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30 Days of Music

30 Days of DC Music

In honor of our local music issue, we present DC musicians, both well-established and on the rise, who make the city’s music scene stand out. To check out these tastemakers for yourself, listen to our 30 Days of DC Music playlist on Spotify – you might even find your new favorite artist.

AV

April + VISTA
This genre-bending DC duo recently opened for Swedish electropop icons Little Dragon during their sold-out, two-night run at H Street’s Rock & Roll Hotel last month, and stole the show with their live versions of recent releases and a cover of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song.” They’ll continue to captivate stages while supporting like-minded acts Kllo and The JujuExchange, but be sure to listen to their spectacular EP You Are Here in the meantime. Visit www.aprilandvista.com for more.

BM

Bad Moves
Bad Moves are doing big things. Four DC natives with very DC day jobs joined forces to lend their incredible talent to make one of 2018’s most exciting records. Their music is cheerful, their subject matter relatable and their lyrics are seemingly handcrafted to make a live karaoke session at their shows a reality – Tell No One is practically perfect. They recently celebrated the release of the album at Black Cat in September, and I’m already eagerly awaiting new music from them while keeping this album on heavy rotation. Follow them on Twitter @BadMovesDC for more.

BU

Bottled Up
This DC band’s M.O. is surf rock with a soul, and an ever so slight nod to punk predecessors who occupied hallowed DC venues before them. While their lyrics deal with deeply personal matters – addictions, anxieties and general malaise – it’s clearly an outlet with which they heal and offer joy to others. Their boisterous guitars and penchant for peppering in “la la las” at the perfect moment will have you singing along in no time. No stranger to the myriad of venues on the local music circuit, they’ll be at DC9 on November 14. Visit www.bottledup.bandcamp.com for more. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW; www.dc9.club

BRNDA

BRNDA
Babe City Records-signed BRNDA make jarring, frenetic indie rock akin to Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees. Their short but impactful Thanks for Playing EP clocks in at 18 minutes but stays with you for much longer. The best part of BRNDA? Every member of the quartet contributes to vocals, evoking a fun call-and-response vibe that will have you singing along too. See them live at The Dougout on November 5. $5-$10 suggested donation for entry. Visit http://brendatheband.com for more. The Dougout: 1498 Douglas St. NE, DC; www.facebook.com/thedougoutdc

CC

Cautious Clay
While the musician, also known as Joshua Karpeh, may be a New Yorker now, his stint in the District as a George Washington University student gives him the right to say he’s part of the DC scene. Following a critically acclaimed EP, he sold out a show this past May and stood out as one of the highlights of this year’s All Things Go Fall Classic. The performance included Karpeh singing, and playing the saxophone and flute onstage. Unfortunately, you must wait until early next year to see him live in DC – he’ll take the U Street Music Hall stage on February 1 – but it will be worth the wait. Visit www.cautiousclay.com for more. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

CG

Chain & the Gang
“Hey you want to check it out/ this experimental music they’re talking about?” Ian “Chain” Svenonious asks his listeners in the titular track of Experimental Music, the band’s late 2017 release for DC’s Dischord Records. If your answer to that question is yes, Svenonious and company are ready to take you on a journey. With influences from 50s-style surf rock to DC punk, and many genres in between, the track is both on the nose and a statement of the band’s ethos from their many years of making music. While Svenonious has been hard at work with one of his many other projects – Escape-ism – Chain & the Gang remain one of the most exciting and unexpected bands to grace the streets of DC. Visit www.dischord.com/band/chain-and-the-gang for more.

DC

Dreamcast
This project takes its name from the old school gaming console and borrows nostalgic sounds to make something totally new, courtesy of Davon Bryant. The DC native is a singer, songwriter, producer and drummer who makes extremely groovy tunes with retro sensibilities, but modern production flair. This fall, he released the spectacular jams “Outer Space” and “Up 2 U.” Visit www.soundcloud.com/burymeinamink for more.

FLA

Flasher
DC post punk fans rejoice. One of the most exciting bands in the genre right now is one of our own. Their June release for Domino Records, Constant Image, is heavily featured on my “Best of 2018” list. Flasher recently shared the stage with the iconic Breeders and will return to their hometown on November 30 at Black Cat. Follow the band on Twitter @ffflasher. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

FA

Foreign Air
Electropop outfit Foreign Air remains one of the hardest working duos in DC music. The smooth and spacious sounds of their 2016 EP For the Light catapulted them into the national music conversation. Their sounds have been featured in TV shows and commercials and for good reason – their brand of emotion and electronics is the stuff of a music supervisor’s dreams. To the excitement of many fans (myself included), their single “Turning” was released last month and will be included on Foreign Air’s first full-length album, to be released soon. Visit www.foreignair.net for more.

