Genre Archives: Alternative/Indie Rock

HEMBREE

FOR FANS OF: Cold War Kids, Portugal. The Man, Alt-J

HEMBREE

Hembree’s path to success is proving to be as nostalgia-inducing as it is powerful: labor away at home and in fly-by-night studios creating music you love; send your song to the local DJ (yes, on the actual radio) and have him love it so much he plays it immediately; tour and tour and tour and tour and tour; and begin to hear that song on radio stations across the country, acting as early beacons to the larger world taking notice.

Hembree are from Kansas, a state best known for not much worth talking about in a band bio, but also a beautiful place with cracks in its highly conservative foundation where creativity and ambition flourish. This is the Kansas Hembree are from. They come from families of musicians and music-shop owners, people who find the divisive politics of the state just as foreign, if more immediate, as their Coastal peers. And in the grand rock’n roll tradition Hembree are also family: Isaac Flynn (lead vocals, guitar) and Eric Davis (keyboards, synths) are brothers-in-law and high school buddies. Sadly, Garrett Childers (vocals, guitar) has to be content with the role of life-long friend and general bon vivant.

Their new EP, Had It All, arrives on the heels of Hembree’s second single “Holy Water” and its slow, simmering success. That song, released in November 2016, made it onto the Billboard Alt Radio chart (virtually unheard of for a band without a machine behind them), garnered close to one million streams, and opened the door for Hembree to perform with artists as varied as Cold War Kids and Elvis Costello.

Their sound – smart, tightly constructed rock songs with stick-in-your-head hooks and soaring vocals – makes them great companions to the current crop of Alt-chart-dominating bands – like Portugal. The Man, Alt-J, Lord Huron and Royal Blood – Hembree are quickly taking their place next to.

Had It All features 4 new songs plus a re-released “Holy Water” – yes it’s that good, just listen – and showcases a sonic ambition and clarity of purpose that’s formidable. Over the last year and half the EP was recorded in Kansas City, in Isaac’s bedroom and various home studios. Working with friends that the band love and respect, in places they live and work everyday, the convivial environment shines through on these recordings: you can hear their lives in these songs. The band continued their fruitful partnership with producer Eric Hillman and the Grammy-winning mixer Joe Visciano (The Kills, Jamie XX, and Beck), with the end result being some of the best sounding guitar music being produced anywhere in the world.

w/ Special Guests THE NOISE FM + SHADES OF I

Surfer Blood

KCOU_Logo_Black

SURFER BLOOD’s fourth album, Snowdonia, (in stores Feb 3, 2017) is a return to their DIYrecording roots, and at the same time, an ambitious step forward, musically and lyrically. Along with plenty of Surfer Blood’s signature catchy pop hooks, the band also concocted several epic and more complex songs with enormous attention to sonic detail. John Paul Pitts wrote and mixed the album alone, for the first time since their debut Astro Coast. The immediacy is intoxicating and the results are fantastic. Surfer Blood get better and better with each album, and we’re betting that they’ll be making great records for many years to come.

Surfer Blood are a magnificent indie rock band from West Palm Beach, Florida that formed when guitarist/vocalist John Paul Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz started playing better-than-great musical notes together in Dreyfoos High School. New members Mikey McCleary and Lindsey Mills also attended the same high school.

Surfer Blood began recording and touring immediately behind their infectious debut, Astro Coast (2010) and quickly took over almost the entire world (except for the deepest realms of the ocean and really, really cold places). The group followed suit with the Tarot Classics EP (2011), Pythons (2013) and 1000 Palms (2015). Surfer Blood have performed in 5 continents, toured with heroes like The Pixies and Guided By Voices, played on TV, at Coachella and giant festivals throughout the world, while also occasionally plugging in their amps at all-ages house parties. Surfer Blood are the cleanest and nicest band in existence.

