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Music Picks: August 2019

TUESDAY, AUGUST 6

21 Savage
Since his controversial arrest with ICE in early February, there has been a lot of uncertainty in 21 Savage’s music career. He’s had a lot of challenges coming back into the music industry; however, he used his experience to give back to his community. His sophomore album i am> i was, is a testament to that. Savage approached this album with more sentimental songs: “A Lot,” “Letter 2 My Momma” and “All My Friends” progressed his artistic expression. His duality of gangster rap and emotions exemplifies through this album, which allows his listeners to be completely captivated. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7

Hibou
Peter Michel began his career at the early age of 17, touring with his band at night and finishing his studies during the day. Developing a love for classical music in early adolescence, he expanded his creativity by crossing over to the guitar and songwriting, which led him to form the band Hibou. The Seattle-based musician has released four studio albums leading him around the world, reaching audiences far and wide that ultimately put him in his position today. Michel’s vocals play on 80s indie pop, fueled by guitar melodies and flux arrangements. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets $12. Pie Shop: 1339 H St. NE, DC; www.pieshopdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8

Copper Chief
Copper Chief brings a spunky twist to country music. Deep in Texas influence and even deeper in brotherhood, Chief has been gracing stages nationwide to give you a taste of country-infused rock ‘n’ roll. The group, made up of Mike Vallerie, Rio Tripiano, Justin Lusk and John Jammall II, has created more of a music family than an ensemble. The momentum of this band is promising, after winning at the 2019 Texas Regional Radio Music Awards and becoming USA Network’s fan favorite. Their boundary crossing sound is influenced by soul, psychedelic and blues. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $12. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9

Nalani & Sarina
Identical sisters Nalani & Sarina have utilized their musical inclinations to create a savvy approach to pop music. Their spunk brings new energy back to music and their pop-soul approach drives this kind of music forward. With such a free ambiance, they touch on subjects including individuality, subjectivity and inclusivity while empowering women. Each set is different, and they always play on improvisation, so it’s no telling what they have in store for their fans. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

SUNDAY, AUGUST 11

Nappy Roots
Nappy Roots is back to grace the stage after years of retirement. Rooted in southern Kentucky influences, the hip-hop group took the industry by storm. Intertwining folk and rap and bringing a new perspective to music. Collaborating with renowned artists like Anthony Hamilton, Greg Nice and more, their unique sound drew fans in and ultimately led them to sold more than 3 million albums. Nappy Roots managed to go out on their own and create a new wave of music. With the release of their tenth mixtape Sh!t’s Beautiful, they have built a 20-year career that continues to surprise the music world. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $25. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

Yeek
Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and producer Yeek brings back the nostalgia of artists like N.E.R.D and No Doubt while also creating a unique sound. His mix of hip-hop and punk rock allows the listener to be completely captivated and experience a new age of music. In 2017, he released his debut album Sebastian, turning heads and pushing his stardom forward. Yeek’s most recent releases analyzes his progression as an artist, yet still pays tribute to his old works. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14

Common
Coated in poetry and slick in rhyme, Common has a career spanning over 30 years. He has challenged the ideal rap artist by preaching nothing but authentic life and social experiences – and his upcoming tour is no different. The Let Love tour is the result of the release of his memoir Let Love Have the Last Word, where he exclusively talks about his trials and tribulations as a black man growing up in Chicago. His vulnerability not only in his book as well his tour opens up a completely different side of Common his fans have never seen before. The melodic tone that renders your attention will leave you captivated and also as vulnerable as he is. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $32. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com

Purple Mountains

Resurfacing after almost a decade, David Berman shocked the public with his return of four new singles and a different band: Purple Mountains. It was surprising that after dismantling Silver Jews, Berman didn’t return right away for a solo career – but he’s back with a new sound that all his fans will enjoy. Stricken with loss and self-reflection, his music narrates the disintegration of friends, family and fans that were once dear to him. His sensitivity throughout “All My Happiness is Gone” may scare his fans due to the interpretations of addiction and suicide, but it examines his growth as an artist almost a decade later. His psychedelic approach to each song may seem overdramatized, but in a sense, that’s what makes it beautiful. There is no perfect song, which circles back to his reality. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

Catching Flies
This London-based DJ and producer has a way of quenching the thirst of all those who listen to him. Catching Flies reaches right into your soul to the deepest depths through his melodic, percussive beats. He uses all genres – hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, pop and more – to create this unique experience. Earning a fan base of some of the greats including Giles Peterson, Annie Mac and Huw Stephens, he has built a musical platform that’s uniquely diverse and dynamic. His new album Silver Linings, released in early July, is naturally moving and emotionally structured. Show at 10 p.m. Tickets $10. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

