Time For Acchin: Weird N.J. rockers Pine Barons reflect on the road to their debut LP

Pine Barons | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

Shamong Township sits about 35 miles south east of Philadelphia, smack dab in the center of New Jersey, but it’s practically a world away.

More of a geographical boundary than a bustling municipality, it’s sliced down the middle by Route 206 and dotted with diners, delis, liquor stores and a gun shop called Pistol Pete’s. At the south border is the mouth of the massive Wharton State Forest, the nucleus of Jersey’s storied Pine Barrens region –- an area with such acidic soil that nothing but evergreens can grow, home to cedar water and the Jersey Devil. It’s from this territory that Shamong-born indie rock five-piece Pine Barons lifted its name…and to a degree, its persona as well. Rugged and adventurous, mysterious and mystical, yet totally affable – these are Jersey guys, after all.

“It wasn’t so much that there was a scene [in Shamong],” recalls bassist Shane Hower of his band’s origins, pausing to look around the room. Several of his fellow Pine Barons are shaking their heads; there was, in fact, no scene in their childhood town, at least not as far as their brand of oddball hallucinogenic indie rock goes.

Guitarist Brad Pulley acknowledges that “another band or two” popped up in their high school, but they were more along the lines of Warped Tour-aspiring pop punk and hardcore; those kids hung out at the Cherry Hill Mall. He preferred the woods.

“I think it was moreso the isolation that brought us together,” says Hower. Continue reading →


The High Key Portrait Series: Steve Gunn

Steve Gunn | 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.

In June of last year, Philly-turned-Brooklyn rocker Steve Gunn released a dazzling collection of anthems for the modern American road-warrior. Eyes On The Lines is the sort of record that has the potential to become a local classic, the kind of music conducive to a little reflection and meditation on a sprawling state highway, a soundtrack to stumbling on interesting places even in what you may have used to think of as flyover country.

Originally from the suburbs west of Philly, Gunn graduated from Temple U and moved to Northern Liberties, as sort of a happy accident for him, back in the days just before it became the focus of developers, or a trendy place to move and invest in property. It was where Gunn got serious, as he describes it, about his focus on writing and recording music, where the prolific artist got started on what’s now a back catalog of over a dozen albums; among other topics, he talks  in this interview about the era of Philly indie rock in the time of the late Jack Rose.

The native son returns next Saturday, for a homecoming set at the World Cafe’s Philly Music and Arts Fest. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Maximizing Time: Philly’s Justin Duerr on constant immersion in music, writing and visual art

Justin Duerr performs with Northern Liberties | photo by Yoni Kroll

You might know Justin Duerr from Resurrect Dead, the award-winning documentary he helped make about Toynbee Tiles, the colorful and mysterious messages embedded in roads in Philadelphia, NYC, and elsewhere. You might know him from his bands, including the long-running ‘ghost punk’ outfit Northern Liberties or the acoustic duo Get the Great Cackler he does with his partner Mandy Katz. You might have seen his one-of-a-kind art on a t-shirt or a show flyer or maybe hanging on your friend’s wall. Or you might just have seen Justin intently walking around Philadelphia, tattoos stretching from the side of his head to the tops of his hands – including a portrait of pop singer Cyndi Lauper gracing his left hand – and wondered, “What’s up with that guy?”

Opening Friday at the Magic Gardens on South Street, Time’s Funeral: Drawings and Poems by Justin Duerr is a gallery exhibition including small, stand-alone pieces and huge posters that are part of an on-going storytelling series that Justin has been working on for almost two decades. As an added bonus, he’ll be playing music at the opening night. Continue reading →


More Than Jake: Jake Clemons goes beyond what you think you know of Fear + Love

Jake Clemons | photo courtesy of the artist

Calling from a solo tour stop in Montreal, saxophonist-singer Jake Clemons offered up a smart and pleasant, conversation and a humble man’s attitude when it came to being a guy you (think) you know from brand-name family ties, literal and figurative. Soft-spoken and easy to laugh, Clemons seemed pleased to open up about the studied songwriting process and the emotional connections to the songs on his new album, Fear + Love, a record he’ll pull form at World Café Live this Wednesday September 13. Continue reading →


New Orleans born trumpeter Christian Scott reaches out from the birthplace of jazz to embrace its Diaspora of sound

Christian Scott | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

“We have all of this music that has grown out of jazz music over the course of the last 100 years,” says Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. “What this generation is doing is trying to re-acculturate all of this music and collapse all of it back into a cohesive sound. We’re stretching jazz to fit all of the conventions of the things that have grown out of it”.

With his latest album Diaspora (the second installment of an ambitious trilogy of works he’s releasing this year), the New Orleans born trumpeter / composer seeks to illuminate the underlying harmony of the seemingly disparate musical cultures of the world. The music of Diaspora is a highly thoughtful melding of sophisticated jazz harmony and melody (“Our Lady of New Orleans”) with trap and NOLA Bounce Beats (“IDK” and the title track, respectively). The record is a masterwork which finds Scott and his ensemble reverse-engineering the past ten decades of American popular music, connecting it all back to the roots of the tree, jazz and the blues.

We spoke with him ahead of his September 10, 2017 performance at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →


The High Key Portrait Series: Zoe Reynolds of Kississippi

Zoe Reynolds of Kississippi | 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.

For the past few years, Zoe Reynolds has been diligently crafting her gorgeous, poetic reveries, framed by the tastefully reverberating rhythm of her electric guitar, all packaged under the Kississippi brand. Sometimes touring on her own, sometimes with more rounded-out crew of other musicians she’s met at shows, her recordings and performances are evenly thoughtful and intimate, and she delivers her rich vocals with just enough empty space between the notes.

