Tag Archives: Exclusive Interview

215mag Exclusive: ZZ Ward talks Philadelphia homecoming, tour life, and more

ZZ Ward has flourished as a unique figure in the rock and blues music world since her 2012 debut album, Til The Casket Drops, was released. The singer/songwriter/guitarist was born in Abington, Pennsylvania and relocated to Roseburg, Oregon at the age of 8. Since then, she has collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar and has opened for Eric Clapton on his 2014 tour. Ward is currently on her Love and War tour in support of her new EP, Love & War. Her 2nd full length album, This Means War, is due out in early 2016. Ryan Quint talked with ZZ Ward on behalf of 215mag.


Conversation with ZZ Ward
ZZ Ward talks Philadelphia homecoming, tour life, and more

Ryan Quint: Both of your parents are from the Philly area — Your mom is from Germantown and your dad is from Richboro. I know you moved to Oregon at a pretty young age but I want to know what impact Philadelphia has had on your music career and even though you moved at such a young age, do you still consider this a homecoming show for you?

ZZ Ward: Yeah, in some ways I do. I feel like where I moved to, I was definitely the oddball out. Especially for my brother, who was 16. He had a very hard East Coast accent and I always felt like I was little bold. I had that chutzpah. I think I got that from my parents being from this area. We’re strong and confident and I definitely think I stuck out from that because of where I moved to. A lot of my family’s history is from Philadelphia too. My dad used to hang out at TLA all the time.

Do you have any lasting memories from your time in Philadelphia?

Yeah, my family was from Bucks County so we would go to the reservoir there all the time. Also, I went to Holland Elementary and my brother went to Council Rock. I went back to my old house (in Bucks County), the owners let me in and they showed me the house and it was so much smaller than I remembered (laughing) because I was a little kid. They still had the board in it where my parents would write down our height in the basement, it was crazy.

You’re about half way through the tour, how has it been going so far and for people who have never been to a ZZ Ward show, what can people expect to see?

Awesomeness. It’s been going really well. The turnouts have been better than I ever expected because I’ve been away for over a year working on my album so to come out and have people so, so excited about my music has felt really rewarding. It’s been an amazing tour so far. And we are halfway through it, I had a little break in New York. I did Fashion Week for the first time which was such a different world than what I’m doing right now being on tour so it was a really cool juxtaposition.


You’ve performed at huge festivals like Made in America, Coachella, Bonnaroo and even opened up for Eric Clapton. How do those huge shows compare to your solo tours and which do you prefer?

Yeah, it’s very different but sometimes festivals can be really magical moments also. We played Firefly Festival in Delaware and that was the most people I’ve ever played for. I think it was about 15,000 or something. When I went to soundcheck, no one was out there and I was hoping that people would come but then when I walked on stage to perform, I started to realize that more and more people were showing up and I actually had a moment where I got really nervous. So festivals like that can be really exciting but obviously club shows are just my fans so there’s a lot of love there too. It is fun at festivals though because I get to see other bands and artists and get inspired by them which is cool.

So I just read the story about how you pretty much found out you were Jewish when you were 27? Please tell me more about that story because I think its fascinating…

So, my grandmother’s last name is Friedman, which made it pretty obvious but she hid it her whole life because she lived through the Holocaust. She was actually in a line to go to the concentration camps when she escaped. And I actually found out when I met my manager because he’s Jewish and he was curious about me. I told him my grandmother’s last name and he said “well then you’re Jewish.” So I kept asking my grandmother about it and finally she said that she had been a Catholic for a certain amount of years that didn’t add up to her age (laughing). She had converted to save her family. It’s very interesting. I go to Temple for holidays and I’m still learning about all of it. I’m doing Passover and Rosh Hashanah for the first time and a fan of mine got me a Shofar which was fun. I’m proud of it, it’s exciting.

I have to mention your Fedora and how it has become a signature look for you — when did you start wearing fedoras and did you know from the beginning that it’d be a huge part of you look?

I was just trying to be like blues artists that I grew up listening to. I was scared to get on stage when I was little so I just wanted to be like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and they always had fedoras on. So I have always tried to embody that and now I feel like it would be really strange if I went on stage without it. Plus, people don’t really get excited if I don’t have my hat on. Literally, I was outside of the tour bus before and fans were asking for pictures and I didn’t have my hat on and they would come back after the show and ask me to take another picture with my hat on.

It’s pretty similar to James Bay’s situation and how he has become associated with always wearing a fedora.

It’s so funny. I brought James on his first U.S. tour. He opened for me and he’s really taken off, I’m so proud of him.


Your songs have been in TONS of TV shows and movies including Pretty Little Liars, Shameless, Awkward, Degrassi, The View, Veronica Mars, We’re the Millers soundtrack & tons more — Sync deals are often overlooked in music, did you or your team specifically target sync deals with your music or did it happen naturally?

It just happened! I never would have expected to get so many of my songs in movies and tv shows. A lot of people have heard my music through Pretty Little Liars or through Were The Millers. There’s so many shows that have used my music, it’s really been amazing. It’s just exciting to go to the movies and hear your songs there.

You’ve worked with Current rappers like Kendrick Lamar & Freddie Gibbs, legendary producers like Pete Rock and Ali Shaheed Muhammad and upcoming rappers like Pell, who Im a huge fan of. You’re dad was also in a blues band. Did this love for Hip-Hop come from your father and his musical background?

