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The Districts’ Rob Grote reflects on backing Daniel Johnston with Modern Baseball

Daniel Johnston | photo by Jackie Young | courtesy of the artist // Rob Grote of The Districts | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

When The Districts’ Rob Grote and Braden Lawrence attended a Daniel Johnston concert as teenagers, Grote remembers dreaming of a day when they could be a part of Johnston’s backing band himself. Little did he know that, in a few years, he’d not only get the opportunity to be a part of a rare Daniel Johnston tour, he and his band would pretty much direct the entire evening, albeit with a little help from some local friends.

“We all really like his music a lot, and it was definitely an influence on us,” Grote says. “Braden and I saw him at Union Transfer when we were still in high school, and the opening band backed him. Ever since then, backing him has been a dream of ours, although unrealistically we thought. We’re super honored to get to do it!”

Now, all these years later, Grote and his Districts cohorts have since moved from Lititz to Philly for school, left said school, and have become keystones of the city’s music scene with a devoted following in the U.S. and abroad. And, just like he dreamed about those years ago at Union Transfer, he and The Districts will be joining Daniel Johnston as the support for Philly date of the enigmatic singer-songwriter’s final tour. Continue reading →

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Cayetana take control with New Kind of Normal and Plum Records

Cayetana | photo by Jess Flynn | courtesy of the artist
Cayetana | photo by Jess Flynn | courtesy of the artist

The concept of Plum Records came in a dream. Well, the name of it did at least. The idea of putting out music themselves was something Cayetana had toyed with for a while. And it wasn’t a decision they made without lots of consideration.

“I think the decision mostly was born out of the idea that we wanted as much control over the timing of the record and how it was rolled out,” drummer Kelly Olsen says. “Because, you know, we have a lot of friends in bands who have done a lot of different things and worked with a lot of different labels. Through talking with people, we kind of realized that to have as much control over how the whole thing happens and how it rolls out, to have control over our own product and music and creativity, we decided that doing it ourselves made the most sense. And it’s been working out really well. We’ve been enjoying it.”

And from that, Plum Records was official, and would be the imprint for Cayetana’s new album, New Kind of Normal. It’s a fitting name for the circumstances around putting this album out. Learning how to run a record label is pretty tough, to put it lightly. There were a lot of things that they weren’t aware of or didn’t know how to do, but they learned by doing, and now are starting to feel comfortable with it. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brendan Menapace’s six songs from the future

menzingers
The Menzingers | photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, as we’re about to step into another calendar year, Key Contributor Brendan Menapace picks his favorite songs from the future.

Every year, when I’m compiling a list of my favorite music from the year, I always end up with a few songs that were released as singles before the actual album comes out the following year. I never know whether I should include them or not with the current year or wait. This year, I gave them a list of their own. Here are the top six songs released this year from 2017 albums. Continue reading →

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Grabbing beers with Spill on the eve of their album release

Spill | photo via facebook.com/spillrock

Andrew Gelburd, Marco Florey and Brandon Gepfer decided that, after the end of their previous project (emo-punks Placeholder), they wanted to keep going together, but didn’t feel right continuing under that band name. Fast-forward to today in December of 2016. Their new project Spill just released its first full length, Top Ten, via No Sleep Records.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” guitarist / vocalist Gepfer says. “I’m happy to finally have it out there and to be able to touch the physical product.”

After initially tracking it in March at the Headroom with Kyle Pulley, the band spent their summer shopping the record to labels, finally inking a deal with No Sleep, whose stable has included The Wonder Years, Balance and Composure, La Dispute and more.

“It was a lot like applying to college back in ’07,” Gepfer says. “A lot of wait lists, but when I finally got accepted to one I really felt a part of the team and family, and became proud. Parents were nervous, but I knew it was the perfect fit.” Continue reading →

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Eric Slick tells us how Dr. Dog’s surprise charity album Abandoned Mansion came to be

Dr. Dog | photo via drdog4.bandcamp.com

Surprise! There’s a new Dr. Dog album out today that no one knew existed (except the band and I’m guessing some of their friends). To sweeten the deal even more, all proceeds from the album go toward the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The album, called Abandoned Mansion, is what the band described in an introductory missive as “Easy Peasy listening.” That’s to say that, as opposed to the “blips and bloops” of the band’s February release, The Psychedelic Swamp, Abandoned Mansion takes a more simplistic, traditional approach.

Drummer Eric Slick, who doubles as one-third of Philly’s Lithuania, said that the band actually recorded Abandoned Mansion before The Psychedelic Swamp, but had to let it sit on the backburner for a bit.

