I will sometimes put on slower Justin Townes Earle songs (especially “Unfortunately Anna” as of late) when I’m in a sad place. Call it emotional abuse, but it’s more listening to something that speaks the language of your moment. And JTE has been speaking regularly.
I miss him dearly. I never knew him, I saw him in concert twice, but he’s another part of a prior world that was better when he was in it. I will always cherish the moment I saw him walking down a Buffalo, NY sidewalk, a giant slink of a man. He exuded the nature of a musician, and coming from where I was born…. that was cool as hell. And what I wanted more of in my life.
Mac Miller brings the same emotions for me, even though he was gone by the time I began investigating his work with modern classic albums Swimming and Circles. But you must understand, I seem to have a type with musicians that way. Warren Zevon was much the same, I knew him only briefly before he too disappeared into the ether.
But Zevon made me into everything I have ever loved about music, and I’d never be the same without that chance as I came into my own. Another love for a recipient who won’t ever know. But he’s one of many I so desperately needed.
That love is still deep and meaningful. Like passing the torch; I’m not forgetting any of this melodic love you’ve given me just by spreading your wealth of talent. I’m just glad of the moments.
Queens of the Stone Age return June 16th with their latest full length LP dubbed In Times New Roman…, their first release since 2017’s stellar Villains. I’ve yet to hear the full picture of this album as of yet given we have a few more weeks before release day but suffice to say new single “Carnevoyeur” is lining up alongside “Emotion Sickness” to already make this a massive sounding album.
“Emotion Sickness” already began as a quick kick in the tail, finding lead singer Josh Homme approaching from through a screen door and across the room, humming before letting loose his trademark roar. What I’ve especially enjoyed about QOTSA as they’ve aged is their continued ability to not only be full of melodic earworms, but to build layers into their work. “Emotion Sickness” has that six string throwdown, but also approaches a David Bowie-like harmony section. Its like the Ringo Starr feeling drums on “Vampyre of Time and Memory”, there are twists and turns here.
And that’s certainly the case with new single “Carnavoyeur”, which begins as a series of bleeps and bloops on the keyboard before launching into a dark rocking dirge. Not that it forgets the softer sides either, as Troy Van Leeuwen’s drums pace the harder moments as easily the lyrically contemplative. Though once again its hard to keep the spotlight away from Homme, whose distinctive sinuous falsetto guides both of these songs and keeps the mood invitational. There’s enough face-melting guitar tone to attract the diehards, while also holding true to plenty of melody along the way.
Duane Betts might be a new name to many listeners, though his musical pedigree is undeniable as the son of Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts. That’s a large mantle to carry, though Betts has proved himself capable of the challenge, most notably in his pair up with Gregg Allman’s kid Devon Allman in the Allman Betts Band. As the 2023 term goes though, there isn’t an ounce of “nepo baby” in either of these artists performing in a band with such tall, notable influences looming in the background.
Rather, this duo succeeds just as well together as apart in forging their own paths, and Betts takes some time in 2023 to release his soon to drop debut solo LP “Wild & Precious Life” as further evidence of that. Two songs have thus far been released from the upcoming release called “Waiting on a Song” and “Stare at the Sun”, the latter of which features a memorable turn on the six stringed axe from the one and only Derek Trucks.
As for the songs themselves, each proves a steady slice of Americana rock, with “Waiting on a Song” acting as a steady-beat rave-up country workout, while “Staring at the Sun” is elevated by the swell of instrumentation as well as the guitar work of both Betts and Trucks. Both will succeed in making your foot tap, and if not, I’d be checking your pulse just to make sure.
I know it’s only the second song released from their upcoming collaboration for a (presumably) full-length as-yet-untitled-LP, but singer/rapper Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge appear to have done it again on their newly-released NxWorries song “Daydreaming”.