Actually, no. My love for Hip-Hop came from my big brother. He used to blast Jay-Z and Nas in his bedroom and my parents never used to let me listen to it so naturally I would take his CD’s and I just fell in love with their passion for the lyrics and music.


I know one of your dream collaborations is with Pharrell, who else in the Hip-Hop community would be on that wish list?

Well Pharrell is definitely still on that list but I actually got to work with S1 who has produced with Kanye before. He produced “Power” by Kanye! It was so inspiring working with him and just seeing how dedicated he was. So I guess if I had to pick anyone else for a dream collaboration it would be Kanye.

I’ve read a lot of comparisons about your Hip-Hop and Blues influences to Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly — do you feel as though that’s a fair comparison?

Yeah, I mean Kendrick is incredible. What I really love about Kendrick is that he does what he wants to do musically. I think his fans appreciate that about him too. People had some negative opinions about the album, which they always do, but he did what every artist dreams of doing which was creating an album that reflected who he was and what his musical vision was.

Lastly, the Love & War EP came out in August, your 2nd full-length LP is due out this upcoming March — How do you feel this new LP is different sonically than the first album?

So many people related to my first album and for that to happen, it made me feel even more confident to go further into my artistry. To, again, go and talk about what’s happening in my life and ask myself what moment in time am I at right now? So I feel like I really captured that on the new album. I’ve gone further into the blues and further into Hip-Hop on my 2nd album so I’m really proud of it.

ZZ Ward Socials:

Remaining Love and War Tour Dates at www.zzward.com

Purest Passion: Exclusive Q+A with Tarrus Riley

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Stopped to think recently when someone said: “You never get someone who is going to solve your life by loving you, until you’ve solved your life. Love is a reward. It’s not a solution.”

And what a wonderful reward it is.

Ce la vie, there is no turn key solution for those, say, looking for love. There are hints and bits of advice, suggested paths, et al (i.e. we know not to go looking in all the wrong places) but of course most facets of loving yourself/another remain an evolving mystery. One way to maybe step forth in the right direction is to bring a ready willingness and strong passion to a given situation.

One man practicing this in life and in song is none other than Tarrus Riley. Raising the bar for this generation of true vocalists hailing from Jamaica, and infusing fortified energy into what is sorely lost and needed to be found — Rock Steady/Lover’s Rock. From his earliest of recordings to his latest album Love Situation (2014), Tarrus Riley has shown us the way — weaving together the numerous fibers of love one can witness in the world, and stirring up a passion for more, using his music to uplift and inspire rather than chant down and burden with general’s orders.ReggaeInThePark2015

Perhaps sensing the times are ripe for folks to come together — as Stevie Wonder said last week at Dilworth Park: “Love needs love, ya’ll.” — Tarrus is embarking on a multi-city Catch A Fire Tour alongside artists including Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Morgan Heritage, special guests Jo Mersa, Black Am I, Skip Marley and Jamere Morgan. Coming up next weekend this fire will burn right here in Philly for Reggae in the Park 2015 at The Mann Center (Tickets HERE).

Purest Passion: Exclusive Q & A with Tarrus Riley
I had the pleasure to talk with Tarrus about, among other things, his passion for his craft and how he has succeeded in reaching a diverse audience.

Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook

Aran Hart: Talk about the increasing fusion of reggae music with other genres and what you think while you’re observing the world’s music scene right now?

Tarrus Riley: Well first of all, as far as what’s happening in the music business…everything is seen nowadays because of social media. So things that used to happen in private now are in everybody’s face. The good thing is the unity part, and ya know, music inspires music. Within reggae music there are of course different influences. And it’s not only happening in music… it’s happening in fashion, in art, in movies. It’s happening in all these creative situations where people are mixing and blending. Everyone is trying to just share their country and how they see what’s going on. Everyone is everyone… like the last time I checked… everything is everything.

In any conversation you find those so called purists who want things forever to be how they once were, saying “Now it isn’t real like the past, etc.” Do you feel that reggae maybe has an unfair extra level of this critique?

Well first, because it’s blended doesn’t mean it’s not pure. I mean people like what people like. There’s a man who likes what he likes, all day everyday… And there’s another man who likes another thing, all day everyday. One man wears jeans and another man wears khaki suits. And then there’s a girl who wears shorts and there’s a girl who wears a church dress. And that doesn’t mean they’re not pure. They have their own different kind of style. And you’re allowed to have your style, and you’re allowed to like what you like, in my opinion.

I understand the concept of purists wanting things to be a certian way, but we’re not going back in time. We’re going forward in time and it’s funny, ya know — the more things change the more they stay the same. So if you just look, I mean purists don’t have to worry because there are fundamental things that cannot go anywhere. You have to understand that and allow the music to grow and evolve.

Many folks mention how you are able to stay rooted in traditional sounds of reggae but are also able to sound remarkably contemporary… Do you agree with that and is there a conscious effort to do so?

Well, music is my best friend. So I just listen to what my friend tells me. I make Reggae music and rock steady music. Recently you saw me on a song “Powerful” with Ellie Goulding and Major Lazer. Call it what you want, I make music. I’m not musically prejudice… I’m not prejudice of any kind. Regardless of how rooted I am in my beliefs, like I said it’s certain fundamental things I don’t change… such as I don’t change the content of my music. But you may hear the beats change.

In my bio they try to put me older than I really am. I’m an 80’s baby, man. I grew up on different kinds of music and have different musical influences: from Tupac and Biggie to Shabba and Super Cat, and many R&B people too. So it’s unfair to my creative mind to do one kind of thing. I just reflect who I am.

