Tigers Jaw and Will Yip talk new label and new live acoustic album

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

It’s been a little over two years since three founding members of Tigers Jaw departed. But the remaining dynamic duo of Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh has soldiered on, touring extensively to support their 2014 record CharmerThere was a point when Walsh, guitarist and vocalist, and Collins, keyboardist and vocalist, weren’t sure about the future of the Scranton indie / emo outfit. But they’ve regained serious momentum, especially with news of a new release set for late June.

The release is a live collaborative acoustic album, Tigers Jaw Acoustic: Live at Studio 4. It was recorded and produced by Will Yip, who has made quite a name for himself in recent years producing luminaries of the pop-punk world like Circa Survive, Title Fight, Superheaven and the The Wonder Years.

The album was actually recorded in September of 2013, when Tigers Jaw and Anthony Green of Circa Survive played an intimate acoustic show at Studio 4. The show was one of the first acoustic shows Ben and Brianna did as Tigers Jaw mark two. It was also the first time an acoustic gig was performed at Studio 4.

“I’ve always wanted to do it, just because the room’s so cool to have a sit-down show in,” Yip says. “And at that point, it was to help generate some press and awareness of what was going on at Studio 4.” Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Grandchildren

When The Key launched just about five years ago, we had our sights pretty strongly locked on the West Philly avant-pop six-piece Grandchildren. They were the fearless sonic adventurers of Baltimore Avenue, a band that blended the audio collage sensibilities of Animal Collective with the live intensity of a really tight punk band. We’ve checked in several times in the years since, at shows, at SXSW and when they followed up their debut LP Everlasting with an excellent EP called The Golden Age.

But things have been a little quiet over in camp Grandchildren for a little while now, so we’re extremely psyched to have them breaking the silence this week with a Key Studio Sessions performance of two brand new songs, along with the first news about their third record and a show where you can hear the entire thing live. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: The Burgeoning

The Burgeoning | Photo by Brant Fuller
The Burgeoning | Photo by Brant Fuller

Philly four-piece The Burgeoning has one leg firmly planted in the indie-dance nightclubs of the Making Time set, while the other one reaches ambitiously for the poppy world of arena rock. The band caught our ear last year with their debut single “Lighthouse” and a solid sonic recipe: tight playing, unique arrangements and big, big hooks. Quick points of reference would be Real Estate and Bastille. Since releasing their Love Alchemy, Life Algorithm EP, the band has been going hard on the Philly live music circuit, honing their craft, sharpening their form and whipping up an on-point cover of “Message In a Bottle” by The Police.

The cover appears in the band’s Key Studio Session, and as you’ll hear, it’s practically custom designed for frontman Logan Thierjung’s elastic voice. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Church Girls

Church Girls jumps out from the bustling crop of new indie rock bands emerging on the Philly scene this year, and there are a few reasons why. One, there’s no artifice about them – they play hooky rock songs with memorable melodies and solid playing. No fuss, no muss, no bullshit. There’s also singer and songwriter Mariel Beaumont’s voice, which is just effortlessly awesome, and it blends well with her songwriting style – as I described it in the past, “personal, honest and direct…a bit singer-songwriter but with a cutting punk edge.”  Continue reading →


Listen to Cassavetes’ “lost” Key Studio Session, see them at Bourbon and Branch

Philadelphia punk four-piece Cassavetes is parting ways, but not before one final acoustic appearance at Bourbon and Branch. The band, centered around the songwriting of Josh Agran (who’s also played in Paint It Black, Pet Milk and Nothing in the past) released its Oh So Long LP last summer and, as I said at the time, its Fugazi influences shined through as much as its reverence for 90s rock like Soundgarden.

Cassavetes is composed of Agran on guitar and lead vocals, Patrick McCunney (of Kill the Man Questions) on guitar, Jonathan Murphy (of Sore Saints) on drums and Chris Sigda (of Likers) on bass, and back in the winter, the band came into XPN studios to record a set that mixed old songs and new, electric songs and acoustic. The set sounded great – the electric songs packed a massive punch, while the acoustic selections simmered just as intensely – but the band’s show calendar was, at that point, empty. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Mercury Radio Theater

If you’re a fan of Orson Welles and 1930s Hollywood, you’ll appreciate Philly’s Mercury Radio Theater for their name. If you’re a fan of adventurous music – gypsy punk, theatrical klezmer and general exotica – you’ll dig how they sound too.

The band has been kicking around the Philly scene for the past 15 years under the leadership of Buddy Mercury and his eight bandmates, who weird sax, horns, vibes and accordion in addition to the standard guitar-bass-drums. In the past, their music has covered dystopian sci-fi themes. The currently-in-progress Fabulous Red Menace is themed around Eastern European propaganda set in an American context. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: RFA

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RFA | Photo by Jeremy Quattlebaum

Last April while combing through the Philly bands on Bandcamp – as we do from time to time at The Key – we came across a new four-piece with the kinda silly name Really Fast Automobiles (RFA for short). The raw and retro Just Don’t Turn The Lights On EP impressed us, and after writing it up, we noticed they had some gigs around town at The Balcony and in the Temple University house show community. This led me to believe that the band was a group of Temple students or recent grads, and their spot-on set at last year’s Beta Hi-Fi competition further confirmed this suspicion. This was not, however, the case. Continue reading →


Download The Key Studio Sessions Volume 13 (featuring Bardo Pond, Girlpool, Moosh & Twist and more)

The Key Studio Sessions Volume 13
Photo by Ola Baldych |

I don’t want to gush. But I’d be lying if I said that this latest collection of performances from The Key Studio Sessions wasn’t special to me.

In the past four months, I’ve recorded one of my favorite Philadelphia bands of the past 20 years – shamanistic psychedelic rock masters Bardo Pond, whose performance was a thrill – as well as one of my favorite new Philadelphia bands – the brilliant duo Girlpool, transported locally from LA this winter with a unique sound and an incredible collection of songs in tow. I also recorded a local guitar icon whose work I’ve admired since I first began covering the scene for City Paper 15 years ago, Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, doing a set of his raga-influenced compositions on the 22-stringed chaturangui. (Brenner also sat in on lap steel with folk outfit Kicking Down Doors.)

And that’s only the beginning. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Family Vacation

Philly indie-pop four-piece Family Vacation will catch your ear with jangley guitars, drifting vocals and a positive psychedelic sound. They were still getting their foothold in the scene when we first met them in 2012; their usual haunts at that time were basement shows and Temple rehearsal rooms. But there was very clearly something there; Luke Harsel’s contemplative lyrics, the nimble guitar licks he swaps with bandmate Cody Bluett, the band’s slightly left-of-center poppiness. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Fresh Cut Orchestra

Two and a half years ago, the three leaders of Philly’s Fresh Cut Orchestra - Josh Lawrence on trumpet, Jason Fraticelli on bass and Anwar Marshall on drums – had never so much as jammed together. They were just three players from the local jazz scene who had reputations as versatile collaborators (we first saw Lawrence sitting in with Hennessey Bonfire at a World Cafe Live gig a few years back) when they were recruited by Lenny Seidman at The Painted Bride to work together on a night of music for the Old City arts venue’s 40th anniversary.

Shaun Brady told their story in City Paper earlier this year: as much as their beginnings were the result of essentially being thrown together, the trio’s chemistry clicked, and earlier this year the FCO (now a robust ten-piece) released their excellent debut LP, From the Vine, via local imprint Ropeadope Records.

Continue reading →