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The High Key Portrait Series: Joie Kathos

Joie Kathos | 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.

Philly’s Joie Kathos has had a busy year. In June, she performed at Delaware’s Firefly Festival; back in March she was showcased on both the iStandard Beat Battle and in Washington DC’s SheROCKS event. She’s got her hands in several ongoing projects, having released singles for Comin Home With Me (CHWM) on iTunes late last year. And come September, she’ll open up at the Electric Factory for Young M.A.

The Philly native’s star is on the rise, but her head seems to be planted squarely right here at home, in a city that’s imbued her with a deep cultural tradition going back to her parents’ love for arts and music. In this interview, she recalls childhood memories attending local concerts with her father, and all of the music that continues to fuel her own creative energy. She’s inspired and informed by hip hop touchstones like The Roots and KRS-One, and one of her personal heroes, Bahamadia, invited the young rapper to perform at her #KOLLAGE tribute show at Johnny Brenda’s last year. “We sat in the studio and talked and she was droppin’ jewels,” Kathos reminisces about the collaboration. “I’m grateful for her.”

As she describes CHWM, she evokes more cherished memories of ‘90s music media culture. “Remember back in like the ‘90s when they used to release singles on CD, and then there would be like the ‘radio edit,’ and three different house mixes.. I just wanna keep it true to that.” You’ll be quickly laughed off and contradicted, though, should you try to point that she couldn’t possibly “remember the ‘90s” because she’s only 25: “I’ve always been into music. My start in music was way back when, when I was a baby! My mom sang, and she danced, and my uncle sang, and I was just around it. So I’m a little bit ahead of my time, a little bit old-school too.” Continue reading →

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Live from The Cave with Second Womb

Second Womb | photo courtesy of the artist
Second Womb | photo courtesy of the artist

One of the most important things to do as an upcoming artist is to stay consistent no matter what. There will be trials and tribulations that make some feel alone at times, and feel like praying for the perseverance to not quit, but one’s self-confidence makes them refute the idea of giving up. That type of consistency allows the craft to be perfected, more work to be displayed and a hunger for success to constantly expands. This type of consistency can be seen by Jersey’s duo Dookie Brown, an MC, and Father Earth, a producer, collectively known as Second Womb. I recently got the opportunity to speak with Dookie Brown about the Garden State hip hop duo’s beginning, work ethic and their latest EP Live From The Cave Vol: 19.    Continue reading →

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Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes has a new band in Bermuda Triangle

Alabama Shakes | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Anyone who attended last year’s XPN Fest knows quite well how amazingly talented Brittany Howard is. As the vocalist for the Grammy-winning Alabama Shakes, she packs a vocal punch rivaled by no one. So the news that found its way through the interwebs this week was sure to excite: Howard has a new band and they’re debuting live in Nashville next week. Continue reading →

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Calling You In: How Solarized is challenging the status quo and diversifying the the punk scene

Solarized performs at Break Free Fest | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Throughout history, the potent dynamics of race, gender, economic class and sexuality have shaped every aspect of human social activity. Politics, love, war, art, all of it has been invariably touched by these social forces, and music is no different. The realities of racism and the complexity of identity play themselves out nationally, internationally and in our local music scenes. For all its historical emphasis on rebellion, freedom and challenging of the status quo, punk as a subculture has not avoided the oppressive aspects of these social dynamics.

Continue reading →

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Become The Gatekeeper: Ramona Córdova reflects on a decade of pushing boundaries and arriving at the new ON PAPER

Ramona Cordova | photo by Inma Varandela | courtesy of the artist
Ramona Córdova | photo by Inma Varandela | courtesy of the artist

Ramona Córdova‘s video for “Decision” opens with Angela Davis’s sultry, portentous voice lamenting the state of racial relations in 1960’s America, particularly police violence and housing discrimination against black people. Her words and Ramona’s use of them are portentous. As the video lurches through footage of hippies protesting it bleeds into stark bleached out film images of key moments in black history. “Decision” is a song about using your intuition to make loving choices– to stay, to go, and to live with these choices long after you’ve left the corporeal world. The songs contemplative nature is underscored by a marching, casio-fueled back beat that seems to hold together the wistful pop-folk. Despite a stark intrusion from a racist Willie Lynch quote, the video ends hopefully, awash in color, the people having made their choice to abandon the parts of them that are uninterested in liberation.