Having already produced two EP’s and a live recording, Kississippi is putting final touches on a new full-length, which Reynolds is excited to share. A crowning achievement for an eventful Summer that included her first trip up to Canada to play a few dates, Reynolds will play in the company of her compatriot artists the first weekend of Fall at World Cafe Live, taking her place in a lineup comprised exclusively of local musicians in a few weeks for September’s Philly Music Fest, in what will be her first full-band show with the all-new Kississipi lineup. Get more information on that performance at the XPN Concert Calendar, and read our interview with Reynolds below. Continue reading →


The Laser’s in the Background: Andy Molholt gets down in the Dark Nuclear Bogs

Laser Background | photo courtesy of the artist
Laser Background | courtesy of the artist | Photo by Natalie Piserchio

You could lead with the cliché that Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer Andy Molholt has worn many hats since his time in this city as he’s started The Armchairs and Laser Background, as well as maintaining a position in Northampton, Massachusetts’ Speedy Ortiz as of late. But hat-wearing makes Molholt seem like a dabbler, which he is certainly not; not from the passionately somber and angry lyrics of Laser Background’s newest work, Dark Nuclear Bogs.

Bathed in the grey glow of personal plight its lyrical mindset, but ripe with the gauzy effervescence of neo-psychedelic sound, this– and Moholt – prove just how deeply committed once can be to cause, even if they’re wearing a mini-dress. Before his August 31 release party at Johnny Brenda’s Moholt spoke about kaftans, his father and the mess that is the present day. Continue reading →


Son Little Plays Ball

Son Little | photo by Marc Lemoine | courtesy of the artist
Son Little | photo by Marc Lemoine | courtesy of the artist

When Son Little sings “I got the blue magic / And I rock you so savage” on his upcoming New Magic album, there’s a grit and a swaggering gamesmanship to his voice that wasn’t apparent in past such as 2014s Things I Forgot EP and his eponymously-titled 2015 album. That strut may not even have been there when Aaron Livingston (Little’s birth name) recorded with The Roots or with RJD2 as Icebird.

Did the multi-hyphenate neo-bluesman and seemingly professional lodger (LA to NYC to Philly to somewhere in New Jersey) get that ‘”oomph” producing an EP for legendary gospel goddess Mavis Staples (Your Good Fortune)? Or writing for electro-R&B saxophonist / DJ GRiZ? Does his newfound love (or display of affection) for baseball have anything to do with this soulful gloat as he’s taken to singing the “Star Spangled Banner” before National League games?

Before Livingston heads into a busy autumn — beginning at this week’s Afropunk festival in Brooklyn, extending to the September 15th New Magic release and a two-night stand at Boot and Saddle at the month’s end — we caught up with him via phone so he could address some of these burning questions. Continue reading →


Talking Popular Manipulations with The Districts’ Rob Grote

The Districts | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN |

A couple of years back, a young band started making waves in Philadelphia. There were many different stories surrounding these young kids from central Pennsylvania, but a couple themes remained the same: the thunderous live shows, the direct songwriting, and also the fact that they were only teenagers. The Districts were a band “ahead of their years,” as everyone would always say. Now, with the release of their new record Popular Manipulations, the band has grown into their persona and the stories have grown with them. Continue reading →


Speaking the truth with Philly punk visionaries Soul Glo

Soul Glo | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Soul Glo | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

For many rockers of color, finding films like AFROPUNK — James Spooner’s groundbreaking documentary about minority involvement in punk and hardcore movements — was and is a critical milestone in their development. As a young black and queer punk rocker immersed in the community, watching this film’s scenes unfold, bearing witness to ideas, perspectives, and experiences expressed in the film that were so wildly different, I realized something: each one of those perspectives, from both the youthful, energetic dayglo punk who “didn’t want to be defined by their race” to the raging political hardcore kid using the genre towards black liberation, at some point I had felt similarly, at least in part, to all of the interviewees. The lived black punk rock experience was given a voice. In that documentary’s wake the legions of weird yet still culturally impactful black music has practically given birth to new ways of discovering music through blogs and social media. This wave has infiltrated community centers and Shriners’ hallls, as well as taken to the stages usually reserved for all white bands.

Philadelphia is a city ripe for a black and brown punk reclaiming. Entire movements have thrived for more than a decade dedicated to promoting art and music by marginalized people. Enter Soul Glo, a band etching dark, interpersonal screeds on ancient parchment cut from the skin of the rotting corpse of hardcore punk. Their music travels pedal-driven through lush, dense shoe-gaze forests, bursting out of the other side screaming. Lead singer Pierce Jordan’s voice is an unmatched wail that snakes through the band’s wiry punk orchestration as a truly exhaustive vessel for his trauma-informed lyrics. While their name — taken from a parody product from the cult 80’s Eddie Murphy comedy Coming To America, said to give black folk luscious, wavy jheri curled hair — may come across as comedic, it’s important to remember that the moniker choice is all a part of the intricate cultural interplay and relevancy that truly revolutionary, unbothered and alternative black acts have traditionally embraced. From Parliament’s colorful renditions of life on the mothership to Odd Future’s notorious hyper-cartoon troll Tyler the Creator’s transformation into a living meme, there’s certainly room for jest in this revolution. The sentiment is most aptly put by an interviewee in the AFROPUNK doc when she casually intones: “I don’t feel less black because I’m less normal”

We sat down with Soul Glo to discuss the contradictions, struggles and even empowerment of speaking the truth of the black lived experience to a punk power structure that often values the social capital of whiteness over others. Continue reading →