White boy summer is certainly looking exciting this year. Another of the Windmill Brixton generation have brought about a whole albums offering of material, following the likes of Black Country, New Road’s For The First Time, Shame’s Drunk Tank Pink, Goat Girl’s On All Fours and Black Midi’s upcoming Cavalcade. This sense of intertwined musicianship not only follows the band outside of their own collective but throughout this album. With features coming from the likes of BCNR’s Lewis Evans on saxophone as well as having Speedy Wunderground’s own mastermind of sound Dan Carey on production duties. This album is in every aspect a working of five brilliant minds coming together to create expansive, ever twisting and shifting and at times outright cathartic works of art.
For a few years now it’s felt as though these so called ‘guitar bands’ have had much more creative freedom when it comes to finding a sound that is truly theres. Gone are the days where everyone had to sound like the eternally reachable yet ultimately bland Franz Ferdinand or Arctic Monkeys to even consider breaking into the charts, let alone top them. But now the time of self-sound is here. And Squid are very much making the music they want to. Although “Boy Racer” may have all the quirky licks and upbeat drive of a mid-2000’s era Foals track to begin with, it soon descends into a synth-wave, ambient, noise rock outro that washes over like a lucid fever dream.
The band have said before that their approach to this album came by sending different aspects of songs back and forth to each other online, eventually to all be layered and structured together. And this sewing together of movements and sounds is what makes this album so enticing. On “G.S.K” the band piles together sleek bass lines, funky beats and sly saxophone hooks to create a piece that is ever twisting and turning; becoming more infatuating with each and every change. All tied together with drummer and lead vocalist Ollie Judge’s unhinged vocal cries. At first the vocal styles that Judge chooses can often seem too over the top or even obnoxious. But you soon begin to realise as this album progresses that Judge is displaying and incredible amount of control and natural charm in an almost brutalist fashion. This isn’t the most heavy sounding music to sing along to but Judge brings an assured helping of anxiety that just pumps raw nervous energy into every sound. I don’t think you’ll find a more distraught reading of the weather than on “Documentary Filmmaker”.
One of the greatest showcases of the band’s succinctness comes in the form of lead single “Narrator”. Over its 8 and a half minute course the band manages to capture a sound that can only be described as a tumultuous breakdown. Over sparkly guitar lines and tapered beats Judge sings of being in control of his life “Losing my flow and my memories are so unnatural, I am my own narrator” he declares with an unhinged discourse. Moving into slasher flick punctuated guitar strikes the band slowly builds up this sense of dread washing over the track, all whilst being perfectly smoothed over by Martha Sky Murphy’s spoken passages that are delivered as if these are your last rites. Eventually devolving into an all out nightmare. With Judge’s repeated delivery of “I play my!” you can’t help feel like you’re on the edge of sanity, eventually falling in as Murphy’s horrifying screams soundtrack your descent.
Lyrically the band like to leave a shroud of mystery over what stories are really being told, not ones to pull back the veil. The title itself comes from the ever looming gentrification and industrialisation of otherwise natural parts of the country. But it’s not only the ravaging of natural beauty that the band touch on, they also question the growing feeling of numbness to global events. “What’s your favourite war on TV? Just before you go to sleep, And then your favourite sitcom, Watch the tears roll down your cheek” asks Judge on “Global Groove”. And on closer “Pamphlets” the anxiety of social acceptance overwhelms Judge as he sings “I’ve got a brand new car right out my drive, But there’s pale bricks and white smiles, It’s why I don’t go outside”. You can’t compare so there’s no point trying to appease.
This album has everything you could want from a debut and more. It perfectly showcases every minute of detail the band meticulously places into their music, whilst leaving room for overly catchy and intoxicating choruses. They take influence from every genre under the sun and weld them all together into an automobile of sound that is ever chugging forward. They have made the perfect springboard for wherever and whatever they want to go and do next. It seems there’s no limits to what Squid can be and we hope there never will be.
Coming as a debut in two senses, with this being Jeremy Haywood-Smith’s first major label release under Captured Tracks. And also being initially the first project that Haywood-Smith wrote and recorded, back in 2015. In our interview with him he said that due to the uncertainty of releasing new music at the moment he wanted to go back and revisit this project to bring it up to date with the current JayWood sound. And that is exactly what this EP stands as. It simultaneously brings JayWood’s early roots of bedroom pop and lo-fi recordings to a new refined and defined sound and showcases what’s next for this upcoming
The most major update is title track “Some Days” that now bolsters a super slick groove, undying beat and meticulously cool guitar lines. As each movement rolls past on this song you’re left in awe just how much magic is being layered on through the swirling soundscapes, it’s easy to get lost in the mystifying world that JayWood creates. Over a river of synthesisers and funk-infused bass lines Haywood-Smith looks on in hope for those better days, “I swear i’m not broken, I’m just a little bit lost, With a little guidance i’ll find the cause” he declares. It’s this juxtaposition of upbeat rhythm and tender lyrics that just adds another layer of brilliance to this sound. The original version of this track also gets added almost as a bonus at the end of the EP and its inspiring to see just how far Haywood-Smith has come from those raw early days. The tenderness of this is almost mirrored in “Dreams” as Haywood-Smith strips back the sound to incorporate only swaying guitars and slow plucked guitars. Paired with Haywood-Smith’s charming melodies, this track takes you into the clouds and guides you along the path of trying to finding hope.
