“More voices mean more expression and for us that can only be a good thing.” 7 Questions with The Brook & The Bluff

From Birmingham, Alabama, Indie folk band The Brook & The Bluff are coming to Seattle Tuesday night (11/5).  The first time I heard The Brook & The Bluff, I had let Youtube go on autoplay while working remote.  The band’s smooth cover of the Childish Gambino song “Redbone” came on and I was impressed.  Listening to the band’s more recent offerings, songs like “Everything is Just a Mess” or “Hallways“, it’s hard not to get drawn in by the vocal magic this band seems to emanate.  With the release of their first full length album “First Place”, I had an opportunity to interview all four members of the band, Guitar player Alex Bolton, drummer John Canada, bassist Fred Lankford (all from Mountain Brook, Alabama), and vocalist/key and guitar player Joseph Settine (from Bluff Park, Alabama).  Here’s my short interview with The Brook & The Bluff:

1.) Most interviews I’ve read, talk about the origins of the band name, The Brook & The Bluff. I think it’s a great name. You’re quoted as saying, “I think we will always claim ourselves as a Birmingham band no matter what, it’s inherent in the name.”  Was that always the intention of the name, The Brook & The Bluff? Were there any rejected names that as a group you thought up, that still stick out today?

The Brook & The Bluff was definitely always intended to call back to where we’re from. When we started performing under that name, it was just Alec and I (Joseph) playing acoustic cover songs in Auburn, and it was actually the first name that we came up with. There had been another band we were in during our first couple years of school that was called The Freewheelers, and we considered that but ultimately wanted to be something new.

2.) I read that each band member has a choir background and in each song, there is an emphasis on the vocals. How does having a band where each member has a choir background affect the songwriting process? Would you say it’s an advantage or at times can it be a hindrance?

It is absolutely an advantage at all times. The voice is our only instrument that’s actually in your body, so we think it’s the most expressive when it comes to all of the different textures in the music. More voices mean more expression and for us that can only be a good thing. It really affects the songwriting process just as far as making sure we always have room within the song for more voices.

3.) I checked out the music videos featured on your YouTube channel. In one sense, some videos are simplistic in that it’s footage of the band performing the songs in what looks like a studio, however, a common trait is the unique filming style which mixes filters and at times a type of pinhole lens. It contributes an almost dreamlike quality to the video and really adds to the song. Where do the concepts for your videos come from? Is there a feeling you’re trying to evoke through these videos?

We originally wanted to try and have some type of performance video for the first three singles with a similar kind of thread visually, but have them shot in different places, so we reached out to our friend Drew Bauml to see if he’d like to shoot them and then gave him the space to create that dreamy aspect that you’re talking about. I really believe in letting people have as much room to create as possible, and we don’t know the ins and outs of filming, so we really let him run with it – sent him the songs and he was off.

These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, Hip Hop artist Nick Weaver. Nick Weaver asks:
4.) Social media is a must for all DIY artists. Do you work to balance how much social media time you have every day? If so, what steps do you take?

Social media definitely is super important, which can sometimes be overwhelming for an artist. Our philosophy is basically not oversharing and staying genuine. People’s feeds are overflowing with so much of that “content” every day, so we don’t want to be part of all that noise and want to focus on the highlights and most important pieces to share.

5.) Name one artist who’s no longer alive that you wish could have seen perform. Why?

Donny Hathaway… and his live record is exactly why.

6.) Favorite pizza spot in your hometown?

Our favorite spot in Nashville, where we currently live, is Five Points Pizza. As for Birmingham that’s probably up for contention… Davenports, Salvatores and Tortugas are all really really great tho.

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7.) As my final question, as a band you folks enjoy trying the local cuisine and beers of each place you stop at while on tour. What city has the best food? What city has the best local beer? (Please include recommendations, if possible)

Our favorite food city is definitely Austin, Tx. Our friend and album art designer/designer for everything we do lives there and he’s taken us to so many places. I think the place we went to with the best pasta I’ve ever had is called Pettrucci’s. We also went to a taco truck out of an old school bus, I don’t remember what that was called. The best local beer city I think has to be Asheville, North Carolina and you could have any beer from there and it will be good.