Gauche

Gauche
An amalgamation of members from Priests, Downtown Boys and various other DC musicians, this rotating cast of musicians is anchored by Jason Barnett, Mary Jane Regalado and Daniele Yandel. Their playful beach goth, a.k.a. surf rock with emotional lyrics, infused brand of rock provides the perfect platform for a rotating cast to meditate on ending relationships, independence and navigating existence in the online world. See them live on December 4 at Black Cat. Visit www.g-a-u-c-h-e.bandcamp.com for more. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com


SHAED

SHAED’s Chelsea Lee
SHAED is comprised of Chelsea Lee and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst. A favorite of the DC pop scene and beyond, their emotive electropop is perhaps best exemplified by their EP Melt, which came out this past September. We caught up with vocalist Chelsea Lee on what the band’s been up to lately.

On Tap: I know that you all met at a 9:30 Club show. Can you tell me a bit more about your origin story?
Chelsea Lee:
I was a solo artist and a friend suggested I go see this band, raving about these twin boys who were opening. It was Max and Spencer on stage playing an acoustic set. I was 15 and instantly fell in love. We started hanging out regularly after and became best friends. We couldn’t fully commit to a project together until SHAED.

OT: You’ve played a lot of DC venues – 9:30 Club, Union Stage, Rock & Roll Hotel – do you have a favorite? A place on your wish list?
CL:
We’ve toured a lot, and 9:30 Club remains one of our favorite venues in the country. We would love to play The Anthem.

OT: How has the DC music scene supported you as you’ve progressed in your career?
CL:
DC has been incredibly kind to us. We just played a sold out show and recognized so many people that have been coming to see us since the beginning. Fortunately, the scene here is growing and some great music is coming out of the DMV.

OT: You recently released an EP. Any plans to release a full album soon?
CL:
Right now we’re focusing on writing. For now we just want to keep creating music and see what happens.

OT: Anyone from the DC music scene you’d really like to work with?
CL:
April + VISTA and GoldLink.

OT: Do you have any upcoming shows in the area?
CL:
We’re playing the 9:30 Club with St. Lucia on November 6.

SHAED opens for St. Lucia at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, November 6. Tickets are $32.50. Doors at 7 p.m. Visit www.shaedband.com for more.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com


GEMS

GEMS
The duo comprised of Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John Usher dropped their first release for the District’s own Carpark Records in 2015. Kill the One You Love is equal parts sad and smooth – everything you could ever want from a synth-pop album. The band kept fairly quiet for three years after but to the delight of all of us who love dancing and crying in equal measure, returned this year with several beautiful singles. They’ve also reimagined and re-recorded John Lennon’s iconic album Imagine in full. I can only hope this is an indication of another melancholy gem (ha) of an album on the horizon. Visit www.gems-band.com for more.

HC

HOLYCHILD
The brainchild of George Washington University graduates Liz Nistico and Louie Diller burst onto the pop scene in 2014 with “Happy with Me,” a song examining the daunting task of living up to impossible beauty standards with a crazy danceable beat. Since then, the self-described brat pop band set up shop in Los Angeles, California, and worked with artists like Kate Nash and Tkay Maidza. They returned as powerful as ever with three new singles this fall. Visit www.holychildmusic.com for more.

IJ

Innanet James
I like to think I’m on top of most recent releases, but my little brother is always one step ahead of me – a healthy sibling rivalry of who knows the best new artists frequently ensues. He sent along several tracks by this Maryland born, DC based rapper – 2018’s “Amazing” and “Bag” – and I’ve been hooked ever since. He raps over neo soul beats with honesty and precision, and featured his once DC residence on Quebec Place on the cover of his EP of the same name. He released his fantastic album Keep it Clean this September, complete with features from Pusha T, Taliwhoah and more. Follow him on Twitter @innanetjames for more.

JG

Jenna Camille
Maryland-born, DC-educated Jenna Camille has natural talent and classical training in spades. Her gorgeously smoky voice finds itself combined with jazzy electronic production on her infectious tracks. In addition to writing, recording and producing her own music, she is a frequent collaborator of other acts such as BELVE, Poor boY EXP and Seven Jackson. Follow her on Twitter @JennaCamille for more.

