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HGR Compound Classic Bronx, NYC: Recap

Wednesday March 5, 2014 – Bronx, NY

The Bronx, NYC was home for a Heineken Green Room two-part night of music and party with big-name DJ’s and music industry faces co-mingling with select HGR members. To begin the night,  The Compound opened the doors to its decorative and street dapper Bronx creative space “The Compound” for a meet and greet party, hosted by creative connector Set Free and DJ’d Ambush and Young Guru.

After this pre-party wrapped up, attendees joined a larger crowd of HGR members just down the street at the neighborhood hot-spot “Bruckner Bar & Grill” that featured the headlining set of DJ Enuff’s (NYC HOT 97 FM).

Music For Your Headphones: Q&A with Jordan Jeffares of Snowden

Photos by Mark Likosky 

Jordan Jeffares began his project known as Snowden years ago, back when he was a teenager hanging out in his bedroom. According to him, he was just messing around with recording some demos and “writing lots of horrible music.” He continued to see where he could take things and by the time he was a senior at UGA in Athens, Ga., he managed to come up with a few gems that sparked the attention of his brother and other fellow musicians. One thing led to another and in 2006, after releasing an EP prior, he managed to put together an acclaimed, full-length album, Anti-Anti.

It’s been over six years since Snowden has released much of anything. Jeffares has moved from city to city around the country, switched record labels, and “overwritten” a lot of songs. He is now on the Kings of Leon record label, Serpents and Snakes, and is based out of Austin at the moment. He seems to be happy there for now but he readily admits that he thrives off movement. In fact, he happens to love Philly and could easily see himself living here. Perhaps we’ll see more of him in the future?

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Snowden released an EP in 2010 called Slow Soft Syrup EP, but otherwise we haven’t heard too much. Until recently.

The three-piece band performed at Johnny Brenda’s on Wednesday night to a pretty packed audience. Local bands Busses and Belgrade made appearances, as well. Snowden performed a good mix of songs from Anti-Anti and a few new songs from the album they are currently promoting and will release in May, No One In Control. It’s first single, “The Beat Comes,” seems to steer in a different direction that isn’t as post-punk/British dance music heavy. Jeffares admits to have an affinity for slower songs that you can listen to in your headphones just for yourself. “The Beat Comes” maintains a dance-y, upbeat flow that you’d probably expect from Snowden, but the heart of the song is much slower and somber. It could easily be performed with an acoustic guitar and Jeffares’ vocals. It’s beautiful either way you look at it, though. I especially think the music video delivers this track nicely; the highs and lows are appropriately mixed in visually via seeing a masculine boxer struggle with his desire to embrace a more feminine side.

two.one.five sat down with Jeffares to get caught up on the past six years and to see what’s on the horizon for this mobile man.

two.one.five: So, you released Anti-Anti in 2006. Has switching labels and moving around had anything to do with the delay in releasing a new album?

Jordan Jeffares: I was writing the entire time. Overwriting, really. Some of the songs that I thought were going to be the single on the record aren’t even on the record anymore. I saw what it was like to release a record and I knew if all of your ducks weren’t in a row you risk just flopping a record out there and not getting any traction. I’ve got some records that I really love and I don’t understand why they didn’t break wide open, and you never know what the circumstances are. I’m willing to wait longer and do this record right and have it come out right than just to put a record out to have one out.

two.one.five: As far as the difference between Anti-Anti and No On In Control is concerned, you haven’t released anything for a little while and you’ve moved around a bit, how much has this lapse in time influenced where you are right now with this current record in particular?

JJ: I never knew if I was going to stop making music all together. I just decided I wanted to write a record that I wanted to hear in headphones. The first record had a lot of pressure because a lot of it depended on the live performance aspect, you know. It has to turn heads and be upbeat. I feel like I didn’t follow that at all on this record, so half of it is slow songs. That’s what I love writing, there’s no pressure to make people foot stomp. You can just throw on your headphones and go to bed which I think so much easier. To me, my favorite place is in headphones on the train and not playing with speakers or anything. So, that’s how the writing is different; it’s writing for myself and not as much of performing for other people.

two.one.five.: Yeah, I really love the single you have for the new record. It does have the quality you’re talking about, a slower quality, but it’s dance-y and has this tinge of optimism.