The duo had delivered plenty of experimentalist intrigue with their 2016 R&B leaning soul debut “Yes Lawd!”, and they showed no signs of slowing down earlier this year with the H.E.R.-featuring single “Where I Go”. “Daydreaming” takes the same notions of romanticism and puts them through an edgier blend of spacey 80’s rock guitar courtesy of axeman Jairus Moizee and lyrics representing “Bonnie & Clyde, like its 2003”. It gives similar vibes to Kid Cudi’s grunge influences on his “Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven” album, though .Paak is his own smooth criminal compared to Cudi when he gets behind the microphone.
In addition to having a golden touch between his solo career, NxWorries, Silk Sonic, and even his early days of Breezy Lovejoy, .Paak is the ever-charismatic figure who can carry the focal point of almost any project. Not to say he’s cutting the folk-polka album next, but I’ve long trusted in the groove he’s been on. Putting him with a producer like Knxwledge is just icing on the cake. If the rumors of the long awaited Mac Miller/Madlib tape is true, 2023 might just be one of the best years of great rappers beefing up on great tapes with fantastic producers.
All images courtesy of Google. Check out each single down below.
Shelton, Connecticut is the site of our latest foray into this ever-exciting phenomenon we call music. And today is particularly fun because A: I love a good interview, and B: I love getting to speak with artists doing things I’ve never had the privilege of highlighting on this blog before now. We’ve already featured the band The Inside Out a few posts ago in their superb show diary at Beeracks, but now we’re gonna focus on something else two of the members (Zach Stout and James Howard) are involved in along with Nick Howard.
The trio are owners of the Connecticut-based indie record label they’ve dubbed Black Barrel Records. I immediately jumped on the chance to ask these guys a couple of questions about owning/running a record label as the workings of one have always been fascinating to me. And while I’ve never viewed music as a sort of conveyor-ed factory floor process, it’s a curious thing to see how the sausage gets made at every stopping point. From the first notes at a band practice to how each melody gets out there to the masses.
Luckily, Zach, Nick and James were kind enough to answer some of my questions! Check out the interview and once you’re done head to the links below to find out more about Black Barrel and what they’re up to!
So how does a record label like Black Barrel get started, how do you make it come together?
James: We’ve put a lot of our mutual and different experiences in the music scene together, and we wanted to create something we can really stand behind that places the artists’ needs at the highest priority. We wanted a homebase for everything we were trying to accomplish. We hand designed and built our HQ and in-house recording studio. It all comes together with help from other peers of ours in the scene, friends and family, and most importantly the musicians we surround ourselves with.
As musicians first, what was the biggest adjustment about heading up a record label compared to focusing solely on the musical side?
Zach: Owning and operating a record label is a clearly completely different ball game than being solely a musician, but the latter greatly aids me in the former. Working in this new capacity has allowed me to further hone my communication skills with fellow artists and has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for different styles artists use for song development. Aside from the musical aspects of running a label, there’s always a lot of organization, innovation, and general upkeep involved to keep things running smoothly.
What’s the process like scouting/signing new talent and running your day to day? Especially with three of you and three different voices in the room?
James: We are really looking for professionalism and raw talent when we’re prospecting. Running our day to day has become a part of my full-time schedule here, especially with running our in-house studio.
Zach: We’ve started building our team with some interns, and hopefully in the future we’ll be bringing on some more and continue to keep on growing!
Now I’ve read that you have a recording studio rolled into this endeavor as well, what is a recording experience like for a band coming into Black Barrel? What is that space like to give our readers an idea?
Zach: I’m proud to have hand-built a thoughtfully designed recording studio utilizing years of theoretical and applied acoustical knowledge. It’s safe to say that we swing well above our weight in terms of sonic quality, equipment selection, and engineering expertise compared to many other local studios. The experience of recording at Black Barrel from an artist or band’s perspective has been described as a welcoming, custom-tailored, productive experience. Aesthetically, our four rooms have a unique feeling to them, each designed with an intended range of functionality. Our live room has woody tones with two shiplap walls, a custom SJC drum kit, and a high-end PA system. Our lounge sports a chesterfield couch, natural lighting from windows, and a large TV with a soundbar and sub perfect for playing music videos on. Our control room is the most modern looking room with its angled walls and ceiling, a beautiful desk filled with state-of-the-art outboard gear, and Focal monitors. Lastly, our acoustically-dead isolation booth provides an ideally articulate environment for vocalists. Of course, we have a couple full-sized barrels lying around in our lounge and live room.
