One of my favorite segments to incorporate here on the digital pages of this website involves getting to pull back the curtain and exclusively debut new music for you all to enjoy.
That’s because, on one hand, there’s a certain type of privilege in getting to say you’re the “first” to hear something you want to tell others about. Not to mention, there’s also a particular level of creative trust involved in getting an artist to decide you’re the right person to champion the initial flag flight of their latest gestating endeavor.
And in the land of this freelancing hobbyist of melody I fancy myself to be, that’s a pretty special honor to receive.
But I digress. Today we’re here to discuss and celebrate the premiere of Rändi Fay’s new single “Intuition”. It’s not only the second teaser off of her forthcoming February 20th full-length LP of the same name, it’s also being dropped in tandem with a brand new music video you’ll see here as well in just a matter of paragraphs.
At first glance, as a new release “Intuition” has a vibe like the first initial tendril-ing of the freshness of forthcoming spring as we still sit prone in the doldrums of yet another January winter. The track carries a lightly bright, upright sparkle of waving up-and-down synthesizer grooves that buoy the steady pep of Fay’s vocal in a layer of sunny, well-crafted electronica pop veneer.
But, despite having an arrangement reminiscent of a slice of spacey, 8-bit throwback, “Intuition” still has a straight-up knack for the basic structural heart of what makes a pop song so infectiously memorable. In fact, shortly after my first several listens to the song, I found its themes of love and connection rolling around and around in my head like a thought refusing to be let loose well after the final notes had faded.
And in our world the way it’s been today, we could all use a little more of those topics in our lives. Get your little dosage right here by watching the music video below.
Jonray and Barbara are a couple from Texas who make up the synth-pop duo Moonray. The pair recently released a music video for a sweet new single called “No Stranger to Love”, which possesses both a sprightly bubble in its rhythmic stride as well as an easily-affable ear-worm of a song structure.
As pop tunes go, the pair have a clever knifing knack for the genre as the track is filled with the exuberance of a Jukebox the Ghost with a touch of The Postal Service’s modern sprawl.
This tale of weathering the storm of a reeling romance in just 3 minutes, 20 seconds has an added, non-scientific chemistry as well when you consider the connection of its narrators. Maybe that’s just some type of coupling-induced placebo effect talking at this moment. Regardless, Barbara and Jonray give off an easy, familiar comfort with each other in this tandem as they meld and intertwine seamlessly within the spreading arrangement.
Try NOT to get it stuck in your head, I dare you.
View the lyric video below for “No Stranger to Love”, which is an understated yet equally perfect swipe-right match that wins over the heart of this song.
A big part of the vibe of this track are its synthesizers, which helps spark an infectious beat that carries the melodic backbone. To further elaborate on just how they incorporate these instruments into their music, I will now turn it over to the duo in Moonray, who were ever-so kind enough to tell us a bit more about it, and how “No Stranger to Love” came to be.
Being fans of Prince, Madonna, David Bowie, The Human League, Depeche Mode, amongst others, we always felt that synthesizers were magical, creating soundscapes of unlimited sonic capabilities.
When we first started playing together, synthesis was somewhat new to us. Our first live set up included a Moog bass synth and a Dave Smith polysynth. Once we got our hands on some knobs, the curiosity started endless possibilities of how we could create music with synthesizers.
We started researching and learning about other synths and what some of the greats used. We dived deep into some of the synth pioneers including Laurie Spiegel, Dave Smith, Tom Oberheim, and Bob Moog (who Jonray shares a birthday with). Did you know that synthesizers weren’t commonly used in pop music until the early ’60s? The first synthesizer, which was called the Telharmonium, was invented around the late 1890s and was enormous, weighing around 200 tons. Let’s just say this began a small synthesizer obsession and we began saving up to buy some of the iconic reissues that have been released, such as the OB6 and the Model D.
We later found out about “Switched-On” here in Austin. Filled with many vintage and new synthesizers, we decided to pop in for a visit and by Golly! There it was, right there in front of us, an Oberheim OB-Xa (pictured below) from the ’80s, which was used in Prince’s “Purple Rain” album. It is also most commonly known in Van Halen’s “Jump.” Instantly recognizable magic. After listening and playing with it for an hour in downtown Austin, we were blown away and knew we had to have it. We rushed home, gathered every piece of gear that we could let go of in order to trade in for it. This began a wormhole.
