Philly rocks with DJ Lean Wit It

DJ Lean Wit It
DJ Lean Wit It | photo by Sannii Crespina-Flores | courtesy of the artist

The blue collar energy that Philadelphia provides builds character for its local artists. It takes a certain type of talent and dedication to win the attention and the heart of Broad Street but once it’s captured, it strengthens your confidence to shine outside of your of city.

That’s something DJ Lean Wit It has learned throughout his years behind the turntables. Whether was on Temple University’s campus, a Heineken Green Room event or even a local bar, the North Philly DJ has spent years perfecting his craft to capture the attention of not only his hometown, but in other cities and countries as well. And as DJ Lean Wit It prepares for a really huge set for the upcoming No Place Like Home event at The Fillmore on Saturday, August 18th — not to mention his warm-up gig at Spruce Street Harbor Park this Thursday — I was able to sit with him to talk about his early stages as a DJ and how a Philadelphia crowd separates itself from any other crowd in the world. Continue reading →


The ladies of Catnaps reunite tonight at KungFu Necktie with solo projects

Photo by Becca Green
Photo by Becca Green

Twee pop band Catnaps took a permanent rest last spring, but that doesn’t mean the members have stopped playing music altogether. Front ladies of the band Adrienne Gold and Carolyn Haynes are both taking on new, individual projects. Gold’s Tender Vision and Haynes’ Ghost Gum will play together tonight at Kung Fu Necktie along with Forbidden Rooms, made up of members from Ladies Auxiliary, and Humble Fires from D.C.

Tender Vision and Ghost Gum are new bands to the punk scene, but not collectively. Aside from Gold, Tender Vision is made up of members from punk band Address. But tonight, they’ll play their first Philly show.

Meanwhile, Ghost Gum includes members of indie punk band Glocca Morra. With so many creative minds within each of the projects, any devout listener of the bands can easily pick out the Catnaps/Address/Glocca Morra influences.

Ghost Gum’s bandcamp, currently filled with four demos, features distinctive Glocca guitar slides and punky riffs while keeping Haynes’ twinkling, indiepop sound. Tender Vision currently has two songs on their bandcamp: “Just Kill Me,” an original released just this January, and an experimental, spacey cover of the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” which according to the band’s Facebook page, will be available for free download for just one week.

Hang out with these Philly-famous punkers tonight. The 21+ show will start at 8 p.m. and costs $7 at the door.


Laser Background release new video for “Pinwheels” (playing Kungfu Necktie 7/12)

Laser Background | Photo by John Vettese
Laser Background | Photo by John Vettese

Strange and psychedelic Philly band Laser Background  just released a new video for their tune “Pinwheel.” The previously released track comes from their self-titled EP released last summer. Laser Background is prepping the release of its debut full-length, and will take the stage at Kungfu Necktie on July 12th. Tickets and info for that show can be found here. Watch the trippy video, featuring animation by Vika Larionova, below.


Watch a psychedelic new video from Frank Cervantes (playing North Star Bar on 11/16)

Local indie-rock musician Frank Cervantes recently released a color-drenched new video for his song “Shy Away” (a collaboration with local filmmaker Steve Koppenhafer’s Painted Desert Productions).  The song comes from the Moorestown, NJ native’s impressive Forgotten Summer feull-length, released in June on his Bandcamp; the album walking a line between rollicking rock a la Delta Spirit on the title track “Forgotten Summer” and some Kurt Vile-esque finger picking on “Keep the Line Drawn.”  Below, watch the video for “Shy Away,” and see Cervantes live at the North Star Bar on November 16. Go here for tickets and more information about the 21+ show. 


Laser Background releases a zany music video for “Weird Conscience” (playing Kungfu Necktie on 7/19)

After the absurdist Philadelphia psychedelic pop foursome The Armchairs disbanded just over a year ago, co-songwriter Andy Molholt focused his energies into Laser Background, a zany one-man project cut very much from similar cloth. The self-titled EP he digitally released in the winter is bright, fast, catchy, a bit quirky and far-out, but in a way that makes you want to rush along and join it. Musically, it easily recalls The Apples In Stereo and Of Montreal. Next week Molholt celebrates the EP’s physical release – on cassette via the UK’s Stroll On Records tape label, and on 7″ via Molholt’s own imprint – with an appearance at Kung Fu Necktie in Fishtown. Leading up to the show, Laser Background yesterday released a video for “Weird Conscience,” filmed in various locales around north-eastern Montgomery County and Bucks County. (Love the shots on the wooden horse playground at Peace Valley Park – many a splinter I suffered growing up as a result of those things.) The video is a total blast, and you can check it out below while making plans to catch the band next Thursday. Laser Background, Arrah and The Ferns and Circadian Rhythms play Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 North Front St., on Thurs. July 19 at 8 p.m. Admission to the 21+ show is $5.

