Posts

Photo: Exploded View
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

Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: Slash Run, Sotto and The Crown & Crow

There are few greater simple joys than listening to great live music with an even better drink in your hand. This month, we rounded up DC’s musically minded watering holes to find out more about their bars, drinks and live music lineups.


Slash Run - Christine Lilyea and Ana Latour (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Slash Run
Christine Lilyea, Owner and GM
Ana Latour, Bartender and Manager

On Tap: What does Slash Run add to Petworth as a neighborhood?
Ana Latour: There’s something about the versatility of Slash Run that speaks to its importance in Petworth. This neighborhood is a family spot, but also a growing place for young people who want to live in the city. Slash Run can be all of those things.

OT: As a music venue, what’s the local to national act ratio?
Christine Lilyea: It’s a mix of local and national. A lot of the people I work with are local bookers, but they always bring [artists] from out of town.
AL: We had a band here last night from Japan. They were insane! It was probably one of the wildest things I’ve seen since I got here. The band who opened for them was from down the street.

OT: Any local favorites you book regularly or try to bring into the mix as often as possible?
CL: They’re from New York, and they’re called The Nuclears. They’re just really nice guys and their music is insanely good. It’s like Thin Lizzy [or] Cheap Trick – just good, in your face, on the ground sweating rock ‘n’ roll.

OT: Tell us about the drinks at Slash Run.
CL: I have managed restaurants before, so I’m really big on this. It’s supposed to be a dive bar and have shitty wine, but I can’t do it. I’m very picky about our wines and beers. If people want PBR, I’ll give it to them, but then I’ll find something cool too.

Check Slash Run’s website for a full list of upcoming shows, including:
Biff Bang Pow, a 60s garage/psych/glam vinyl dance party on November 10
Part Time with Bottled Up on November 19
Super Unison, Downtrodder, Coward and Bacchae on November 17

Slash Run - Spiced Cider (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Spiced Cider
Cotton & Reed Mellow Gold Rum 
Warmed cider 
Cloves
Cinnamon sticks
Star anise
Citrus butter
Orange and lemon zest

Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com


Sotto - Savi Gopalan (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Sotto
Savi Gopalan, Bar Manager

On Tap: How has Sotto has changed since opening three years ago?
Savi Gopalan: Sotto has really changed into a venue focusing on music. I think originally, the music was more of a perk rather than a focus; whereas now, we define ourselves as a music venue.

OT: How do you think the local jazz scene has changed in recent years? Why is it important to offer live music at Sotto?
SG: I think there’s more community behind it, not just within the musicians but the clientele as well. There’s a real connection within the jazz scene now that I don’t think was as predominant previously.

OT: Do you have any new vinos this winter?
SG: I’m really excited about the new rosé we’re offering by the glass, G.D. Vajra Rosabella. We have a smaller wine list because we are more of a cocktail-focused place, but I do like a lot of the options we offer.

OT: What’s your process for crafting new cocktails each season?
SG: When you’re going into a new season, I always look at what flavors are popular. I pick different flavors that stand out to me and I’ll build cocktails around that. For instance, the mezcal smokiness is appropriate for fall, [and] calvados too. Even though people don’t really do brandy cocktails anymore, I think it fits with the season.

OT: It seems almost all your beers are local. Why is it important to support DC area breweries?
SG: We definitely try to keep all of our beer choices super local. We try to push for local spirits as well, because there are so many great places in the area. It would be a shame not to have them on the list.

Visit Sotto’s website for a full list of upcoming shows, including:
The Lionel Lyles Quintet on November 9
Tashera on November 15
Champion Sound on November 29

Sotto - Back To December (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Back To December
Red wine
Mulled wine syrup
Lemon
Orange
St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

Sotto: 1610 14th St. NW, DC; www.sottodc.com


Crown and Crow - Ben Sislen and Brian Harrison (Photo - Trent Johnson)

The Crown & Crow
Brian Harrison, Owner, Creator and Barman
Ben Sislen, Owner
Brooke Stonebanks, Event Coordinator

On Tap: What inspired your Victorian era theme?
Ben Sislen: We were flexible with what we were going to be. It started when we found our bar in the front room and it was [from the] Victorian era timeframe.

Brian Harrison: We thought the first room would be rustic, and the other would be sophisticated. Once that vintage feel took hold in the front, it carried throughout.

OT: Your cocktail menu seems reflective of that time period as well.What was the creative process for coming up with unique takes on period cocktails?
Brooke Stonebanks: I want to go along with the theme. The cocktails we had when we first opened were just plays off classic cocktails. Moving forward, the drinks will focus on obscure ingredients that promote smaller brands.

