Head-Banging Brilliance: The Front Bottoms do what they do best at The Fillmore

The Front Bottoms | Photo by: Ellen Miller for WXPN |
The Front Bottoms | photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN |

It’s 2010. You’re at a dive bar somewhere in North Jersey when this little band comes on whose name you never learned. The set goes by in a flash, a livewire of spunky punk-rock anthems of love had and lost, of pissy angst, of singular moments in hectic adolescence.

Cut to eight years later at a massive club in Philadelphia, where this same band, who you now know and love as The Front Bottoms, has cultivated their sticky-as-the-barroom-floor sound into an aesthetic all their own. Continue reading →


Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s Fran Keaney talks collaborative songwriting, knowing your place in the universe, and Melbourne’s best new music

Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | photo by Warwick Baker | courtesy of the artist

There’s an undeniable momentum to Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, a kind of stampede of movement. Though their songs each have their own distinct feel, they retain a thundering energy, coming at you like a gust of cool wind or a lurching wave. The beauty of it isn’t in a single guitar solo, a specific bassline, or the consistently thumping beat of the drums; it isn’t the clever turn of phrase or the catchy hook. The real mastery is in the full, the whole thing hurtling forward, picking up speed and catching more and more as it rolls down hill.

This holds true for the band itself, a five-piece that started as a three-piece, slowly building and growing without a single ego to get in the way. They share songwriting duties and credits and have, up to this point, released two EPs of jangly, late summer-afternoon guitar rock. Singer-guitarist Fran Keaney, one of the founding members of the band, was kind enough to talk with me about, among other things, the band’s growth, harnessing that specific moment in time, Dumb and Dumber, and their highly-anticipated new record Hope Downs. Continue reading →


Finding balance with Soccer Mommy

Soccer Mommy
Soccer Mommy | photo by Kelsey Hart | courtesy of the artist

“Only what you wanted for a little while,” sings Sophie Allison, the quietly dominant voice of Soccer Mommy, in the chorus of the first song of her new record, Clean. It is a line that, like most every song on the excellent output, catches a moment, a vulnerable one where the singer can’t help but admit the nature of fleeting infatuation. It is a familiar feeling for many, a time where the love we thought was alive suddenly dries up, putting into question everything that came before. It is these kind of moments, sweet and cutting, that make Clean such an impressive record, a record that will hold onto listeners for far longer than, “a little while.”

Sophie is bringing this unique style of dynamic intimacy to Johnny Brenda’s tonight for a sold-out show, and in advance of it (and in between tour stops), I got a chance to speak to her by phone about Clean and her biggest headlining tour to date. Continue reading →


The Business of Art: Meet the two Philadelphians bringing industry smarts to DIY with Lost + Found MGMT

Emily Dubin (left) and Jeremy Berkin of Lost + Found MGMT | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

The Philly scene is Do It Yourself. It’s nitty gritty, get-down-to-business, we-don’t-need-your-stinking-labels. It is “we got this, it’s easy.” And that’s all well and good. The rockstar as self-made, as taking on everything, as complete auteur of their hard-earned art. It’s a nice image, it just isn’t entirely true.

DIY is, at its very core, collaboration. The truth is the “yourself” is really “ourselves.” It is a collective, a big heap of like-minded people not waiting for anyone to do something they know they can do themselves. It is about communication and honesty, about avoiding the pitfalls of mixing business and art, about succeeding together, not in spite of each other. There is no one able to do it all and, more often than not, those who try end up so bogged down they can barely reach above the surface for air, let alone finish their new LP.

In step Emily Dubin and Jeremy Berkin of Lost + Found MGMT. They aren’t here to take control, they aren’t the big, bad, faceless business crushing the true artists, and they are nowhere near outsiders. It doesn’t take long to realize, as I sit across from the two in West Philly’s Green Line Cafe, they are the essence of DIY; here do it with you, not for you. Continue reading →


Mitski takes hold of Union Transfer with an arresting performance

Mitski | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

“When I last came here I was opening for another band and I remember thinking that this was some huge stadium venue,” said Mitski Miyawaki from the stage at Union Transfer on Friday night. “But now, it seems like the perfect size.”

