An intimate affair with Kevin Morby and Ryley Walker at Boot and Saddle

Ryley Walker | Photo by Rocco Peditto |
Ryley Walker | Photo by Rocco Peditto |

The house lights were still up and upbeat pop music was coming from the speakers hanging from the ceiling, when unannounced, a man in a coat and winter hat with its ear flaps down to his chin took the stage and began tinkering with a guitar. Just a couple minutes later another fellow emerged from the crowd and sat down behind the keyboard at center stage, seemingly adjusting its volume and softy warming up his fingers with different chords. At that moment, this show stated that it’d be an intimate affair.

Ryley Walker then stepped onto the stage in same way, picked up his guitar and sat down at his microphone before taking one last long pull from his can of beer. While he started plucking at his 12-string, his accompaniment seemed to get louder and the house lights dropped. Walker took a deep breath and murmured a relaxed “All right,” into the mic, as they set up the head of “Summer Dress.” Continue reading →


Documenting A Live Music Scene: A conversation with the man behind Philataper

photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |
Strand of Oaks at Union Transfer, one of the shows documented by PhilaTaper | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

You probably didn’t know it, but at the last concert you attended you may have been standing next to a taper. Just ask Kris, a.k.a. Philataper, who has been documenting live gigs for over 20 years. Just a quick perusal of his Soundcloud page shows a treasure trove of local happenings: Strand of Oaks at Union Transfer, Hiss Golden Messenger at Johnny Brenda’s, Doug Paisley at Boot and Saddle.

Recording shows isn’t contained to only the jam band scene, where tapers have been found in designated areas at shows for decades with portable recorders, preamps and microphones on tall stands. True, it’s the only scene that often openly allows taping. In fact, that’s where it all started for Kris (who asks that his last name remain anonymous because of the nature of his hobby). Continue reading →


Sheer Mag’s debut 7″ will bring you to your feet

Sheer Mag, as pictured on the sleeve of their debut 7"
Sheer Mag, as pictured on the sleeve of their debut 7″

You’ll hear the lyric “Well, I can drink from the river ‘til the ocean runs dry” on Sheer Mag’s debut seven-inch, and you’ll notice you’re mid-power stance: fist tightly clenched, eyes shut hard and knees bent just enough. But it just feels right. The song is “Hard Lovin’” and you’ve been standing in front of the stereo since you got up to flip the record over after “Sit and Cry” finished the first side. And that simply makes sense.

This springboard seven-inch coming out of South Philly is a raw-powered punch through unstoppable hooks. Continue reading →


Living through Pure Reality with Dark Blue’s John Sharkey III

Dark Blue | Photo courtesy of the artist
Dark Blue | Photo courtesy of the artist

It’s Wednesday night in the first week of September and John Sharkey III is in his Kensington screen-printing studio. He’s working on tote bags for local punk band, No Other. But he’s never printed tote bags before.

The next day, Sharkey leaves for Ireland, where his wife is originally from, for some family obligations for about two weeks. When he returns, he’ll release Pure Reality, the first full-length album from his newest project Dark Blue.

It’s an eight-song haul in the shoes of a blue-collar man raising his second child, relocating his entire family across continents and returning to an old, yet new home. Continue reading →


XPoNential Artist Spotlight: The Districts get a little help from their friends

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

There are few things that can be as debilitating for a young band as finding out that your tour van – including all of your gear inside and all of your tour earnings – was stolen right out from under your nose. That was The Districts’ now widely-known story in early June. But the Lititz-bred, Philly-based band was able to get by with a little help from their friends, even when they were nearly 900 miles away from home. Continue reading →


XPoNential Artist Spotlight: The Lawsuits keep busy with studio work and prepping new material

The Lawsuits | photo by Brett Henrikson
The Lawsuits | photo by Brett Henrikson

This past October, the Lawsuits released their pop/folk full-length debut Cool Cool Cool and kept busy by working on the production side of things with their now-labelmates on the new American Diamond Recordings. Aside from a small handful of local appearances, the five-piece has been checking out other parts of the Northeast and already writing new material that just may be ready for the public soon.

According to lead singer Brian Dale Allen Strouse, “ADR is a collection of good friends.” And with that kind of sentiment, the Lawsuits are currently waiting for just the right time to take the center spotlight again, rather just toeing it, while ADR is still rolling out Ron Gallo’s solo debut, Ronny. “We’re going to take our time with regards to releasing material on American Diamond to ensure that each release is given the appropriate resources, and ample attention. The Lawsuits are very close to being done with new material and are eager to release it.”

