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Interview: RJD2 talks his new album Dame Fortune, collaborating, and the Columbus music scene

RJD2
RJD2 | Photo by Benny Mistak | courtesy of the artist

If you’re into RJD2, you know the electronic producer / songwriter is big on collaborating. Even longer than his list of studio albums (which clocks in at 10 with this year’s Dame Fortune) is his list of production work, and the names are big: Aesop Rock, Mos Def, Massive Attack, Elbow, Yo La Tengo and Son Little just scratch the surface. So when he started work on the new project, the Columbus native and former Philadelphia resident called up some old (and new) friends to fill in the gaps. The result is a synchronous, soulful album full of twists, turns and eclectic surprises.

We spoke with RJ about how his production and songwriting methodology has changed from 2002’s Deadringer debut to Dame Fortune, his long list of Philly collaborators and what it’s like to be back in Columbus. Read the interview below, and see the master in action at Union Transfer on Saturday, May 28th.

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Seizing the Moment: The Birth of Needlove Records

Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst
Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst

In the fall of 2014, Needle Points were approached by Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog with interest to produce their next album. It was to be the neo-psych ’n’ rollers’ second album, following up their six-song LP, Bom Tugangu, that they self-released the year prior. However, the album has yet to see the light of day.

After spending two weeks at Mt. Slippery studio with McMicken, the band spent the next year and a half shopping the end result around to multiple record labels. They received varying levels of interest, as local as Brooklyn and as far away as England. Ultimately the band decided it would be in their best interest to release it on their own. They would utilize it to get their own record label, Needlove Records, off the ground with plans to finally release the new album later this summer.

The startup record label will be run by Needle Points’ lead singer Colin Holloway and drummer Jordan Kaplan. Having already released their own Bom Tugangu debut and through their dealings with other musicians and labels through their work with McMicken, the two definitely have some do-it-yourself experience under their belts.

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Abi Reimold talks life since releasing Wriggling on the 25 O’Clock Podcast

Abi Reimold
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

Since the January release of her LP Wriggling, Philly’s own Abi Reimold has been getting a lot of attention, including stopping by for one of The Key Studio Sessions in April. More recently, the Havertown native sat down with Dan Drago on the latest episode of his 25 O’Clock Podcast.

The two chatted for over an hour, and the range of their conversation was all over the place. They addressed what music journalism is at the moment, considering Reimold studied journalism at Temple. They talked about Wriggling and the sad state that it conveys, even though Reimold doesn’t see herself as the same person now. Drago shared his thoughts on the record as a listener, saying he hears different voices from Reimold at different points. Reimold discussed what she’s been doing off the stage, like photography and a follow up album, to what she does on it, such as making use of looping pedals. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Brian LaPann

Brian LaPann | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | <a href=http://www.hellerhound.com/ target="_blank">hellerhound.com</a>
Brian LaPann | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

Although New Jersey native Brian LaPann had enjoyed a modest following fronting Jersey-based blues-rock band 61 North, he says the draw of Philly’s music community compelled him to make the leap a few years back to set up shop near one of South Philly’s hottest neighborhoods, and to begin work with some of the local musicians whom he admired most. Here LaPann honed his skills as a lead guitarist, and considered a broader diversity of influence and instrumentation as he wrote, recorded and produced his latest EP.

This month saw the releases of a music video and the two singles above from LaPann, a long time coming for a singer who’s working earnestly toward the achievement and who seems to have long felt the draw of composing solo work. With a handful of local show dates on the horizon this Summer, LaPann looks forward to showing off “Can’t Stand Losing You,” and “Constantly Falling” to a hometown crowd. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: The inner workings of Thin Lips, or how its better not to keep secrets

Thin Lips practice at Big Mama's | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Thin Lips practice at Big Mama’s | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s a soggy Monday night in Philadelphia and we’re crammed into small room in Fishtown’s Big Mama’s House arts space. The room, which maybe measures 15-by-15 feet, is the practice space of Philly punk four piece Thin Lips, but it also doubles as drummer Mikey Tashjian’s living quarters. He moved in not long ago, and started lightly decorating the room with random artifacts – record sleeves, iridescent fabric, a blue-ish abstract print made by his aunt.

The band is workshopping many things at once on this particular evening – it’s about to head out on tour in support of Riff Hard,  their debut LP out today on Lame-O Records (that we’ve been featuring all week long on Unlocked), and it’s been a while since they played these songs together live. Kinks are worked out, particularly on raging album opener “DEB.”

“It’s about how being a girl is hard,” says singer-guitarist Chrissy Tashjian, Mikey’s sister. “And how being a girl who dates girls is hard.”

After a few passes through the two-minutes-and-change blast of energy, the band stops for a breather and we casually chat about the items Mikey has scattered the room. Above his bed, a polo work shirt on a hanger dangles from a hook on the wall. It belongs to the Tashjian’s late brother Billy, who passed away at 22 in January of 2014, right before what was supposed to be Thin Lips’ live debut opening for Radiator Hospital and Potty Mouth at Boot and Saddle.

