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The Road to RFA: Chatting with the Philly rock faves about their newly-released debut LP

RFA | photo by Olivia Cummings | courtesy of the artist
RFA | photo by Olivia Cummings | courtesy of the artist

Local rock four-piece RFA hit our radar almost four years ago with an unassuming demo of timeless, asskicking songs. Our writer Katrina Murray compared them to The Strokes and said “their passion and potential is nearly tangible.” Turns out the band was a lot newer to the scene than we thought — they recorded the project as high school seniors — and not only have they stuck around, they’ve grown. Continue reading →

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Kississippi on sad songwriting, feeling powerful, and the beauty of boxed wine

Kississippi | photo by Megan Thompson | courtesy of the artist

On a summer night in 2014, Zoe Allaire Reynolds was driving from Tennessee back home to Philadelphia with a carful of people she didn’t really know.

Reynolds hadn’t released any music as Kississippi yet, but that night, as she often does, she put what was going on in her head into words. She wrote about that specific moment in time, about who was with her and who wasn’t: “In the backseat of Max’s car / Philadelphia gobbles up the stars / A thousand miles from where you are.”

These lyrics would become the song “Googly Eyes,” which would later appear on Kississippi’s first EP, 2015’s We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed. Continue reading →

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Bettye’s Bob: A conversation with Bettye LaVette about Dylan, interpretation and how Things Have Changed

Bettye LaVette | photo by Mark Seliger | via facebook.com/bettyelavette

Releasing a new album during God’s holiest of holidays was a smart thing for Bettye LaVette. The raw-voiced interpretative R&B singer and current New Jersey resident makes the music of others a deeply religious and innovative experience as she uncovers (no, crafts lovingly and with incendiary force) never-before-witnessed nuances to songwriters such as Roger Waters, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Peter Townshend, Willie Nelson, Eddie Hinton and others in her immediate past.

Her new Things Have Changed, however dissects and reassembles the stuff of Bob Dylan in a manner that resembles a mad scientist at play – cutting and changing and re-stitching the 20th Century Bard’s lyrics and music into something newly marvelous and provocative. LaVette shows up at World Café Live on April 5 and chatted with me on Good Friday, the album’s release day, about the good that God brings…even if she’s not so sure of divine providence. Continue reading →

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Eternal Summers talks owning your weaknesses in the new single “Contenders”

Eternal Summers
Eternal Summers | photo by Tom Daly | courtesy of the artist

How does a band return to indie pop when the world is crumbling around them? How does a lyricist who previously related their thoughts in abstract, poetic observations turn to addressing urgent issues and emotions that are impossible to cloud in mystery?

That was the challenge for Roanoke, Virginia power trio Eternal Summers when working on their new album, Every Day It Feels Like I’m Dying…, which comes out May 4th on Nevado Music. The band’s new single, “Contenders” — which we’re thrilled to give you a first listen to today — addresses feelings of power versus powerlessness through searing guitar tones and urgent rhythms, with frontwoman Nicole Yun crafting lyrical images of competitions and precipices that leave no doubt where the anxiety is coming from.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Yun delves into the importance of embracing your vulnerabilities; shares the outside-the-box influences seeping into Eternal Summers’ music as she approaches her second decade working with bandmates Daniel Cundiff (drums) and Jonathan Woods (bass); ponders the role music should play in confronting societal troubles; and discusses the solo album she hopes to release later this year.

Read on for more, and give a listen to “Contenders” while you’re at it.
Continue reading →

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Marc Ribot’s Music of Resistance

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog | via facebook.com/MarcRibot

From his time as part of Lower East Side Manhattan’s loft jazz scene through to his major label entrée with Tom Waits and onto his own solo/band list (Rootless Cosmopolitans, Young Philadelphians, Ceramic Dog), guitarist-composer Marc Ribot is the ultimate indie musician and a working class iconoclast/union leader with old world smarts. His newest, most combustible Dog work with Shahzad Ismaily (bass, electronics) and Ches Smith (drums), Y R U Still Here?, also finds Ribot at his most angrily and committedly political – a rant he’s sure to lay out when he plays an Ars Nova Workshop gig this Thursday, March 29 at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →

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Alexander Charles is a Philly bred musical renaissance man

Alexander Charles | photo courtesy of the artist
Alexander Charles | photo by Ian Hirst-Hermans | instagram.com/ihhphila | courtesy of the artist

The first time I encountered the music of Alexander Charles, it popped up on my Instagram feed. The post was a promotion for the “Lost It” video from his 52 Weeks project. I was impressed with the clever use of strings and bass in the production, which makes the song equally chill and dance friendly. The music video was fun and interesting to watch, showcasing various elements of his style a la The Brady Bunch. When I listened to the song again, Charles’ lyrics left a deep impression on me. He was being honest and relatable without the unnecessary flex, cheap use of shock value, or being offensive, and still managed to make a damn good rap song. So naturally, I wanted to know more about him.

