"When Your Axe is at its Sharpest, it's Time to Lay it Down." - Wild Faith Serenades Longmont at Rosalee's Pizzeria

By: Moriel O'Connor

If you are searching for the sounds of music, you will strike gold in Boulder, Colorado. The Pearl Street Mall is well-dressed in street performers, everflowing fountains, sculptures over sandstone, and manicured beds of marigolds, daisies and tulips. You are almost certain to stumble upon a wandering musician. Some pass by; some choose to listen. This is where I met Leonardo Armigo of Wild Faith

Wild Faith.

Wild Faith.

With long curls, a sweet smile and a guitar in hand, he played for the people of Pearl Street busking. After catching him up and down the road, he invited me to his recent show at Rosalee's Pizzeria in Longmont, Colorado.

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Leo is a storyteller with impeccable rhythm and musical talent. His songs show an appreciation for sacred places and all aspects of nature, including the human experience and all its vulnerabilities. While he sings, passion rings through his voice and medicine moves through his fingers. Wild Faith is rooted in the Southwest, with Apache, Comanche, Spanish and  Mediterranean ancestry. Leo has been performing for over 15 years. He recently traveled through Peru and brought back stories to sing. Throughout his performance, Leo spoke for the land with lyrics and reminders such as:

"The example we set is the destruction we heal."

"When you're axe is at its sharpest, it's time to lay it down."

"When there is wonder, there is a way."

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Wild Faith donates 50% of his album sales to Amazon Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Amazon rainforest and the rights and cultures of the indigenous. You can support the Amazon and purchase Wild Faith's album, The Longest Journey- An Acoustic Experience here. Find him at Arise Festival in Loveland, Colorado this August and Tribal Visions in Taos, New Mexico this September. If you're lucky, you might even hear his heart songs on Boulder’s Pearl Street. 

Keep up with Wild Faith here

-Moriel

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

Review: Alex Fermanis Releases Fifth Full-Length Album ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’

By: Adam Cabrera

Colorado Springs indie artist and multi-instrumentalist Alex Fermanis just released his newest solo album Land of the Midnight Sun, on November 3rd. This is the fifth full-length release of his career, and Alex presents us with a highly-listenable album that performs as a nostalgic throwback to classic 70s rock filtered through layers of otherworldly effects and dreamlike synthesizers.

Alex Fermanis.

Alex Fermanis.

Influenced by prog rock, krautrock, synth music, folk and bluegrass, Alex has built up an impressive catalog of releases that cover a range of genres from psychedelic to country. However, throughout this diverse set of styles, what has remained constant for him is a knack for songwriting and his unique ability to find new creative avenues that diverge from mainstream musical norms.

Some of the standout tracks on the record such as “Letter,” “USW,” and “Freight Train,” demonstrate his expertise as an instrumentalist and songwriter. Each displays a new feature of Alex’s sound while creating captivating melodies and catchy hooks reminiscent of 60s and 70s pop music, before eventually breaking off into atmospheric psych-rock instrumentals.

In the context of his lyricism, Fermanis’ record explores themes of unrequited love, isolation, loneliness and a wistful longing for travel; all of which speak towards Alex’s quiet-lifestyle and introspective personality.  “Letter,” for example, describes the story of a man attempting to reunite a long forgotten romance, while Streets of Stockholm” describes a sentimental feeling towards traveling abroad and adventuring into foreign lands. In short, it’s these feelings of nostalgia and blissful adventure that define the album.

The artwork for  Land of the Midnight Sun.

The artwork for Land of the Midnight Sun.

Demonstrating his persistent DIY attitude, Alex wrote and recorded the entirety of the project by himself at his home studio in Colorado Springs and is heard performing on every instrument. This versatile range of talents adds a palpable sense of cohesiveness throughout the sonically dense album. Nevertheless, at the very bottom of the many layers of sound sits a highly-skilled piano player orchestrating each track. And though Alex doesn’t consider himself a pianist, he often composes his songs on piano, as he enjoys the technical complexity of the instrument. Moreover, this intricacy tends to show through in the overall sound of his latest release. It is lushly textured with synthesizers and abound with harmonically-rich piano riffs; this new record stands out as a highlight among his relatively large discography.