Welcoming the new synth into our home, we immediately wanted to compare it with the reissue OB6. We found them to be extremely different and although today we still love the OB6 and use it for live shows, the vintage synthesizer seems to have a lot more charisma than the newer ones. Maybe it’s the fact that they naturally detune more because they didn’t have the advanced technology we have today with such precise control. They are imperfectly perfect. Our desire even lead us to a 1,200 mile journey to Wisconsin in our van to pick up an extremely rare Prophet 10, pictured below.
We do enjoy having both worlds just as a painter likes to have color options ranging from warm to cool. In our studio, having access to both vintage and modern synthesizers offers us the best of both worlds. There are so many different ways we use our synthesizers—as a bass, a drum, a ripping lead, an orchestral symphony, an arpeggiated sequence, a white/pink noise mimicking wind or ocean, there are endless possibilities. That’s what makes it so much fun. Sometimes we like to turn on multiple synthesizers and let them drone for meditation.
One of our favorite things to do is to travel and write some arrangements via midi with a small midi keyboard such as the Yamaha Reface and Arturia Keystep. We then bring the data back into our home studio and that’s where the real fun begins. We are able to send that data to our choice of various keyboards and sculpt the sound with both hands on the knobs. Some of our synthesizers like the CS-80 do not have midi so, therefore, we usually require four hands, one will play while the other sculpts. We do rely on the reissues for our live performance but primarily use vintage synthesizers and drum machines in the studio.
“No Stranger to Love” was created part in studio and part on the road over a period of a year. We wrote the music for it and revisited later on adding the lyrics. It began with drums and bassline using a TR-808 drum machine, a Moog Model D bass and a Dave Smith Prophet 10 Poly Synth. Although it began that trio, it ended up having 3 iconic drum machines: the Linn Drum (Madonna, Prince, The Human League), TR-808 on tons of hits and Oberheim DX Stretch. We ended up using the Moog Voyageur on the bass, Poly synths included: Jupiter 8, Oberheim OB-8, Jupiter 6, Roland VP-330 Vocoder, Roli (modern software-based instrument), and Rickenbacker 350 V63 Electric Guitar. The guitar was tracked with a line 6 Helix guitar processor outputted into a small 8’ Supro guitar tube amp mic’d with an SM57 and an ELAM 251. Vocals were cut with a Neumann U67 and a Telefunken C12.
Ultimately at the end of the day, you don’t need expensive gear or synthesizers to create a great song, they’re just tools and it’s about what you do with them. We even like to have options such as old Casios priced at $30 off of reverb.com. Even Korg makes an awesome analog like the Korg Minilogue that’s both affordable and amazing. It’s a favorite travel companion due to its size. That being said, as business owners of both Moonray and Moon Lab Studios, we are grateful to be able to offer these unique historical pieces to our clients and keep on creating music we can share. Some of our favorites include The CS-80, ARP 2600, Memory Moog LAMM Mod, Prophet 10, Matrix 12, Jupiter 8, and the modern ones: Moog One and The Schmidt, modern classics.
Instrumental-based music is a fascinating case study that really exposes the true nuts and bolts of a song and how it functions from a dictionary A-to-Z.. And that all gets started with the group’s players. Because for every high-power vocalist and scene-chewing frontman holding down the spotlight, there’s guys (and girls) playing pivotal roles like drummer, bassist and guitar player out there excavating their own bits of melodic truth.
While Robert Plant will always be Robert Plant, it certainly didn’t hurt to have Jimmy Page and the rest of Zeppelin around making sure the whole rocking production didn’t go sliding off one big crashing, musical cliff.
By letting the instruments handle the “singing”, I feel as though that grants a greater window into the true artistry gifted musicians present in their work. It’s a lot of time, attention, detail and PRACTICE to be good at the sound that you play and aspire to put out into the world. Then, once that happens, its the job of fans like myself to witness as much of it as possible and rave about it in writeups like this. As any good diehard does of course.
Luckily I have that privilege once again with the group I present you now: Dog Drive Mantis with the music video for their new single “Volta”, premiering right here on OTBEOTB.
