Joe Michelini of American Trappist is a generally positive person, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t dealt with his share of darkness. His last album, Tentanda Via, was born out of a struggle with existential dread, rejection of the religion he’d been raised in, but also a fear of a world sans faith. His latest song, the distressed rocker “Holy Moses,” came from a different kind of low where Michelini needed to work out the idea of forgiveness. Continue reading →
The Deli Philly‘s annual birthday bash is a special one this year — the local edition of the music magazine is turning 10 years old, and to celebrate, they’ve put together a stacked triple bill of local artists. The birthday gig will take place on October 6 at PhilaMOCA, and glam rockers Sixteen Jackies will headline the show. The Deli recently chose Sixteen Jackies’ new EP Mascula as their record of the month in June. Continue reading →
It’s no accident that the cover of the new American Trappist album features a young Joe Michelini smiling at the camera, a bed of mums in the background and a grim reaper sitting on a wooden chair, bone-hands on lap, a macabre grimace pointed menacingly in the boy’s direction.
Though the photograph obviously a cheery artifact of some Halloween past, it also serves as a memento mori — the millennia-old artistic and philosophical practice of reflecting on our own mortality and transience. Life plus time equals death, and for all of humanity’s varied spiritual practices and pontificating, none of us really knows what death means. And it’s terrifying.
“It’s the biggest feeling I’ve ever felt,” says Michelini as we talked about the new American Trappist album Tentanda Via at WXPN studios last week.It’s out on Friday, but you can take an exclusive first listen to below, and as our conversation unfolded, it became clear that beneath the record’s uplifting, anthemic, eclectic rock and roll, Michelini intended it as a sort of musical memento mori.
“I think there are times in my life, sorting through this, where I feel like I’m still dodging suicide at points,” he says. “I’ve started to get help after working on this record, which is great. But it can be difficult to find the right kind of help for that kind of stuff. The title of the record, though, which means ‘the way must be tried’…the idea for me was that maybe, before I wrote off existence, I would make this effort to try to live a meaningful life, to life my best life. That’s the conclusion of the record, though it hasn’t been that easy.”
It was always about coming home. For Joe Michelini, American Trappist is the natural extension of the scenic route into the self.
When we travelled to Asbury Park together last month, the native New Jersey son was clearly in his element, pointing out landmarks to the both personal and professional. As we’re cleaning up after filming in Asbury’s historic Convention Center Hall, Joe looks wildly around and points up into the stands. “That was my seat. I saw my first concert in this room.”
From The Boss to Trappe, the Convention Hall has played home to countless musicians down through the years. And even as the town that Joe fell in love with as a child has begun to change tangibly and more immaterially, it still remains a sort of sanctuary for the road-worn Michelini. River City Extension died here. American Trappist was born here. The road ends, begins, goes on, comes back. That’s what getting even means.
After River City Extension disbanded a couple years back, Joe Michelini started creating tunes under the name of American Trappist. With his self-titled debut last year, Michelini took listeners on a bluesy, folky, gritty sonic journey trekking from suburbia to crossing dusty Western plains and atmospheric desert landscapes.
Now, with a new track in hand, American Trappist seems to be continuing his westward U.S. excursion with a stop in sunny so-Cal. Although the song is titled “Soot,” its sound differs drastically from the smudgy darkness that the name suggests — instead, it jams along to a beat of retro garage rock goodness.
In addition to breezy guitar riffs, this shift in sound is aided by the grandiose, earnest vocals of the 60’s-esque duet between Michelini and Hemming’s Candice Martell. Continue reading →
American Trappist’s self-titled debut had me saying “Johnny Cash” over and over again in my head for the duration of my time listening. The LP, consisting of thirteen tracks, takes listeners on a journey of self acceptance, personal discovery, and many of the other ups and downs that accompany the transition into young adulthood. Continue reading →
Stepping into a new role as American Trappist, New Jersey singer/songwriter Joe Michelini (of River City Extension) premiered a video for a song called “Nothing Short of Faithful” via American Songwriter earlier this week. The track comes from American Trappist’s new On the River Toms EP, the second in a three-part EP series that will combine to make the project’s first full-length release.
Tonight is the night, Wilco fans. Jeff Tweedy and company will play their first proper headlining set within Philadelphia’s municipal boundaries since 2010 tonight at The Mann. The band has last year’s uber-digable Star Wars in tow, as well as a remarkable back-cataloge (obvs). I will be happy to scream along to “Misunderstood” and I’m sure most of you who know Wilco feel the same. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →
Philadelphia band The Vernes have done it again. Releasing an album for the third straight year in a row, Yr of the Rat was unveiled on May 17th. Their debut, self-titled album came out in 2017, and since then, they’ve been releasing music at a consistent pace. Continue reading →
Local artist Kiro Heck is premiering his brand new single “Daily Waves” this week. This artist is so local, in fact, that he used to be an intern for us here at the Key in 2017. Then, he was Chad the Intern, but now Chad Snyder has taken on a new moniker and produced his first full-length album, A Pound of Feathers, with the help of Joe Michelini from American Trappist.
Kiro Heck’s debut single “Daily Waves” features ringing guitar, a tight drum loop, and Heck’s reverberating, melancholy voice. It feels energetic and serene at once and lyrics like “I spent a year without you / I was sitting on my hands” resonate with any listener who has ever regretted spending a year on the couch rather than chasing down their dreams. Continue reading →