnson Dias: Tanji Dewberry is a friend, author, mentor and a trailblazer in ‘Super Camp‘, a summer day camp for Philadelphia’s inner city girls. Her dream was to extend it to Philadelphian boys. She died in a fire trying to rescue her children. Last year, her mother, Cynthia Mitchell, funded three boys to Super Camp.

FR: What does it take to put an event like this together?

Black Thought: It takes a lot of planning and flexibility and the delegation of many responsibilities. It takes a strong and reliable team, people you can trust and who can improvise. It takes a village.

FR: I read the GrassROOTS Community Foundation has a three year commitment to Linglebach Elementary to create an after school program. What are the next steps?

Black Thought: After tonight, we plan to give a nice sized contribution. Our next fundraiser is a 5k race called Roots Rock Run.

FR: Dr. Johnson Dias and Black Thought have decided to take their success and help the city of Philly, and others. What motivates you, Rich?

Rich Medina: I have a son, a 7 year old. Also, I went to college so I know the importance of education and learning. However, I feel I learned even more during college in my extracurricular activities — outside of the classroom. For that reason, I remain a student even now. I believe in a lifetime of learning and promoting wellness and forward thinking.

More info about the GrassROOTS Community Foundation

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 Photos courtesy of Saeed Briscoe

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Interview: Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers

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Ever wandered around feeling a bit lost, not exactly sure what it is you’re looking for? But, you’re pretty sure you’ll find it along the path you’re on, so you keep keepin’ on with a wry smile…

One may ask, “What do you find when you go searching for ______ ?” [fill in the blank]. Perhaps it begins with an expectation or hope of what’s to come. Maybe that initial desire changes the further along the journey you progress. Of course, you’ll never know until you take each step and do the searching.

When you sift through Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers’ musical library the experience is similar. First you think, “Who and what is this?” [wry smile]. Then you may think, “Is their playful attire in their music videos simply prodding to get a rise out of me? Is this a game of smoke and mirrors?”

And there is certainly some playfulness in there. They want to party and feel good with you over funky licks and bass lines that help you let your guard down. So when that catchy horn splash kicks in you can’t help but smile and sing:

I ain’t got no money / spent it on a laser / threw a dance party / DJ in the basement

Then you just let it be what it is and dig a little deeper — that’s when you start to really find out about this outfit [no pun intended], hailing proudly from Lansing, Michigan. They are a tight-knit group of really talented musicians, who consider themselves close like family, turning over each rolling stone and putting song to their experiences — especially those that lead singer and song-writer Joe Hertler sees, hears, and feels.

That’s when you realize and start believing, “Okay, that’s where the heart-felt and honest lyrics come from… : ”

We are 10,000 dead in a war that was won / We are the fallen spirit and the smoking gun / We are the future that will repeat what we’ve done / We are heroes with a thousand faces

See, what works is when you learn The Rainbow Seekers play this x-gen funk and soul with a live horn section and signature style all their own. They’re not just blindly fishing for your token attention and raised eyebrow remarks. Summed up, as Joe explains below in our conversation, the band is looking for a unique and authentic connection when they perform and/or share their music. And if you’re also looking for that when you press play or witness their live show, then you’re in luck.

I recently talked with Joe Hertler during his North American tour — just ahead of the group’s new album Terra Incognita [released today // listen below] — not necessarily seeking any particular answers… but ya know, I got some in the end.

Photo credit: Joe Hertler Facebook page

Aran Hart: Sum up your approach to you and your band’s music… More specifically, the shared journey and “seeking” that your band name alludes to…

Joe Hertler: I can put it this way. A song is unique to the moment it’s written. You have all these experiences that culminate and the emotions behind it might be complex. You package it into a little box to make it accessible so someone else can open it up and hopefully connect with it.

Music in general is a learning and reflective experience. As you write songs you constantly have to reflect on your experiences because that is where they come from. One mountain after the other. You achieve something, then you keep going and then there is another challenge or set of experiences to pull an idea for a song from.

AH: I quote from your [bio] in reference to your music…

“A ride on the Rainbow will take you across the mountains of Motown, through the fjords of folk, over the archipelagos of Americana, and—at last—into a funky firth, where only the fiercest of friendships can be found.”

