Artist Spotlight: Lauren Ruth Ward

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

I have a thing for Lauren Ruth Ward. It’s not like a sexual thing; it’s definitely a music thing. However, the feeling is so intense that the previous statement might not make it any less uncomfortable at this point.

Now, the first time I heard Lauren Ruth Ward perform “Did I Offend You” on Sofar Sounds, I was stunted into an ineffable state which, as a writer, is a terrible condition to be in. Nevertheless, when I heard that she would be releasing the track as a single in prelude to her forthcoming album, I jumped at the chance to tackle the block and find the right words to express my newfound music obsession.

I had the opportunity to chat with Ward after she returned home to Los Angeles after SXSW about her new single, life in Los Feliz, and the new LP that looms on the horizon.

But, before I get too carried away, why don’t you check out “Did I Offend You” so it can play while we continue our discussion…

So I had to seriously examine this burgeoning love I feel for the music of LRW. I mean, is it her voice? Ward possesses this stunning voice capable of breaking your heart in one verse and then sending you soaring with the very next. In fact, the emotive power of her vocal delivery had me wondering if this wasn’t some theatrical training secretly shining through in her musical performances.

So, during out chitchat, I made sure to ask about the performative aspects of her work. Much to my own surprise, Ward seemed surprised herself by the question and, in the conversation that followed, I realized that emotional charge that hits the listener when they hit PLAY is not the result of some crafted stage show. Her music is raw and real and intensely revealing. Therein lies the power.

Photos by Matt Sternberg

While this is certainly a focal point of my affection, it’s not just Ward’s voice that really stands out for me. That’s just the bright red cherry on top of the swirled and sprinkled sundae. There are some serious style choices being made here that really make the music compelling.

Lately, we (at YabYum) have been noticing a revivalist push brewing for that earthy folk rock of the 70s. Ward’s introduction to music, like many Millennials, came from her parents’ record players. That meant classic rock, Motown, and disco. I had a similar musical introduction myself.  I remember fierce femmes of the era, like Linda Rondstadt and Bonnie Raitt and Heart, blaring from those tube amplifiers while my mom did her dance-and-clean routine around the living room. A routine, I might add, that I continue to this day in my own home.

The music of Lauren Ruth Ward brings the best parts of 70s folk rock into the present. Her songs are revitalized rock; merging vintage and modern elements into one fresh sound.

And, Lauren Ruth Ward’s stylistic sensibility extends well beyond her music to just about everything else she touches. Take, for example, her music video for her last single, “Make Love to Myself”. Ward directed the production herself and even costumed her friends to play their assigned parts. For the setting, she selected the ultra hip Harvard & Stone where both shiny shirts and flipflops (amongst other faux pas fashion choices) are discouraged. Ward’s sharp eye for smart style choices comes through in everything from the cinematography to the shine of her silver boots and those soon-to-be iconic bangs.

“Make Love to Myself” was my first introduction to Lauren Ruth Ward, but “Did I Offend You” was the single that took our relationship from it’s-complicated to fully committedI was totally taken aback to discover that this was the first song she penned with her songwriting partner, and “right-hand man,”  Eduardo Rivera.

Over the course of the three minute track, Lauren Ruth Ward moves from an unnerving vulnerability to showing her mettle of steel and sand. “Did I Offend You” is the second single from LRW’s new album which, rumor has it, is due to be released later this summer. Hopefully, Ward has another single (or maybe a music video) to help tide fans over until they can secure their copy of the full release.

And I certainly plan on being at that release show. Los Angeles is just a short desert-filled hop from Phoenix and Lauren already filled me in on every place I need to stop while I’m in town starting with Gracias Madre in West Hollywood for, and I quote, “The best, spiciest margaritas you ever put in your mouth.”

Afterward, she suggested a hike to Griffith Observatory or maybe some thrift shopping in the Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A. at SquaresVille. And, in case you  haven’t yet checked out her music videos yet, a thrift store recommendation from Lauren Ruth Ward is worth its weight in gold.

If you love “Did I Offend You” like I love the song, you’ll want to be at that release show too. We’ll keep you posted on that development as we learn more. Until then, make sure you spend some time with the music of Lauren Ruth Ward. I might be totally obsessed, but I’m not the jealous type. I’m willing to share.

~

 

For the Record: Kinship by The Wanda Junes

wanja junes 01by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

The Wanda Junes journeyed up from Tucson to record a new album at Fivethirteen Recording in Tempe and the band carried the feel of that dusty desert divide they traversed straight into the studio. Kinship, much like its title suggests, has a familial, kitchen-table atmosphere. The album sounds like a bunch of old friends (of really talented, musician-type friends) hanging out while hashing out some tunes.

The singing (and songwriting) duties get passed around the table which only adds to the communal feel of this recording. One person tells a story and then the next recounts a tale. From the rambling ballad “Green Pastures” to the wry look at acceptance offered on the album’s closer, “I’m Home”, Kinship offers listeners a storybook of Americana.

I find I’m rather taken with the bittersweet sound of “For Now”, but Kinship glows with an interior warmth from beginning to end. There are moments of humor and sorrow and joy to be uncovered in the homespun stories of The Wanda Junes.

The album was released through Baby Tooth Records on limited edition cassette tape last month.