 

w/ Special Guest TREE HOUSE

SUSTO

SUSTO

Justin Osborne needed a break.He’d been writing music and making albums since he was 15, and by the age of 26, he felt like he was spinning his wheels. He knew he needed a change, so he ended his old band Sequoyah Prep School and moved to Cuba. He thought he might be done with music for a while, but the songs just kept coming.”I had this idea in my mind that I was going to try and join some kind of Latin American Leftist movement. I wanted to jump off a cliff,” Osborne says. “Once I got there I immediately started hanging out with musicians and going to shows. I started showing them the songs from this project that was kind of just an idea in my head.”They were like, ‘man, don’t throw away your passport, go home and continue to make music,'” he says. “I was encouraged by them to try again.”Osborne ended the relationship he was in, started touring and writing constantly and eventually dropped out of school with just one paper and exam left to finish. He also made an aesthetic upgrade, getting the words “Acid Boys” tattooed across his knuckles.”I was always afraid of committing fully to the idea of trying to make it. I think in some ways, that’s what held my old band back. I thought maybe I’ll go to school and I’ll be an anthropologist and go live abroad,” he says. “Then I did all that, and I realized no, I need to go back to what I’m good at. I got the knuckle tattoos to keep me out of everything else.”Osborne was already writing the songs for what would be SUSTO’s 2014 self-titled debut when his producer Wolfgang Zimmerman introduced him to Johnny Delaware, a guitarist and songwriter who had moved to Charleston, South Carolina to make an album with the producer.

“We started meshing and gelling really well. We liked aspects of what each other did, so as the record started to really take shape in the studio, Johnny came in and really played a key role in that,” Osborne says. “At that point, it became one step closer to being a band thing.”

SUSTO is a Spanish word referring to a folk illness in Latin America that Osborne learned as anthropology student, meaning “when your soul is separated from your body,” and also roughly translates to a panic attack. For Osborne, the music of SUSTO was something he had to get out into the world.

“Going through my life I was just lost, and I didn’t have direction, and I wanted direction,” he says. Raised in Puddin’ Swamp, South Carolina, Osborne moved to Charleston to attend military school, and didn’t really get to experience much of the city — one of the main artistic hubs of the South — until he left his junior year to tour with his first band.

“I did acid for the first time. I started to gradually grow away from religion. I started to become my own person when I moved to Charleston,” he says, adding that it’s an especially great place to play music because “people are into all kinds of stuff. They go out to shows. I wouldn’t say Charleston is a country music town or an indie rock town, it’s just a town where people like cool shit, so I think that people appreciate creativity when it comes to creating a genre instead of working within one that exists.”

SUSTO released their debut album independently and toured relentlessly to get the word out. They were an immediate hit in their hometown, packing venues, getting airplay at all the bars and even making a fan of Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell. “I got an e-mail from him, telling me he loved the record and wanted to meet with me and Johnny,” he says. “That was actually the day I wrote my professor, and I said, ‘I’m not coming in.'”

But that wasn’t enough. “I was like, ‘we can’t just make it in Charleston.’ My friends in the band Shovels & Ropes told me once, ‘it’s a big country and we got to get out there and get everybody.'”

The members of the live band that Osborne and Delaware recruited — Corey Campbell (guitar, keys, backing vocals), Jenna Desmond (bass), and Marshall Hudson (drums, percussion) contributed to SUSTO’s new album & I’m Fine Today, which will be released via Caroline. “We just wanted to go further. We started something with the first record, and we want to keep going in that direction,” Osborne says of the album, which finds them taking the spacey country rock of their debut into the stratosphere, piling on layers of sighing keyboards, galloping rhythms and frayed, noisy guitar solos atop wistful melodies and lyrics that examine growing up and growing into yourself. Much of the album was recorded by Osborne, Delaware and Zimmerman, with the other members contributing as needed.

On “Hard Drugs,” Osborne muses about reconnecting with an estranged friend during a personal crisis (“I’m thankful that I have some friends that are totally fine with me telling some stories about things we’ve all been through together”) and on “Mystery Man,” Delaware writes about “the feeling of appreciation for someone coming into your life, someone like yourself.” On “Wasted Mind,” one of the most personal songs on the album, Osborne, and Delaware reflect on the journey they’ve been through together.

“We wrote that [song] about finally having a voice that was being heard, and about trying and failing and then finally getting some ears to listen to you,” he says. “It’s about the ups and downs of that, and how you get to travel, and you’re just kind of in and out of people’s lives, and it’s hard but beautiful, and also how you start to come out of the haze of partying and start thinking about your life’s value.”

In many ways, “Wasted Mind” is & I’m Fine Today in miniature, as the album circles around the theme of punching through life’s difficulties and learning to be comfortable with the person you’ve grown into. “I feel like I am better. We put the first record out, and we worked hard, and it just feels like a good place to be,” he says, noting that while the first record focused on his own struggles, & I’m Fine Today is more concerned with looking at the world beyond the struggles in your head.