Given the themes of your music and the topics you cover is it safe to assume you had a strong network of people, family and community that you soaked up this knowledge from and now you’re expressing through your music?

You can say that, I mean it’s all love man. It’s all just love. I don’t want my music to be a burden to people. I want my music to be something to make people think positive, enjoy themselves and feel good. The world is a very stressful place and I think music should be comforting. When you feel down you listen to your favorite song and try to feel better… or you listen to something and try to learn from the music. So that’s what I want to be for people and why I make my music. For example I have a song called “My Day” and the words I sing are “It’s my day to do anything I want.” That’s what I want people to feel. I want people to know that it’s your day today to express yourself freely and do what you want.

That’s freedom…

Yeah that’s what we’re about. So I can talk about freedom without sounding like a dictionary or without sounding like I’m trying to force it down your throat. I can speak about it in a cool way. Go ahead and call it you want but I’m still giving you conscious music. I’m just not doing it like I’m bashing you with it.

We still definitely see the themes of struggle, rights, social injustice and culture, (these pillars of reggae music and its beliefs) in today’s music.  But take your most recent album with “Love Situation”, which surrounds to me what is perhaps the most abandoned topic of today’s reggae music… love. Where do you think the love has gone and why did you have this album choose “it” being love as the focus?

First thing about the album, is it’s “Rock Steady” music. Rock Steady being the era before reggae that gave birth to reggae and hip-hop. A lot of people call that music lover’s rock but it’s Rock Steady. And there are different kinds of subjects like on “Burning Desire” — which is a marijuana song, but I wrote it like a love song. So I mean there’s different kinds of love situations that have double meanings. And as far as the love being lost somewhere… A lot people are trying to act too much like tough guys, and they don’t know that the real tough person is not afraid to love you. A lot of people try to act rough and cool like them some killers and real bad man ting. Nah man, like c’mon, there’s a time and place for everything. There’s nothing wrong with love.

I recently heard your version of Gregory Isaacs’ classic song “Front Door.” How did that song recording come to be?

With love and respect, first of all. Dean Fraser is the reason why we did that. He was doing a tribute to Gregory Isaacs. So the whole thing was just to say respect and I think he called it “We Remember Gregory,” because we don’t ever want to forget Gregory. So, ya have a whole heap of young artists, paying tribute to the legend.

It’s great, I had never heard the version before, and it definitely made me smile…

Yea, and I knew Gregory Issacs. He was my father’s friend, so it was somebody that I used to see. That’s the cool thing about it, and the cool about having a father being a musician… I got to see a lot of cool people around the house, man.

I can only imagine! Speaking of your family, you just mentioned your father [Jimmy Riley], and I know your mother has been very involved with your career as well. But just because your parents were music pros/lovers didn’t necessarily mean that you were going to make music. So, why is music the perfect way for you to express your experiences?

My mother’s a nurse and she loved music. My daddy’s a singer and ya know, every youth in Jamaica wants to be like their father. When we say youth in Jamaica we’re talking about a son, ya know, and every young boy wants to be like his father. So maybe it was admiration for my father, but I didn’t want to do his kind of music. I wanted to do the music that I liked when I was growing up. I was introduced at an early age and by being around music I think it just created a love for it.

I have other relatives who sing also, but maybe don’t have the same passion like I do. I love exercise, I love sports, I love cooking. But I love music more than everything!

Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Tarrus Riley | Facebook

How do you know that a song/album is ready for release, and what’s that feeling like to release the music?

Well, you never know. Half of it’s following your gut feeling. You just follow your feelings. You just do it and see what happens, you go off of your instincts. You put your best efforts out, but then after a while ya just got to know that “Alright, I did my best!

And they can’t take that away from you…

Aaaaah right!

What is some great advice and/or criticism you received at some point during your career?

Hmmm, I would say, it wouldn’t necessarily be somebody telling me something… it would more be me looking at the people that I admire and seeing the mistakes they made and seeing the great things that they’ve done. Like, I’ll see some people do some great things and I’ll be like, “ok that’s really how you do it” ya know… And I would see some people make some mistakes and be like, “ok, don’t do that”. That’s the kind of stuff that really stands out. Understand me?

I think you just gave everyone some great advice on discipline and choosing role models…

Yah mon! So that was my advice because Jamaicans are not really into telling ya things… I’m not gonna tell you what to do now, rather just show you. And you just be around and keep people around to show you. Cuz if you don’t pick up then that’s your bad because ‘dem showing you…

Do you consider yourself a rebel with a cause?

I see myself as someone who rebels for a cause, whenever it’s necessary… But I don’t want to see myself as a nuisance. I’m making some music to enlighten people, and I’m rebelling against stereotypes and prejudice. I’m rebelling against people that try to put you in a box. I’m an advocator of free thinking, so…. I’m a rebel when needs be. Some people rebel just because — and I’m not a rebel just because. And I make music to share my feelings and my experiences, and to also speak for other people.

Finally, talk about the opportunity that you have as a voice, no pun intended, and a songwriter to reach the younger generation in particular… who it seems it’s harder and harder to hold their attention these days…

That’s why I spoke about the contemporary sound and things. I find cool ways of getting their attention and I move quick. Everybody’s attention moves quickly because of this whole internet and social media thing. It’s even hard to learn anything new because by the time you learn it, it’s gone tomorrow. Simple thing like a phone, the minute you get used to your phone, the phone company makes a new one. So things are moving so fast. You have to find your way and how you can communicate because it’s not easy. And no disrespect to the internet, it’s helping to make the world good, but bad happens in the space too… that’s the truth.