OT: What kinds of cocktails are you looking to make this winter?
Stonebanks: I want to focus on the spirit and and [make] simple cocktails. We have a lot of Irish and American whiskeys and we’re looking to add more. I want them to be whiskey-heavy.

OT: What’s your process for booking musical acts? Any local names you use regularly?
BS: Mostly local acts. We don’t charge a cover because we want the music to be accessible, and we want people coming in and trying out the bar.

Visit Crown & Crow’s website for shows as they’re added through the month, including:
Anthony Pirog on November 3 and Swampcandy on November 15

Crown and Crow - Le Corbeau Sanglant and The Burning Crow (Photo - Trent Johnson)

The Burning Crow
High West Campfire Whiskey
Five-spice syrup
Orange bitters 
Cinnamon stick

Le Corbeau Sanglant 
Compass Box Great King St. Glasgow Blend Whisky 
Luxardo cherry sangue 
Dolin Rouge vermouth
Blood orange juice

The Crown & Crow: 1317 14th St. NW, DC; www.thecrownandcrow.com

 

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.

Photos: Lauren Melanie Brown
Photos: Lauren Melanie Brown

District of Den-Mate: Indelible Force Jules Hale Embraces DC Music Scene

Den-Mate began roughly five years ago as a literal bedroom pop project. Frontwoman Jules Hale’s music might not be in the bedroom pop genre, but she did use music to express herself by self-releasing early recordings via sites like Tumblr and SoundCloud while hanging out at home.

Through the power of the World Wide Web, she caught the attention of DC’s homegrown Babe City Records and the Virginia native struck up a fierce friendship with the people behind the label before meeting any of them in person.

Two-thirds of Den-Mate’s current lineup – Jon Weiss, Peter Lillis and the singer/songwriter herself – now run the independent record label, with Jonah Welt and Rick Irby rounding out the five-person band.

The electro-meets-dream-pop band has been a stronghold in the DC scene for several years now, playing a host of the best venues, opening for national acts and headlining cathartic, transformative shows. This year marked a new chapter for Hale, one she says was several years in the making. Babe City released Den-Mate’s first album, Loceke, an evocative and lush record that’s as personal as it is relatable. And since the 24-year-old artist now has a hand in running the label, she has nothing but forward momentum as an indelible force in the DC creative scene.

“As the process of Loceke happened, which took about four years to complete, I became best friends with the scene,” she explains to On Tap over a cup of La Colombe coffee in Blagden Alley. “I was just thinking, ‘I have to be a part of this. I love this.’ They welcomed me with open arms.”

DC has been Hale’s safe haven to express herself through music for awhile, but the release of Loceke found her sharing herself and collaborating with others at a greater intensity.

“At first when I expressed the process, there were parts of me that felt hesitant,” she tells us earnestly of sharing her music and by proxy, her personal experiences with others. “But if I don’t say it, then I’m not being honest about where my music is coming from. If I’m sacrificing myself and saying personal things, maybe it will inspire someone who’s not doing so well. They can be like, ‘Hey, this person went through this shit, they didn’t think they were going to get out, but they did.’ I hope that me doing that is going to eventually possibly help someone else.”

Hale’s passion for music as a whole is evident as our conversation continues.

“Music is super mystical – the way it’s able to control people, change people’s perceptions, change how you feel with no actual action. It’s magic.”

She’s one of those artists who makes music because music has had a profound effect on her life, a kind of intensity that lays the framework for everything she does – her music, discovering other local bands through Babe City and even her live performances.

“Performing is my favorite thing, aside from creating. I want to play the most energetic songs. I want to play the most dancy songs. I want to play songs that are chill but that I can translate into being energetic.”

One of Den-Mate’s biggest strengths is the band’s ability to take what’s on record to an otherworldly and raucous live performance.

“There are a few different dimensions of Den-Mate and I think that if people like the music, they should go to the show because you’re going to get a whole other sense of it. Sometimes people listen to a song and think, ‘Oh this is super chill! I’m going to put this on my bedtime playlist.’ And then they get to the show and they’re like, ‘Holy shit, who is this person?’”

Every aspect of Den-Mate is a well-thought-out form of creative expression. Imagery and visuals play an important part too, as Hale tells us her sights are set on eventually creating a visual album to further explore those outlets. But for now, Hale and her bandmates are gearing up for a tour to support Loceke this month. Hale says she’s lucky to be surrounded by and contributing to the strength of the creative world in the District, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel like sometimes the odds are stacked against us in DC, but we’re able to use that to our advantage. People don’t think a lot of things are happening here, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. DC is flourishing with artistic creatives and I think that’s what sets us apart. In DC, people think of the city as being political or monotone, but some of my favorite artists are right here. I think that’s our secret weapon. It’s so hidden.”

