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The Key Studio Sessions: Weller

Philly DIY scene dudes Weller are a wealth of knowledge, musical and otherwise. When the band — Alex Held on drums, Evan Clark Moorehead on bass and Harrison Nantz on guitar and vocals — came by to record their Key Studio Session last month, their soundcheck jams gave way to impromptu performances of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” and Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son.” Very unexpected, very fun.

Similarly, when I caught them live at Everybody Hits back back in the fall, Moorehead rolled out a banter shtick he used on Weller’s election season tour; he proclaimed that he could shit talk any president in U.S. history, and asked if anybody in the crowd could stump him. Someone screamed “TAFT!” — where the obvious slag would be “so large he got stuck in a White House bathtub” — but instead Moorehead didn’t take the low-hanging fruit and dove into a more nuanced dig at the 27th president’s economic policy and other spates of bad luck and irony from early 20th century. Again, not what I was expecting, and kind of hysterical in the context of a rock show.

So in short, Weller are a bunch of characters, and great guys to be around. But they’re also a tight band, the latest in a community of tight bands to rise out of the Philly basement scene.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Eight

Has there ever been a scientific study on levels of happiness, productivity and general life-fulfillment in multiple-band musicians versus single-band musicians? My hypothesis is the more outlets an artist has, the merrier, and I’d offer Philly’s Eight as a case study.

The indie rock power trio is led by the immediately recognizable voice of guitarist Mimi Gallagher, who just came off a couple super fun years with Year of Glad and NONA. On bass and backing vocals is Cat Park, who also devotes a lot of waking hours to co-fronting Amanda X. Possibly the busiest of the bunch is Pat Brier on drums, who concurrently keeps the beat in Three Man Cannon and writes the songs in Queen Jesus. They’re mad busy people, but they were an absolute joy to work with for their Key Studio Session. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Creepoid

After eight years, two moves, three lineup reconfigurations and incalculable miles logged on their various tour vans — an incalculable number of tour vans, perhaps — Philadelphia psychedelic punks Creepoid have come full circle.

The four childhood friends who founded the band in the winter of 2009 are the same four adults who rage in the band today. On bass and vocals, Anna Troxell; on guitar and vocals, Sean Miller; on lead guitar, PeteJoe Urban; on drums, Pat Troxell. Their sound has gone from tense-but-subdued (2010’s Yellow Life Giver) to loud (2011’s Horse Heaven, 2014’s Creepoid) to very very loud (2015’s Cemetery Highrise Slum) and back to a dynamic state that embraces moments decidedly subdued — something we hear in this week’s Key Studio Session.

Yes, the amplifiers are cranked — crushingly so, and used brilliantly to sculpt sound in breathtaking ways. “I’m Only,” the first of two new tracks the band debuted in their performance this week, is one of their hardest-hitting songs to date — it hammers right out the gate as syncopated beats, staccato chords and howling string bends pummel their way into a languid and drifting verse. Next to Bardo Pond, Creepoid probably possesses the best understanding of volume and vibe out of anybody we’ve recorded in this series. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mars Parker

Philly’s Mars Parker came on our radar relatively recently, back when he opened for Camp Candle at Boot And Saddle in October.  But in the grander scheme of things, we’re a little late to the party — Mars has been active in the Soundcloud zone for a few years now, releasing singles, EPs and full-length mixtapes that explore a variety of sounds and approaches to this thing we call hip-hop.

His latest, Mars Museum 3, finds its focus in a surrealistic tapestry of tripped-out jazzy production and warm melodies that strike a the balance between bars that spit and bars that sing. It’s a comfortable flex zone inhabited by luminaries like the Grammy champ Chance the Rapper, party rocker Future, and local celeb PnB Rock. Mars has the style and charisma to sit alongside those names in due time, and he showed his skills off for us in this week’s Key Studio Session. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Flat Mary Road

Philadelphia five-piece Flat Mary Road has been honing its craft for the better part of the past decade, from the warehouses of Fishtown and Kensington to the Victorian homes of West Philly, where most of its members currently reside. Helmed by singer-guitarist and songwriter Steve Teare, the band draws strongly on 80s college rock and 90s indie rock influences. You’ll hear traces of R.E.M., The Smiths and Camper Van Beethoven in their playing…not to mention Wilco, Built to Spill and Shearwater. Askew yet infectious guitar lines, emphatic vocals and observational lyrics, a bit of twang and touch of rock and roll fiddle from Pete Clark.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Louie Louie

How does one sing pop songs in times of despair? Let Philly’s Louie Louie be your guide. It was a rainy Wednesday in November the day the band rolled in to record its Key Studio Session. Not just any rainy Wednesday in November; it was the day after the 2016 presidential election, and there was an unsettled, uncertain stillness in the air.

To be perfectly honest, it was such a weird day that I wasn’t 100% sure that the retro rock four-piece was even going to show up as I arranged microphone stands and headphone amps around the studio. Ultimately, a knock at the door came, and upon answering, frontwoman Emily Robb seemed just as grateful to see me as I was to see the band; as she told me, they weren’t 100% sure that I would even be there. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Cuddle Magic

It’s hard to believe that Cuddle Magic has been a band for a decade at this point.

The Brooklyn / Philly crew is a conglomeration of artists from along the northeastern seaboard, over the years featuring members from Boston to DC. The band first got on our radar during West Philly’s heady Danger Danger Gallery days with its second record, Picture. It was one of the first artists I ever wrote about for The Key, actually, and at the time I called its music “a striking balance between earthy and ethereal.” I’d say that description still holds up.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Three Man Cannon

To be honest, I still can’t believe we got all four members of Three Man Cannon in the studio at the same time.

The Philly-based four piece — vets of the regional punk rock community — are busy, busy dudes. Singer-guitarist-keyboardist Matt Schimelfenig is a studio engineer by day (and night), and seems to always be working on someone or other’s records. Pat Brier drums plays in at least two other bands (8 and Queen Jesus) while Spenser Colmbs can sometimes be seen holding down the low end for Cherry, other times performing solo. As for guitarist Dennis Mishko, I’m not certain, but I believe TMC is his only project — so there’s that. But he also lives in Scranton.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Ju-Taun

Philly rock six-piece Ju-Taun has roots that stretch back to childhood. Brothers Jake and James Evans learned to sing from their father, who schooled them on the classic harmonies of soul and Motown. In the late 90s, their friend Samoeun Cheng joined them for a high school competition, and some variation on the band has been in in place ever since. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Camp Candle

Philly duo Camp Candle caught our ear last year with ERE, which is a totally fun thing to say out loud. Really though, that’s the name of their debut, and its blend of body-moving beats, suave vocals and harmonized textures is entrancing. It calls to mind any number of forward-thinking, electropop-driven acts dotting the modern rock landscape these days, from the sleek guitar lines of The xx to the bold saxophone leads of M83 and the rhythmic grit of Phantogram. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head