5 Fresh Indie Sounds

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Fairy Bones

“No One Can Suffer Like I Can” 

The alt-glam rockers known as Fairy Bones have been causing quite the stir in the Phoenix music scene since their very inception. Maybe that’s because they have a distinctive sound that’s difficult to cram into any of the niche compartments of the Valley Scene. Or maybe it’s because Chelsey Louise is one of the fiercest frontpeople to grace Phoenix stages. Personally, I think it’s because they keep getting better. Every release is better than the last so every time competitors think they might have stepped up to the playing field, they find they are back in the fairy dust. “No One Can Suffer Like I Can” is the latest installment of self-depreciating rock from the PHX 4-piece. It’s already locking down airtime and this might only be the beginning. Check out the new Fairy Bones’ single below or head here for that digi-download.

El West

“Cuba Gooding Jr.”

Wow. Do I feel like I missed the boat on El West or what? I mean I really feel like schmuck here. We try to tell everyone that good bands often get overlooked in the deluge of music we receive on a daily basis and El West is the perfect example of this unavoidable pitfall of publications. Not every band gets the attention they deserve and El West deserves your attention. Their latest single, “Cuba Gooding Jr.”, is a serious song with a strange name. El West presents pristine musicianship and powerful vocals for a track that could easily take over the airwaves. “Cuba Gooding Jr.” comes to us from the band’s latest EP, Mainstay, which came out earlier this month (6/16). Give the new single from El West a spin below or head here to score your own copy of Mainstay.

Orchin

“I Think I”

There is a dreamlike quality to the soundscape created by Orchin on their new single, “I Think I,” which came out last month. Soft-spoken vocals drift over pensive dreampop that gains momentum as the track progresses without sacrificing that contemplative air. Orchin calls L.A. home but the act will be passing through Phoenix later this month. You can catch Orchin at The Trunk Space on June 30th with Femny, Model/Actriz, James Band, and Sun Hex (more info here). That sounds like a show you should put on your calendar. Until then, give “I Think I” from Orchin a spin below or head here to score your own copy of the single.

The National Parks

“Places”

The Utah indie-folk band known as The National Parks has an easygoing sound certain to lift your spirits. Their latest single “Places” just came out earlier this month and it’s already enjoying repeat listens down at #YabYumHQ. Check out the lyric video for “Places” here or head over to iTunes to get that digi-download of the track for your personal playlists and throw the artists some support. Of course, you can preview the single from The National Parks down below first…

The Happy Fits

“Dirty Imbecile”

This chipper ditty comes to us from New Jersey indie rockers, The Happy Fits, from their 2016 EP, Awfully Apeelin’. Anytime we’re dealing with a cello-driven melody on a song, I’m going to want to see what’s happening and The Happy Fits don’t let us down. Their sound is fresh, fun, and catchy enough to stick with you all through summer. You can preview “Dirty Imbecile” below or head here for the complete EP.

 

Lessons Learned: Band Promotion

band promotion 01by Brandon Kellum
Staff Writer

If an album is “dropped” in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

The answer is only by the ears of the other band members. Band promotion feels weird. Mixing your art, what you love, with business. Let’s be honest though, sharing that creation with your immediate friends and family is cool, but connecting with others outside of those circles can be something really special. So don’t be afraid to be as equally creative in promoting your music as you were in making it.

The post that went antiviral. 

Far too often bands rely on a single post on social media to get the word out there. The truth is that social media platforms are creating ever more complicated algorithms that will stamp out any chance of going viral with self promotional content. So don’t settle for 2 likes (one of which was likely your own) and do a little digging on how to maximize your visibility; what to post, where, and when to do it.

Pay to slay.

First off, I’m not happy with the pun in that title. Let’s move past it. So you’re punk rock and you’re not going to give the mythological “Man” (or woman) a dime of your hard earned money just to boost a post. I get it but what if it wasn’t your money? Or what if you could get a quick return on that investment? Well it’s all possible and in more ways then I can cram into a single paragraph.

A few things to consider; you can find free or at least discounted $$$ for first time advertisers all over the internet. Just do a bit of googling and make sure you’re on a trusted site. You can also build these promotional bucks into your band’s guarantees at shows. Normally ask for $100? Negotiate $120 by letting the promoter know that the extra $20 is going directly towards getting the show info and ticketing link in front of your fans.

Finally, consider it a small investment. The thought behind any promotion should be finding a balance between what you put in to it and what you get out of it. If you’re not seeing an increase in show attendance or record sales to offset the investment, you’re either targeting the wrong audience or have a lackluster product. Let’s hope it’s the former.