Where do you see Black Barrel heading going forward, what projects are on the horizon?
Nick: I see the future of Black Barrel Records being focused on multiple endeavors that anyone artistically interactive can find personal vision in. In regards to music specifically, we intend to branch out into different locations down the line, but treat Shelton like our main objective area as it is growing in its current state. With other areas in the CT scene popping up, we want to be able to transport artists that work with us to concerts at the corners of our state and across tour-bound distances. That way, the music reaches an abundance of audiences. As BBR expands as a brand in the artistic space, people can surely look to it as a place to help them achieve their goals.
And what’s next for The Inside Out?
James: What’s next for the group is constantly changing with our schedules and how busy we can get, but I can definitely say we have new music and a tour lined up for this year. We’re looking forward to only getting busier!
Thanks again to James, Nick, and Zach for answering my questions for this interview! Check out our Beeracks post I linked to at the top of the page with The Inside Out, and check out the Black Barrel Instagram and website below!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first made landfall in my neck of the woods sometime around March 2020, the landscape of the world around me has irrevocably changed despite the efforts of many to refocus that now-warped glass. And this effect has also swept up concerts, which isn’t exactly surprising when they tend to consist of large, huddled together groups of sweaty people. But the slight germaphobe in me digresses.
Point being, despite some changes I don’t get to go to shows and experience the joy of them nearly as much as I used to anymore. So, I’m glad to get swept off into a bit of that nostalgia with this tour diary entry I present to you below from Connecticut-based indie rock outfit The Inside Out. They played a recent concert earlier this March near their home base at a placed called The Beeracks supporting their new album “No Brains, No Blood.” (Spotify in the hyperlink). But without further ado, let me let them tell you all about it.
MEET THE BAND
Hey, we’re the CT indie/alt rock band The Inside Out! Pictured left to right, we’re Zach Stout (lead guitar/vocals), John Landino (bass/vocals), Andi Wright (drums), and James Howard (guitar/lead vocals).
We’re here to share our night at The Beeracks in East Haven, CT on Saturday 3/11/2023. It was an album release party for the band Aunts, who we had the pleasure of meeting last year during a When We Were Young-Fest themed show in New Haven, CT. We made a lot of new friends during this Beeracks show, as we met and shared the stage with the artists of Lighthouse, Sober Bill, and Shagohod for the first time. We were hyped to discover new music and play to a fresh audience, and we had such a great time!
We started off our Saturday at rehearsal. We usually don’t rehearse the day of, but our schedules ended up clashing that week so we woke up, had coffee, and headed to the studio for an early (for us) practice at the crack of 1:00pm. We’re lucky to have a sick setup at Black Barrel Records in Shelton, CT to rehearse, write music, and occasionally play shows. We quickly ran through our set to make sure any rust from the past week was gone, and then we packed up our gear and headed to the venue.
We hadn’t played at The Beeracks brewery / local music scene venue since our first time there, which was over a year ago for a Christmas show in 2021. We immediately noticed a bunch of improvements to the sound and lighting that made us extra hyped for the evening. Our first Beeracks show was awesome, so this one was bound to be even better. After loading in our gear and grabbing some food and a beer, we couldn’t wait for our time to play.
We found a perfect place to set up our merch table: right next to pallets of kegs and a gigantic stack of unlabelled tallboys. It was dark af in that corner, though, so good thing we brought our glowing head and tea candles that lowkey turn our setup into an alchemy table. For legal reasons we can’t promise our merch is enchanted with magical powers, but we won’t deny it either… you’ll just have to see for yourself.