I’m just starting to wonder… do you have to play an instrument to hang out with The Wanda Junes’ crew? I mean, can you just bring some snacks to share and take it all in? I suppose I’m willing to take the next best thing: hanging out at my own damn kitchen table with the music of The Wanda Junes. You can do the same. There are still some copies of that limited edition cassette available so head here to score your copy.

I had the opportunity to ask Bobby Carlson of The Wanda Junes about the new album, communal songwriting, and what this Tucson band has in the works next. Check out our chat below. But, first, take a gander at the new album, Kinship. 

YabYum: Quite a cast of players you’ve gathered. How did The Wanda Junes join forces for the greater musical good?

Bobby Carlson: It hasn’t been the smoothest process. And not the most exciting tale.

I moved from Flagstaff to Tucson in June of 2012 to start the Wanda Junes with Steve Soloway. We had already begun sending recordings to each other and when Steve recruited Jesus Robles, we had a set of songs and he fit right in. A year later, we had our first album Factory Plaza finished, Jesus had bailed, and Steve set off to Maine to start his family.

The band actually played a “last” show and had every intention of breaking up. By then, we’d picked up Thom Plasse and Jeff Henderson, and, at some point, the three of us decided to just keep going, or to try, at least. We played one show as an acoustic-ish trio, but by then Adam Frumhoff, an old friend from Flagstaff had joined, and we had recruited Karima Walker soon after as well. That was just to play banjo. How little we knew!

We recorded half of Hi Fi Record Album and then Allison McGillivray joined and she helped us finish it (she actually introduced us to Karima). Later, Karima quit, and we got Nathan Fenoglio. We recorded Kinship and Allison quit to go save the world from nuclear annihilation, and Nathan quit to save his world. My old roommate, Tony Ballz moved in with me, and naturally into the band. When Allison and Nathan left, we were demoralized and unsure of what was going to happen. We got writing and things currently feel solid, like a car commercial with a Bob Seger soundtrack…

I noticed that the band makes the trek to Tempe to record over at Fivethirteen. We love that studio but I’d like to know what keeps you coming back?

Well, we love it too. I was introduced to Catherine through Abe Gil and Owen Evans, separately and together, when I still lived in Flagstaff, and it’s been my go-to spot ever since. I get the impression that they like working with us. I wish we had the budget to just have a standing weekend with them every other month or something. The recordings that I’ve done there, if I’m unhappy with anything, it’s either with my songwriting or the performances. It’s always on my end. At this point, it’s really comfortable, which when you’re recording, is pretty important. I’m perfectly happy making this entire interview a testimonial for Fivethirteen.

Songwriting and vocal duties seem to be shared amongst the band members. I would imagine that lends to the sense of camaraderie. Is that the result? Does the band feel more like a gathering of friends than perhaps other bands you might have played with?

It is a gathering of friends, which is the only way I’ve ever done it.(Somehow it’s still stressful at times.) I’m not a good enough player to do it any other way. The result, we all hope, is a better record, and a better live show. Nothing more exciting than white dudes playing guitars, am I right?

Can you tell me a little about how the band approaches songwriting? Does it vary per person?

It does vary. Adam and I are the two main songwriters right now, and the process is a little bit different with each song. But the songs are arranged by the band, and it’s pretty rare for there to be a lot of notes from the songwriter when we’re all writing our parts. The strongest songs, or our favorites at least, have been ones with the heaviest collaboration, which is good news for all those co-ops and communists out there.

What’s next for the band? Writing new songs? Shows? Tour? Music video? Please tell us all the things.

We’re playing some shows around Arizona, trying to put this Kinship album on all the top ten lists. We’d love to release the album on more formats. We’re recording at Midtown Island [in Tucson] at the end of April. (We still love you, Catherine!) We’re thinking that will be the beginning of our next thing–either as a single or several [singles], and/or the beginning of the new album. We just stay focused on songwriting and we hope the rest takes care of itself.

~

Date Night with the Arizona Theatre Company

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

The weather’s warming up and, for Arizonans, that often means hibernation season is almost upon us. But, we at YabYum say NAY to that. Instead, we’re going to start offering you some cool locales to check out until it’s safe to venture outdoors once again. To kick things off, we went to Downtown Phoenix for the Arizona Theatre Company’s production of Albatross at the Herberger Theater.

DeSoto Central Marketdate night 01

Of course, under the pretense of “Date Night” I insisted we start with dinner at DeSoto Central Market. This really should be the date spot, especially for those couples who a prone to bickering when deciding where to go for dinner (see Couples Fight). Contained within DeSoto’s inviting sprawl is a foodie haven where vendors provide an array of options, from burgers and contemporary Southern cuisine to Latin American-Asian fusion, an oyster bar, and more. I opted for the delightful fresh (and locally sourced) offerings of RADISH, and not just because they had a cold-pressed juice called Citrus Clouds (see Citrus Clouds, the band). But, I’m certainly not going to say that wasn’t part of my decision making process.