JUL

Julian
I’ve had the joy of seeing this project, helmed by Julia Leiby, open for several bands throughout the city. Bringing together a rotating cast of like-minded musical friends, Julian makes understated but powerful indie pop worthy of soundtracking a dreamy movie montage. Their latest release, Real Distance, saw them polish their sound, and is their strongest and most affecting work to date. Visit www.juliandc.bandcamp.com for more.

LAV

Lavender
This indie pop group comprised of five college friends makes ethereal anthems for anyone who loves glossy, dreamy tunes with a side of emotional honesty. They cite contemporaries The 1975 and The Naked and Famous as influences, and are a necessary addition to any playlist built for introspection or relaxation. Don’t be fooled by their chill vibes, though – the instrumentation is powerful and refined as well. Visit www.lavenderdc.bandcamp.com for more.

LL

Loi Loi
This pair of DC natives is set to release their album Me: Dystopia early next year. They’ll bring their vivacious marriage of darkwave (think dark and romantic), timely lyrics and worldly sounds to Union Stage on November 10 and Dupont Underground on November 16. Listen to the lead single “Company Girl” now. Follow them on Instagram @yo_soy_loiloi for more. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com // Dupont Underground: 19 Dupont Cir. NW, DC; www.dupontunderground.org

LH

Luna Honey
Evoking the dark and powerful feelings of genre greats PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, Luna Honey makes music that can only be described as cathartic and beautiful. While Maura Pond’s vocals stand out on every track, what anchors Luna Honey is the marriage of bare basslines and baritone sax: unsettling and comforting all at once. Don’t miss them take the stage on November 11 at DC9. Visit www.lunahoney.bandcamp.com for more. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

MG

Makeup Girl
Have you ever discovered a band that makes you excited for the future? Both the future of that band and music as a whole? I couldn’t shake that warm, fuzzy feeling the first time I listened to Makeup Girl’s Living Safe EP, released this past summer. While their sound is reminiscent of early Two Door Cinema Club and Humbug era Arctic Monkeys, it’s clear this band is in a league of their own. Catch them at Arlington’s Galaxy Hut on November 11 and keep your eyes on them in general – this four piece group is going places. Visit www.makeupgirlband.com for more. Galaxy Hut: 2711 Wilson Blvd. Arlington VA; www.galaxyhut.com

MESS

The Messthetics
This band is nothing if not a supergroup. Comprised of two former Fugazi members and several other heavy hitters in the DC hardcore scene, the group harkens back to the heyday of DC punk and reminds us it’s not going anywhere. Their self-titled album was released on the beloved Dischord Records, and is a must for DC music lovers and anyone else who appreciates an excellent rock record. They’ll play Baltimore’s Rams Head Live on December 27. Visit www.dischord.com/band/messthetics for more. Rams Head Live: 20 Market Pl. Baltimore, MD; www.ramsheadlive.com

NH

Nick Hakim
I recommend Nick Hakim’s 2017 release Green Twins to just about anyone who will listen. What I won’t recommend, however, is putting Hakim’s music in a box. His retro-futurist vibe and hypnotic vocals are just the beginning of what makes his music stand out. Citing a whole host of “one of these things is not like the other” influences, Hakim’s music is perfect for a dreamy, cold winter’s day and something you have to synthesize for yourself. He dropped the single “Vincent Tyler” this summer, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for Hakim. Visit www.nickhakim.com for more.


WYLD

Wylder’s Will McCarry
Wylder’s dreamy blend of folk pop is heavily influenced by the natural surroundings of their native Virginia. As they gear up for their much-anticipated sophomore album, singer and guitarist Will McCarry told On Tap all about influences, favorite venues and upcoming music.

On Tap: With roots in DC and Virginia, how have both influenced your music?
Will McCarry: Rural Virginia had a huge influence on my musical taste and the kind of songs I want to write. The organic and naturalistic elements of our sound comes from my upbringing.

OT: Do you have a favorite local venue? Any that you haven’t played on your wish list?
WM: DC is home to amazing venues. In February we headlined U Street Music Hall for a show presented by the 9:30 Club. Performing in front of fans that braved a snowstorm to be there made it one we’ll never forget. Recently we had the chance to perform on stage at The Anthem, the venue is unlike any space we’ve performed in before.