Laser Background – Weird Conscience from Laser Background on Vimeo.


The Key Studio Sessions: Trouble Everyday

Photo by John Vettese
Before there was Bands in the Backyard, there was Trouble Everyday, the angular indie band from mid-aughts Philadelphia, fronted by present day BITBY honchos Kyle Costill and Dave Kain. When those guys decided last summer to team up again and launch a new video blog that quickly became ubiquitous, it didn’t seem too far of a reach to reunite musically as well. Original Trouble Everyday guitarist Chris Doyle (currently of Sun Airway) hopped onboard, with BITBY collaborator Josh Pannepacker (who also performs as Shorty Boy-Boy) sitting in behind the drumkit to administer those body-moving disco-punk beats. Their rhythmic end had Trouble Everyday lumped into that trendy post-punk dance revivalist craze back in the day, but their tastes always reached broader, something that might become more evident when the band plays its reunion show this weekend. If anything, as we heard in Trouble Everyday’s Key Studio Session – recorded with guest engineer Jeff White – the guys are still tight and feisty, and Costill hasn’t lost one ounce of potency from his signature howl. Download their session below (including one untitled draft of a new song that was kind of pieced together on the spot), and catch Trouble Everyday’s reunion show this Saturday at Kungfu Necktie. Trouble Everyday and Break It Up play Echo Orbiter’s CD Release Show at Kungfu Necktie, 1250 North Front Street, Sat. July 14 at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the 21+ show is $10.


Tonight: Philly space-rock allstars take over Kungfu Necktie

Hippy Johnny, clockwise from upper right: Brendan Codey, Bennett Daniels, Dan Svizeny and Yohsuke Araki

If you’re a fan of jangley guitars, 60s psych-pop songwriting, and generous helpings of reverb, Kungfu Necktie is the place to be tonight. The Fishtown venue is hosting a solid lineup of local space-rock, beginning with the live debut of The Interest Group, the latest project from Philly’s Yohsuke Araki; the band received a spot of Pitchfork love this spring for its recent single “The Boys and The Girls.” Also on the bill is JRG, the acronymonious stage name of Julien Rossow-Greenberg, formerly of the band Arches; his label Treetop Sorbet has been a big proponent of breezy, cloudy pop tones. Rounding out the bill is Hippy Johnny, an allstar roster featuring Araki on guitar, Dan Svizeny of Cough Cool on drums, Brendan Codey on guitar and vocals and Bennett Daniels from Codey’s band on bass. Stream some music from each act below – a song from The Interest group, an EP from JRG and some teasers from Hippy Johnny – and as KFN’s calendar advises, “remember to scrape your melted face up off the floor at the end of the show.” Hippy Johnny, JRG and The Interest Group play Kungfu Necktie, 1250 North Front St., tonight at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $5.


Get to know Crozet (playing Kungfu Necktie on Saturday)

Philadelphia has historically been a strong scene for electronic music innovation, from Diplo and Data Garden in the past decade, Josh Wink and King Britt in the 90s, Crash Course in Science in the 80s…the list is broad and reaches far back. But equally exciting, beyond the DJing / remixing / production realm, is today’s new guard of local electro-performers, bands with beats; a distinction I’m using to encompass everyone from Pink Skull and Instamatic to City Rain and Work Drugs. Joining in under that umbrella is Crozet, the West Deptford, NJ-based synthpop duo of John Helmuth and Sean Lee, who plays Kungfu Necktie tomorrow, opening for Freezepop. I swapped e-mails with Helmuth to get a sense of the band’s roots, its process and its vibe on electronic music writ large.

The Key: What led you to arrive at the sound you have?

John Helmuth:Last year while Sean and I were writing the album, I was finishing up my senior year at UArts while Sean was gutting and rebuilding his house. My daily schedule was pretty crazy at the time. Eating, sleeping, class times, and personal time was all over the place. Sean was insanely busy and stressed out with his house. We barely physically met to write the music. We would just send each other things through email. The sound of both “Alterations” and “We’ll Be Gone By Then” were definitely directly influenced by how we were feeling at that moment of writing. Whether I was super tired and drained from a long day of classes, or wide awake and energetic ready for the weekend, the songs were all over the place mood-wise. A lot of the artists that I was listening to at the time were mostly electronic or at least had some kind of synth playing. Listening to these types of bands really inspired the type of instruments I chose to write with and how I used them. M83 is a huge inspiration as well as Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian, Com Truise, Yo La Tengo, Cass McCombs, and Washed Out. The flow of “We’ll Be Gone By Then” was laid out to feel like a film score which is what I think Sean and I would love to be able to do one day. John Hughes films, Vangelis scores, and the feel from that whole era is what I pull inspiration from. I pay attention to the little details in the music from that era and I’ve been putting a lot of old tracks on repeat trying to replicate things I hear to see how I could transpose a noise I heard, or a short bridge into a full song.