DeSoto Central Market is a great place to stay and relax for a long evening with good company. Cocktails, craft beer, and coffee can all be found on site so you can grab a table (or a couch) and really settle in. But, on this particular evening, we were off to the Herberger Theater to catch the ATC’s production of Albatross

date night 02Arizona Theatre Company

And, just in case you’re wondering, the albatross of the title is that albatross. The one you were probably forced to read about in high school. I, for one, love Coleridge and his great epic, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but I know I’m that annoying person in your lit class that read the suggested reading list over summer break, like, the entire list.

So when I learned that two clever playwrights had taken Coleridge’s poem and transformed it into a one-man, one-act play, I was excited. My companion for the evening, and fellow YabYum editor, was not quite as excited about the prospect. Turns out, he was in for quite a surprise. Benjamin Evett, as that ill-fated mariner, captivated the audience with his tale of anguish and adventure and then more anguish with some laughter thrown in for good measure.

Albatross continues through this weekend if you’re still hashing out your itinerary. You might want to leave the kiddos at home for this one, however. That sailor swears like a sailor. The Arizona Theatre Company has two more shows left of their 2016/17 Season and both look like real gems: Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash and a Holmes & Watson mystery. I suggest looking into them.

The Grand Central Coffee Companydate night 03

Of course, Albatross left our small party feeling contemplative so we went to The Grand Central Coffee Company which might be my new favorite place in Phoenix. The Grand, as the regulars call it, was designed to emulate “an old Victorian train station” in direct opposition to the “present day dystopia”. In addition to the coffee mentioned in their official title, The Grand boasts a full bar. How cool is that? Rumor has it, The Grand will soon be opening their kitchen and extending their already extensive hours of operation to the full 24/7. Yes, folks, Phoenix might finally get a real open-all-night coffee shop.

~

Don’t be a stick in the mud and hide from the sun all summer by yourself. Get out there and engage the world around you. And there are some pretty sweet air-conditioned spots that beckon you to explore the city. Be bold.

3 Awesome New Albums for Desert-Dwellers

desert-dweller 00by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Howe Gelb

The Open Road – Arizona Amp & Alternator

Singer-songwriter Howe Gelb is practically synonymous with the Tucson sound: something a little dusty and desolate. Back in February, Gelb released the aptly-titled album, The Open Road – Arizona Amp & Alternator, which offers fans a collection of singles and sketches reaching back over the past five years.

The Open Road kicks off with the title track opening the album which will bring a flush of the familiar for fans as that distinctively ambling alt-folk fills your ears. As far as favorites from the release goes, I love the noir vibe of “five star hotel” but I’m also quite taken with the closing track’s yarn about a gal called “jane by any other name”.  And, I can’t count out “left of center” which features Lonna Kelley as the guest vocalist.

Even the instrumentals on this album are wonderfully vivid; merging jazz-lounge ambiance with a bit of the beer’n’burlesque feel of the Wild West. This album meanders with surprising grace given that the tracks were pieced together over a such extended period. Then again, it’s in no way surprising if you’re familiar with Gelb’s extended body of work not only as a performer but also as a producer. As the weather moves toward sweltering, this is the perfect album to sink into in its entirety on those listless evenings spent waiting for the sun to set.

Robin Vining

Is There Someone for Everyone?

Phoenix songwriter and musician Robin Vining of Sweetbleeders fame released a collection of stripped down songs last month. Is There Someone for Everyone? really shows off Vining’s strengths as a songwriter and composer, moving from sprightly sea ballads to melodic musings on the nature of love. Each song stands on its own accord without a single instance of the filler I too often find on other albums.

There’s no picking a favorite song for me here.  The piano-driven title track feels like the perfect rainy day song while the intentionally sparse and powerfully desperate “Temptation” begs for repeated listens. And I do love the Western amble of “Watch Where You Step”. The trademark pliancy of Vining’s vocals come through in high shine on tracks throughout the album, particularly on “Wild at Heart” and “Ice Floes”. Bascially, music-lovers, you just need this album in your life.

Is There Someone for Everyone? is available for preview and purchase through Bandcamp, but the official release date is next month in Phoenix. More information on that event here.

The Lonesome Wilderness

Lush

The Lonesome Wilderness dropped their much-anticipated EP, Lush, at The Rogue in January and we were on hand to help celebrate the occasion. Lush offers up five tracks of desert garage rock that ignores any presumed division between alt and indie.

The EP opens with “Karma” which feels like it holds all the spiritual insight of a really great acid trip. The somber, and slightly sullen, “Alright” delivers just the right amount of angst before the energy gets turned up for illicit tale of “Murder in Chicago”.

The texturing gets downright trippy on “Stay Out of the Sun” but the band doesn’t rely on those extended post-rock tangents to fill out the EP. Although there are those moments too, this band has a Western sensibility that rises to the surface of their sound, even when the rocknroll comes in without all the textural flourishes usually found in over-abundance on “desert garage rock” releases. They keep things crisp, even when it gets fuzzy. “Nico”, the almost 5-minute closing track, is my late-to-the-game favorite from Lush. There’s a very “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”, folk-rock feel that gives way to modern modes of song construction (or Deconstruction).

As much as I love Lushthere’s nothing quite like the way The Lonesome Wilderness turns their tracks into a post-rock soup at their live performances. So, after you spend sometime with Lush, make sure you add The Lonesome Wilderness to your “Acts to See Live” list (we all have those, right?) if you haven’t done so already. Listen to Lush below…

When In AZ: Round TWO!!