JJ: Yeah, that’s how all my songs start out. They start out slow and I figure out ways to crank it up a bit. If I just add something different it’ll make it more upbeat. The “rock” in me isn’t very strong so I really have to work at it. Sonically, I make a lot of my own stuff and I do a lot of my own mixing. When I’m writing, from a demo perspective, it’s just always harder for me to make the songs pop because the slow, pretty stuff is just so much easier. Now when I tour I get to pick a handful of songs from each record, but I can only see my records getting more dreamy. Some people are into the slow stuff live, but a lot of people like something that chugs along, make their hair blow back a little bit.

two.one.five: Yeah, according to bio I’ve read online it said you were wanting to move away from the “Brit dance party” you pushed on the first record.

JJ: Yes, that’s very much where I was going back then. I was listening to a lot of Bloc Party and Interpol. I still love that stuff, though.

two.one.five: With this new song (“The Beat Comes”), I really did like the music video that came out with it. It sort of reminded me of that video that Spiritualized released last year for their song “Hey Jane.”

JJ: Such a great video. When I first saw that I was like, “Uhhhh!” Yeah, the guy who I was working with as far as I know didn’t have any intention of channeling that. He had initially developed the concept of the boxer but I told him there had to be something darker, something deeper going on. I wanted some kind of sexual tension to be present. I wanted to have the boxer when he was older seen putting on lipstick but the actor wouldn’t do it so we just we see him hold it up to his face instead which I think worked. I wanted everything to be subtle, I didn’t want anything to be blatant. I didn’t want to spoon feed the story; I wanted it to be seen as a subtle piece of art. I feel like that’s something my audience appreciates a bit.

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two.one.five: I feel like it’s something that makes you want to watch it to the end. You’re not in a position to cut it off early because you want to see what happens. Is that one of the more upbeat tracks on the record?

JJ: Yeah, it’s one of them. I knew pretty early on this was going to be the first single. It was one of the few times I was able to write something that’s remotely fun; when that happens I’m like, “Yeah, that’s the first single.” I realized at one point  when writing this album, like, five of the tracks had the word “no” in the title and I had to change some of the titles. I thought to myself, “Man, I must be going through some type of midlife crisis or something.” You know, what does this say about me? I needed to have an awakening of some kind; I can’t keep going like this.

two.one.five.: Have you played in Philly before? Do you have connections to the area? Any fond memories?

JJ: I’ve been coming to Philly and playing at this bar since I don’t think it was safe to come to this area of town. Now I come here and there are yoga studios and stuff. There’s a Fette Sau — you’ve made it when you’ve got a Fette Sau. One of my fondest memories, I was on my way moving up to New York and I stopped here to get on my bike for a little bit. It was absolutely beautiful, it was November. I just thought I’d go for a quick ride and I wound up losing my car; I had no clue where it was. It was such a beautiful day; I was riding over in West Philly near one of the colleges, across the bridge, over the water. I just thought I was in the most beautiful neighborhood I have ever seen. And I lost my car for six hours. I love Philly. It’s always on my list of “to dos.”

The Faint Brings ‘Danse Macabre’ to The Troc

Photos by Kevin Nguyen

It was in April that fans got word that electronic/synth/pop/industrial/new wave/punk band (kind of hard to place them in one category) The Faint was back in the studio practicing together after a brief hiatus. Since the release and subsequent tour of their 2008 album Fasciination, The Faint has just this year alone released a remastered version of their 2001 album Danse Macabre, debuted a few new songs, and started playing shows again. Due to the re-release of Danse, they decided to make a tour out of it and perform it in its entirety to longtime, die hard fans.

It was a non-stop dance party on Thursday night at the Trocadero. Shoulder-to-shoulder people, glow sticks, everyone in their dance clothes, sweat everywhere. Even if you were sitting up in the balcony area of the venue, you couldn’t help but move. The Faint makes sure nobody is sitting/standing still.