What’s not hidden, though, is that Hale’s future is filled with opportunity to shine light on her talent and those of her peers in the District. The release of Loceke and tour dates across the country will surely bring with it more fans and growth beyond what Hale has already accomplished. No matter where that talent takes her, DC will continue to welcome the artist back home with open arms just as before.

Den-Mate will embark on a tour beginning with a stop at Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on Wednesday, November 7. Doors are at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10. Check the band’s social media for updates on local shows. For more on Jules Hale and Den-Mate, follow @imdenmate on Instagram and Twitter. For more on Babe City Records, visit www.babecityrecords.com.

Metro Gallery: 1700 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD; 410-244-0899; www.themetrogallery.net

den-mate.4

Photo: Ray Polanco
Photo: Ray Polanco

The Many Lives of Toro y Moi

Chaz Bear has written, recorded and released music under a host of names over the years, but is perhaps best known for his work as Toro y Moi. One of the most successful names to come out of the chillwave movement in the early 2010s, the Berkeley, California-based musician has done much more than simply be part of the larger scene. The release of his most recent effort as Toro y Moi, Boo Boo, saw a more introspective and stripped-down era for Bear. He’s lent his production talents to some of this year’s most exciting up-and-coming artists like Tanukichan (who’s signed to Bear’s label Company Records, an imprint of DC’s own Carpark Records) and Astronauts, etc. We caught up with the artist ahead of his 9:30 Club show on November 12 to chat chillwave, community and what’s next for one of the hardest working names in music.

On Tap: Your album Boo Boo sounded like a slight departure from the more electronic-influenced sounds of your previous efforts. What were some of the themes surrounding this record?
Chaz Bear:
This record was written in 2016, a time when I was going through a change, and that’s what the record is about. It’s not really about a relationship with another person. It sounds like that, but it’s more of a relationship with society and about how to navigate the world in hectic times.

OT: You came onto the scene during the chillwave zeitgeist in the early 2010s. Were you ever worried about being associated with one of the first trendy blog rock genres? Do you care how people classify your music?
CB: It was never intimidating to be part of the genre. I always felt like it was helpful and useful to be connected to a scene. I’ve always used it to my advantage. It’s definitely easy to want to play into it and satisfy the listeners you have, but my goal with Toro y Moi is to explore as much as possible. I want to grow and explore different types, styles and sonic palettes, whether they be lo-fi sounding or shiny and hi-fi. I think that’s the whole challenge for most, if not all, listeners: to take down those sonic barriers and enjoy music from everywhere – all genres, all qualities.

OT: Your background is in graphic design. Has your work in that field influenced your music at all?
CB:
Graphic design initiated the conversation in my head about taste and style – what I think I want to present and how I want to present myself. That carried on to music as well. Before I got into graphic design, my music was more of the times: emo and post-punk stuff. I never really referenced music from the past until I got into graphic design. It taught me how to achieve and maintain a sense of timelessness.

OT: In addition to your own work as Toro y Moi, you’ve been producing work for artists like Astronauts, etc. and Tanukichan. How does approaching these projects differ from your own solo work?
CB:
When working with new artists, the first thing that I’m drawn to is a person and their actual character. If their music is good on top of that, they become a friend who makes dope music and it’s like, “Oh man, we should make more music together,” and we just go from there. The motivation behind making music with friends comes from the idea of building something together within our community. Everyone on Company Records is based in the Bay Area. It’s a label that’s sort of eclectic in the sense of [having] a lot of different genres. It’s also still very honed in with a community vibe.

OT: Speaking of community, Berkeley recently honored you by declaring June 27 “Chaz Bear Day.” What was it like to be recognized by the city in such a public way?
CB:
That was a really big turning point for me because I hadn’t realized that my presence was so impactful. I needed to truly think about how the city was looking at me and where I wanted to go with this. It was truly flattering, and it still is an amazing thing. It was kind of like more of the city recognizing you for your good work. That’s really all I can do: keep working.

OT: You’re also overseeing the aforementioned Company Records. What are your goals for the label, and how are you choosing who to sign and work with?
CB:
There’s two ways to approach it: working with new and younger acts and working with your peers. Everyone I’m working with, I’ve known them first not as musicians. I like that approach more. I do feel like we’re all around the same age – 20 and 30-somethings – and we all started playing music around the same time. But some of us didn’t get the exposure, so I think bringing up the community is what I’m focusing on and making sure there is a solid, level platform for everyone I’m rising with. It will make the city better, it should make the Bay Area better and inevitably it should make (laughs) everything a little bit nicer.

