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Finding Philly in Austin: Catching up with nine local artists at SXSW

The Districts | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

South by Southwest: the festival to end all festivals. That time of the year when the entire world takes over the city of Austin for a week of networking, tacos, and lanyard tans. But somewhere amidst the corporate clutter, in between the long lines outside sponsored showcases and under the litter of promotional flyers strewn across the main drag of Austin’s 6th street by week’s end, is that which makes SXSW so strange and wonderful: the thousands of independent artists who chose to play more sets in just a few days than certain artists play in a year, compensated by the choice between $250 and a wristband, and the vague promise of discovery.

This year, I decided that I, myself, would participate in the SXSW hustle, running around the streets of Austin to the sound of a hundred bands at once, camera and notebook in hand (which is nothing, really, compared to the gear most musicians were toting) to catch up with nine of Philadelphia’s own artists showcasing at this year’s festival. Below, read excerpts from our conversations, and see photos from their live sets. Continue reading →

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Laura Stevenson talks cover songs, creative streaks, constant touring and making a live record for Planned Parenthood

Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist

Laura Stevenson has been quite busy. Over the past year and a half, the punk scene songwriter fave released her excellent fourth LP, Cocksure, via Don Giovanni Records and went on several back-to-back-to-back laps touring the U.S. and abroad in support of it. She hit the festival circuit last summer, released a live album this winter, and appeared on the Don’t Stop Now covers compilation to benefit the ACLU. Somewhere along the way, she found a minute to marry her bass player, Mike Campbell.

Live At the Vera Club came out in December, with 100% of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood. It captures a night at the storied club and community creative space in Groningen, situated in the North of the Netherlands. The crowd was small, Stevenson recalls in the album notes, and she couldn’t speak Dutch, so she wasn’t as chatty as usual, but the show rules — the band sounds tremendous, from the uppers like “Torch Song” and “Runner” to the slow burn of “Out With a Whimper” and “Renee,” and a delightful cover of “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements.

Stevenson and her band — Campbell, Alex Billig on accordion and keys, John Burdick on guitar, and Sammi Niss on drums – just headed out on an east coast tour that brings them to Boot and Saddle Thursday. When I caught up with Stevenson via phone from the Hudson Valley home she’s lived in for the past few years, she had just gotten back from a solo tour of Australia with the frontpersons of various down-under DIY acts: Iona Cairns of Shit Present, Lucy Wilson of The Sugarcanes and Wil Wagner of Smith Street Band. We began by discussing this photo of them cuddling a chill koala named Waffles at the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Kuf Knotz

Kuf Knotz | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Kuf Knotz | 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.

It’s hard to try to classify the music of Kuf Knotz, to describe or dismiss it with labels. There’s a little bit of everything here, in Kuf’s work, from pop samples and sensibility to hip hop hooks. There’s a little soul, a little jazz and reggae. There’s a little Philly (where he’s from), a little Brooklyn (where he lives), and a little Netherlands, where he spends a lot of his time recording. As soon as you think you know what he’s all about, this former high school athlete and self-proclaimed jock will politely push on that envelope.

The closest he’ll get to a cohesive theme, though, is the pervasive positivity in his messaging, a spirit of transcendence offered up on everything from 2011’s “Sunny Philadelphia,” to the title track of his last LP “Positive Light,” to “Unstoppable,” the anthem he put together with G. Love and Chuck Treece for the 2008 hometown-hero Phillies team.

Kuf just got home from Holland and Jamaica, where he was at work putting the finishing touches on his newest record, expected to be out early this summer. This one’s more of a “throwback,” as he describes it, “very current, with a heavy 90’s feel,” and will come with a supporting tour. Continue reading →

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Download the audio for Pink Floyd’s flawless performance at The Spectrum in 1973

The Dark Side of the Moon is  Pink Floyd’s greatest commercial success. This is the LP with the famous cover art of light refracting through a triangular prism, an image so iconic it is almost universally recognizable due to the massive reach of the album. The record focused on correlating themes of mental health, greed, death and conflict, among others. These were topics that had been previously explored by the psych-rockers, but were never incorporated in such a direct manner as was used in this 1973 release. Continue reading →

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Vibing Out With Ivy Sole: A conversation with one of Philly’s most exciting new MCs

Ivy Sole | photo by Araba Ankuma | courtesy of the artist
Ivy Sole | photo by Araba Ankuma | courtesy of the artist

One of the best ways for an artist to create a vibe with their music is by allowing their listeners to enter their world. The feeling become genuine when the listener obtain the artist’s perspectives, stories, and even their moods. To do that the artist mustn’t be hesitant to be personable with their music. That’s exactly why Ivy Sole an artist that the city of Philadelphia should look out for.