Mitski was wrong. The wide, cavernous hall of Union Transfer was nowhere near large enough to contain her, though I’m not so sure any venue would. There is filling a room, which Mitski indeed did for the duration of her long-ago sold out show, and then there is owning a room. Few artists working today display the kind of quiet command which has become her trademark, able to arrest as easily with a soft croon as an impassioned howl. Continue reading →


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth on the role of constant reivention

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | photo courtesy of the artist
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | photo by Michael Regan | courtesy of the artist

Buzz is a fickle thing, especially in the world of indie rock, and few artists are more experienced in its ups and downs than Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. It was over 10 years ago that the band’s debut self-titled album cut so piercingly through the muddled early aughts indie scene, demanding attention like few other debuts. Notoriety, as many bands have found throughout the years, is truly a double-edged sword. Success is certainly rewarding but it also leads to oversimplification, from bloggers and listeners alike, who make their new favorite band into whatever they want them to be, ignoring the artist themselves.

Ounsworth could have easily succumbed to the pressure that arises in the face of such success. He could have doubled down, he could have churned out album after album of fan service and perhaps he would have been more ‘successful’ because of it, but that’s not what make Clap Your Hands Say Yeah the band they are. Even today, the release day of the band’s fifth LP The Tourist, Ounsworth remain steadfast in his individuality. “We didn’t get in this business to acquiesce,” Ounsworth told me during a recent phone interview. Continue reading →


Brian Walker of A Day Without Love shares his thoughts on finding Solace ahead of record release party

Photo by Amanda Silberling
Photo by Amanda Silberling

Brian Walker, the songwriter behind indie/emo/punk band A Day Without Love, is a man who seems comfortable in his own skin. He speaks in modest tones that never once seems rehearsed or pretentious and he can discuss thoughtfully and honestly topics some would never dare breach with their closest friends — much less strangers requesting an interview.

But like any skill, and this is certainly a skill, it is not something that \Walker was born with but something that evolved from years of digging deep and not being afraid of what he might shovel up. His newest record Solace, out now and available for purchase here, is a study in how much one can grow by addressing things that are, by their very nature, difficult to tackle but worth it all the same. Continue reading →


Purling Hiss’ Mike Polizze talks about the band’s career-culminating new album High Bias

Purling Hiss Photographed by Constance Mensh
Purling Hiss Photographed by Constance Mensh

The whir and steady crackle of coffee grinders hard at work fill Higher Grounds, a small trendy coffee shop in Northern Liberties. It is the kind of place that revels in its unique blend of styles. The flea market seating, the posters and paintings and art pieces whose only discernible style is a difficult to define panache. It has a confidence and intentionality that resists coming off as anything but genuine and patiently accumulated through years of collection. Sitting across from me towards the back of the shop is Mike Polizze, front man and songwriter for Purling Hiss, whose aesthetic, and brand new album High Bias due out October 14, feel equally as earned. Continue reading →


Interview: Man Man frontman Honus Honus gives us the lowdown on his debut solo record Use Your Delusion

Photo via
Honus Honus | photo courtesy of the artist

“It is an album about people with real and unrealized dreams. I know that sounds a little pompous but it is true.” From anyone else this may indeed sound pompous, but from Ryan Kattner – better known as Honus Honus of band Man Man – it could not be more intriguing.

Kattner never planned on making a solo record, but when Man Man took a break after their rocking 2013 outing On Oni Pond, he didn’t want to stop writing — so Use Your Delusion was born. It marks the first solo effort for Honus Honus – keeping the stage name established through Man Man – and it gives the dynamic frontman a chance to explore plenty of new opportunities and take some exciting creative chances, while still maintaining the eclectic nature that has made Man Man one of our favorites here at The Key.

While Man Man has released most of their work via indie-rock mainstay ANTI-, Honus Honus decided to take a more DIY approach to his first solo effort. I recently spoke with Kattner over the phone about, among other things, the choice to self-release, the wide variety of collaborators, the solo-record writing process and how he should have become a venture capitalist. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Wildhoney at PhilaMOCA and A Fistful of Sugar at World Cafe Live

Wildhoney | photo courtesy of the artist
Wildhoney | photo courtesy of the artist

Baltimore punk-rockers Wildhoney had a very good 2015, having released their first LP Sleep Through It before going out on a lengthy U.S. tour. Tonight the five-piece will return to the Philly area with a show at PhilaMOCA in support of Indiana’s Cloakroom; for tickets or more information click hereContinue reading →