Toro y Moi will play 9:30 Club on Monday, November 12. Tickets are $25 and doors open at 7 p.m. Follow Bear on Instagram and Twitter @toroymoi. His next album Outer Peace will be released on January 18 via Carpark Records. Learn more at www.toroymoi.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: Courtesy of Jamal Gray
Photo: Courtesy of Jamal Gray

Movers & Shakers: Who’s Behind the Music in DC?

DC’s music scene is an organism in flux. This is not so surprising, with several new venues recently opening – and several closing – and despite the city’s increasing population, it remains a relatively transient town. Still, DMV artists are finding more ways to build community and establish legitimacy on local and national levels, but not without hard work from some individuals behind the music who truly believe in the strength of the District’s musical past and the potential for its future. We caught up with a few of the movers and shakers making an impact on DC music.

Jamal Gray

DC native Jamal Gray is a musician-curator-organizer who founded the Uptown Art House – a creative incubator and activism-focused artists’ space “without borders” – and leads the avant-garde jazz troupe Nag Champa Art Ensemble. His projects often bridge the underground and the conventional in an effort to elevate the whole of DC’s music scene.

On Tap: How did you first come to be involved with music culture in DC?
Jamal Gray:
My personal connection with music is through my parents. They met working at WPFW 89.3FM, which is a local radio station in DC that focuses on jazz and public affairs. Both of my parents are from DC. My dad was a record producer and [eventually] started his own label. I’ve been around music my whole life.

OT: What major changes have you seen in the local music scene in the past 10 years?
JG:
Once things moved more toward [the] Internet, people were moving less toward trying to cultivate a scene and more toward trying to cultivate a persona. That’s where I think we are in music in general, and DC’s just a microcosm of that. A lot of people are spending a lot of energy to cultivate their persona.

OT: With your own music, the collaborations you work on and the performers you support, it seems you’re trying to counterbalance that and keep the “real” in the music. Is this your goal?
JG:
If I’m going to support an artist, I want to know what they’re going to add to the conversation. It’s got to be a dialogue, not a diatribe. You should create from yourself, but not only for yourself. You have to be able to jump inside people’s worlds, especially if you want to make an impact. That’s part of what I’m trying to do – push things forward. Art is always a vehicle for progress or change, because it’s usually the artists that will take that risk before other people. That’s what I’m about.

OT: What do you think DC music needs to push forward?
JG:
There’s a real conversation that has to happen between the artists themselves so we are held to a certain standard, and between the venues and artists so everyone can feel appreciated. A lot of people who want to leave [DC] say there’s no industry here [and] no infrastructure for musicians. I want our community to be globally minded but locally based. People passing through need to know you can come and see good music happening. We need documentation for it – platforms that are invested in the future of it. I’m an advocate, but I’m an artist too. The best thing I can do is continue to push forward good content and experiences, and help build spaces to incubate toward the next level.

OT: What projects are you most excited about right now?
JG:
We are working on a new Nag Champa record. I’m also really excited about my radio show on Full Service Radio called “Late Bloom” that airs live every Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. We feature a mix of new and obscure music, and interviews with locally based artists working to make global impact. The Uptown Art House project is continuing, but as a creative agency for artists, musicians, curators and activists.

Listen to Gray weekly on Full Service Radio at www.thelinehotel.com/full-service-radio and check out Nag Champa and Uptown Art House on Facebook: @nagchampadc and @uptownarthouse.


Photo: Sam Segal

Photo: Sam Segal

Peter Lillis

Not only did Peter Lillis help establish Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House’s success as an intimate venue in Adams Morgan focused on local musicians, he’s part of the team behind independent record label Babe City Records, a member of DC-based band Den-Mate, and the marketing manager for Union Stage.

On Tap: You have been involved in many facets of the DC music scene for several years and taken on new roles as the energy has shifted. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Peter Lillis
: In the past five years and perhaps longer, DC was the center of the DIY music and house show scene and really focused on doing shows in nontraditional venues. I got involved around that time, around 2014 or so. I began throwing shows at similar places. I was inspired by the idea of active participation. I got disillusioned by the idea of covering music and wanted to be in bands and put on shows. It took me a few years of doing that to realize I wanted more, and the DIY community was a great opportunity to dive into that. I was inspired by everybody’s personal and communal interest [in] bettering themselves and the scene. There was an exciting movement happening.