Haywood-Smith’s psychedelia inspirations of UMO and Tame Impala come out in the track “Creep” through phaser smothered guitar lines and funk infused beats. There’s an underlying unease to this track that breaks out in short bursts of guitar riffs and synthesiser swirls but is carried by Haywood-Smith’s naturally cool vocal styles. The funk and jazz sound that Haywood-Smith is incorporating in this newfound sound makes a final appearance on “What You Do To Me”. It’s breezy, easy to listen to and will have you bopping your head along to its infatuating groove. Through subtle harmonies and a glorious ending breakdown Haywood-Smith finishes the EP as it started, impassioned and full of bravado. Keen ears will also hear a nod to a certain famous guitar solo by another fellow Canadian indie rocker.
The JayWood project is one that has continued to evolve from the very early lo-fi days, to his bedroom-pop and radio station inspired debut album Time. And now with this project Haywood-Smith has brought everything up to speed, building himself a diving board for both listeners to dive into his captivating world and himself to swim out into the ocean of sounds that are waiting for him to mould together.
JayWood is the musical project of Winnipeg, Canada based artist Jeremy Haywood-Smith that at its core is ultimately infectious in every moment. His styles range from bedroom-pop, funk, jazz, indie-rock, psychedelic pop and just about anything in between. But the true enticement of JayWood comes from diving deep into the soundscapes he creates, with embellishments and subtle flairs of genius striking up within every corner. He’s now taken his next step into musical glory after signing with New York indie powerhouse Captured Tracks, whose roster has included the likes of Mac DeMarco, Juan Wauters, Diiv and Becca Mancari. His new EP Some Days will be his first major label release which was originally written and recorded in 2015 as his first venture of recorded music. Revisiting the EP he’s added new flavours of funk and undying grooves to bring the songs in line with the modern JayWood sound. We spoke to Jeremy ahead of the release to learn about the EP and his evolution as an artist.
The EP was originally written and recorded in 2015, what made you come back to it all these years later?
With everything going in with the pandemic and everyone stuck at home I was just sitting in the present and thinking about the past and I thought “Well i don’t wanna be doing something that is uncertain, like new music for right now” and I was just very much feeling a lot of writers block at the same time as well. Two things to do in that situation were just record covers or just revamp old ideas. So I thought i’d rather just polish off the first JayWood ideas that were not really done that well the first time and just give them a new life. As well as honouring the past and just reconnecting with that time when I was just writing pretty much every single day and getting into that mindset. Funnily enough it really helped with working on new music after that. I just found myself sitting in the past a lot and that’s what really spurred the idea to re-record those old songs.
At the time of writing the EP you were going through a lot of transitions, was the EP a way of documenting those or was it more of an outlet?
Yeah I definitely think both as some of those things were happening as I was writing it and some of those things were past and were done but I hadn’t really vented them out or really made sense of them. It was really like a journal entry. There are lot more songs on the original version but on this version I thought that I didn’t really need all the excess crap that’s not really doing much. It was just a way to vent and just track my thoughts because everything just felt like I didn’t really feel like I had my footing in anything at the time so working on the EP was a nice way to stay grounded and see what I was thinking at that time. And also reflect and make sense of that time.
To initially record the EP was something that took you out of your comfort zone, did coming back to the EP take you out of your comfort zone as well?
I think going back to it, it felt not necessarily out of comfort but definitely felt like I was taken back. I was almost re-learning how to play songs so it almost felt like I was making new songs on top of things that already existed. So it was just a weird getting into that mindset as well, so what was I thinking when I was singing these lyrics, what was I going through, putting some emotion into that. I think as well at that time as well the music was a lot more vulnerable too. In a sense I was getting out of my comfort zone by getting into that mindset where I was just saying what I wanted to. After that EP started to hide what I was really trying to say by adding more effects or being as vague as possible. It was definitely more of form of discomfort in just speaking your truth and being honest. And what I took from that is that I should just honour that way more in newer writing and just being honest in what I want to say.
Going from the bedroom pop sounds of Time your last album to the new EP there’s a lot more elements of funk and jazz within, what made you move over to this style?
I think when I first started writing music I was just trying to write what was popular at the time. Back in early 2014/15 Mac DeMarco was huge, Real Estate, all those types of bands were really big. So I thought I should really try to make music like this because it’s the popular way to go. But it was never really natural for me and it felt like I was forcing it out of myself and I didn’t really like it. So when I stopped and assessed and thought “What do I want to write? What comes natural to me?” and what i’m currently doing now was kind of the first thing to happen. So I thought “Alright it’s like the path of the least resistance” and I didn’t want to fight that and I kind of just went with it and continued to experiment and continued to dive deeper into what i’m interested in making. I think there’s definitely elements of jazz and funk and psych and all these things I like. I just try and take little bits and pieces of all the music I like so that’s where my current style came from.
What inspirations did you draw from for this sound?