This winter, Fermanis will be trying to pull together a new band with the hope of performing his recent release for live audiences across the Front Range. When considering the record’s quality and Alex’s capacity for songwriting, it’s clear that his career has the potential to expand far beyond Colorado Springs’ modest music scene.

Keep up with Alex here.

-Adam

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

Sin Fronteras: Folks Fest Raises Voices in Solidarity

By: Riley Ann

Music from across the globe took the stage at the 2018 Folks Fest, including acts from the Saharan Desert, Canada, and the tasty melting pot of American folk music. Despite the lyrics being sung in various languages, spanning English, French, Spanish, and Tamashek, one message rang clear: strength in togetherness.

Las Cafeteras.

Las Cafeteras.

The East L.A.-based band Las Cafeteras took the stage by storm on Friday with their Afro-Mexican dance party. Vibrant choreography and hip-shaking rhythms amplified their Spanish and English lyrics advocating for social justice. Band members shared the spotlight trading off lead vocals, and they gave shoutouts to various causes, including Black Lives Matter, indigenous people’s rights, and more. They also performed a new rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” by blending Spanish phrases, new melodies, and a mariachi groove into the familiar tune as a modern commentary. You can see their live performance on KEXP and read the lyrics on their website.

Representatives of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Boulder County joined Las Cafeteras onstage to recognize their contributions as artists to social justice issues. The chamber invited Las Cafeteras to Colorado on the band’s previous tour and thanked the band for the work they do through music as well as educational programs throughout the country.

Later that night, Los Lobos, another East L.A. band lit up the stage with their unique blend of traditional Latin American styles with rock, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, R&B, blues, and soul. The group made waves in music history by bringing Latin American folk music back to top charts in the late 80s, revitalizing Ritchie Valens’ take on the traditional tune “La Bamba,” along with several other hit songs. While Valens was an early trailblazer in the Chicano Rock movement, Los Lobos carried the torch and kept the movement steady via mainstream radio airplay decades later. With their popularity, multiple Grammy Awards, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they’ve made their mark not just within the Chicano Rock movement, but also with deep ties in the ever-colorful tapestry of American folk music.

Heather Mae.

Heather Mae.

Saturday morning opened with Heather Mae, the artist who won last year’s Folks Fest songwriter competition. She moved the crowd with musical confessions about mental illness, overcoming oppression, and body image evidenced in her song “I Am Enough.” As an advocate for body positivity, LGBTQIA rights, people of color, and more, she thanked the festival organizers for curating such a diverse lineup throughout the weekend, saying, “They are trying to elevate marginalized voices, and that includes women. Thank you.” She concluded her set by inviting a chorus of performers to join her on stage for her power anthem “Stand Up.”

When Darrell Scott took the stage Saturday afternoon, he performed a song that he said was written by his friend Marcus Hummon. The narrative showed the life of a Honduran girl named Rosanna who escaped the physical and sexual abuse of the underground sex trafficking industry, bore a daughter, was profiled and arrested by police, was deported by I.C.E. back to Honduras, and nearly died in the desert trying to reunite with her daughter. Her true story is documented here, and you can hear Hummon’s album version here. The song left the crowd frozen and teary-eyed for Rosanna, the representation of people targeted by strict immigration policies and facing not just unfair, but impossible playing fields.

Saturday evening closed with the Indigo Girls. Despite heavy rains concluding their set early, they shared many of their signature songs, including “It’s Alright,” which is one of many that uses music as a vehicle for social change. The Indigo Girls served as one of the first bands to not only be public advocates for the LGBTQIA community, but also to be publicly out. Beloved by the crowd, the duo was joined by the sea of smiling faces singing along in the rain.

Bonnie Paine.

Bonnie Paine.