“I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that I just get to be here. It’s all perspective,” he says. “This album is about coming to terms with yourself and feeling okay with your place in the universe.”

 

w/ Special Guest DAWG YAWP

METZ

Since releasing their self-titled debut record in 2012, which The New Yorker called, “One of the year’s best albums…a punishing, noisy, exhilarating thing,” the Toronto-based 3-piece METZ have garnered international acclaim as one of the most electrifying and forceful live acts, touring widely and extensively, playing hundreds of shows each year around the world.

Now, Alex Edkins (guitar, vocals), along with Hayden Menzies (drums), and Chris Slorach (bass) are set to unleash their highly-anticipated third full-length album, Strange Peace, an emphatic but artful hammer swing to the status quo.

“The best punk isn’t an assault as much as it’s a challenge — to what’s normal, to what’s comfortable, or simply to what’s expected. Teetering on the edge of perpetual implosion,” NPR wrote in their glowing review of METZ’s 2015 second album, II.

Strange Peace was recorded in Chicago, live off the floor to tape with Steve Albini. The result is a distinct artistic maturation into new and alarming territory, frantically pushing past where the band has gone before, while capturing the notorious intensity of their live show.

“Recording in Chicago was a blast. We tracked fourteen songs in four days. It was the first time we felt confident enough to just play live and roll tape,” Edkins said of the recording process. “Strange Peace is much more diverse and varied than anything we’ve done before, which was exhilarating, but terrifying, too. We took the tapes home to Toronto feeling like we’d made the record we wanted to make.”

The trio continued to assemble the album (including home recordings, additional instrumentation) back in their hometown, adding the finishing touches with longtime collaborator, engineer and mixer, Graham Walsh.

From the ferocious opening track, “Mess of Wires,” we’re met by the sheer force and fierce musicianship we’ve come to expect from METZ. With the unhinged, post-punk fragments of “Drained Lake,” and the whirling, acerbic pop features of “Cellophane,” the band’s hectic progression becomes clear. But Strange Peace isn’t merely a collection of eleven uninhibited and urgent songs. It’s also a kind of sonic venting, a truculent social commentary that bludgeons and provokes, excites and unsettles.

“The songs on Strange Peace are about uncertainty,” Edkins explains. “They’re about recognizing that we’re not always in control of our own fate, and about admitting our mistakes and fears. They’re about finding some semblance of peace within the chaos.”

With all the pleasurable tension and anxiety of a fever dream, Strange Peace is equal parts challenging and accessible. It is this implausible balancing act, moving from one end of the musical spectrum to the other, that only a band of METZ’s power and capacity can maintain: discordant and melodic, powerful and controlled, meticulous and instinctive, subtle and complex, precise and reckless, wholehearted and merciless, brutal and optimistic, terrifying and fun.

“Their whiplash of distortion is made with precision, a contained chaos. But you would never talk about them like that. Because METZ are not something you study or analyze,” wrote Liisa Ladouceur in Exclaim! “They are something you feel: a transfer of energy, pure and simple.”

In other words: to feel something, fiercely and intensely, but together, not alone.

Making Movies

When Making Movies performs live it is as though a spirit descends upon the room, entrancing audiences with the pulse of their Afro-Latino rhythms, psychedelic jams and rock’n’roll riffing. Armed with their ambitious and politically charged new album, I Am Another You, the band punches out one high-energy song after another, with theatrics and head-banging climaxes riding atop a bed of driving percussion. Their Latin American roots are placed front and center with moments where the from-man Enrique Chi trades his electric guitar for a folkloric panamanian mejorana, and the Chaurand brothers hop off drums and percussion to instead supply the rhythmic pulse with a dueling zapateado huasteco, a traditional form of dance from Veracruz, Mexico.

The band’s political idea is straightforward enough that they can express it in four words: “We are all immigrants.” In supporting that cause, a portion of all proceeds from their latest release I Am Another You will go to the National Immigration Law Center.
The band has shared the stage with Arcade Fire, Cold War Kids, Los Lobos, Ozomatli, Tennis, Sergio Mendoza of Calexico, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Hurray for the Riff Raff.
“Lyrically and sonically one of the best albums of the year” – NPR
“…tough to classify into one genre, which … makes them that much more appealing.” – CNN en Español
“the band synthesizes what’s happening in … Latin music better than anyone else out there today.” – MTV
w/ Los Desterrados reunion ft. members of LA MOVIDA + THE BURNEY SISTERS

Coin

For fans of Hippo Campus, Colony House, Strumbellas, Bleachers, CRUISR

HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOU NEVER TRY?