Photo by Kyla F. Borders

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Back in 2009, for those of you who don’t remember, a major moment in Arizona music history took place – the When in AZ compilation came to life. More than fifty Arizona acts covering favorite tracks from other Arizona musicians are featured on this one massive collection that has persisted in the hearts and minds of local listeners, elevating the compilation above that of mere ephemera to a lasting marker of both time and place.

I mean, on When in AZ. Volume 1, you have a Yellow Minute recording of “Dot Dot Dot” which was a What Laura Says song, Lonna Kelley covering Treasure Mammal’s “Everybody’s A Winner”, The Liars Handshake performing AJJ’s “Let’s Get Murdered”, Black Carl covering Kinch, Fatigo, Colorstore, Truckers on Speed, Back Ted N-Ted, Kirkwood Dellinger, Courtney Marie Andrews, Gospel Claws, Former Friends of Young Americans… Gah! I’d better stop before this gets weird. You just have to check out Volume 1 for yourself here.

But we’re not here to talk about what happened way back when. Phoenix musician Nick Kizer, the man-behind-the-movement who provided the organizational force to get this project off the ground all those years ago, is ready to do it all over again.

That’s right, folks. When in AZ. Volume 2 is getting underway this year.

The When in AZ project not only offers musicians the opportunity to pay tribute to their favorite locally-penned songs, but it’s also a way of introducing their sound to new audiences. And, the entire endeavor is a not-for-profit effort that donates proceeds from the project to local children’s charities. So it’s good music and for a good cause. That’s our favorite combo.

And now, it’s time for a disclaimer. We, at YabYum, are part of the organizing effort for When in AZ – the 2017 edition – not for any monetary gain but because we think this project is pretty rad. We covered the first compilation back in ’09 and we watched it live on as a memento of the artists that make the wondrously vivid and diverse music scene of Arizona.

Along with our senior editorial team (me’n Mark), Nick will be joined this time ’round by Sarah Ventre of KJZZ and Girls Rock Phoenix, music writer and cultural phenomena Mitchell Hillman, musician Erick Pineda of Citrus Clouds, and audio-engineer Jalipaz of Audioconfusion, who will be offering a special rate for artists looking to record a single at the studio for the compilation.

Now, you’re hopefully starting to wonder how to get involved with When in AZ, Round Two.

Well, if you live in Arizona, just record a cover of another Arizonan’s song: past or present. Keep in mind, you’ll need to ask that artist for permission. Then send it in (to wheninaz@gmail.com). That’s it. That’s the genius of Kizer’s project. It captures the NOW of Arizona music in a fresh way and without subjecting entries to a “review board” to select the “best” which usually just means a few people picking out their favorites. [ Disclaimer 2: We’re not pointing fingers. We, at YabYum, openly acknowledge picking favorites. It’s called being a critic.]

If your band (or you) record a cover and send it in, we’ll include it. Now, before any troll decides they can exploit that previous statement to an annoying personal end, we reserve the right to not let you muck it up for the rest of us. All joking aside though, When in AZ seeks to encapsulate music in this place, at this time, so we want to hear from all you splendid music-makers that share this desert state.

When in AZ mastermind Nick Kizer took some time to answer a few questions about the project to help give folks a better idea of where it came from and where it’s going.

when in az new 1YabYum: What first inspired you to start When In AZ?

Nick Kizer: In 2009, when I was a younger dude and more active in the music scene with my band, Babaluca, we would often “shoot the shit” with other musicians after gigs. We were always talking about how AZ talent would leave the state for LA or New York once reaching a certain level of popularity. The concept was intended to be a snap shot of the scene at the time, hence the title, “When in AZ”.

Please tell us a little about the first compilation? How many artists appeared on it? When was it released? Did other people help you pull it all together?

The compilation was open to any AZ musician who wanted to cover a song by another AZ musician or band. It was a novel idea and the largest Arizona-based music compilation at the time. There were 50+ artists that recorded songs for When in AZ. The 2009 release was followed up with a multi-venue showcase at local spots such as Trunk Space, Rhythm Room, Modified Arts and Hard Rock Cafe. All proceeds from sales of the compilation and the shows went to music based charities for children’s programs in need of instruments.

I received so much help from other musicians, venue owners, local audio engineers, and media. A big shout out to my friend Laci Lester who helped me put together the first comp.

It’s been seven years since you put out the compilation. What made you decide to take up the project again?

I have had so many friends and musicians ask me about it over the years. It feels like the right time to make it happen again and I think I have a good group of people working on it with me. It’s going to be epic.

Please tell us a little about the review process for submissions (or lack thereof) so artists looking to submit have an idea about what they should expect.

Similar to the first comp, I invite any Arizona-based musician to participate. In the first compilation we received a lot of rock and electronic submission. We are interested in expanding genres for this volume. No one who submitted last time was rejected. I think that made it very special.

So, what are the basic guidelines for artists looking to submit?

The main requirement is that they get permission from the artist they want to cover. That is pretty easy. From there they recorded the cover song by any means they have. We are working with Audioconfusion recording studio to make an affordable/quality option for artists that need help. We will also master the compilation once all the songs are received. The deadline to submit a song is August 1st.