Definitely Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the time and Neon Indian’s third album Vega Intl. Night School was the most important album I was listening to in 2015. I also got really into Tame Impala early in 2015, just after Currents came out so that was the album of my summer. And my biggest inspiration always and forever is Gorillaz and that’s a project that’s constantly changing. I’ve always loved that idea but I never thought I could do that, then I thought “Oh wait, there aren’t any rules when you do music your own way and at your own pace”. You know I can do that and I can constantly be re-inventing and changing what I want to do and it doesn’t need to be this whole thing, it can just be part of my ethos. I was definitely still listening to the bands that were really popular at the time, but i was just trying to not make what they were making. Anything that was really capturing something for me.
That evolution of sound, is that something you look for when writing new material?
When I start a new project I got to the idea of “What haven’t I done yet that I want to try?” which is the big thing. I listened back to my old music a lot when I’m working on new music, so I can think “this is where i’ve been, where am I trying to go?”. I often just don’t listen to anything at that time when I’m writing, I don’t listen to any new music. And then after thinking what haven’t I done I become fully uncomfortable when working on new music. So i think “This sounds a lot like something I shouldn’t be doing” but then i’m like “Alright I’m just gonna go with it and hope for the best” haha.
I often have ideas that aren’t necessarily songs or sound ideas, just like concepts where I think “I want a really jammy song” or “I want a song thats only four chords all the way through or just stuff like that. And I think just having little challenges for myself just keeps me connected to what i’m making at the time.
I can definitely here that on the EP, with “Some Days” being jazz and funk infused, then going into “Dreams” with the tender sweeping string section.
Yeah for the EP I just really liked the contrast of going from one thing to another thing, then back to another and another. I think “Some Days” and “What You Do To Me” have a similar vibe to them, but everything in the middle has something different so it just feels like a nice full package.
Going into the EP you were writing the first thing that came to your mind, is that an ethos you still keep today?
At that time music was just pouring out of me and I was constantly creative and it was so easy. Now my old mind is just working against me to some degree. I feel like it takes a little longer to get an idea fully formed, but as soon as I have one part the rest will come a lot easier. Music kind of happens away from instruments for me, like i’ll be going about my day and I’ll hear a melody in my head and then think “Okay now i just have to find that sound” and then I have to build around that sound and then I can see a song forming. I try to use that first idea and try it out and incorporate new ideas and then rework it if it doesn’t work with the new ideas.
What’s it like now having signed to Captured Tracks and releasing your music alongside a fantastic roster of artists?
It’s still very much surreal to me. Obviously a lot of the artists at the time of originally writing were the biggest influences for me and to put it out years later on the label feels just like a complete full circle moment, just like “Holy shit that’s so cool” haha. It’s been really really great, everyone at the label has been amazing and I just feel very much part of a team and i’m incredibly grateful to be a part of Captured Tracks and i’m just super excited now. Obviously with releasing old music, it’s old to me but it’s new to everyone else and my mindset when it was done was thinking “I wonder if people will even respond to it well” but getting the response from everyone at the label and people listening to it for the first time is just very affirming to be like “I need to get on my own way a bit”. It’s been really great to have everyone hype you up and be your biggest support and just think “nice this is a cool moment in time for sure”.
Do you think it’s helped having the first release on the label something older to give people a taste of your sound?
100%. I was really nervous at the prospect of putting out a first album as being a new artist, but putting out an EP of old music is like “Okay i’ve got my footing, got myself a win” and it’s a great introduction. It starts people at the very beginning of this project so now I can work my way up to be current with everything. And now i’m super excited for the next project to come after this one because that confidence boost was everything. It just gave me time to really tinker and tweak on some new ideas and really feel good about everything.
I looked back at your soundcoloud and saw some old Mac DeMarco covers on there, what does his music mean to you?
I think with Mac it was the fact that he’s Canadian and i’m Canadian because for music you don’t see a lot of Canadians doing the cool big things that Americans can do. Like playing festivals to people or just touring around the world. That was the biggest thing seeing a Canadian artist that’s well renowned both in Canada and America. It’s a do it yourself approach. He just seems like a very approachable human being doing music. The music was just something that I didn’t think I would normally like, it just kind of happened that I really enjoy this for some reason and that’s really special where on paper I shouldn’t like this music but I love it. And I thought that I had to really honour whatever this is doing for me. His approach to music just seemed really effortless, but he also seemed like he was really hard working so I thought if I applied myself then i could do something like that. I think his evolution over time has been really inspiring to see, just see him come to form where it’s like “I can do the fun stuff and I can still be myself” within that without having to be the crazy character that everyone thinks.
Do you have a favourite release of his?
Salad Days was the one that really did it for me. But I think Another One was a really special one as it came out in 2015, which was really when I thought I was gonna commit to JayWood. The timing of it as well, I was having a great time and it was on the other end of Some Days where things were getting better and it was just really refreshing. It felt like a release that felt comfortable for him. I think at that point he was touring for 2 years for Salad Days and he was just like “here’s some new music”. So I was just like “Oh perfect thank you”. So that ones sentimental to me, it has a very nice by the water feel.