Expand on that and why that’s how you see it… Do you take pride in being able to touch on these different style of music?

Joe: Yea I do. I take a lot of pride in being a band with genre ADD. I guess we never find ourselves comfortable or content sticking to one genre. We just get bored, so we say “let’s try some songs in this direction.” It’s a lot more natural than that though, not really a conscious thing. If I’ve written a couple sad songs in a row maybe i’ll think to make something more upbeat and funky.

I remember our label [Universal] sat down with us and asked, “Okay, what’s up with all this genre jumping?”

I think it’s just us. We’re just a bunch of weird motherf*’s. There’s a lot of different musical influences that are constantly feeding into our music making process.

Plus, I mean, the human condition is one of many different feelings and emotions. We try to touch on all those and that is expressed in different styles. So, we find different avenues that different people connect to.

People will come out because they like the funky stuff… but then you have the more folky crowd who comes because they like the quieter stuff. I feel like it allows us to have a really dynamic live show.

We’re hoping you can come to our show and be part of a party but also go home and put on some headphones and have a more introspective experience. Why limit yourself to one thing when there are so many ways to experience?

AH: Amish ex-communicate?

Joe: Haa, you know… No errr, comment on that topic… for now [laughs].

AH: Fair enough. Then talk about how you got linked up to record at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit…

Joe: There are these packets of artists moving to Detroit and enthusiasm towards growing the city. The Russell Industrial Center has long been considered one of the epicenters of creative stuff going on there. It’s this massive, cheap, warehouse with these huge rooms. A buddy of ours who is a sculpture offered up one of these rooms for us to film the RIS videos.

And the theme of the record is based on impermanence. I think, especially at that time, Detroit provided a real stark image of impermanence. Simply put, something as great as Detroit was – say in the 60’s – can kind of crumble and fall after a while. The parallels between Detroit and this record were something I acknowledged and it just seemed right to record the videos there.

We wanted to do something live, no glamour, no real post-edit work, and I think it worked.

AH: What would you want someone to say about your music if/when they find it?

Joe: Music is indicative of a strong society. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what time you are living in. There’s music around and it is something that people have been gathering around as long as humans have been humans. Whether dancing around a fire and drumming, or in church, or at a metal show. There’s a coherence to all of it and it is a very connective experience. So I hope a lot people leave our show feeling like they were connected to the other people that were there, including us. I hope they got a little break and got to escape from dwelling on what they might have to do tomorrow.

AH: I’m curious, what other artists in music do you hold in high regard?

Joe: I’ve always been a big fan of Aloe Blacc and got to meet him recently at Electric Forest. I really love D’Angelo and I guess he’s really been my #1 since the early 90’s.  I always loved Erykah Badu. I love Tycho for electronic music — he’s awesome and plays with a live band. I listen to a lot of house and techno…that takes up a lot of my music time. I’m a raver, have been for a long time! Oh, and the The Flaming Lips.

AH: Yea, I think I’m still trying to process what I saw for The Flaming Lips’ Bonnaroo introduction

Talk about you/your band’s song-writing and creating process…

Joe: Pretty much the way it has worked the last few years since we’ve been a band is… I write the songs and the music and I see them as a skeleton. Then I bring it to the band and they flesh them out and give them muscles. So they take what sounds like a folky, acoustic song and take it up to the next level.

Even if I’m writing something that’s more funky or in an R&B vein, I still feel a lone dude with a guitar comes off as a folk song. I usually try to get them to about 75-80% complete, in regards to the structure of the song, and then I give it to the band and I’m like, “have at it.”

I don’t tell my band what to do. There’s a real trust that we have with each other as musicians. They don’t tell me how to write my songs and I don’t tell them how to play their instruments. It’s a really cool thing that I’ve never had with other musicians.

Of course I share my over-arching vision for a song, which pretty much comes down to, “Hey, I want this one to be a quick funk and groove song…” And they’ll take it from there. Just a quick sentence to get them going. I think we’re all aware enough to see if something’s working or not working.

Like Jetski for instance. It totally didn’t work the first time we put instrumentation to it and everyone was aware of that. Then it came up again later and it just happened — we found an instantaneous groove. A lot of it comes down to trusting each other as musicians.