The Jonas Brothers
After years of anticipation, The Jonas Brothers have returned – and they’re all grown up. After crushing millions of young teen hearts in 2013 when they announced their split, Nick, Joe and Kevin went their separate ways. But after years of longing, our prayers have been answered. Their comeback single “Sucker” brings a more seductive, edgy vibe to this heartthrob band. We all love the classics – “Burnin’ Up,” “LoveBug,” “Year 3000” – but Happiness Begins examines their progression as artists. The brothers have always been a force, but their individual artistry shines throughout this album. Additionally, it examines the diligence and work ethic they all acquired driving the boy band industry after years of separation. This tour is something we’ve all been waiting for, and The Jonas Brothers aren’t going to disappoint. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $115. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Tessa Violet
First known for her YouTube channel, Tessa Violet found stardom by gaining a million subscribers for her quirky videos and vlogs. She garnered national attention with her hit single “Crush,” released in June of last year. It surprised all of her fans and subscribers that her musical talents went beyond the kid-like videos she made for her channel, earning her respect in the music industry with this more mature take on pop music. She later released numerous singles that her fans seem to love, and now Violet is taking a break from YouTube and hitting the road on this tour to really embrace the lifestyle of pop music. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20

Tab Benoit
Born in the Bayou, Tab Benoit has crafted a career rooted in soul. The Louisiana native has used his guitar to paint a picture of the Delta Blues that lies deep within him. Benoit started playing the guitar at an early age, learning from blues legends Raful Neal and Tabby Thomas, and has since taken his skills to the next level. Benoit was destined to become the phenomenon that he is today, bringing the Bayou to the DMV for a can’t-miss performance. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria VA; www.birchmere.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 23

Brittany Howard
Brittany Howard is taking a break from her Grammy winning band Alabama Shakes and strutting out for her solo career. Her debut album Jaime brings a modern twist to this once country artist’s sound. Her album, set to debut in early September, brings a psychedelic funk, soul-defined and hip-hop accented sound that highlight her past. Howard goes into depth with sexuality, family tragedy, religious indifference and much more. She is finally stepping out on her own two feet and is definitely a solo artist to watch. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $55. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

RL Grime
King of electronic trap production RL Grime has brought a vibrant twist to the dance music scene. Working with artists like Ty Dolla $ign, Kanye West, Miguel and more helped him revamp his sound into something completely unique. There is no holding back – Grime’s continuously released hit after hit. His deep and aggressive chord progressions won’t allow your feet to stop moving, and the artist’s high octaves and percussive bass are captivating. His fans have traveled far and wide to see what he’ll come up with next, so don’t miss him at Echostage this month. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24

The Beach Boys
The boys are back. The Beach Boys are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a reunion tour. Music spanning multiple generations will bring people from all walks of life – creating an almost religious experience. Coming almost full circle, Mike Love and the boys have relished in the opportunity to come together again and this reunion is the perfect excuse. They’re also creating a new studio album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, that examines the fruition of their iconic sound over a 50-year period. All-American classics like “Surfin’ USA,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “California Girls” return to the main stage as The Beach Boys brings us back to this magical time of music. Doors at 1:30 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 25

Tame Impala
There is no one quite like Tame Impala in the industry today. The psychedelic pop stars have created a sound that is unmatched, as the Australian natives have brought the 60s into modern music. With the emergence of color, root of pop-rock and accents of soul, they challenge the typical take on pop music. Stepping onto the scene in 2010, Kevin Parker and his band released their debut album Innerspeaker, which gained worldwide praise for creating an entirely different entity in pop music. They went on to release multi-platinum studio albums that garnered national attention, leading to sold-out stadium shows across the globe. Their influence on the sonic universe will take you on an experience that’s out of this world. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29

Kindo

Rooted in contemporary jazz with accents of rock and pop, Kindo is an unlikely success story. Since releasing their debut EP almost a decade ago, they’ve sold 30,000 records worldwide and have 2.5 million Spotify plays and 3 million views on YouTube. But that is just the beginning to their success. From their humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, they created their unique sound via the influences of Radiohead, Robert Glasper and Justin Timberlake. With R&B and Latin accents conjoined with sophisticated lyrics, they keep their fans moving. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