 

Pickwick

For fans of Delta Spirit, The Cave Singers, White Denim, The Donkeys, The Dig 

Listen to LoveJoys, the sophomore release from Seattle, WA’s Pickwick, and you’ll hear a band that has pushed aside external pressures and expectations, overcome internal demons, and plugged directly into their own creative center. Slinky, sinewy, and articulate, the record pulses with a palpable confidence. Hypnotically intricate, just-right sonic ornamentation shimmers around a thick, undulating bed of propulsive rhythm. Submit willfully, give yourself over to Pickwick’s practiced ministrations, and you’ll find yourself exhausted and deeply satisfied, slick with a sheen of glitter and sweat.

Following the breakout success of 2013’s self-released Can’t Talk Medicine (which WXPN lauded for its “wonderfully engaging lo-fi rock and soul”) the band found themselves on national tours with Neko Case and Black Joe Lewis, performing on the main stage of the Sasquatch Music Festival, headlining the Capitol Hill Block Party, and performing alongside with the Seattle Symphony. They holed up to begin work on what was to be the follow up release, and things got complicated.

As the band was forty songs into writing a pop R&B record, they became deeply unsatisfied with the direction the music was taking. Tensions boiled over, and they lost a member in 2016. Walking away from a mountain of music, the group was able to tap into the joy of writing for themselves. “We rediscovered what we do best by not overthinking what we make, and learned to love the process of creating again” relates vocalist Galen Disston. “LoveJoys is a specific type of euphoria,” says drummer Alex Westcoat “a liberating feeling of inspiration that can only be achieved through the sacrifice of one’s own ambition. It is the shedding of expectations; an uninhibited escape into a world of child-like infatuation and wonder.”

After an intense three month writing session the band – Disston, Westcoat, guitarist Michael Parker, bassist Garrett Parker, and keyboardist Cassady Lillstrom – turned to producer Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, Tacocat and Moondoggies) for guidance in putting the music to tape. “We are huge fans of his, and a mutual friend made the introduction” says Disston. “Erik requested we go out to drinks together every couple weeks for a four month period; he wanted to get to know us before we got too deep into working together. The first time he came to a practice I kept my back to him the whole time because I was intimidated, and after we’d played him all our demos, he picked them apart and pushed us into a new and better sound.”

LoveJoys was recorded at “Chemical X” and “Black Space” (February – May 2016), Blood’s studios in the basement of the old Rainier Brewery building in Seattle. It features performances from: Tendai Maraire (Shabazz Palaces), Sean T. Lane, Marquetta Miller (Breaks and Swells), Taryn Rene Dorsey, and the Black Space’s in-house horns and strings – Alina To (Passenger String Quartet) and Jeremy Shaskus (Breaks and Swells).

Written in the midst of personal and political turmoil, lyrically and sonically LoveJoys became an escape somehow, a place for the band to purge all their deepest concerns while somehow also being relieved of them. LoveJoys embodies the relationship between inspired creativity and the use of escapism as a way of getting there. Like little fossilized explorations of his own greatest fears and anxieties, Disston’s lyrics bury themselves into the band’s bright new sonic landscape, both contradicting their collective fantasy and reminding them of why they chose to construct it in the first place. “This record is an escape toward love and joy in the face of uncertainty” says Westcoat. It’s a sonic sanctuary built from unrestrained creativity, and a potent tonic; undiluted joyful creativity, guaranteed to transport the listener to a place of ecstatic release.

 

JOSEPH

For fans of First Aid Kit, Johnnysim, The Lumineers, and Judah & the Lion

There is nothing like the sound of siblings singing together. Whether it’s the Beach Boys or the Everly Brothers—or, more recently, First Aid Kit—absorbing the same breathing rhythms and speech patterns adds an element to vocal harmonies that can be pure magic. With the release of I’m Alone, No You’re Not, the mesmerizing, hypnotic sound of the trio known as Joseph—made up of sisters Allison, Meegan, and Natalie Closner—joins this elite company.

“It’s just second nature, like a fifth limb that’s already on you,” says first-born Natalie. “There’s an ability to anticipate what’s going to happen and blend with it. When Meegan and Allison sing, they know exactly what I’m going to do and when.”