Anything else you’re working on right now that you wanted to highlight and any signing off message for your fans?

The Catch A Fire tour is something I’m really excited about right now. I mentioned the new song and video for “Powerful” with Ellie Goudling. Just tell the people who support my music, thank you very much. I really want you to write that… Just tell them that I never take for granted the support I get from people and I’m just getting started. I’m a serious musician, serious in the sense that I want to give them good quality music. I try to represent Jamaica in fine style from the world of music. I’m not here to be any kind of superman or anything… I just hope people can find comfort in my music.

Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to seeing you at Reggae in the Park and best wishes on your upcoming tour and beyond.

Yeah mon! Respect, thanks.

::::::: See and Listen to more from Tarrus Riley :::::::
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Exclusive: Kamasi Washington | Grand on the Musical Scale

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In a world of increasingly quick, fast, now, next… we can and easily do lose sight of some things that last longer and delve deeper. Many move on to the next before really appreciating the now. Theoretically, it seems something extraordinary will just simply rise to the top against lesser competition. But it often tends to be the opposite — with a distracted and perhaps media-exhausted audience.

Just look at how we find new music – blended in with a seemingly endless list of others one click or swipe away; as opposed to sitting down for a listen to one album by one artist, for a dedicated period of time. Let alone if music doesn’t follow a traditional 4/4 format and verse/chorus/bridge in a clean 3.5 min package. That is what for many of our ears we’ve perhaps accepted as comfort.

But for the likes of saxophone extraordinaire Kamasi Washington, no bother. He has succeeded in growing his talent immensely since a young age, and now pioneering an impressive career while doing what may be exactly the key: Not really paying attention to what conventional wisdom would say – rather making strides to explore and hone his craft the way his art form and fellow musicians inspire him to do so. And letting the track run on a little longer [10 + min at times], where he may come across a new found groove that would’ve remained caged and tethered. Ahhh, let freedom reign!

This approach, whether directly intentional or not, has frequently landed Kamasi in recording studios and on stages with many of music’s brightest stars, save no genre — including Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, and Broken Bells just to name a recent few.

Now in 2015, he has proudly presented his momentous effort, the critically acclaimed and aptly entitled album, “The Epic.” Take for example that Kamasi — and his crew “The Next Step or The West Coast Get Down” (who have been playing together since high school) have spent nearly five years putting together this album — which is a close to three-hour collection featuring  full choirs and string sections. 

I talked with Kamasi ahead of his upcoming show at World Café Live 8/27 (tix HERE) about The Epic, some experiences that have in turn formed his approach, and much more.



Aran Hart: What do you think it is in your musical education, exploration, or maybe just in your natural ear for music that lends itself to successfully trying out different varieties/forms of music?

Kamasi Washington: It’s probably mix of all that, my personality combined with how I like to live. I kind of get obsessed with whatever I’m doing. I was also an Ethnopsychology major (the psychology of races and peoples) in school. I studied jazz music growing up and got my first gig with Snoop Dogg… so it’s always been a mixture of things bringing me to where I am today.

AH: With a lot of music that listeners are exposed to today, there is a safe format/structure that many have come to expect when they press play… How does your approach and style differ? How do find a groove and bring all the moving parts together into what can be a track/song/album ?

KW: In my approach to music I didn’t ever really take to those conventions. With my career I spent so much time playing for other people and immersing myself into whatever their music was.  It was great for me because I learned and absorbed a lot from them, but it became hard to express my own thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

When I started into my own process, I was able to be much more uncompromising. It’s like a dog that’s lived in the yard for so long and you open the gate — it wants to run. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to run, I wanted to go, I didn’t want to really pay attention to other people. I was by myself and there were no rules…  no time punching … I could just make the music the way that it naturally came. It happens so often that musicians feel as if they don’t follow those conventions, that no one listen to their music, that no one will play their music, or no one will like their music. So they follow those guidelines because they think that’s what they need to do. I didn’t care. I was going to express myself how I wanted to express myself and not be so concerned about the outcome.

AH: I know you just talked about how you focused inward for your own music. Could you also talk about the importance of playing with other musicians — that collaborative process — and for you in particular how it has helped you learn and grow as a musician…

KW: It’s very important in general, not just in music, but in life… in order to expand your horizons. For me when I play music with someone else I try to totally immerse myself in their philosophy, and take that information and that philosophy back to my music. I often learn something new about my music by looking at it in a new way I didn’t know was there.

I remember in the band we had together with Snoop, people were seeing that they had this super detailed and different approach to hearing music and playing music… For example, there were different frequencies and tones people felt were relevant to them. Not just what key you were playing but what part of the beat you were playing on. We weren’t just talking about notes… we were talking about frequencies, and life organisms (haha). And really they were all related to what everyone else knew about each other. It gets deep…

AH: Given your music’s format and style, how closely does the live version of your music resemble its recording?

KW: Every time I play it’s completely different. Even if I tried to make it the same it would be completely different. When I was putting together my album we had a full choir, a full band, and we had all these plans. It’s a difficult thing but it’s a beautiful thing about the guys that I play with… We’re all really  tuned in to each other. And when you’re tuned in like that your spirit changes not just day to day, but even hour to hour. It won’t be the same tempo, won’t be the same place. So, the music is dictating for us to go different places. The slightest little change in feeling or space might, and usually does, totally change what you end up playing.