OT: How have the music scenes in DC and Virginia supported you?
WM: [We] began in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The early days playing on campus helped us discover our path. As we began performing in DC more often, venues like Black Cat and Jammin Java gave us a chance to headline.

OT: What can listeners expect from your sophomore album?
WM:
I think this new record represents the next logical step for Wylder and features the most fully realized version of what I’ve always wanted this band to be. It is at once a major departure from Rain and Laura and an expansion on all the things fans enjoy about that record.  Our first single from the record, “Ready to Break,” will be out on November 16.

OT: Anyone from the DC music scene you’d really like to work with?
WM: We’d love to put together a show featuring a full orchestral section performing the songs alongside us

OT: Any upcoming shows in the area?
WM: You can catch us performing live in DC at Gypsy Sally’s on November 30 alongside The Last Bison or in Tysons Corner on December 1 for an acoustic set at Records and Rarities.

Catch Wylder at Gypsy Sally’s on Friday, November 30. Tickets start at $15. Visit www.wyldermusic.com for more.

Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com


OG

OG Lullabies
I was lucky enough to catch OG Lullabies, the project of singer and violinist Taylor Brooke, earlier this year right around the release of her EP CRUESCONTROL. The otherworldly nature of her music evokes peace and an existence on a different earthly plane at times. With an emphasis on the all-encompassing experience music creates in a listener, Brooke’s beautiful sounds create a welcome respite from your everyday woes in sonic form. Visit www.oglullabies.com for more.

OTD

Oh He Dead
I have no idea what this DC duo’s name is in reference to, but I love it. I also love their bass-heavy, neo soul and refreshingly honest songwriting. To date they only have one single and a three song EP available, but I have full confidence the duo of Cynthia Johnson and Anthony Valenti will bless us with more repeat worthy tracks soon. Visit www.ohhedead.com for more.

PS

Park Snakes
“I am an alien, I am a ghost, I am the devil, I am alone,” sings vocalist Nenet on the band’s track “Alien,” a meditation on identity. Self-described as “degeneration rock,” this group’s music could easily soundtrack a noir film (or more realistically, a long DC drive on a foggy day). Be sure to add their latest release, Silk, to any winter playlists you may be curating. Visit www.parksnakes.com for more.

PRIESTS

Priests
DC’s most prolific punks of today released their album Nothing Feels Natural last year and have focused heavily on the District’s creative circuit and national tours. They run Sister Polygon Records and lend their talents to other DC bands, all while providing an unwavering political voice that’s needed now more than ever. They’ll take the stage at Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on December 11. It’s worth the trek to Charm City to see these icons in action. Visit www.666priests666.com for more. Metro Gallery: 1700 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD; www.themetrogallery.net

RN

Rico Nasty
Everyone loves Rico Nasty but only the DMV gets to call her our own. She’s one of the hardest working artists in any genre. At 21, she’s already released six mixtapes, including her first release as an Atlantic Records signee, Nasty. She calls her catchy, sweet blend of rap “sugar trap,” and while she’s certainly come a long way from her first hit “iCarly” to her newer releases soundtracking shows like Insecure, she’s bound to be a fixture on the national rap scene for a long time. Visit www.riconastymusic.com for more.

SS

Stronger Sex
This experimental electronic duo will have you dancing as much as contemplating a variety of timely topics. They blend 80s synth sensibilities dating back to The Cure or Talking Heads with theatrical and impassioned vocals. Their 2018 full length release There is No Stronger Sex is a smart breath of fresh air and the answer to everyone’s contemplative but groovy needs. Visit www.strongersex.bandcamp.com for more.

UB

Ultra Beauty
This band provides an unlikely combination of pop and punk, but not in the way bands you loved in middle school did. Instead, it’s more like jagged, heavy instrumentation layered with catchy choruses sung sweetly. By combining the best elements of these two genres, the trio provides some of the most exciting tunes to come out of the city this year with their self titled debut.  Visit www.ultrabeauty.bandcamp.com for more.

Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

A Day in the Life: Jungle Fever’s Mane Squeeze & Mista Selecta

Avanti Fernandez and Tommy Smolka’s epic warehouse parties were just the beginning of a much bigger project. When a mutual friend introduced the likeminded DJs in 2013, the pair had instant chemistry. Fernandez (Mane Squeeze) and Smolka (Mista Selecta) quickly discovered that they shared numerous traits, including a penchant for drawing inspiration from musical genres heard around the world and an affinity for dancehall and trap music. Even their DJ monikers share the same initials. Not to mention, they’re both Geminis.

