Upstate Returns From a Soul-Vacation to Boulder's Fox Theatre

By: Natalie Pulvino

New York-based Americana band Upstate is fresh off their second studio album Healing, and the group shows no sign of slowing down. Blending folk, jazz, rock’n’roll, and americana, Upstate has truly created an exclusive voice, describing the past year as “a process of discovering [their] identity.”

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The sextet was born in New York’s Hudson Valley, where their roots seemed to form their uniquely sensational sound. With Melanie Glenn, Mary Kenney, and Allison Olender on vocals and guitar, Harry D’Agostino on bass, and Dean Mahoney on the cajón, this group is atypical and refreshing. Many have compared them to Lake Street Dive, commenting on their jazzy-folk influence with undeniably stunning vocals.

After the release of their debut project, A Remedy (2015), the band evidently went on a soul-vacation. Changing their name from “Upstate Rubdown” to simply “Upstate,” experimenting musically, and even picking up Allison Olender from Nashville to join the band, all contributed to the group’s fresh energy and new album, Healing.

And it really is fresh. Healing takes you on a journey: from slow and melancholy to upbeat and humorous, Upstate seems to grasp every emotion and individually integrate each one into their music. The album is honest and vulnerable in a light and relatable way.

Upstate most recently sold-out their show at the Boulder Chautauqua Community House in early April, and will continue on to headline the Fox Theatre on Saturday May 25th.

Keep up with Upstate here.  

-Natalie

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Boulder-Based Nobide Are Making Waves One Big Stage at a Time

By: Natalie Pulvino

Boulder-based live electronic band Nobide is fresh off a show at the Boulder Theater, soon to headline the Larimer Lounge, and has a lot in store for this summer’s festival season. We sat down with Nick Vann, founder of Nobide, to ask him about the band’s authentic sound, local influences, and upcoming endeavors.   

What differentiates Nobide from other live-electronic acts?

Probably our versatility- we want to make all types of music, not get caught in one sound or genre. We’ve been working on combining the production elements with the live instruments, figuring out how to allow the produced pieces to function like a band member. Our live setup is pretty crazy- I can now manipulate and change the sound of the guys as they’re playing [and] do DJ production effects live which is pretty crazy.

You’ve described Nobide to BolderBeat previously as “organic-electronica,” emphasizing the live aspect to your music. What is your process for infusing the produced pieces with the organic element to create the perfect blend?

Our process is evolving as we figure out our sound. We’re still fresh as a unit, so we’re not sticking to any one process for writing or playing- it’s all very open right now. As far as putting songs together it’s really important to me that the songs don’t come out sounding like just another band. There’s so much possibility with production and sound… I’m always looking to hear something new, both musically and in regards to how a piece actually sounds.

Are there any local live-electronic acts that you draw inspiration from?

Mxxnwatchers is making some really forward thinking stuff, as is Evanoff. Break Science are the OGs. I think we all feed off each other, but we’re all sorta doing our own thing and pushing it as far it can go. To me that’s the ideal- there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in making stuff that sounds too much like someone else.

How do you cultivate that influence while maintaining a strong sense of authenticity in your music?

I think seeing how other people approach their music is the best kind of inspiration. We try not to take what other people are actually doing musically or sonically into account and just focus on doing what sounds best to us. In that sense we have no choice but to be authentic.

Nobide recently opened for The Floozies at the Boulder Theater- what was that like for the band?

It was a huge moment for all of us. I grew up in Boulder, so it was especially exciting for me. It was so killin’ to play for the hometown crew and have them show up like that. Nobide is Boulder-bred, and I think it was cool for the Boulderites to see the evolution of the project. A lot of people got introduced to the music that night too which was exciting. We’ve got mad love for Boulder.

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Are there any shows you guys have played that have been super memorable?

The Boulder Theater show was one for sure, as well as The Fiillmore when we opened for Sunsquabi in January. It’s always exciting to play big rooms with big sound systems. We played with Michal Menert in January and that was a full-circle moment. I’ve been listening to his music for years.

Nobide is on the bill for Summer Camp Music Festival, Sonic Bloom, and a few others that will be announced soon. What is the band looking forward to most about being on the lineup for these festivals?

I think mostly meeting new people- artists and fans alike. It’ll be cool to see how our music stands up and translates in new environments. It’s a big opportunity, but it’s also just gonna be fun as heck.

Do you foresee any challenges that may arise from playing festivals as opposed to singular shows?

It’s definitely going to be a compromise on some fronts [since] we have a pretty complex setup for performing, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. It’ll be a good challenge to be pros, to know it’s not all about us but more about the vibe of the whole event.