SATURDAY, AUGUST 31

Danielle Nicole Band

Grammy nominated for best contemporary blues album, Danielle Nicole has taken the blues industry by storm. Once the lead singer of Trampled Under Foot, Nicole has since stepped out on her own and is becoming the blues musician she has always wanted to be. Catering to a younger crowd, she wants the authenticity of music to inspire the next generation. With the strum of her guitar, the brass of the bass and the underline of the drums, she has created something soothing to the ear. She has slowly but surely created a name for herself, and this tour is just a testament to her growth as an artist. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

Oshun
This dynamic duo crosses boundaries of soul and Afrofuturism. They blend the acoustic sounds of guitar and the bass of heavy drums with inspired lyrics to create the beautiful sound that has reached international audiences. Since their debut mixtape in 2015, ASASE YAA, they have created a following that has amassed all over social media and continues to push their career today. Gaining national attention, they’re quickly becoming one of the most prominent soulful groups of our generation. As full-time college students at NYU, they managed to travel all across the world. Now, they have come into their own through their artistry as powerhouses in today’s music industry. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 31 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Labor Day Weekend Music Festival
Lincoln Theatres is rounding out the summer with its Labor Day Weekend Music Festival. Come enjoy a free two-night festival filled with some of the greatest artists to grace our nation’s capital. Musicians, bands, producers and more will grace the stage to give local music lovers a diverse show. So come out to Lincoln Theatre to listen to the soundtrack of DC’s 2019 summer. Show starts at 7 p.m. Free. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Photo: Exploded View

Exploded View’s Anika thinks Berlin Winters are Rubbish

Anika’s (Annika Henderson) voice sits somewhere between Nico and Sibylle Baier: it has a classic, melancholic singer-songwriter bent. Unlike those two singers, she’s not from Germany, but from Britain, which may not be so apparent in the way she sings. The accent certainly comes across when she speaks. 

“Mexico City is the best place to escape the Berlin winters,” she says. “Berlin winters are rubbish.”

I’ve listened to her music since high school, when her solo record Anika (2010), was in a stack of CDs my sister gave me. To hear her voice on the other end of the phone tripped me up for a moment.

Since 2016 Anika’s been making music as Exploded ViewThe Exploded View material is quite different from the earlier stuff I grew up listening to, as her old music came prominently from a singer-songwriter tradition even if the instrumentation was post-rock.

For Exploded View, the post-rock experimentation comes to the forefront in both the sound and song structure, and folk comes through as an accent.

While Anika is based in Berlin, Germany her bandmates Martin Thulin and Hugo Quezada are based in Mexico City, Mexico.

Talking to both Thulin and Anika on the phone, I try to ask how they manage the distance. The answer isn’t clear, although I get a quick response as to why they play together. Anika tells me she was never able to find a band she really clicked with in Berlin, “surprisingly” she adds.

“It never felt right,” she says. “I’m looking for people who are just searching, who are not looking to create the next best record. People who are just looking to make music and see what happens. Music for me is about life and growth and it’s not about producing a record that will sell.”

When she went to Mexico to tour her solo material she found Thulin and Quezada while looking for a backing band. One day in rehearsal they were held up by a late fourth band member and decided to have a jam session while they waited. When they listened back on their jam session recording, they liked what they heard and Exploded View was born.

Fast forward to today and Exploded View is touring their latest release Obey, including the band’s first North America tour, which Thulin and Anika are excited for.

One of her favorite things about playing a show is seeing that spark of inspiration on a listener’s face, and she loves playing for those who are equally interested in learning. She says she doesn’t just perform for those who stand there cross-armed and “waiting for you to fail.”

“If you you look at a tree and think ‘oh I’ve already seen that before,’ that’s a sad attitude,” she says. “Of course you [have], but also you haven’t. They’re each their own.”

Exploded View plays with Brooklyn-based Forma and DC’s Luna Honey at DC9 Sunday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000; www.dc9.club

Photo: Only Todd

Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice: Inside Hatchie’s Sunny Debut EP

Do you remember the first time you kissed someone you were really crazy about? The kind of kiss leaving both of you a little unsure of yourselves, but nevertheless smiling after with your stomach fluttering? That’s what it feels like to listen to a Hatchie song. Well, on first play, that is.

It’s easy to get caught up in the warmth radiating from Hatchie’s music, but underneath that instrumental layer of dream pop sunshine are lyrics that often tell a story of uncertainty, remorse and feeling forgotten. It would seem right that her debut EP is named Sugar & Spice, a phrase that acknowledges sweetness can have a bite and upbeat music and melancholy lyrics can mix into something quite nice.