Street meme.

We all know that a picture with text on it is worth a thousand words (or likes) but is it really worth sacrificing your brand? That’s for you to decide. If you’re the band that only posts memes to great response, don’t be surprised when the text only update about next Friday’s show only gets interaction from your favorite nana. On the opposite side of that, if you’re only pushing shameless self promotion from your pages, you’ll quickly find that the only person there to see it will be your shameless self.

Try to find a balance between band related content and fun ways to drive more natural interactions. Who are you, what you do and why people should care are great questions but even better questions are who are the people that follow your page, what do they do and why do they care about you? You wouldn’t go to a social event and only talk about yourself so refer back to the first word in “social media” and act accordingly.

Everywhere you want to be.

Where do you find out about new music? Is it a particular website or blog? A playlist on Spotify? Fliers at your local music shop? Or maybe just word of mouth at shows. Be present on all of those places. The independent band that’s making waves isn’t doing so in the largest pool. They’re the ones finding smaller communities, being an active member and contributor and then slowly finding the right time and way to introduce their own music.

Work Harder AND Smarter.

You can pay a team of people to do it or you can learn how to do it yourself. Once you’ve determined your pitch, leverage the results of other artists in your genre for where to send it. Find a band that recently released an album and google “[BAND NAME] Album Review” or “[BAND NAME] Interview”. This will give you a huge pool of outlets to contact.

Another variation of this is following a PR Agencies page and seeing where they’re getting their bands placement in. Have a well defined “ask”, include what’s in it for them (exclusive content, sharing their site…) and do the work for them by catering your press release to the content their site posts. Above all, be sure to make it concise- no one wants to get hit with an unsolicited wall of text.

Super fans are super, man.

Finally, truly value and reward those that are spreading word of mouth. There’s absolutely nothing more valuable to the success of your band then the buzz from those who already enjoy it. So give them discounted tickets, throw some free merch their way and above everything, build that relationship. It’s shocking to me when I see a band with a couple hundred followers not responding back to their small handful of comments or tweets. Or a band that’s blatantly using bots to post comments like “Nice post 🔥”. You’re no one special. The second you put yourself above anyone else just because you wrote a couple songs is the moment people will stop caring.

~

brandon kellum 0002

Brandon Kellum is the vocalist for the obnoxiously loud metalcore band American Standards. They play their home state of Arizona July 18th at Pub Rock in Scottsdale with Arsonists Get All The Girls, I Set My Friends On Fire, Kingdom Of Giants and West Cliffs

For the Record: Levity by The SunPunchers

sunpunchers 01by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

The SunPunchers released their much-anticipated debut LP last month and I’ve been entrenched in Levity pretty regularly since then. There’s something about the band’s vintage sound that takes the listener back to a more hardscrabble time. So, the longer I listen to this album, the more stoic I become. Levity reminds me of the beauty in the struggle for honest and simple living.

From the start of the opening track, “Brown Metal Box”, the listener will realize they’re in for something special. The arrangements are subtly exquisite beneath a warm, front-porch veneer. “Screwtop Head”, one of my personal favorites, comes next with its haunting grace and ruminating lyricism.

In all honesty, every track on Levity is unique and enchanting. There are all these tender moments of aural beauty that sit nicely next to the wry, unflappable humor interwoven into the lyrics.

In keeping with the series, I had a chance to ask Betsy Ganz of The SunPunchers some questions about Levity, influences, what’s next for the band, and more. Check out our Q&A below, but first, maybe hit play while you’re reading…

Carly Schorman: So, to get us started, who are The (official) SunPunchers? And who else joined in for the recording of Levity?

Betsy Ganz: The official Sunpunchers are myself, Lindsay Cates, Dominic Armstrong and honorary member Jon Rauhouse. Great and giant thanks to the amazing musicians Jon Rauhouse, Robin Vining, Jeff Schnuck, Megyn Neff, Mike Wolfe, Aldy Montufar, and Rachel Ludeman who lent their mighty badassery to the record.

How did The SunPunchers first start playing together?

I started playing as a duo with a mandolin player named Jeff Schnuck and recorded an EP in 2013 and played with Lindsay Cates on bass, Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel and banjo when he was off tour, Henri Benard on drums and Fred Reyes on bass clarinet/alto sax. We met Dom when we were recording the record at 513 Recording and he was available moving forward.

The lyricism in this album is so vibrant, as is the instrumental arrangement. Just curious what the songwriting process is like for The SunPunchers? Do you work on songs together or do different band members assume different roles until you achieve your end?