We were second to last to play, so we had a bunch of time to just rock out to the other bands. There was a great turnout and the audience had a welcoming vibe. Since the stage was in an actual brewery warehouse, the disco ball stood out and set a cool mood, throwing lights all around the big open space and reflecting off of beer cans and metal vats.
Individual band member pics – credit: @moolignon on IG
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
From the get-go we were stoked to be playing right before the headlining act, Aunts. Whoever was on lighting tech duty that night was absolutely nailing it, and it was cool to be on a raised stage instead of the warehouse floor like last time we played this venue. We mostly played songs off of our latest album, No Brains, No Blood., namely the title track and our single “Figure Me Out”. We were also able to sneak in our two favorite cover songs as well as an unreleased song that we’re currently writing/recording for our next album called “Mr. Arrogant”.
No show is 100% perfect, but this one went smoothly overall. There were some funny hiccups though, like when James realized he really had to pee right after set up/line check and we had to take a quick breather before starting our first song. Also as we started playing our last song, we realized John was still changing basses and was frantically plugging in as the rest of us played the intro to “Constant Headache” by Joyce Manor. That’s the unique side to live music that can’t be replaced; all’s well that ends well, and we definitely had an awesome time up there.
After our set we ventured over to the bar, where we found terpene-infused beer – aka weed beer. James grabbed the Grandaddy Purps and John got the Tangie strain (yuuum). Andi had a raspberry sour and Zach went for a belgian tripel. We rocked out to Aunts’ whole album start to finish, and then we came back to the bar to play the notorious “ring game”. Andi got it on the first try more than once, but she’s not bragging…
As we headed out we said goodbye to the last guy at the bar, but he wasn’t looking too hot… The bartender said not to worry, though, he’s a regular.
At the end of the day we sold some merch, made new friends and fans, had tasty beer, listened to amazing music, and had lots of fun. Successful show in the books!
Thanks so much for joining us on our day at The Beeracks! To listen to our album, No Brains, No Blood., watch our music videos, grab some merch, or follow us on Instagram, you can find it all at this link: https://linktr.ee/theinsideout Hope to see you at a future show!
Thanks so much to The Inside Out for offering their time, show experience and plenty of great photos! Again, check out their album “No Brains, No Blood.” on Spotify and their website listed above. Thanks again!
I often sit here looking at the blue screen and flickering cursor, wishing I could craft a masterpiece in words as readily as a painter paints or a carpenter shapes. Something if I had my way that would be… defining yet real, verbose yet relatable (that description worked way better in my head AND had a British accent).
But I’ve never had that sixth sense, that grand scheme of a master plan to “call my shot”. I simply write what I feel when I come here to talk music. Though more often than not nowadays I’m internally awash with fear, which means I’m not writing much at all.
We can be our own worst enemies in the grips of what we struggle to control. Especially when it becomes about handling the fate of our own destinies. I’m among the many battling that beast, and some days prove more difficult than others. I feel it’s wrong to even say I’m tired, but I’m tired right now and struggling to acknowledge being in the slump of a low. Of feeling like nothing and nothing good.
But, maybe nothing is also the best foundation to restart from in order to build something better. My great grandfather Lloyd and his brother were exhibiting chicken farmers in their youth, and they came of humble beginnings. Lloyd found that he liked to talk and give speeches as sort of a hobby during downtime from these activities. One day in his teens, a neighbor spied him standing on a box delivering an impassioned plea to an empty field.
The neighbor told Lloyd’s father (who was greatly amused), suggesting he might eventually make for being in politics. This eventually came to pass, with my great grandfather serving as a mayor during a working career that also included taxi driver, courier, alderman, a milk company inside man and railroad worker.
These were many hard-earned accomplishments for a man who once wrote that his decision to leave school after 10th grade was his greatest mistake. I may have eclipsed him with pieces of paper in learning, but I feel miles from the type of proudly obtained road I care to be on. Not that he wasn’t forced to improvise during times of illness/poor economy, but Lloyd often seemed… content. Yes times could be hard, but he was so grateful to have seen and experienced so much in his years.