The pair joined forces as Jungle Fever, curating and hosting DJ parties around the city and performing together at a range of local venues including U Street Music Hall. They’ve picked up momentum in the past five years, making waves in the DC scene that have rippled toward New York and Philadelphia where they’re now building a base. This month, they’ll be spinning at Trillectro Music Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. On Tap sat down with the DJ duo before their September 22 show to talk teamwork, influences, plans for Trillectro and their favorite places in DC.

On Tap: How did you choose your name?
Avanti Fernandez: Jungle Fever is a party concept we created years back. The concept is tropical vibes exuding high, intense, animalistic and wild [energy].
Tommy Smolka: It’s a combination of world dance vibes incorporated into newer rap or trap. Everything we mix together as Jungle Fever makes it really like a jungle. We get all types of people at our parties, just like a jungle has all types of animals. I think it’s one of the most diverse parties out there, and that was a goal.

OT: How would you describe your individual styles as DJs?
AF: When I first started, a lot of DJs specialized in one sound. For me, it was more about not limiting myself. I consider my style to be eclectic and I try to be as eccentric as possible. I am Jamaican and Puerto Rican, and I try to pull from my cultural characteristics – whether it be in a set, at a party or in a mix.
TS: My name [also] comes from Jamaican culture. Dancehall and reggae were in very heavy rotation early on. That was a big connection we had. But, I’ve been DJing for 13 or 14 years now, so anything goes. I can play literally anything – any style.


Avanti’s Must-Haves
My dog Pepito
My boo Kelcie
Water
Sunlight
Rice and beans


OT: Who are your most major musical influences?
TS:  DJ Jazzy Jeff, Underdog, DJ Alize and
DJ Blaqstarr. I look up to M.I.A. a lot.
AF: Childish Gambino – how multifaceted he is as an artist and how he created his own path. I saw a lot of myself in that. DJ K-Swift from Baltimore was one of my greatest DJ inspirations, too. I remember going out to see her perform at The Paradox. I’d be mindblown there was a lady behind the decks. And I’d be like, “Yo, I wanna do that! I wanna be just like her.”

OT: What made you both decide to link up and DJ together?
TS: We were throwing the warehouse parties for like a year before we started Jungle Fever.
AF: I was throwing events not too far from here, at 411 New York Ave. in the warehouse. I heard Selecta was looking to DJ and I was like, “Yeah sure, bring him on through.” He came and ripped it. I was in love with his set. As soon as he dropped some reggae I was like, “Look at this boy! Who the f–k is this? What is going on?” So ever since, we vibed. [We] figured out that we were both looking for a way to express ourselves together.

OT: What’s your favorite part of working together?
TS: Since day one, it’s been easy for us to work together. We get along very well. We never planned to do this; things just came naturally.
AF: It was very organic. It’s great having somebody you can be open, honest and very transparent with, especially going through some of the obstacles we’ve gone through and dealt with together. He’s a great teammate, you know? That’s my boy.

OT: How have your styles evolved over the years you’ve been DJing together?
TS: We’ve been doing parties and stuff for six years, and I was DJing before that for eight years. I look at it as I would any other art form. You’re never going to stop evolving. You learn new techniques, you learn new sounds.
AF: It starts with learning about [DJing], emulating others, learning from others and taking what you learned. For me, it was taking what I’ve learned, building on it and developing my own style.

TS: It’s harder for me to talk about me. I’ve seen you evolve. I remember when you first started DJing. The first year or so, you were in your learning phase, but you were rockin’ though.
AF: I could see him growing and really branching into a new sound, like exploring and experimenting with new sounds. You know, things I would never hear Selecta play, now I’m like, “Whoa, this energy – it’s different!”

OT: How would you describe the DJ scene and overall music scene in DC?
AF: It’s monumental. I mean you feel it, you hear it, you see it. Every time you turn on your radio you hear GoldLink’s “Crew.” Artists are really putting on for the city and I think it’s nationwide, [even] worldwide. DC is seen as a new hub [for music]. Even travelling to New York, everyone is like, “What’s happening in DC? We love what you’re doing there. Can we bring that same energy here?”
TS: Yeah, the music scene is at an all-time high for sure. I still think we have some of the best DJs in the world. That’s why I really appreciate the people who hold us to a higher standard, because we’re some of the best. Every time we go to different cities, I really see that.