AH: What would you hope to find at the end of the rainbow?

Joe: Hopefully a little bit of fulfillment. Connections that have formed between me and my bandmates and the people at our shows. We make art and we want people to connect with it. And hopefully one day we can support our families off of it. So, yea a pot of gold and all of those things too!

AH: I hope you find it! Have a great tour, come see us in Philly, and thanks so much for your time…

Joe: Awesome, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

More from Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers

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Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers – Terra Incognita

215 Spotlight: Build Me A World Art Collective

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There often comes a point in life when one must choose to pave their own road, or follow one that has been laid out for them. Build Me A World (BMAW) can be described as an art collective working with black youths from the inner city of Chattanooga, Tennessee — and for many it has become a route to a better life.

Growing up in a lower income community can often leave its members feeling hopeless and trapped in a life they were born into. BMAW has created a positive environment for members of the Chattanooga community to tap into their creativity and tell their story through art. In essence, building and/or re-building a world.

The result: empowerment of participants by teaching and reminding a generation that they hold the power to create and live out their own stories.

This video provides a resonant glimpse at this process in motion:

We talked with directors of Build Me a World — Genesis the Greykid [Russell McGee Jr] and Chris Woodhull [bios] to find out more about their non-profit that is creating an outlet for authentic expression and influence. Below are excerpts and highlights from our conversation.

The two men discussed the importance of mentoring within underprivileged neighborhoods, noting that many young people they talk to lack ANY positive role models in their lives.

“Kids are growing up in these environments where everything’s in shambles… over time it creates this ‘I don’t care’ attitude”  – Genesis the Greykid

Speaking on the disadvantages they face in Chattanooga, Chris touched on the common divide between blacks and whites, “The racial divide here is severe, palpable and it’s clear. I didn’t realize it could exist like this.”

BMAW focuses on combating the effects of geographical disadvantages and negative influences, and in the process, creating positive influencers to change their communities. Using art, they are giving the people of Chattanooga an opportunity to confront and work towards solving issues at hand, and also importantly learning to “feel through artistic expression.”

“Good art comes from really awake, aware, honest people” – Chris Woodhull

Build Me A World’s strategy [below] for reaching the community includes connecting creative community members with an art development / story-telling process that includes four fundamental pillars:


One example and central focus of BWAM’s work are the weekly TribeONE Meetings — which encourage a critical dialogue about life and community. Their website elaborates on the meetings:

“For some its an escape from the day to day realities that come with living in a hostile environment….for us here at BUILD ME A WORLD, [the meetings are] the meat and potatoes of the entire dish. If you can bring an awareness to self, a sense of consciousness in the room, it’ll reflect itself in the art….in the words…in the activist effort.” –

BMAWS_meeting photo

BMAW has also created a series of videos called “Me In A Minute” where individuals tell their own stories in a succinct, powerful format. Poetic in their own way, these videos provide the viewer a small glimpse into the subjects’ lives — both past and present — and display emotion, raw honesty, and vulnerability that is often hidden under a tough exterior.

Below is Maurice McDowell: Me in a Minute [view others HERE]

On the topic of art, Genesis stated that “art is something that dives deep inside you.” When you listen to each artist, you can sense how important these stories are, and the power it takes to tell them.  This raw unprocessed art and emotion creates something relatable for communities alike, but also shows how people can find positivity through art and empowering others.

“Storytelling is not just blurting out what you think is true, it’s discovering and digging into what is actually true” – Chris Woodhull

One can feel overwhelmed when speaking on serious matters such as these social injustices we face. But, Chris reminds us that these meetings are full of laughter and smiles saying  “It has to be fun… humor has a very sharp eye on reality.”

When thinking about art we must remember that it comes in many forms: laughter, tears, song, and dance. It’s a form of communication Genesis considers the best conduit for change stating, “art creates a medium that a lot of people can connect with and in this way it can reach larger groups.”

Through Build Me a World, Genesis and Chris are helping young community members pave new roads, expressing their experiences through their words, sounds, videos, and art. BMAW plans to enter the New Year continuing their efforts to nurture the community through art, making a positive influence in more people’s lives.