 

I have to thank The Brook & The Bluff for taking the time to answer my questions.  I really hope you enjoy what Seattle has to offer in food (I recommend snacking on stuff at Pike Place Market), and what we have to offer in beer (can’t go wrong checking out the bars and breweries around Capitol Hill).  Check them out tomorrow night at the Columbia City Theater, and check out their album “First Place” wherever you get your music.

 

“One fan at a time.” 7 Questions with Nick Weaver

The first time I saw Nick Weaver perform was on a Thursday night at the Vera Project. 

He was the opening act for another local hip hop group, New Track City.  The crowd for Weaver’s set was small at first, but once he got on that mic it quickly grew.  If you ever get the opportunity to see Weaver perform live, be prepared for a level of lyrical fire you rarely hear in hip hop acts today.  Since that initial performance, I’ve seen Weaver kill it at every show of his that I’ve attended.  I’ll usually bring a friend or two to his shows, and Weaver never fails to impress.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.  Here’s my short interview with Nick Weaver:

Lets start with something a little easy.  One of my favorite Northwest Hip Hop songs is Macklemore’s “The Town”. 
1.) The opening line of “The Town”, First memory of Seattle Hip Hop?

Nick Weaver: Not pertaining to Seattle, but first time seeing hip hop in Seattle was Jurassic 5 at Bumbershoot back in 2001. They played in Memorial Stadium, such a great thing to see as a kid.

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I read an older interview of yours from January 2015, where you mentioned that your big four of hip hop were Nas, Biggie, Jay Z, and Eminem. It’s been nearly 5 years since that article was published.
2.) Would you still say those are your big four and would you also say that those artists have had the most influence on your sound?

I definitely still think those 4 artists are the most influential towards my original style. To be honest, these days my sound evolves to something different everyday. The list of artists currently influencing music could be Hot Chip on one day, or Saba on another. Lol. It’s a rollercoaster.

I read one of your artist bios and your experience as a recording artist sounds fascinating. You went from mass producing your own first album onto one of those 100 CD spindles and then selling each one for $2 a CD, to getting millions of plays across streaming sites.
3.) Having experienced the transition from burning your own CDs to Streaming, what advice would you give artists today attempting this similar almost DIY approach?

I hear lots of my peers saying “I just don’t understand why Spotify isn’t giving me love.” It’s no question their music is great. But you absolutely have to have that fanbase that’s LOOKING for your stuff. You do that by playing as many local shows as you can, having engaging social media, and keeping a continuous release stream. Oh, and having money to invest in sponsored ads 🙂

These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, the band Moon Palace. Moon Palace asks:
4.) What is your favorite road snack?

Nutter Butters. It’s not even close. Nutter Butters are the best thing ever. That sugary peanut butter is making my mouth water as I type this.

5.) Favorite venues to play at?

Locally I really love the stage at Neumos, such a great revamp they did a couple years back. The Crocodile’s sound and room layout is heavenly.

6.) What is your dream band to open for?

Jungle. I absolutely love this band and their live show is so incredibly inspiring. They are a massive influence on where my music is heading.

7.) For my final question, I follow you on Instagram and every now and again you talk about a love for coffee. Where can I find the best latte/cup of coffee in Seattle, and also what was the best cup of caffeine you’ve ever had (be it the beans, the preparation, etc. what made it special)?

Bruh ok, this is my favorite question! In Seattle, it’s Porchlight Coffee and Slate. Those are my top two. My FAVORITE, FAVORITE coffee shop is Pallet Roasters in Vancouver, BC. Their Benchmark espresso roast is perfection. However, the BEST cup of caffeine I ever had? Portland’s Albina Press. I had an almond milk latte. The dude working there pulled an incredible shot of espresso. Crema so thick it looked mud on top. Damn.