TK: Some of the cuts on We’ll Be Gone By Then feature super-uplifting vocals, others don’t feature vocals at all. How do you decide when a song is going to be instrumental or not?

JH: Deciding between making a song instrumental or not is tough some times. Some songs have super catchy bright guitar parts that don’t leave much room for vocals, but sometimes the synths and guitar tracks are soft enough where I can add a few more melodies to the song by just singing. It really helps to play the songs live at practice to see if I can work vocals into the songs or if the energy of a song is right without any vocals. A few of the songs on the albums had a lot more vocal tracks at first. Its easier to clutter songs up than it is to keep them simple. When we get deep into writing we spend days writing so many different parts for one song and listen back a week later and delete everything we did. If we give each song the right amount of time before releasing them they always seem to come out exactly how we wanted them to originally.

TK: Genre-Jargon Free Association: “IDM” Has this term aged well? How about the music?

JH: I don’t really consider Crozet a true IDM project, but as far as the term goes and how it and the artists in that genre are aging I honestly have never been into it more. I remember the first time I heard a Telefon Tel Aviv track. I was on the way home from a tour with an old band. It was super late and I was in the back seat of a car half asleep and my friend driving started playing “What It Was Will Never Again”. I had never heard an electronic band before that sounded like that. Needless to say I’ve been a huge fan of them and many artists similar to them since that night. I was fortunate enough to see Joshua Eustis at Kung Fu Necktie right after “Immolate Yourself” came out and Charles Cooper had passed. It was an amazing show and the sound was incredible but it felt weird without the both of them up there. There are so many artists out there right now under that genre and I’m always finding myself really impressed by how people can utilize the insane amounts of electronic gear to write music these days. I’m a firm believer that you definitely don’t need $10,000 worth of gear to write music, but it doesn’t hurt! I wrote mostly the whole first two albums with Reason, a $40 Korg 25 key midi controller, and a few crappy 80s keyboards. I’m usually getting my daily dose of IDM and everything electronic over at which is the blog of the man behind the musical project Tycho.

TK: The first thing I heard by Crozet was the Alterations EP. Why did you choose to cover the artists you did? Who would you like to cover in the future?

JH: There really isn’t an explanation why I chose to cover the artists I did. It was one of those things where I was just listening to the original song and wanted to challenge myself to see if I could pull off a cover that brought that song into a different realm than the original track was in. I covered a few other songs that I never released only because the song was too similar to the original. In my opinion, if you’re going to cover or remix a song you really need to pull that song into a different direction than the original was in otherwise you might as well just listen to the original track. The Yo La Tengo cover we did was a lot of fun. I knew right out of the gate that I wanted to make the song more ambient, but build into an upbeat tempo unlike the original. I knew I didn’t want to replicate all of the vocal tracks. The vocals in the song originally performed by Ira Kaplan were so relaxing and smooth that I knew I could use them in the cover to make it more ambient and drawn out. I’m really proud of the way this song came out as well as the other songs, but this is one of those songs where I listened to the intro on repeat for a few hours while doing work late at night and it was really therapeutic. I’ve been thinking about covering some old R&B artists like an Anita Baker or a Chaka Khan, or maybe even a Michael Jackson song to change things up a bit. We gotta keep it fun! I’m in love with a new track by Tomas Barfod called “November Skies” featuring the Swedish singer Nina Kinert. I feel like I could really take the song to a different direction while keeping vocals a prominent piece of the song.

TK: Genre-Jargon Free Association: “Chillwave” Will this term age well? Where do you see the music going?

JH: Ahhh I was waiting for this term to be thrown up haha! The term hasn’t been around for more than a few years now and it’s already feeling old. I don’t see much of a future for the term or many of the bands under the genre. It’s become overpopulated with teenage bedroom artists with Fruity Loops and a reverbed mic. I’m not saying that there aren’t any great bands/artists to come up in this manor, but you can skim through Soundcloud or Bandcamp for hours and hear the same stuff over and over again. I can at least say for Sean and I that we’ve played in all different types of bands over the past 10 years both separately and together and have a good amount of experience writing all different styles of music. Even though Crozet was initially a “bedroom project” there’s a lot more to the writing and creative process than a midi controller and a reverbed mic.

