Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: ILL Doots

ILL Doots | Photo by Charlie Arnold | courtesy of the artist

This summer, for ILL Doots, has been all about preparation—like a volcano building magma before it explodes. “On the surface, it may seem like we’ve been kind of quiet,” explains Anthony Martinez-Briggs (stage name: Phantom) over drinks at Boot & Saddle. “But there’s so much going on behind the scenes.”

By “kind of quiet” of course he means “kind of quiet for ILL Doots,” who have spent the past 6 years playing, dropping tracks, and hosting workshops in Philly and beyond—with nary a sign of slowing down. Their “quiet” period included a handful of live performances, curating shows at their South Philly home, affectionately known as “Tasker House,” and writing and performing the soundtrack to the Wilma Theater’s production of An Octoroonin addition to recording and preparing for tour. Octoroon’s soundtrack drops later this week, and this Saturday they’ll kick off a 3-week, U.S. tour with a show at Boot & Saddle; while on the road, they’ll also host a series of free workshops teaching music to kids.

If it sounds ambitious, that’s because it is. But the dudes of ILL Doots—”ILL” being an acronym for “I Love Learning”—have never been ones to shy away from a challenge. Since coming together in the U Arts dormitories back in 2009, the Philadelphia eight-piece has consistently challenged expectations of what it means to be a hip-hop band today, marrying cool raps and fresh production with a focus on collaboration, community betterment, and positivity. Originally conceived as a jam sesh between roommates Jordan “Rodney” McCree (drums) and Scott “Sly Tompson” Ziegler (bass), the band added emcees Martinez-Briggs and Kirschen “Tex” Wolford soon after, then slowly grew to the monolith it is today.

These days, ILL Doots is a growing force on the local scene, whose stock continues to rise. Before heading out on tour, I caught up with 4/8th of the band—McCree, Ziegler, Martinez-Briggs, and guitarist Sam “BPAD” Borrello—to talk weekends in the Wissahickon, classic summer jamz, and what they’re most psyched about this fall. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Mercury Girls


It’s been a brutal summer this year, the type of brutal that makes me wanna curl up on the couch in the air conditioning with my cat and watch re-runs while sipping a (whiskey) lemonade. (Some call it the dog days of summer, I call it the cat days). One thing that’s been helping me survive? Making playlists of my favorite songs, just like I did back in high school, when summers were alll about cruising through in town my ‘93 Taurus, windows down and cool jams on the tape deck. (Some of my friends had CD players, but I kept it old skool).

Philly five piece Mercury Girls are essential mix-tape material. The band burst onto the scene just 2 years ago, but has already morphed into one of the city’s brightest up-and-comers, thanks to a sparkling mix of warm vocals, playful guitars, and plenty of fuzz—earning props from everyone from Brooklyn Vegan to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman, and sharing stages with Fear of Men, Beverly, and Allo Darlin’ (during Pop Fest ‘16). Earlier this year, their 7” “Ariana”/”All That Heaven Allows” dropped on Slumberland Records; later this fall, they will hit the road with Balance and Composure for a North American tour. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Church Girls

Mariel Beaumont and Rob Dywer of Church Girls perform at Ortlieb's | Photo by Charlie Wrzesniewski | Courtesy of the artist
Mariel Beaumont and Rob Dywer of Church Girls perform at Ortlieb’s | Photo by Charlie Wrzesniewski | Courtesy of the artist

Hello there, it’s me. Your good friend summer. I’m here to tell you: congratulations on making it through fall through spring. It’s been a tough row, for sure: the pumpkin-flavored everything, the bulky coats and jackets, the “April showers” that last well into May. The good news is: the worst is over. From here on out it’s nothing but music festivals and going down the shore; water ice and jean shorts and cocktails with tiny umbrellas. Isn’t that what this column is all about?

It’s true. This is year THREE of Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds, our seasonal foray into summer drinking and summer vibes, where we kick back with our favorite bands, share a drink, and wax poetic about summers past and present. For our first 2016 edition, I meet up with rising Philly band Church Girls, whose cathartic basement rockers bring back memories of sweating it out at DIY punk shows in Jersey, on summer nights when the only thing holding you back was your imagination and your car (a ’93 Taurus for me) – your ticket out of the suburbs and into something real and raw.