Bonnie Paine opened Sunday with the help of the “Cottonwood Choir” and instrumentalists featuring many familiar faces from the Front Range, including other members of Elephant Revival. The ensemble inspired the crowd to sing along with spirituals originating from slaves’ field songs about overcoming oppression.

That evening, Tinariwen quickly became a crowd favorite. The band’s fascinating blend of African stylings with American blues idioms created a strikingly unique sound. Furthermore, the band’s formation in refugee camps and resilience despite the backdrop of warfare, strife, and revolution speaks through the music even if listeners don’t know Tamashek. Over several decades, band members have survived against the odds and continue writing songs fighting for human rights and equality. They’ve even been called “Music’s True Rebels” by NPR. You can read more about the band’s background here.

Tinariwen.

Tinariwen.

Once again, Planet Bluegrass curated a powerful festival, giving festivarians an opportunity to see household names, like Regina Spektor, the Indigo Girls, and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) alongside the acts you didn’t know you wanted to see. Stay tuned at the Planet Bluegrass website for their lineup of next year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rockygrass, and Folks Fest.

View the full photo gallery from this event here.

-Riley

Find out more about Riley on her blog.

All photos provided to BolderBeat by the artist. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Daphne Willis Is Bringing the Freak to Boulder's e-Town Hall This Week

By: Julia Talen

To classify Daphne Willis as one type of musical artist is a difficult feat. She’s been immersed in the music scene for over ten years, having released several records, her most recent being 'Freaks Like Me.' On it you’ll find gorgeous ballads like “Somebody’s Someone” mixed with pop dance tunes like “Out of the Black” and “Just a Little Bit.” Her music gives listeners a glimpse into Willis’ personal experiences which she’s honest and open about.

Daphne Willis. 

Daphne Willis. 

Her latest single, “Do It Like This” (which includes a sweet music video shot on the Queensboro Bridge in NYC featuring dancer Shereen Jenkins), is the perfect upbeat track to blast and sing to in your car with your windows rolled down this summer. Not only that, but she’ll be in Boulder Friday, May 18th bring her vibrant spunk and rich voice to e-Town Hall. We spoke with Willis to hear more about the evolution of her multifaceted musical career and what to expect at her upcoming show.

When did you start playing music and how has your career evolved?

Sure. Well I grew up in a musical family. Both my parents went to UT Austin; my mom was a vocal major and my dad was an engineering major so I grew up singing in a musical family. We always used to listen to music and sing. My parents had me taking piano lessons when I was little. I did that for a while. Played a little bit of saxophone. And then I ended up getting really into poetry when I was in sixth grade. I learned how to play the guitar when I was in high school. I originally started playing cover songs, and once I kind of got more comfortable with the guitar I started writing my own songs.

And then did you study music in college?

No, I’m completely self-taught. I started writing songs in school, and then I went to DePaul University -I’m from Chicago originally- and I started playing out at open mics in the blues clubs and stuff like that. I had written a handful of songs and got a band together and we would play the bars in Chicago, and then we started touring around in the Midwest.

I had this little acoustic EP I had made, and I submitted it to some sub-licensing companies, like you know when you’re in P.F. Changs and you hear music playing? I had my song playing in a catalogue like that. And it was playing on American Airlines flights. The president of this record label was on the flight, and his iPod died, so he plugged his headphones into the armrest and my song was playing. It was crazy. I was eighteen/nineteen at the time and they flew me out to L.A. and the whole thing. The A&R guy that actually signed me, he’s based in Nashville so he was having me go to Nashville for co-writing and to work on the record that I was going to do with them.

So basically I signed a deal and dropped out of school. I took the opportunity and started doing co-writing in Nashville. I did a couple of records with Vanguard Records and then left the label. Now I’m independent as an artist, but I’ve signed a publishing deal with Sony ATV so I’m now a song writer. I write pop music for Sony ATV, and I’ve been with them for three years.

Cool. Speaking of songwriting, what does your process look like?