I wrote the lyrics and melodies and had some of the instrumental parts layed out (see attached photo of road map). Jon Rauhouse came in and has this intuitive gift to create and play a part that cements the feel and intention of the song. Thanks forever to Jon and his sense of humor and practical advice.

Dominic, Lindsay and I improvised a lot in the studio- Dom is really good at production , helping to trim down or build up the song to reveal it’s essence. He played more than a few instruments himself to get to the heart of things and mixed the record with input from the band and Catherine Vericolli of 513 Recording. Lindsay improvised some bass hooks that are so unexpected and killer. She knew what she wanted to play and why and had a clear eye on the direction we were going.

There’s a vintage charm to the sound of The SunPunchers that I think contemporary listeners will really love. What musicians do you draw inspiration from to give shape to The SunPunchers’ sound? Does that list vary considerably from band-mate to band-mate?

In the middle of the Venn Diagram is John Prine, Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Lucinda Williams, Fleetwood Mac, Calexico, Neko Case, Feist, Gillian Welsh and Dave Rawlings, to name just a few.

I love the image that was used for the cover art on this album. Where did you find the artwork? (I hear it might be a thrift store find.)

Indeed! I found that etching in a thrift store on Mohave Ave. I took it apart and found that it was drawn in Germany in the early 1900s. The artist name and title is illegible, but beyond that we thank the thrift store goddesses for their generosity, and we hope to someday track the artist down. It’s an amazing image and captures the mood and feel of the record.

The SunPunchers hosts a weekly jam (and toast) session at The Lost Leaf. Can you clue in our readers as to what they might expect at Tuesday Toast?

We host Toast Tuesdays at The Lost Leaf every second Tuesday of the month starting around 9 PM. We invite and encourage singer songwriter’s to air out their new song undies in a safe environment, while we prepare and serve free Nutella Toast to the people! We received a sponsorship from Dave’s Killer Bread for this community building event and encourage everyone who shows up to donate new underwear/socks for the men and women of Circle the City, healthcare for the homeless.

Now, that the album is out, any plans for a short respite or are you right back to working on new material? I also hear the band will be participating in some fun festivals in the post-summer months.

Getting gigs on the books as we speak, and demo-ing new material. We’ll add dates as they are confirmed onto facebooktwitter, and insta.

~

5 Stellar Songwriters You Should Know

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Young Mothers

“They Were Right”

After a three-year hiatus, Young Mothers is back with a slinky new sound and the same clever lyricism that initially sparked our musical love affair with the Phoenix band. “They Were Right” deals with the crushing disillusionment that comes with, well, growing up. It fucking sucks but Young Mothers manages to capture that angst with a mix of wry wit and brazen honesty. Songwriter Zach Toporek hits home on more occasions than I have space to recount. I might just tattoo the line, “I got a big fucking problem with all the little things,” on my face to save time with all future conversations. Check out “They Were Right” below… Oh, and hey Young Mothers, glad to hear you’re back.

Jeremy Tuplin

“O Youth!”

Jeremy Tuplin comes to us from London-via-Somerset and you can hear some BritPop influences in his easygoing indie sound. It’s Tuplin’s unique vocal style and thoughtful lyricism that drew me into his new single, “O Youth!”, which will be released as part of his forthcoming debut album, I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut. Combining electronic elements with acoustic instrumentation for an organic sound that will warm away the weariness of your soul. Give “O Youth!” by Jeremy Tuplin a listen below and join me in the wait for the complete LP which is due out this coming September. Or you can head here for your own digi-download of the single.

Angharad Drake

“Baby”

“Baby” is the opening track from Angharad Drake’s 2017 LP, Ghost, which came out in April. This folk artist from Brisbane has an elegant sense of pacing which you can hear on “Baby” in its gentle breath and subtle energy shifts. And, did I mention Drake’s voice? There is a lovely litheness to the vocals on “Baby” that sit well against the haunting melody, reinforcing the ethereal atomsphere. Give “Baby” a listen below or head here to secure your own copy of Ghost, the complete LP, from Angharad Drake.

