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The Key Studio Sessions: Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds

Riff-wrangler Kermit Lyman III has been walking that Motörhead line between punk rock and heavy metal over the past couple decades in the Philadelphia scene, making noise in bands like Wally, Slumlord and the original incarnation of Thee Nosebleeds. And then he met Sheena Powell.

A punk rocker at heart with a love for The Stooges and The Ramones, Powell’s voice is vibrant and versatile. She can soar along to the strange keys of 80s metal — I definitely hear some of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson in her — but she can also belt the blues with gusto. After some jams, the chemistry was undeniable, and Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds was born.   Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Orion Sun

Few artists have captured the spirit of the scene over the past year as much as Orion Sun.

The Jersey-born, Philly-based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Majette released her breathtaking project under that celestial banner just over a year ago; A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams mostly made its way around by word of mouth, but as soon as listeners heard it, they were instant converts. The music is immersive and full of feeling, drawing inspiration from by Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West and Daniel Caesar. The lyrics, however, come from such a deeply introspective place that Majette told The Key this winter that she almost didn’t release the project because it felt so personal.

“It was during a time when everything was falling through and I had very few people to talk to about it,” she says. “So when I was sitting down, writing for myself…it just became a very spiritual kind of thing for me. It was very meditative, so I’ve been trying to channel that energy more and more.”

That energy made its way to low-key Orion Sun gigs at places like Space 1026 and Johnny Brendas, a self-contained setup with Majette using her laptop to play beats from Ableton, while accompanying herself on electric guitar as she sang and rapped. But as the profile of Orion Sun grew, so did her vision for the live show, and for this week’s Key Studio Session, we are ecstatic to welcome the Orion Sun seven-piece band into WXPN Studios.   Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: RunHideFight

“I’m gonna sing you a little song about what it was like growing up in West Virginia, looking like me.”

RunHideFight frontwoman Geeta Simons says that in a long disaffected drawl on the simmering intro to the Stooges-esque “What Are You Talking?,” and we can take it a couple ways. Certainly, she was an 80s punk rocker in the Mountain State, a person whose style and artistic / cultural inclinations stood out from her conservatively-attired and -minded peers. But no, that’s not the whole story; not by a longshot. Simons’ family is of Desi heritage, and she grew up in a region that is — to put it bluntly — kind of blindingly white. And not the most tolerant, either.

“As a first gen, Indian American woman; I was busting up all kinds of cultural/gender norms by not finishing a pre-med track, having a green Mohawk and tattoos, playing in punk bands at skate parks, openly dating before marriage,” Simons recalled in an interview earlier this year with The Key’s A.D. Amorosi. “I was so angry and I desperately wanted to be heard and seen by a world which resisted that.”

Music was her outlet, continuing through her move to Philadelphia and her immersion in its indie community during the 90s and early 00s, when she played with Khyber regulars Swisher, Los Angeles, and Rockula. She stepped back from the scene for about a decade when she had children, but returned last year with a vengeance to form RunHideFight, a project born out of Simons’ heartache at her mother’s passing, her frustration at Donald Trump’s election, and the generally frayed-nerve state of the world. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Porter & Sayles

Christian Porter and Regina Sayles have been friends and musical collaborators for over a decade, and two summers ago, the Stroudsburg singer-songwriter duo released their debut album of songs that straddle the worlds of poppy folk and contemporary country. They’re a little bit Civil Wars, a little bit Lady Antebellum, and their self-titled record caught the ear of XPN midday host Helen Leicht, who connected with the moving contemplation of “This Guitar,” a yearning ballad about balancing the conflicting passions of one’s music and one’s relationships.

This summer, Porter & Sayles returns with its latest single since that record, following up on the spring release “#IAmOne.” It’s a revved up country ripper and unofficial Pocono Speedway anthem “Buckled Up In Drive,” which the duo played acoustically for us during their Key Studio Session. In the set, you’ll also hear “Country,” which reflects on the universality of their preferred form of American music — even for folks who don’t come from down south — as well as “You Had Me From Hello,” a jangling pop tune about first impressions. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Anthony Green

It seems like there’s a fountain of wisdom coming from Anthony Green these days. Maybe it’s his hard-won sobriety and the introspection that comes with battling depression. Maybe it’s the fact that he just came off of a tour that simultaneously looked back and looked ahead, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his solo debut Avalon as well as his latest record, Would You Still Be In Love, released last month on Memory Music. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s fully embraced his role as a rock and roll dad — as anybody who follows him on social media will tell you, this dude clearly loves the heck out of his kids.