This kind of witchy imbalance and playful questioning has informed Ramona Córdova for the past decade they’ve been creating music. A multi-instrumentalist whose cultural background is a wonderful mosaic (Haitian, Filipino, Puerto Rican), Ramona embraces a nostalgiac sense of liberation through the dreaminess of the new album On Paper. The record is a buzzy, brilliant fever infecting listeners with its Flaming Lips-but-really good song writing. Ramona peeks through the lazy clouds of the act’s past efforts for a taste of modernity, albeit replete with a lo-fi orchestral scratch. A true angel with a voice to match, you can find Ramona Córdova on the one couch at your local community center, drifting through the dream state and the real world, at once absorbing the sight and sounds of west Philly’s queer bent indie scene and projecting an aura so vibrant genre can not contain.

We talked to Ramona about On Paper, the sometimes rough terrain of the larger indie landscape, and about the power in witchy energy. Join us! Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Matt Cappy

Matt Cappy | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Matt Cappy | 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.

Philly brass-man Matt Cappy will be dropping his debut album Church And State from Ropeadope Records on June 16th. It’ll be available everywhere digitally, but you can grab an advance hard copy at his CD release party at 2300 Arena in South Philly on June 8th.

Cappy cut his teeth at Philly’s jazz clubs, but has since blown a trumpet on everything from R&B, neo-soul, indie rock and ska, hip-hop and jazz records. He’ll kick off a tour next month supporting compatriot neo-soul singer Jill Scott, and representing Philly as far west as LA’s Hollywood Bowl. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Soul Glo

Soul Glo | photo by Joey Tobin via soulglophl.bandcamp.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Soul Glo / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
soulglophl.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

In our band currently are vocalist Pierce, guitarist Ruben, bassist GG, and drummer Jamie. Soul Glo has existed since July 2014. Essentially our music is the sound of the yelling and cussing in our heads as we field the various microaggressions of our lives.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

When it comes to Break Free, we’re most excited about the commingling of Black and Brown people who make and love to hear punk and hardcore. We’re most excited about being surrounded by those people and hopefully seeing this become an annual event, if it doesn’t exhaust Scout too much to do so. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Body Pressure

Body Pressure | photo by Yoni Kroll

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Body Pressure / Austin, Texas
bodypressure.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

Body Pressure is a band whose message and lyrics are the forefront of our existence and the driving force. I (Faiza) write about my experience as a femme and person of color as well as deconstructing societal constructs created to continue colonization and perpetuate white supremacy. We played our first show in October 2015 with G.L.O.S.S at our favorite queer bar, Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin, Texas and went on our first tour a couple of months ago.

Body Pressure is Bryan Taylor, Faiza Kracheni, Melissa Curtis and Thomas Rabon.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

Break Free is important to exist because people of color are most often bound in communities that are the majority white people and because of that, I personally (often) feel I have to have some sort of guard up or silence myself in ways to appease the white masses. Not anymore. We are here, we exist and we refuse to bow. Being in a space that was created by and for us is a feeling that I am so excited to feel.  Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: S-21

S-21 | photo by Ben Trogdon | vbdbct.tumblr.com | via s-21.bandcamp.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

S-21 / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
s-21.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

S-21 is Cella, Brian, Nneka, Tiff and Cassidy and we’ve been around since September 2015.  S-21’s name comes from the notorious prison that the Khmer Rouge used to commit atrocities on Cambodians in the 1970’s and is particularly personal to Cella, S-21’s vocalist, who is the daughter of a Cambodian refugee and who lost family members due to the Cambodian genocide.  Heavily influenced by Japanese punk metal and mid 80’s US/NYHC, S-21 beats down on white supremacy, genocide, toxic masculinity, erasure, objectification and police brutality.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

We are most excited about sharing a space with other people who have lived through the experience of being black and brown in this world. It’s significant for us to create our spaces and platforms and to not always feel like guests being invited to spaces that are created on the terms and conditions of white musicians, which is more often than not the default dynamic. For us to acknowledge the identity of being a person of color in music is to be real about our shared experiences. Sharing a stage with others who have been able to harness a sense of agency through music and against the standard hierarchy of music is a form of empowerment, and we are excited to have this experience for one day. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Minority Threat

Minority Threat | via minoritythreat.bandcamp.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Minority Threat / Columbus, Ohio
minoritythreat.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

Minority Threat is Jordan (vocals), Antonio (drums), Winston (bass) and Darrell (guitar). We’ve been doing the band for about two years. We all grew up in punk/hardcore in different cities all over Ohio, and none of us had bands around that spoke on issues from a person of color’s perspective. Once we all met, we decided to make the band we always wanted to see.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

Every other band that’s playing. The lineup is unreal. Continue reading →