But an EP and accompanying North American tour – including a stop at DC9 Nightclub on Friday, September 7 – are not the only firsts for her; Hatchie is Australian singer and bassist Harriette Pilbeam’s first venture into solo artist territory.

Pilbeam wasn’t always so sure she could make a career out of music. In 2016, the then 23-year old was mostly playing in friends’ bands while she completed her degree in creative industries.

“It was a pretty unhappy time in my life,” Pilbeam confesses. “I wasn’t really doing anything that I wanted to do.”

During this time she wrote “Try,” a song she says is partially about her, but also about a friend and the idea of lifting someone’s spirit while pushing them forward.

A year later, with the encouragement of friends, Pilbeam uploaded “Try” to triple j Unearthed – basically an Australian Bandcamp. Shortly after uploading it into the world, the synth-layered, effervescent song about a relationship on the verge of falling apart catapulted into the top five songs on triple j, followed by a barrage of attention from the music industry.

Pilbeam eventually found happiness again and had the chance to dive into various new experiences that were a result of releasing “Try.” Using this period as inspiration – and influenced by shoegaze and dream pop acts like Cocteau Twins, The Sundays, Wild Nothing and Kylie Minogue – Pilbeam wrote the five songs that comprise Sugar & Spice, released in May of this year.

“Try” is easily the most popular song off the EP, but other tunes like the shimmering, sun-drenched “Sure” and “Bad Guy,” a track where the protagonist and her lover try to hash out their problems, also stand out.

While Pilbeam says the EP is mostly about the roller-coaster emotions of romantic relationships, a lot of her music explores other people’s experiences, as well as the feelings of uncertainty and growing into a young adult.

Looking back at all that has happened since the release of Sugar & Spice, Pilbeam reflected on how she has grown from the girl who needed encouragement to upload “Try” into someone eager to find her own way.

“I realized that I can be a lot more independent than I thought I could,” Pilbeam says. “A lot of things that really scared me a few years ago, don’t need to scare me so much anymore.”

And she isn’t done growing yet, she acknowledges. That includes fine-tuning her music and learning what she likes an doesn’t like. Already at work on her new album, Pilbeam says she’s taking it in a different direction from her EP; the same pop-structures will be in place but there could be new sounds like industrial tones and more refined, slower music.

But for right now, Pilbeam’s just looking forward to enjoying her first North American tour, including a “proper” visit to DC (not counting a quick day visit as a teen) to play at DC9.

“I’m really excited that I get to be able to come to places like DC,” Pilbeam says. “I never thought everything would fall into place, especially not this fast. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Catch Hatchie on Friday, September 7 at DC9 Nightclub. Doors open at 7 p.m. and show starts at 7:30 p.m. Distant Creatures open. Tickets start at $13. For more information on Hatchie, visit www.hatchie.net.

DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000; www.dc9.club

Brooklyn’s Bodega to Play at DC9

One man strips an basically no one could care less in the VR-shot live video for “How Did This Happen!?,” a song by Bodega, a Brooklyn-based post-punk band that’s coming to DC9 on June 29. I caught front persons of the band, Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio, on the phone the other day and from what I gather, the video gives a good idea of what the live show is like, aside from the audience members that failed to strip.

When I brought up the video both Hozie and Belfiglio laugh.

“That’s actually a curated music video,” Belfiglio tells me. “We wanted to show the average Brooklyn show in 2018 and how ambivalent it was and kind of show where Bodega grew up in [this] bar called Alphaville.”

Hozie continues, “you know most music videos you would tell the audience to be as excited as possible. To dance, sing the lyrics, so we just told everyone ‘just look at your phones, look as bored as possible,’ but that one guy disobeyed and started stripping, and it was great.”

We spoke about a number of things, including Bodega’s use of social media and what success looks like to them. First, Hozie and Belfiglio helped me place Bodega in context, because before Bodega there was Bodega Bay, which is where Belfiglio says she discovered herself as a musician and Hozie discovered his voice as a songwriter.

The work of Bodega Bay helped land Bodega a European and UK tour, as well as a US tour with Franz Ferdinand earlier this year.

Belfiglio says it’s because they’re “very mysterious, [and] people want to know what’s going on,” though something in her tone tells me not to take that seriously.

