5 Hawt HipHop Singles

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

2Reps

“Been Wild”

There’s a fun summertime feel on “Been Wild” that’s perfect for the over-25-crowd (uh, maybe over 30). You know, those of us who might have had our wild days but now we maybe just want to kickback and use all those bills we save on booze for tropical vacations. Of course, 2Reps throw enough bounce into “Been Wild” to keep the kids interested even if they haven’t crossed that “Still Wild” threshold quite yet.

Susspect

“Jelly”

At nineteen, Susspect might be a little green but you won’t be able to glean that from his new single, “Jelly”. This kid sounds pro. I mean, he’s got some serious lyrical prowess and a slick delivery. That’s a winning combo. But, right now, Susspect is doing the collegiate thing by day at Emerson so don’t start pressuring him to spit out singles faster than his schedule will permit. #StayInSchool

J. Reid Prime

“All Mine”

This slouchy single from J. Reid Prime brings a little chill to these increasingly hot days. “All Mine”, produced by Gage Green, features Sonny from Mars on the vocals. This is the first single Prime has released in a year so fans will be stoked to learn that this track is just a prelude to the artist’s forthcoming album, Braille Teeth. Roll around your city with J. Reid Prime and his single, “All Mine”.

Bad Poetry Club

“Victory Lap”

Bad Poetry Club throws out some mad energy into the mix of their new single, “Victory Lap”. BPC lays out fresh instrumentals on this single to support the wisely sparse lyrics. After all, with a beat like that, who wants to get too wordy. This is nu jazz, not your normal HipHop hit. Give “Victory Lap” by Bad Poetry Club a spin below…

Jaac

“Minutes”

Jaac recorded this track last year at the tender age of seventeen. On “Minutes”, Jaac proves you don’t always need to throw a lot down on the beat if you have the lyrical strength to carry your audience. Jaac does and you can hear that stripped-down style on “Minutes”. Let’s hope Jaac has more singles in the works this year.

Pan Productions Revisits Labyrinth in The Goblin King’s City

goblin king 00by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

The good people who brought you the film-to-stage version of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Firehouse and the musical adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo are gearing up for what might be their most magical production to date. Yes, the team at Pan Productions has been locked away for months hard at work on The Goblin King’s City; a stage adaptation of the 1986 cult classic, Labyrinth.

What I like most about the rambunctious upstarts of Pan Productions is that these folks go BIG and they go BOLD. For this new musical, they count nearly a hundred musicians, actors, and artists amongst their ranks. And, they even went so far as to add two new songs to the famed soundtrack.

goblin king 01
All photos courtesy of Ting Ting and Pan Productions

And, once again, local musicians join the cast and crew to help bring The Goblin King’s City to life with the multimedia flair that would make David Bowie proud.

One new song was penned by Serene Dominic, who also wrote the musical (and previous Pan Productions’ Production) Swimming in the Head, and the other addition was written by I Am Hologram (to be performed by We Are Hologram). Another favorite from the local music scene, Jerusafunk, will be providing the live musical accompaniment for the show.

Now, I know what you’re all wondering… Who is going to play Jareth, the Goblin King? Well, if it were up to me, you’d have to head out to the show to find out, but Sheri Amourr (executive director & producer for the show) revealed the details in our Q&A below.

goblin king 04YabYum: First of all, should we credit a writer for the adaption? Or was this a group endeavor?

Sheri Amourr: The adaptation of the script was quite the team effort. About 7 people were involved, which included our directing team, plus a few others we’ve previously worked with.

I believe this is your third adaptation of a film for a stage production, correct? Last year, you brought a musical version of Vertigo to life. And, before that, you did an adaptation of the film version of Rocky Horror Picture Show. What did you learn from previous productions that has benefited you this time around?

The greatest thing we learned from our previous theater stage productions, is that musicals are quite challenging and time consuming. We seemed to never have enough time to do what we felt needed to be done. We also learned that working with a new and mostly original script, and with new and completely original songs is MUCH more difficult than just adapting your own version of something that’s previously been done.

Swimming in the Head, while based on the movie Vertigo, was written by Serene Dominic. All of the songs, and much of the script, were his original creation. We learned very quickly that despite the simpler set design and scenes, it was far more challenging to pull off than Rocky. In the end, we were very pleased with both, but we knew of a few things that we’d expect, and in some cases do differently, in the future.

goblin king 02There were some local music All-Stars in the previous casts and we expect to see some returning performers in The Goblin King’s City. Any chance you’re willing to name drop some of the folks we’ll see in this new production?

We will be working with local music artist Joobs once again, as he will be playing the role of Jareth, The Goblin King. We are also working with Chris Del Favero of Jerusafunk as Jareth, and will be alternating our lead roles for the different show dates. Marcella Grassa from Rocky Horror, and Swimming in the Head is working on choreography with us, and Uche Ujania will be playing a surprise role.