Tommy’s Must-Haves
Weed
Women
Chicken
My dogs
Coca-Cola


OT: What are some of your most memorable experiences while DJing?
AF: I think we have the same one because we always talk about it.
TS & AF (in unison): Afropunk.
AF: It was that weekend! Trillectro on Saturday and Afropunk on Sunday.
TS: That was in 2014. That’s probably our best shared experience, besides all the Jungle Fever parties. Every Jungle Fever party is like my favorite party, and your warehouse parties.
AF: Oh yeah!
TS: The parties she used to throw that I DJed at were like the craziest, literally. We’ll never get to do anything like that again.
AF: It definitely was an era.

OT: What do you guys like to do when you’re not DJing?
AF: Travel. That’s kind of broad, but I’d rather just work, stack my money and travel. I like learning about myself and different cultures and broadening my horizons. I just got back from New Orleans, which was pretty cool. I’ve been back and forth between cities [like] New York. I was in Costa Rica this June. Whenever I can, I try to get out of here [and] live a little.
TS: I like to watch movies, and I have another creative side that most people don’t know. I do photography, video and graphic design.
AF: That’s the beauty of it. A lot of the work, we do ourselves behind the scenes like the graphics, the photos and the videos.

OT: What are some of your favorite spots around DC?
AS: For food I like Silvestre Chicken. I’m actually a pescatarian so I go there for the charbroiled shrimp. I also like Oohh’s & Aahh’s, Po Boy Jim [Bar and Grill] and Wiseguy [Pizza].
TF: Wiseguy is number one, and DCity Smokehouse.
AS: For concert venues, I like 9:30 Club, Flash and U Street Music Hall.
TF: Flash, 9:30 and Velvet are my three favorites.

OT: How are you preparing for Trillectro?
TS: We’re getting our special guest in order, and theatrics.
AF: We want to outdo ourselves from the last times we performed.


Jungle Fever Must-Haves
Weed
Good sound system
Positive environment
Open-minded people
Energy (the more people, the more energy)


OT: Who are you guys most excited to see perform this year?
AS: SZA for sure. She’s definitely the first female headliner. All the ladies that are rocking: Rico Nasty, The Internet, Sheck Wes and Carnage.
TF: I’m definitely excited for The Internet, Playboi Carti and Snoh Aalegra.

OT: What’s coming up for you two?
AF: We’re going to take this party on the road. We’re excited to have Jungle Fever in New York.
TS: Yeah. Jungle Fever is expanding. It’s going to be a regular in New York now, because we have a 50-50 base here and in New York and Philly. We’re going to keep expanding it. Other than that, definitely a lot of music, I know I’m about to put out a lot.

Catch Jungle Fever spinning at Trillectro on Saturday, September 22 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Doors at noon, tickets start at $60. For updates on Jungle Fever, follow Mista Selecta and Mane Squeeze on Instagram at @mistaselecta and @manesqueeze.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed
Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed

A Day in the Life: DC Drummer Isabelle De Leon

Encouraged by family, Isabelle De Leon has been playing music since she was four and the drums since she was seven. But hers is not a story of a child prodigy forced into a life of performance at any cost. De Leon has talent in spades, and she marches to the beat of her own drums. As an early teen, De Leon found a deep connection in writing music. She has since made it her mission to use the power of music to inspire and heal, and she does it in hundreds of different ways. On any given day, you can find her jetting from one gig to another, running jam sessions, teaching music lessons, serving as an ambassador to the DC music community and being the kickass lady drummer in a rock band.

At 27, De Leon has already played major venues including the Kennedy Center and DAR Constitution Hall, is the recipient of countless music scholarships and recognitions – including a stint as a Strathmore Artist in Residence – and still finds time to rock out with local synth-pop bands Prinze George and Paperwhite, and funk/soul band Lionize. Even with her many accomplishments, the local musician remains humble. On Tap caught up with De Leon to learn more about her  “constant learning journey” and how the musician incorporates her life experiences into the music she plays.

On Tap: You’ve played all over the country. What keeps you in DC?
Isabelle De Leon: I’m from Montgomery County, so not far. I’ve always loved the city, and it was always a dream of mine to move here and be more immersed in the scene. It’s great because the music scene is very active so there are a lot of opportunities to perform and meet other musicians. What’s cool about being here is that DC is a much smaller city but there’s still a lot happening, and I feel like I can be part of creating something here versus where it’s already oversaturated.