Emma Guzman

“Last Page”

Ugh, that calm and pensive voice of Emma Guzman burrows straight into the center of my heart. “Last Page” presents Guzman’s brooding songwriting style with the earnest force that defines her work, tempered but powerful. This single comes to us from Emma Guzman’s 2017 LP, Roots, which is available in full here. But, first, settle down with “Last Page” below…

Emay Holmes

“The Deployment Song”

Emay Holmes holds down an interesting day job while penning pensive songs by night. Holmes is a currently serving airman aboard the USS Nimitz and in his new single explores the strain of military life on the personal connections back home. “The Deployment Song” comes to us from Holmes’ forthcoming LP, Deep Down. That’s a release we’ll certainly be keeping watch for. Give the single a spin below…

Treasure Mammal Music Video Premiere: Selfie Stick [premiere + interview]

Treasure Mammal teamed up with local creative Robbie Pfeffer to craft a brand new music video and we’re stoked to be the first to share that video with you today!  Of course, we had a few questions for the team about the making of “Selfie Stick”, the prize pairing of T-Mammal and Pfeffer on this project, and what’s next for the rambunctious bunch of music makers.

Check out the new music video for Treasure Mammal’s and then continue on to our Q&A with Treasure Mammal and Robbie!

So, you teamed up with Robbie Pfeffer to animate this new music video. I have to say that the T-Mammal/Pfeffer combo seems like the dream team. What brought these two forces together for this new visual project?

Treasure Mammal: After seeing several of the animations that Robbie had created, I definitely thought he was the right person to create the video for “Selfie Stick”. The TMammal/ Pfeffer combo is a lot like Kobe and Shaq. Unbeatable when using the triangle offense against any team.

Robbie: Abe brought up the idea a while back and now that I’m trying to do more animation I hit him up earlier this year and said I think I can swing it. Animation is a super slow process so I’m glad it worked out!

Where does this track come to us from? New album in the works?

TM: A new album is in the works and it is tentatively titled, Honey, I Crunked the Kids.

Where was the single/album recorded and is there an ETA for the release?

TM: We recorded at my house with Glob and at Glob Headquarters aka Slime Castle. I think the album will be done in early 2018.

Treasure Mammal has taken on many forms over the years through the inclusion of various players. Who is currently on Team T-Mammal? And, of those players, who is including in the music-making process as opposed to the live experience?

TM: The current roster for Treasure Mammal is Jef Wright, Jef Wrong, Audra Carlisle, Roddy Nikpour, Ryan Stephenson, Taylour Geiss, Matthew Scholtz, Yuri Choo, and Mike Hissong. This list doesn’t include the peeps that are in other cities. I would say the only people involved in the music making process are Jef Wright, Jef Wrong, Mike Hissong, myself, and the environment I’m in.

Treasure Mammal often hits on the kitschy points of pop culture and this new video is no different. It has everything from Faygo to Furbies. I have to ask the question… is the music meant as a joke or as cultural commentary? Or is there no real difference in your view?

Robbie: I’ve always thought Treasure Mammal was an unashamed celebration of societies most garish elements. It’s the musical equivalent of a person who watches “The Bachelor” to make fun of “The Bachelor” and then ends up becoming a huge fan of “The Bachelor.” It’s obviously self-aware but not as simple as just a joke or as straight forward as just cultural commentary. If you stare into the bro culture abyss, the bro culture abyss stares back at you.

TM: It’s definitely more of a cultural commentary type thing.. I like to wrap certain things/ products/ ideas that are jumping out at me at the time. For some reason, Selfie Sticks just kinda popped out at me. What made it really come to my attention was the fact that I read an article about someone falling to their death in the Grand Canyon because they were taking a selfie on the edge.

And, since you brought up the subject, what’s your stance on “selfie culture”? Narcissism run rampart or a component of self-exploration and greater connectivity in the Internet Age?

TM: It’s not so much the narcissistic culture we have a problem with, it’s the proliferation of “hands free” culture, enabled by technology, that’s encouraging us to disengage from the physical world. Years ago, if you needed an answer to an important question, you had to boot up Windows Vista, wait for Internet Explorer to open, type in www.google.com into the address bar, and only then could you get an answer. Physically interacting with technology gives you time to refine your question – maybe answer it yourself, or if you’re with other people maybe someone could answer it for you. Now all we have to do is ask Siri who the last person on the moon was or tell Google to turn on the bidet.

Robbie: I’m personally uncomfortable taking pictures of myself and I’m one of those people who huffs and complains about how dumb it is to film a concert while you are at a concert, but at the end of the day if something makes someone happy and feeds the unquenchable thirst of our personal data absorbing tech overlords, who am I to protest?

So, what’s next for Treasure Mammal? More music videos? Tour? Upcoming Shows dates? Expanding the stage show to include pyrotechnics?