While I must admit at initial introduction the band’s rather heavy-metal-sounding (and awesome) name and song title had me thinking of a slightly different sound, what I discovered left me impressed.
“Volta” begins as a dreamy, humming psychedelic lullaby as the band starts to settle into their groove. The track then proceeds to dip into moody, rising rock, Dave Clark 5 jazz-isms aided by some stellar saxophone lines, and a dipping, darting pace that keeps the track’s ultimate vision fun and excitingly upbeat. The boys in DDM seem to have a tight, well-honed chemistry together as well as they handle all the song’s rhythmic twists and turns with ease and spread a wealth of influences out on the table while doing it.
And when it comes to the video, while there’s still something to be said in art for productions in music, sometimes the best thing is simply being able to witness the live performance, unadorned. Getting to see those slivers of a show’s intimacy and/or bravado as though you’re right there in the room with that vibe. It’s also a sign that the talent you’re hearing isn’t staged or endlessly studio enhanced to sell a digital single. It’s a real, spiritual thing wrought from hard work and the love to create art.
So if you haven’t already, check out the electricity of Dog Drive Mantis and how it sparkles here. You won’t regret watching them go to work.
Once again, I am beyond excited to exclusively present another guest post for the band Silver Relics as they documented some of their experiences on a recent international tour. I have to give a big thanks to both Alex Sepassi and Justin Alvis as well as their crew for wanting to help create this, would love to do plenty more of this in the future!
Day 4: Night and Day Cafe : Manchester, United Kingdom : 6.30.19
Justin caught an early flight ahead of Howie, Brandt and myself into Manchester. We headed straight to our hotel to try and get some rest before our first ever UK performance. It was only about a 5 minute walk to the venue so we had plenty of time to explore the Night and Day Cafe located in the center of the city. This venue is spectacular. The type of place that makes you want to take photos.
Soundcheck was relaxed which gave us plenty of time to get to know a great group of guys and a fantastic band, Electric Cheese. The overall feeling I had from this place was that everything has to be earned. It’s not a very forgiving city until you’ve gained the respect of the locals. I don’t need to get into how many brilliant artists originated from Manchester. It’s understood. And if you aren’t aware of that then you sure as shit will once you walk by any venue. This city is home to many of my biggest influences, so to be a part of it, even for a day is amazing.
Shortly after soundcheck, in walks Mark Burgess and friends. Mark’s an extraordinary artist, writer and the frontman of The Chameleons, a legendary band with roots firmly planted in this city. It was a privilege to perform on this stage. Afterwards we received this review from Mark that we’ll forever appreciate:
Manchester Night & Day cafe
“On the recommendation of a friend I caught Silver Relics performing a set at Manchester’s Legendary Night and Day Cafe. Playing a debut show in the centre of Manchester is never easy at the best of times and Sunday nights are the not the best of times, but Silver Relics from New York definitely lit a flame under those present. I was pleasantly surprised and deeply impressed by this duo, comprised of real drums, and talented drums at that, a rock and roll guitar worthy of the name and some soulful vocals, what’s more there were a few seriously impressed Mancunians around me that shared that view. Some great, vibrant original songs augmented by a really fun cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Never Let Me Down ensured that everyone ended the night in good spirits and with huge grins on their faces.
Well played Silver Relics.”
Day 4: Success.
Day 5: Green Door Store : Brighton, United Kingdom : 7.1.19
We’re starting to get our asses kicked at this point. Not a lot of sleep and we’re about to do our 5th show in 5 days. Here we are on our way from Manchester to Brighton:
Everybody loves Brighton. We arrived when it was 75 and sunny. We linked up with our brilliant photographer, Kevin McGann, who happens to be one of our favorite people, so we already knew it was going to be another good night.
Green Door Store is below the train station in an old refurbished stable-turned-venue. The sound in this place was spectacular. Our label mates, Autorotation, put on an amazing performance to start off the night. They’re moody, sophisticated and inviting. We loved everything about this night, especially when we met with Chemlab frontman Jared Hendrickson. This man is amazing. He embodies everything I respect in a musician with the same type of confidence found in Mark Burgess. Here’s what he had to say about the evening:
“I just saw the Silver Relics, a band from New York, play their first show at the Green Door Store in Brighton, about an hour south of London. They’ve been playing dates around the UK and dropped into Brighton just before heading up to play the Old Smoke. I knew their songs from listening to their Generic album, but I really didn’t know what to expect from them live. Having performed in bands for years myself, a good live show is important to me.
