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Talking growth and friendship with Philly four-piece The Retinas

The Retinas | photo courtesy of the artist
The Retinas | photo courtesy of the artist

The four early twentysomethings behind The Retinas consider each record they release “stepping stones” to bigger projects, bassist John Brennan said.

Jake Joseph and Tom McHugh were childhood friends in Cheltenham. “We were always in bands together growing up,” said McHugh, vocalist of the Philadelphia-based indie punk band. Tom found John Brennan and Anthony Fulginitti on Craigslist and formed a band with them. In November 2011, the four formed the Retinas.

Hello…My Name is the Retinas is their biggest and latest project they have released. In comparison to their first two EP’s, Life At Work and Ha Ha Nostalgia, the post-punk group said they have changed a lot musically.“Going from recording 5 songs to recording 10 songs is a different context for us,” said Joseph, lead guitar for the Retinas. Continue reading →

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Philly underground faves Secret Plot played their final show at Lavender Town

Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe | Photo by Emily Ivy Scott
Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe | Photo by Emily Ivy Scott

A Kat Kat Records poster featuring a pink cartoon feline in front of a yellow pentagram stands out at the Philadelphia house show venue, Lavender Town. A celebration of the regional DIY scene three years running, this year’s Kat Kat Phest ran from December 27 to January 1, showcasing Philly punk staples like Mumblr, Marietta, Cyberbully Mom Club, and Clique. But day two of Phest generated mixed emotions for KKP creators Ruben Polo and Dan Anderson; their band, Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe, was on the lineup, playing its last show. Continue reading →

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24 Hours of Christmas Music: DJs Jon Solomon and Robert Drake share their experience with holiday marathons

Marathon Holiday DJs Jon Solomon of WPRB (left) and Robert Drake of WXPN | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com
Marathon Holiday DJs Jon Solomon of WPRB (left) and Robert Drake of WXPN | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com

Holiday music is everywhere this time of year. It blares through every store in the mall and every car radio stuck in that 9 to 5 bumper-to-bumper, all in hopes of keeping the mood cheery and festive. But where does that cheer go when the same songs play in an incessant loop to the point where insanity may very well ensue? Simply turn the dial to either 103.3 or 88.5, where two marathon DJs that will be taking over the airwaves for 24 non-stop hours on Christmas Eve.

Jon Solomon and Robert Drake have been doing it for years and it seems there is no end in sight. Solomon, a radio personality for Princeton’s student-run station WPRB, began his holiday marathon twenty-six years ago when he was fifteen years old and hasn’t missed a year since. This year, he even upped the ante to a 25-hour special.

Inspired by Solomon, Robert Drake began his 12-hour holiday show at WXPN 22 years ago, and it eventually turned into a 24-hour marathon. The Key got the chance to speak with both of the DJs about the perks of the marathons, their favorite non-traditional holiday tunes, their shared love for the Dr. Who Christmas special and just how they manage to make it through all those hours without a nap. Continue reading →

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A conversation with Superheaven’s Taylor Madison about making one of the heaviest records of next year

Superheaven in the studio | Photo by Danielle Parsons | danielleparsonsphotography.com
Superheaven’s Taylor Madison in the studio with Will Yip | Photo by Danielle Parsons | danielleparsonsphotography.com

Superheaven vocalist/guitarist Taylor Madison is anxious. It’s early December, a few weeks after recording wrapped on the Philly-area post-hardcore band’s second LP at producer Will Yip’s Studio 4. The album follows up 2012′s Jar (released under the band name Daylight) and it is currently off in mixing and mastering land for an early 2015 release through SideOneDummy Records. “My anxiety is far outweighed by excitement,” he assures me. “We’re all just trying hard to be patient and waiting to be able to play this stuff in front of people.”

Between his balance of nerves and eagerness, Madison makes clear there are internal expectations on this record as well. With a blunt transparency that has quickly become his trademark as a frontman, he explains how “none of us want to reach our 30s and hoping we’ll be able to pay our rent next month.” Madison and his bandmates are chasing after something bigger, and based on early impressions alone, they’ve found it. Details remain pretty mum at this point (until their label gives the go ahead), but LP2 is tighter, hits (way, way) harder and presents a fully realized and focused vision of what grunge can look and sound like in the mid-2010s. Superheaven doesn’t shy away from a heavy acknowledgment of its influences and instead bolsters every flag flown on Jar.
I was able to have a quick chat with Madison about the process and scars behind what is certain to be one of 2015’s heaviest records. Continue reading →

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PREVIEW: Follow the Philly punk scene to FEST with JUMP and The Key

Everyone Everywhere | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Everyone Everywhere | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

A month ago, a massive swatch of the Philly punk scene traveled to Gainesville, Florida to play at The FEST – an annual gathering of DIY music makers and lovers. Staff from JUMP Philly and The Key trailed alongside, talking to some of our favorite locals about their FEST experience. What follows is an excerpt of a long-form piece that will appear in the pages of JUMP’s Winter 2015 issue, which will be on newsstands this month.