OT: Do you think the DIY era is over?
PL:
There’s still a good amount of it, but DC is not getting more affordable. The spaces that were central to that experience are gone now – torn down or renovated and sold. But for me and my colleagues at the other collectives, everyone seems to have upped their game. DC has done a better job of investing in nightlife and entertainment options for people. There’s a lot of money and young people and new options for performers. The Wharf where I am now with Union Stage is a great space for people to play. Songbyrd does great work engaging locals. [Dangerously Delicious Pies] is open on H Street. The house show arc was necessary to get us here. We all got the practice we needed to develop empathy for promoters and bookers. The DIY concept doesn’t need to be confined to people’s homes; it’s not mutually exclusive from commercial venues. The fact that they are going away just means we’ve built something that people want, which is encouraging.

OT: You organize industry panels and meetups. What is the purpose of those?
PL:
When we opened Union Stage, [owners] the Brindley brothers had a very welcoming attitude, which is kind of rare. We concocted this effort to directly engage the music community and see what it would bring. The central idea is to give people a platform to meet and talk and see how everybody works together. The music industry is very connections-based. That can make it difficult for people who don’t have the knowledge or resources to be involved but want to be and are talented and motivated. The meetups and platforms we’ve organized have that in mind. It’s been successful so far, [but] there’s a lot of work left to be done. The city could support local arts in a more effective way. The only way we can communicate that to decision-makers is through collective action, so this is a small effort at doing that. We give people the initial tools and contacts to grow their business while keeping it concerted and learning from the community itself, and we can get feedback and learn how to run our business better.

OT: What do you think is unique about DC as a local musician?
PL:
It’s a somewhat small city but [a] very big media market, so it’s somewhat easy to navigate compared to some of the more entertainment industry cities where there’s a ton of noise. You can meet people and there’s a scrappy attitude, but being the city it is, we get more eyeballs and cred than a city of a similar size in a different location. [It’s] advantageous for local artists to live in our area and be able to play in Baltimore, Philly, NYC, Richmond – you can play any of those places and still be home in your bed at the end of the night. People need to get out of town and start evangelizing the community here, and that’s the only way we’ll become effective on the national, international level.

Join the DC Music Industry group on Facebook to get involved in Lillis’s community efforts. Learn more about Union Stage at www.unionstage.com and Babe City Records artists, including Den-Mate, at www.babecityrecords.com.


Photo: Alicia Raft

Photo: Alicia Raft

Sasha Lord

Sasha Lord has promoted, partnered and worked with numerous groups in the DMV. She has also managed tours for several artists, booking shows abroad and traveling with the musicians. Now based in Brooklyn, Lord is currently GM of the Market Hotel (Brooklyn) and Trans-Pecos (Queens) while remaining the primary booker at Connecticut Avenue-based music venue Comet Ping Pong.

On Tap: How did you get into the business of artist promotion?
Sasha Lord:
I have a background in community outreach and working with at-risk populations. I worked for an outdoor leadership school and I’ve always been community-oriented. In college, I worked at Black Cat and then got the opportunity to [work] at Comet Ping Pong. I also have a background working with people with disabilities, and that’s why I tried to make Comet as accessible as possible. I’ve combined my professional background and community work with my love of music to make a diverse, accessible venue for all ages.

OT: What did you see at Comet, in terms of artists and audiences?
SL:
Comet is beautiful because it’s very much a community. We have a variety of promoters so we have a broad range of types, ages, genres and diversity in music – and that makes it a unique space. My shows will sometimes have an older demographic [while] other promoters have a younger [demographic]. It’s very well-rounded and community-oriented.

OT: What should venue operators and promoters do to elevate DC as city where musicians want to come but also pay attention to the artists who are already here?
SL:
Taking care of artists and being mindful of their needs is crucial. Over the past 10 years booking [at] Comet, I was able to go to festivals [and] tour with people. I curated a showcase at South by Southwest, helped with two events [at] Art Basel and [participated in] art fairs. I toured so I could be a better promoter. It made me realize that Comet is a really good venue, and we’re really good to artists. It made me understand what touring artists go through when they arrive. Maybe they’re exhausted, maybe they spent their last $20 on the Baltimore [Harbor] Tunnel, maybe they’re hungry [and] slept on someone’s floor. I didn’t think about those things until going on tour. I realized how hard it is. So when bands show up, be mindful. I feel for the most part, most of the venues in DC do a good job at that.

OT: Now that you are based in New York, how will you stay involved in DC music?
SL:
I have shows booked at Comet through April and plan to continue to book there. A lot of bands reach out to me now wanting to be booked in both NYC and DC, and it’s awesome that I’m able to do that. I recently booked [80s indie band Beat Happening’s] Calvin Johnson in DC and New York, and have some other things in the works for the next year. I’m cultivating and curating in both cities, so bands will know that they’ll get a good experience at [multiple shows]. I’m not leaving DC. I’m hoping to contribute even more by bridging the cities together.