TM: We will be performing the new and improved Tiny Town Times release show at St. Charles Tavern in Tucson on July 7th. The Tiny Town Times is a hand made quarterly publication created at Tanline Printing in Tucson that features the work of local writers and artists in Tucson and beyond. I’m excited about that for sure…

We also have a tour coming up in late July / Early August with Glob.

We have a new song/ video in the works called “Team Work.” I specifically made this song to debut the Multi Suit that our band member Audra Carlisle has created. The Multi Suit is a spandex suit that can fit four people simultaneously. The suit is connected at the hip and is in the shape of a circle. The people that are inside of the suit can either face inward or outward. I am working on having these available for custom orders and I would like to include activities to partake in while you have the suit in your possession.

As far as pyrotechnics during the show goes…. I’d like to see Ryan Stephenson burn his pubic hair while we perform but nothing more than that…

~

9 Ways to Be Happier as an Artist

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

I can’t help noticing that it seems like a lot of people I know have been down in the dumps lately.

So many of the artists in my life seem overworked, underwaged, always tired, &/or battling the beasts of self-doubt and dejection. As a person who always dealt with the perils of depression, I’ve tried to shape out some important realizations that helped me along the way.

I also reached out to #TeamYabYum for some of their suggestions as well.

_

(1) Stop comparing yourself to other people.

Let’s start with the obvious here… Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the theif of joy” and boy-oh-boy was he right. Everyone is on their own path and that path is not necessarily linear. In fact, as an artist, you’re not even on a path. You should be forging a whole new way. You should be out there with the bulrushes and horny toads and that creepy, lurking thing you worry might be the workings of your own mind or it might really be following you. Both are scary and you don’t know which is more frightening.

To be an artist is like committing yourself to a religion in a way (albeit a distinctly different way). You just have to keep moving forward with blind faith that there is meaning in the journey. And, in no circumstance, should you turn your head away from where you are going to see where everyone else is. It will only distract you.

(2) Don’t Anchor Yourself to Depression

I know, I know… the artistic temperament and all that other bullshit we’ve been fed about suffering and depth of expression. But there is a serious issue with romanticizing the Artist’s Nature that has been a detriment to all of us for far too long.

I’ll admit it, depression and mania both carry their own creative force – even if it’s just channeling out the flurry in your brainspace. And, while they feel like they might fan the creative fires, they burn through creative minds. You can’t create art when you can’t get out bed in the morning. Or when you’re dead. If we continue to romanticize mental illness amongst artists, we will continue to lose artists to mental illness.

And, since were being totally honest here, anyone who tells you getting to the other side of depression (or mania) doesn’t impact your creative process is either lying to make the process appear easier at the start or someone who hasn’t really been through the proverbial ringer. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be a better artist once you get to the other side. I certainly feel that once I retrained myself to write without the reliance of manic urges or depressive purges (or drugs) I don’t honestly know what I thought was so special about my earlier work. Maybe it was all that bipolar grandiosity swirling around in my untidy mind that convinced me I could only produce in that state. Depression is, after all, a dirty filthy liar.

Fighting to get a handle on your depression is a worthy struggle. You might not get to the place where you control it, but you can get to a place where it can’t control you. And that, my friends, is a place worth checking out. It won’t be an easy journey, but you won’t lose yourself along the way. And you just might start to unearth some of the richer complexities of your own mind. That could do wonders for your work.

(3) Follow Your Instincts

This suggestion comes to us from Mitchell Hillman and I totally agree. As an artist, you should should trust your gut when pursuing new projects or new directions. Always be open to innovation, but also learn to trust the artistic impulses that drive your creativity.

You can always see what works and what doesn’t when you get to the revision stage (and, yes, there always should be a revision phase), but when new ideas pop up, it’s best to grab hold and run with them.

Some will work and some won’t but you won’t know until you try. And boldly following through on your (non-criminal) creative urges is the surest way to uncover your true voice.

(4) Learn to Take Criticism

This one comes from our infamous YabYucker Chris Nunley and I think it’s important advice for any artist. Part of being an artist is putting your work out for public scrutiny and that means exposing yourself to criticism or, worse, ridicule.

It’s sorta like asking someone out on a date… with a poem… that you have to read out loud… in front of everyone you’ve ever known or ever will know… while standing in your underwear. It can leave you feeling vulnerable.

And then the comments start coming in or crickets (which might be worse). The internet makes everyone feel like their opinion merits sharing and then there are ACTUAL CRITICS who might join the conversation.