The reason I ask is because there’s a guitar solo at the end of your song “What You Do To Me” that sounds very familiar.
Ode To Viceroy! Yeah that’s exactly what it was haha! It was definitely a nod and that was exactly where my headspace was at and I didn’t want to shy away from it either. That whole ending part was me just saying “I want to do my own version of Ode To Viceroy”. Doing and ode to Ode To Viceroy in a song, making it a very meta moment and I had a lot of fun with it and I hope I don’t get shit on by people haha. It’s meant be very meta.
It’s a really fun addition just hearing that littler easter egg within it!
It’s so cool you caught that!
On the cover of the EP aswell as your last album you’re with an owl character, does that represent anything?
I never liked the idea of it just being myself on the cover, that’s just not me. I just don’t like being the biggest centre of attention. So creating a character that’s just an extension of myself just helps break the attention. Kind of like what Gorillaz is essentially where it’s a cartoon band and then music behind it. So it’s like i’m the music and this character is something within the project as well. As well as making stories and bridging parallels with this character has been really fun. I named them Walter to give them more life as well. It’s been really fun to figure out what to do with them, putting them into different mediums. My goal in the future is to have them appear in a cartoon or a comic strip and just extend on whatever this JayWood project becomes, it’s just having something alongside it to alleviate attention, just make it fun and keep it artsy in a way. So it’s a person but it’s also a very creative project and i’m excited to see what becomes more of Walter.
Do you think having Walter just gives you more freedom to say “Oh no hits them doing the music”.
Exactly! It distracts a bit and it moves me out of the full formed spotlight. Having them alongside me is just a cool juxtaposition I think, it’s strange but also something humanising.
What’s it like releasing this music at the moment without having live shows to back it up?
I think for this release in particular it’s been kinda nice as the whole label announcement, the music, the music video, all this stuff would have been very overwhelming for me if i’d have to go on tour as well. So to have a nice soft release where it’s just having some music and some video content, getting to know me. I’m settling into the label a lot more and by the time the next release happens and hopefully things are a lot more open and safe i’ll be really ready to go on the road.
After just performing nonstop it for a while just felt like I was losing the attachment and losing the excitement from it, so getting that back now and getting that confidence and excitement to perform again, especially with the support behind now is perfect. I want to build that up as much as possible so when it’s time to perform again then every shows gonna be better than the last and everyone’s equally excited as I am.
What will it be like having that first show back?
I don’t even know, it’s just hard to picture! Especially with capacity, you know every artist always hopes you get a full show, but a full show now is half of what it should be. That’s just such a weird thing to happen. I’m more than happy to wait for everything to be completely or at least 70/80 % safe so that shows can happen at a more familiar capacity. I would hate to see that divide in people, just having little pods of people. I’m happy to wait though as it gives me more time to do more video stuff which I’ve been having a lot of fun with lately. But at the same time I’m more than happy to perform when it’s totally okay. Even if that is just to the pods of people. I just want to be able to dance! I think that would be so disheartening if people wanted to moved but they’re not allowed to, maybe i’ll wait until people are allowed to dance and the footlose ban is up.
Crumb have today announced their second album Ice Melt, set to be released in two weeks time on April 30th via Crumb Records. The new album takes its name from the coarse blend of salts that you can buy from your local hardware store for $9.99. When sprinkled on your wintry steps, this mixture absorbs water and gives off heat, transforming the ice into a viscous, briney slush and, eventually, nothing at all. Beginning with the dynamic chaos of “Up & Down,” and ending with Crumb’s closest thing to a lullaby, Ice Melt’ s ten tracks combine, like ice sculptures melting into a glistening puddle.
From the start, the group knew that cohesion was best achieved through plumbing their individual strengths— frontwoman Lila Ramani’s earliest songwriting, which catalyzed the group’s first two EPs; Bri Aronow’s knack for building (dis)affecting soundscapes; the hypnotic grounding of Jonathan Gilad’s drums, a Crumb mainstay; and Jesse Brotter’s distinctive bass playing, which subtly traces Ramani’s vocal melodies while providing an unrelenting pulse. These collective skills make Crumb a project of independent self-discovery, four creative minds converging around an idea that is always shifting and reforming.
Convening in Los Angeles to work with producer Jonathan Rado, Crumb tapped into atmosphere-creation like never before, building experimental compositions that are at turns head-nodding and surrealist, energetic and euphoric. Ramani characterises the album as a “return back down to earth,” a deeply felt examination of “real substances and beings that live on this planet.” It is also the cultivation of road-worn musicians exploring brand-new sounds and thematic concepts, pushing themselves into territory they could never have anticipated five years ago.
Amsterdam native Tim van Berkestijn aka Benny Sings returns with his 8th studio album, Music, which also marks his second release on contemporary indie, jazz and electronic label Stones Throw Records. Up to this point if you’ve graced Benny’s music before you have become familiar with his tried and true approach to clean, funky and melodically rich style of piano driven sounds. On this new project he continues once again in this movement, but that doesn’t mean the magic has worn off just yet.