There’s been talk that the band may be hitting the road soon. If you guys go on tour, where would you want to play and who would you love to play with?

Eventually all over the world! But for now we’re trying to get down South and out to the West Coast and Midwest, start slowly expanding our radius through the U.S. We’d love to play with all sorts of people that like to get down. Lettuce, Pretty Lights, Zhu, Rufus Du Sol, Bonobo, Odesza… We want to bring this music all over!

Keep up with Nobide here and don’t miss their headlining show at the Larimer Lounge this Saturday, April 6th. Tickets & information here.  

-Natalie

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Weir Drops New Single "Copper" with Local Electronic Label Alias

By: Natalie Pulvino

One way Colorado has distinguished itself in the music world is through the unwavering rise of live-electronic bands. With influencers like Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, GRiZ, SunSquabi and more, young and aspiring musicians are crafting something fresh every day. This week, we sat down with Nick Vann of Nobide and Chris Weir of Weir to talk about Weir’s new track “Copper”, which is being released through Vann’s label Alias today.

So Nick, tell us about your record label Alias. When was it formed, what inspired the project, and what is your vision for the label?

NV: It started in January 2018 with my buddy Gunter- it’s a pretty similar vision to other Colorado labels in that we want to put out organic electronic music. Electronic music with live elements in there with really good branding. The vision is to make it a taste-maker label I suppose. Our slogan is “Global Taste, Local Face,” so it’s focused on the local element as well.

Can you give a brief overview of the other artists on the label? Are they all local electronic acts?

NV: Yeah, local, organic electronic incorporating live elements that aren’t completely made on the computer. We have Hxrse, mxxnwathcers, f-ether, and Nobide, to name a few.  

What is your or your team’s current process for choosing what music you’ll distribute through Alias?

NV: Pretty much, if it hits us sonically and “in the feels,” and if we sort of know the person.

Chris Weir.

Chris Weir.

This leads us into the next portion of our interview, which is Weir’s new single “Copper.” Nick, what excited you about “Copper” enough to distribute it through Alias?

NV: It was really different from Weir, not the stuff he’d been making prior. Cinematic and organic, a bit more instrument-based than his prior music. The arrangement is killer.

Very cool. And Chris, tell us a bit more about “Copper.” The song is intense and thick with emotion. What drove this project and what were your inspirations?

CW: Originally I had a friend reach out to make a track for a ski video that he was working on, so I wanted to experiment with more of a hip-hop based, slower tempo, and ended up developing it into something a lot more than a ski video. And by writing it through a dark time, I used that energy in the core progressions and in the sound I was picking out. I wanted to create a vibe similar to the mountains, or tie it in with nature in some way.

What’s the most experimental or exciting part of the song for you?

CW: Probably the overall hip-hop vibe because pretty much all I’ve written in the past has been more dance-house beats, so it was cool to take the tempo a lot slower and fill the space more.

Why did you feel Alias was a good fit to distribute and help promote “Copper?”

CW: It really was more up to Nick, but I saw it fitting Alias more so than my previous projects for sure, in terms of the organic soundscape that I was messing with.

Do you think “Copper” represents a shift in your musical work, and if so, where do you see this shift going?

CW: One hundred percent- I definitely see myself going towards more of a live performance and incorporating more instruments on stage. To me, this track has a lot more elements that I think I could play out live and develop more into what I see Weir being.

Weir at work.

Weir at work.

These last two questions are for both of you. What is your read on the thriving live-electronic scene in the Boulder/Denver area?

NV: It’s so all over the place in the best possible way. Every type of music is getting produced and there’s a really strong community vibe around it, where people just want everybody to succeed. At the end of the day, everybody just wants more good music.

CW: I think it’s just really cool that there’s so much variety both in Boulder and Denver, and all of Colorado. There’s obviously a huge pop of jam bands, soul and funk, but it’s cool to see more electronic and live-electronic acts popping up.

NV: It seems like Colorado may be doing that in a more forward-thinking way than other areas.

What do you mean by that?

NV: It seems that there’s more technological innovation with the blending [of] instruments to create more of a band. Geographically, we’re right in the middle of the country, so musically we’re blending everything together here.

Lastly, can we expect any further artistic collaboration between you two?

NV: Absolutely.

CW: I would certainly hope so.

Be sure to give “Copper” a listen now and catch these guys live in action at Larimer Lounge next Saturday, April 6th.

Keep up with Weir here and check out alias.fm.

-Natalie

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Ryan Bingham's 'American Love Song' Is Aptly Inspired by Life on the Road

By: Natalie Pulvino

“I’m just a person like everyone else who’s influenced by the world around him.”