Being able to perform with intensity and brio no matter the attendance is crucial too, and Brighton brought the challenge because the audience, though very enthusiastic, was small. Lame bands underperform when in-front of a small audience, but the Relics displayed utter professionalism by stepping up to the mic and ripping the lid off the Green Door. From their opening number, Fame, to their raucous closer, Cardiac, they roared through their tight set as if they were playing to an audience of a thousand.
The lights hazed and the colours boosted and the audience was hooked, cheering and whooping up a storm. Justin pounded his kit with a combination of precision and abandon that was a delirious pleasure to watch. Drummers aren’t always worth watching, but this guy was a show all on his own, ranging from delicate, intimate moments to all-out Grohlian bludgeon. Alex Sepassi is the perfect front man, simultaneously inviting and yet wrapped up in the world of his songs, his voice just the right mix of sandpaper and silk as he sashayed and swayed around the stage like the missing link between Keith Richards and the unbeatable Wilko Johnson.
With a sound that sets the pop perfection of The Kinks and The Beatles on a hard collision course with the dark dreams of “Pornography”-era Cure, the gorgeous sonic wall of bands like My Bloody Valentine and a lick of The Verve before they went right up their own asses, Silver Relics are perfectly poised to take the UK by storm.
Bring them back soon. I can guarantee the room will be packed after that show!”
Day 6: The Islington : London, United Kingdom : 7.2.19
1 a.m. train to London with Brandt and Howie. Justin’s staying the night in Brighton , which was a smart move by the way. London was the perfect place for our final show on this run. The Islington is a gem. We showed up to deliver the best of what we had. This performance was a challenge since we knew this one was going to be the last one until our next trip over. Justin and I love everything about the stage, so you can imagine how happy we were after 6 shows in 6 days. We were joined by our friends, Autorotation and Cyberwaste. It sounded and felt fantastic and we couldn’t have asked for a better spot to perform.
We learned so much on this trip. Performing “Generic.” in front of the people and the places that have influenced me since the beginning was so important to me. Important for us. Something happens when we strip away everything and we’re left with ourselves, our instruments and the people in front of us. We walked away knowing that this record and these songs are something we absolutely need to keep sharing with all of you.
Thank you to every one for your support and to those responsible for getting us here.
Apologies for the recent absence, but I’m making up for the gap with something fun! Recently one of the groups I’ve previously reviewed Silver Relics did an international tour, and they wanted to document their journey and some of their experiences. So I was more than happy to play host to it! Enjoy part one of this two-part installment, featuring the duo’s jaunt around Ireland.
Day 1: Drop Dead Twice : Dublin, Ireland : 6.27.19
Today Justin and I are running around city centre looking for a voltage adapter after we absolutely fried the shite out of our rack late last night. Complete with smoke and sparks by the way. 7 shops later, we’re back on track. Also, something we noticed was how helpful every single shop owner/worker was to us. If they didn’t have it then they pointed us to a place they thought might. So we were a little thrown off by that level of kindness. Not exactly something New Yorkers are used to but we but love everything about the welcoming aspects of Dublin. We arrived for our first show at Drop Dead Twice. Here are a couple of shots of Justin and me at the venue:
We sat around with our new friends from the Dublin quartet Magazines before we went on. These guys have an amazing sound and we can’t wait to see what happens next for them. Overall, the night was fantastic and I really don’t think we could have had a better experience for our first show.