Strouse goes on to say that the band is currently working on getting some new songs, “stage ready,” and that one or two may find work its way onto a setlist of one of their XPoNential Music Festival set this Sunday. As a matter of fact, festivals are the only way you’ll likely catch the Lawsuits for the rest of this summer, as they don’t have an extensive tour planned at this time. They played the bulk of their club tour dates this past fall right after the release of Cool Cool Cool in the New York, Boston and Newport locales before going on a three-week fun from Connecticut to Washington D.C. in February and March.

Just before that, Strouse and drummer Josh Friedman held the reigns on the Levee Drivers‘ recent EP, Speakin’ Bourbon Coated Blues. Strouse took care of engineering, while Friedman mixed and mastered it the three-song effort. And by the sounds of it, Friedman, who just mastered Ronny, and Strouse keep themselves quite busy in their audio production work and have several projects coming down the pipe.

“Josh and I have been working together for over a year now, starting with the Levee Drivers EP,” he says. “We’re currently involved with producing new projects for The Gallerist, Dirty Dollhouse, Kalob Griffin Band and Mat Burke. Joe is currently producing a new project for Satellite Hearts.”

The Lawsuits play Xpontential Festival, Sunday, July 27 at 12:30 p.m. More details here.


PREMIERE: The Extraordinaires video for “Blue Moon,” the story behind Dress for Nasty Weather, and their creative new label

Photo courtesy of the band.
Photo courtesy of the band.

Matt Gibson had a tough decision to make in 2011. He either had to figure out how to keep his band, the Extraordinaires, alive in the wake of Punk Rock Payroll, the record label they’d been a part of going under, or accept an offer to go on tour playing in Man Man.

He ended up accepting and touring with Man Man as a multi-instrumentalist in support of their album Life Fantastic until 2012. His experience touring in a nationally recognized act didn’t yield the results he’d originally imagined though.

“I think I was going into it with a lot higher hopes of meeting more people and meeting more people that wanted to hear new music, or being able to share the Extraordinaires music with them,” Gibson says. “Or meeting people to make contacts with them that may be able to help with the Extraordinaires. But now looking back, that may have been a naive thought. Because the reality of it is that everybody is trying to do the same thing and you really need to have something that’s impressive to peak your head out above everybody else’s. Nobody really cares unless there’s really some hype behind it.”

But he did come away with added comfort for playing in front of larger crowds among other things that helped his main band after rejoining in 2012, which come up later in this piece.

However, Gibson later found out what he thought about bands needing hype to catch the attention of the public may not be true. He and the rest of the Extraordinaires took the crowd-sourcing approach in the winter of 2012 to aid in releasing their upcoming album, Dress for Nasty Weather, their first on their new label, Color Theory Records, which they are running with Justin Wolf of Lux Perpetua. Through a Kickstarter campaign the Extraordinaires surpassed their goal by $2,000.

“Because for what we accomplished with Punk Rock Payroll,” Jay Purdy says, “it was really hard to lose that support system. But it was really inspiring to know that people had taken notice enough that we could do another book.”

Now working under the Color Theory flag, the Extraordinaires want to “keep the spirit of Punk Rock Payroll alive,” as Purdy puts it about the original label that released their first couple albums – with handmade books.

“Our current goal is to be an outlet for bands to do interesting releases,” he says. “As far as vinyl, CDs and digital downloads go that’s kind of standard practice. Because when we were on Punk Rock Payroll, simply by aggregating all of our resources, we were able to do these really unique releases.”

Punk Rock Payroll started as a small merchandise company in 2003, by Frede Zimmer focusing on buttons and screen printing and eventually grew into to being a label for a small roster of bands. Releases on PRP weren’t just conventional CDs, tapes, vinyl records, or even digital downloads, but much more. The boutique label put out music that were more like art projects than just albums.

For example, the Extraordinaires have put out each of their albums on CD accompanied by a hard bound book with the albums’ lyrics printed on its pages. This is more than appropriate for the band’s tendency of telling stories in their music. A song about to come out on Dress for Nasty Weather and personal favorite of Purdy’s is “Stray Bullet,” a tune that he says a bit like a modern version of Pinocchio but a bit darker. And don’t forget about “The Egg of Columbus,” from 2009’s Electric and Benevolent that tells the story of that certain Italian that discovered the Americas. And from the upcoming Dress for Nasty Weather, they are bringing their first music video to light for “Blue Moon.” In it each member of the band plays the role of a Charlie Chaplin-like character, meets what Purdy describes as an “Amerlia Earhart character,” document their day together with her and maybe fall for her, too.

Continue reading →


Hear Heyward Howkins’ “The Raucous Call of Morning” in a beer commercial with South Africa’s hipsters

Photo by Kate Harrold |
Photo by Kate Harrold |

There’s one is every crowd: the whistleblower. However, in this case it’s a harmonica-blower. Because, per the cliché, a whistle would be too normcore and definitely not counter-culture enough for this typical hipster crowd.