You booked some pretty ambitious shows to celebrate the launch of the first compilation. Do you plan on hosting similar events for the reboot?

The shows are an important part of When in AZ. We will probably do something similar at multiple venues around town or maybe a festival this time around. Details are still being worked out. All I know is it is going to be fun.

Submissions are now open.

LINKS:

Facebook

Bandcamp

when in az vol 1

For the Record: Don’t Let It Be by Playboy Manbaby

for the record pbmb

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

So, I’ve been a Playboy Manbaby fan since the band’s inception or, at least, since their very first show. And, as I’ve stated before, they keep getting better with every single album they put out (which is really saying something considering the band has been consistently putting out music since 2012).

I’m not bragging when I claim to have loved the Manbabies since they were Babybabies. I’m just trying to qualify the following statement: their new album really is their best album ever, hands down.

Playboy Manbaby will release Don’t Let it Be this coming weekend at The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix. This much-anticipated follow-up to 2014’s Electric Babyman contains 11 feisty tracks that mark real growth for the band, musically speaking.

The songs on Don’t Let it Be are refined in a way we haven’t heard before from the punk-funk outfit. They go beyond the raw explosiveness of earlier releases to carefully constructed songcraft. And they do so without sacrificing that savage emotional force that made them a crowd favorite early on.

Don’t Let it Be kicks of with “You Can Be a Fascist Too” – the first single off the album which was released just in time for that inauspicious inauguration. Then the second track, “Last Man Standing”, highlights the band’s horns section – David Cosme (trumpet) and Ricky Smash (sax and we know that’s not your real name) – before “Bored Broke & Sober” takes over. “Cadillac Car” is already to be a crowd favorite and is in contention for personal favorite from the album along with the apocalyptic “I’m So Affluent” and the super rambunctious number, “White Jesus”.

The album bears the mark of maturation, not just in the lyrics, but in the instrumentation as well. The orchestration is thoughtful, impeccably timed, and, well, rowdy as fuck.

Robbie Pfeffer, lyricist and vocalist, has a reputation for being a blitzkrieg onstage. Offstage, however, he’s the guy that will pet your dog and ask about your mother. Rather than suggesting that these are two separate and oppositional expressions, I’m putting forth the argument that Pfeffer is the quintessential example of the much-maligned millennial. He’s the meta-millenial. Kind-hearted, community-focused, and facing a world that keeps threatening collapse with a can-do attitude. The existential angst runs high in these young ones, but that’s not going to stop them from cold-crushing outdated conventions with their dad-staches and second hand clothes. They were born to rage against the dying of the light. That mixture of humor and personal fortitude comes through in the lyrics on this album in high shine.

If you go in for the riled-up cross-genre style of music Playboy Manbaby has become known for over the years, Don’t Let It Be might be you’re favorite album this year. You’ll laugh. You’ll dance. You might call your boss and quit your job so it might be best to hide your phone before smashing that play button. This album has that fury in equal measure to that signature Playboy Manbaby humor.

In keeping with the “For the Record” tradition, I had the chance to ask Robbie Pfeffer some questions about the album, the impending release show, and what’s next for Playboy Manbaby.

YabYum: Let’s start with all the details. Where did you record the album? Who helped out?

Robbie Pfeffer: We recorded with Eamon Ford at his old house, then at Chad[Dennis, the drummer]’s house, then at his new house. Lots of different houses. A ton of people have offered me great feedback on this album and helped it become what it is. Also we’re really stoked to have Lolipop and Dirty Water Records help make it a tangible thing!

So, what’s with the title? Do you bear some Beatles’ ill will? 

I think it fits the album pretty well, it kind of sets the tone that this is not going to be a “chill” experience.

With previous releases, the tracks seem a bit more of a cathartic drive. That energy is still very much present on the new album, but it seems like there’s more of a focus on songcraft, both lyrically and instrumentally. Has PBMB shifted their approach to songwriting? Or is this just the natural effects of the maturation that evolves from playing together for several years?

Ever since this band formed we always heard that we are band that doesn’t translate well past the live setting. So we really wanted to make a record that stands on it’s own even if you’ve never seen us. That’s the goal, at least.

On a personal writing level I’m not trying to hide the meaning of what we’re talking about in any way any more. I want to take the most direct path to the point I can find. I really don’t want subjectivity anymore, I want specific meaning. That might change in the future, but for now, that’s how I’m approaching writing.

record 02
Playboy Manbaby – Photo by Peach Girl Photography

One of the things I like most about PBMB is the band’s ability to tap into the current cultural malaise and channel that angst into some sort of purifying flurry. As the principal songwriter for PBMB, would you say that’s an unintended consequence? Or is there some underlying philosophy at work here?

I’m an anxious dude and I try to stay alert to the societal changes around me. Music has been a way for me to work that out without drowning in my own existential dread. Also, I know I’m not the only person who questions what it means to be a person and the dynamics of power that exist in this hyper-active world we live in so if people can know that it freaks me out too, but I’m still trying my best, maybe that’ll be comforting to some people. Really I just want everybody to treat everyone else with a little more empathy and kindness.