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I have to thank Nick Weaver for answering my questions and giving me a new coffee place to try out. Check out his website (thenickweaver.com), and check out his latest singles “Lund” and “Meyers Briggs“.

The Beatles Playlist

Recently I saw the film “Yesterday”.  I enjoyed it.  It was like a reminder to music fans how important The Beatles were not only to music but to the world.  If anything, it kind of downplayed their importance to music and entertainment, and really showed how important The Beatles were to general life and pop culture.  My favorite knock against the film is that it doesn’t demonstrate how the main character ended up being one of the few people who can remember The Beatles.  If this happened in real life to an average joe, the person would either do what the character in “Yesterday” did which was go along with it and hopefully gain from that knowledge, or he could have gone the alternate route and spent his time and limited resources trying to figure out how it happened.  The far more interesting route was what occurred in the film, but I could imagine a storyline where the lead character is going from scientist to scientist or government officials, explaining his story, and being laughed at for believing this alternate reality.  I liked “Yesterday” because it was a fun story, which inspired this “Beatles” playlist.

The Beatles Playlist
1.) Dear Prudence
2.) Free as a Bird
3.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (LOVE mix)
4.) Yesterday (First performance)
5.) For No One
6.) The Ballad of John and Yoko
7.) I Will
8.) Real Love
9.) Walk With You (by Ringo Starr with Paul McCartney)
10.) Love by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

Tips for a Great Bumbershoot 2019

Bumbershoot is one of my favorite events of the year.  Growing up in Seattle I would always hear about the festival, and since 2012, I haven’t missed a single Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival.

I always come back from Bumbershoot having met new people, seen some great bands, and overall feeling like I had just been “recharged”.  Friends will ask “do you have any tips to help maximize my Bumbershoot experience?”  Here are my 5 tips to help maximize your Bumbershoot experience:

5.) The best beer prices are at SIFF Cinema.  If you want to beat the heat, and get away from the crowd, go to SIFF Cinema and catch a collection of films.  Cans of Rainier (in years past) are only $3, there’s non port-o-potty restrooms available, and it’s just an opportunity to sit in the dark away from the sun and the overwhelming crowd for a bit.  It’s a just a good way to rest.

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Flume, Bumbershoot 2017

4.) In years past, the best entrance to the festival grounds is adjacent to the Bagley Wright Theater.  It normally features multiple entrance lanes, a separate entrance for VIP/Emerald pass holders, and a separate ADA entrance.

3.) Review the schedule and plan ahead before attending the festival.  If you want to see a particular act up close and they’re performing at the main stage, get there early.  If you aren’t VIP and the performer is later in the day, expect to get there at least a two or three sets early, and be prepared to stand for long hours.  If they’re not at the main stage and are at one of the minor stages, 10 to 15 minutes before the performance should be fine unless they are the headliner of that stage, then you may want to hang out during the prior performer’s set in order to get a great view.

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Cody Jinks, Bumbershoot 2017

2.) Check out the non musical experiences.  The Bumbershoot team always book some great non musical performers throughout the weekend.  I once saw a panel/podcast recording featuring Bill Nye, Eugene Mirman, and Pete Holmes.  I once saw Paul F Tompkins and Matt Gourley do improv.  The food selections at the B-Eats section are amazing as well.

1.) Go to Bumbershoot with friends but don’t go as a group.  I can’t say this enough, go to Bumbershoot alone.  Going alone to Bumbershoot alone, doesn’t mean you’re by yourself.  Everyone there is on the same mission you are, and as long as you understand that you’re there to have a good time and you’re not trying to ruin anyone else’s good time, everyone will want to have a good time with you.  I usually let my friends know what performers I plan to see that day, and wherever our schedules line up we try to meet at those place, but we never let each other fully dictate our day.  If one person wants to leave early to see another performer, more power to them, we’ll meet up later.  Try going to Bumbershoot alone.