In terms of live versions — we just finished our first two weeks of our first tour [dates] — and basically every single night has been completely different. It’s cool though because it ends up being relevant to where we are. I don’t try to force it in any one direction… just flow with it, and we’re all open to responding and reacting to what it is, not what it was.


AH: Are you superstitious or ritualistic about any part of playing your music? Any kind of must haves or must do’s that you can share?

KW: No, not exactly. If anything I really try to clear my mind and relax by taking a moment or two to day dream. I’m around a bunch of musicians that all are pretty spacey and all over the place [haha]. So I find myself wrangling all the personalities to I guess … keep the chaos in order — but really the chaos is the order. I think I try not to do any one thing because there’s an energy and a spirit that you get from being free and you can’t really be free and do the same thing every time. I try to let myself be open to whatever’s going to happen at that moment.

AH: You have an impressive list of features and appearances where you’ve played with a lot of different people and sat in on studio sessions etc… Discuss the difference in the creative process for you now being the “leader” of your own project(s)?

KW: For someone else’s project you are figuring out what that other person or people have in mind as their vision — and what they want. And you know, sometimes it’s challenging and sometimes it’s not. Some people are articulate and can tell you want they want and some people can’t.

Making music for yourself is more trying to create that vision, which is a different feel and different process — it’s more introspective. It’s like looking in versus looking out. When I was making The Epic, it was very clear to me what the vision of this album was and what I was going to be trying to capture. There was a sound and an approach I knew that we as a group had been working on for a while.

As a listener, you kind of just listen. With this, I could really feel all the changes, the push and pull of what was happening. I was in it. Everything felt amplified, and bigger, and slower in a way. For me it became very contextual and I could see it the different colors and different textures, if you will.

AH: Two part question: Your music being mainly instrumental seems to  allow the listener to interpret a scene, rather than lyrics driving a topic… Do you see any movie scores or soundtracks in your future? And also, talk about the power of instrumental music compared to music that is lyric driven…

KW: As far as the movie score, yea that would be awesome. When I came up with the concept of The Epic I was definitely thinking about epic in the sense of “the story,” not “the size.” What inspired the whole album to be what it is, was that I had this vague kind of dream, which turns into this “wow story.” That story really encompasses what all the songs are about.

In regards to instrumental music… Music to me is a universal form of expression and to a degree sometimes words can get in the way of expression. Of course also sometimes lyrics can capture what the music is expressing. I feel like music in general doesn’t come from us, it comes through us. It comes to us as a seed and depending on what you do to it, it grows. So in that aspect, music is left in the hands of the writer and in the musician.

That’s why great songs differ from good songs, and good songs differ from bad songs. It’s like listeners all think, “Did the composer capture the essence of the music? And if so, how exactly did they capture that essence?” Basically, that’s going to dictate to the listener if they like the song.

Words add another layer — but also another opportunity to mess it up. Instrumental music is the purest form of expression. Once you bring words into the mix it can really amplify an expression — by either having your words match that expression, or you can mess it up by having words that don’t match.

With instrumental music you just feel it. It’s telling you something. You’re learning something. You’re feeling something and absorbing it. You’re communicating something without words… rather with a pure emotional connection.


AH: Lastly, where would one most likely find you in your hometown of LA? 

KW: I’m all over the place. I live in Inglewood so maybe catch me somewhere like Leimert Park. We have an ongoing residency at Piano Bar in Hollywood. Honestly, I’m a pretty active person, not a home body, so I’m all over the place… So wherever there’s something happening, there’s a good possibility I’m there!

::::::: See/Listen/Feel more from Kamasi Washington :::::::
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** Photos courtesy of Mike Park

Hiatus Kaiyote Exclusive Interview: Kaiyote Beautiful

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Striving as we music lovers do for a new sound that appeals to our palette, it’s not often we come across something that grabs our shortening attention spans… let alone envelops us the further we dig in. That is the bliss — free from ignorance — we hungrily look to feed upon.

When one finds Hiatus Kaiyote it may take a while to realize what is being heard. That wonder is the fuel for interest in wanting to feel and know more. Just as this Melbourne based quartet of musicians challenge themselves (and each other) in creating / performing their music, they invite others into the experience while lending time and space to learn and grow. Accept their invitation and enjoy raw appreciation for the delicately layered and well thought up lyrics which flow over an ensemble of sounds, forming Hiatus’ brand new album, “Choose Your Weapon” (Released May 4, 2015).

That’s when you’ll witness a soaking up of styles from decades past, expressed en vogue — that create an electrically current, even futuristic sound — pushing lyrical limits in an effort to understand our soulful experience in super/natural surroundings. The beauty — and the beast (that ever-present grit and funk), lies in the orchestrated push and pull of different arrangements and interludes that lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Nai Palm fearlessly leads you through.

The album title implores you to make a wise choice, thinking ahead. A key ingredient to any act is the act-ivating. From there the belief that possibilities are endless guides a freeing of the mind — and we know what follows in time.

Below: I talked with Hiatus Kaiyote drummer Perrin Moss about their new album, the dynamic music culture of Melbourne, and more.

Philly! Check out Hiatus Kaiyote this month:
–> Friday May 8th @ Underground Arts ( Tickets )
** w/ Kate Faust and Mr. Sonny James

–> Saturday May 30th @ The Roots Picnic ( Tickets )

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Aran Hart: What do you think makes Hiatus Kaiyote and its music unique?