Photo Credit: Donnie Hedden.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hedden.

Ryan Bingham, a renowned singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, got his “big break” by co-writing the theme song “The Weary Kind” for the 2009 acclaimed film ‘Crazy Heart.’ Now, he’s on tour across the U.S. performing his newest work, ‘American Love Song.’ We sat down with him this week to talk about the record, his songwriting process, and what his music means to him.

How does ‘American Love Song’ differ from your previous projects/records?

I’d say it’s a lot more on the blues side than my previous records. I definitely set out to make more of a blues record than anything.

What was your musical process for writing this album? Can you describe your emotional journey with it?

You know, I always tend to need a bit of solitude to write songs. I wrote some at home, some on the road, and some at a friend’s place in New Mexico out in the middle of nowhere. I need to find some place where I can get away from distractions. You know, I definitely draw off of all my experiences, kind of past and present- it’s all a part of it. If the songs aren’t making me feel something while I’m writing... I try to feel those emotions first, I think that’s pretty important.

Do you typically write lyrics first or instrumentals? Was that the case with this particular record?

Usually the music always comes first- yes definitely.

Can you describe your process for choosing lyrics to fit the instrumentals?

The music just really sets the tone for whatever emotion is going to come. There are definitely notes and chords that are lighter and darker than others, so the tempo and then the key of the song sets the tone for what’s to follow.

This album has a lot of political references and even touches on border politics. What, in your words, is this album truly about?

Well there’s a lot of layers to it, a lot of stuff that I’ve experienced growing up as a kid, moving around the country. A lot of it ties into social issues and what not. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a political album, but it’s consciously aware, which I try to do when I write. I’m just a person like everyone else who’s influenced by the world around him.

A lot of your music touches on your childhood and life experiences. What role would you say music has played in helping you get through hard times?

Writing songs has always been a kind of therapy for me. Sometimes things are difficult to express or talk about. Writing music and playing guitar has always been an outlet. Now, you find folks that you have common experiences with, and it’s gratifying to share that stuff with people and hear stories about how maybe a song helped someone get through something similar.

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Tying your new album ‘American Love Story’ in here, what did you portray through this album?

You know I think at the end of the day, the album is pretty layered, it’s very autobiographical, very personal, but it’s kind of my take on the world around me and how I’ve been influenced by current events. I’m not necessarily sure if that was the goal. I’m always going to write songs about things that I’ve experienced, and the past few years I’ve traveled around the country and met people, and now I’m telling stories about that and sharing experiences with people.

Do you have a song, written or not written by yourself, that you’d say you identify with the most?

I do, there’s a Bob Dylan song called a “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” that I heard when I was very young that I very much identified with. You don’t hear that kind of song on the radio.

What, in your mind, makes an album cohesive? How do you know when it’s complete?

I don’t know, sometimes it never does feel complete. I guess the narrative of the album, you kind of revolve around the center of that. You know the album is complete when you have 12-13 songs and you don’t want to take them off the record.

Who are you speaking to in ‘American Love Song’?

It’s really just anybody who wants to listen and enjoys the music. I try to take everybody into consideration when writing these songs, and everybody’s feelings and emotions are reflections of my own. If there’s some young kid in a small town looking for music that has a different message than they’re portraying in the pop commercial world, then maybe that’s a good thing.

You’ve won a number of awards, including a Grammy. After such an accomplishment, where do you hope to see your music career take you in the next few years?

Oh, you know, I just feel very lucky to have the opportunity to get out on the road and play for people. It’s never really been about winning awards or accomplishing a sense of, I don’t know…  my interpretation of success is being out here and being able to do it and people want to hear the songs. I feel like I’ve already ‘made it’ in so many ways, [that] I don’t know if it could get any better.

Catch Ryan Bingham at Denver’s Ogden Theatre this Tuesday, April 2nd. Grab tickets at this link.

Keep up with Ryan here.

-Natalie

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Jr. Rabbit Talks Band Dynamics, Influences, & What Music Means to Them

By: Natalie Pulvino

Amidst some of the most notable jam bands and the thriving live-electronic scene, Denver is exploding with a number of up-and coming indie-rock bands. This week, we sat down with Jr. Rabbit, a four-piece project with a laid-back attitude but a serious vision. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Ryan Howell talked to us about the band’s formation, their new singles, and what rehearsals can look like. Read on:

Tell us a bit about Jr. Rabbit. How many people are in the band and who plays what?

I’m [Ryan] on guitar, and I lyrically write most of the music. Shayne MacLaughlin plays lead guitar and drums, Stephen (Eski) Edwards plays bass guitar, and Tyler Moyer plays the drums.