From the moment the opening chords of “Nobody’s Fault” kick in you know that this album is about to take you on a gloriously vibrant journey. With its upbeat groove and silky smooth production it’s simply hard not to get up and dance along to the infatuating melodies and harmonies. But look deeper into the song and you soon realise the juxtaposition of the swinging melody to the defeatist lyrics that seek to give comfort to those that try to hide their pain. And this contrast is one that appears frequently on this album. Going straight into “Here It Comes” the melancholic piano melodies and slugging beat have all the elements of a heartbreak ballad, but lyrically Benny is his most optimistic. Reminiscing in childhood happiness, he looks back at a time when he believed he could be anything. “When we move up the hill, I promise I will, Start to life that we dreamt of, I know it, I feel it” he sings with a subtle allure.
This subtlety is a trait that Benny has been using in his works for a number of years now and it seems like he’s perfected it on this album. On “Sunny Afternoon” Benny’s vocals offer an alluring border almost on spoken word, with minimalist melodic inflections being added in on the chorus as the layers of sound build. Even the chords are sparse over the motioning beat, but this only makes the eventual build of strings at the climax of the track that much sweeter. And on “Run Right Back” there’s so much untapped cool lying within the breezy reggae infused melody that it feels as though you’re floating on a cloud high up in the summers sky, watching the people below. Then as Cautious Clay comes in with a killer sax solo you can just feel the smoothness of this track seeping out at every corner, all whilst staying humbly grounded.
What sets this project apart from other Benny Sings albums is the variety not only in sound mixtures, from the neo-soul ballad of “Miracles” to the trap-funk tinged “Kids” with KYLE, but the collaborations that Benny sows throughout. The highlight of these being “Rolled Up” with Mac DeMarco, which we named as one of last years best songs. There’s so much of Benny and DeMarco’s individual personalities shining through on this track that it makes you wish they’d made a whole album. The woozy piano and stripped back guitar has every part of DeMarco’s latest album Here Comes The Cowboy mixed in over the joyously catchy melody. Then as Benny croons in over the simplistic synth rise you feel instantly elated just at the sound of his laid back voice as he grapples with self doubt. “Is this my life? It’s not too bad, Still I’m rolled up, tossed out” he declares, going back to the juxtapostion of melancholy over uplifting chords.
This is definitely a sparkly clean album that shines with a natural delight in its often tender and funk filled movements. If you’re a longtime Benny Sings fan this album will be everything you want and more. And if you’re a casual listener then prepared to enjoy the chattering piano lines of one of indie jazz’s most prolific artists.
Tel Aviv native iogi aka Yogev Glusman is a craftsman of sound, a multi instrumentalist and producer who fuses together jazz, psychedelic pop, funk, folk and yacht rock to make soundscapes that are constantly shifting, swirling and swaying in their diverse and enticing movements. Being likened to the likes of Benny Sings and Jerry Paper, iogi has been making a name for himself for the past few years and now it feels like it’s his time to truly shine.
As a bassist, guitarist, violinist, and drummer, iogi has performed with several of Israeli’s biggest exports including Idan Raichel, the hip hop-leaning Yemenite sister trio A-WA, and Efraim Shamir and Yoni Rechter, both members of the legendary ‘70s Israeli prog-rock band Kaveret.
And now today he has returned with new album everything’s worth it, released via Raw Tapes, following on from his 2018 debut the ceiling. On his new album iogi is celebrating the joyous moments of life, backed by a swirling sonic landscape of psychedelic and jazz infused movements that are washed in an irresistible cool. We caught up with iogi to learn about the influences and ideas behind the new album.
What’s your musical story? How did you get into it?
I started as a classical violin player, and I played the violin from the age of 7 until I was 18 years old. At the age of 13, I got a classical guitar for my bar mitzvah from my brother & sister, which then led to the discovery of plenty of new music and genres that I was not aware of until that age, and that changed everything. When I was 17 I started playing the bass, and for many years it was my main instrument. Later in life, I got to play bass and guitar for many Israeli artists, and also tour with them worldwide. After almost 10 years of being a side musician, I had the urge to record my own music, which I did. From that point on, i started seeing myself not only as a musician and a player, but as an artist with his own taste. Since the first album came out, I have been more involved in studio work as a producer- for my music and for other people’s music.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is a mixture of sounds and tastes that i acquired during my years as a music listener, but also as a musician and producer. Generally, I would say that it is indie-pop, with influences from 70’s folk and psychedelic music.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
All my songs begin with me sitting in front of the computer, with Ableton open. Usually I start by finding a beat or a groove that I like, and then I play guitar or synth over it. I have to finish the whole song structure in the same session I started the song, because if not – i will never be able to get back to it and finish it. Usually, I will finish the session once I have even a gibberish version of the melody. The next day, I will come to the studio, and probably write all the lyrics and finish the production of the song. If I love a song I am working on, I can finish it within two days.
Over what time and where was the new album created?
I started recording the album in my bedroom studio that i made in Jaffa, right after i finished recording and mixing my first solo album, the ceiling. It was a time in which i didn’t know what to do with my first album and how to release it, and if so – how will it be accepted. In this state i was, i started recording some of the songs for the album. I guess i just needed to move forward.