It seems like you’re a real nice guy (irl) so my guess is that you just have a real low bullshit tolerance level to manifest the sort of aggression we see onstage. Is there a line for you between the performative persona and the other guy? Or is Playboy Manbaby the place to purge all that aggression so you’re not punching people in the throat? The people want to know.

That’s very kind of you! I really disdain violence of any kind. My hope is that when people are dancing at shows they can respect everyone around them and make sure that while they’re having a good time they’re not ruining anyone else’s good time. Generally people have been really great about this, but in the few instances where it’s gotten out of hand we have no issue stopping a show to make sure everyone gets to enjoy a safe, inclusive environment.

We’re a band of nerds and outcasts and we’re not about to be a platform for macho dudes to beat up on vulnerable people trying to have a good time. If anyone feels uncomfortable at our show for any reason please contact any of us and we will address it immediately without question.

The release show happens this coming weekend and the lineup is pretty stellar. Want to tell the people of the internet what they can expect by way of lineup and location?

I’m super excited about this line-up. We ran into the Thin Bloods dudes on NYE and were excited to hear after they’ve all been scattered across the country and busy with other stuff they happen to be back in Phoenix. We’ve shared a ton of great memories playing with them and they’re one of my all-time favorite bands so that’s fantastic news. Also, super stoked on The Darts, Genre, and Andy Warpigs. All great musicians and great people who bring rad stuff to the community.

What’s next for Playboy Manbaby? Touring? Videos? Sit back and relax for a while as reward for a job well done?

Hopefully, all of the above. We took way too damn long on this record and I never wanna take that long again. We’ve got like 10 new songs that we haven’t recorded and we just wanna make as much art as we can until we collapse.

~

Do not miss the Playboy Manbaby Album Release /// Thin Bloods Reunion show happening Saturday, February 25 at the Trunk Space or you will be so sorry.

3 Chill New Releases You Should Check Out

chill new releases 00by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Max Knouse

Dinasaur from Jensen

If this is an audiobook, it’s the most beautiful audiobook ever.

On Dinasaur from Jensen [sic], Max Knouse seems to follow a bit of the Jeff Mangum/Aeroplane Over the Sea approach to record-making by creating an elaborate and elusive narrative that plays out over the course of the album.

If you try to view the lyrics through the album’s Bandcamp page, you will be rewarded with a single word (a clue perhaps?) rather than the full story. Although Dinasaur from Jensen counts nine tracks, several of those included are brief interludes between full songs.

It was all the way back in 2014 that Max Knouse knocked our socks off with The Hasty Escape (his band) and their album, The Filthier ThingsYou can hear elements of Knouse’s earlier work – that windswept Americana, the entrancing harmonies, the stellar guitarwork – but this new undertaking is a bit stranger and no less engaging. It’s impossible to pick a “favorite song” from the album. Dinasaur from Jensen should be consumed in its entirety in one sitting, not piece by piece. However, I will say that “Bottle Submerged” had some favorite moments for me.

Sink into the strange and wondrous aural experience that is Dinasaur from Jensen below…

Delafaye

The Hilltop

We heard Delafaye’s first single back in November and then we covered his next single the following month. So, of course, we were just about counting down the days until we could hear his complete debut EP.

The Hilltop dropped on January 27th through the British label Street Mission Records and, I must say, Delafaye is the perfect fit for a London label. His music has a somber, English sensibility and he keeps the focus on songwriting at its core; placing authentic expressions of emotion over catchy hooks and substance over glitz.

“Time and Money” opens The Hilltop; a somber, reflective number that I find as comforting as hot coffee on a bone-chilling morning. “Rain” follows and you’ll start accurately assuming that the EP will continue along this meditative path to its conclusion. Delafaye is for those peaceful, pensive moments. “Dreamers”, my personal favorite, comes next before “Thinkin of You” closes out the album.

Just in case you missed those earlier reviews, Delafaye is the musical moniker of Kentucky songwriter Andrew Shockley. Let’s all hope for an Arizona stop on his next tour. That’s a ticket I would purchase.

Until then, you can check out the new single, “Rain”, from The Hilltop by Delafaye below or head to iTunes or Spotify for the complete EP.

Without Youth

Seasons

Despite the hundreds of submissions we receive every week, I still like stumbling around for some heartfelt bedroom indie as a much needed break from the glitzy, production-heavy singles we get flooded with day in, day out.

Without Youth has just that sort of refreshing sound I needed to soothe my PR-weary soul: honest and simple yet poignant. Something more a little more promising than polished. There’s warmth in the four tracks found on Seasons; the duo’s latest EP which came out in January.

“Rooms” opens the EP and establishes a dreamy feel for the rest of the release. Liz Christy’s voice matches that dreaminess with her breathy, almost sleepy, vocal style that shifts from pensive to airy. Devon Hancock is the other half of the musical partnership that is Without Youth. Hancock occasionally joins in singing duties to add casual harmonies on tracks like “Take III” which, btw, is a personal favorite from the EP because of its rich, almost-gritty instrumental texturing. “Between Love and Hate” closes the release with a 5+ minute meditation on, well, love and hate and how one can transform into the other.