Church Girls formed in 2014 in Philadelphia, around singer/songwriter Mariel Beaumont, a soft-spoken beauty who comes alive when performing. Prior to our interview, I catch Church Girls Saturday night at Boot & Saddle (appropriately, opening for first ever Sips band, Work Drugs)—and am impressed by her passion and talent. Especially striking is a cover of Modest Mouse’s “Custom Concern,” Beaumont closing her eyes as if feeling every lyric.

2016 has been a big year for Church Girls. Their debut full-length, Thousand Lives, dropped this January (listen here on Spotify); post-release they gigged regularly in Philly and NYC, earning the requisite blog buzz along the way. It also saw some changes, such as the departure of original members Jack Firneno and Max Beaumont—the latter Mariel’s twin and confidant (read about it here) —and the addition of new members James Udinsky and Will Schwartz. As for Mariel herself, 2016 has been a year of growth—she tells me she recently quit her job to focus on Church Girls full-time, and has been writing songs with longtime guitarist Robert Dwyer.

For our interview, I meet up with Mariel and Rob at South Philly’s Cantina—in between margaritas and tequila sodas, we talk summer soundtracks and summers spent skating and lounging. Read on to discover what tunes are on their summer soundtrack, their best and worst summer vacations, and why they’ll never be able to re-capture the exuberance of summers past, no matter how hard they try. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Cheerleader


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds is our occasional, seasonal foray into summer vibes with our fave local “summertime” bands, in which we meet up, share a drink, and revel in the sunny weather (check out past editions here). Today we catch up with indie pop group Cheerleader; read on for our adventure.

I have very fond memories of summers circa 5th or 6th grade, hanging with my best friend Katie N., pouring over the class yearbook and selecting summer crushes, then planning to casually bump into them at the pool—and taking quizzes in Seventeen magazine with titles like “What kind of a flirt are you?” (not an answer: an awkward one).

Our favorite music back then was Madonna, Celine Dion, and The Crystals, and the soundtrack to Grease—songs about romance and young love, which seemed like the Most Important Thing Ever at the time. Cheerleader weren’t a band yet back then—but if they were, I imagine we would have adored them, their airy melodies and yearning choruses an elegant reinterpretation of our own tween angst. (Also we would have thought they were dreamy).

Cheerleader first caught our attention a little over a year back with carefree single “Perfect Vision” (read our 2014 interview with them here), then proceeded to hold us captive with a burgeoning collection of perfect pop gems. Their new record The Sunshine of Your Youth is a breezy collection of tunes inspired by “the nostalgic gloss you put on the past”; it’s also essential listening for Sunday drives and sunny mornings and anytime you need a pick-me-up. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: The Pretty Greens

The Pretty Greens, from L to R: Julia Green, Carly Green, Kool Schmool (photo via Facebook)
The Pretty Greens, from L to R: Julia Green, Carly Green, Kool Schmool (photo via Facebook)

Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds is our occasional, seasonal foray into summer vibes with our fave local “summertime” bands, in which we meet up, share a drink, and revel in the sunny weather (check out editions 1, 2, and 3, featuring Work Drugs, Cruiser and Chill Moody, here). Today we catch up with Philly’s The Pretty Greens; read on to experience the adventure.

One thing I love about The Pretty Greens is that their take on “summer” music is delightfully multi-faceted. They’re not writing music to escape, or bliss out to; and they’re not writing ragers to sweat out to in some basement. No, The Pretty Greens are writing music that’s visceral and tough to characterize, incorporating bits of surf, garage, Brill Building pop, punk, new wave, and more, into a warm blend of sounds that’s perhaps more evocative of the real complexities of life.

Not surprisingly, people have started to take notice. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Chill Moody

Chill Moody | Photo by John Vettese
Chill Moody | Photo by John Vettese

There’s something about old-school hip-hop that just oozes summer in the city—whether it’s DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince  celebrating chicks at Fairmount Park or Snoop paying tribute to his favorite bev—and the videos, with their beach chairs, bbqs, and wild block parties—only drive this home. Summer in the city is not like the other seasons: people go wild and indulge, as if their inhibitions melt under the summer sun.

West Philly rapper Chilly Moody is no stranger to summers in the city. The up-and-coming rhyme-spitter grew up in Philly, and has proven himself a master of all things SUMMER—whether ruling it on stage on the festival circuit, mixing up a perfect cocktail, or even (yes) having the coolest swim trunks this side of the Schuylkill. He’s also responsible for one of this summer’s flyest bangers, the bbq-ready “Concrete Jungle” – which makes a nice nod to Bob Marley, another summertime staple.