Perrin Moss: It’s 4 people that are very strong minded in their opinions. There’s not one person taking charge and telling everyone else what to do. Everyone brings in their own ideas. Even if it is a song that our lead singer Nai has written, we all interject and put in our own stamp on our parts. Then we workshop the fuck out of it to put it together. The input is so broad, not ever sticking too much to one thing.

We’re always challenging ourselves and the listener, but also keeping the music accessible, not going too far overboard. Even if individuals have their own point of reference for a tune, guiding the song in one direction — we’ll pick up on that vibe but not do it so obviously.

I come from a production background so I’m always thinking about how it would sound on the record. So as the drummer, with a drum fill or whatever, I’m like “Alright cool, I might sit back in the pocket a bit on this part because if I was on the record the drums wouldn’t be all in your face.” So we feel it out that way and I guess it expresses our uniqueness.

Is there a tempo or type of syncopation your band consciously creates? In particular your arrangements/pauses seem to be very complex and a trademark if you will…

I feel like that’s just what we do and maybe over time it’s become a conscious thing. I used to listen to a lot of this ‘South Asian’ music and now when I hear myself drum I can hear where it’s coming from in that sense — the spacing and phrasing. Once you start playing rhythms over and over again it starts coming out in your subconscious. Now when I hear a straight groove that is completely on time, it doesn’t seem natural to me as a drummer — for what I would play.

My natural thing is to be loose and have a few limbs hit later than the other ones, it’s ingrained in me. I keep getting influenced by other music and players, and influenced by life. So that really constantly redevelops your sound. So those time-signature changes is something now, if it wasn’t in the beginning, very natural to us. We don’t want to be known as a certain signature complex style though… or caught up trying to be any one thing, you know. We also really appreciate the simple forms and styles of music. It’s part of the process of us growing as musicians with our instruments.

You think about a lot of people who start off playing music and they wanna shred and then when they get older they chill out on that and want to hear the space in music. So I feel like we’re on our way with that, while not forgetting the feeling you first have when we started playing music — that excitement.

In the beginning it was really fucking hard to play our songs and all the ideas we came up with. But that’s why we liked it and why we came up with it. It was us developing another skill set on our instruments. Saying, “Hmm, I never felt this before… how all of us are playing this way and linking up with each other in new ways — and thinking, “hey this sounds alright!”

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Were these recording sessions long (in a good way) with a lot of improv… in essence how structured was the recording process? Because the records sound so natural and blended, while intricate and outside the box…

Our recording sessions were very structured. We tend to write a song and play it in loops for quite some time until we play it live (in concert) and then it will change from there. So we have a lot of experience with the songs before actually recording them. And then when it comes to the studio, most of the songs end up being the same length and form, pretty much. Sometimes what we play changes to achieve the sound we’re looking for, and how we want it to be perceived.

One song on the record “Swamp Thing,” we didn’t really have a form properly and we made it up in the studio as we went. That was the most free-moving kind of song that we recorded. We did three versions and did three different outros with a lot of improvisation. When we figured out the mixing of the album, and the structure of the song, the first half was pretty much how we worked out in the studio… While the last part we listened to all 3 takes and put a little bit of this outro, and a little of that one together from what we liked of each. Then we get into overdub land, so yea it gets pretty deep [laughs].

But, we’re not the type of band that just goes into the studio and starts writing songs and record them at the same time. We definitely marinate on the songs for a long time and figure out what feels right by playing them with each other and live at shows to see how people react to them.

What pieces/elements do you need to start/create a song?

It changes every time but I feel like we all like a story within a song. So lyrics have a lot to do with that and are very important. We feel it’s never a full song until there are lyrics involved. We love having that narrative. Also, I’m a drummer and it’s funny because I don’t feel like I can play any beat until I hear some chords. Even if I just hear 3 chords it gives me an emotional connection to feed off. It’s all about an emotional connection first and then whatever feels right in that context. A lot of the time we love to have these dreamy starts and ends, that draw the listener in and then things develop from there.

It’s always important to mix it up. Sometimes the songs will come from a production track I’ve done, then we’ll rework it. Other times Bender will come up with a guitar melody and Nai will write over top of that. Other times Nai will have a whole song — and you could say this was kind of “the birth” of Hiatus: Nai’s material, just acoustic guitar and vocals, with no other elements involved. I don’t know if she was thinking about a band or other elements, more just writing a beautiful song at the time. And then we developed the other elements around that emotion or feeling.

Of course, at times it’s just whatever we’re feeling. Maybe we wanna create this nasty, gritty, weird 60’s hip-hop thing that’s never been heard before, because hip-hop wasn’t around back then but it sounds like it was made in the 60’s. So then you have this weird crossover between this contemporary world and the old school way of making records. We’re always thinking about that kind of stuff.

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Talk about this new album…How did you know this was an album?What makes this collection an album?

A lot of it has to do with the time period. Also, that feeling of, “if we don’t record this song now, we might never record it…” Or we’ve been playing a song live for a while — and maybe it wasn’t quite ready when we did the first album. So, “if we don’t put it in this record, when will it come out?” We put everything in that people had heard, and that was already enough material to not really have to add in anything that new — though we have added a couple new ones too. It’s a documentation of our music and a time period. Capturing those moments and songs on this record.

And the next record will be a totally different thing, that will probably start from now. It will start when we’re on the road because we’ll come up with some random shit in soundcheck that will start developing. Then in a year’s time that will turn into a new song on a new record, just like how much the stuff on this record started before. We’re not very good at keeping secrets with our songs. We like to try them out and see how people react to them, and then we can go and record them.