A message from Genesis and Chris:

Some people say if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem…in reality it’s the other way around; if you’re not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution. Only those intimately involved with the challenges are close enough to provide the necessary insight.  That is what Cicero meant when he said, “the cure is in the poison.”

It’s time to create new stories.
Let’s build something great….together.

>> Click to DONATE

>> To learn more visit // YouTube

Special contribution from Xavier Green.

215 Exclusive: Here and Now | With Denitia and Sene.

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Moving forward >> no matter the context, is so often attached to neglecting the here and now. When you’re ready to slow down, but still keep that right pace of progress in the foreground, allow denitia and sene. be a part of your journey. Just keep in mind they warned you there will be Side Fx along the way.

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This past year has been one of emergence for the captivating duo. Combining forces in 2011 at the communal artist enclave in Brooklyn dubbed the “The Clubhouse” [or Club Casa], there is a special energy produced by the pair that translates into an organic artistry, distinctly portrayed both visually and sonically. In fact, their collective art-form works to heighten and aware your senses, leaving you peaked and ready for its delivery.

Capturing the eyes and ears of many a publication and audience, [Red Bull Sound Select, Rolling Stone, REVOLT, NPR … just to reference a few…] most recently their own nationwide “Side Fx” tour brought their music to a further-growing number of cities and fans.

“Side Fx” // denitia and sene. // Philly Dec. 13th // photo credit > Daniel Wooden

Denitia’s sultry voice and delivery evokes what first entices a youthful love, then certainly carries enough weight and edge to remind you this isn’t just child’s play. Sene’s rhythmic, dreamy production and layering vocal interjections succeed in defying a restrictive ‘genre-label’ to be attached. The duo’s music more aptly aligns with forming to the listeners own mood or situation.

During our interview they’ll suggest when they think is the best time to listen to their jams, but really leave it up to how you — and maybe that special someone next to you are feeling…..

…… A feeling of a new passion or fleeting love affair that you are wrapped up in before you know it, but you’re okay with the uncertainty, and you’re ready to feel some more. denetia and sene. bring just that to your day, or evening: That letting go and admitting, “I’m not really here for answers” while knowing questions will sooner or later be asked……

Citing their song “It’s your fault” :

But who’s to blame? // there’s nothing really I can change // there’s nothing really I can say // to make that go away

And I’m not ashamed // please don’t say you’ll change // I know it might seem strange // but I think it’s okay

I sat down with denitia and sene. at UBIQ in Philadelphia — the final stop on their tour— just before they took the stage for their Heineken Green Room performance.

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215 Exclusive | MisterWives Interview

Guest contributor Ryan Quint talked with Will Hehir of MisterWives about their upcoming LP, life on the road and much more. MisterWives, made up of Mandy Lee (Vocals), Etienne Bowler (Drums) and Will Hehir (Bass) began making music together in late 2012. They played their first show together in February of 2013 and signed to Photo Finish/Republic shortly after.

Although a new band, their sound was focused and self-assured, quickly earning them a slew of blog love, including early nods from Pigeons and Planes, Earmilk, Neon Gold and more. In October, the band hit the road with Half Moon Run on their first national tour. The tour ended with a two triumphant sets at last year’s CMJ before heading out for a six week stint with American Authors & The Royal Concept. They released their debut EP “Reflections” this January and were featured as the first iTunes “Single of the Week” of 2014.

The lead single “Reflections” now boasts over 1.5 million views on Youtube and has reached the Top 40 Billboard Alternative Chart — as the band continues to tour in between writing and recording their much anticipated debut full length album.

Conversation with MisterWives | by Ryan Quint


Ryan Quint (RQ): First off, happy Thanksgiving and congratulations on all of your recent success, from the “Reflections” EP to the tour with Twenty One Pilots. How did you guys spend the holiday?

Will: I spent some time with my family and Mandy cooked a huge meal for herself & Etienne & their families in our apartment in Riverdale. We actually spent last Thanksgiving on the road and Mandy somehow miraculously cooked a huge feast for us in our hotel in Columbus, Ohio.

RQ: Let’s talk about your upcoming debut album. You have been in the studio for some time now writing and recording it; what is the current status of the album?

Will: The album is basically done. We’ve tracked pretty much everything. We’re looking at a release date around the beginning of the year with a pre-release hopefully starting in January and then a formal release in mid-February.