Every year to celebrate summer, Chill hosts a #nicethings Weekend (#nicethings is his catch-all catchphrase), complete with bbq, bowling, and a pool party at a mystery location. This year’s #nicethings event runs August 22 through 24. Curious about the event—and his summer go-tos in general—I met up with Chill at one of his fave Center City bars, Time, to talk Will Smith, cocktails, and how he’d spend his ultimate summer in Philly. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Cruiser


The author with Cruiser (via @BookishKate's instagram)
The author with Cruiser (via @BookishKate’s instagram)

Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds is our occasional, seasonal foray into summer vibes with our fave “summertime” bands, in which we meet up, share a drink, and revel in the sunny weather (check out the first edition, featuring Work Drugs, here). Today we hold shop with Philly’s Cruiser; read on to experience the adventure.

When it comes to soundtracking summer in Philadelphia, there are few bands as likely to land on an open-road playlist as Cruiser, a four-piece formed around singer-songwriter Andy States, who first started composing songs in his bedroom in 2012, then gathered a full band soon after. Since then, the group—made up of States, drummer Jon Van Dine, bassist Kyle Cook, and guitarist Bruno Catrambone (who also leads introverted folk outfit Former Belle)—have become a force to be reckoned with, crafting breezy, radio-friendly gems that have attracted the attention of fans in Philadelphia and beyond. Now fresh off a set at Firefly Music Festival, the band is hard at work on their new EP, due out this fall, but still took time off to meet with me and drink some beers.

We meet up on a Monday night at States’ and Van Dine’s apartment in Kensington, complete with an awesome roof-deck, a grill, and Van Dine’s absurdly adorable Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix, Gene. Over the course of our interview, we grill burgers (Van Dine smothers his with an ungodly amount of ketchup and mustard), knock back some Hell or High Watermelons, and lust over the neighbor’s pool, which we have a great view of from above.

The band tells me said neighbors aren’t too fond of them because they lit off too many fireworks during the 4th of July; later that night, they light off a whole bunch more for my benefit, even though it isn’t quite dark yet. Everyone takes pictures of the experience, and we all almost die when one firework goes awry and shoots back towards us.

Luckily, we all survive, and in between shenanigans manage an interview. Read on to learn about blue holes, gin drinks, and whether they’d prefer to ride the Weezer or 311 cruise. Continue reading →


Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Work Drugs

Work Drugs -- covered in trademark haze
Work Drugs — covered in trademark haze

I was born in the summer and it’s always been my favorite season. There’s nothing I love more than wearing shorts, and swimming, and watching the sun set at 9 p.m. To me, summer vibes are those perfect summer experiences that make you feel happy to be alive—like lounging at Morgan’s Pier, drinking a Watermelon Ricky, or hanging at Cantina with an Endless Summer Margarita, or boating down the Bohemia River listening to “My Girl” by the Temptations. (I admit many of these involve alcohol).

For me, summer vibes are always tied to music. When asking myself: is this a summer jam? I tend to consider one question: is this something I would want to listen to while on a boat? If the answer is yes, it goes on my Summer Playlist.

Here are some examples of great summer jams: “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” by the Looking Glass, pretty much anything by Steely Dan. On the modern front, there’s Tennis, and Mayer Hawthorne, and Octopus, by The Bees (seriously this record will make you feel like you’re on a lake in England somewhere) and literally dozens of local bands, running the gamut from breezy island grooves to summer-in-the-city bangers.

This summer, I decided to tap into my musical connections and explore summer vibes with some of the bands soundtracking my June through September. In this spot, I’ll meet with some of my fave summer music creators, to do quintessentially summer things, drink quintessentially summer drinks, and talk about why summer rules (and the other seasons drool).

For my first endeavor, I decided to meet up with Work Drugs, whose sun-drenched jams are practically made for late-night beach parties, the taste of salt-water taffy on your lips, and the wind in your hair.

We meet up on a warm, humid day, the air thick and suffocating, the sky looking like it might start pouring at any second. In retrospect, it’s the quintessential summer day, even though we like to imagine summer as all sunshine and cool breezes.

We hang out for about 3 hours—Matt (my bf) and I have rented a car for just 1 hour, because I think the interview will be “super quick.” It is not—but it’s an awesome time. Continue reading →