What’s the story you’re trying to tell on the new album?
I feel like this album is a natural continuation of my first album. It deals eventually with the same issues I dealt with 3 years ago, but from a more sober minded point of view.
What was the best part of recording the new album? And what was the most challenging?
The best part of recording the album was doing it all by myself. The first album was produced alongside a good friend, Nomok, who helped me a lot during that process, but I think that for the new album I needed full independence. It was a good experience letting him listen to the songs once they were almost finished, rather than working together from scratch. The most challenging part was also doing it all by myself. I had to trust myself completely, and that was hard. Constantly believing that what i’m doing is good, without getting immediate feedback – was super challenging.
Being a multi-instrumentalist what is your preferred instrument? And is there one you’d like to improve on?
Most definitely – drums. Drums are the most important instrument for me, and the one i love to play the most. Everything sits on top of it, and the song doesn’t lift off without it. Every song that i have in my heart and my brain – I know the drum part on it. I would love to improve my piano playing, i feel pretty stuck every time I sit in front of it.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
It evolves from Paul McCartney’s first solo albums, through Mac DeMarco and Real Estate, Super Furry Animals, Tame Impala – and back to Beach Boys.
Favourite show you’ve played?
One of the favorite shows i played with my band was 2 years ago, at Teder Tel Aviv. The place was packed, and that’s the moment that i felt that something new and special is starting to happen for me.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again? (Concerts aren’t currently allowed in the UK)
Actually, in Israel shows are allowed already. Things are still pretty weird, because the crowd is standing with their masks on and it is hard to know what they really feel, but it is great to feel the warmth of people and hear them sing with you.
Joy Guerilla is the musical brainchild of LA based duo Adam Grab and Magna Daniec. They released their sophomore album The Park Is Closed last Friday, an album that takes simple melodies and phrases and turns them into sonic landscapes that are bursting with life. It’s the follow up and almost sister album to 2018’s Skyline and takes a look at the darker side of the West Coast of America that they mapped out on their debut in both tone and inspiration. One of the immediate reactions you get to listening to their music, beside the instinctive feeling to groove to it, is just how tightly composed and structured every moment is without losing that free-flowing nature that makes jazz so beautiful. We caught up with the duo to learn a bit more about their process, inspirations and what makes their sound so vibrant.
How did the group form? What’s your story?
We met up in the Bay Area of CA. Mags was actually Adam’s piano teacher for a short time, but we soon realised that we had a lot of musical interests and goals in common, especially 70’s fusion, Euro prog rock, and vintage analog keyboards. We soon started playing music and writing together, and it’s been constant since then.
How would you describe your sound?
We’re sure we could come up with something esoteric and lofty here, but at heart we both know it could best be described as jazz fusion, with influences from anything that grooves, really. One of our fans from Japan describes it as “a blend of the city and the country,” and we suppose we’re happy with that.
What do you draw inspiration from for the sound and movements within the songs?
The music we most admire (both stylistically and recording-quality-wise) would be the “high-fi” era of the mid/late-70s, when analog recording was really at its peak. As such, a lot of our sound choices most often come from that era, plus the collection of analog instruments we’ve slowly acquired over the years. In terms of direct sonic influences – probably Dexter Wansel and Larry Carlton for arrangement sensibility; Michael Boddicker, George Duke, and Cecil & Margouleff for synth sound design; Herbie for phrasing and tone. The movements within our songs are ultimately because we fully understand the limitations of instrumental music, especially in the current rapid consumption streaming environment. We personally are not fans of indulgent, overly “jammy” music, and instrumental music with solos can trend in that direction at times. We like tight arrangements and transitions that keep you engaged in the musical narrative. It keeps us interested in creating it, and hopefully the listener in listening.
What was the story that you are trying to tell within the album?
When we were writing and recording our last album “Skyline,” we were trying to put together an album that portrayed life on the West coast as best we could. We ended up, more so by happenstance, deciding on a tracklist with a brighter, more “daylight” feel. However, we still had a body of songs we knew had potential, yet tonally just didn’t fit. Inadvertently we had essentially left out the songs that evoked the darker side of the picture, both literally and emotionally. We knew that we couldn’t leave that half of the story unaccounted for, and decided this time to focus on that.
We always have a picture of the songs development and sequencing, so we start with recording the bass and drums directly to tape. This helps them sound really locked-in, and also makes sure that it still retains the human feel of being played live in as few takes as possible. We then do a lot of tinkering with the guitar, percussion and keyboard overdubbing, and we’ve learned to be okay with simply losing stuff that doesn’t fit. Since we use a lot of analog synths, we sometimes spend hours tweaking patches until we feel it fits the song. Overall, the process is somewhat pre-determined, but it also will evolve and take form as elements are added. It may not be the most time-efficient method, but we’ve gotten our work-flow pretty dialled in now.
Over what time period was this album created?
As mentioned above, many of these songs were started at the same time as “Skyline” was being written and recorded, and others were much more recent (“Sowa” and “The Park Is Closed” specifically). It would be safe to say that between writing, recording, overdubbing, editing and mixing, it took us about 2 years to really get it to where we felt it could be called finished.
