By

The Key Presents: Secret American

Secret American | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Secret American is a project of two coasts. A couple years back, frontman Derek Krzywicki found himself living in Southern California, where he moved with his old band Cheers Elephant. After parting ways with those guys, he began melding a retro-rock songwriting style with his unstoppable charisma onstage and at the microphone. But Krzywicki is a Philadelphia-area native, and some of his favorite folks to record with were located back in Philly. So he grabbed cheap airfares when they popped up and bounced back and forth across the U.S. to record his debut album, due out early next year. The result is pretty nicely aligned with the band’s jovial tagline: “California country landscapes from the seat of an overhead SEPTA train.”

Secret American found itself convened back in Philadelphia on a sunny day in early September of 2017. And so Krzywicki and his bandmates — Kevin Killen on drums; Todd Mecaughey on bass; Rory Geoghegan and Alex Baranowski on guitars, Katie Frank on keys and Tony Unander on percussion — met up at Fergie’s Pub in Center City. It’s an incredibly musician-friendly establishment, between weekly open mics, residencies from Philadelphia vets like John Train, a regular traditional Irish music session, the musicians slinging drinks from behind the bar, and more. So the seven bandmates gathered together on the tiny second floor stage of the pub for an afternoon jam out.

This is The Key Presents: Secret American. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: Hardwork Movement

Hardwork Movement | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Sunday, October 8th, 2017. It’s technically autumn, but the weather is still warm, comfortable — if a little wet, care of a lingering shower from the morning hours. Philadelphians are exploring the nooks and crannies of City Hall, at the nexus of Broad and Market Streets — from the Dilworth Plaza Oktoberfest market to installations of Mural Arts’ Monument Lab project.

In the catacombs of the building’s east passageway, Becca Imani and Dani Gershkoff of Hardwork Movement find a resonant alcove to perform a song a cappella. Normally, they’re part of the instrumental sprawl of local hip-hop collective Hardwork Movement, playing trumpet and flute and contributing vocals to their bandmates’ fierce rhymes. But for one song — the elegant “Don’t Block the Sun” — they take center stage, and them alone. And it always slays. Even as the sounds of the city’s cars and subway trains provide a rumbling accompaniment, Graham and Gershkoff are locked in the serenity zone, singing about (and radiating) inner strength. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: American Trappist

American Trappist | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

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.

This is The Key Presents: American Trappist.
Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: Half Waif

Half Waif | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

The weather’s bad, but it holds. Between setting up and short takes while the rain isn’t too hard, Nandi Plunkett throws an industrial trash bag over her keyboard as a makeshift cover, but even the intermittent April showers can’t get her spirits down too much. Resiliency is a big theme of Half Waif‘s music, and in Plunkett’s life, as well. Between passing clouds, Nandi and guitarist Adan Carlo play completely new arrangements of two Half Waif tracks from the recently released form/a EP. In the secluded side yard of the MAAS Building, the intimate strength of Half Waif springs to resounding life. This is The Key Presents: Half Waif. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: Cayetana

Cayetana | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Cayetana are done messing around. Not like they ever were from the very start, but with tracks titled things like “Serious Things Are Stupid” and “Hot Dad Calendar,” it might be easy to lose sight of the depth that the band packs into every ounce of songwriting. With this week’s release of sophomore record New Kind of Normal, things are coming into sharper focus for the band members. But it’s not only due to the the release of a new album– the band also had to dig deep and launch a new record label. They’re all carrying a lot of weight, and wearing it well.

With the new record wrapped up and all but out the door, you’d think they’d all want to take a hard-earned vacation before having to gear up for album promotion and the touring circuit. When we met with them a couple weeks ago for a Facebook Live stream, they seemed totally calm, cool and collected, casually enjoying a nice morning on their South Philly roof deck. It’s a good reminder that they’re taking everything in stride — really living the dream. Working hard, but having fun too, when it comes. This is The Key Presents: Cayetana. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: You Blew It!

 

You Blew It! | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo racheldelsordophotography.com

No matter which way you slice it, You Blew It! are anything but a simple band. What appears at first glance to be fairly stock-standard twinkly post-emo fare transcends the sum of its parts, both sonically and particularly in the lyrical department. On their latest effort Abendroit — released in November on Triple Crown — the band cashes in its cred with the pop punk crowd and looks towards softer pastures and more still waters. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: Big Thief

 

Big Thief | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Big Thief | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

It’s been quite the year for Big Thief. Between getting picked up by Saddle Creek in Feburary, putting out the stunning debut LP Masterpiece in May, and filling the rest of the year with tour dates both headlining and alongside folks such as M. Ward and Frankie Cosmos, they’ve been quite busy. The Brookyln-based band has also racked up accolades in everywhere from Pitchfork to NPR Music. (They’ll even appear on World Cafe next week.)

And with good reason. With sensible, classic Western-Americana-influenced songwriting, the band rips ballads while also making a hard left each time you think they’re about to play right into a classic alt-country troupe. Sitting on the southern borderline of “indie,” Big Thief avoids falling into those all-too-familiar patterns, as well. Adrianne Lenker’s fragile, yet tempered songwriting carries the band down a winding road, that allows her to exert great strength both in quietus and with actual sonic force. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: David Bazan

David Bazan| photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
David Bazan | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

David Bazan isn’t exactly a household name. It’s both a blessing and a curse for Bazan, who actually prefers to keep things intimate with his fans. Even if you’re not particularly familiar with either his solo work or one the many projects that he’s had his hands in down through the past two decades, it’s almost certain that one of your favorite bands is. When he played at Johnny Brenda’s in July, the audience was a veritable who’s who of the Philadelphia scene. Members of Modern Baseball, mewithoutYou, Hop Along, Tiger’s Jaw and more filled the room, standing in awe of a one man powerhouse. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: Joseph

Joseph | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Joseph | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Joseph is the band you can’t forget. Whether you saw them first on Jimmy Fallon or during our own NonCOMM this past spring, it’s likely that the haunting harmonies created by the Closner sisters are stuck in your mind for good. And they’re just getting started. With this year’s sophomore release I’m Alone, No You’re Not out on ATO Records, the Oregonians are taking hold of hearts and minds across the country — and with good reason. Catchy folk licks and haunting harmonies aren’t the only thing that Joseph brings to the table. With an ear for striking songwriting, the band doesn’t back down. Continue reading →

By

The Key Presents: Pinegrove

Pinegrove| photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Pinegrove | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

“I’m a happy guy that makes sad music,” jokes Evan Stephens Hall with a smile. Spending time with someone as effervescent as Hall in person, you might never even realize the fact that the songs he writes for Pinegrove bring together packed rooms of yelling, sometimes tearful people. But over the past year, Pinegrove catapulted from their hometown of Montclair, NJ to the big time — signing to Run For Cover Records, selling out almost every date of a massive summer tour of the US and appearing at festivals like Lollapalooza. The reception speaks volumes to the relatability and maturity that Evan brings to the project. These aren’t just sad songs for sad people, or an attempt to jump on the “emo revival” bandwagon. These songs are holistically approached pieces of work, that touch on every emotion under the sun — good and bad. Continue reading →