Well, I write all the time. I write four to five songs a week, and I co-write a lot which is pretty standard in the music industry. A lot of my writing is done in New York, L.A., and Nashville. And I collaborate.

Sometimes we start with the melody. Sometimes with lyrics. Sometimes someone already has like a track made so we write to a track. I often kind of categorize the writing sessions. So if I’m writing for somebody else, it’ll go a little differently than if I’m writing for me. Or, you know I do a lot of film and T.V. writing so the film and T.V. writing is always a little different too.

It all kind of just depends. For me I try and draw inspiration from things I know. I like to write what I know, things from my friends and family’s experiences, kind of just what I see in the world and experience in the world.

That’s awesome. You have kind of a range of different sounds. You’ve got some dancey pop songs and more mellow ballads, like “Somebody’s Someone.” I’m curious, what are some of your musical influences?

I grew up with The Beatles and Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. And I grew up with a lot of jazz and blues influence being in Chicago. I also grew up with a lot of you know the R&B of the nineties- Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. And with all the hip-hop so I have kind of like a hip-hop influence too. I don’t know. It’s kind of all over the place, but it’s fun to be able to blend the genres by just weaving a message and theme throughout the music.

Nice. With your upcoming show at e-Town together, I have to ask. Have you and Dave Tamkin ever played together before, or how are you two connected?

Oh my gosh, it’s so fun because we go so far back! I’ve known Dave for ten years. He’s from Chicago too and we used to play the same clubs and were in the same circles in Chicago. Then we finally played a show and hung out and really hit it off. We stayed in touch though both of us moving away, and he’s just the best. He’s my homie.

That’s great. What should audiences expect at your Boulder show?

I like to talk about the song and give people a little bit of insight into my world and how I wrote it. I’m super open about my personal experiences, and the show is going to be heavily revolving around mental health. That’s the theme of the show. I’ve been in recovery for two years and have a lot of experiences, like pretty much everyone else on the planet with the mental health stuff. So I think it’s just gonna be a nice, open atmosphere. It’s going to be really fun.

Get your tickets to Daphne Willis and Dave Tamkin’s e-Town show here.

-Julia

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

Review: Alex Dezen Strikes New Ground on ///

By: Brody Coronelli

Veteran songwriter formerly of The Damnwells takes influence from the ‘80s on his third album as a solo artist.

It’s been three years since The Damnwells— the Americana/rock band from New York City responsible for putting their frontman Alex Dezen in the spotlight—called it quits. Throughout their time, they released five studio albums and came within inches of major label success, but ultimately faded out. Since then, Dezen has been working diligently to build a solo career, and it fits him well. He’s evolved more as an artist over the last three years than he did in the 15 he spent making music with The Damnwells.

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Since 2015, Dezen has released three EPs, three self-titled solo albums, and a live album. It all started with the endearing, magnetic Bedhead EPs, and was followed with the stripped-down, memoir-esque I, the nostalgic and experimental II, the live album Alive in America, and now III. His solo material has managed to strike a strong balance between the personal and political, while also functioning as a tribute to the music that inspired him when he was young. III is no different in this regard, and it stands out as his most ambitious solo effort yet.

III (stylized as ///) is Dezen’s first solo album made in close creative proximity with his partner and collaborator, the actress/comedian Amber Bollinger. Bollinger’s backing vocals are at the center of these songs. Dezen’s third solo endeavor is a spacious, synth-driven romp through the vast, danceable, and hook-heavy songwriting of ‘80s rock. This influence is the most obvious on anthemic tracks like “Run Away From You,” a playful and shadowy duet that echoes emotional turmoil at every corner. The carnal and self-aware “Animal” moves at a similar velocity, utilizing bright synthesizers and slick, pop production. It’s one of the angriest songs Dezen has ever written, but it’s shining and infectious at the same time; two energies he’s able to bridge together masterfully. “From Your Knees” maintains the anger of “Animal,” and is also one of the most left-field yet memorable additions to III. With fuzzy, synth-heavy verses that drown his vocals in static, the song eventually makes a headfirst slide into a melodic chorus layered with vocal harmonies from Bollinger and a jagged guitar refrain.