You worked with a lot of musicians to bring this album together. What did they all bring to the project?
Tim Aristil on drums and Elijah Zhang on guitar have been invaluable and they are in no small part responsible for the sound of the group. They are willing to listen to our suggestions but aren’t afraid to assert their own musical tastes to the songs. They both think like producers and musicians, which is really the best kind of person to work with. Les Lovitt, John Grab (Adam’s dad), and Doug Webb have been doing session work in Los Angeles since the 70’s, and it’s hard to replicate the sound of a horn section that has really grown together and knows how to self-balance. Doug Webb’s sax solos truly blew us away when we were recording, and he had nearly no heads up on the song or the changes. We were really excited to have Mike Maher from Snarky Puppy on “Earthsuit,” and his melodic ear and placement really helped bring the middle section of the song to life. We also owe a lot to our compatriot Julian Nicholson, who not only helped us mix this, but brought his own creative ear to the sound design and balance of the songs. A multi-talented technician.
Who are some of your biggest influences for the sound of this album?
Herbie for the sound of this album and really all the music we do. Roger Nichols sense of space and clarity not only with the mixing but also the arrangement and instrumentation itself. It’s hard to top the staying power of P-Funk horn lines, they always fit so perfectly and stick in your head. We always use that as our high-water mark when writing melodies.
If you could be a support act for any artist who would it be and why?
Probably Drake or Taylor Swift or something, just to see how the audience would react. Sounds like fun.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
When we lived in Brooklyn, we managed to see D’Angelo twice in one year, right after Black Messiah came out. Possibly the tightest band ever. It’s a sobering experience when a concert is insanely good yet also slaps you in the face by showing you how much work you have to do.
Favourite show you’ve played?
We actually own an old short bus that we outfitted with solar panels, which charge batteries and allow us to power a full band set-up anywhere we can set up and park. The idea was to have a mobile busking machine, since when we started we did a lot of busking and have always had a love for it. In 2016 we went on a little DIY tour out to TX during SXSW, and we would use the bus busking to fund our gas and food expenses along the way. One night, we were out in Austin and were set up on the sidewalk, busking from the bus power, when a group of cops started flashing their sirens and pulling up to shut us down (something we had become pretty used to). All of the sudden, seemingly if sent by some birthday-party-guardian-angel, a procession of 10 or so costumed characters marched up and started vigorously dancing to our music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Ninja Turtles, Sponge Bob, Super Mario, Bugs Bunny – the whole gang was there. Fairly certain Sponge Bob even did the worm, a difficult feat with that boxy frame. Not only was this hilarious, but it did buy us another 10 minutes of playing time, as the cops seemed unwilling to break up this dance party of cultural heroes. Don’t think that will be topped for awhile.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Hitaus Kaiyote have announced their next album, Mood Valiant set to be released on June 25 via Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune, pre-order here. The first single released is “Get Sun,” featuring legendary Brazilian composer/arranger Arthur Verocai.
This is the first album since 2015’s critically acclaimed Choose Your Weapon and the first since lead singer Nai Palm was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. In a statement she said:
“I guess after the breast cancer scare I decided that I needed to prove to life that the offering I have is genuine. My only wish is to live and offer my experience of time and beauty.”
LA based fusion-jazz outfit Joy Guerilla, made up of Magda Daniec and Adam Grab return with the follow up to 2018’s Skyline. An album that was inspired by the sights and sounds of the West coast of America. Through funky upbeat melodies and riffs the band painted the sunny and vibrant landscapes that populate the bands hometown. Recorded around the same time as Skyline, The Park Is Closed is the darker side of that setting; both in time and feeling. A similar palette of sounds, but this time that cool air of the night sky is washed over them.
From the get go the band literally places you into this setting with opener “Nightfall” that sparkles with dancing melodies as an almost ominous wave of synthesised sounds washes over the soundscape. Then into “Earthsuit” you’re thrown into a mix of funky sub bass lines, driving beats and a sexy saxophone solo courtesy of Mike Maher of jazz heavyweights Snarky Puppy. Written as an ode to the Earth, this song place you in all the joyous moments of the night. As each layer of groovy melodies is added towards the latter half of the track you feel as if you’re walking down a nighttime LA street, people heading to bars, there’s life in the city. And this ability to position you directly into the spaces that the band was drawing influence from is one of the greatest aspects of this album.
The darkness that the band leans into on this album comes out especially on tracks like “The Great Stress” which is infused with heavy arpeggiating synthesisers and chaotic sound samples flitting in and out of the soundscape. Although the saxophone melody may seem upbeat and joyous, underneath the sound of a deep, ominous movement of synth pads and layers feel as though they’re trying to break out into the forefront; the stress slowly building. Then on closer and title track “The Park Is Closed” the band fuses field recordings of bug samples and spacey analogue mellotron sounds to create a sound that is washed in the serenity of night. The intoxicating melodies remind of those times staring out of the window, watching the hidden world of the nighttime come alive. Eventually incorporating some quick flourishes of heavy jazz-fusion beats, until the track slowly fades out with some sinister sounding synths. A small reprise comes back in just when you think it’s all over of 8-bit instruments, as if these are the end credits of the video game you’ve just completed.