20160902_174317Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2016

If I could sum up my advice for Bumbershoot weekend it would be this:
Try something new.  Open your ears to new music.  Dance with strangers.  Wear a funny hat or try an entirely new look.  Catch a play or a clown or a debate or podcast or a comedian.  You’ll never know who you’ll meet, who you’ll see, or what you’ll do.  If anything if you leave yourself open for something new, it’ll be different than what you expected and provide you an experience, you never knew you could have.  Have fun, stay safe, and stay hydrated.

“Only one of these songs is NOT a Disney song” Playlist

This week’s 10 song selection is a bit of a challenge.  9 of these songs are Disney songs or at least are associated with the Disney corporation in some major way, and 1 of them is not.  Have a listen to this selection and see if you could spot the non Disney song without looking at the album covers.  Even when you figure out which song is the non Disney song, it’s still pretty unbelievable that some of these songs are Disney songs.

“Only one of these songs is NOT a Disney song” Playlist
1.) “Derezzed” – Daft Punk
2.) “Destiny” – Louise Warren
3.) “Sanctuary (Opening)” – Utada
4.) “In a World of My Own/Very Good Afternoon” – Jhene Aiko
5.) “Down to Earth” – Peter Gabriel
6.) “Pretend” – Scott Porter and the Glory Dogs
7.) “So Close” – Jon McLaughlin
8.) “Never Knew I Needed” – Ne-Yo
9.) “A Whole New World” – Yuna
10.) “Little Wonders” – Peter Gabriel

 

“We all turn to our communities in darker times and making art feels healing and more important than ever.”: 7 Questions with Moon Palace

Shadowcast

Recently, I was given the opportunity to preview the latest album “Shadowcast” from Seattle indie rock band, Moon Palace.  Twin sisters Cat and Carrie Biell alongside bandmates, Jude Miqueli, and Darcey Zoller create a psychedelia tinged, dusky, 41 minute kind of dream landscape that’s simply captivating. 

The album was like the progression of a day in that songs at the beginning of the album like “Bold” and “Gamma Ray” were energetic, but eventually the album faded into this meditative reflection, culminating in more subdued songs like “Embers” which felt like gathering around a fire at night. If there was any other way I would describe “Shadowcast”, it felt like the soundtrack to a long drive outside of the city.  Like I got in my car in the morning, watched my landscape change around me, and eventually, I’m night driving. I started kind of hyped for this drive, but eventually, it’s just me and my thoughts.  That’s what this album does, it provides a space to reflect.

“Shadowcast” by Moon Palace will be released on August 23rd.  In anticipation of the album’s release I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to ask the band a few questions.  Here’s my short interview with Moon Palace.

1.) What was the inspiration for “Shadowcast”? Was there a particular vibe you were trying to create?
Jude: We made it over the course of a year. Each week we would open ourselves up to what sounds were coming through. I think the record evolved with the changing seasons. For much of the year, Seattle is dark and partly cloudy so that may be why there is a bit of an ominous presence. Once summer hit we wanted to make brighter songs and that’s when “Gamma Ray” emerged. On practice days I’d listen to music on the way to work while riding the bus at 6 AM when it was dark out and text the group what I was listening to. They would text tracks back throughout the workday. Later that night we’d get together, talk about the sounds we wanted to make and get creative. “Shadowcast” was Talking Heads influenced, “Stop When It Hurts” was Sonic Youth, “On the Level” was The Cure, “Bold” was influenced by The Gossip. In the end, I don’t think the songs sound like any of those bands because we weren’t trying to replicate what they were doing even though they were heavy influences. With each song, I want to grow as a drummer so I try new styles or techniques and one way of learning those is by listening to other drummers.

