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21st Century Psych: Temples carry golden age traditions into the digital age

Temples | photo via www.facebook.com/templesofficial
Temples | photo via www.facebook.com/templesofficial

We are not experiencing a psychedelic revolution. Psych music, since its inception, has oscillated through pop culture. In the beginning, when love, drugs and the Beatles were free, the Byrds spun their dark web of bad trip/good trip to a lesser audience. The 70’s saw momentum from groups like T.Rex, with their fearlessly tripped-out glitz and glam rock. In the 80’s, I’m sure there were some dark underlords dosing people with anti-disco, and the 90’s had the Brian Jonestown Massacre, keeping the scene very much alive and kicking.

“There have been bands every decade who’ve revived what’s good about that Golden era of music and kind of carried it on to the next generation,” says Thomas Warmsley of the UK-based psych-pop group Temples. It’s a few hours before the group’s set at London’s Latitude Festival, and we’re on the phone discussing the past.

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Tales of the Open Road: Get Real Gang leader Juston Stens on riding his ’72 Triumph cross-country to write and record Share the Road

Juston Stens | Photo by Ellie Tremple | courtesy of the artist
Juston Stens | Photo by Ellie Tremple | courtesy of the artist

About 45 minutes before I’m supposed to meet Philly pop rebel Juston Stens for a poolside cocktail at North Shore Beach Club, I get a text: “Kate, I’m so sorry. My van broke down in South Philly. Should we reschedule?”

I’m headed back to South Philly myself, and his van just so happens to be near my neighborhood. So I tell him no worries, we can do the interview as he waits for a tow. It’s about 90 degrees out and by the time I reach him, he’s already been waiting 4 hours. “They sent a guy out already, but the trailer bed wasn’t big enough,” he quips, gesturing towards his monolith of a vehicle.

Considering how long he’s been waiting, he’s in a surprisingly good mood. He apologizes profusely for ruining our pool plans, then eagerly starts describing his new record. When the tow truck arrives, he chats with the driver, then helps push the van into a parking spot post-tow. “I work as a mover, part-time,” he tells me, unphased by its enormity. “This is nothing.” Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Keeping mountain minstrelsy alive with Marah

Marah | Photo courtesy of the artist
Marah | Photo courtesy of the artist

The underdog set of this XPoNential Music Festival belongs to Marah – one known as a raucous Philadelphia rock band, now a raucous Central Pennsylvania folk band. Led by Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith, its project of late is the excellent 2014 offering Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, where the six-piece recorded its own rearrangements and renditions of songs collected in 1931 by folklorist Harry Shoemaker.

This is where the underdog aspect comes in: as Dave explains, the songs they drew from – while they are as striking and resonant in a modern context as I imagine they might have been three-quarters of a century ago – are nonetheless the music of the people, everyday real people, the sort that cultural critics might tend to eschew and not anthologize in favor of somebody more…I don’t know…poetic. But this is poetry nevertheless. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Catching up with Our Griffins

Our Griffins | Photo by Daniel Jason Savage
Our Griffins | Photo by Daniel Jason Savage

Atmospheric rock ensemble Our Griffins released its debut full-length Michael Boyd in September and has spent the ten months since establishing its presence in Philly and beyond. Led by Easton’s D.J. Brown, the band has sharpened its game as an evocative live act – some moments recall Bon Iver, others explode like The Appleseed Cast – appearing on the Communion Music showcase in the spring and being spotlighted in Root Down in the Shadow’s Cover Club series. “It’s been solid,” Brown tells us. “I definitely learned a lot from the whole cycle of things.” Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Strand of Oaks talks prepping for tour, summer hangouts and the songs that didn’t end up on Heal

via instagram.com/strandofoaks
via instagram.com/strandofoaks

It’s pretty much impossible to miss the gleeful buoyancy in Strand of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter’s voice when chatting with him. Maybe it’s something encoded into his personality, or maybe he’s still riding the waves of critical and commercial acclaim that the fourth Strand of Oaks record, Heal (Dead Oceans), has been generating since its release last month. Regardless, his cheer is infectious, and that acclaim for HEAL, an examination of catharsis steeped in the burst and bloom of a decades-spanning rock ‘n’ roll (as opposed to “rock”) tradition, is well deserved. But in that month since its release, Showalter has been taking this summer relatively easy, and was happy to catch up with The Key to chat about HEAL, how he manages his songwriting, and his (lack of) preparation for a nearly three-month tour, which starts this Saturday at the XPoNential Music Festival.