“We recorded it before we went into the studio to record The Psychedelic Swamp with the intention of getting it out before The Psychedelic Swamp,” he says.

In contrast to Swamp’s complex layering and production ambition, Abandoned Mansion is pretty much just the band playing live with mostly acoustic instruments.

“The intent of the record was to make something simple and elegant,” Slick says. “I think we’ve kind of gone into different trends in the band. We’ve moved toward this more psychedelic, noisier side—an experimental side—and then we’ve got this simpler side. So it’s just another exploration of our simpler side.” Continue reading →

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Why is The War on Drugs’ Anthony LaMarca selling his guitar?

Anthony LaMarca | photo by Lisa Businovski | courtesy of the artist
Anthony LaMarca | photo by Lisa Businovski | courtesy of the artist

Many musicians scan the likes of Craigslist on a daily basis, seeing what kinds of instruments and gear pop up around their city. For musicians in the Youngstown, Ohio, area, one 1969 Fender Jaguar stands out. And it’s not just because of it’s worn, vintage beauty.

It’s because it belongs to War on Drugs guitarist/keyboardist Anthony LaMarca. LaMarca plans to donate all of the money received from the guitar to those affected by Multiple Myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer that he has been receiving treatment for. The idea to donate his own possessions came from a chance phone call he received. Continue reading →

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Vocals Only: Andy Hull on scoring a film using only his voice

Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra
Andy Hull | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Fans of Manchester Orchestra know that Andy Hull’s voice is sometimes at its most powerful when it’s quiet. Sure, he can push his volume and power over the sailing, distorted guitars, but it’s when he’s at his quietest where he lets much of his emotion come out through trembling melodies and rich harmonies. You can also hear it in his solo project—Right Away, Great Captain. Now, along with Manchester Orchestra bandmate Robert McDowell, Hull used the power of the voice, and the voice alone, to score the film Swiss Army Man, which stars Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. And it was not easy. Continue reading →

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Laura Jane Grace brings a lifetime of experiences to a stripped-down tour

Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese
Laura Jane Grace | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Laura Jane Grace, best known as the guitarist/vocalist of Florida punks Against Me!, has been an avid journal keeper. Her earliest journals date back to age 7 or 8, and since then, she’s forged a powerful career in punk rock and activism. Now, she’s preparing a book based on her long history of journaling, and, like anyone who’s sat writing in front of a computer screen for a few hours (or years), she needs to step away.

“I’ve been working on a book for the last couple of years and kind of getting close to finishing it—hopefully it’ll be out later this year,” Grace says. “About a year ago, I was just, like, losing my mind from sitting in front of a computer screen writing, and I wanted to try to work some of [the book’s content] out in a live context.”

Grace (along with Against Me! drummer Atom Willard and manager Marc Hudson) is playing a series of stripped-down shows as Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers. She says her show at the First Unitarian Church on Saturday will be full of music, stories and readings from her book. Continue reading →

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Bacon Brothers carry on Philadelphia legacy with music

The Bacon Brothers: Kevin (left) and Michael | photo courtesy of the artist
The Bacon Brothers: Kevin (left) and Michael | photo courtesy of the artist

Kevin Bacon fondly remembers music being a central part of his upbringing in Philadelphia. He and his brother, Michael, spent time playing music with friends, and grew up among the sounds of folk, soul and rock music in the city.

“People have often asked us, ‘What was it like to grow up in a music town?’” Bacon said. “We never had anything to compare it to. It’s not really until you leave that you realize that it has this great history.”

Now, Kevin and Michael are returning to their hometown to play a show at Union Transfer this Thursday to benefit the construction of the Reading Viaduct Project—the planned green space and elevated park using the abandoned railway line in the Callowhill Neighborhood—with the Friends of the Railpark organization. Joining them will be Rob Grote of The Districts.

For the Bacon Brothers, donating their talents to the benefit of revitalizing Philadelphia comes naturally. Continue reading →

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Talking with Kevin Devine about bringing a year-long singles club to life

Kevin Devine | Photo by Shervin Lainez | photo via facebook.com/KevinDevineMusic
Kevin Devine | Photo by Shervin Lainez | photo via facebook.com/KevinDevineMusic

After a series of 7” split EP’s, Brooklyn’s Kevin Devine is reenlisting his Devinyl Split Series partners—Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy, Matthew Caws from Nada Surf, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins from Tigers Jaw, and Mike Kinsella from Owen and American Football—to bring a massive live show to the TLA tonight. Think of Devine as the ringleader—or the head coach who is also the starting point guard. Continue reading →