Get to know local musician Jacob Snider

Jacob Snider | photo by Doug Seymour
Jacob Snider | photo by Doug Seymour

Jacob Snider is a singer songwriter from suburban Philadelphia. I saw Jacob when he performed his first show at World Cafe Live in Philly when he was 17 years old – I was really impressed by his performance and stage presence.  He recently graduated from college and has been working on his new music. He has a show this Thursday, July 10th, at World Cafe Live along with Elizabeth & The Catapult. I thought it was a good time to meet Jacob and find out what he’s been up to.

Helen Leicht: I know last May you graduated from college …where did you go to school and what was your major?

Jacob Snider: I went to Columbia University for college. I studied Music and American Studies there. I also played a lot of music in the city with a bunch of different people. Columbia is where I met Armand Hirsch, one of my best friends and collaborators.

HL: How long have you been writing and performing?

JS: I’ve been writing and recording…my whole life! My brother Cary and I have a band not many people know of called The Piggies. We’re a studio band.

HL: You have been in California working and recording your debut album.  Why did you head to California and who have you been working with on your new music?

JS: I left for California on somewhat of a whim. I had one or two meetings scheduled, and at one of them, I learned about a producer named Tony Berg. I met with Tony and he had many instruments in his home studio, was welcoming, and we hit it off. His brother is a biographer, and had just finished a biography of Woodrow Wilson – we talked about that. We talked about what I was listening to. I played him some songs. He told me the trick is finding a “unique sonic palette” to make the music with, and we started putting things together.

HL: Tell me about your songwriting process?

JS: Songwriting process is always hard to talk about. I’m wary about “telling a story” too much, as the stories we tell tend to simplify and make coherent the things of life that are anything but simple or coherent. But I can say that the lyrics of these songs are more clear – at least in my mind – than anything I’ve written up to now. That’s something Tony pushed me on. I would bring a sketch to Tony and he would give helpful feedback.

HL: When will you be releasing your new music?

JS: Almost all of these songs were written over the period of a few months. And they came out of a turbulent stretch of time in my life. I don’t think turbulence ever stops. And I don’t think to “get over it,” whatever it is, is the goal. I think you carry it- many things – with you, and it changes with you as you trudge along.

I’m not sure when the whole record will be released but I hope soon! I have one song from it up on my Soundcloud and I will be posting more soon.

HL: Any cool fact about the new album that you can share with me?

JS: Cool facts… The record features prominently Armand Hirsch, who is playing 70% of the instruments. It wouldn’t have been what it is without him. Drums, bass, guitar, banjo, marxophone, among others. It also features Rob Moose on violin and viola, who was the musical director for Bon Iver, and has recorded strings for Dirty Projectors and Sufjan Stevens. Rob also has his own group called yMusic. Jesca Hoop is an amazing Manchester, England based songwriter who is singing on the final song, “Get It Off My Chest.”

HL: You have a show coming up this Thursday July 10th.  Are you solo or with a band?

JS: On Thursday I will most likely be playing solo, but it’s a co-bill.  Elizabeth and the Catapult is a very interesting artist based in New York. She also made a record with Tony Berg and he put us in touch. I’m excited to share the stage with her.

Tickets and information for Jacob Snider’s show at World Cafe Live can be found here.

Tags: ,


PREMIERE: The Extraordinaires video for “Blue Moon,” the story behind Dress for Nasty Weather, and their creative new label

Photo courtesy of the band.
Photo courtesy of the band.

Matt Gibson had a tough decision to make in 2011. He either had to figure out how to keep his band, the Extraordinaires, alive in the wake of Punk Rock Payroll, the record label they’d been a part of going under, or accept an offer to go on tour playing in Man Man.

He ended up accepting and touring with Man Man as a multi-instrumentalist in support of their album Life Fantastic until 2012. His experience touring in a nationally recognized act didn’t yield the results he’d originally imagined though.

“I think I was going into it with a lot higher hopes of meeting more people and meeting more people that wanted to hear new music, or being able to share the Extraordinaires music with them,” Gibson says. “Or meeting people to make contacts with them that may be able to help with the Extraordinaires. But now looking back, that may have been a naive thought. Because the reality of it is that everybody is trying to do the same thing and you really need to have something that’s impressive to peak your head out above everybody else’s. Nobody really cares unless there’s really some hype behind it.”

But he did come away with added comfort for playing in front of larger crowds among other things that helped his main band after rejoining in 2012, which come up later in this piece.

However, Gibson later found out what he thought about bands needing hype to catch the attention of the public may not be true. He and the rest of the Extraordinaires took the crowd-sourcing approach in the winter of 2012 to aid in releasing their upcoming album, Dress for Nasty Weather, their first on their new label, Color Theory Records, which they are running with Justin Wolf of Lux Perpetua. Through a Kickstarter campaign the Extraordinaires surpassed their goal by $2,000.

“Because for what we accomplished with Punk Rock Payroll,” Jay Purdy says, “it was really hard to lose that support system. But it was really inspiring to know that people had taken notice enough that we could do another book.”