But the Closners didn’t actually start singing together when they were growing up in Oregon, the children of artistic parents (their dad was a jazz singer and drummer, their mom a theater teacher). Natalie was the performer—“the older sister who stood on the edge of the fireplace and told everyone, ‘Watch me!,’“ she says. Twins Meegan and Allison stayed out of her lane, joining in for their mother’s musical theater productions but otherwise avoiding the spotlight.

When Natalie was in college, she began pursuing music more seriously. The summer before her senior year, she went to Nashville to check out the scene and work on her guitar playing and songwriting. She had recorded an EP and done a few rounds of touring when a friend sat her down one day.

“It was kind of dramatic,” she says, “He took me aside and said, ‘I don’t think you really believe in this.’ It stopped me in my tracks.” She thought deeply about the music she was making and had a curious epiphany; she decided to ask her sisters if they would consider singing with her.

Initially, they didn’t really get it. “We thought she was asking us to be background singers, so we didn’t take it that seriously,” says Allison. “It was more commitment than I was expecting—I even tried to leave at one point, but after a while, I was convinced.”

A transformation occurred when the Closners were in the process of recording their first album, Native Dreamer Kin. At the time, they were calling themselves Dearborn, but their producer felt that the name didn’t fit the strength of the music. They went to visit their grandfather Jo, in the eastern Oregon town of Joseph. Allison made a playlist for the trip and called it “Joseph,” which is what influenced the band’s name.

“Once she said it, it just hit us all—that’s what this is and who we are, these are the sounds of the land that we’ve lived on,” says Natalie.
With this new sense of themselves, Meegan and Allison began taking a more active role in the group’s songwriting. Meegan notes that while the process was a “totally new journey” for her, it felt similar to the candor and vulnerability of her long-time journaling—just “pulling out the gold and arranging that into neater lines.”

She and Natalie both point to the song “Honest” as a keystone for the development of I’m Alone, No You’re Not. “We were trying really hard to write a song, but nothing was coming,” recalls Natalie. “One night, Meegan was working on some lyrics and getting frustrated, so she wrote in the margin of the page, ‘I can’t say a true thing. It’s hard to be that honest.’ Immediately after that, her most honest sentence spilled out—‘There’s always two thoughts, one after the other: I’m alone. No, you’re not.’ And she thought, ‘Oh, there’s the song.’ “

Meanwhile, the group was cultivating a devoted fan base in the most traditional ways possible: touring the Western states playing living room shows, backyard parties, and secret house party gigs; reaching an audience directly through such platforms as Noisetrade; selling their self-released CD and building a loyal following step by step. By the time they were approached by ATO Records, Joseph had already built a strong community of fans on its own.

As they moved toward making their second record, the project took an additional turn when the Closners decided to work with some other songwriters in Los Angeles. “We were afraid of it at first because the songs were more pop than we were used to writing,” says Meegan, “but as we internalized them, they started becoming super-important to us.”

They point to “More Alive Than Dead,” co-written with Ethan Gruska, as an example of these contributions. “That song describes an experience with a partner where you have hard things in your combined past,” says Natalie. “You’re haunted by them until you realize that those things are dead, and as long as you dwell on them, you’re missing the real live person in front of you.”

She adds, though, that Gruska was critical in clarifying and sharpening the nuanced emotion of the lyric. “When Ethan sent us back the demo, I lost it, He was able to see the heart of the song and bring it out, cut to the core of what I was trying to say.”

Finally, the women of Joseph recorded the album with acclaimed producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis, First Aid Kit) at his studio in Omaha. He was able to open up their expansive, evocative vocal sound with powerful and striking arrangements, adding depth while highlighting their haunting intensity.

“This was our first time doing a recording like this,” says Natalie, “and we learned so much about creativity. Mike is a genius, and he’s just a total maniac as a musician, so he took these bare bones songs and brought them to life with lush, gorgeous textures and sounds.”

The initial reaction to the music on I’m Alone, No You’re Not has been remarkable. Joseph was selected as a #SpotifySpotlight artist, and booked for festivals including Bonnaroo, Pickathon, and Sasquatch even prior to the release of the single “White Flag,” a song inspired by an article predicting a massive earthquake for the Pacific Northwest.

“Reading that created a heaviness that was making us jumpy, scared, and miserable,” says Natalie. “It became clear we had two options: be scared and cowering, backing away from the world into paralysis, or keep moving and live. Defy fear. Wear peace. Find better ways to love the people in our lives instead of huddling together like frightened sheep thinking about earthquakes.”