Mikey says the shirt is a reminder. “You can work hard,” he says. “You can be a good person. And you’re still going to die.” Continue reading →

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Unwrapping the post-punk complexity of West Philly’s Pinkwash

Pinkwash |photo by AmyJuneBreesman | courtesy of the artist
Pinkwash |photo by Amy June Breesman | courtesy of the artist

West Philly drum and guitar duo Pinkwash have spent the past three years crafting hypnotic punk ragers with muscular guitar parts wrapped in oddly-timed rhythms. Their first release, the magnificently tense yet explosive Your Cure Your Soil EP (Sister Polygon) was a brutal, outraged set of songs dealing with the death of singer / guitarist Joey Doubek’s mother from breast cancer.

After releasing the Cancer Money 7” and going on tour, the band returned to Philly to work on their first full length, Collective Sigh out this month on Don Giovanni Records.

We sat down with Joey and drummer Ashley Arwine to talk about touring, their new album and West Philly’s emerging post-punk scene. Continue reading →

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A brief pause of life with Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum

Wild Nothing | Photo courtesy of the artist
Wild Nothing | Photo by Shawn Brackbill | courtesy of the artist

Jack Tatum thinks himself less as a real musician than a fan and student of music. As Wild Nothing, he communicates what he’s learned and loved about pop-rock greats like Fleetwood Mac and The Cure with crystalline clarity. Never has that love sounded more cinematic than on his latest record, Life of Pause. He’ll be presenting Pause live this Saturday at 714 as an all too fitting soundtrack for the Making Time Sweet Sixteen Party. Beforehand, I caught up with Tatum to chat about the album, how the sound of Philly influenced it along with many others, and what not to call his music.

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Time Capsule: Miriam Devora of Queen of Jeans discusses the evolution of “Moody”

Queen of Jeans | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com
Queen of Jeans | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

In Time Capsule, we ask artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

Last January, Queen of Jeans was born. I remember because around that time the long-standing Passyunk Avenue King of Jeans sign was rumored to be in danger of coming down. At first, I saw Queen of Jeans to be social media’s answer to the handful of people distraught about losing this icon—which featured a shirtless man in Springsteen-tight jeans, kissing a lady who’s passionately crouched down in front of him. But that was something different—a collaboration between street artist Kid Hazo and general Philly-loving t-shirt designers of South Fellini.

And at the same time that these jokers putting up signs insinuating that maybe it was time for ladies to rule the hood, a group of them were already working on it.

Queen of Jeans is also the name that songwriter Miriam Devora gave her then-brand-new project which included guitarist Matheson Glass, bassist Nina Scotto and drummer Patrick Wall. And yes, the group is from South Philly, but they’ve got a sweet and sour ‘60s surf style that couldn’t sound further removed from that part of town with its wiz-covered potholes, hoagie shops and sexed-up Greaser signage.

In this month’s edition of Time Capsule we spoke with Miriam, lead singer, guitarist and original conspirator behind Queen of Jeans.

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Five Philly bands that made Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. want to make music

Into It. Over It.
Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. | photo by Cameron Witting | courtesy of the artist

Over the past several years, Chicago indie rocker Evan Weiss has made a solid name for himself with the emo-tinged outfit Into It. Over It. The band tours relentlessly – a current run of dates is under way in support of Standards, its excellent third LP – and it has amassed a devoted fan base across the country and internationally. But before he planted roots in the midwest, Weiss grew up locally, finding inspiration in the regional music community from his Cherry Hill, NJ vantage point and playing in The Progress.

This Sunday night, II.OI. returns to Weiss’ old stomping grounds to headline the famed TLA on South Street with The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, The Sidekicks and Pinegrove. Ahead of the show, I asked Weiss to reflect on the music from the Philly region that inspired him. Here’s what he had to say. Continue reading →

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Eight questions with Philly rapper Tunji Ige

Tunji Ige
Tunji Ige | photo courtesy of the artist

We’ve been fans of Philly rapper Tunji Ige here at The Key ever since first putting our ears to The Love Project, his debut mixtape that dropped in late 2014 when he was 20 years old. He’s an MC at heart, but paints his music with a broad brush – it incorporates elements of dance pop, psychedelia and experimental rock. A couple years down the pike, we’ve been totally enthralled with the direction he’s taken his career, from gripping music videos with longtime collaborator Glassface to guest spots with emerging Parisian pop outfit Christine and the Queens.

This spring, Tunji dropped Missed Calls, a seven-song set that you can stream below. Is it an EP? Is it a full length? I don’t know, but it’s good. We caught up with him on the phone last week, and basically asked him everything we’ve wanted to know more about over the past two years. Read our interview below, and catch Tunji tonight when he opens the show at Underground Arts for JUMP Philly’s Red Bull Sound Select party.  Continue reading →