Now working under the Color Theory flag, the Extraordinaires want to “keep the spirit of Punk Rock Payroll alive,” as Purdy puts it about the original label that released their first couple albums – with handmade books.

“Our current goal is to be an outlet for bands to do interesting releases,” he says. “As far as vinyl, CDs and digital downloads go that’s kind of standard practice. Because when we were on Punk Rock Payroll, simply by aggregating all of our resources, we were able to do these really unique releases.”

Punk Rock Payroll started as a small merchandise company in 2003, by Frede Zimmer focusing on buttons and screen printing and eventually grew into to being a label for a small roster of bands. Releases on PRP weren’t just conventional CDs, tapes, vinyl records, or even digital downloads, but much more. The boutique label put out music that were more like art projects than just albums.

For example, the Extraordinaires have put out each of their albums on CD accompanied by a hard bound book with the albums’ lyrics printed on its pages. This is more than appropriate for the band’s tendency of telling stories in their music. A song about to come out on Dress for Nasty Weather and personal favorite of Purdy’s is “Stray Bullet,” a tune that he says a bit like a modern version of Pinocchio but a bit darker. And don’t forget about “The Egg of Columbus,” from 2009’s Electric and Benevolent that tells the story of that certain Italian that discovered the Americas. And from the upcoming Dress for Nasty Weather, they are bringing their first music video to light for “Blue Moon.” In it each member of the band plays the role of a Charlie Chaplin-like character, meets what Purdy describes as an “Amerlia Earhart character,” document their day together with her and maybe fall for her, too.

Continue reading →

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Interview: L.A.’s Chicano Batman take global approach to Tropicália

Chicano Batman | photo courtesy of the artist
Chicano Batman | photo courtesy of the artist

Designed by Cesar Chavez and his brother Richard in 1962, the logo of the United Farm Workers became a potent symbol for the burgeoning Chicano rights movement, taking the eagle symbol from the Mexican flag and patterning its stairstep wings after an inverted Aztec pyramid. A little less than fifty years later, a singer, guitarist, and organist in East L.A. made a few slight alterations to that logo, bringing it to a sharp point at the bottom and replacing the eagle’s head with a familiar pointy-eared bat’s head, bringing together the un-parallel worlds of the UFW and DC Comics.

The new symbol stands for Chicano Batman, and if the Los Angeles four-piece doesn’t exactly fight for farm workers’ rights or battle criminals by night, their throwback blend of R&B, Tropicália and psychedelia does provide its own kind of uplift. “The idea of it is that underrepresented people can be superheroes in their own right,” says guitarist Carlos Arevalo. “There’s people out here in L.A. that are working hard every day to provide for their family, and that’s a superhero to us.”

The name of the band, which will perform at Fleisher Art Memorial on Monday, came from another sketch by frontman Bardo Martinez, this one depicting the superhero himself. “Bardo was at a party one day doodling,” recalls Arevalo, “and he drew a Latino Batman character with a little mustache, where the cape and mask was actually a flannel shirt like you would see a cholo in L.A. wear, and he called it Chicano Batman.”

The name initially became a pseudonym for Martinez’s solo work, but he soon gathered bassist Eduardo Arenas and drummer Gabriel Villa to form an actual band, releasing their self-titled debut in 2009. Arevalo joined two years later to fill out the band’s sound and allow Martinez to devote his attention to the organ.

That instrumentation is key to capturing the retro sound that Martinez envisioned for Chicano Batman. The music on the band’s recently-released second full-length album. Cycles of Existential Rhyme, combine the influences of American soul artists like Brenton Wood and the Delfonics with Latin-American soul groups of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, including Los Angeles Negros and Los Pasteles Verdes; and the Tropicália sound of Brazilian artists like Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes.

Continue reading →

Tags: ,


Watch Oldermost’s Watchtower interview, see them at The Balcony next month

Photo via
Photo via

XPN was first introduced to Philly rock group Oldermost when they dropped off a copy of their first CD about 4 years ago. Since then, the band has continued making great, atmospheric rock, similar to artists like Band of Horses and Wilco. Last year, the band did a Key Studio Session with electrifying performances of some of the songs from I Live Here Now. Recently, the band did an interview with the local blog Watchtower.

In the interview, the band talked about their musical start, the reason behind the album title, and their future plans. In the words of the lead singer, Bradford Bucknum, the LP is not necessary a love letter to living in Philly, but a document of how life has changed in the past few years since the band got together in Philly. In that sense, I Live Here Now is an optimistic rumination of growing up, especially on tracks like “What If I Run.”

Oldermost is set to come out with music for their forthcoming release near the end of the summer. Catch the band playing their new music at The Balcony July 11th along with Dogs on the Main Street. Get more information on the show here. Watch the interview below.

Tags: ,


Unlocked: The daily grind of a Vacationer

Vacationer  | Photo by Beth Ann Downey
Vacationer | Photo by Beth Ann Downey

Vacationer makes music meant to alleviate stress and forget troubles.

If they can help the rest of us do this, than the band members must lead pretty relaxing lives, right? Well, not really.