Read about Lord and her projects at www.sashalordpresents.com and learn more about Comet Ping Pong’s winter lineup at www.cometpingpong.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Ezra Furman
Photo: Courtesy of Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman is Excited About Lunch

Tomorrow, punk-ebullient artist Ezra Furman comes to U Street Music Hall with ex-Deerhunters and ex-Carnivores, Omni. Furman is still touring his 2018 record Transangelic Exodus, a work that rings of inspirations like Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen. However, his take on Americana is queer and it’s the good time we’ve been looking for.

Furman played a wild show at Rock & Roll Hotel last March, one of the funnest I’ve been to, so I jumped at the chance to talk to him, even if only via email. Furman was a fun pen pal though, and I got to ask him about his latest single, a cover of Vampire Weekend’sUnbelievers,” touring life and what excites him (SPOILERS: LUNCH! Also, Furman’s “Unbelievers” kicks the ass out of Vampire Weekend’s original. The difference is that you can tell he’s having a ball.)

On Tap: Tell me about this current tour. How long have you been on the road?
Ezra Furman: Technically this is day three of the tour. But to accurately answer this question, I have to tell you about how tours seem to run together. One ends and you begin preparing for the next one immediately. One begins and it seems like the last one never ended. This is day three of the tour, but also I have been touring for 12 years. It’s a ragged and beautiful tour. It’s a lot of work and often incredibly satisfying, especially in the evenings.

OT: Is the upcoming show the only one you’re going to play with Omni?
EF: No! We started on tour with them last night in Columbus, Ohio. They are playing all eight of these shows with us and I’m delighted about it because they are quite good.

OT: How did you get connected with Omni?
EF: Someone recommended them, can’t remember who. I’d heard of them but not heard their music. I loved it, they were down to do some shows together, and lo, a terrible beauty is born.

OT: Let’s talk about your latest release, because I didn’t see a Vampire Weekend cover coming. Why this song?
EF: First of all, because it’s a very good song from one of my favorite albums of the decade. Second of all, because it’s a song in dialogue with religion, which I am always in dialogue with. I have such a push and pull with my religion, Judaism. I love it so much and find it so fascinating, and also, it often bites, burns [and] rejects me. It’s an untrained dog made of fire. Sometimes I just feel like screaming about it, which this cover gave me the chance to do. Third of all, I could hear the punk song buried inside the Vampire Weekend version. I wanted to dig it up because lately I am persistently in the mood to play punk rock.

OT: Do you play covers often?
EF: Yes. I love playing great songs. Also, I think it helps a band become better – to have some standard of excellence, to study great songs, to see how they’re made and what makes them work. We’ve covered tons of artists: Beck, Kate Bush, the Velvet Underground, Arcade Fire, Little Richard, Madonna [and] more. It’s delicious.

OT: How do you incorporate covers into your practice?
EF: We rehearse them and create our own version and then we play them live. Once in a while we record them. We made an EP of covers a couple of years ago called Songs By Others. I think it’s only on vinyl – there might be CDs. It might not be online.

OT: Do know Vampire Weekend personally? Hear any feedback from them?
EF: My old band and I (Ezra Furman and the Harpoons) heard about them in 2007; they were a college band like us and we were talking about doing shows together. We were messaging on MySpace, I think. Anyways, they put out their first album and blew up so we never played with them. I met them briefly some time around then and we’ve sent some Twitter messages, but we don’t know each other. I heard they liked our cover.

OT: Are you working on any more music?
EF: Always. Been writing and recording punk songs. [It’s] very satisfying. I hope to show you them sometime.

OT: Let’s talk a little about DC. I saw you last time you were at Rock & Roll Hotel. Is there anything that you like to do while in town?
EF: We tend to blow in to town, sound check, have dinner and play music, and then blow on toward the next show. We don’t get a lot of time. But last time we had a night off. It was Shabbat, and I went to services and dinner at a great Jewish congregation called Sixth & I. I highly recommend it, if that’s your sort of thing or even if it might be.

OT: What have you got coming up that you’re excited about?
EF: I’m having lunch really soon and I’m so excited. I get excited about very mundane things sometimes. They’re just amazing.

Furman will be at U Street Music Hall Thursday, November 1 at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. Don’t miss the party. And don’t miss post-punk trio Omni either.

U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; 202-588-1889; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Photo: Jim McGuire
Photo: Jim McGuire

Banjo Legend Béla Fleck Part of Terrific Trio

With 16 Grammy Awards to his name, Béla Fleck is not your average banjo player. He’s known throughout the world for redefining the instrument, and sits proudly in the American Banjo Hall of Fame alongside notable players like Jim Henson, Steve Martin and Pete Seeger.