If you dig the intimacy of bedroom indie pop, I suggest delving into Seasons from Phoenix’s Without Youth below…

7 Mellow Singles

7 mellow 00Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Fingers and Cream

“Back in Anger”

Fair Warning: the emotional power of this track can sneak up and overwhelm you. “Back in Anger” by Fingers and Cream comes to us from the band’s forthcoming EP, John Lingers, which will be released through Kromatick Records out of Paris. The band attaches the terms “folk rock” and “pop rock” to their sound, but those phrases are far too generic for the uniquely breathtaking subtly of Fingers and Cream’s music.  At just a little over four minutes, I still feel like this track is too short. I want it to continue endlessly. That’s okay, one can always hit repeat. Give “Back in Anger” a listen below…

Holy Fawn

“Dim”

While Holy Fawn does push the “mellow” boundaries on their new single, “Dim”,  the track is just too damn meditative to not fit with list. There is a gently building energy that mounts around the six-minute mark, but not enough to shake the house, just enough to draw you back vivified from the aural soundscape your mind had left to wander. Thick layers of sound, including some unbelievable vocal harmonies, create the distinctive texturing that’s the Holy Fawn signature. “Dim” was released as part of Whelmed Records Holiday Split Vol. 1 which dropped (you guessed it) right before Xmas. Sink into the sounds of Holy Fawn below…

The Bookshop Band

“How Not To Woo A Woman”

So, obviously to those that know me personally, I would cover a band called The Bookshop Band for the name alone. And, true to their moniker, the band embodies a superb storytelling ability and charming folk sound that will put you fireside on a cold and foggy evening in a coastal English cottage. I guess it’s no surprise then to learn that Bath is the town from whence The Bookshop Band came. “How Not To Woo A Woman” is just a sampling of what waits for listeners on the band’s forthcoming album which is set to drop later this month. Until then, enjoy this early single from The Bookshop Band…

Dan Waszay

“Come Down Hard”

New Jersey singer-songwriter Dan Waszay crafts somber folk music that leaves the listener with the sensation of wandering through a dark and unfamiliar dreamscape. On “Come Down Hard”, Waszay writes “about the use of substances to mask feelings of regret and guilt, the eventual come down from the cloud, alive and left to move on.” Despite the gravity of the lyricism, one can feel the resilience of the narrator in the vocals. Dan Waszay sings like one who has been beat down more than once by life and still managed to push through. Take “Come Down Hard” for a spin below…

Kan Wakan

“I Had to Laugh”

Gueorgui Linev is the LA-based Bulgarian-born producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/film composer that performs under the name Kan Wakan. His latest single, “I Had to Laugh”, comes to us from the ambient-electropop side of the mellow wading pool. The vocals of guest singer Rachel Fannan move from wispy to syrupy and back again above a piano-centered musicality. Kan Wakan goes for subtle flourishes when flexing his production muscles on this track, giving the song a touch of whimsy tucked away in the orchestral fullness of the sound. Listen below…

Lee N. Sage

“Pastures”

And, for the second time this week, I prefer the real name to the stage name. Bobby LeSage, who performs under the name Lee N. Sage, has an earthen sound as desolate as the plains of Nebraska. “Pastures”, the opening track from Sage’s debut s/t EP, fully embodies this sound. Give the single a listen below, then head here for Lee N. Sage, the EP.

Kieran O’Brien

“Won’t You”

Oh, the sweet ambient folk of Kieran O’Brien… This Irish lad from Galway shapes out a sound that surrounds the listener in a soothing haze on his single, “Won’t You”. There is a touch of melancholy to the music on the song that pairs well with the wistful vocals. “Won’t You” is the second track from O’Brien’s EP, After the Storm, which came out just a few months back. This song is my personal favorite of the four that appear on the EP so I consider it a worthy introduction to the work of Kieran O’Brien. Check out “Won’t You” below or head here for the full EP.

7 Stellar Singer-Songwriters

stellar singer 00by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Ivory Tusk

“Ripples”

The folk songwriter known as Ivory Tusk enchants listeners on his new single, “Ripples”. This single provides an engaging opening for Ivory Tusk’s recent release, Rising Lights, which came out on Jan. 8th. Ivory Tusk originates from Buenos Aires where he also recorded Rising Lights. His forthcoming release, Zephyr, due out later this year, was recorded in Nashville. Ivory Tusk is planning a European Tour this year, but we at YabYum are hoping still for a Phoenix stop to be added. Last time Ivory Tusk passed through he shared the Trunk Space stage with Justin Moody. Now, that I’d like to see. Until we get those tour dates, enjoy “Ripples” below and then head here to listen to the complete EP.**[See Note Below]

Lea Thomas

“Want for Nothing”

The smoky vocals of Lea Thomas drew me into “Want for Nothing” – the title track from her 2017 album.  Calm but in no way aloof, “Want for Nothing” manages to attain soothing and emotionally tumultuous in the same stanza. Originally from Maui, Thomas is Brooklyn-based these days. There is definitely a citified air to her sound, one more cloudy than sunny. I can get behind that. Check out “Want for Nothing” below and then head here for the complete LP.

Justin Levinson

“Homewrecking Machine”

Justin Levinson applies a 60s slant to contemporary indie pop for a refreshing, summertime sound. This East Coaster definitely has some California vibes buried in his heart of hearts. “Homewrecking Machine” carries some Beatles-esque motifs in the soundscape, including rich harmonies and uplifting energy. The single comes to us from Levinson’s 2017 release, Yes Man, so if you dig what you’re hearing, I suggest procuring the complete album for your personal collection (available here).