Hozie refers to the two groups as completely different bands, though he kept the word Bodega, because he wants people to realize there’s some overlap, and also because he likes the word. Even though the two bands sound completely different. Hozie attributes this to a few things, but particularly the input of lead guitar player Madison Velding-VanDam.

When we get to talking about songwriting, Hozie tells me that it might take him three hours to write the lyrics and the chords to a song, but the moment he brings that skeleton to Velding-VanDam is when it becomes a Bodega song.

“Madison deconstructs the original to make it not so predictable and more textural,” he says.

And even then, Hozie’s not sure if the songs are completely written.

“Some of our songs are still not done yet,” he says. “We’re going to play a show tonight and a good part of our show is improvising, so those songs aren’t done yet.”

Belfiglio wrote a few songs on the record as well, including the single single “Gyrate,” on which she described on the band’s Tumblr:

“When I was a little girl I used to masturbate in public (once at a JC Penny perfume counter), not knowing that was wrong. My parents, not wishing to shame me, told me I shouldn’t ‘gyrate’ in front of other people. My song uses the language of Top 40 pop to celebrate self-sustainability and female pleasure. There’s no shame in getting off.”

Belfiglio has several roles in the band. She does the artwork, she sings, does percussion and now she writes. When she started she knew next to nothing about making music.

“I didn’t even know what the two and four was when I joined Bodega Bay,” she says. “The first show I ever did, I was just dancing on a barrel in front of the band, [but] then slowly I incorporated myself into the music making process.”

Tumblr seems to be the only social media that the band makes regular use of, though there is a Facebook page and an Instagram.

Hozie explains why he prefers Tumblr.

“I know there’s a lot of bands that I’ve been a fan of where if if you’re looking at their Facebook it’s very uninspiring and ugly, but if you go to their blog, it just feels more private like you’re looking at their journal or punk zine.”

The two are on their to pick up gear for the night’s gig, but before they go I ask them what success looks like.

“Well we quit our day jobs,” Belfiglio says. “That’s like the highest form of success. It doesn’t mean that we’re sustaining ourselves, but it means that our lives are full enough that we can’t work our day jobs.”

Hozie has two answers. First he quotes an Ian Mackaye-ism that you know you’re successful when you finish a song, are able to play it and actually like it.

“To me, the ultimate success is forming something like a community where your music is connecting with people,” he clarifies. 

Come connect with Bodega June 29 at DC9. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $10. And be sure to check out Endless Scroll when it comes out July 6.

DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000; www.dc9.club

The Sherlocks Set to Shake the US

The Sherlocks may hail from the outskirts of Sheffield, England much like Arctic Monkeys and Pulp before them, but their sound is all their own. Last year, the four piece indie rock band released their first album Live For The Moment to great acclaim in their home country. The band is now ready to take their infectious sound and energy stateside. Fresh off supporting the legendary Liam Gallagher on his European tour, we caught up with frontman Kiaran Crook before the group embarks on an expansive US tour, including a stop at DC9 on May 7.

On Tap: What was it like touring with Liam Gallagher? Your band consists of two sets of brothers and Liam is at the center of one of the most notorious sibling rivalries in music history, so that must have been a really interesting dynamic for the band.
Kiaran Crook: That’s exactly what it was, yeah. I was going to say it was surprising, but there’s no need to say surprising because of what I’ve seen from [Liam] in interviews before doing that tour. I think Liam’s a bit- you kind of love him or hate him- but we just get where he’s coming from with his humor and stuff like that. I find him pretty funny to be honest with you. So after doing that tour and spending a bit of time with him, he lived up to it. He’s good company. Most of all, we really appreciate him having us along on tour. There are a lot of bands he could bring, so the fact that he chose us as support certainly means a lot to us. Good guy.

OT: On a similar note, what’s it like touring with your brother and another set of brothers?
KC: It’s good! I mean, you have your fall-outs and stuff, but 95 percent of the time, or maybe and even higher percentage, we’re sweet, we get on well. I think the main thing is not doing each other’s head in or taking things too seriously, or getting in people’s way too much. I think everybody’s worked out how to handle each other a bit more since the start of the band, so that’s definitely gotten better, and we don’t really fall out too much. As far as touring’s concerned, it’s good. It always makes for a funny tour experience though, rather than being four separate lads who are not brothers, and we know each other better. There’s plenty of fun.