TK: Along the chillwave tip, many of the bands that have been classified as such these past few years are also pegged as “summery” artists. The summer of 2012 is officially upon us. Do you see Crozet as a “summer” band? There is a rollercoaster on a beach on the cover of your album, after all.

JH: I don’t really see Crozet as a “summer” band. I mean I’ll be honest. I listen to my own stuff and there are tracks of ours that I really enjoy listening to during different seasons of the year. There are some tracks we wrote that are great to listen to on long train rides during the winter, and there are some tracks that are great to listen to while driving down the highway at night with the windows down and the volume way up. Both albums took a little over a year to complete so there were plenty of songs that were influenced not only by our moods but the season they were written in. The album artwork for “We’ll Be Gone By Then” was a photo I shot which was included in a series of photos captured with my cell phone during the summer before I graduated. You can view the rest of the series at my portfolio site. I chose that photo because of how strange the photo seemed. Unless you are from the area and know the Wildwood boardwalk then you probably don’t really understand why there’s a roller coaster on a beach with nothing around it. The photo seems to be more like a desert than a beach at first glance. I’ve had a few people ask me, “Why is there a roller coaster in the middle of a desert?” and “Is that in Weird NJ magazine?”. I feel like the photo gives the album some kind of reality to live in. I plan on using my own photography for future albums. The next album cover is not only going to have to represent the music it’s standing for, but its going to have tell a story. It’s purpose is to give the listener a place to be when listening to the album.

TK: What can people expect from your live show on the 23rd?

JH: Our live performance is structured to flow differently than the album does. We mixed both albums together into one long continuous track with unreleased interludes, and a few new tracks that are also unreleased. Again, we try to make the set feel like a film score but fit into a 30-40 minute slot. It’s a lot more work than it sounds. The great thing about our songs is that they are super versatile. Rearranging the set list is actually pretty fun. We’ll hear the songs transition into the next in ways we didn’t hear when we originally wrote them. There’s so many ways to order the songs depending on what type of mood you want the set to be. Eventually I’d love to have some visuals and a few more people on stage to play with us, but until then its just Sean and I.

Crozet plays with Freezepop and Lifestyle at Kungfu Necktie, 1250 North Front Street, Sat. June 23 at 8 p.m. Admission to the 21+ show is $10.


TOMORROW: A dueling DJ set from Wigwams and Tresors on XPN2 (playing Kungfu Necktie on Friday)

Adrien Kanter (left) of Trésors and Dan Morse of Wigwams

Call it the Philly-Paris connection. This weekend, the French indie rock band Trésors plays Kungfu Necktie, opening for local four-piece Wigwams. The friendship between both groups of musicians goes a ways back, though, all the way to a European tour in 2005, and tomorrow night they’ll bring it to the airwaves to guest DJ on XPN2 from 5 to 7 p.m. Dan Morse of Wigwams (who you also saw shredding on the North Star stage in our Break it Up photo recap) joined up with Adrien Kanter and Adrien Durand of Trésors to put together a summer music playlist for the 90-whatever degree heat this week. We’ll hear classic jams from Procal Harum and Black Flag, new music from Liars and Arc in Round, and a couple tracks from our guest DJs own bands to get you psyched for the show on Friday night. Listen in tomorrow night, June 21, at 88.5 HD-2 or beginning at 5 p.m.


Listen to new music from Philly’s Echo Orbiter (playing Kungfu Necktie in July)

Echo Orbiter is the long standing psychedelic rock project of Philadelphia brothers Justin and Colin Emerle, along with longtime collaborator Jeremiah Steffen. Over the past decade and a half, the band has amassed a prolific catalog of recordings, ranging from hissy home-taped lo-fi madness to a more polished and poppy product.

Next month, they’ll add to the collection with the release of the new Aerosol Power EP, a collection of music recorded in collaboration with new guitarist Robert Hart. The set is made up of twelve new songs – which might seem long for an EP, until you realize each track clocks in between a minute and a half and two minutes. Think of them as a Minor Threat for the Philly psych scene. Below, you can listen to one of those songs, “Stars From A to Z”; it bounced and cavorts like it came from the same fuzzy buzzy fun park as The Apples in stereo.

Hear the entire EP over at Echo Orbiter’s Bandcamp, catch the release show at Kungfu Necktie on July 14, and keep your eyes peeled for even more new music from the Emerle brothers (and co.) in the fall.