SteveO of The Holy Mess was in Gainesville, Florida last month when a friend texted him looking for weed. There was none to be found.

The Holy Mess | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Ma Jolie | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

“I was like, ‘Yo dude, I’m in Florida,’” recalls the frontman, born Stefan Wieslaw Niemoczynski. “He was like, ‘Oh shit, I guess all the weed went to Florida, too.’”

A large contingency of Philly punk bands, their fans and whatever party aids they decide to bring with them travel annually to Gainesville for The FEST – the largest, most important music festival for modern punk and hardcore music, which takes place every Halloween weekend in the college town.

“It’s a phenomenon,” says SteveO. Continue reading →

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Camden’s Graham Alexander discusses inspiration, childhood and his mindset going into his new album with Victor Talking Machine Co.

Photo via Graham Alexander Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/GrahamAlexanderMusic/photos_stream)
Graham Alexander | photo via facebook.com/GrahamAlexanderMusic

Rock revivalist Graham Alexander first raised eyebrows when he stepped into the music scene with his self-titled album back in December of 2011 and his pop rock magnetism quickly won him a regional fanbase. In 2012, Graham was featured in our live studio sessions, performing alongside Find Vienna, and now the Camden-based artist is back again with new jams, a new record label and a new musical approach. Most recently, he released two music videos for his newest tracks “She’s A Chameleon” and “Games”, which will both be featured on his upcoming album set to be released December 19th. The Key got a chance to speak with Graham Alexander about making new music, acting on Broadway and working with the historical and newly reformed Victor Talking Machine Company. Continue reading →

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Catching up with Alex G at Rough Trade East in London

Alex G performing at Rough Trade East record store in London | photo by Tom Beck
Alex G performing at Rough Trade East record store in London | photo by Tom Beck

From bedroom recordings to all ages stages, Alex G has become somewhat of a popular name in Philadelphia music community. Since we’ve first written about the breezy lo-fi one-mand band, he’s gotten signed, gotten a few fellow musicians to help him play shows and even had an article written about him in Rolling Stone. What’s next on his list? Apparently he’s set out to conquer Europe.

Monday night, Alex G played a free show at Rough Trade East, a popular chain of record stores in the UK, to promote his new album DSU.  He’ll be in the UK until Sunday, playing a handful of shows in London and one in Manchester before he heads back to Philly. Being the cool guy Alex is, he was more than willing to chill with me backstage after the show to answer a few questions for The Key. Read the Q&A below where we talk about London, the Rolling Stone story and James Joyce. Continue reading →

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Talking touring and traveling with St. Lucia

st. lucia
Photo via stlucianewyork.com

The other day I had the chance to chat via phone with Williamsburg-based artist Jean-Philip Grobler, known better by his stage name St. Lucia. For those unfamiliar with his work, St. Lucia’s tropical 80s pop has this exotic quality of joy riding under every note, and the best way to experience its infectious effect (other than seeing the band perform live), is listening to the band’s debut, When The Night (2013). While the project remains entirely Grobler’s, the live band is rounded out with the talents of Nick Brown (drums) , Ross Clark (bass, guitar, keys, vocals), Nicky Paul (keys) and Grobler’s wife, Patricia “Patti” Beranek (keyboards, vocals).  St. Lucia, who hails from South Africa, has been been on a whirlwind of touring through the U.S. and other continents since early last January (they’ve already hit Philly twice this year!). Read on to check out our conversation. Continue reading →

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Listen to Lucinda Williams chat with WXPN’s Michaela Majoun

Lucinda Williams | photo via Facebook.com/lucindawilliams
Lucinda Williams | photo via Facebook.com/lucindawilliams

This fall, singer-songwriter icon Lucinda Williams released her eleventh studio album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, and yesterday she joined XPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun on the air to talk about the album and her upcoming local show. She plays the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, NJ, tomorrow; tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Listen to Williams’ interview with Majoun after the jump. Continue reading →