I can only hope to say the same when it comes my time to find the end of the line. I have not yet had the fortunate wings of such a grace.
Regardless, I’m here forever learning with a blast off. Whether music or otherwise.
Burnout is a term that’s only grown in relevancy since the COVID-19 pandemic entered humanity’s worldview. I picture burnout as the Opera’s mysterious Phantom; covertly sly in the parlors of mental exhaustion as it quietly adds to the brain burden. You don’t see it coming, or at least I never did.
In my mind I thought burnout required massive amounts of exhaustion brought on by a dogged fight with piles of important work. But as I’ve learned now, those feelings can manifest through a variety of triggers both large and small. I deal with such issues to this day, which is why I appreciate those who’ve felt the burnout and can offer advice on potentially easing it.
Enter musician and previous OTBEOTB feature Andrew Thomases. He and the lovely people at Muddy Paw PR have put together a great feature on the subject of salving burnout that I’m so pleased to share with you below! -C
Bay Area-based conscious rocker Andrew Thomases is not only a talented singer-songwriter, but an experienced attorney as well. He has always had a passion for music, but he put that passion on hold to develop a career and raise a family. In the midst of the pandemic, his love was reignited, and he reveals his journey back to music in his new single “Exploring.”
Thomases takes on themes of empowerment and curiosity in the song. Through it, he encourages listeners to be adventurous again and try something they’ve always wanted to do. It is a powerful reminder to make the most out of life, something that he often advocates for. Read his story below on how the process of making music helped him escape burnout and reinvigorated him throughout the pandemic.
As you may know, I am a 54-year-old attorney by day, and I have been practicing law for 27 years. So, I have had my run-ins with burnout. Whether it’s the tedium of work or the hardships of life, sometimes you just feel like you are stuck in a rut.
How do I overcome this? I challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone by learning new things, meeting new people, and traveling to new places. I love exploring all aspects of life, so I want to make sure the sense of adventure is always present. Planning a trip gives me something to look forward to. Meeting new people gives me new perspectives on life. And, learning new things keeps the mind active.
For me, the last one is the most important. I have loved music since I was really young, and I started playing bass guitar when I was about 10 years old. I played in cover bands throughout high school, college, and law school, and once in a while, I would try my hand at writing a few bars of music for a new song. However, I never really sat down to write a whole song or even learn how to do so. Then, mid-life hit, and that coincided with the pandemic, which gave me more free time outside of work. So, I dusted off my bass, bought a new guitar, and taught myself how to play chords and melodies. I watched tons of videos on music theory and playing guitar. I realized how invigorating it was to learn new things. I began looking forward to finishing up work for a day so I could turn to making music. I even found some lyrics I had written decades ago and began building a song around those.
I also taught myself music recording and production on my home iMac. Lots of tutorial videos online, and lots of trial and error. Again, it was a challenge, but I enjoyed the process of gaining new knowledge.
At first, I recorded a very personal song about my dad’s passing during the pandemic and sent it around to family and close friends. I was reluctant to send the song to folks, because I was really putting myself out there – both because of the personal nature of the song and because it was the first time I played and sang one of my original songs for anyone else. I was pleasantly surprised that I received positive feedback and encouragement to create more music. Again, if I hadn’t put myself out there and explored something outside my comfort zone, I might have never continued in my music writing endeavor.
But, I dove in with a passion. I had some guitar licks in my head, some song ideas that were kicking around, and some chord progressions that sounded cool. I looked forward to working on them each evening and on the weekends. It was great to have something exciting to turn to each day. My music-making got me off the proverbial couch. Much less TV watching, and much less surfing the internet. I was creating, learning, stretching, and experimenting. It was great.
The positive reception has certainly been rewarding. It has also revealed to me that a new interest or hobby has tremendous benefits. It has been great for my psyche and other parts of my life. I no longer feel stuck in a rut. If I contemplate something new that may be outside of my usual routine, I now relish doing it rather than worrying if it would be uncomfortable or frustrating. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones that take a bit of exploring and challenging oneself. Enjoy the adventure!