Whether she’s getting busy on the mic or creating soulful melodies, the Charlotte, North Carolina native hip hop artist always finds ways to bring her listeners into her universe. I was recently able to sit down with the local MC to discuss her introduction to hip hop, her debut project Eden, her recent followup EP East, and her upcoming performance at Underground Arts’ International Women’s Day benefit, which is happening tomorrow evening.  Continue reading →

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OMG: Watch a stunning teaser video of Cayetana’s next album, New Kind of Normal

Cayetana | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Oh my, you might want to sit down for this.

Cayetana posted a 23 second teaser trailer on Facebook late last week, which can only mean one thing: grand-spanking new tunes are on their way. The clip features a slow-mo, reverse shot of what looks like bassist, Allegra Anka, being immersed in a tub of water, with a sharp cut to the bold words “New Kind of Normal.” Oh and not to mention, an ominously-building new song called “Dust” plays for a quick sec. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Dominic Angelella

Dominic | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Dominic | 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.

There’s a bit of a music scene in-joke that circulates about Philadelphia psych-rock cult faves Lilys; so many people have contributed to that band in its 25-year existence that founder and songwriter Kurt Heasley probably couldn’t tell you all of them. Dominic Angelella has experienced sort of the opposite situation in his career; he’s founded, jammed with, recorded and parted ways with so many bands since coming to Philadelphia from Baltimore in 2005, there will probably never be a true and complete chronology of them all.

We’re pretty sure Angelella has never been in Lilys, for what it’s worth. But looking just his higher-profile projects: there was the long running DRGN King, which disbanded last year after two great records on Bar-None; there’s Lithuania, his longer-running punk duo with Eric Slick of Dr. Dog; there’s mewithoutYou, with whom he is currently a touring bassist; there’s Hop Along, where he was an early touring guitarist. And, of course, there’s Dominic.

That’s his first name, true, and it’s also the name of his first truly solo project, which releases its debut LP Goodnight, Doggies. this Friday on Lame-O Records. Back in the fall, The Key brought you the news of his new album alongside a wide-ranging conversation with his onetime bandmate / current roommate, Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan, where the two unpacked Dom’s musical journey. This week, we specifically talk Philly for his High Key Portrait Series spotlight. This interview took place in early 2016, and he shares favorite faces and favorite places in the city — and is our first interviewee to give a diplomatic answer about Philly beer! This Friday, February 3rd, Angelella headlines Johnny Brenda’s (his fav venue) to celebrate the release of Goonight, Doggies. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Kurt Vile shares his favorite songs and albums of the year with XPN’s Mike Vasilikos

Kurt Vile | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, we get the best songs and best albums Kurt Vile heard in 2016 — along with an interview from XPN’s Mike Vasilikos.

Philly’s constant hitmaker Kurt Vile appeared on the air on WXPN this week for a wide-reaching conversation with host Mike Vasilikos recapping his 2016. In the mix, he shared some of his favorite music of the year.

As far as albums, Vile cited Steve Gunn’s Eyes on the Lines – “he’s from my hometown of Lansdowne, a fingerpicking guitar player, a likeminded fellow,” says Vile. He also cited Nathan Bowles’ Whole & Cloven – “he’s hypnotic on the banjo as well as the drums,” says Vile.” “And he also turned me on to a really good banjo company called Buckeye Banjo, and that’s what I play on ‘I’m An Outlaw.'” Lastly, he expressed admiration for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, which he called “a devastating record, very sad.” Check out all those albums below, via a Spotify playlist.

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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Watch Carroll top off their “blue period” with the tranquil “Private Moon” on the latest Shaking Through

Carroll | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com
Carroll | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

Miner Street Recordings’ music production web series Shaking Through welcomed the Philly-by-way-of-Minneapolis psych-rockers of Carroll to its most recent episode. In a way, it was a welcome home for the group since their 2014 single “Bad Water” was recorded with Miner Street’s Jon Low. Continue reading →