Alex Dezen.

Alex Dezen.

The pop side of the ‘80s comes through at its most irresistible on the bracing, political “The End of America.” The song is romantic and fatalistic all at once, with tongue-in-cheek lines like “I am not your judging jury/I am your Judge Judy,” all wrapped up by one of the most masterful and infectious hooks Dezen has ever written. “Let me be your jester today/We can blow the heavens away/We can drive to the end of America,” he sings, maintaining a sense of youthful sentimentality while also acknowledging that it’s all going down in flames.

Despite the glitz and experimental flash of many of the songs on III, Dezen doesn’t hold back from stripping things down. The lead single “When You Need Me”is a vibrant, ambitious love song that uses ethereal and spacious production to make a sweeping declaration of infatuation. It runs at over six minutes and is bound together by a simple, two-note piano lead that remains the same, but feels brighter and brighter as the song progresses. The album closes with “Cool Places,” a piano-clad duet that uses youthful, simple language to portray a vibrant romance. “I wanna go to cool places with you/I wanna take you cool places tonight/I wanna go where nobody’s a fool/And no one says ‘Hey girl, need a light?’” The song is unconcerned with any lyrical or instrumental frills, and distills love down to its most forthright.

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Alex Dezen is a veteran songwriter who has grown increasingly more comfortable with himself and his artistic range, and III is one of his finest works yet. In many ways, these solo albums he’s diligently spent the last three years working on have served as a deconstruction of Dezen’s history as a songwriter; they’ve taken apart the musical conventions he abided by for so long and made something new from the disassembled parts. These songs are a long way from the Americana-laced balladeering of The Damnwells, but they’re not any less successful at leaving a lasting impression.

Keep up with Alex here.

-Brody

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

Mitchel Evan's Intimate, Informal Solo Debut Record Is Also A Send Off

By: Brody Coronelli

The newly solo singer/songwriter reflects on his former band, the experience that inspired his upcoming, informal debut The Little Horse Tapes, and how it drove him to seek rejuvenation back home.

Mitchel Evan.

Mitchel Evan.

The road to Mitchel Evan becoming a solo artist has been long and winding. It’s taken a complete uprooting from his home state of Virginia, the inception, prosperity, and disbanding of his former band The Mangrove, and past struggles with addiction and personal tragedy to lay the emotional groundwork for a career that has recently become entirely his own.

At heart, Evan has always been a solo artist. He writes forthright and honest music that strikes the arduous balance between being relatable and personally expressive, and although collaboration has often been a step between the creation and delivery of his work, his music has always been a vibrant extension of himself, above all else.

“The disbanding of The Mangrove was probably the best thing that ever happened to me artistically. The material for the band was written by me, for the band. It had a specific sound in mind. After awhile, I felt constricted doing this,” he says, “I’m really grateful that I had the Mangrove for three years, [though]. It allotted me a lot of time to experiment with different sounds, to work with a producer, to learn to record, and figure out how I like to write. It was the middle of the road; it was somewhere between being a solo artist, and being in a band.”

Since his band split for good late last year, Evan has yet to officially debut as a solo artist. This is where The Little Horse Tapes comes in. Recorded at Little Horse, a vintage music and bookstore in Louisville, CO that occasionally doubles as a recording studio, this six-track, live-to-tape cassette will be Evan’s first release since he struck out on his own.

The songs that comprise The Little Horse Tapes were written from a place of heartache, and released entirely out of circumstance. After Evan struck up a friendship with Ryan Sniegowski, Little Horse’s sound engineer, six songs Evan had written but didn’t have any plans of including on his debut LP It’s A Hell of a Drug, Nostalgia (due out this summer), suddenly found a home. Loosely, the tapes are a concept album; each stripped-down, acoustic track was written during a recent romantic relationship, and they document the beginning, middle, and end.  

