Time For Acchin: Weird N.J. rockers Pine Barons reflect on the road to their debut LP

Pine Barons | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

Shamong Township sits about 35 miles south east of Philadelphia, smack dab in the center of New Jersey, but it’s practically a world away.

More of a geographical boundary than a bustling municipality, it’s sliced down the middle by Route 206 and dotted with diners, delis, liquor stores and a gun shop called Pistol Pete’s. At the south border is the mouth of the massive Wharton State Forest, the nucleus of Jersey’s storied Pine Barrens region –- an area with such acidic soil that nothing but evergreens can grow, home to cedar water and the Jersey Devil. It’s from this territory that Shamong-born indie rock five-piece Pine Barons lifted its name…and to a degree, its persona as well. Rugged and adventurous, mysterious and mystical, yet totally affable – these are Jersey guys, after all.

“It wasn’t so much that there was a scene [in Shamong],” recalls bassist Shane Hower of his band’s origins, pausing to look around the room. Several of his fellow Pine Barons are shaking their heads; there was, in fact, no scene in their childhood town, at least not as far as their brand of oddball hallucinogenic indie rock goes.

Guitarist Brad Pulley acknowledges that “another band or two” popped up in their high school, but they were more along the lines of Warped Tour-aspiring pop punk and hardcore; those kids hung out at the Cherry Hill Mall. He preferred the woods.

“I think it was moreso the isolation that brought us together,” says Hower. Continue reading →


The High Key Portrait Series: Steve Gunn

Steve Gunn | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

In June of last year, Philly-turned-Brooklyn rocker Steve Gunn released a dazzling collection of anthems for the modern American road-warrior. Eyes On The Lines is the sort of record that has the potential to become a local classic, the kind of music conducive to a little reflection and meditation on a sprawling state highway, a soundtrack to stumbling on interesting places even in what you may have used to think of as flyover country.

Originally from the suburbs west of Philly, Gunn graduated from Temple U and moved to Northern Liberties, as sort of a happy accident for him, back in the days just before it became the focus of developers, or a trendy place to move and invest in property. It was where Gunn got serious, as he describes it, about his focus on writing and recording music, where the prolific artist got started on what’s now a back catalog of over a dozen albums; among other topics, he talks  in this interview about the era of Philly indie rock in the time of the late Jack Rose.

The native son returns next Saturday, for a homecoming set at the World Cafe’s Philly Music and Arts Fest. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Dent May

Dent May | Photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for our latest Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session is a musician that I’ve been a fan of since his humble beginning with a ‘magnificent ukulele.’ Dent May is originally from Mississippi, but recently relocated to Los Angeles. This fish-out-of-water story serves as partial inspiration for Dent’s new album, Across The Multiverse, which was released this summer on Carpark Records. Featuring a blend of effervescent electro-pop and Brill Building-informed songwriting, the album shows off Dent’s nearly obsessive approach to music making. With a full touring band in tow, Dent joins us in the studio to play some of the new songs.

Continue reading →


Maximizing Time: Philly’s Justin Duerr on constant immersion in music, writing and visual art

Justin Duerr performs with Northern Liberties | photo by Yoni Kroll

You might know Justin Duerr from Resurrect Dead, the award-winning documentary he helped make about Toynbee Tiles, the colorful and mysterious messages embedded in roads in Philadelphia, NYC, and elsewhere. You might know him from his bands, including the long-running ‘ghost punk’ outfit Northern Liberties or the acoustic duo Get the Great Cackler he does with his partner Mandy Katz. You might have seen his one-of-a-kind art on a t-shirt or a show flyer or maybe hanging on your friend’s wall. Or you might just have seen Justin intently walking around Philadelphia, tattoos stretching from the side of his head to the tops of his hands – including a portrait of pop singer Cyndi Lauper gracing his left hand – and wondered, “What’s up with that guy?”

Opening Friday at the Magic Gardens on South Street, Time’s Funeral: Drawings and Poems by Justin Duerr is a gallery exhibition including small, stand-alone pieces and huge posters that are part of an on-going storytelling series that Justin has been working on for almost two decades. As an added bonus, he’ll be playing music at the opening night. Continue reading →


Catching up with Good Old War’s Dan Schwartz new sounds, second chances and making honest music

Photo Courtesy of Dylan Eddinger Photography

The original three members of Philly’s Good Old War are finally, finally, back together again, and I was lucky enough to catch the end of their reunion tour at World Cafe Live back in August. The band is set to play a SoFar Sounds Amnesty International Benefit on September 20th, with new music out in the world as well — “Part of Me” was released on September 1st. Guitarist Dan Schwartz — also known as Danny Black for his solo work — was kind enough to give me some insight into what went into the making of their newest EP. With the rejoining of drummer Tim Arnold, the band is back and really better than they’ve ever been before. Continue reading →


Sept 14 in Music History: Genesis make their live debut, Counting Crows release August and Everything After

Counting Crows August and Everything After

1955 – Little Richard enters a New Orleans studio to begin two days of recording. The sessions don’t start well, but they end fantastically. During a break, he and his producer Bumps Blackwell go to the Dew Drop Inn for lunch. Richard starts wildly playing the piano in the bar, singing a loud and lewd version of “Tutti Frutti.” With only fifteen minutes left in the session, Richard records this version of the song with the phrase, “a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom.”

Continue reading →


More Than Jake: Jake Clemons goes beyond what you think you know of Fear + Love

Jake Clemons | photo courtesy of the artist

Calling from a solo tour stop in Montreal, saxophonist-singer Jake Clemons offered up a smart and pleasant, conversation and a humble man’s attitude when it came to being a guy you (think) you know from brand-name family ties, literal and figurative. Soft-spoken and easy to laugh, Clemons seemed pleased to open up about the studied songwriting process and the emotional connections to the songs on his new album, Fear + Love, a record he’ll pull form at World Café Live this Wednesday September 13. Continue reading →