OT: Are there any cities you’re excited to hit on this particular tour that you may have missed the last time around?
KC: I’m personally really excited to go to [Los Angeles]. I couldn’t even tell you why. It’s just a name, and it sounds pretty funny. Where I come from, if you told somebody you were going Los Angeles as part of a job, I suppose, it would just seem like a joke to some people. Because the place where we live is really quiet and people don’t usually step out of where they are. People are born here, spend their whole lives here and die here. Not to get morbid, but in this little village where life is just- nothing really happens. You know what I mean? So to get the chance to travel to LA and all these great places, it blows some people’s minds.

OT: So more about the music, you all made quite a splash on the UK charts. What has the response been like to your music from audiences in the US?
KC: The main thing is, it’s not exactly a shock, but there’s obviously a lot more people in the UK that know us than in the US, so things are relatively small when we’re playing gigs in America. But it’s all part of this journey, really. We didn’t expect to play what we are playing at the minute in the UK, and it all started exactly the same here. In the UK, the first few gigs, I can remember playing for literally nobody, or like five people. So we’re used to [going] from empty rooms, to filling the rooms, and building on top of that. But the reception to the album has been really good. That’s the good thing about building and starting up small which we’ve been doing in the US. We get to talk to every single member of the crowd, all three of them! [laughs] I’m kidding. But you do get to speak to everybody, and people seem excited by it. And even though it’s on a small scale, I still feel the passion. They actually do care about this band and it means a lot to them that we’ve troubled to play to them, and vice versa. It means a lot to us that they’re coming out to watch us.

OT: What would be your dream venue to play? Or a favorite venue you’ve already played you’d want to go back to?
KC: I don’t know, to be fair. We’d normally say a stupid answer, something like ‘we’d like to headline the world someday’ but in terms of real venues, it would be good to [headline] a stadium. I could imagine that would be pretty mental. Like any stadium, none in particular, just playing our first stadium gig would be a crazy moment.

OT: That sounds awesome. I look forward to the day I see you’re playing a stadium and I can say I’ve interviewed you. Do you have a dream tour mate? I’m sure Liam set the bar really high, but if you could bring anyone on tour with you or be asked to support another band, what would be your top choice?
KC: These questions are hard! They’re good! I’d like to play with Kings of Leon. [Those] guys seem pretty cool. We opened for them at Sheffield Arena, and that’s like our hometown. Sheffield is the closest city to us, so to support a band like Kings of Leon in our own town, in the biggest venue in Sheffield, that was like a dream come true. So I’d like to play with them again. Or even if we did a song with them one day, that would be strange!

OT: What music are you currently inspired by?
KC: Well I’m listening to Kings of Leon at the minute, and an Australian band call DMAS.

OT: Can fans expect you to debut any new songs on this tour?
KC: We’re going through a bit of heavy writing, but not really [as a] band because I write the tunes. We’re spending a lot of time in the practice room at the minute, just blasting out new tunes until they sound good, the same as we did on the first album. We’ve got some really good ideas floating about and I think we’re gonna try to make the second album sound like – you’ll be able to tell, if you listened to the first album – you’ll know it’s us. So we’re not going to drift too far away, just try to progress slightly and do some things we didn’t really get to do on the first. So just plenty of writing at the minute, that’s what’s going on at The Sherlocks HQ. We might even try a couple of new tunes out in America, because obviously we’re playing to smaller crowds, so it’ll be less people booing us if we mess up [laughs].

The Sherlocks play DC9 on Monday, May 7. Doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000; www.dc9.club 

Photo: Courtesy of Bottled Up

Bottled Up’s Niko Rao Removes the Lid

The members of Bottled Up didn’t exactly know what their band name meant when they first considered it.

Instead of asking 29-year-old singer-songwriter Niko Rao why he suggested it, they instead floated out numerous explanations – emotions being held back only to be revealed in songs or music that starts off slow thus bottling up energy released in an explosive conclusion, among others. Rao simply nodded along as his band members each tossed worthy theories at him, all different than the real reason he suggested the phrase.

“It comes from a Devo song called ‘Bottled Up,’” Rao says, laughing. “I didn’t tell the band why I wanted to name it that and they came up with all these elaborate other meanings, which were interesting.”

Yes, the name – like so many others – started as an homage to his favorite band, but the California native has since ceded that the name has evolved past a simple reference, transforming into an apt description for what Bottled Up is as a unit.

“I’ve grown to like the name more than just as a reference,” Rao says. “I think it embodies our songwriting, and I definitely write things I keep bottled up.”