RQ: Do you have any plans for a single?

Will: We’ll probably have a single released towards the end of the year or during the pre-release and then more songs will begin to come out in January.

RQ: Can the fans/public expect a similar sound as your EP on the new album?

Will: We’ve been describing the project as Misterwives 2.0. When we first started doing the EP we had the idea that they would just be demos so we recorded them all in Etienne’s bedroom, but this time around we were able to do everything with the producer of “Reflections” in an actual studio. Our sound has definitely graduated as far as production quality, but as a band, everything has gotten a lot tighter. We’ve had the luxury of being on tour for the majority of 2014, which has definitely helped. With that being said, we’re really, really excited for this new project.

RQ: Did you get to record any music on tour with Twenty One Pilots?

Will: We didn’t record anything, but our trumpet player, who also plays keyboard, accordion and glockenspiel, would go on stage and perform one song with them each show, which definitely helped bridge the gap between our band and their band.

RQ: “Reflections” is in the Billboard Top 40 of both the Alternative Radio and Audience-Driven Alternative Songs charts, one of Mediabase’s forty most-played alternative songs, and has over 1.5 million views Youtube. Did you ever expect this much success?

Will: (Laughs) No. We basically wake up every day like, “What the hell is going on?” When we started playing together we loved it so much that any potential success was in the back of our mind. I think we were trying to get past the fact that everything gelled so well and we were having so much fun with each other that we didn’t think so much about the potential success as much. It’s definitely a shock. We take it as it comes and we’re so grateful for everything. We really can’t express the level of gratitude for each and every person supporting us; it’s incredibly humbling. I don’t think we’re capable of getting an ego after seeing people sing the words to our songs in 5,000 person venues on tour with Twenty One Pilots.

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RQ: It’s good to hear that you appreciate everything and do not take it all for granted, even though the success is coming so quickly.

Will: I was just talking to Etienne about what Sundays used to be, dreading work and the end of the weekend, and now we’re like: “Ok, let’s jam for a little bit tomorrow. Yea that’d be a productive day.” We’re definitely in awe of it all and extremely grateful for everything that’s happened.

RQ: You guys recorded the single four times. What did it originally sound like?

Will: It sounded really different at first. We recorded it when we first started playing together back in 2013. It was one of the first songs we ever recorded. We actually left it for a little while, then went back to it, but couldn’t capture the right energy that we were going for. When we sent it off to the producer, Frequency, he took it over the edge. That song really reflects our relationship with Frequency. We had the meat and potatoes of the song and he threw in a few ideas with the melody and harmony and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with him.

RQ: Did you know the fourth time was the charm?

Will: We really took our time and definitely don’t half ass anything. When he sent us a mix of the song, we had a few notes for him, and we obviously weren’t a huge priority at the time, so we were just patient with everything. He sent us the final mix back about three weeks later and once we heard it, we knew it was exactly what we wanted. We are definitely proud of the “Reflections” that everyone hears today. There was a ton of time and energy put into getting it to that level.


RQ: The cover of the “Reflections” EP is very unique. Can you explain the significance of the gramophone with the different animals?

Will: We were trying to figure out a cover art while we were on the road and we came up with the idea to incorporate each of our own individual spirit animals. Mine is a dinosaur because I’m basically a five year old trapped in a 26 year old’s body and I love dinosaurs. Etienne’s spirit animal is an octopus for a variety of reasons. His favorite number is 8, his nickname is 8 and he was born in October so he’s all about the octopus. Finally, Mandy’s animal is an elephant. It’s a majestic creature and she can definitely relate to the nurturing nature of the elephant. The hummingbird was just thrown in there and then the gramophone is obviously not only a reflection of the music, but also the way that we view music. The gramophone represents a time when music wasn’t overproduced. When we recorded our EP and album, we made sure to use live instruments and have a real authentic musical feel, which is represented through the gramophone.

RQ: Can we expect similar artwork for the album?

Will: I can’t say too much, but what I can say is that it’s basically a Misterwives 2.0 cover. It will be a more evolved version of the first cover. The spirit animals will still be represented, but in a different way. We’ve been working with really great photographers and artists and we’re really excited about that.

