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.

~

The Songbird Award: Karima Walker

karima 000The only thing that competes with Karima Walker’s stunning song construction is her heart-stirring voice. Walker unveiled Hands in Our Names, recorded at Five Thirteen Recording, back in June and the limited edition cassette already sold out.

Senior editor Carly Schorman wrote of the album, “Combining elements of drone and folk, Walker crafts layers of sound that can have an eerie effect on the listener, like a half-remembered dream or half-forgotten lover.” And, of Walker’s vocal layers, she wrote, “the juxtaposition of Walker’s ethereal voice against the rough, occasionally grating (gently grating, never overly-grating) effects, creates an interesting aural relationship – one that I could spend hours entrenched in.”

Hands in Our Names is experimental and beautiful in the same breath. Karima Walker’s entrancing voice lends itself to the minimal production in such a way as to give it substance beyond its structure. If you haven’t done so already, spend some time with Hands in Our Names by Karima Walker below…

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Original review of Hands In Our Names by Karima Walker

Previous Songbird Award Winners:

2015: Anamieke of Treasurefruit
2014: Laura Kepner-Adney
2013: Ann Seletos & Lonna Kelly of Cherie Cherie
2012: Kristina Moore

The Tastemaker’s Ten: Catherine Vercolli of FiveThirteen Recording

513

Catherine Vercolli has been in the business of sound for more than a decade. In fact, and her studio – FiveThirteen Recording – is gearing up to celebrate its decennial. And, of course, Vercolli plans to mark the occasion in style with a blowout occasion at Valley Bar in Phoenix. We would expect nothing less from the woman whose studio consistently puts out unique and highly stylized releases year after year, drawing some of the state’s most exemplary talents to her Tempe headquarters.

And, she’s super cool. In honor of the upcoming 10-Year Celebration of FiveThirteen Recording we asked Catherine, a tastemaker if ever there was one, to pick out ten tracks that she thought every music aficionado should know. Check out her picks and, don’t forget, we expect to see you on Saturday, August 13th, at Valley Bar for the big celebration.

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Paul Simon
“Graceland”

The Smiths
“Barbarism Begins At Home”

[Video Removed]

Philip Glass
“Opening”

Brian Eno
“Third Uncle”

King Floyd
“Woman Don’t Go Astray”

Everything But The Girl
“Before Today”

John Lennon
“Mother”

The Sea And Cake
“An Echo In”

Fleetwood Mac
“Big Love”

Grinderman
“Go Tell The Women”

 

3 New Releases You Should Check Out

YabYum Music & ArtsThe Wanda Junes

Hi Fi Record Album 

The Wanda Junes, those alt-country sweethearts from the Old Pueblo that first captured our hearts (and attention) with Live at Tempe Stallion Ranch, are back with a new full-length released through Flagstaff’s Emotional Response Records. The new record, efficiently titled Hi Fi Record Album, features some of the songs from their earlier release in addition to several new tracks. “Grand River Saloon” kicks off the album with a downhome-in-the-desert feel. The second track, “Two Birds”, says “I can’t wait to piss on your grave” in the prettiest way possible. The following song, “Bucket”, is a personal favorite I was first introduced to on Live at the Tempe Stallion Ranch. New favorites include “Miner” with its haunting vocals and the dusty number, “Ain’t Born Alone”. Hi Fi Record Album was recorded at Tempe’s 513 Recording and features Valley musicians Lonna Kelley and Matt Wiser in addition to the stellar cast of players that makes up The Wanda Junes. Preview (and purchase) the album here. It would definitely be worth the drive to Tucson on Sept. 19 to check out The Wanda Junes live for the album release. They’ll be performing along with Ex Cowboy and Louise Le Hir, two Tucson favs. More info on that event here. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until Nov. 6th when The Wanda Junes head to Phoenix to perform at Valley Bar. Mark your calendars!

 

YabYum Music & Arts - AZ Music BlogFlower Festival

Cry Baby 

The dreampop of Flower Festival definitely heads in a more effervescent direction than other shoegaze acts despite a tendency towards depressive lyrics. Cry Baby opens with “What a Sob Story” which makes the listener suddenly want to dance… until, that is, the lyrics sink in. Then a mixture of dancing and crying might be required. “I Don’t Matter” is both lyrically sparse and poignant, offering listeners a meditative experience; mellow and spaced out yet strikingly beautiful. Overall, the EP could be described as such but the underlying theme of self-depreciation makes the music a little too self-conscious to be truly meditative. The excessive modesty extends beyond Cry Baby  to the band’s public announcements of the EP and subsequent singles and videos. For example, Flower Festival annouced through Facebook a “new video for my lame new song” or “dumb new album. cry baby.” The affectation seems a little contrived at times and threatens to downplay the album by presenting more of a gimmick than an authentic of expression of self, but once you listen to Cry Baby you get swept along in the sea of doubt set to the rhythms of dreamy and compelling music. I definitely recommend giving Cry Baby a listen for yourself. You can preview and purchase the new EP from Flower Festival here.

 

Dirt Moon - YabYum Music & Arts - AZ Music BlogDirt Moon

When We Were Animals

Dirt Moon achieves a striking balance of hard and mellow rock on their new EP, When We Were Animals. Melodic and dark, When We Were Animals secures Dirt Moon a place amongst my favorite local alt-rockers. The album opens with “Speechless” with the aggressive, grungy acoustic rock the Phoenix five-piece is known for, but with a totally pro recording. Fans of Dirt Moon got an early sampling of the second track, “Palinopsia/Wretched Tune”, back in February when the band released an earlier version of the track as a single. The new recording includes an extended piano outro and a slightly different name as well as a smoothed down sound that helps define the EP overallWhich leads me to this: the latest EP from Dirt Moon has a much more professional sound than previous releases. That’s not to say I wasn’t about 2013’s The Cover Story – I was – but I’m glad to see the band stepping it up. And When We Were Animals is a decided step in a good direction. The EP follows suit with early releases from the band and was recorded with a friend (Kyle Francis) at various houses around the Valley. With four of the five tracks on When We Were Animals clocking in at over four minutes (or five or six!), this EP is a hefty listen you’ll want to sit down with or, better yet, drive around listening to with the volume turned up. Get your hands on When We Were Animals (digitally speaking) from Dirt Moon here.