An aspect you quickly realise about this album is just how many movements and shifts the band packs into each song. For instrumental bands it can be often too easy to lean into just jamming out a sound and feeling where the song could go through various solos. That isn’t the case on this album however. Every moment and musical shift feels like it has purpose and meaning. On “Million Dollar Neighbourhood” the track begins with a bouncy funk beat, moving to a more loose saxophone interlude, then descending into a moments of space jazz until finally ending with an off-beat, indie centric synth groove. Through all these transitions every change is seamless and the way you’re moved from one notion to the next is like travelling across the great highways of America ; state after state passing you by.
What Joy Guerilla have achieved on this album is showcasing their incredible ability to turn simple melodies and phrases into sonic landscapes that are bursting with life. It’s worth playing both albums back to back to get a true sense and feeling of the story that the band is telling here.
Genesis Owusu, born Kofi Owusu-Ansah brings about his debut album that is packed full of twists and turns, sights and sounds, and messages of hope that seek to highlight racial injustices and mental health struggles. This album is said to be a document of 12 months of Owusu as an artist and that statement rings true in every aspect. Not only does this album secure Owusu as one of the most exciting new rappers/ pop stars/ funk singers/ any other label you can fit him under, but it sets firmly in stone his statement as an artist that has no limits.
Over the course of this album Owusu shifts through various styles and sounds almost seamlessly. Whether he’s dabbling in R&B on the sensual “Centrefold” or a more psychedelic jazz sound on “Waitin’ For Ya”, there’s a clear level of excellence that passes through every corner of this album. The recording of this album was made with an in house band that consisted of Kirin J. Callinan (who delivers a fantastic vocal performance on “Dive”), Touch Sensetive, Julien Sudek and producer Andrew Klippel, and although each of these artists come from various backgrounds of genres respectively, they unite seamlessly on each track to create an album that subverts these genres. You can hear the influence of styles that Owusu is drawing from, with tracks like the grinding “The Other Black Dog” having the similar synth drives and beats that Yves Tumor packed into their Heaven To A Tortured Mind last year. But thanks to Owusu’s dexterous performances on every track he makes them his own.
His vocal performances are perhaps the greatest aspect of this album that help unite the ever shifting sounds that back them. On “Gold Chains” his smooth melodies dance blissfully over the chorus synthesiser, but then once he enters the almost spoken word rap passages of the chorus you’re left clinging on to every word and syllable as they roll seamlessly from him. Even on the heaviest of moments like the punk infused “Black Dogs!” Owusu feels authentic in every role he takes. He spouts the grinding verses with perfect conviction and then flawlessly switches to his smooth falsetto on the chorus without missing a beat.
This phrase of “Black Dogs” is one that is repeated throughout the album and is Owusu’s way of characterising racism and depression. But it’s not as if Owusu is trying to portray these issues as any less real than they are, but giving them this gothic persona allows the horror of each to shine out. On “I Don’t See Colour” Owusu questions how “somehow my actions represent a whole race” as he describes being watched at the mall simply because of his appearance. And on “Whip Cracker” he holds accountable those who have been still allowed a platform despite their racist views. “Why you askin’ why I’m so jaded?, Who forgot your thoughts on the races?” he questions. Moving then to declare “This ain’t the 50s, you ain’t talkin’ shit” as he reminds these people just how outdated their views are.
The other ‘Black Dog’ of depression is viewed in a few lights on this album. The title track of the album “Smiling With No Teeth” distills the notion of how Owusu puts on a face for everyone that sees him “Slathering honey on our demons for the palate of the apathetic”. He’s covering up his true feelings for those that see him but deep down the depression is tearing away at him until he’s left “Smiling with no teeth”. But once we reach the end of the album on the likes of “No Looking Back”, Owusu is facing his depression with only progression in sight. “I tell myself that, there’s no looking back, I lost the light in those years, locked myself in those tears” he confirms over the yacht-rock style melodies and keys. And this lighter, more free flying sound backs up this feeling of becoming more positive in his outlook.
Perhaps the unsung hero of this album is producer Andrew Klippel, who creates such vibrant and expansive sound palettes that on some listens you just want to focus on what’s happening in the background. Whether it’s the glitch-pop beats of opener “On The Move!”, the cut-up dancing sampled chorus vocals on “Centrefold” or the 70’s Chic-esque funk infused switch up on “Whip Cracker”, there’s so many diverse and interesting moments of sound design that you hope that at some point an instrumental version of this album gets released. That’s not to take anything away from Owusu’s vocals, after all these songs were written by him, but the two aspects individually are equally as versatile; put together they make something truly remarkable.
Being 15 tracks long and standing at just over the 50 minute mark, this album certainly comes packed with a lot. However it’s not as though any of that time is wasted or left as filler. There’s moments within songs here and there that could be shortened or trimmed, but as a complete project this album has so much to digest that the run-time is completely justified. And hey, were certainly not complaining of more Genisis Owusu, in fact, we can’t wait to hear how he expands on this sound next. For the time being though lets keep getting lost in this debut borrows from many different times, but is sure to stand the test of time.