RQ: When the album drops, do you plan on going on a headlining tour?

Will: Yes, we are currently working out the details for a headlining tour. Were not 100% sure on the timing of everything. The way we always envisioned everything was to get the album done, then do a headlining tour, but basically be on the road as much as possible. It’s so much fun working on the album and recording new music, but our heart is really in the live show and performing the music, meeting new people and personally showing our gratitude to everyone who’s supported.

RQ: Do you still expect Mandy to cook for the band as you continue to grow?

Will: I’m always very hopeful of that. I’m grateful for every meal that she cooks for us and fortunately she does it a majority of the time on tour. So I hope she continues to cook for us because even as we grow and can afford to eat wherever we want, it still wouldn’t be as good as Mandy’s cooking.

RQ: Favorite recipe of Mandy’s?

Will: Does Thanksgiving count as a recipe? All of that stuff. If I could eat what Mandy made last Thanksgiving for us everyday, I’d probably be really happy… and about 700 pounds.

RQ: (Laughing). Thank you very much. Good luck with everything moving forward!

misterwives_2For more information visit

Twitter // IG // Facebook // Soundcloud // Youtube // Vevo

215 Exclusive | Kat Dahlia Interview: A Story To Tell

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For many, only waiting until you are 24 years old to achieve success, let alone begin a career, is not too long at all. But for an artist long since tapped to emerge beneath the bright lights of the music industry it can feel much longer. All is relative in the end, and for Miami’s bright young music star – or blooming flower if you will – Kat Dahlia can tell you her story indeed includes a patient and at times trying chapter.

Whether canceling multiple tours due to a pseudo-cyst on her vocal chord, or overcoming personal hardships and a “toxic relationship” that have challenged her these past few years, Kat has dealt with the weeds and has gained an understanding that this is all part of “My Garden.”

Live on stage [see photos below], Kat shares her story and the many sides of her personality and musical flavor that she describes as “honest and diverse.” This provides the audience with a full and engaging show while displaying sharp vocal talents and a soaring voice alongside a talented group of young musicians representing Queens, NY, Toronto, Canada, and Cali, Colombia.

I sat down with Kat in the afternoon before her show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia [Nov 24]. We chatted about what this long awaited ‘beginning’ means to her and the thought behind the title of her album and tour. I also learned a little bit more about who this talented, exciting storyteller is.

Chances are she’ll have a few more stories to tell after her tour…

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KAT DAHLIA  2014 U.S. tour dates preceding the release of  MY GARDEN, in stores January 13, 2015 and now available for preorder at iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Amazon. Anyone who preorders the album will receive four instant gratis tracks, including “Crazy,” “Gangsta,” “Mirror” and the Salaam Remi-produced “Clocks.” Fans who Shazam Kat’s “Crazy” can enter to win a pair of tickets for to catch her#MyGarden tour in the city of their choice. Spotify users can also enter to win tickets to see Kat live in concert by creating a #CRAZY playlist on @Spotify and sharing it with the tag #CRAZY4KAT.

To learn more about KAT DAHLIA, visit:

Official Website:






Photo credits // Daniel Wooden

Exclusive Interview: A Conversation With Joywave

Guest contributor Ryan Quint [ @ryan_quint ] sat down with Joywave — an indie rock band from Rochester, NY — best known for “Dangerous,” a collaboration with Big Data, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Their current single, “Tongues” featuring KOPPS currently has over 300,000 views on Youtube and is featured on the FIFA15 Soundtrack. Joywave is currently on tour opening for Betty Who on the High Society Tour.

Youtube | Soundcloud | @joywavemusic

Conversation with Joywave — Oct 11, 2014 — Philly

Ryan Quint: Joywave formed in 2010 and has been releasing music since 2011, but your first huge success came in 2013 with Big Data’s “Dangerous,” did you have any idea when you were recording it that it would be a hit or even eventually reach #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart?

Dan: These are all very good facts that you’ve presented us with right now. Big Data was a band that me and Alan (from Big Data) started for a couple years and we just recorded 4 songs together in Brooklyn on 8 random dates over that period of time. And no, it was a total surprise. Alan had a full-time job, and I was doing Joywave full-time and then Sirius XM started playing the song and KROQ in LA started playing the song and everything really started happening. It was organic, people just liked the song. Definitely caught us off-guard.