Check out Heyward Howkins’ “The Raucous Call of Morning” in this Internet ad for Limited Edition Pale Ale by Garagista Beer Co., a brewery in South Africa. The ad features patchy-bearded guys coming from all directions simply because they’d heard that a new beer is “limited edition.” They show up in droves on single speed bikes wielding vinyl records, hard shell suitcases (did the create a new “hipster” cliché?) and typewriters – likely to draft a letter to send home to the source of their trust fund (going along with this exhausted hipster theme), only to fight each other for a bottle of the brew.

There’s a long shot of a bearded guy wearing dark shades taking the time in the middle of the fray to take a selfie as someone’s trying to take a bottle of Limited Edition Pale Ale out of his hands. Because let’s face, no one would believe that he was there at the scene of the theft of this “limited edition” beer if it wasn’t documented on Instagram. But selfies seem like a platitude that a hipster would be above in 2014, right? If not and selfies are a cliché that belongs to only the hippest, well, that’s news to this mustached writer.

The juxtaposition of “The Raucous Call of Morning,” from The Hale & Hearty, in this scene is a little difficult to line up though. It’s an awfully sparse moment in the song and a pretty much mellow number from start to finish for a shot of a stampeding mob such as this one, at least. But maybe the folks over at Garagista simply think The Hale & Hearty, Howkins’ first album, is his best and have three bearded hipster fingers pointing back at them. Well, us at The Key are fans of Be Frank, Furness, as well.


Randy Randall of No Age starts anew with Pissed Jeans’ Sean McGuinness in Rat Fist

Photo via
Photo via

Randy Randall was caught up in how good he and Sean McGuinness were feeling about starting their new project, Rat Fist, to the point that while laying the music, they’d looked past a crucial part: vocals.

“Sean and I were driving back to recording one day and we were saying, ‘Well, now all we have left to do is the vocals,’” Randall says. “So I asked him, ‘Do you want to sing?’ and he’s like, ‘No, do you want to sing?’ And then we’re both like, ‘Uh… well, let’s both do it. We can both give it a shot.’”

It’s the first time Randall and McGuinness – best known for being the guitarist in No Age and drummer in Pissed Jeans, respectively – are singing in a band, so it’s taken a little bit of adjusting. They’re splitting lyric writing roles too, another first for them both. And the lines on “Disrupt yr DNA,” “You smile and burp while your insides are rotting/ The stench of your decay is… offensive,” are Randall’s doing.

“But it’s an equal collaboration,” he says. “He came up with some songs, I came up some songs. That song, ‘Disrupt Yr DNA,’ I’m singing on that one and I’m not really a trained singer but it has a punk feel to it so whatever. It doesn’t really matter too much what sounds my mouth makes when I open my mouth.”

Even singing and playing guitar simultaneously is something new for Randall. He says that since his bandmate Dean Spunt writes the lyrics and sings in their experimental punk-leaning two-piece No Age, he generally refrains from it entirely. So the prospect of taking his song, “Disrupt yr DNA” out on the road is exciting. Continue reading →


Mock Suns bring highly conceptual Santander/All that I Knew to life with ambitious recording and video production

A piece of art starts with an idea. That idea turns into a concept as the artist begins using his or her craft to create a message. And that’s exactly what the four like-minded guys in Mock Suns have done on their new album, Santander / All that I Knew. They’re self-releasing the record tomorrow, and celebrating next month with a show at Kung Fu Necktie on May 24th.

The album is an ambitious, twelve song effort divided into two movements and is done justice best by listening to the whole album from start to finish. Which seems to be Mock Suns style – approaching everything as if with the mindset of all-or-nothing – whether musically or visually through their videos.

According to singer, guitarist and songwriter, Greg Puglese, Santander / All that I Knew was written in the succession that its songs are sequenced. It proves his intention behind it being a complete album with a single concept.

“The underlying idea is sort of about chasing this dream but you never get a hold of it,” Puglese says. “As if it’s your life goal and it’s always there and you can never fully get a hold of it. As your life goes on it’s always there taunting you.”

Even though Puglese is the primary songwriter and concept laid out cleanly, the rest of the band has their own idea behind the message of the album. Bassist Steve DiRomualdo says it’s about feeling a “lack of fulfillment in your day-to-day. Or it’s like you don’t know what you’re looking for, whether it’s the love of your life, a person, or maybe you just want to be somewhere else.”

Guitarist Tom Magliaro sees it in a similar way, saying the album is about romanticizing a place so much in one’s mind and that finding out upon arrival, that it’s not quite what was expected. Continue reading →