“They’re all- more or less- hopeful love songs, but through the filter of my cynical mind,” he says.

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“Open Season,” the opening track of Side A, was one of the first songs Evan wrote during the relationship, and instead of it basking in the honeymoon phase, it projects to the end, foreseeing a future where he and the girl are no longer together. “I’m at the mercy of a fragile heart,” he croons on the song, coming to terms with his sensitivity and the mess it can make.  

“Cancel Out The Noise” is a breezy and irresistible folk song about relinquishing control to love. Evan sings of love as an entity that operates on its own terms, having come over him like a storm he couldn’t outrun.

“[It’s about me] falling in love, but I don’t like that I’m falling in love. I had just gotten out of a three-year relationship, and I was only single for three months before I fell again. I knew it was gonna be a long road, and that I didn’t have a say in the matter,” he says.

“I don’t wanna feel this way/I don’t wanna feel the way I do/And that’s your cue,” he sings on the chorus, acknowledging that his feelings are out of his control, but still ultimately remain his own.

“[The track is also about] acknowledging the illusion of free will. It’s been a crazy, very hard couple of months,” he says, “We have this illusion to wrestle our will into place and gain control over our lives, but we have control over so little that happens to us. We only have control over the way we respond to life.”

“I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” continues the theme of not having control over how we feel or what comes over us. It’s a slow-burning, magnetic song that uses simple, yet powerful imagery to portray the struggle of not being able to get someone off your mind. “I can’t stop thinking about you” is repeated throughout the song, mimicking the spiraling and redundant noise that love fills your head with. It features a slow, pulsing drum machine that quietly lulls behind the music like a pulse or a subway sonar, subtly stitching the song together.

“It’s supposed to be redundant and repetitive, because that’s how [love] feels. I [couldn’t] stop thinking about [her]; [she was] running through my head over and over like this cyclical pulse,” he says. “[The song] stays true to the cynical nature of [this record]. It was irritating that I was falling in love, and I was fighting it every step of the way, instead of allowing myself to fall.”

“Thirty Miles (Juliette)” is a quaint and stripped-down song about Evan uprooting himself from Virginia, coming to Colorado, and the doubts that followed, particularly towards the end of the relationship that inspired these songs.

“I’m an eternally restless person, and a lot of that has to do with not knowing if I should be in Colorado. This song documents the push and pull between being here and loving it and also missing my family, the humidity, the ocean, and the East Coast in general,” he says.

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These feelings of doubt have culminated, and Evan is planning on leaving Colorado soon and going back home on the East Coast for a few months. He isn’t leaving without a proper goodbye, though. He’s playing a release show for The Little Horse Tapes at Little Horse Books and Vintage in Louisville on April 14th. With opening acts David Burchfield, Maya Bennett and Many Mountains, the night is a celebration of local talent as well as an intimate send off for Evan; an artist that’s done everything he can to make Colorado feel like home, but still feels the irresistible tug of the Atlantic.

“I was overwhelmed by the circumstances that ended this relationship, and I felt really alone. I didn’t know how to cope with it, but I knew I needed a break, so I started planning a trip back home to reconnect, take a look at myself, be with people who love me, and to breathe and re-center,” he says.

While back home, he has a number of shows planned in Virginia, as well as the surrounding states. With big plans of touring the Carolinas, to play Washington D.C., and to make a stop in Nashville, the trip is also about bringing his music to new scenes and new audiences. After all, he has a lot to be excited about. The past year as seen Evan at his most fully-formed and prolific. He released Back and Forth, a full length album with The Mangrove last year, and he’s set to release It’s A Hell Of A Drug, Nostalgia this summer, in addition to The Little Horse Tapes. People on the East Coast need to hear his work just as much as he needs to reflect and re-center in a place that truly feels like home.

 ** Mitchel’s upcoming show at Little Horse Books has been unfortunately cancelled. 

Keep up with Mitchel here.

