Meet Brandy Butler: A Philly-born songwriter who rediscovered her voice abroad

Brandy Butler | via

“I don’t think of it as a breakup record,” says Brandy Butler. “I think of it more as my journey through learning how to let something come, and then let it go. Letting go of things is like everyone’s struggle on so many levels.”

The Inventory of Goodbye, the latest full length project by Philly born, Zurich Switzerland based singer-songwriter and her band The Brokenhearted is a harrowing journey through a cycle of love, loss, heartbreak and rejuvenation. Touching on soaring rock an soul, twangy country-blues and cinematic retro-pop, The Inventory… is a colorful and diverse listen.

From the bittersweet pop ballad “Crying” to the heart-wrenchingly sparse guitar epic “The Hardest,” Butler’s hushed windswept vocals breathe life into each of the album’s dark, emotionally dense love songs. We caught up with her before a trip to South Africa to film a video and spoke with her about her youth studying Jazz at UArts, new music and building a new life on another continent. Continue reading →


More GD Gusto: Marge shines on its debut LP Bruise Easy

Marge | Photo courtesy of artist
Marge | Photo courtesy of artist


When I first heard a glimmer of Marge‘s new material back in June of last summer, songs like “Give It Time” and “Half Year” simultaneously stole my heart and punched me in the gut — a sort of lovesick ache that comes from such comfortable familiarity. Driving guitars play steadfast under simple yet sharp lyricism that offer up a relatability that’s not easily captured. “The pain feels new” /  “Let your heart rest” / “I had doubts anyway.”

Now, half a year later (not a pun, just a fact) and with a full cannon of work to share, Marge’s first full-length release, Bruise Easy, builds on that palpable sincerity and the results are effortless. Marge will impress you with their subtlety, if you have the ear to catch it all. With 13 tracks of lo-fi, fuzzed out, wailing, zig-zagging mania, the Philly do-it-yourselfers will reel you in with their ’90s alt rock sensibility and swallow you whole with their cutting one liners. Continue reading →


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 |

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 →


Grabbing beers with Spill on the eve of their album release

Spill | photo via

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 →


The High Key Portrait Series: Sadie Dupuis

Sadie Dupuis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Sadie Dupuis | 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, meet your new neighbor Sadie Dupuis. Oh sure, you know her best as the frontwoman of Speedy Ortiz, the now-veteran award-winning attention-getting indie-rock darlings of every music writer from Noisey to Pitchfork, who’ve been around the touring block with the likes of Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, and the sisters Deal. You know. NBD.

But what you might not know is that, as mononymous solo artist Sad13 (and yes, that’s “Sad Thirteen”), Dupuis has moved from the heart of New England right to our backyard. With her debut record Slugger racking up the critical acclaim, she’s already on tour, and you can catch her at Girard Avenue’s Everybody Hits tonight.

As she settles into life in Philly, Dupuis compares and contrasts for us her experiences in Philly and Boston and tips you local vegans off to the best tofu hoagie in town. You’re welcome. Continue reading →


The Stray Birds’ Oliver Craven looks back on a busy 2016

The Stray Birds | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
The Stray Birds | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Lancaster County country-folk trio The Stray Birds have been anything but dormant in 2016. From extensive touring, writing, and the release of their fourth proper LP, Magic Fire, the trio has definitely kept busy this year, and it’s been exciting.

I recently caught up with singer-guitarist Oliver Craven to find out what the trio has been up to since we last talked. For starters, Magic Fire has been met with positive acclaim from notable media outlets like NPR’s Mountain Stage and Folk Alley, as well as American Songwriter.

“There’s a lot of newness and it’s going well,” reflects Craven. “We started touring with a drummer [fellow Pennsylvanian Dominic Billett] and started touring new songs. The longest run with him was over in the UK for about three weeks. [It was] the best tour ever. We played in what felt were the right rooms, well-organized, and energized.” Continue reading →


New journeys with Hoots and Hellmouth

Hoots and Hellmouth | photo via

Philly roots scene favorites Hoots and Hellmouth emerged from a stretch of semi-hibernation earlier this fall with In The Trees Where I Can See The Forest. It’s the band’s fourth, and finest album — a true evolution of its sound into something spacious and spectral, atmospheric and engaging. The acoustic bootstomp folk rock that they built their name around has given way to sensitive electric jams, with the stunning “Diction” acting as a centerpiece. On the one hand, it’s the same Hoots and Hellmouth you’ve always known, but on the other hand, they’re more grown up than ever.

The band — which features Sean Hoots on guitar and vocals, Rob Berliner on mandolin and vocals, Todd Erk on bass and Mike Reilly on drums –went on a U.S. tour this fall. It was their first run in a few years, and wasn’t without its challenges: a van break-in after a St. Louis gig left them with gear and personal items stolen, while shows in markets they never played before were on the underwhelming side.

When I caught up with Hoots via phone this week, he admitted that it took the band a minute to find their footing on this run, but it had its transcendant moments as well (including a performance for the OpenAir sessions at Colorado Public Radio), and he remains optimistic about the next leg of the journey. Tonight, Hoots and Hellmouth brings it home at Ardmore Music Hall; get tickets and more information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar, and read my interview with Hoots below. Continue reading →


DJ By Night, Educator By Day: Getting to know James Sauppe’s MontCo Music

James Sauppe at a MontCo Music workshop | courtesy of the artist
James Sauppe at a MontCo Music workshop | courtesy of the artist

James Sauppe is known by many in the city’s underground electronic dance music scene as the genre-challenging DJ / producer RVLVR. During the day, Sauppe applies his knowledge of electronic music as a teacher. As a professor of Music Technology at Community College of Philadelphia, Sauppe uses state-of-the-art music software to guide students through the intricacies of modern music making. He also takes on private students, teaching drumming and music production. Throughout it all, education remains at the center of Sauppe’s creative life.

In February of this year, after coming down with severe flu-like symptoms, Sauppe was diagnosed with diverticulitis, a digestive disease which causes inflammation in the digestive tract. After extended hospitalization, several intensive abdominal surgeries, Sauppe found himself in a tough financial spot. In response to this unfortunate turn of events, Sauppe’s students, friends and family rallied to his aid. “My students started a GoFundMe page for me and raised quite a bit of money to help with medical expenses and lost income. Some of them even continued to pay for monthly lessons, even though they knew they wouldn’t receive them. It was amazing how they came together for me and I’m eternally grateful.” Sauppe says.

It was this act of deep compassion from the community around him that not only provided him with the material support required to get back on his feet, it also inspired his next endeavor, one that would help him continue his mission of spreading music through education. Stated simply: “Their generosity and concern inspired the idea for MontCo Music.” Continue reading →