Also on the lineup is this month’s XPN-curated Communion artist Heyward Howkins. His second LP, Be Frank Furness, was released in December via BITBY Records, and it saw his lyrical wit and knack for melody in top form. We featured it in an Unlocked spotlight at the time – read the interview here.
The show also features a set of lush arrangements from Joey Sweeney and the Long Hair Arkestra, alt-rock drama from LA rockers Bootstraps and much more. Get more information on the show at its Facebook event page, and check out music from some of the artists below.
Weekender brought their Spanish Peaks EP in for a Key Studio Session, recording the debut effort’s four tracks live. The fuzzy psych / pop four-piece are currently working a full-length with Kyle Johnson set for release early next year, and they’ll be playing tonight’s Making Time $2 Bill show at Voyeur Nightclub. Stream and download “Spanish Peaks” below and get more info on the show here.
This week we celebrated the release of Be Frank, Furness along with Philadelphia native Heyward Howkins. The Unlocked feature on the local singer-songwriter produced a stellar review, an enlightening interview and a free download of “Praline Country.” Stream and download the track below and check out the full profile on Howkins here.
All week we’ve featured Be Frank, Furness – the fantastic new album from Philly’s Heyward Howkins – on Unlocked, our regular showcase of new and significant albums from local artists. Last night, Howkins celebrated the new record before a crowd of fans, friends and family, playing through most of its tracks with his backing band: keyboard player Meggie Morganelli, drummer Erik Schmidt, bassist Josh Newman and horn player / multi-instrumentalist Vince Tampio. The new songs sounded great, the selections from the first album (“Spanish Moss,” “Thunderin’ Stop”) were well-played and some surprises were in the mix as well. Howkins and the full band did a cover of “Lived in Bars” by Cat Power (from the album The Greatest), and he played a near-solo (with sleigh bells) holiday original called “Don’t Let Christmas Get You Down” (gotta love the references to Marah and the parking authority). Below, check out photos from the show in the gallery and watch a video of the Cat Power cover. After the jump, see Howkins’ perform his Christmas original, and listen to it on Soundcloud. And look for another appearance from Howkins this February at Boot and Saddle.
There’s a chuckle at the other end of the line when I ask Heyward Howkins about his iPhone demos – the raw, one-take early recordings of songs that went on to form his new album, Be Frank, Furness.
“Yeah, some of my friends asked me ‘Why are you doing that? Who’s going to listen to your record?,” he says. There’s a pause, and the auditory equivalent of a shrug. “Even if its a little rough, I like to get it down – I like to capture those moments where it’s fresh. Where it’s like like ‘this is awesome, I need to share it.’”
Doing this definitely served a purpose, or purposes – building momentum for the release of Be Frank, Furness, getting listeners familiar with the new songs in an early stage (something he also did in a few video sessions). And it also created companion versions of his new songs that exist in a different space and harbor different feelings than the finished versions – they’re the same, but they’re their own unique artifacts. Heyward sees it more simply.
“I just like playing music,” he tells me “and I like people to hear it.”
It took him a bit of time to reach this comfort zone as a solo artist. In the late 90s, he was the guitarist for The Trouble With Sweeney, with noted local musican, writer and editor Joey Sweeney. Before that, Howkins recalls, the only other he played in “was some Cure and Smiths cover band in high school. We did some originals, I wasn’t the singer but I wrote the songs.”
He remembers his time in The Trouble fondly, but when that group disbanded in 2005, he didn’t immediately think to pursue music. He got a regular 9 to 5 in Philly, he and his wife started a family. He would play guitar at home sometimes, and write songs when ideas struck him, but nothing super serious until he was between jobs in 2009 and decided to use his free time making demos. One was the song that became the title track of his first record, “The Hale and Hearty.”
“I had been working on that song for a few years,” he remembers.
The demos he initially kept to himself, sharing it only with his old band mate Sweeney – who told him he should, no question, do more. Continue reading →
Folk-pop singer-songwriter Heyward Howkins heads home tonight to celebrate the release of his new record Be Frank, Furness at Johnny Brenda’s. In a recent interview with Jason’s Jukebox, Howkins discussed his transition to becoming a solo artist following his work with The Trouble With Sweeney, Philly’s influence and calls the city “the perfect combination of size, culture, historical significance and even natural beauty”. Get a feel for his sound via the record’s title track “Be Frank, Furness” and get tickets to the show here.
In both, he premiered works-in-progress from his new album, which we’ve been featuring all week on Unlocked. For Michael Batchelor at Kettle Pot Tracks, recorded in early 2013, he played the title track “Be Frank, Furness” and “Flimsy Stick,” and talked about the songs and his process. “I think it is really nice to have a relic of these tunes in their native state—the way I wrote them,” he told Batchelor.
For Kyle Costill and Dave Kain at BITBY, recorded in late 2012, he played “Pundit” and “Nogales,” and foreshadowed the fleshed out, full-band direction of the new album. “It’s a little more to fun not to worry about fingerpicking so much, and having something people can tap their toes to,” he told Costill. “I’ve learned that it can’t hurt to have a little bit of a beat.”
Check out these windows into Howkins’ songwriting and creative process below.
Heyward Howkins likes a good turn of phrase. The Philly by way of Oaklyn, NJ songwriter caught many a listener’s ear on his debut album The Hale and The Hearty with both evocative word choices and clever imagery laid gracefully atop breezy acoustic-rooted instrumentation.
Take a song like “Spanish Moss” – it played with imagery very specific to both Philadelphia and Georgia, where Howkins’ ancestral roots lie. But it wasn’t overt about it. You could hear my favorite line on the album – “my city’s way hungover, still sore from red October” – and simply take it as an idiosyncratic description of a rough-round-the-edges metropolis. Or you read deeper and maybe see a dig at sports culture in a city so desperately craving a World Series trophy, that when it won one in October of 2008, it still hurt from the partying four years down the line, still wearing the scars with massive pride. Which could also speak more broadly to the storied inferiority complex of Philadelphia, overlooked as it so often its between New York’s glamour and D.C.’s capitol magnetism. (Assuming my read on the song is even correct in the first place. Which it may not be.)
I digress. Point is, Howkins is a musician who likes to give his listeners a thing or two to chew on, and that continues on the new Be Frank, Furness, which gets its vinyl release via BITBY this week and celebrates Thursday night at Johnny Brenda’s.
We hear alluring linguistic accents that draw our ears in – the long vowel sounds on “Nogales” (“the whiskeyyy is savoryyy”) and “Praline Country” (“you broke up the partyyyy when I said you seem funnyyyy”). We hear clever uses of imagery and local references – “Lorainne” has our songwriter either addressing a lady companion or the abandoned hotel on North Broad Street with the greeting “Lorainne, you look divine,” and “Be Frank, Furness” is a sideways play on a famous Philadelphia architect from the 19th century, but uses his first name as an adjective (“Let me be frank, Furness”).
It certainly aids in appreciation of this album if you have an ear for lexicon, have driven along North Broad Street around Fairmount Avenue, or maybe studied Philadelphia history. But the best thing about Be Frank, Furness: you could be completely oblivious to Howkins’ writerly tricks and odd references and still find it a breathtaking work. Continue reading →