I also noticed that some newcomers will be joining Pan Productions’ cast for this new undertaking. What new faces should the audience watch out for?

We have many newcomers, including Kendra Ruth Martinez as the role of Sarah. Alexandra Morfin will play Sir Didymus, and we have Will Jones as Ludo. Jesse Abrahams from First Friday Night Live will play Hoggle.

Some local musicians wrote original pieces for this stage production. Care to fill us in on who wrote songs for the play?

We will feature two original songs written and performed by We Are Hologram, the first full band ensemble by I Am Hologram. We will also feature an original song written by Serene Dominic.

goblin king 03Pan Productions seems to create events that are more than mere plays. There’s a celebratory atmosphere that pervades the productions. This year’s event looks like it will be no different. Food vendors? Live bands? What else can people expect when they head to The Goblin King’s City?

We are in the process of securing our food vendors, and there will be entertainment before and after the show, and during intermission. We will also have art vendors, as well as a meet and greet with cast members after the show. Jerusafunk will be the “pit band” to play the songs we will feature from Labyrinth, as well as the original song written by Serene Dominic, and numerous other musical interludes.

The Goblin King’s City opens on Friday, May 26 at The Pressroom, with additional showings scheduled for Saturday May 27 at The Outer Space, and Saturdays June 3 and 9 at Unexpected Gallery. For more information, check out the event page on the Pan Productions website.

goblin king 05

POETRY: Called Back Books

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

To help kick of YabYum’s increased coverage of the literary arts this year, our editorial staff decided to reach out to comrades-in-art and co-founders of Called Back Books, LM Rivera & Sharon Zetter.

Called Back Books came to life in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but this avant-garde publishing house now calls Santa Fe home. To celebrate the launch of our POETRY series, we subjected the CBB team to some questions and they were kind enough to play along.

Before we get to the interview, however, Called Back Books offered this gift of poetry to share with all our YabYum readers. An extended sampler from the printed poetry of Called Back Books is available to you here for free preview/download/printing. Everyone should have more poetry in their lives. Called Back Books is here to answer that calling.

I had the chance to “chat” with the founders of Called Back Books recently, but first, make sure you get that digital download of your poetry sampler from Called Back Books (it’s 120 pages so consider that your workplace warning).

called back books 01

YabYum: I would imagine poets, like other writers, put a considerable amount of time and thought into the act of naming. I’m curious to know why you chose the name Called Back Books?

CBB: “Called back,” are the only words in Emily Dickinson’s last known letter–and they are engraved on her grave–and what would we be without her? Nearly nothing or, at least, much, much less. The master Susan Howe wrote a book called My Emily Dickinson, if she went out of her way to do this: we can at least tie our endeavor to Saint Dickinson.

What led you to the decision to launch a publishing house?

Habitual disappointment and disgust with the coeval thing called the contemporary. Also, the few kinships that have formed, the radiance of those kinships, and the lack, in relation to the exposure of those bonds (and others), in terms of so-called publishing (what we, idealistically, call THE BOOK). And, lastly, we wanted to hold the reigns (of composition and the formal structure) and let our authors say what goes and stays in their works (for obvious, personal, reasons).

called back books 11Who are some of the poets you’ve worked with (past/present/future) that really stood out for you personally?

Every writer we’ve worked with has been fire itself. We are especially addicted to our immediate poetic allies and their books (Colby Gillette’s WITHOUT REPAIR, Pablo Lopez’s NUMBERS, Adam Fagin’s THE SKY IS A HOWLING WILDERNESS BUT IT CAN’T HOWL WITH HEAVEN, and Gillian Olivia Blythe Hamel’s forthcoming occident (and more presently)).

And, as you know, we’re kicking off the Poet’s Corner? Poet’s Nook? The Poets Pocket? We thought it would be fun to have you tackle those questions before we force other poets through the ringer…

You are kind people. By which we mean to say: these monikers are much too quaint/sentimental for our taste. Something along the lines of POETS PRISON, THE POETS PURGATORY, OR THE BOOK OF QUESTIONABLE POETS AND THEIR DISCONTENT—this is more in line with our tendency…

called back books 13So, who are you and what do you do?

We are Sharon Zetter and LM RIVERA and we write, read, and publish poetry, prose, theory, collage, and anything worth taking in (anything that will have us)—occasionally hiding under the alias of Called Back Books.

What is poetry?

Any thing happening at the point after tzimzum (the infinite explosion) when language (Being) bursts from the vessel—or the disorder of the psyche mapping itself onto the language of personhood (like an eternal Celanian handshake). Jack Spicer, por vida!

Who or what are your influences?

