As our city’s music scene continues to grow, so do the number of releases from local musicians. From experimental indie rock to country/R&B fusion to straight up soul, DC area musicians are flourishing across genres and pushing locals to experience new sounds. We caught up with three local artists with new albums out to see what they’ve been working on and where they’re headed next.
Release Date: October
Pianist and soul singer Aaron Abernathy is back with his second solo album, Dialogue, one year after the release of Monologue, an autobiographical album about his parents helping to guide him toward his purpose in life during his senior year of high school. The Howard University grad has lived in the District since 2001, with the exception of a short blip on the West Coast, and currently lives in Northeast near Marvin Gaye’s DC home. The 34-year-old is hopeful that Dialogue will quite literally create an open dialogue in our city about race and the state of our country in today’s political landscape.
On Tap: Your last album, Monologue, was deeply personal. Did you approach Dialogue similarly?
Aaron Abernathy: At the top of the year, I was in a different mood with what happened with Donald Trump being elected. Between Inauguration Day and February 28, which is the end of Black History Month, I was in my studio every day for six weeks straight, and Dialogue came out of nowhere. It’s this very socially conscious album about me being black in America, and just the different things that I have to face because I’m black. It’s a story about being a black man in this country that he loves. I’m telling the story from my window – from my perspective – but I think it speaks to a lot of people’s stories.
OT: What genre do the tracks on Dialogue fall into?
AA: Dialogue is a soul album, like straight down the middle. I was listening to Curtis Mayfield’s first solo album, Curtis, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Sly Stone’s response to Marvin’s album, There’s A Riot Going On. So that soul sound where you really have the introduction of the socially-conscious message album at the top of the 70s that kind of carried throughout the whole 70s.
OT: Are you planning any local performances around the album release?
AA: Not really; this one’s a little different. Because it’s called Dialogue, I’m looking to do more speaking and more Q&A. With Monologue, I was able to just go out and say, “Hey, let me tell my story.” But with Dialogue, this is more about our story, so it’s inclusive. I’m looking to go out and do more Q&A, and then come around next year and do some performances.
OT: What impact do you think speaking about Dialogue will have on the local community?
AA: I want to see Dialogue really have people reflect on the state of the city [and] the state of this country. The main objective is using your voice and your talent to make change, and to not sit around and wait for other people to make change. I can make change by using my platform of music to influence people, to say, “Hey, let me tell you what’s going on in my neighborhood and other inner cities and what it is to be a black man in this world, and let’s have a conversation about it.” You don’t have to be black to get in on the conversation. Let’s just have a conversation. The goal is to get out here and have some Q&A’s and listening sessions. I’m hoping to play some venues around the city. I have high hopes of doing 9:30 Club or Howard Theatre. Hopefully, it can just [become] that big so we can do something like that.
Learn more about Abernathy at www.aaronabernathy.com, and download his album through any major streaming platform.
Album: Lonesome Wanderer
Release Date: Early 2018
B.B – formerly Babeo Baggins – recently made the leap from rap to an R&B/country hybrid with several new songs, including “Mice or Men” out on November 20, and a full album scheduled for early next year. The 24-year-old Front Royal native now resides in Leesburg and credits her roots with her change in sound. The singer-songwriter, who plays banjo on her new album, is committed to breaking the stereotype about country music among her peers.
On Tap: You’ve transitioned from rap to a country-influenced sound. How would you describe your newer music?
B.B: I would describe it as classic country, things like Hank Williams [and] Patsy Cline, mixed with contemporary R&B. Sonically, it’s very classic country, but the vibe is contemporary R&B.
OT: What inspired this change in sound?
B.B: There’s so much within the genre of rap music, and that’s what was fun in making it, but I realized there was an honesty missing. And not to say that there’s not honesty in rap, I just mean from my personal experience – how I was growing up and the stories of my life. Country tells that story better than rap does, so I decided to make the transition into country music. But I realized that a lot of current country music is very pop-driven. It’s very contemporary sounding, and that’s not what I wanted to make. I wanted to make classic stuff like Hank or Patsy. That’s what means a lot to me. That’s what I grew up listening to. That’s what I still listen to. That’s the stuff that I’ve held onto.