Alexander Charles, formally Azar from hip hop trio Ground Up, has been building his career and honing his craft for about ten years now. A proud North Philly native, he blends honesty, fun, and audacity into his lyricism, creating a fresh perspective that’s authentic to himself. I recently got the chance to sit down and ask him about his 52 Weeks project, his love for Philly, his creative process, and more. Continue reading →

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Fight Fire With Fire: Philly’s Luxe is a force of change for LGBT fans in hardcore punk

Luxe
Luxe | photo by Andrew Restrepo | photo courtesy of the artist

Although the image of a winking anime character popping out of a turquoise background adorning their self-titled EP may indicate otherwise, Philly’s Luxe is a kinetic, highwire act of a punk band, all nasally irreverence and brash thrash.

The band dutifully marries an artistic elegance (their Bandcamp is found under “haus of luxe”, a shout to the LGBT vogue houses that undoubtedly inspire them) with the clandestine insurgency of a rogue cabal hopped up on Amebix bootlegs. Still, even with all of their poisonous barbs, coated in guitar shrapnel disguised as noise, poised to do open battle with society’s isms, there hangs above the quintet a veil of mystery.

After seeing them shred at the suddenly hip Danny’s bar in West Philadelphia, I knew I had to take a closer step towards unraveling their secrets. Of particular interest was drummer Joey Ross, who acts as the band’s catalyst, its center. Joey’s presence online and in the South Philadelphia streets the band calls home, articulates a passionate, deep-seeded longing for an equity not often found in hardcore punk. We sat down with the enigmatic percussionist as well as vocalist Justin Hyduk to talk punk, passion and the paranoia that comes with trusting your friends. Continue reading →

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Coming Together Across Borders: Inside Philadelphia’s burgeoning Global Village Jam scene

Global Village Jam | photo by Andrea Hu | courtesy of the artist
Sinnia Brown performs at the Global Village Jam in Philly | photo by Andrea Hu | courtesy of the artist

The phrase, “It takes a village,” couldn’t be more appropriate when talking about the burgeoning scene at Philadelphia’s Global Village Jam Sessions. Community is the focus, and organizers refer to it as “the only concert where the audience is the headliner.”

Recently, at their event on February 22, at the William Street Commons at 3900 Chestnut Street was packed with singers and musicians who wanted to share their talents inclusively.

“The Village is a big ocean, and you just get caught up in its waves,” says event coordinator, Alyssa Ghilardi. “But they never take you under. You’re just staying afloat on top of them all of the time.” Continue reading →

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Joy to the World! Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night) talks about his ‘Three Dog Nightmare’

Meet Dan and Dan! Dan Reed, Music Director and Afternoon Host at WXPN/Philadelphia and Dan DeLuca, Music Critic and Columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer sit down on a bi-weekly basis to talk MUSIC!

Chuck Negron is a former member of Three Dog Night and the voice of their iconic hit “Joy to the World.”  Chuck joins us on the podcast to talk about the release of his book Three Dog Nightmare.  From being a member of one of the biggest bands in the world to losing everything, the book tells the tale of Chuck’s battle with addiction and eventual recovery.  In a conversation with Dan Reed, Chuck reflects on his time with Three Dog Night and how he was able to turn his life around.  It’s a fascinating listen. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Jake Ewald of Slaughter Beach, Dog

Jake Ewald | 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.

Jake Ewald would position the dissolution of beloved hometown heroes Modern Baseball more as an indefinite hiatus. One of the most heralded band of recent Philly history, MoBo played three sold-out goodbye-for-now sets at Union Transfer last Fall. Just before that, the below interview was recorded backstage at the inaugural Philadelphia Music Fest, where Ewald played a set with his new project, Slaughter Beach, Dog.

In the time since, Ewald has kept busy touring behind and gigging locally in support of Birdie, the second full-length for that band, and confounding music writers everywhere with Slaughter Beach, Dog’s unanticipated comma. The band trades pop-punk for a more acoustic-centered approach to Ewald’s unique brand of storytelling, and was recorded at his Fishtown studio The Metal Shop, a setup asselmbed with fellow MoBo-er Ian Farmer and Sorority Noise’s Cameron Boucher over the past four or five years, in a space he found on Craigslist. In this interview, we got Ewald’s perspective on straddling the space between one band winding down and another winding up, the scene that he discovered upon moving to Philly six years ago, and the ups and downs of different neighborhoods.

Explore more by reading on, and catch Slaughter Beach, Dog playing a gig on the 23rd of this month, at West Philly spot Hole Foods. Continue reading →