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Describe something that happened to the band in the last 6 months/year and how it has played out for better or worse…

We always really wanted to work with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson — who did the Suite For Ma Dukes thing: a whole bunch of J Dilla songs that he interpreted with like a 30-piece orchestra. We were all just so amazed when we heard that in Australia.

We all love hip-hop and J Dilla, especially me, and didn’t even know for a long time that a lot of my favorite hip-hop songs were produced by Dilla. I was always after this certain characteristic or sound and then I realized that a lot of the songs were in fact done by the same person.

So, during an interview one day we were asked who in the world we wanted to work with and we all said “Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.” And thank god we got to work with him on this record. One of our only features outside of Australia, who among musicians is a big superstar. He jumped on a track of ours called “The Lung.” It was really beautiful and special for us to work with someone of that high caliber.

Also, collaborating with other musicians in Melbourne as well has allowed us to steer away from always ‘over-laying’ parts over parts for songs. We have been able to sit around in a room together with a couple mics, and do one take we could incorporate into a part of a song. This new process is something that has transformed how we are writing and recording our music and where we want to continue going as a band.

Describe the music culture in Melbourne?

It’s a very multicultural city with a lot of opportunities to see music. It’s also a small city so you get to meet a lot of people in the music community when you go to gigs. A lot of people there delve into a lot of different genres. There’s not a lot of ego there or fighting among musicians for gigs. More of a friendly competitiveness where people are giving each other support. The crew of people that I hang out with are a lot of my favorite musicians in the world and I connect with them so much. It’s not just Hiatus — I feel we could all play in each other’s bands because we come from the same place. I don’t know what is happening there but a lot of people are in the same head space about music and about pushing things — but still being true to yourself. It’s a very supportive network.

How as a band do you define progress/positive growth?

We just really take each day as it comes. Our goal is to become better musicians by continuing to push ourselves, and each other. But I guess we’ll never know if we do become great because it seems no musicians really ever feel like they’re great…ya know? And that’s the main part of what keeps pushing you forward and growing.

For more from Hiatus Kaiyote:
Website | @HiatusKaiyote | Youtube

Hiatus Kaiyote coming LIVE to Philly:

THIS Friday May 8th @ Underground Arts ( Tickets )
–> w/ Kate Faust and Mr. Sonny James

Saturday May 30th @ The Roots Picnic ( Tickets )

SXSW, Spring & Beyond: An Interview with Brandon Potter and ill Fated Natives

Story by Franceska Rouzard | Photos by Saeed Briscoe

The weather is warming up and that means Festival season is upon us. Last week marks the end of South By South West. In Philadelphia, some enjoyed Texas’ biggest festival/conference through social media. Others, like Brandon Potter, of What Scene?and local band, ill Fated Natives, made the pilgrimage to participate in person. I had a conversation with both on the night of their return home. They shared their plans for April, their favorite memories from their trip, and useful information for “indie-prenuers” and indie musicians who’d like to attend the festival in the future.

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I’d never met Brandon Potter before that evening at The Fire, a bar in Northern Liberties cleverly named due to its proximity to a firehouse. It was the night of an Open Mic/ Welcome Home/ pop up performance for ill Fated Natives. The bar was a mix of avid supporters and friendly strangers. Potter, along with his partners of What Scene and in collaboration with RECPhilly, another local event planning company, organized an all Philadelphian artist show for SxSW. Even under the dark red lighting of The Fire, he seemed rested and pleased.

FR: What is What Scene? ?

Brandon Potter: It’s still forming but, right now we focus on events. I started it as a blog in 2010. Then, in 2013 me and some friends, my friend Chance, who rocked with me all the time, and my friend Kurt started the Foxtail Fest. And since then we’ve been doing shows.

FR: Interesting! What made you do SxSW?

Brandon Potter: I’ve always dreamed of going there. I know so many new artists drop new stuff then. They broke in my playing that festival. You know, get signed. It felt like it was necessary that Philly have a presence out there. Us being up and coming in the music, SxSW was just the right fit to make good connections.

FR: How did the show come together?

Brandon Potter: I’ve worked with Dave and Broad Street Music Group years ago on the first Foxtail Festival. They had a stage. We both knew each other was working hard on the scene.. When he reached out to me about a stage at SxSW, I said we have to make this happen.

As far as event planning, each is planned separately. Except for the yearly events. Basically, my friends and I do everything from top to bottom. We book the artists and come up with the concepts everything. Its really hard work.

FR: You’ve worked with well known artists like SZA and A$AP Mob? How did Ill Fated Natives end up on the SxSW bill?
Brandon Potter: Yeah, we worked with A$AP Mob for Foxtail. We were planning on booking A$AP Yams to DJ for SxSW before he passed away. It was crazy. So we regrouped and decided to go with an all Philly line up with Freeway, OCD, and Ground Up.

I’m a huge fan of Ill Fated Natives. I’ve listened to their music and I love their new project but I didn’t personally book them. Our partners RECPhilly booked them for SxSW along with other artists like Voss and Chill Moody.

FR: What was that experience like?

Brandon Potter: It was really packed. It was right on 6th street which is the main street. It was about 300 when it was all said and done. Crazy atmosphere.

FR: What’s next?

Brandon Potter: We have a series of 4/20 friendly series of events coming.

FR: ….What kind?