Most rewarding for the Closner sisters has been feeling the audience response to the new songs, as they tour supporting such artists as James Bay and Amos Lee. “This is really when you learn what’s special about a song, or if it’s special,” says Natalie. “It’s this crazy firecracker thing that happens—‘Am I feeling something? Is anyone? What is this song, what does it do, which parts make the most sense?’

“It really is about connection with people, and we’re so grateful we’ve gotten the chance to do that. This has been a totally wild journey, and we’re constantly blown away with possibility of what could be.”

CANCELLED: Lewis Watson

LEWIS WATSON

You can tell how much Lewis Watson has changed by his hair. Gone is the heavy, forward-swept fringe that was his trademark in his teens, when he was signed on the strength of a single, self-released EP and wrote much of his acclaimed debut album, 2014’s The Morning. In its place are long locks he recently dyed from dark to white – not to shock, but in part to signal a new start.

 

“I’ve always wanted white hair,” says Lewis. “So I thought, why not? I’m finally in a position to make my own decisions, and not just about my music. The biggest change I’ve made is taking control of my career. Everything I do, everything you see comes from me.”

Midnight, the Oxford singer’s sensational second album, is testament to that change. Written and recorded entirely under his own stream, with friends as collaborators it’s a sonic leap on from his largely acoustic debut – bigger, bolder, beautifully textured and more experimental, but still as brutally honest and achingly intimate as his bewitching early EPs.

“It’s an evolution from my first album,” says Lewis. “It’s grander, heavier and more electronic. I still like acoustic music – and there are some quieter songs on there – but I also love Death Cab For Cutie, Bombay Bicycle Club and Bon Iver. It is a big change, but it’s still me. Maybe me with added spice.”

Recorded in just three weeks last summer at The Vale in Warwickshire and produced by Lewis’ close friend Anthony West of Oh Wonder, Midnight was made without any label involvement. In fact, it wasn’t until Zane Lowe premiered gritty, drums-driven first single ‘Maybe We’re Home’ on his radio show in January that anyone outside Lewis’ circle had heard his new material.

“It was crucial for me that these songs sounded exactly as I imagined them,” says Lewis. “I didn’t want any outside input. In the past, I’ve been forced to write with people I didn’t know and work with producers I had nothing in common with. I’m still incredibly proud of The Morning. It will always be special because it’s my debut, but it was a bit of a Frankenstein. The songs were recorded with a half a dozen producers in six or seven studios over the course of two years. We made Midnight in a bubble, so it’s much more coherent. Every track has my stamp on every aspect. It’s a snapshot of where and who I am right now.”

As soon as ‘Maybe We’re Home’ hit the airwaves, labels came calling. Having left his deal with Warners after their delay in releasing his debut, Lewis was cautious, but when Cooking Vinyl, on both sides of the Atlantic, made an offer, he accepted.

“The musician City & Colour, who is on their roster, is the reason I took up music,” says Lewis. “He was and still is a big influence. He’s a career musician with a huge cult following who makes his own decisions. My aim is to sing for a living for the rest of my life, so the deal had to be right. And so far, it’s gone like a dream.”

Key to Midnight is the stately, stirring, Snow Patrol-esque ‘Deep The Water’, the first song Lewis wrote for the album after a self-imposed six months away from making music in 2015. “I was still playing shows,” says Lewis. “We toured the States and Australia and played a fantastic festival in the Philippines, but for a full six months, I stopped writing songs. I’d grown to dislike the process, which was heart breaking for me because I’ve loved songwriting since I picked up a guitar aged 16. But I needed a break, to be reinvigorated, to learn to love it all over again. I took a step back for as long as possible to see what would change.”

That summer, Lewis found out. He got together with Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht just to jam and discuss ideas, but straight away songs started to flow. The first was ‘Deep The Water’ but in a matter of days, they had completed five songs, among them the album’s sweet, spine-tingling, strings-soaked highlight ‘Hello Hello’ and the epic ‘Little Light’ an emotionally-exposed love letter to Lewis’ girlfriend of five years.

“I’m loathe to use the word magical, but it really was,” laughs Lewis. “It was a joyous, organic experience. ‘Deep The Water’ came flooding out of me on the first day and lifted this immense weight from my shoulders. I’d worried I might not be able to write, but I couldn’t stop. For the first time, there was no one shoving words in my direction or making suggestions.”