I read an interview in City Arts Magazine, that one of the main things that drew members of the group to Seattle was how queer-friendly the city was. A quote in the article said that you like how Seattle is a “sanctuary city” and that the band was making “sanctuary music”. 
2. I like the idea of “sanctuary music”, but would you mind expanding on that? How would you define “sanctuary music”?
Jude: A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety. It immediately brings up the idea of church which can be triggering for queers due to having been shamed by religion. But a bird sanctuary can also bring up ideas of a nature reserve and I think our band finds solace in nature. I came here in 2006 after researching where there was queer community on the internet. At that time Seattle had anti-discrimination laws protecting workers based on gender and sexual orientation and where I was from didn’t. I think sanctuary music can be anything that makes you feel safe in a space. Growing up as a teenager in the 90’s for me that was Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, and Sleater-Kinney. Now when I listen to music at home I’m mostly playing jazz.

Carrie: Cat and I lived in more homogenous suburban area like 20 mins outside of Seattle. As out, queer teenagers, we would drive out to Seattle multiple times a week to be with the community we identified with and who supported us the most. Seattle did feel like a sanctuary in that way at the time. Nowadays it feels like making music in our band is a sanctuary from the current climate in America where hate crimes are on the rise and bigots feel more emboldened. We all turn to our communities in darker times and making art feels healing and more important than ever.

The music video for the song “Hunt and Gather” is amazing. Not only because the song is so good, but visually the video watches more like a high production short film with vibrant cuts and great use of light and shadow which really bring more attention to physical elements of the performers.
3. Was the concept for this video inspired by the song, or did you have this idea of what you wanted the visual to be like as this song was being created and then created a video to best reflect that visual?
Cat: The concept for the video was inspired by the song. An epic song deserved an epic video. The video reflects the process of creating peace with the wounded and unintegrated parts of ourselves. By integrating the ego, the wounded child, the wild one in all of us, we each move through our individual journey of reflection and transformation.

(These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview, the band “Tangerine”.)
4. What’s the last book you read?
Jude: Currently Reading Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown
Carrie: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

5. What was the most stressed you have been on tour and why?
Jude: When I went on a summer tour with a band called Scarves we were in an overheating van driving down I5 while California was burning. None of us had any mechanic skills which is why it was stressful. After a long drive and a mediocre show, we slept on a concrete floor in some dude’s apartment. In the end, we made it down the coast and back, had fun at the beach, and played better shows so it ended up being a good time!

Carrie: I did a west coast tour with my solo project joined by my backing band. We had great shows throughout the tour, but our show in Eugene ended up being really strange. The venue didn’t provide a PA that night and there was very little sound equipment ready even though there were four bands on this bill. One of the local bands ended up running around piecing together a sound system, which I was grateful for. After the show, some of the band members from the other bands invited all of us to some big mansion to party at because somebody was house sitting there. We wanted to take them up on the offer at first because it was a free spot to crash for the night. I felt somewhat reluctant because I was the only woman on the whole lineup of musicians that night and I didn’t see many other women around. We were about to go to the mansion, but then it turned out to be a bunch of drunk dudes all wanting us to get in a hot tub with them. Luckily the guys in my band always looked out for me and we all ended up sort of sneaking away and getting a hotel room for the night instead. I’m grateful to be playing music with more women and genderqueer folks these days 🙂

6. What were some rejected band names you almost had?
Carrie:
Desert Hearts
Wild Embers
Twin Shadow (Already Taken)
Carpet Ride (Too punk rock LOL)

7.) As a final question, I read that each of you are from other parts of the country and have performed in other groups, do you have any advice for other transplants trying to enter the Seattle music scene?
Carrie: I always think it’s a good idea to attend lots of shows and get a feel for the kind of bands and venues that our out here. Try to make friends with other bands and musicians and build a network of supportive fellow musicians who either want to play with you or book shows together. Bookers at venues don’t do as much building of bills anymore so it helps to approach some of the venues with a complete lineup or at least one other band that will bring out people. There are so many musicians and bands here so it can feel daunting to try and get out here, but if you have a few other bands or artists in your corner it really helps.