There are different ways to navigate the tenuous waters of criticism to save you unnecessary hurt feelings. Here are the two I suggest:  (1) Use the constructive points of criticism to improve your work. Maybe someone will bring up some valuable critiques that you can use to make your next undertaking even better. If you don’t agree with the assessment, dismiss it outright. Fuck everyone else. (2) Totally ignore the criticism. Don’t read the comments. Know you put your best foot forward and you’ll keep striving to do even better next time. That’s really all you can do. Fuck everyone else.

(5) You Don’t Have to be a Hustler

We live in the era of the Artist-Hustler. I suppose, really, if you take a look at history, artists have a history of hustling. Troubadours trading tales for board, poets seeking patrons, painters selling portraits… it’s a tale as old as time.

Now fast forward to the 21st Century where there’s the internet in every home (not really) and social media to provide artists direct access to potential fans everywhere. Where does one draw the line between self-promotion and self-debasement? Everyone is telling artists they have to sell themselves in order to sell their work.

You can say to hell with that. Maybe you were born with that hustler-style and you want to make it big anyway you can. I get that. I roll that way, but plenty of folx don’t feel the same. But maybe you just want to focus on perfecting your craft and leave the rest to the hands of fate. That’s cool too.

Take a Bob Dylan approach to the business of music and just say no. Maybe you’ll be limiting your chances of breaking big. Or maybe investing the time into being the best artist you can be will serve you better than a thousand networking hours. Who can say? And, more importantly, who fucking cares? We’re all rolling the dice here. You have to decide for yourself where you want to put your energy.

(6) Self Care is Product Development

You probably know all the types. There’s the Bathroom Breakdown type and  the I’m-Too-Big-for-this-Gig. There’s the type that disappears for a few days/weeks and sends the internet into a flurry (aka The Andrew Jemsek) and then there’s the type that builds it all up until they have a complete psychological breakdown on Facebook.

The thing is, life is hard. Making music is also hard and, oftentimes, thankless. And, if we’re being totally honest here, the world’s been a bit of a shitshow lately. It wears you down.

If you need to unplug for a few days, do it. If you need to skip a friend’s gig to catch up on some sleep, tell them you’ll make it out next time. If you need to lock yourself away in your bedroom for a few days and channel your feelings into some new songs, go for it.

Tell everyone you’re working on self-care in the name of product development. That’ll make you seem like you’re working toward a goal rather than slacking off. And that’s exactly what you’re doing. So, everyone calm down, Andrew will turn on his phone when he’s damn well ready.

(7) Know You’re on a Path Without End

The above statement sounds a little ominous, but it’s important for artists to recognize that they are on a journey that will last the course of their lives. True artists are always seeking to better their work.

And that is sort of inherently depressing. If you’re always seeking improvement, it means that every time you take a step forward, the work of your past feels lesser than what you are capable of. It’s a harsh cycle, but an important one.

It’s important to find a way to come to peace with yourself and your personal development as an artist. If you are continually looking to move forward, don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re not exactly where you feel you should be.

You’ll never get there. And, what’s more, you should never want to get there. Not really. Every time you attain new mastery, it’s time to move the bar again. The journey is the destination.

(8) Support Other Artists

Community-building is an important part of any artistic approach to the world. This is because artists are different. They place value on different things and fill their “free time” with different pursuits. And for this reason, as anyone with a family of “Normies” can tell you, artists tend to feel very isolated.

It’s important to seek out others like you so you have a support system that understands the things you hold sacred. The best way to do this is to head out into the world and find others like you.

Go to art shows or concerts and meet other people in the larger world who can appreciate the struggles and joys of the #ArtistLife. You might make connections that can help you find new opportunities to showcase your own work, but, more importantly, you might make some friends who are committed to their creative endeavors, just like you.

A little mutual support goes a long way toward making a “scene” feel like a family.

 (9) Know Thyself

This is the most important axiom. Probably of all time. Not only will understanding the inner workings of your mind improve your work, it can improve your life. Know what upsets your delicate internal balances and, more importantly, WHY.

Maybe crowds make you anxious. Maybe vodka evokes your inner anger. Maybe you get sad when the weather changes. Whatever your thing(s) is, know it and own it. That’s the only way you can manage it.

Spend time in the confines of your own mind and start charting your character. If the terrain becomes too treacherous, seek out a friend or professional therapist to be your Virgil as you ascend the levels of Hell.

The more you understand about yourself, the further you can delve in that self-exploration in your work. That sounds like a win-win.