‘Deep The Water’ is one of several songs on Midnight about a relationship gone wrong, but it’s also about survival.“It’s about giving the most and receiving the least,” explains Lewis. “It’s based on an experience I’ve had of loving someone who expects you to come running when they need you, but gives nothing back. But like most of my songs, it’s a sentiment that can apply to different situations. It’s about being used, whether that’s at work or by a friend or a lover, the emotion is the same.”

The two oldest tracks on the album are the dreamy ‘LA Song’ and the rootsy, Springsteen-referencing ‘When The Water Meets The Mountains’, both originally intended for Lewis’ debut, but since reinvented.

“The deluxe version of The Morning included a demo of ‘LA Song’, so you can hear how much it’s evolved,” says Lewis. “It’s now built from bass chords with floaty electric guitar on top. The whole album is rich in textures and atmosphere. ‘Give Me Life’, for example, has 28 guitar parts, but a lot of those are just layers and textures. I’ve discovered that songs aren’t simply about chords and a melody. Sometimes what’s not playing is as important as what is.”

Another change is Lewis’ first recorded duet, on the spectral ‘Slumber’ featuring Lucy Rose, whom Lewis first heard at college and has been angling to work with ever since. The gorgeous melancholy there is touched on elsewhere in the likes of ‘Forever’ which is simultaneously Midnight’s poppiest song, but also one of its saddest.

“I’ve always wanted to write a really sad, upbeat song,” says Lewis. “It’s about the frustration of being in a relationship that’s not working, despite you both wanting it to. The setting is so upbeat and instant, it tricks you in to thinking it’s happy until you really listen to the lyrics.”

The album closes with the secret title track, a Joel Pott co-write featuring Josephine on piano that returns Lewis to the stripped-back beauty of his early releases. Whilst hidden from the tracklisting it’s deeply revealing of an artist coming full circle, fulfilling his early promise while expanding his palette in ever more vibrant ways – something reflected in the striking album artwork commissioned from renowned Canadian painter Andrew Salgado, one of Lewis’ favourite artists.

“I studied art at school and cheekily emailed him with an idea,” says Lewis. “He said he admired my gusto and agreed.”

So what does the artwork tell us about the music contained on Midnight, and more specifically about its creator? “It’s an incredible, heavily textured painting of me,” Lewis explains. “It’s not at all clear, so it’s me, but it’s not me. Or maybe it’s a different me, one you weren’t expecting.”

And that’s the perfect image for the album, because with Midnight Lewis Watson has not just evolved but been reborn, creating magic with a new sound, a new look and a new career stretching ahead. This time there is no doubt – like his heroes, Lewis will be making music for the rest of his life.

 

 

w/ Special Guests JARROD TURNER & ALLYX BOGGS

SHEER MAG

A tear in the firmament.
Beyond the noxious haze of our national nightmare – as structures of social justice and global progress topple in our midst – there lies a faint but undeniable glow in the distance.
What is it?
Like so many before us we are drawn to the beacon.  But only by the bootstraps of our indignation do we go so boldly into the dark to find it.
And so Sheer Mag has let the sparks fly since their outset, with an axe to grind against all that clouds the way.  A caustic war cry, seething in solidarity with all those that suffer the brunt of ignorance and injustice in an imbalanced system.
Both brazen and discrete, loud yet precise, familiar but never quite like this – SHEER MAG crept up from Philadelphia cloaked in bold insignia to channel our social and political moment with grit and groove.  Cautious but full of purpose.
What is it?
By making a music both painfully urgent and spiritually timeworn, SHEER MAG speak to a modern pain: to a people that too feel their flame on the verge of being extinguished, yet choose to burn a bit brighter in spite of that threat.

With their debut LP, the cloak has been lifted.  It is time to reclaim something that has been taken from us.  Here the band rolls up their sleeves, takes to the streets, and demands recompense for a tradition of inequity that’s poisoned our world. However, it is in our ability to love – our primal human right to give and receive love – that the damage of such toxicity is newly explored.
Love is a choice we make.  We ought not obscure, neglect, or deny that choice. Through the tumult and the pain, the camaraderie and the cause, the band continues to burn a path into that great beyond.
But where are we headed?
On NEED TO FEEL YOUR LOVE, they makes their first full-length declaration of light seen just beyond our darkness.  Spoken plainly, without shame:
It is love.
This – is SHEER MAG.

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