I also think it’s a great idea to make a professional recording and press them in a professional way so you have a better chance of getting on radio stations like KEXP. KEXP is awesome at supporting local bands and their reach is far and wide. It can be hard to get on their airways since they get tons of submissions, but showing up to the station or mailing an actual professional hard copy of the songs with a radio one-sheet really helps the chances of getting airplay.

 

I have to thank Moon Palace for providing such great answers.  Check out “Shadowcast” available August 23rd, and catch Moon Palace at Clock-Out Lounge on Friday, September 20th.

“Have you Ever Heard of that Place?”: A Review of ‘Phonic Seattle’

When searching for films about the Seattle music and arts scene, you’ll be hard pressed to find any.  On one hand, Seattle is a footnote in many bands’ histories.  Documentaries about Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Ray Charles, and a number of other performers usually have a feature about Seattle.  You might also find 30 to 45 minute specials which provide short profiles of the Seattle music scene.  However, when it comes to full length documentaries solely about Seattle music culture only two major ones come to mind, the grunge focused “Hype”, and the jazz focused “Wheedle’s Groove”.  Both documentaries feature a snapshot of Seattle music culture and have been released nationwide to a mostly positive critical response.  Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of a new documentary about the Seattle music scene, “Phonic Seattle”.

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Art by Izzi Vasquez on display during the premiere

The film’s director Alaia D’Alessandro looks to introduce musical spaces and performers you never knew of, by following three local musicians, Carlarans, Julie-C, and Reese Tanimura, to their favorite underground music spots and events around Seattle.  The film’s decision to follow three musicians representing different backgrounds is brilliant as the documentary spotlights a diverse range of venues and events around the city.  The documentary’s approach to introducing this premise is unique in that it hits the ground running.  The documentary lays out the premise almost immediately and goes right into the first of the three musicians.  This quick paced approach of interview, segment about the venue, coupled with clips of a live performance carries through the entire documentary, and creates a feeling kind of like a DJ mixing at a night club.  It’s an ebb and flow approach where the music being mixed, are the video segments and the great camera angles.  At first it feels a little manic, but the more you watch it, the more it doesn’t feel like a simple compilation of interviews.  Rather it feels more like a visual mixtape of our community.

The documentary aimed to introduce new venues and performers, but I believe the real takeaway is how so many diverse music experiences exist almost independently from one another within the same city space.  It’s incredible to think you could experience nearly every musical genre on any given night in the city.  The documentary demonstrates Seattle isn’t solely a grunge city or a jazz town anymore.  This documentary shows how the changes in our communities and the economic flow are helping dictate the direction of the music and arts scene, and in some cases causing others to be more steadfast in their response to that change.  It felt like the response to the changes was just more creativity.  Creativity in what a space can offer.  Creativity in what defines the audience.  Creativity in marketing campaigns.  It seems like for the community to survive the influx, the performers and the spaces adapted their definition of self to the influx, and this feeling of adaptation is on display in the documentary.

As a person who was born and raised in Seattle, I felt like this was a great representation of our city and definitely fulfills on it’s tagline of “introducing musical space and performance you never knew of”.  I attended the screening with my cousins and on more than one occasion we found ourselves leaning in and asking one another, “Have you ever heard of that place?” or “What was the name of that artist?”.  If you have people who are engaged in the local arts and music community, who grew up in the city, asking one another if they recognized something, then you really have accomplished your tagline.  When it comes to the question of welcoming “outsiders” into the music community, I felt like the best response to this question came from both Carlarans (who hosts “The Beat”) and also the owner of Clock-Out Lounge.  Carlarans explained that it’s okay for “outsiders” to come into these new experiences as long as they do so under the understanding that they’re guests.  The owner of Clock-Out Lounge, reiterated the same message and added “Also, just don’t be an a**hole.”  I feel like this is the perfect reflection of Seattle and for me the biggest takeaway from the documentary.  Everyone is welcome, be cognizant of the people who established the longstanding community structures, and above all else, just don’t be an a**hole. (haha)

From a born and raised Seattle person, I recommend checking out Phonic Seattle.