But as Green played songs from the new record in a breathtaking, intimate solo acoustic session at WXPN Studios recently, it felt at points like he was letting those experiences had and knowledge obtained over his 36 years creep into the room through his striking tenor voice. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Career Crooks

I feel like “ravenous” is a solid adjective to use when talking about Philly rapper Zilla Rocca. Ravenous consumer of popular culture. Ravenous collector of hip-hop records and trivia tidbits. Can somebody ravenously rock the mic? I don’t know, but if it’s possible, he can do it.

He’s been kicking around the scene as long as The Key has been around, in various permutations of his Wrecking Crew collective: their hard-boiled 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers, his production and hype man work alongside Curly Castro, and his solo noir-hop outings. His latest is called Career Crooks, and it finds him teaming up with Small Professor for moody throwbacks to the late 80s and early 90s NYC scene; textural ref points include Nas, Mobb Deep, and 36 Chambers-era Wu-Tang (the semi-official Beatles of the Wrecking Crew), while Zilla’s gravelly flow recalls a bit of Action Bronson and Slick Rick.

Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ode To Omni

“The only thing that helped me was Jesus,” says drummer Marcus Meyers as he introduces the song “Anchors.” “And I know when you bring that name up, it can kind of get weird today. Maybe it’s the perception or the lens that we’re looking at him with.”

While spirituality is an undeniable undercurrent of his genre-spanning ensemble Ode to Omni, which returns to the stage at World Cafe Live tonight, Meyers is admittedly not self-righteous about his faith — acknowledging through that description that, perhaps, the idea of confrontational Christianity (which is a thing that definitely exists in the world of 2018) is part of that aforementioned lens.

But that’s not what he is all about; Meyers is more apt to use his songs meditate on mental health and self-care, acknowledging our weaknesses and finding sources of strength where we are able. His beliefs inform his life, his life informs his music, and as they perform pieces about self-improvement and empowerment for The Key Studio Sessions, he and his collaborators proved to be anything but one-dimensional. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Rosie Langabeer and the BalletX Players

Experimental Philadelphia composer Rosie Langabeer is no stranger to ballet. She’s previously worked composing dreamlike scores and immersive soundscapes for Philadelphia contemporary dance company BalletX on 2016’s Sunset, 0639 Hours and on 2011’s Proliferation of the Imagination.

Likewise, BalletX is no stranger to doing interesting and unusual things with music; the’ve performed dance pieces based around the songs of Beirut and Amy Winehouse, and for their 10th anniversary, they did a retrospective of their greatest hits — dances to Rufus and Chaka Khan, to Joanna Newsom, to Ólafur Arnalds, to Bach and Handel.

For BalletX’s Summer Series, opening tonight at the Wilma Theater on South Broad Street, Langabeer once again joins forces with the dance company, working with choreographer Penny Saunders to create a score that broods with intensity and blisses out to heavenly pop. The piece, Rock-a-Bye, “explores transience and permanence, destiny and free will,” and Langabeer translates that into sound with the help of Tara Middleton of Sun Ra Arkestra and Gregg Mervine of West Philadelphia Orchestra.

We had Langabeer and the BalletX players in the WXPN studio this week to get a rare glimpse at the artists on the other side of a dance production. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Lovelorn

There’s always been an element of chaos to the three lifelong friends in Philly’s Lovelorn. It followed them all across their long running heavy psych punk outfit Creepoid, from brawls to arrests; for a survey of the more legendary incidents involving that band, check out this retrospective by Megan Matuzak, written prior to their farewell show in February.

With that kind of lineage, it couldn’t be more appropriate that a fire alarm went off during Lovelorn’s first-ever radio performance at WXPN. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Trap Rabbit

A couple years back, renowned jazz trumpeter Christian Scott introduced the concept of “stretch music” in his album of the same name. The idea was one not of total re-invention or boundary-smashing, but rather of taking one’s creative vocabulary and stretching it to include as much style and range as possible, incorporating uncommon influences while remaining true to one’s musical roots.

Philly duo Trap Rabbit could easily qualify as stretch music for the local scene…though they might prefer their own category of “weirdo beat rock.” Indeed, Arjun Dube’s complex drumbeats are prominently present in the band’s work, propping up and goading on Logan Roth’s expressionistic keyboard playing. Continue reading →