OT: You started out playing music at a young age with your family. How did your relationship with music develop as a child?  
IDL: It was always a family thing. My whole family played music. My dad was the one who taught us music when we were really young. He was teaching us all piano, guitar and bass. When I was seven, he brought home a drum set and taught me some basic things. At that point, he started asking each of us which instrument we wanted to take lessons for. I think he had a vision for what to steer us each toward. Our whole family played at church every weekend, and that was where we really learned about music theory, chord structures, arrangements and how to play in an ensemble – the nuances of improvising, taking cues and listening to each other. Those things are really valuable and hard to teach in a classroom.

OT: What drew you to the drums?
IDL: One of our favorite movies [growing up] was Selena, and it’s even more precious now because their story was very similar to ours. Their dad loved music and started them young, playing in this family band. I just remember that scene where he’s trying to get Suzette to play the drums and she’s adamantly protesting and she’s like, “Girls don’t play the drums.” And for some reason, I took that as, “Oh, I’m going to play the drums now and prove everybody wrong and show people that girls can play the drums.” So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue it.

OT: It can be hard to make a career out of your passion. How did you make music both for you?
IDL: When I was really young, I didn’t know any other female drummers except [Santana’s] Cindy Blackman, who I idolized and still do. I realized that I was in a very unique position being a woman on a male-dominated instrument, and also being a woman minority in the music industry. I realized there was a power in that, in being able to inspire young girls to go out for things that people were telling them they couldn’t do. In a way, that’s really what my mission is. It’s one of the reasons why I feel like I can’t ever quit, necessarily. I yearn for that kind of figure I can look up to myself, and if I can be that for someone else who needs a role model, I would love to be that person for them.

OT: How does being a Filipino woman in this space affect what you do within the creative industry in DC?
IDL: Being a female drummer already sets me as a minority, and that’s something I’ve experienced my whole life. But one thing that I didn’t realize until I was much older was what my identity was and who I was. We grew up primarily around white people and because of that, I felt in a way more connected to American culture even though I know I don’t look “American.” But in Filipino circles, I didn’t feel like I fit in, in a way. That same kind of conflict came out when I started studying jazz music and participating in the DC music scene.

OT: What challenges have you faced breaking into the local jazz scene? 
IDL: Right now, I’m trying to get better at and play jazz, funk and soul music that’s oriented around really groovy drumming. There was an instance recently where it came to my attention that some people either roll their eyes at me when I come and play or they kind of judge me because according to them, I didn’t grow up in the “church” so I don’t really have a gospel background. That was hurtful because first of all, it’s not true. Also, music is supposed to be about camaraderie, sharing and connection. People who get hateful like that, or just bitter, defeat the purpose of what we do.

OT: You recently started a regular jam session at Pearl Street Warehouse. Is that a jazz series?
IDL: It’s called Southwest Soul Sessions. It’s not specifically jazz per se. I actually started the jam session with Elijah Jamal Balbed, who’s also an accomplished musician here, and our goal with the session was to bridge all of our music communities in DC. I’ve done a lot of work in the rock and pop scenes, and he’s very heavy in the jazz, R&B and go-go scenes. We realized that together, we would have a vast network of people and we really wanted to bring all of them together. The great thing about jam sessions is that you’re playing with people you may have never played with before and may never again. But in that moment, you’re just trying to create something that’s different and bring all of your influences to the table. We really wanted it to be like a dance party too, and Pearl Street Warehouse is perfect for that.

OT: You are very accomplished and constantly working on different projects. What keeps you focused and awake?
IDL: I’ve always known what my goals are. They’re pretty big, but I also have some that are more tangible like to be Beyoncé’s drummer. [Laughs] One thing that my mom taught me early on was to write down your priorities and goals and make lists of steps that you can take to get there. I make sure I check in with myself pretty regularly. My overall goals have been the same since I started to really pursue music, and I always keep that in the back of my mind. It’s really important to always remember your “Why?” It’s also important to take a break every once in awhile. There are days where I don’t do anything music-related.

OT: What do you enjoy doing on those days away from the music scene?
IDL: I really enjoy movies. I love being adventurous and trying new things, whether it’s an activity I’ve never done or something like bowling or just going on a walk in a park. I love cooking and catching up with friends. Relationships are really important to me, so I try to make sure I stay in touch with the people who are important and make time for them. I also really love shopping. I don’t mind spending money to beautify my room, because I’m creating music there and it needs to be a place of inspiration and a beautiful place that I can relax in and enjoy. My room is pretty decked out and full of plants.