OT: Do you think your peers will be open to classic country?
B.B: Of course you always run into people who are like, “Oh I listen to every genre except for country.” And it’s really unfortunate to me because it’s really the root of a lot of music, you know? I wanted to take that sound that means so much to me and modernize it for people my age so maybe they would be more open to it as a genre and be able to open themselves up to it and really see what country music actually is: real stories about real people, and true, everyday things that happen to everyone.
OT: What do you think of DC’s current music scene as a local?
B.B: DC has such a rich history of music. I find that DC is very much a musical family; you’re very welcomed into any space as an artist, and you’re there with them. It’s a community versus all for one. I hope that DC starts to get the respect as a musical city [that it deserves] because it’s a very artistic place, and it’s very warm and amazing. There’s a lot of diverse art.
OT: What contribution would you like to make to DC’s music scene?
B.B: I would really like to make a bigger impact for music that isn’t hip-hop. I would really love to open up the realm of folk music and country music in the area. I’d love to play Black Cat – that’s my favorite venue in the city. I’d love to have some sort of crazy show with all of my favorite people in the city, and have lots of people come out and enjoy the music and have it be diverse and special.
Learn more about B.B at www.soundcloud.com/babeobaggins, and find her new releases on major streaming platforms.
Album: Are These The Questions That We Need To Ask?
Release Date: October
Paperhaus is on tour in promotion of their second album, Are These The Questions That We Need To Ask?, with a brand new lineup and an updated sound. Born out of the former DIY music venue of the same name in Petworth, the band is experimenting with new instruments to create a more electronic sound. Thirty-year-old frontman Alex Tebeleff, a self-described fourth-generation Washingtonian, is the only remaining member from the band’s early days, and says the sounds created by the current iteration of the band – including Matt Dowling (vocals/bass), Rick Irby (guitar) and Danny Bentley (drums) – is something he’s been working toward.
On Tap: Tell me about your sophomore album. How is it different than previous releases?
Alex Tebeleff: It’s a different lineup than the last album. I’m the only remaining member from the last record, so it’s definitely different in that regard. I feel like it’s much closer to the kind of sound I’ve wanted with this band. This record feels like a bit of a transition, in a good way. We’re figuring out how to incorporate more electronic instruments. We don’t really want to sit there with computers onstage. We want to have that kind of human interaction live still, and we definitely use the studio as an instrument more as well. We worked with Peter Larkin over at the Lighthouse [Recording Studio] in Alexandria.
OT: How did the recording process impact the album’s sound?
AT: [For] the last record, we recorded in a basement in July when it was 105 degrees outside and there was no air conditioning. We literally recorded the whole thing live to tape. That captured that particular lineup of the band as it was in a very pure way, and I love that record, but it’s very niche. This feels like a much more universal record to me, and I feel like we just spent a lot more time on it as a record rather than just a collection of songs. This feels more like a full album that has a very thoroughly worked out aesthetic.
OT: Who were your major musical influences when working on this record?
AT: I’m in the van right now with Rick. He says he doesn’t feel like we were pulling from anyone, which I think is cool. I don’t think we were pulling from anyone directly. I think there’s always been an influence of English and German art rock in this project, and that definitely remains.
OT: How do you think the local music scene is shifting?
AT: I think it’s hard to get good shows right now. It seems like the DIY scene has slowed down a little bit. There’s still a lot going on, more so than [in] most cities. But [in terms of] quality of music, I think it’s exceptionally strong and very diverse. There’s a lot more creative and experimental R&B, there’s a lot of hip-hop I love in the city right now, [and] there’s a lot of bands that [are]…pushing the boundaries of what rock music is. There’s also some really, really good visceral rock ‘n’ roll too. I never have trouble finding new music that’s really interesting coming out of DC, especially [in] the last two years or so.
OT: What’s next for Paperhaus? Any goals as a band?
AT: We want to make another record and try to make it better than this one; just keep building [and] growing, [and] make it more sustainable for ourselves so that we can spend more time actually working on the art and worrying a little less about rent. Really simple goals, to be honest.
Learn more about Paperhaus at www.paperhausmusic.com, and download their album from any major streaming platform.