“I first heard the banjo on the Beverly Hillbillies theme,” Fleck says about the bluegrass stylings of banjoist Earl Scruggs, who famously played the tune. “Something about the sound hooked me as a little kid, and then my grandfather unexpectedly got me one just before high school. I became obsessed and still am.”

In 1973, Fleck began at New York City’s High School of Music and Art where he studied the instrument seriously. It didn’t take him long to discover he’d play the banjo for the rest of his life.

“I took no steps to do anything else once I got into it, so there was no escape,” he continues. “No colleges were submitted to, I trained for no jobs. I just came out of high school and right into bands. I was fortunate that my mom was surprised and distracted with a new baby when I was a senior in high school, otherwise I never could have gotten away with it.”

His group Béla Fleck and the Flecktones have been touring for 30 years and have released a plethora of music, most famously, the landmark three-disc Little Worlds. Recently, Fleck also moved into the teaching side, inspiring future youngsters to pursue the instrument professionally.

“I’ve just returned to teaching after not doing it for many years. I just hosted my first banjo camp  The Blue Ridge Banjo Camp – and it went very well, with 100 students.”

On November 10, Fleck will join forces with bassist Edgar Meyer and tabla performer Zakir Hussain for a trio performance presented by Washington Performing Arts at GW’s Lisner Auditorium. While each member of the group is expected to play some solo pieces, Fleck notes there won’t be any individual sets as they’ll perform as a band.

“We are adding a wild card this time: an incredible bansuri player named Rakesh Churasia. The music will be sometimes beautiful and sometimes very exciting. There will be a strong groove, with Zakir’s incredible percussive abilities, and a lot of melody and warmth coming from Edgar’s bowed bass and the rich sounds of the flute. And I’ll be fitting my banjo in there somewhere in the middle.”

The trio has known each other for awhile and play together periodically.

“Rakesh is new to the group, but Edgar and I go way way back, and Zakir and Edgar and I go back 10 years or longer. We got together to create a triple concerto to celebrate the opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony. After that, we loved playing together and toured quite a bit with the trio.”

They even found time to record The Melody of Rhythm: Triple Concerto & Music for Trio in 2009. The tour marks the first time they’ll reunite on stage since 2013.

“I would say that Edgar and Zakir have both impacted my music making immensely,” he says. “I can learn from everyone, and that always keeps me intrigued and on my toes.”

Once the tour ends in December, Fleck will start performing again with his wife, clawhammer banjoist Abigail Fleck, who recently gave birth to their second child in June. Together, the two won the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk album.

“I have lots of things brewing, too early to say much, except more touring with the Flecktones and Chick Corea. There is something very powerful about the experience of improvising in front of an audience. There are things that I can only pull off in front of a crowd. They are part of the collaboration.”

Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain will play the Lisner Auditorium on Saturday, November 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40-$50. Learn more about the performance here, and about Fleck here.

Lisner Auditorium: 730 21st St. NW, DC; 202-994-6800; www.lisner.gwu.edu

Photo: Courtesy of St. Pete Holland
Photo: Courtesy of St. Pete Holland

New Single from an Artist to Watch: St. Pete Holland’s “Different Hymn”

Every now and then, dads are right.

Last March, mine told me to check out a new musician – a friend’s son – who had a song on Spotify. Yeah, yeah, sure okay, Dad. Since when did he know what Spotify was?

A month or so later, I needed a procrastination aid and finally got around to looking up, Who was it? [scrolls through emails] St. Pete Holland. By this point, the song Dad had referenced evolved into a seven-track EP entitled Seven Deadly Hymns, which included that first studio-finished single “Yours and Mine.”

Preparing to be underwhelmed by another Romeo and Juliet ballad, I hit the play button on “Capulets.” I was not underwhelmed. In fact, I was kind of whelmed. A whistled intro led me into a perfect little not-love song.

Folksy but not folk and with a little bit of funk, St. Pete Holland is exactly what you want from a modern acoustic act out of Nashville. There is sweet naiveté in the lyrics and singalong beat, but clean progression, clever transformations and educated instrumental references make the earnestness more alluring than maudlin.

A combination of songwriting and guitar skills and a voice tinged with The Fray’s Isaac Slade and The Tallest Man on Earth won the act’s lead – who at the moment goes only by his musical moniker St. Pete/Pete Holland – Demolition Music’s 2017 Nashville Songwriters Competition.

It was also in Nashville where he met the other two core performers on the Seven Deadly Hymns EP, Jackson Bruck (Dukes of Hume) and Patrick Fuller (son of country rock’s Craig Fuller). “Nashville is incredible,” St. Pete says. “It’s porch-sitting. It’s open and vulnerable unlike anywhere else I’ve lived – NYC, Philly, London, L.A…”

St. Pete says he knows what he’s supposed to be doing is music, and soon enough, it’s going to be his main focus.