They opened with a brand new song that has only been introduced during this current tour. A few months back they released a new single called “Evil Voices,” but most of the people who I spoke to at the show hadn’t heard this new guitar/drum heavy jam, “An Unseen Hand.” Lead singer Todd Fink’s unique and distinguished vocals reverberate throughout even though he only sings “I’m looking for an unseen hand” and “I’ve got this feeling and I don’t know why” over and over. It manages to build itself into a dark, disco direction. It’s also the type of song that lends itself well to a fun light show, and it most certainly did that.

They then went into “Dropkick the Punks” from Fasciination and”Desperate Guys” from Wet from Birth before actually started the Danse Macabre bit. It was nice having them mix it up in the beginning and the end of show. In addition to Danse (both the original and deluxe editions), they performed their more popular songs from Blank-Wave Arcade, Wet From Birth, and Fasciination. They even played their cover of Sonic Youth’s “Mote.”

When they started playing the opening track from Danse, “Agenda Suicide,” the entire audience flipped; for many people there, Danse is an album they know by heart. In fact, it’s one of Saddle Creek Records’ best selling. I think a lot of that stems from simply how accessible their music is. It’s poppy, catchy, and fun when you break it all down, but what I think makes The Faint  interesting is how they create darker music (lyrically and melodically) while keeping things unbelievably fun and entertaining.

Danse in itself is a dark album that’s very much driven by social topics and minor melodies. The economy, politics, self image, happiness, and insecurity are all involved within the songs. Even while they are performing, jamming out on stage (I really love how Fink’s stage presence meshes up with the music so well — he’s got this swagger that just doesn’t quit), they have video stock images running in the background of men at army base camps in the ’50s, men and women walking around with briefcases wearing suits, women at home in the kitchen heating up canned and boxed foods for their families, etc. What’s also cool about the screen they use to project the images is it’s in the shape of a Tetris piece.

The Faint has this ability to present their darker, socially conscious songs through a vessel that is contagious dance music without it completely taking away from the subject matter. They can be serious and fun at the same time without it being annoying or fluffy.

Since Danse ends on a slower, more somber note, the guys kept the party going with “The Geeks Were Right,” “Call Call,” “Mirror Error,” and “Worked Up So Sexual.” When they got off the stage, they of course came back on shortly after and encored with their new single “Evil Voices” (which is awesome), “I Disappear,” and “Paranoiattack.” Getting to yell “PARANOIA” with an entire room of people was so much fun.

I saw them during their Fasciination tour back in 2009 and I’m so happy I saw them again. I have this thing where I like to think of things in terms of food. This concert, to me, was something I’d been craving for a while — not something I could have all the time, but every now and then it just hits the spot. They deliver something so fun, solid, and nostalgic for me, I was all smiles after the show.

The Faint has mastered the art of developing super catchy, infectious beats that go to your ears and flow straight through the rest of your body causing it to move, sway, bounce, and jump around. You’re simply having a blast and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Two Guys and a Whole Lot of Soul: Benyaro Set to Take the Stage at Tin Angel 11/28

Photos by Anneke Schoneveld

Ben Musser and Bobby McCullough have been two busy dudes for the past few months. Since May, they’ve recorded an EP and gone on a cross county tour to promote it. The guys released The Cover EP, a compilation of six cover songs recorded in a cabin in Jackson Hole,Wyo., in July; however, these are not cover songs you’d expect to hear on the same record. I’m talking Moby, Sam Cooke, Procol Harum, Etta James, Blaze Foley, and The Coasters.

What gives this EP a more appealing twist is that these guys, just the two of them, play the whole thing acoustically in the style of rootsy, soul music. Imagine Moby’s “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” being played without the electronic equipment. It’s pretty interesting, right? They also go all the way back to the ’60s and take Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” an already iconic song, and make something new and original while paying respectful homage to the song’s roots. Furthermore, their cover of “Bring It On Home To Me” by Sam Cooke is absolutely fantastic; it stays true to the original but it also stays true to themselves. No matter what song they play on this EP, their own unique style of making music resonates in a way that allows you to see these songs in a whole new light.

“I’ve had to think about this a lot, but I’m not sure exactly why we chose the songs that we chose to do,” Musser said. “There’s something about the singing on all of these that made us decide to record them; there’s so much soul. They are very strong songs originally and I think they lend themselves well to me and Bobby.”