George Linton

“That’s Okay My Dear”

I’m totally enamored with the musical stylings of George Linton. This songwriter from the U.K. has a stripped down style that hinges on the storytelling of his songwriting. “That’s Okay My Dear” has a sweet-tempered sound to match its doting lyricism. Definitely spend some time with “That’s Okay My Dear” below. This demo track is a tremendously promising start for young Mr. Linton.

Nilu

“What I’m Looking For”

L.A.-based songbird Nilu offers up this simple and soulful single, “What I’m Looking For”. Only single guitar provides the stripped bare melody over which Nilu’s voice flies. Lithe and powerful, Nilu’s vocals define this track and make it shine. Check out “What I’m Looking For” by Nilu below and then head here to add the single to your own playlists.

Lewis Dalgliesh

“My Bluebird is a Storm Petrel”

Gah! What’s with this British songwriters totally ripping out my heart this week? “My Bluebird is a Storm Petrel” comes to us from Lewis Dalgliesh’s recent release, From a Journal, which was written over a seven month period while the songwriter was driving with companions from London to Cape Town. Yes, folks, driving. And, for those of you who aren’t sure where those places are, look at a goddamn map, you’re embarrassing the rest of us Americans. This single has a wayfaring air and a calm, pensive attitude. Just the sort of thing you would hope might emerge from traveling across the world. Listen to “My Bluebird is a Storm Petrel” below. From a Journal, in its entirety, can be found here.

Swan Levitt

“You Were Human”

Swan Levitt comes to us from Isle of Wight, UK – surprise, surprise. Apparently, it’s Brit Songwriter Day here at  YabYum and no one told me. Whatever. This song, like those that came before it, is a new gem in ancient tradition. “You Were Human” has some real emotive energy and a sci-fi slant, how could I not love that? Levitt goes beyond the guitar-and-vocals combo to add some vibrant but subtle textures that really elevate the track. Take the single for spin a below. The track is also available for your private collection here.

 

**Correction: There was an error in the piece so the original content was changed to reflect the correct information. Our bad.

Booking Basics with Andy Warpigs

andy booking 03
Photo courtesy of Andy Warpigs

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

If you’re a new band starting out, the prospect of landing that first gig can be a little intimidating. Even if you’ve been making the local rounds and are ready to start looking toward furthering your fanbase, a little booking rundown can help you find shows in new area codes. We asked Andy Warpigs – musician, performer, booking guru, and man about town – to help us understand a few of the show-booking basics.

YabYum: So… how did you first getting into booking shows? Was is something you had to learn to do as a musician? You book shows not only as a musician but also as a show promoter. Is that correct?

Andy Warpigs: I first started booking shows when I was 19. I would find bands on ReverbNation and Myspace and websites like that. I used to book shows at different DIY spots downtown and then I got more involved in The Trunk Space and learned to book more through them.

Booking is definitely something essential to being a musician. I feel like learning things from the venue’s perspective and running shows and doing sound are all skills that you are going to learn eventually if you are a serious musician.

I have booked shows for my own band, and have also booked for my friends bands and community type events. I have also worked with different bars to set stuff up for traveling musicians or residency for local bands.

As a musician, are there some basic steps you should follow in trying to book a show?

I think the first stop in learning booking from a musician’s perspective is to make sure you have open channels of communication with the venue. You have to tap into their built-in crowd and their promotional resources. It is also really important to build a show that is cool from the audience’s perspective and has a variety of acts ’cause that will keep them on their toes.

It’s really important to make sure all of the bands involved are on point and doing everything they can to promote the show as well to their fans and friends. It can be really helpful to book shows through a collective with different like-minded friends, so all the responsibility doesn’t fall on your shoulders.

As a promoter, are there things you look for when you’re approached by a band interested in booking? Social media outreach? EPK? Is there anything you feel is essential when considering a band for an event? 

I’m just learning about electronic press kits. Personally, I book new bands because I like their attitude, sound, style, or sense of humor or theatrics. Web presence is important, but it’s about how good they are at engaging their audience, not necessarily how many [followers] they have numbers wise…

So, let’s say a band is just getting started. What advice would you offer to help them get out there and performing? 

New bands should play as much as they can. Practice playing out is just as important as rehearsing the songs or practicing your instruments. You hone your craft that way and learn how to work a crowd. The idea of playing for exposure is kind of inflated but you never know who might see you. What’s the worst that could happen? Lol.

Let’s say your a new act looking to book a gig. What’s the best way to go about it? Talk to other bands playing that venue? Ask a bartender? Email the venue directly? Is there a method to this madness?

Emailing a venue and asking who their contact person for booking is always a polite and acceptable way to get a foot in the door at a new spot. Sometimes you can even get things going at a place that doesn’t even do shows by approaching them with the idea.

~

Check out the Andy Warpigs Facebook page for all his upcoming shows including opening for Bigger Than Mountains on Dec. 29 at the Trunk Space, at Yucca Tap Room Jan. 5, and at 51WEST Jan. 15!