For the sake of this discussion we’ll limit the list to ten poets: John Milton, Edmond Jabès, Rosmarie Waldrop, John Ashbery, Jay Wright, Frank O’Hara, Anne Carson, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Paul Celan.

But it would be sinful not to mention our shared personal literary Saint Figures: Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Don Quixote.

called back books 12What are you reading?

Sharon is reading through Bolaño’s canon, currently Monsieur Pain, the pre-Socratic philosophers, and re-visiting Duras’ Malady of Death. LM is reading as many of Andre Bazin’s writings/books as possible, O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Avital Ronell’s Stupidity, and Cinema Scope.

What is your mantra?

When we hear words like “mantra” we also hear the Goebbels-like economy of propagandistic language and, also, that which Martin Amis describes (namely, the cliché’s war against writing) and we try, whenever possible, to oppose, fight against, and extinguish it. As good ol’ fashion Nietzscheans: we prefer to think of our thinking as transvaluative.

~

called back books 10 called back books 02

For the Record: Silver Alert by Serene Dominic

by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

Dementia Awareness Week kicked off yesterday and, to mark the occasion, Serene Dominic released Silver Alert, his musical examination of the perils and joys of aging. Dominic dealt with the disease directly when it affected his own father. And now, as the artist moves into the realm of AARP, his work looks inward to explore what waits for all of us in that approaching Winter.

I have to say, this is a very timely topic for me this year. As my partner and I approach Middle Age (ahem), our parents are preparing to entering their Golden Years. And, at this pivotal time, there are things to be considered. Conversations to be had. For my family, the family of a coroner and mortician, we’re pretty comfortable with those little chats. How do you want to be cared for if you are no longer capable of caring for yourself? What do you want done with your remains after you die? That’s a normal Friday afternoon chat at my house.

Silver Alert takes a more personal approach to the topic of aging and delves into matters like cougar bars and vanishing record stores. The album explores a variety of different sounds as it explores its host of topics.

Of course, that’s no surprise given the breadth of Serene Dominic’s body of work. As you move through the discography, there are moments of pop, of glam, of vintage rocknroll, and just about everything else you might sample in a “History of Popular Music” course at your local university. Silver Alert provides a similar melting pot of sounds as the narrative unfolds.

I had a chance to chat with the man himself about the making of, and the inspiration behind, Silver Alert. Read my conversation with Serene Dominic below and don’t forget about the release party later this week! The album release happens on May 19th at The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale. A number of local favorites will be joining Serene Dominic’s GemSeekers including The Lonesome Wilderness, Carol Pacey & the Honeyshakers, The Bittersweet Way, and The 1140s. More information on that event can be found here.

Carly Schorman: Where did you record the album?

Serene Dominic: This was recorded at home, where I’ve recorded everything I’ve done since 2010. The Green Room is a spare bedroom in my Sunnyslope cinder block house, no sound proofing or anything and yet it sounds pretty dead which is great for drums and vocals. I always love reading about historic studios that it turns out were once former meat lockers or a movie theater like Stax. Or that Motown was once somebody’s home. I love hearing records where you can sort of hear the room. That has something to do with capturing a band performance as opposed to just writing a song as I record it with drum loops or samples, which is what I always do. So Silver Alert is half me recording with the GemSeekers and half what I usually do which is make up something with drum loops and write songs around beats. I hope it doesn’t sound like two different extremes.

And who might the “GemSeekers” be in this instance?

Since the beginning it’s been Nick Pasco who plays with The Breakup Society (who are gonna put a new album out soon on Onus Records) and Andrew Jemsek (from Drunk N Horny, Moonlight Magic, Fathers Day and a bunch of other bands). We used to have Andrew’s brother, Tristan Jemsek from Dogbreth and Diners, but he moved to Seattle. We also have Jedidiah Foster (from The Bittersweet Way) on guitar, although he was doing bass for some shows. Now we have Jim Dustan (from World Class Thugs and RPM Orchestra) on bass. If this lineup solidifies, we’ll probably do a whole album of just the band. Or maybe an EP.

Do you keep a running tally of the number of songs or albums you’ve released? Rough estimates also welcome.

I did when I was a teenager and first began writing songs and I had hundreds then. Of course, they were mostly crap but they had something that I might use later on. There’s two songs on the new album that are really pretty old, music-wise. “Go Value Yourself” was made up from bits of an older song I wrote when I was 18 and all jazzed up about Saturday night. And now it’s a pep talk for an old guy taking a job as a Walmart greeter!

I do the RPM Challenge every February, when you pledge to record an entire album of new music in 28 days every February, so I’ve built up quite a backlog. I’ve been doing that for seven years now and I’m kind of on a constant recording schedule year round. So it’s hundreds of songs. I’m in the middle of compiling a Serene D album discography /timeline and hopefully will get all of these up on the Onus Bandcamp site.