“The Moby song was completely out of the box, but that’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. We kind of deconstructed it in a way where it’s like, why can’t we make this a live performance song that’s not electric? I always like to push the envelope with music acoustically. The Cover EP is an interesting angle to what we usually do,” Musser said.

Musser knows a thing or two about changing things up. First and foremost, this guy can sing. I’ve seen these guys play over the past few years, and let me tell you, I’ve not heard someone who can wail like he can. You can liken his high falsettos to Axl Rose, it’s nuts. Once you add McCullough’s beautiful bass playing, deeper voice, and any other instrumentals they decide to include at the same time, you’ve got a room full of rich, organic, raw energy and sound. It still surprises me that it’s just the two of them playing together.

Benyaro has released two original recordings thus far: a self-titled debut in 2008 and a delightful record titled Good Day Better in 2010. The Cover EP is a bit different from their original material, but, as I said earlier, it remains true to their sound.

Musser and McCullough met in 2008, McCullough joined the project in 2009. Since then, the two have truly managed to develop a more unanimous, cohesive flow.  They both are passionate performers that dedicate themselves entirely to their craft. You can’t help but foot stomp, smile, and dance along with them. This is music you feel.

They began the tour in Colorado in July; they plan to tie things up Dec. 1 in New York City, where McCullough resides. Musser, who lives in Jackson Hole, will more than likely want make it home for the holidays. They’ll reboot their tour after the New Year.

“We’re going to keep promoting The Cover EP and keep it going for as many miles as possible; all the while that the promoting is going on, we’re introducing some new music,” Musser said. “We’ve introduced three new songs on this tour; hopefully after performing those we’ll be recording sometime next year. We hope to add three or four more. They’re funky, they continue to push the limits of Benyaro.”

The guys have performed in Philly throughout the years, but they’ve never performed at Tin Angel who’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. They’re pretty excited about it.

They’ll take the stage tomorrow night at Tin Angel with Mia Johnson and Alexis Cunnigham. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 8pm. You can purchase tickets here.

For more information about Benyaro or to sample some of their songs, you can check out their Facebook page or go to their website at http://benyaro.com.

The Funny Guys of Red Fang: Dudes with Guitars

Photos by Joshua Pelta-Heller with Caroline Edgeton

It’s a rare occurrence finding a metal band that isn’t trying to seem, you know, “metal.” I’m talking all black, leather, spikes, the works. Those guys who stand on stage with long, stringy hair, trying to convince you they’re serious as hell.

Red Fang tries to bring something different to the table: a sense of humor and a don’t-give-much-of-a-shit attitude.

“I think the humorous aspect works for us because none of us are tough guys and nothing feels dumber than standing there in leather and spikes and gauntlets,” lead guitarist and vocalist for Red Fang Bryan Giles said. “There are some bands I like that go in that direction and that’s okay, but, I mean, come on, you’re not a warrior in space with your spikes and what not; you’re a dude playing a guitar.”

The guys played Saturday, Nov. 10, at Underground Arts with their friends Black Tusk. It was definitely a night of heavy music, crowd surfing, drunk people, and head banging. Even some heavy making out. People were really feeling it.

Personally, I’m not a huge metal fan. Red Fang’s music is a little different to me, though — it’s heavy and loud but it’s not screamy, scary, or shocking. As far as a comparison goes, they’re comparable to Big Business but just a bit different. Plus, Red Fang is really freaking funny.

Fans of Red Fang are well acquainted with their hilarious music videos (YouTube party!) — in fact, they were probably introduced to Red Fang through catching one of their videos on Facebook or Reddit. For their song “Wires,” the guys receive a check from their record label for $5,000. The rest of the video is dedicated to them spending all of that money on a cheap car, gallons and gallons of milk, beer, junk food, and more beer. By the end, the guys end up on a run way driving as fast as they can into stacks of milk jugs, a china cabinet, a pyramid of champagne glasses, and other various objects. Joyous explosions ensue. It’s pretty fantastic.

The band attributes a lot of their popularity to the viral spread of their videos.

“Yeah, the videos definitely helped spread the music around. We can’t take credit for the music videos except for drinking beer on cue and being in them,” Giles said. “They’re the ideas of Whitey McConnaughy. He’s just this really great, energetic guy; the videos are kind of like passion projects for him; we can’t really afford to make those type of videos so we’re really lucky we’re his monkeys for his projects.”