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Meet Commonwealth Choir, Fishtown’s new kids on the block

Commonwealth Choir | photo by Mike Bucher
Commonwealth Choir | photo by Mike Bucher

We’ve got a lot of great new local talent to look forward to this weekend, and Saturday will start off with one of the newer bands on the block.  Commonwealth Choir is closing out a year of “XPoNential” growth – even before the release of its debut Shirtless EP last fall, the band’s single “Rest” was placed in XPN’s rotation.  Since then, they’ve sold out shows at MilkBoy multiple times (including New Year’s Eve), opened for New Sweden’s record release show and recorded an incredibly popular Key Studio Session.  I spoke with Commonwealth Choir’s lead vocalist / guitarist Davis Jameson Howley to find out how the band got its start, what this past year has been like and what it means to them to be playing the XPoNential Music Festival. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: The beat-heavy road to the top of Marian Hill

Photo by Paul Gilmore via facebook.com/marianhillmusic
Photo by Paul Gilmore via facebook.com/marianhillmusic

Of all the shining local stars we’ve featured on WXPN, few have seen their fortunes rise quickly as Marian Hill. When they take the stage this Friday at the XPoNential Music Festival, they will be doing so on the heels of escalating tour momentum, glowing reviews in national news outlets, and a boatload of raw talent – all of which has come together within only a year-and-a-half of their official formation.

It would be foolish, however, to think too much of the duo’s relative youth (both as a band and as 24-year-olds). Vocalist Samantha Gongol and producer/beatsmith Jeremy Lloyd possess the rare mix of gracious humility and insatiable, studied ambition that strongly correlates with creative longevity.

“We still have a long way to go, but already realizing so many dreams and having this type of audience…it’s been out of this world,” says Lloyd. Continue reading →

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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.

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Teenage metalheads Unlocking the Truth make Philadelphia debut tonight with Queens of the Stone Age

Unlocking the Truth | photo courtesy of the artist
Unlocking the Truth | photo courtesy of the artist

Nearly every kid that gets hooked on heavy metal has at some point slung a guitar onto their shoulders and bashed out a few songs with their friends. Hell, glance back at the late 1980s and I was one of them. But like me, most of them never get out of the basement. Barely teenagers, Unlocking the Truth have already become a viral sensation, opened for rock gods like Guns N’Roses and Motörhead, played a set at this year’s Coachella Festival, and earlier this week inked a $1.7 million dollar deal with Sony for their debut album.

Tonight, Unlocking the Truth will open for Queens of the Stone Age at the Mann Center, just the latest highlight in what has been an unlikely and meteoric career for the three African-American middle-school metalheads from Flatbush. “It’s surreal,” says guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, 13. “When we were younger, we used to have dreams of being this big when we were older, like 21 or something like that.”

It’s strange to hear a 13-year-old look back on the dreams of his youth, but Brickhouse and his bandmates have packed a lot of experience into a few years. He and drummer Jarad Dawkins, 12, got exposed to metal via the soundtracks to Japanese anime like Naruto and Bleach and the entrance music for WWE superstars. “The background for both was heavy metal,” Brickhouse says, “and I guess as we watched it a lot we got addicted to that kind of music.”

Brickhouse started playing guitar at the age of 7 with the encouragement of his parents, who supported any endeavor that their son was interested in. “My whole thing was, if you turn the TV off, you can pretty much do anything you want in my house,” says Brickhouse’s mother, Annette Jackson, who now co-manages the band with Alan Sacks, co-creator of Welcome Back, Kotter. “At one point they were ninjas, they were superheroes, they were wrestlers, and the next thing you know now they want to be a band.”

Bassist Alec Atkins, 13, joined a couple of years later and the band, then known as Tears of Blood, made it to the second round in the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night competition in 2012. They carried that momentum into their outdoor performances in Times Square. Eric Clapton drummer Steve Jordan discovered them playing in Washington Square Park later that year.

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It’s Jam Band Season! Get to know eclectic 8-piece band, Somewhere South

somewheresouth
Photo via https://www.facebook.com/somewheresouthmusic

There is nothing more summery than a jam band.  Even if you aren’t a religious follower (aka Phish fan) you can still go to a show and appreciate the freeing sensation a jam band’s music gives you.  With the Phish shows just wrapping and Cheers Elephant, Umphrey’s McGee and Disco Biscuits performances in the future, we are excited to introduce you to a new jam band, Somewhere South.

Hailing from Philly, Somewhere South creates dynamic music that combines elements like horns, bass guitar, dual male and females vocals, as well as lyrics in both English and Spanish.  Their self-titled EP, includes folk, funk, and even a little bit of country twang.  Each track is different from the next, but maintains a melodic consistency that makes the young band’s work sound extremely mature. The first track “Alright” is one of their slower tracks, but sets the precedent for the rest of the EP.  It’s instantly calming in nature, and meshes well with breezy, summer weather and attitudes. The song is all about simplicity and trying to live in the moment, as they sing “Keep it simple, keep it true, keep it simple, keep it you.”

The band has been playing all around Philly, and will play next at Ardmore Music Hall on August 2nd, which will no doubt be an incredible fun experience. Listen to their Somewhere South below.

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