 

Radio Phoenix Podcast with Catherine Vercolli of 513 Recording

Catherine Vercolli

Catherine Vercolli of 513 Recording came down to Radio Phoenix studios at Phoenix Center for the Arts. She brought along some stellar local tunes to share. The complete playlist can be found below.

Complete Playlist:

Sweetbleeders “Some Curiosity”

Lonna Kelley “C to the A”

Colorstore “Ladies and Gentlemen”

Where Are All the Buffalo? “Movement on the Beach”

Karima Walker “Blue Thread”

Treasure Mammal “Postcard”

Letdownright “To Be Young”

The SunPunchers “Coming Through”

Grave Danger “Death Trip”

Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra “Eh Ya Ya”

Tony Martinez “Frank’s Rag”

Sweetbleeders “Albuterol II”

Recorded live on Aug. 19, 2015.

Girls Rock! Ready to Shake Up Phoenix

Girls Rock! - YabYum Music & Artsby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

The newly founded Phoenix chapter of Girls Rock! is hosting their first public event this weekend to help raise both funds and awareness about this exciting edition to the community. Girls Rock!, a national organization aimed at helping girls build self-esteem through music education and performance, supports summer camp programs around the globe wherein young women learn an instrument, form a band, write a song, and then perform at a showcase. An empowering experience for a young artist if ever there was one.

I asked Sarah Ventre, President of Girls Rock! Phoenix, what campers can expect of a week spent with Girls Rock!

Ventre replied, “Campers can expect the best week of their lives!! They will come in on the first day not necessarily knowing how to play an instrument or even having any kind of musical experience. By the end of the week they will have learned an instrument, formed a band, written a song, and played a showcase. They’ll also be attending workshops on topics like body image or self defense, and learning in the DIY tradition through activities like zine making and screen printing. And the entire week, they’ll see and hear women as role models — teaching them instruments, performing for them, teaching workshops, and running the technical side of things. By seeing women in roles that are often given to men, it gives girls an opportunity to see themselves filling those roles from a very young age. It also reinforces the idea that they can do anything they want to, and they don’t need a guy to give them approval to do it. And it creates a space where women and girls are lifting each other up — seeing one another as collaborators instead of competitors.”

Ventre first became involved with Girls Rock! while she was living in Washington D.C. when a friend of hers volunteered for a Girls Rock! camp in New York. She then decided to volunteer as well for a camp in the D.C. area.

I asked Sarah what made her decide bring the organization to Phoenix when she returned to her home turf.

“So many things!!! The music world is really male dominated, and Phoenix is no exception. I kept thinking about growing up in Tempe, and feeling like I didn’t have access to our local music community until I turned 21. Then when I did turn 21, I only saw a handful of local bands with any women in them at all,” she began.

“I also thought about what it feels like when you’re growing up as a girl…it’s hard to feel confident or empowered about anything. Our society constantly tells girls that we’re not enough and we’re not worthy. We’re taught to apologize for being who we are, and when we try to do new things and find outlets for our creativity and self-expression, we get put down a lot. I used to think I had to wait to perform until I was “really good” at playing my instrument. But through volunteering at rock camps and really beginning to understand the riot grrrl tradition, I learned that you don’t need anyone’s permission to form a band and make music. And if I had been taught that at a young age, it would have made a world of difference in my teenage years and through to my adulthood. Now it’s time to grow this kind of an empowering, supportive community of women and make it accessible to young girls in the Valley.”

Already, the Phoenix edition of Girls Rock! has some notable volunteers involved in the program which plans on hosting its first Phoenix summer camp in 2016. According to Ventre, “Several local musicians (including Grace Bolyard from The Darling Sounds, Amy Young from French Girls, Jenny Weintraub from Sister Lip, Amanda Schukle from Steel Cranes, Alexis Ronstadt from Larkspurs) are part of our organizing team, as well as women who work at local venues/art spaces like Andrea Pederson from Nile Theater and Laura Dragon from {9} The Gallery, and a bunch of other women who volunteer in lots of different ways. We’ve also received sponsorship for our upcoming fundraiser from Kimber Lanning, and from Charlie Levy, owner of Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar. Plus we’ll be working with Catherine Vericolli, owner of 513 Recording Studios to introduce girls to audio engineering.”

There’s still room for more volunteers for those interest in getting involved.

“For folks who want to volunteer at camp, we’re looking for women-identified, trans, and genderqueer or gendernonconforming folks who have an interest — no musical experience is necessary! We’ll need people to do everything from coaching and managing bands, to teaching instruments, to running workshops, to being roadies and moving gear, to helping with administrative tasks and organizing camp lunches! There’s a place for anyone who’d like to be there!!” Ventre stated in a message.

This coming Sunday, Girls Rock! Phoenix will be down at the Newton for a screening of Girls Rock! The Movie for folks interested in getting involved, showing their support, or just learning more about this worthy organization. Live music and a raffle are also included in the mix so don’t miss out! Tickets for the screening can be purchased here. Or, to learn more about the event, you can head here.

YabYum Music & Arts