A DMV Collective

It didn’t take Rao long to find people to jam with after moving to the District in 2016. Like an elaborate domino effect, the musician went to a studio so he could bang on some drums to relieve frustration. Afterward, he badgered the guy at the front desk, Alex Dahms, to join him for a jam session. Alex (drums) brought eventual bassist Colin Kelly to the jam sesh, and during this meetup, lead guitarist Mikey Mastrangelo overheard the trio and asked to join in on the next one.

“I kind of pressured [Alex] into jamming with me, because I had a bunch of riffs I wanted to toy around with from [my time in] L.A.,” Rao says. “We really had great chemistry. I didn’t interact with other people very well. Actually, I mostly played all of the stuff myself. I was very controlling over my music. With this band, I’m just happy to play with others who bring things out of our songs.”

The group instantly formed a bond and has spent the past two years constantly jamming, writing music and evolving. Their self-titled record contains seven songs of new wave and garage-style surf rock delivered in speedy, two- or three-minute doses. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, that’s a lot of genres in one sentence describing seven songs,” it’s probably because these guys define their genre as “¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”

“Well, I would definitely….oh man,” Rao says as he begins to try and describe their sounds for people who may not have heard them yet. “We’re totally new wave. Talking Heads, Devo, B-52s – that stuff is woven into my muscles at this point. I have a very angular, new wave guitar-playing style.”

The Constant of Music

One thing about the LP is that Rao’s up-and-down history is the emotional through line present in every track. Growing up on the West Coast, he dipped his toe in music after hearing the score of “Final Fantasy VII.” This prompted him to pick up a violin and study classical music, which he kept up with until his grandmother purchased him an electric guitar.

“Until that point, I was going to study classical music and play tennis,” he says. “Once I got a guitar and skateboard, all I wanted to do was play rock music, skate and smoke weed. I was 14, and that was a big year for me because I got into all this rock, indie and punk music – all of the stuff you hear in the background of skate videos.”

From then on, music was Rao’s life. After high school, he went to college for sound design, where he would formulate music for TV and video games. He also developed numerous drug addictions there, eventually leading to rehab and various group meetings. He ultimately decided to move to the DC area so he could be closer to family, and all the while he continued penning music.

“I definitely channeled that in my songwriting. It’s weird when you move to a city because no one really knows your past, and you’re this new, fresh person. You can choose all the colors you want to present. It wasn’t tough for me in the beginning, even now, because I feel like it’s nice to get out. My music deals with the aftermath of that – the emotions in dealing with those overwhelming topics, the things I was locking out. I use music to process this stuff.”

A Repackaged Bottle

“We don’t play anything off the old LP anymore,” Rao says of the band’s current shows.

Since the release of Bottled Up last year, the group has morphed, changing up how they write songs and even the pacing of their tracks. Rao says while the first release featured fast, compact narratives, the follow-up allows for a little more breathing room and is a tad less aggressive, though still energetic.

“I was just conditioned to play and think that way,” Rao says. “I don’t like bands that go on too long, and there’s always a point where a song will go on for too long. I think I can sense and feel when a song loses meaning, and I want to stop there.”

Rao no longer formulates the chorus, bridge and structure before bringing it to his bandmates; sometimes, he even approaches them with just an inkling of an idea.

“I was so stuck in my head with controlling everything. Now working with these guys, I bring something small and they take it to a place I didn’t know was possible.”

Before their May 11 show at DC9, the group plans to release two new songs digitally. But even if you miss those or are weary you won’t be able to sing along, Rao made a tongue-in-cheek pun to get you pumped for the concert.

“We have a lot bottled up, and we’re ready to explode and show everyone what we’re about,” Rao says, laughing. “We’re going to be theatrical, and we always try to change it up.”

Rao and his bandmates are set to take the stage at DC9 on Friday, May 11, opening for Olden Yolk. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and available at www.dc9.club. Learn more about Bottled Up at www.bottledup.bandcamp.com.

DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000; www.dc9.club

Photo: Colin Medley

Dynamic Duo Partner Rocks DC

Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, better known as Partner, a Canadian rock duo with hilariously relatable lyrics and guitar chops for days, graced the DC9 stage Wednesday after making waves on the SXSW circuit in March. Ahead of their show, I sat down with the duo to talk inspiration behind their debut album, In Search of Lost Time, what it’s like working alongside a close friend, and how others can draw from their example to trust in their creative work.