Our dear friends Dermot Lambert and Craig Kingma at Garageland Ireland set us up at all three venues in Ireland. They’re amazing guys and we can’t thank them enough. Here’s a quote about the show from Derm:
“It can be quite difficult for an artist to win over a new audience, especially in a faraway land which they’ve never been to before, but the room came alive when Silver Relics took the stage in Dublin on that beautiful June evening. Heralded only by some specialised radio play from their tracks Time Bomb (T2), and Generic, the band found themselves in the company of a room full of instant fans, as the smokers came in from the beer garden and the private party-goers came down from the upstairs club to see who was driving the bass and killing the tunes. Justin swaggers and Alex swoons as the whole room became transfixed, hypnotised by proceedings. A set list of 7 songs disappeared all too fast in a haze of blistering anthems and killer hooks, delivered by actual real life rock stars. On this occasion I am happy to report ‘I was there’. ”
Day 2: The Sound House : Dublin, Ireland : 6.28.19
Today we’re over at the Garageland RTE2XM station for a live broadcast with Dermot, Craig and our producer, Howie Beno. We talked a lot about a little of everything. How the record was made, how we got to where we are and where we want to go. Always a pleasure to sit around with these guys. Here’s a shot of Justin and me in our new Garageland tees.
We got to the venue for soundcheck and right away we knew it was gonna be a good night. The venue overlooks the river and the space itself is gorgeous.
But this wasn’t an easy show. We were the first to go on and there weren’t a lot of people there when we started our set. These things happen from time to time but it never changes how we actually play. So we gave it everything like always and we started to see more and more people pile in by the time we were close to finishing out the set. The other bands were fantastic just like the night before at Drop Dead Twice. There’s an incredible amount of talent in Dublin. Every single group/artist has something to offer. They play together and you can feel how important it is for all of them to be up there.
Day 2: success.
Day 3: Pharmacia : Limerick, Ireland : 6.29.19
On the road to Limerick with Derm, Howie and Brandt. Before we even got to the venue we stopped off at Cashel somewhere between Dublin and Limerick. This was an experience along the way that made us realize exactly where we were. This is the type of place that makes you shut the fuck up and appreciate what’s right in front of you. The castle and the landscapes are incredible. We walked away grateful knowing that we had this to remember.
We didn’t get to see as much of Limerick aside from the ride through the city and the spots surrounding the venue. First thing’s first, Pharmacia is a great spot. It’s quirky and tasteful. The lineup was fantastic thanks to Garageland. The Revolators, In The Black and Norma Manly have amazing energy. They’re bold and it’s evident they felt right at home, which made the night a lot of fun. This was a great show that was worth the midnight journey back to Dublin without an ounce of sleep before we jumped on a flight to Manchester.
Singer-songwriter Stephen Babcock makes a fresh return with new music in just a little less than two weeks on June 28th in the form of upcoming single “Fight I Need”. The one-off is the followup to Babcock’s exceptional 2018 EP “Fiction”, and represents yet another linear step ahead in the development of the musician’s sound.
Material like “Fiction” and Babcock’s prior 2016 LP “Said & Done” largely felt most at home in a stripped down, coffeehouse format allowing the upfront intimacy of the moments to flow cleanly off the acoustic guitar strings. “Fight I Need” doesn’t exactly lose that well-shined sensibility for the landscape. Rather, it just surrounds it with an added edge of slinky organ work, trailing harmonies, and the bright punch of electric guitar fills racing right out of the melodic gateway.
That auditory kiss with a fist makes for a fitting companion to the track’s lyrical energy, which takes the notion of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” and riffs on it as a way to describe a desire for a relationship’s emotional toil. And indeed, either experience feels akin to 10 rounds in the boxing ring, with equal amounts of stamina needed just to outlast the conflict.
You can see Stephen live just after “Fight I Need” comes out at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 for a release show June 29th at 9pm!
I love being able to delve into a lot of different tones and types of music on this blog. As my tastes advance, branch out and find new avenues in the cracks of this genre highway, it continues to be refreshing to be able to share what moves me and fascinates my ear. And it’s time to do that once again, this time in the form of a New York City-based alternative-rock band and their new record “Generic.”
Silver Relics begin their journey on this newly-released LP with the computery, electrified “Fame”, a song ruminating on the topic in a musical descent reminiscent of Bob Mould’s “Workbook” mixed into his later album “Modulate”. With drummer Justin Alvis providing Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” thunder downs from behind the kit, lead vocalist and songwriter Alex Sepassi brings an almost industrial-sounding Gothic, Smashing Pumpkins-processed gloom within his Billy Corgan-splashed vocals on this track.
“Generic” meanwhile has a more Depeche Mode, stadium rock 80’s ambition that soars with a psychedelic expanse, while “End of Zero” is an acoustic-shaded dance beat of a song. “Time Bomb” wades into cutting guitar lines reminiscent of Sonic Youth, and “Wanderlust” abruptly turns from that musical thought into something resembling Duran Duran.