RQ: Speaking of radio and success, I was driving the other day and “Tongues” came on the radio. What was your reaction the first time you heard your own single Dangerous on the radio?

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Sean: We have about 20 videos of us listening to “Tongues” on the radio and each time someone will focus the camera on the radio station and then pan up to the person driving the car and they just have to act like they do not care.

Dan: I don’t remember the first time we heard it but I think it was on Sirius XM. I have a video of my mom listening to it, which is pretty awesome. She started screaming and doing an awesome mom dance. I think its on Instagram somewhere.

Paul: Hearing it on KROQ in LA was the best one because we were on the road in LA driving when we heard it.

RQ: Let’s talk about the video for “Tongues.” It has over 300,000 views on Youtube. It’s very unique. For anyone that hasn’t seen it, there is a lot of nudity, guns shooting clothes at people and an underlying love story.  Who’s idea was it, how did it all come about?

Paul: The director, The Daniels, they came up with the treatment and the idea, all of it and we instantly fell in love. How could you not?

[There is a warning due to some minor nudity – Agree to terms to watch]

RQ: There was also an underlying love story within the video.

Dan: Yea, like a Pocohantas thing.

Sean: So many layers.

Paul: You kinda have to watch twice because theres a lot going on.

RQ: Dan you described Joywave’s sound as “2080’s” (a mix that include 80’s new wave & orchestral music). Based on that, who would you say are Joywave’s musical influences, if any?

Dan: We don’t like genres. We’ve done everything we can to avoid them but still weave together something artistically and culturally with the band. I think the future of music is genre less. I still love records where its 1 sound all the way through but I’m more impressed when its awesome all the way without being the same song 11 times.

RQ: How did the High Society tour with Betty Who come about? Did she contact you guys specifically or was it more of a label decision

Dan: We met Betty at CMJ last year and she asked Sean to do a remix of “Somebody Loves You” and then from there she asked us to join the tour.

RQ: You’ve had a few shows already, how has it been going so far? You were sold out in NYC…

Dan: Yea it’s been awesome.

RQ: How Do You Feel? the EP is actually exactly 7 months old today so I want to do a little game where I ask you how you feel about something.

Dan: Happy Birthday EP!!

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RQ: How did you find out about being on the FIFA15 Soundtrack along with Avicii, and Foster the People to name a few.

Sean: We just got copies of FIFA a couple days ago and we were playing it in the van just starting games and then starting over waiting to hear “Tongues” but never heard. So I’m taking your word for it that its in there.

RQ: That’s just what I’ve heard. I haven’t played it yet but maybe they’re lying to us.

Dan: We played a show in Columbus recently and the radio station there gave us a goodie bag and they gave us Columbus Crew scarves so I think thats our team now.

RQ: Would you call yourselves soccer fans?

Dan: No! But we’re Columbus Crew fans now. Whatever they’re doing, we’re fans of it.

RQ: How did you feel out about being named best “All Ages Dance Party” by Rolling Stone at Lollapalooza?

Dan: It was awesome. It was a really, really good surprise. None of us expected that.

RQ: They also named you an Emerging Artist as well.

Dan: Yea that was really good. I didn’t realize there were that many people from Rolling Stone watching our set.

RQ: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Sean: [Laughs]. You’re looking at it. This is it.

Dan & Paul: Consume liquids.

Dan: Consume wifi. Paul stretches.

Paul: Yea, gotta do the Paul stretch.

RQ: Have you had a cheesesteak in Philly?

Dan: We’ve been to Tony Lukes!

RQ: Your last project, How Do You Feel, is now exactly 7 months old, your new album is due out in 2015, what is the current status of your upcoming LP?

Dan: The album is done. It’s getting mastered right now. I think we’ll have tracks trickle out throughout the Fall and Spring from it and then the full-length should be out in the first quarter of next year. I would guess by SXSW but there’s no official date.

RQ: Do you have a single that you’re ready to release from it?

Dan: Yea, I think “Somebody New” is going to be the next single. We’re gonna shoot a video for that.

RQ: Awesome, thanks guys!