Over the last few months we’ve been getting slowly acquainted with Aphra, the solo project of Tutlie’s Rebecca Way. We were first introduced at Ortlieb’s back in July of last year when Way opened for Vita and the Woolf; crossed paths again at another Vita show this September at Johnny Brenda’s; and we picked her brain about remixing Youth Lagoon in October. Way recently picked up some steam and is now a pretty frequent name on show bills. All of that has been leading up to the release of her new EP Sadness Is a Gesture, which will be out next spring. Today we have the premiere of “Geranimo,” the album’s first offering to our ears.
If you pay attention to Philadelphia concert listings, you’ve probably seen a strong uptick in gigs by Aphra over the past year. It seemed on the surface that the band was a side project of Tutlie’s Rebecca Way, but it’s actually the other way around; Way has been making haunting, evocative music as Aphra since before Tutlie existed, and she’s felt increasingly inspired of late to return to her original project. This summer, she parted ways with her Tutlie bandmates – no bad blood or acrimony, nothing like that, she just needed space to give the project the time it deserved.
Last month, Aphra caught the attention of a packed Johnny Brenda’s house opening for Vita and the Woolf; as our Michelle Montgomery described it, “Through loops, drum machine beats, and keys, she created a rich texture of sound filled with emotional nuances.” Way is looking to bring more of that sound to the surface as she rolls out new music this fall and winter, but as she told us over email this week, “I figured I’d get people warmed up to my sound with a remix or two.” It begins with her reworking of a track by indie scene staple Youth Lagoon – which we’re excited to bring you today. Continue reading →
Johnny Brenda’s was filled with an awesome triple bill of live local music on Thursday night, capped by Vita and the Woolf‘s biggest hometown headlining appearance to date. She just wrapped up production on an EP that she plans to release in the spring, and was kicking off a short fall tour acorss the Northeast. Continue reading →
Vita and the Woolf’s Jennifer Pague has not a voice that can easily be ignored or forgotten. Comparisons to Florence Welch are common, but are not overstated in the least as the lead singer of Vita and the Woolf brings sultry heart to all her songs through a vocal prowess few can lay claim to. She no doubt turned more than a few heads during her stripped down set at Fishtown’s ReAnimator Coffee, and with the help of Philly’s Out of Town Films, we can all feel as if we were their sipping a latte as Vita and the Woolf plays the new song “Springtime Foxes.” Continue reading →
The end of summer is fast approaching, so now is the time to get your last hurrahs of the season. To help you out, we suggest an awesome, scaled-down music festival called Chronologies.
This Saturday, August 22nd, four bands will be playing throughout the night on a NJ family homestead built in 1923, accompanied by visuals and ambient undertones. The 3+ acre location encourages overnight camping, and includes a hammock station, a fire pit for s’mores, and a creek for swimming and canoeing. Continue reading →
The third annual Magic Death Sounds Block Party takes place on August 30th at the corner of Blair and Dreer in Kensington, and it’s a solid lineup of Philadelphia psychedelic, avant-garde, experimental and otherwise left-of-center leaning pop.
To get us all psyched for the event, the folks at the Philly-based Magic Death Sounds label dropped a mixtape featuring tracks by all ten of the artists on the bill – from the dream-like electronic tapestries of Rebecca Way’s Aphra to the Joy Division-esque fuzz-rock of Whaler. Continue reading →
Magic Death Sounds has announced details of its 3rd annual block party, taking place in Fishtown on August 30th. The two-stage event will showcase the tape label’s roster of artists along with other up-and-coming locals, including electronic soul-pop project APHRA, psych-rock songwriter Jo Kusy, electronic experimentalist Power Animal and more. There will also be food, drinks, and flea market vendors on hand, making it the kind of block party you won’t want to leave. Check out a highlight reel of last year’s party below and get more details here.
If you’ve ever gone to a concert, you’ve no doubt heard clapping.