“When I was about 13, I started playing the guitar. I had stumbled on a Led Zeppelin remastered box set. I went crazy with it and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I just wanted to be Jimmy Page.”

While his personal style has veered away from Zeppelin, the musician says to be a good songwriter you have to listen to what inspires you. By listening, and paying attention to the ideas that float by, he can sit down and build a song from the inside out to “come up with something that has a pulse when it’s done.”

“I wrote 100 songs in Nashville. Now it’s time to record.”

He has done a bit of recording recently – the latest single from St. Pete Holland, “Different Hymn,” dropped today.

St. Pete is currently based in Los Angeles, but frequently travels back east for musical collaboration (and because we all know that “best coast” thing is bullshit). Take a listen. Maybe we can get him to swing through the District.

For more information on St. Pete Holland and Seven Deadly Hymns, click here.

Photo: Dan Ball
Photo: Dan Ball

Unheralded Lucero Soldiers on through 9:30 Club

Lucero‘s upcoming concert at 9:30 Club will hopefully serve as a reminder of how hard longevity is for rock bands and why the accomplishment is worth celebrating. Returning to their “home away from home,” Lucero will feature new literary songs fashioned by solo singer and lyricist, Ben Nichols, who has written their heartbreaking hits since the band’s inception in 1998.

For 20 years, Lucero has toured under the radar, serenading listeners across the country. Even with 12 albums under their belt, Lucero sometimes sees blank expressions when their name is mentioned. Fortunately, this does not deter them from traveling year-round for an ever-growing following throughout the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

The band’s current lifespan was unexpected for the four-piece band.

“I didn’t think it would last, but I had this romanticized idea of starting a rock and roll band and piling in a van and traveling the country,” Nichols says. “I never planned on changing the world or becoming The Beatles. I just wanted to be one of those garage bands that get in a van and play punk rock shows.”

Despite playing for two decades, the band doesn’t lament mainstream notoriety, as Nichols humbly insists, “we are not a slick, professional-type band. We have shot ourselves in the foot numerous times, probably. Poor decision making here and there.”

“I think there are only certain music listeners that are going to appreciate what we do,” he continues. “It’s not for the general public, even though our crowds keep growing. It’s never going to be mainstream; we don’t want to be.”

Content with their status in the music industry, Lucero prides themselves on maintaining artistic integrity.

“We are a small business, a working band,” Nichols says. “We’re not rich and famous, but we get to do what we love doing, and we’re paying the bills [while] doing it. We ended up exactly where we wanted to be.”

Nichols’ life has traditionally provided much of the inspiration for the band’s often emotional music. However, the latest album Among the Ghosts features a generally fictional narrative drawn from books and old war letters.

“I wanted to become a better songwriter,” Nichols says. “It’s easy to write down a diary entry and have raw emotions spill out on the page, which works sometimes, but we’ve done a lot of that in the past.”

The reach of the new LP is broader, meant to connect with different listeners.

“There’s a song, ‘To My Dearest Wife,’ [and] it’s kind of about a soldier being far from home and writing back home to his wife,” Nichols explains. “There’s an impending battle, and he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He says [in the letter] kiss our baby girls.”

“There are things I can relate to in this song that aren’t about me,” he continues. “Obviously, I’m not a soldier. I’m not in a war anywhere, but being gone from home is tough. I have a two year-old baby daughter back home, and it’s a different kind of heartbreak being on tour now.”

For a time, Lucero was touring 200-250 shows a year, but has recently scaled back to an average of about 140 per year.

Though the style and years have changed Lucero, their tone has largely remained unchanged.

“I like old rock and roll songs,” Nichols says. “There’s nothing wrong with songs about girls, songs about having a good time. I do a little bit of that, but I like dark, sad songs too.”

To engage their following, Nichols constantly strives for consistent resonance between the band and fans.

“Writing these songs have really gotten me through some tough times,” Nichols says. “To hear from those who have been through tough times and hearing that our music helps [is] big. Hearing about soldiers in Afghanistan… and it helps get them through, those are very nice stories to hear.”

Even though Lucero has accomplished more than they originally set out to, the band still has more goals for the future.

“I would love to have Stevie Nicks’ voice on some of the stuff we’ve written,” Nichols says. “Especially with the Among the Ghost record, her voice would actually fit right in there perfectly. That would be a dream come true.”

Lucero will perform at 9:30 Club on October 14. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at www.930.com.

Learn more about the band here and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @luceromusic.

9:30 Club: 815 V St NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com