Niles and Caron’s subject matter has an undeniable everyday appeal. With songs about making the most of weekdays off from a hectic work schedule on “Personal Weekend,” the paranoia that comes from being high in public on “Everybody Knows,” and the excitement of a new crush on “Play the Field,” listeners will find at least one relatable song on their first full-length album. The band says their inspiration for these songs comes from common threads amongst their lives.

 

Both on and off the stage, Niles and Caron have a palpable and cohesive energy that many duos spend entire careers honing. In addition to the two on guitar, an equally talented three-piece band joins them for live performances. While they were in college, Niles and Caron spent time in and out of different projects before they formed Partner in their post grad years.

“Everyone in the other bands moved away and it was kind of just me and Lucy. We were living together and it kind of was just exactly the right circumstances,” Caron says of the band’s eventual creation. “One day we were hanging out and there was this guitar beside me and I just started yelling words.”

“It was around when she was getting into weed, so we would just smoke and talk about childhood memories and stuff like that,” Niles adds.

Forming the band led to an eventual permutation of old friends, and with each tour and recording session, their relationship becomes deeper.

“It’s a really fast way to grow as people. I think our bond is stronger now,” Niles says.

Caron is quick to agree.

“We’ve been playing together pretty much since we met, casually at first, then we started touring together but not as seriously,” she says. “It just sort of built up, but we also live together so we’re together all the time anyway.”

While their sound is distinct and decidedly self-assured, Caron and Niles say they find their inspiration from a host of artists.

“It’s all over the place,” Niles says. “Sound wise, we’re influenced by Ween, obviously, because they’re pan-genre. We’re kind of more influenced by attitudes and energies or whatever.”

“[We’re even influenced by] people that aren’t known really at all,” Caron adds. “We love to discover.”

“Pretty much anybody that seems like they know exactly what they’re trying to say and… they sound like they’re free, that’s what inspires us,” Niles says.

The duo also draws inspiration from many non-musical places.

“We’re really obsessed with the Enneagram personality test,” Niles says.

“It’s kind of spiritual, so it’s like we’re on some kind of path,” Caron muses.

Niles agrees, adding, “We’re trying to improve ourselves and shit.”

Caron emphasizes that recently, reality TV is “for sure” a huge inspiration.

This attitude translated beautifully into Wednesday’s live show, where Caron impressively belted Lady Gaga’s “A Million Reasons” after telling the audience the recent Netflix documentary on Gaga’s life “changed everything” for her. They also covered Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One” and sang a new song that was inspired by a poem written by Caron’s boss. Both band mates smiled through the entirety of the song, as if no one in the world was ever going to have as much fun as they were in that momentexcept maybe for their audience.

One of the most refreshingly unexpected aspects of their album are the skits—seven in total—scattered throughout. Consisting mostly of recorded phone calls, the skits make perfect sense in a world of songs about the band’s everyday life. Perhaps the most hilarious are the ones including Caron’s supportive and funny dad. I asked her how she managed to get such great soundbites of her dad, and she tells me the band played a bit of a trick to get them.

“We knew we had to get him when he didn’t know he was being interviewed, and then we asked for his consent later,” she explains. “But it’s also my dad, and obviously from the record you can tell he really wants me to do this kind of thing.”

Niles adds that “We definitely would not have gone forward with it if he hadn’t been okay with it.”

The band knew they wanted skits to be a big part of the album, but the better parts of it came together later.

“We knew we wanted to have skits from the universe and stuff of our album,” Niles says. “We wanted people to feel like they were having a whole experience. We didn’t really have any ideas for a skit, and then we just smoked a bunch of hash.” 

Caron says the band “wanted to show our life and everyone who was involved in the record and everything getting made.”

Niles adds, “We definitely didn’t realize how the skits would be received. But then we came out with the skits, and a lot of people said that they loved them and a lot of people are like ‘we love your album, but we hate the skits’ so it’s like completely 50/50.”

While their subject matter and energy is carefree and playful, the powerful and positive example they set as talented women telling the stories of their everyday lives is not lost on the duo. I asked them for advice they would give to any young creatives who are afraid to put themselves out there.

“I don’t wanna say there’s nothing to be afraid of, but you deserve to be allowed to take up space if you want to. In that way, you don’t have to feel like you’re not allowed,” Niles says.

“I think that when you make something that you love, you can feel safe in your creation, and can look for that feeling of being supported by your art,” Caron says. “That will give you the strength and the momentum to  put yourself out there in whatever place makes sense for you. It’s really about finding your voice.”

For more information about Partner, click here