“He’s got such a great sense of humor and has a good idea of what our characters should be. And, you know, they’re loosely based on our own personalities.”

You would think that the guys thought this out as smart way to market themselves. When there’s people like myself and most of my friends who spend a fair amount of time every day watching some crazy videos on the Internet, you better believe I hit the “share” button and make sure everyone I know sees something I find amusing.

“It wasn’t a conscious thing, really, that we were going to make funny videos, we just like the ideas that Whitey comes up with. None of us want to project a rock star image, it’s better to be a dork, you know, I can rock that through and through. It’s like, ‘you’re not really a dork,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh yes I am, you wanna talk about Game of Thrones? I’ll do it all day long,'” Giles said.

“In the ’80s (the dark scary look) worked because it was shock rock, you know, Elvis did it, too. It was all about making parents go, ‘What’s all this noise about?’ Bands like Kiss, you know, it was kind of scary or whatever. I think it’s just too late for that; today’s parents have all seen that before. If you’re an old school metal band like Judas Priest you can still pull that off, but if you’re part of this generation you just can’t do that anymore.
“We all know at the end of the day you’re just dudes who sit on your couch and play guitar. These guys who try to pull off this whole boots and smoke image, I know you’re just dude with a guitar.”

Red Fang definitely likes to keep things laid back, but they don’t compromise sound.

“We played in a band for about three years before called Party Time. We were all in separate bands before that dealt with crazy time signatures before and when we formed Party Time it was hard for us to let go of that, so eventually we were just like, ‘let’s stop it with the crazy time signatures and just play some regular music.’ We were tired of playing music only musicians can enjoy. We’re not really into showing off, it’s just fun to be a part of a song.”

“I like to look at it from what made me want to pick up a guitar in the first place; when I think about the songs that still stick with me, you know, they’re all pop songs. They still shred on the guitar, but they’re still playing pop songs.”

Giles has been playing in bands and going on tour for about 24 years. Giles met up with the rest of Red Fang — Aaron Beam (bass/vocals), David Sullivan (guitar), and John Sherman (drums) — in San Francisco. The guys reconnected in Portland, where they’re based now, and started playing some music together.

“We’re pretty unique in that we play different types of songs you may not hear a lot of metal bands play, but I don’t think we’re really trying to do anything different. We’re just playing hard rock music, music we like to play,” he said.

On the Internet, many refer to the guys as a “stoner rock” band.

“I don’t object to (stoner rock label); I don’t care if you say we’re peas and carrots, as long as you like it and you’re in the club rocking. I don’t think we’re stoner rock, but when someone describes us as stoner rock I’m not like letter to the editor or anything. When I think of stoner rock, I’ve always thought that it’s locking in on one blues-based groove and just driving it. You play some different variations on it so if you smoke some weed, you can listen to the different textures of a song where it becomes an exploration.Our songs are more like BAM; our longest song is six minutes long, I think.”

Their last album, Murder the Mountains, was released in 2011. They’ve been in the studio recently and plan to have something out next year.

“After the tour and the holidays are over, we’ll be able to get in there and focus a bit more,” he said.

Tongue-in-Chic: The Roots Picnic

Two.One.Five rounds up Sunday’s Best photos from the Roots Picnic. Photos by Kim-Thao Nguyen and Joshua Pelta-Heller.

Two.One.Five was on a mission this year. Naturally, it wasn’t hard to find good people and good music at this past weekend’s 5th Annual Roots Picnic, but as far as Style goes, it was certainly a toss-up. With a temperamental forecast calling for both rain and shine, we couldn’t help but to wonder if the loyal crowds from near and far would opt more for functionality or simply fun.

Yet weather or not, with such an exciting lineup over the inaugural two-day festival, glammed-up goers showed that this hometown throwdown can be black-tie, shirts optional (see clowns, below). From Rakim’s old school get up to crisp, pin-striped jackets, check out Two.One.Five’s roundup of Sunday’s Best from the Roots Picnic.

Comment below if you made the gallery! If we didn’t catch you this time, keep an eye out for Two.One.Five’s Style team throughout the city for more weekly roundups on Philly’s personal style.

Follow me @keemthao!