~

5 Club-Ready POP Singles

Whissell

“Legs Crossed”

Whissell doesn’t really deliver the sound we’d expect from a Nashville act, but we’re digging her pensive brand of power pop. “Legs Crossed” combines bourbon-smooth vocals and radio-ready production that will turn your relational rage into a #GrrrlPower moment. Communication is the best means to a healthy romance and Whissell is here to remind us that sometimes you just gotta hash that shit out with a real convo. Give “Legs Crossed” from Whissell a listen below or head here for your own download of the single.

CASPR

“Crazy”

CASPR takes one part brooding electropop, one part lithe vocals, and two heaping spoonfuls of slick sass on his new dance single, “Crazy”. The L.A.-based singer-songwriter teamed up with producer Danen Reed for a club-ready hit that you’ll want to save those serious moves for. I’m talking the slow moves that require as much face as hips. Take “Crazy” for a spin below and then head here to score that digi-download.

W I N C H E S T E R

“Throw It Down”

Coming from the indie/electro side of the pop spectrum, we have W I N C H E S T E R and their new single, “Throw It Down”. Despite the annoying spacing of their band name, we’re definitely down with the luminous energy and vibrant sounds of this Toronto duo. Bandmates Lauren Austin and Monty de Luna share vocal responsibilities with matched radiance. Take “Throw It Down” for a spin below or head here to add the single to your summer jam playlist.

Whethan

“Love Gang”

Whethan’s latest single features the sultry vocal stylings of Charli XCX for a club-ready banger. Whethan is the moniker of Chicago’s Ethan Snoreck creates some stylish beats even if the lyrics are a little confusing at times (see lyric video here). I think the important message to take away is that love is good. Sometimes a little pop-inspired incoherence can really make for a stellar singalong song. Score that digi-download here, but you can preview “Love Gang” from Whethan below first…

Neo Noir

“When I Was Young”

The “LA based Future Music collective” known as Neo Noir combines the talents of Bradley Allan and Greg Ogan, but they invited vocalist Brooke Williams to join them on their new single, “When I Was Young”. Neo Noir throws in some future bass permutations into their soundscape on this single which was released through the Trap Nations label Lowly Palace back in April.  Give the single a listen below or head here for the digi-download.

For the Record: Prophecy by The Stakes

stakes prophecy 01by Mark Anderson
Senior Editor

After years, the wait is finally over. The Stakes, Phoenix’s premiere live hiphop band, have released their debut full-length album, Prophecy.

And believe you me, the album was worth the wait. To quote a friend, “this shit is fire right here.”

After years of gigging here in Phoenix and all around the state, The Stakes have formed a solid line-up of “self-made rappers, university-educated performers, cover artists, and lifelong gospel musicians” for a roster that truly does impress.

Marah Armenta (vocals), Lord Kash (emcee), Zeedubb (emcee), Ben Scolaro (piano), Luis Martinez (guitar), Paul McAfee (Moog synthesizer – droppin’ those fat basslines), and Kevin Phillips (drums) form the core group but the addition of Alan Acosta & Tyler Bauer on saxophone and Jimmy Barrios & Danny Torgerson on trumpet add an extra cool dimension to the Stakes smooth sound on Prophecy.

“5 Minutes of Gold” opens the album and I honestly can’t argue with that song title at all. Luis’ guitar is soon joined by Ben’s keys and then the vocals pop in and Kevin’s drums and then >BOOM!< Stendhal syndrome takes full effect.

The hits keep coming with “Then And Now”, Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and the title track, “Prophecy”.

With an intro featuring Amber Tabares, “Blue Jean Grey” opens the Stakes into some of their best, experimental arenas yet while “Crosseyed”, their excellent Michael Jackson cover of “I Can’t Help It” and “Requiem” prove the Stakes are the best at what they do.

Closing track, “Unified”, features I-Dee and is a straight head-banger. Make sure to stay tuned for that secret track too…

The Stakes took some time out their day to answer a few questions I had about the new album, their contemporaries, and what’s next for one of the hardest-working bands in town.

Mark Anderson: Prophecy is a couple years in the making right? Did any songs change over the course of making it? Please describe the feeling of being finished with and releasing it to all the long-time Stakes fans!

Ben Scolaro: We are truly grateful to all the Stakes fans who have followed us over the last 4 and a half years. So much has changed as we’ve developed our sound. Not to mention the world around us has influenced our direction.

Take the title track, “Prophecy.” When we first started writing that song 4 years ago, it was inward-looking, about personal triumph. However, with the rise of Trump and White Nationalism, we rewrote some of the lyrics and added samples at the beginning, transforming it into a call to action against the running narrative, or “prophecy”.