How did you all meet and form Jr. Rabbit?

It mainly started with Tyler and I last year jamming and writing originals, and [we] took it from there. It’s sort of an open project- we let a lot of people in on the recording process. Another cool fact is that me, Tyler, and Shayne are all from the East Coast and all met up around 2012 when I was in Colorado on tour with a different band. Three years later, I moved out here to start my own thing and it sort of went from there.

How would you describe your music?

Musically we try to work on dynamics- most of our songs are three to four chords. Personally, I try to just write things that are relatable. I try to relate to the inner-emotion of the person in our songs.

What inspired the name Jr. Rabbit?

Honestly, there’s not a cool story, I wish there was. I was driving one day and that phrase just popped up in my brain and I thought it flowed nicely, and it was just something that stuck in my head.

Who are your main influencers?

I vocally reflect off Deer Tick and definitely Modest Mouse. We also gain a lot of influence from Classic Rock, which is instilled into all of us… that’s what we grew up listening to with our folks. But we all have different backgrounds. Eski grew up on AC/DC and Tyler and I grew up on Funk.

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What excites you guys about the two singles you’ve released, “Situation” and “Rain to Wine?”

We’re getting good overall- we’re not just trying to make it a catchy song lyrically, we’re trying to make it something that other people can relate to but maybe are afraid to express. “Rain to Wine” is about addiction, and I’ve struggled, and I know friends who have struggled. Songs like that make it okay for other people to talk about that problem, and if not at least it’s a sigh of release for someone who’s going through the same thing. That’s sort of why I got into music- I felt like someone else was writing what I was feeling and it made me feel less alone.

What has been your biggest challenge since working together as a band and how did you overcome it?

Showing up on time. Shayne is always on “Shayne Time,” as we call it. But other than that the challenge is trying to believe in what we’re trying to do and hoping to see that catch on. We’re not doing covers; we’re mainly originals, so the biggest frustration is for people to get on board with our originals.

What are your band rehearsals typically like?

It’s mainly a little bit of everything. At first we usually just start jamming, whether it be a cover song or just improv. We do at least one improv jam per show to just create something in that moment. Then we’ll typically go through our new stuff and end off on the stuff we all know to make sure it’s polished and sharp.

Where has Jr. Rabbit played recently, and which venues are in the books?

We’ve been playing at this place called Maddie's Biergarten in Castle Rock. They’ve got the full setup with a stage and soundboard, and they gave us residency there for all of March. We’ll be in Denver and Fort Collins in June.

Where would you guys like to be with your music career in 2020?

Hopefully in a place where we’re making a living off of it, wherever that may be. I want to be playing for anyone who wants to listen to real, genuine, authentic music. But we’ll see, everything takes time.

Keep up with Jr. Rabbit here.

-Natalie

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Review: Why J-Calvin's 'Heart Glow' Should Be Your Next Sunday Morning Album

By: Natalie Pulvino

Durango-based band J-Calvin recently released their debut album Heart Glow, and it’s the perfect record to pair with a warm cup of tea on a sunny Sunday morning.

The neo-soul funk five-piece group is making waves in the rising jazz-soul scene here in Colorado. Having been together for just over a year, the group has played over 70 shows in the Southwest region, hitting major stops such as the Telluride Jazzfest and Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest. Now, they’ve taken their work to the next level with the release of their debut album, Heart Glow.

The record kicks off with “Dare I Say,” a light groove that gets your head-bobbing right away. The rhythm to this song is both vibrant and buttery, featuring lead vocalist Sarah Pumpian. Her vocal effect is similar to neo-jazz musician Victory; her words and soft sound make you feel like you’re sitting in the sun with a soft breeze tickling your skin.

The band brings out a truly unique soul-funk sound on “Take Me Away,” the third track on the record. It begins with Pumpian on vocals, but halfway through blends into keyboardist Garrison Jones’ soft raps. Then, Will Metz jumps in and lightly shreds his electric guitar. This song is experimental, and takes you on an infused rollercoaster of soft jazz and soul-funk.

J-Calvin.

J-Calvin.

Then, J-Calvin melts us into “Sun,” which feels exactly how it sounds: warm, bright, and deliciously harmonious. Again, we hear the dichotomy of both Pumpian’s soft, enveloping voice with Jones’ rich low beats.

“This Will Grow” closes the album with some of the band’s best qualities: soft, jaw-dropping vocals, light jazz tones from the piano, drums, and electric guitar, and a palpable love for their work.

You can catch this group live in Fort Collins at the Magic Rat tomorrow, Friday March 15th!

Keep up with J-Calvin here.

-Natalie

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.