Thanks again to Andrew as well as Erica from Muddy Paw for the feature!
Listening to Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak tear it up as new duo/band Silk Sonic has reminded me how much more fun we need to be having in music again. Yes we live in hard times and the world isn’t easy, but we also need to have even just moments where we can stop to joke or smile or laugh. Or in the case of .Paak and Mars, sing our hearts out with deliriously retro-hugging joy using their bubbling new LP An Evening With Silk Sonic.
As any music fan will tell you, that often off-kilter crooning can be a very therapeutic, cathartic experience. And this funky, soulful, R&B cruise of a record is gonna give you that good feeling allllll Evening longggg.
The artistic influences on Silk Sonic are plenty and often-referenced, so I’ll skip further detail and say this instead. Bruno and Andy do this shit so well together on An Evening with Silk Sonic it’s like they’ve been at it 20 years. The chemistry and friendship is real through lounge groove (“Leave The Door Open”), beachside Carribbean flow (“Skate”), forbidden-hour get-downs (“After Last Night”), and pure fur-lined swagger (“Fly As Me”).
I’m sure the haters will try to spin Evening as being old school 70’s parody; trying too hard to blend into your grandparent’s furniture like a dated Saturday Night Live sketch. But Mars and .Paak are no lightweights in this field. They didn’t just find period piece equipment, slap on chest hairs and gold chains and wing together an album. Both men are exceptional lyricists and musicians that have assembled a tight band of talents led by bassist Thundercat, jack of all trades D’Mile, and legendary funk master Bootsy Collins.
My only complaint of the whole piece is the best one possible: at 8 songs and an intro An Evening with Silk Sonic is just too damn short. But the resulting music might arguably be the most crisp 30 minutes of an album you’ll hear in all of 2021. There are no bulky moments here, just every second finding a different way to Silk Sonic slap all over this project.
By now, if you only know the group’s wildly popular debut single “Leave The Door Open”, you’re only scratching the surface of this melodic feast.
Summertime in 2021 has felt more than a bit abbreviated, especially with the weight of an unprecedented pandemic at our backs. Now we’re in September and it’s already become easier to see the day’s light ending earlier on as the season begins to mull its inevitable change.
With that gradual alteration of perspective moods begin to sway as well, and not always for the greener side of the fence. I’ve been in and out of that crevasse many times, but regardless of the moment music has always been a salve for those invisible wounds. Especially when I’ve felt the words and the emotions were speaking directly to my state of mind.
I’ve felt that connection with Andrew Ryan’s new, very appropriately-titled single “Autumn Rain”, which comes out on all things digital today. The song vibes perfectly with a feeling of an upbeat smile hiding deeper, lightning-laced storm clouds of weary discontent beneath the airy surface. The track walks a similar path to “Somewhere Only We Know” from Scottish rockers Keane or prime Oasis, and the contrast pays off with great satisfaction.
Ryan’s impeccable knack for mixing and production also sticks out here as it did with his prior single “Never Let Me Know”. The musician is clearly a drummer at heart as every skillful note falls into place as evenly as Tetris tiles, and the layers bear repeat listening to avoid missing the small details (like the piano notes) brought out especially well through headphones.
As I noted the last time I discussed Ryan’s music, “Autumn Rain” fits like instruments to the background of cinema when I imagine the old days of going to hole-in-the-wall rock show venues. We’ll be able to go back regularly (hopefully) someday, but in the meantime its fun to imagine what might be, soon.
In the meanwhile, check out “Autumn Rain” below, and for more on Andrew Ryan’s work be sure to follow his presence across social media!
Andrew Ryan- acoustic guitar, keys, bass guitar, synth, production, and mixing. Will Walden- electric guitar (StaG), Eric Slick- drums (Dr. Dog). Mastered by Jamie Sego at Portside Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.