Our focus is to constantly improve, so our songs evolve over time.

Paul McAfee: Absolutely. The songs have generally kept the the same structure, but the groove, feel, textures, riffs, etc. change a little bit each time. This is inevitable when every member of the group is so open and creative.

What is the Stakes songwriting process like? Does one of you come up with a main progression and everyone else elaborates? Or maybe you guys just jam and things develop themselves?

Ben: All of the above. Our greatest strength is our diversity as a group — we’ve got the full spectrum from completely self-taught to university-studied musicians, which allows us to approach songwriting from every direction.

Paul: Sometimes we just jam and develop a song as a group. Maybe somebody starts with a 4 or 8 bar groove and everyone joins in and develops their own contribution. Some of the more intricate songs were thoroughly written by a single band member, but sometimes the structure or feel is edited by the group depending on what makes sense for the vocalists and lyrics.

I consider you guys a pretty unique band but maybe I’m wrong in the sense that there may be more out there than I realize. Is there a solid hiphop/jazz/funk scene here in the Valley in your opinion? To me, your only contemporaries here seem to be House of Stairs!

ZeeDubb: I’m not a native of Phoenix but I know that it has a pretty rich history of underground rap bands through the years. I know Drunken Immortals are still going hard. When The Stakes had started, the only other band mixing in jazz was The Brother Cosmos, but they broke up.

Currently there’s The Color 8, Nick Perkins Band, Ramses II, House of Stairs, The Geibral Elisha Movement, Deliyonne & Hudson… trust me, the fusion of hip-hop and other genres with live instrumentation is alive in Phoenix and The Stakes are honored to be in the forefront.

The scene is here, the promoters just have to catch up, or we’ll do it for them.

stakes 01Could you delve into the idea behind the album title some? I’m picturing multiple layers here…

Ben: Since you asked for layers…

Layer 1 — The Idea

It’s easy to fall into the trap of passively watching things happen, like a “prophecy” unfolding. But the future is not written; we all play a part in creating it, whether by acting or failing to act.

Layer 2 — The Image

Our actions today do become a type of prophecy for future generations by creating the world they will inherit. That’s why the album art features children — because their future is at stake in our actions today (that’s Lord Kash’s son on the cover).

Layer 3 — The Action

After the election last November, we found ourselves asking what we can do to help shape the future for the better. That’s why we’re collecting signatures at our shows to stop the expansion of Arizona’s private school vouchers.

This expansion would take money from public education and give it to wealthy people who send their kids to private school (you can read all about it at sosarizona.org). We’re part of a state-wide effort to put a referendum on the ballot so voters can reject this law. We’ve collected more than 70 signatures and will have more petitions at our shows until Aug. 1. If you come through, PLEASE take a moment to sign.

Paul: For me, Prophecy fulfills a top criterion: it sounds cool and mysterious.

Ben: That too.

I love the “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” cover. Is there a story behind that song getting picked to be covered?

ZeeDubb: It’s funny because we were suppose to do a full reggae show but only had time to crank out, maybe 3 reggae tunes, and “Master Blaster” stuck. Marah picked the song cause she loves Stevie with her heart and soul. You can really feel the purpose of the original lyrics when she sings it.

Paul: When we jammed on the groove, Kash dropped a killer verse with a flow that developed beautifully. We often work with a horn section, and I felt inspired to write horn parts for this song in particular.

What’s in store for the Stakes? Do you guys already have new songs in the works? Where would you like to see the band go from here both literally and figuratively?

Paul: We have old and new songs that haven’t been recorded yet, probably enough for an EP. We want to continue to write new songs until we have more than enough to select for for a new LP. We will be working on a music video soon and continue to keep the visibility up and play shows. My personal dream would be to open for the Roots.

ZeeDubb: In 2017 you’re going to see more videos, more loosies and singles, and another EP or album. Collaborations with other bands, musicians and artists are in the works. We have a lot of ideas and plans to execute. Some I wouldn’t share for the sake of the surprise.

Is there any thing else about Prophecy or the Stakes that you would like us to know about that I failed to ask?

Marah: It’s finally out now! Available on iTunes, as well as our website, TheStakesMusic.com, where you can see all of our upcoming shows.

~

For more info on The Stakes, check their Facebook page. Catch them live at A Stoneypie Pool Party with Paper Foxes, Haze that Saxy Rapper, Mr. UU, The Psychedelephants, Hostile Work Environment, the Bittersweet Way, De Leon & the Desert Beats Saturday July 1 at 4 PM.

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