Follow De Leon on Instagram at @isabelledeleon_ and on Facebook at @IsabelleDeLeonMusic. Learn more about her Southwest Soul Sessions with Balbed at www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com and sign up for drum lessons with her at www.7drumcity.com.

Photo: Brandon Shields
Photo: Brandon Shields

What’s NUEX?

Let’s be honest, has anyone with even the slightest desire for rock star status not responded to a Craigslist ad at least once? I definitely ended up in someone’s basement once trying to do vocals over shoegaze while wondering if I’d make it home alive to feed my dog. Okay, that incident aside, I’ve heard many Craigslist musician meetup stories that were way more successful than mine.

Take hometown DC duo NUEX, for example. Something told singer-songwriter Camille Michelle Gray to respond to an ad seeking a vocalist posted by drummer-producer Teddy Aitkins. Fortunately for them both (and for us), neither was an axe murderer and it was pretty evident from day one that there was musical chemistry between them.

NUEX (pronounced “new”) is a play on the French word “nue”, which means naked. It’s a fitting name for the sonic duo that emerged from that fated Craigslist meetup more than four years ago. Working hard to pull tight, original tracks from their small in-house operation, NUEX’s sound is often both new and raw, emotion stripped bare and laid out for us to hear.

“Something that I want people listening to this music – or any music – to know is that when you’re listening to a song, especially the ones that are as emotional as ours, they’re like listening to someone’s soul or their diary,” Gray said. “So while you are jamming, don’t forget that each song has a little throbbing piece of our soul.”

And Gray does certainly have some soul vibes, but she also brings something fresh to the table. Her vocals are reminiscent of an old-school lounge singer with all the deep sadness, but she’s also got a hell of a lot more spunk. She isn’t going to lay on a piano and cry; she’s going to light up like a laser beam and tell you what’s up.

Aitkins, who is responsible for the otherworldly beats that drop below Gray’s smoky vocals, suggests the laser effect is intentional.

“We both have a big influence in space and stars and things being ethereal,” he said.

The two concur that the biggest influence on their work is recognizing and attempting to channel “the interconnectedness of everything.” The resulting sound is sultry (and sometimes sassy) robotica.

NUEX has hit all of the stops for “up-and-comers” in DC. Since 2014, they have played with Sofar Sounds and Luce Unplugged at the National Portrait Gallery, and were selected by Brightest Young Things to represent the city at SXSW 2017’s DC soundstage.

In May, the duo released their long-anticipated, five-track EP Affectus. The record has given them the boost they said was needed to keep moving forward, but now they’ve got the bug and are impatient for more. Indeed, Gray and Aitkins are refreshingly honest about not just the magic, but also the frustrations that come along with trying to “make it” musically – and trying to touch people creatively.

Balancing careers, families and gigs, it was difficult, they said, to play shows for three years and not have a physical body of work to point people to. It also made taking themselves seriously a challenge. They describe the EP release as a “relief.”

“For me, I feel like there’s always more room to grow,” Aitkins said. “I always feel like I could do better. Our sound is always evolving. So yeah, I think we’ve grown, but overall there’s still a lot of stuff that people have not heard that we’ve created.”

Gray adds that the EP was “definitely a catapult,” making the pair more driven and ready to get some of their newer work out for the public to experience.

“And that’s just selfishly,” Gray said. “I really want people to see what else we’re made of. The five songs on the EP are great, and we chose them on purpose because of what they meant to us and they’re strong. But as Teddy has already said, we’re so excited to have the door open and you guys walk through our little [world].”

And we should soon get a chance to peek a bit further into that world. During our interview, Gray and Aitkins teased two new videos for the singles “Eyes” and “Billie”. Working with cinematographers and producers Abe Vilchez-Moran and Kunitaro Ohi, Gray and Aitkins have been “floored” by how two other artists’ visions could make their own work come alive in a way they hadn’t conceived.

For “Eyes” especially, they said, having “everything to do with [the song], but not being physically a part of the video” was an awakening experience.

“The video made it so much more emotional than it ever was,” Aitkins said. “Watching it gave me a whole new respect for the song.”

Learn more about NUEX at www.wearenuex.com and keep your eyes peeled for new video releases. And in the meantime, catch the duo doing that sultry thing they do at Jammin Java on Monday, July 16 when they open for Mobley. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$20.

Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, VA; 703-255-1566; www.jamminjava.com