Kenny Vasoli (bass, vocals), Matt Young (vibraphone), Greg Altman (guitar), Michael Mullin (keyboard) and Ryan Zimmaro (drums) have a lot in common outside of the music they make together. They drink copious amounts of coffee, avidly bike ride and make a TON of music in projects other than Vacationer.

And they work, a lot.

Read summaries of each of the band members’ daily lives below, and see how they balance musical and career success with plenty of chill time.

Photo By Abi Reimold |
Matt Young of Vacationer | Photo By Abi Reimold |

Matt Young: ”My days are usually pretty simple. I wake up, I have coffee, and then I basically have a home studio in Brooklyn, New York, so I write music all day. Some days I have good days, and I write a couple songs. Some days I have bad days where I can’t really write anything.

So I write in the morning, then usually around 2 p.m. I go and bike like 15 miles. I’ll go down to Prospect Park and bike around the thing like 15 times. Then I’ll come back and write more songs. Then I cook dinner, write more, and maybe watch an episode of something or listen some records. Then I go to sleep and do the same thing the next day.

That’s pretty much it, though, I just write music all day. … I do it in my pajamas. I have a pair of slippers that I literally wear more than any other pair of shoes. I think it’s important to have a regimented schedule, and it’s kind of maddening because I’m in my house a lot. But my studio is a totally separate space in the front, and then the back is where I live. But yeah, I’m basically there all the time unless I’m on tour or out playing shows. I’m writing for Vacationer and Body Language. I have another project called Seafloor that’s just beats, and I have a new solo project that I’m working on. I also work on random commercial sound design and rebranding, and that’s basically it.” Continue reading →

Tags: , , ,


The Eubanks Brothers make hometown return at Chris’ Jazz Cafe this Saturday

The Eubanks brothers | photo by Christopher Dubay
The Eubanks brothers | photo by Christopher Dubay

It’s a rare occasion these days when the Eubanks brothers find themselves in the same place at the same time. Two out of three of the Philly-born jazz siblings will share the stage for one night in their hometown when trombonist Robin and trumpeter Duane co-lead a specially-assembled quintet at Chris’ Jazz Café on Saturday night.

“I’m always excited to play with my brother,” says Duane. “It’s been a while since Robin and I have played together, so this is almost a reunion. And being back at home makes it even more special.”

A glance at the brothers’ activities suffices to show exactly why it’s so difficult for them to synchronize their calendars. Robin apprenticed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and is currently an active member of the SFJAZZ Collective, the San Francisco-based collective that explores the repertoire of a single composer each season (they’re about to tackle the work of Joe Henderson). He’s on the cusp of releasing a new CD, Klassik Rock Vol. 1, which features electric jazz reimaginings of classic rock staples by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Sly and the Family Stone, and is planning to record his MassLine Big Band in late July. He’s also a tenured professor at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Duane is also set to return to the studio next month, and has recently recorded with drummer Jeff Williams and keyboardist/producer Mark de Clive-Lowe. He’s worked with jazz greats like Illinois Jacquet and Oliver Lake and with R&B and hip-hop stars including Mos Def and The Temptations. Earlier this month he was on stage at Madison Square Garden with Rhonda Ross, opening for the singer’s mother, Diana Ross. He gets back to Philly frequently as part of pianist Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band.

(Middle brother Kevin wrapped up his fifteen-year gig as leader of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show band in 2010, released a pair of well-regarded solo albums, and is currently a member of bass legend Dave Holland’s new quartet Prism.)

Born more than a decade after his two older brothers, at 45 Duane still feels like he has something to prove. Continue reading →

Tags: ,


Randy Randall of No Age starts anew with Pissed Jeans’ Sean McGuinness in Rat Fist

Photo via
Photo via

Randy Randall was caught up in how good he and Sean McGuinness were feeling about starting their new project, Rat Fist, to the point that while laying the music, they’d looked past a crucial part: vocals.

“Sean and I were driving back to recording one day and we were saying, ‘Well, now all we have left to do is the vocals,’” Randall says. “So I asked him, ‘Do you want to sing?’ and he’s like, ‘No, do you want to sing?’ And then we’re both like, ‘Uh… well, let’s both do it. We can both give it a shot.’”

It’s the first time Randall and McGuinness – best known for being the guitarist in No Age and drummer in Pissed Jeans, respectively – are singing in a band, so it’s taken a little bit of adjusting. They’re splitting lyric writing roles too, another first for them both. And the lines on “Disrupt yr DNA,” “You smile and burp while your insides are rotting/ The stench of your decay is… offensive,” are Randall’s doing.

“But it’s an equal collaboration,” he says. “He came up with some songs, I came up some songs. That song, ‘Disrupt Yr DNA,’ I’m singing on that one and I’m not really a trained singer but it has a punk feel to it so whatever. It doesn’t really matter too much what sounds my mouth makes when I open my mouth.”

Even singing and playing guitar simultaneously is something new for Randall. He says that since his bandmate Dean Spunt writes the lyrics and sings in their experimental punk-leaning two-piece No Age, he generally refrains from it entirely. So the prospect of taking his song, “Disrupt yr DNA” out on the road is exciting. Continue reading →

Tags: , , , ,