I’m not talking about the kind that comes at the end of a song, but the kind that comes during – an audience fervently clapping along to the beat. Happens pretty regularly, right? How about this: when was the last time you heard an audience keep those claps up beyond the first verse? Usually once the beat kicks in or the refrain come around, the hands fall and the crowd just sways or stands there. It makes sense; your fingers start to sting, or your arms start to ache, or you start to feel self-conscious when you realize how many people around you are no longer doing it. Maybe a handful of times a year, at concerts with a really devoted fan base, do I see the clap-percussion continue into the middle of a song, and even then it peters out.
Taking it a step further: have you ever heard an artist get their audience clapping along to a song, and continue clapping for the entire thing – verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / chorus / coda? I’ve been going to concerts for 20 years and had never seen this phenomenon occur prior to last night, when Jennifer Pague of Vita and the Woolf played a solo set at Ortlieb’s.
To give a bit of context: the eclectic art-pop tones of Vita have captured our collective ear over here at WXPN, and for good reason. The band’s first single “Mary” is a rousing anthem that fills a void Florence and the Machine left in my listening habits. Stopping right there, let’s acknowledge that Pague probably gets this comparison all the time, is probably sick of it and possibly not even directly influenced by FloMac – but as a singer, she is undeniably strong and dynamic, a personality that is not timid in the least. Woman knows how to sing out, and sing out she does, whether backed by intricate and imaginative musical layers on the forthcoming Fang Song EP, or solo with a piano, as we saw her last night.
There’s more to Vita and the Woolf than the hyperdramatics that Florence Welch is known for, of course; the album (and her set) have more subdued moments that recall Beirut and Espers. Those songs are sweet, no doubt, but the ones that capture the energy of a room are the anthems. Which brings us to the clapping.
Pague launched into a solo piano of a song called “Mm Chka Mm” last night, and it was a rager. As the title alludes, this is a beat-oriented piece of music, and without her drummer, the song needed something driving it. So she urged the group of fans and friends clustered at the foot of the Ortlieb’s stage to give her a beat. They did. And the kept going. After the first refrain, I could hear that many clappers dropped off, and braced myself for the familiar pattern of trickle-off crowd participation. It didn’t happen. The claps swelled in volume again, dipped up and down but didn’t waver, even at their quietest.
By the time we passed the second refrain, I started thinking “Is this going to continue all the way to the end?” I don’t know how many people watching were conscious of what was happening – maybe this is an uber-nerdy thing of me to notice, and I thank you, dear reader, if you’ve stuck with me this far. But when we neared the home stretch, the thing that gave it that final push and momentum came from the unlikeliest of places: a surly and somewhat inebriated Ortlieb’s regular who had been heckling the entire show thus far, and made his way to the floor in front of the stage – stomping and clapping momentarily as the song concluded. Woah.
Lest the point get lost, I’ll reiterate: this was just Pague and a piano. When Vita plays a full-band show for its album release in September, I can’t even imagine how high the energy will be.
Joining this solo incarnation of Vita and the Woolf was Aphra, the mystical deep soul solo project of Tutlie’s Rebecca Way. She hasn’t performed under this name in over a year, and in that time has re-imagined its sound an evocative electronic outfit anchored by her rich and melodic voice. As a singer, Way is undeniably influenced by R&B. But there’s a dark undercurrent to her sound, a coldness echoed in drum machine beats and electronic textures, in the urgent floor-tom rhythms she hammered out with Tutlie bandmate Asher Brooks. Lorde or The xx might be easy parallels, in that her music definitely pop, but not necessarily happy pop. “I wrote this song when I was depressed,” Way said during one introduction. “Actually, I write most of my songs when I’m depressed.”
Don’t be fooled. Aphra is anything but a downer. Way uses her music as a means of quiet catharsis, but it’s transformative, whether we’re talking about her smiling quizzically as Brooks struts to a trumpet solo, or members of the crowd (including Pague) slow dancing on the floor to a blissful late-set melody. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.