1. Box City: The Compleat Recordings [1992-1994]
2. Heathens of Vaudeville [1996]
3. Adult Contemptuous [recorded 1998 – released 2003]
4. Songs From The Serene Dominic Show EP [2008]
5. Unnatural Blonde [2010]
6. 24 Originals Happening Now [2011 – this had 25 songs!]
7. Winter Trance Party [2012]
8. Speculation [2013]
9. The Holiday Slides Project [2013 – cassette only]
10. For Your Extreme Convenience [2014]
11. Cutting Taylor Modern [2015 unreleased]
12. Swimming in the Head [Cast Album]
13. Dark Lullaby [2016 unreleased]
14. Silver Alert [2017]

Cutting Taylor Modern will come out when all the songs on it have been recorded by someone else. Dark Lullaby is a new musical which will come out when the musical is ready to be performed.

Silver Alert is proving quite the timely art piece in my personal life, but I’ll get to that in a moment. I was hoping you might share with our readers where the inspiration for this album came from?

I became preoccupied with aging because, well, I’m aging. The last two years are the first time I’ve been treated by people like I’m old, giving me the senior discount without me asking for it. I was looking for a title that reflected that.

I was originally going to call it From Here to Senility but then I kept driving around 1-17 and kept seeing Silver Alert warnings. And I was wondering where these old guys are fleeing to. Anthem? I just pictured Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond just not seeing a familiar tree and then running scared in a wrong direction for miles. I put myself in that mindset for “Pain In My Joints.” And there’s a song called “Where’s the White Shadow?” which I contributed to a Beastie Boys’ hardcore tribute album of Related Records last year. Its pretty unrecognizable from what they did. They wrote a bratty song about the TV show, “The White Shadow”, being cancelled but instead of coming from a young punk it’s coming from an old guy who’s disoriented because he can’t watch Ken Howard anymore.

I’ve seen that confusion up close and I’m scared because my father had dementia in his 80s and I saw a man who was always so meticulous all his life suddenly become permanently altered. And he watched a lot of TV towards the end which didn’t help because every newscaster or TV detective he’s mistaken for someone in his early life.

I freak out at the slightest thing that can seem like a senior moment. Like, all the sudden, I can’t remember the name of someone who was an SNL cast member. And I get defensive that, no, this is not a senior moment. I mean when I was 20, sure, I could name all the SNL cast members. I can still name those ones. But now we’ve had 40 plus years of names to forget. Fuck me if I forget the guy who played Deuce Bigelow for a couple of minutes. Who cares? I could look it up on the internet on my fucking phone. Why bother to commit anything to memory?

It seems to me like we’re much of the same mind. You don’t seem afraid to confront the notions of death and aging head on. Is that the result of your upbringing? Or the result of your years as a songwriter spent delving the reaches of your psyche for workable material?

I don’t think it has anything to do with my upbringing. I didn’t have deep philosophical conversations with my parents about death or anything like that growing up. I didn’t have anyone close to me die until I was 21. So my working knowledge of death when I was a child, the only people I always thought of as being dead were Buddy Holly, Laurel and Hardy, and JFK. And Nat King Cole because he died of cancer because he smoked.

So all my ideas about death weren’t fully formed until a lot later. Now this late in life when someone dies, it’s not as weird a thing. It’s like they just moved to The Netherlands. Recently, I found out an old friend and bandmate of mine died and I learned it through Facebook. So I wrote “Subterranean Heaven” about him. One day he was posting about some record he likes. Next day – The Netherlands!

What new project(s) do you have in the works?

[I] will probably release Dark Lullaby in the Fall and try to get [the show] put on then or the following spring. The original idea was to do it as a cast album, but I really love the way it came out as a standalone album so maybe the version I just did myself will come out as is. I mean, doing it as a live musical could take a while just to find someone who wants to do it. That’s my biggest priority. And The GemSeekers are going to be the band in the show so we’ll probably start doing a lot of those songs live too.

As a sideline, I’d like The GemSeekers to do an EP as well, so maybe we’ll just re-record some of the stuff from my previous records we do live and some Dark Lullaby stuff. Maybe do it live at Audioconfusion! I’ve been wanting to record somewhere else and I keep threatening Jalipaz that we’re gonna do it, but then I wind up demoing stuff and then I like the way it turns out. Recording yourself is a dangerous mindset. Like cutting your own hair.

Head out to the Silver Alert Release Party (and Onus Records’ Two-Year-Anniversary Celebration) at The Rogue Bar this weekend! More info here!

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.

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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 below (or 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 is joined this time ’round by 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 record 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

*This article was edited on May 6, 2017

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.

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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.