Brandon Potter: 4/20 friendly. [Chuckles.] Last year we did this festival called Hamsterdam: 4/20 Circus. We had acrobats, DJ Diamond Kutz. We transformed this warehouse into a circus. This year we’re doing a series of smaller events, four days in a row, April 17-20th. Hopefully, a show in New York.

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After talking with Potter, I snuck upstairs to the greenroom (cleverly disguised as an apartment), in hopes of interviewing Ill Fated Natives before their performance. I feared they would be too tired from the festival, five days on the road with several other shows. To my surprise, they were more energetic then I’d ever seen them. Joey Stix, the band’s drummer and Bets Charmelus, the bassist, recounted their very different versions of a story from the road in which Stix asked for breakfast and was attacked by gnats. I was sure the laughter from the reenactments could be heard on the first floor. It’s hard to believe they’d only officially been a band for 2 years. They behave like a family, like brothers. I talked with both and guitarist, Otheni Thompson, about the road, their experience at SxSW, and what’s to come in the spring.

FR: How did you travel? Who went with you?

Joey Stix: It was crazy. Sleep was a get in where you fit in situation in the van. At one point someone was sleeping in the aisle. We went with our friends Ian, Malc, the videographer, Zak Cedarholm, who is awesome.

Bets Charmelus: He’s been responsible for the last couple promotional videos for us. Before that, they were shot by Saeed Jones and edited by our friend Jessica Arce, who both super talented.

FR: So you were on the road for five days? What cities did you visit other than Austin?

Joey Stix: We went to DC and Atlanta to perform. We stopped in Virginia for Waffle House on the way back.

FR: Which city was your favorite? Did I hear you mention metal heads in Atlanta?

Joey Stix: They weren’t metal. They just had a metal vibe. But they sounded like folk. Lots of alternative rock undertones.

Otheni Thompson: They called themselves punk.

FR: I heard a rumor that you raised the money to attend SxSW yourself. Is that true?

Bets Charmelus: It all came from The Fire Ceremony when we released our first project.

FR: For those who are thinking about doing something similar next year, how much was it?
Bets Charmelus: [Chuckles] Enough.

Otheni Thompson: How it came together is that we were at Parkhouse Studios when Dave, from RECPhilly, approached us about SxSW. That propelled everything forward. We had to get out music out. We had to raise money for SxSW. We had to have a crazy release show.

Bets Charmelus: You can’t go to a festival like SxSW empty handed. Everyone became really productive. Normally, we struggle with getting everyone on the same page. Like if O and Joey are motivated, then I’m slacking or vice versa. This time the team was focused and the tribe came around us. Next thing we know we had a site! We had business cards! We had a show popping! Everyone just came around us and felt like we have to do this. We have to make this happen.

Joey Stix: Yeah, we found out about the opportunity like a month before we went. A solid month. It didn’t kick in until about a week before.

FR: How was the reception? Did you feel welcomed?

Otheni Thompson: Oh yeah, for sure.

Joey Stix: We got there at a weird time. We arrived an hour before we were supposed to perform. We rolled out of a 15 passenger van and had to do soundcheck. Just trying to stretch and shit. It was kind of packed when we started. But once we were in the groove, people really started coming around.

Bets Charmelus: There was just so much music happening. Everywhere. If you leaned one way you could hear rap. Lean another way and hear something hardcore. I was like, “What the f- is happening?” It was beautiful.

FR: What was the craziest thing you saw? What stood out to you the most?

Otheni Thompson: We had a near spiritual experience.

Bets Charmelus: Completely spiritual experience.

Otheni Thompson: It was at the OK Africa show.We got there early to lock the front down. The openers were really cool. Everything that happened after that was incredible. Ibeyi was having a lot of technical difficulties so they just rocked out with keys and a beatbox. Ian and Malc met them the night before and had a quick but beautiful exchange. That trickled into the next day and the band recognized them at the show.

Bets Charmelus: Yeah, they were on stage talking to them during the performance.

Otheni Thompson: Then Hiatus Kayote came out and just smashed it. They’re definitely master musicians. All of them. Messing with time and making you move in different ways. That was followed by BadBadNotGood. The entire time, we’re in this corner next to the stage dancing like no one else is there. Thrashing. Then, they brought Jus Blaze and Freeway out.

Bets Charmelus: Us being from Philly, I almost popped a blood vessel. Everyone was like, “Oh wow! This is cool.” We were f-ing wilding out. Joey had one foot on the stage. I’m standing on the chair, screaming. A stage manager comes over and tells me to get down. Immediately, someone else gets up there.

Joey Stix: I was looking at every drummer on stage so intensely. “You need some help? I got you! I. GOT. YOU.”

Bets Charmelus: I really think that experience translated into what happened just now downstairs. I found myself playing things that I normally don’t. Thinking to myself, BadBadNotGood would do something like this. It changed my perspective of everything.

FR: So what’s next?

Joey Stix: We have a ton of shows in April. We have like six. My homie, Mars Parker, has a release party on April 4th. DG Philly is having an event at Pub Webb on April 10th.

Bets Charmelus: There is a band called Galvanize who throw an event called Get Lucid, they’re having a release party on the 17th. We’re opening for them. On the 18th, there is the Marijuana Marathon by What Scene? Then, we’re performing for iNERD on the 23rd.

Other Thompson: And we’re looking to release our first video after that. We recorded that all throughout the trip. Zak had been recording it since The Fire Ceremony.

Story by Franceska Rouzard | @frenchthegypsy
Photos by Saeed Briscoe

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.” – buildmeaworld.com

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 buildmeaworld.com // 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 Misterwives.com.

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