Silver Relics certainly comes as catchy as some of my prior references advertise, with track after track hitting ear-worms and hooks with a regularity requiring repeat listens just to break down the layers.
“Generic.” is an LP that doesn’t hesitate to move and get loose around the space it creates for itself and its melodic character, while still staying a bit more dark and digital with its soundscapes. The record title may imply something common or easily passable, but Silver Relics has done anything but that here in this expanse.
Check out the album below, as well as a few tour dates when Silver Relics may be in your neck of the woods!
‘Record Release Listening Party’ at The Scratcher, NYC – May 28
Today it’s my pleasure to release the premiere of “So American”, a brand new music video from the band Owen-Glass. This is a cover the group did of a song originally written and performed by Portugal. The Man off their 2011 album In The Mountain In The Cloud.
Portugal’s version is a bouncy, psychedelic joy-rave somewhere between The Flaming Lips “Do You Realize?” and The Kinks. But while Owen-Glass’ take may enter the starting gate acoustically similar to the original, it proceeds to lean away from building up and chooses instead to embrace a more bare-boned folk edge.
The video takes hold of a similar strategy as there are a few mixing visuals of the band, but nothing that takes away from the mood and strength of the performance. The upfront intimacy of the moment feels very much like an installment of NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series, which further lays vulnerable “So American” and its lyrical critiques of hypocrisy and dysfunction in these United States.
For a song that debuted in 2011, those themes almost feel more relevant from where we sit today in 2019. But without any further insight from me here’s the video from “So American”, as well as a quote from Owen-Glass singer-songwriter Kelly Wayne Conley on why they chose to cover the track.
“We wanted to sort of pay tribute to some of the songwriters and bands that had a major impact on us, and John Gourley was an obvious standout. Portugal. The Man’s story is really special to us, because we followed them from the very beginning and now, after more than a decade of grinding on the road, promoting real, soulful art, those guys have finally gotten their due.
It’s a testament to the demand that still exists for real music, y’know. Like, these are artists in a universal sense, practicing their craft—using real instruments and building out cohesive projects that have a clear, artistic message by and for the common man.”We chose ‘So American’ because it really fits with who we are as a band, and we feel like it translates well in our sort of folky Americana style…
The message in ‘So American’ cuts right to the core of the culture we grew up in—seeing everything—politics, religion, whatever—through this American lens, and all of John’s songs pushed us to view the world differently and find a new level of empathy and even affected our spiritual awareness in those formative adolescent years. That’s not something you get from just any song by just any band. It’s really a special thing. I guess, in a way, our performing this song is our way of saying thank you to John, Zach and the rest of the guys for enriching our lives with their art.”-Kelly Wayne Conley
British Columbia singer-songwriter Kuri recently released a video for his single “Human Nature”, a cut from an EP with the same title. Before I break down the visuals a little bit, this is my first exposure to Kuri’s work and plenty needs to be said for this song as well.
“Human Nature” is a gorgeously delicate, intricately woven patchwork quilt of airy folk that begins in a rustling whisper of leafy harmonies and culminates in sunshine-washed waves of strings and percussion. My first thoughts immediately fly to Damien Rice’s 2014, often-cinematic My Favourite Faded Fantasy for the song having that same pastoral ambition (as well as a knack for words of gut-dropping melancholy slipped within the breaths of the melody).
That lyrical introspection is given life in vivid illustration via the video for “Human Nature”, which captures the thin-railed frailty the title hints toward. We seem to be witness to an almost typical whirlwind of a romance in this story, but not is all as the perfectly arranged scene seems. A tender embrace includes a lost, rigid look into the distance. Moments of connection are sought with a passion, but fall apart like dreams become smoke become the unrelenting reality of one person who just can’t let release the unattainable.
But, as Kuri’s words fall out so appropriately, “it’s human nature to need some impeccable force”. Sometimes we’re that Jim Carrey character from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind simply refusing to forget a mountainous presence no matter how much we try to erase it. Or how it might lead to our own self-destruction. And much like the film, the visual’s end remains open… uncertain.. flawed…. yet still willing to fight even if only to end in doom.