-Brody

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

Trevor Hall's 'The Fruitful Darkness EP' Is A Labor of Love

By: Elizabeth Lee

In today’s profit-driven world, it can be hard to define yourself as an artist and maintain the initial passion that drew you to your art. Trevor Hall is one of those whose focus and love for music have lead him to fruition.

Trevor Hall.

Trevor Hall.

Raised in South Carolina, he recorded his first album at the age of sixteen and then traveled to California where he learned classical guitar, as well as the practices of yoga and meditation. Both of these areas of his life would play a major part in the making of his eastern-inspired sound. Trevor would also draw from his roots of spirituality when it came to building a fanbase and connecting with his listeners.

The Fruitful Darkness EP is Trevor’s first independent release, and it was funded entirely by supporters through Kickstarter. Trevor’s fanbase, known as “The Villagers” worked together to raise a total of $137,570, making it the #1 Kickstarter music campaign in 2017. The collaborative effort resulted in its debut at #9 on the iTunes Alternative Charts.

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Artistically, the album pushes boundaries by releasing in three separate installments of 3-5 songs all on specific lunar dates. Trevor’s smooth vocals and guitar weave through every soulful track, bringing to mind the folksy vibe of Bon Iver or songwriting prowess of Jack Johnson. He has a tendency to surprise too- when you hear him rapping over Asian-inspired acoustics, the listener is brought back to his roots and reminded of his leadership in the conscious music community.

Be sure to listen to parts I, II, and III of The Fruitful Darkness EP and catch Trevor on his A Night in the Village Tour this spring across the United States and Europe.

Keep up with Trevor Hall here.  

-Elizabeth

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

John Lensing Releases New Music Video For "Joanie"

By: Trevor Ryan

John Lensing, the Minneapolis bred turned Colorado singer/songwriter released his new video for the heart-wrenching, soulful “Joanie” this month and it’s everything you wanted it to be.

You may know John for his street performing on the streets of…. well everywhere, or maybe you’ve caught a show or two. No matter how you may have stumbled upon Lensing’s tunes, you one thing you’re sure to get when listening is a moment of sincerity and brilliance. Flowing with influences such as Passenger, and all while gripping you with an awe-inspiring take of his own is exactly where you’ll find his newest folk gem “Joanie.” Lensing has this incredible ability to take the world and tell you what it means with raw emotion and simplicity.

The song itself portrays the story of a young woman who has “her picture taken every week,” who is surrounded by everyone that “made” her, and yet who remain the perfect strangers. A powerful take on the struggle between self loathing and worth, you can expect lyrics like, “they took something beautiful, and made it just ‘bout selling things” describing the events of Joanie’s life as “the holiest of sins.”  

John Lensing.

John Lensing.

The video, a project that Lensing describes as “always meant to be simple” became exactly this, and so much more. You find Joanie, despondent and worn, carrying out day-to-day life without notice and lost to the world. Elegantly shot by the ever talented Zoë Keeler, the focus is always on “Joanie,” with the same vacant but beautiful expression, with the world in full motion around her. There are different places with different people filling the background with their own lives and memories, and then there’s Joanie, with eyes as far away as possible.

Check out the full John Lensing experience here, where you can find show dates, new stuff, and a even a newsletter. Toss him a like on Facebook here while you’re at it and don’t forget to catch the video for “Joanie” above.

-Trevor

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

Allie Chipkin Dropping New Record 'Cascades' With Release Show This Weekend

“I have always gotten chills from the sounds of consonants and the patterns of poetry.”

That’s what Boulder’s Allie Chipkin told us, the singer/songwriter whose love of language it seems is really what started her performance career. Having studied Spanish and poetry in college at Boston Conservatory, Allie’s obsession for “the rhythm of words” is initially what inspired her early songwriting. In fact her senior year project was actually her debut record, Honey & Knives. As she started to record the album, she dove headfirst into studying her influences alongside her poetry classes- “Joni's lyrics, Ani's melodies, Patti's wild New York stories, as well as the harmonies of Sara Bareilles and Laura Mvula's R&B chord progressions.” Together, these artists blend into her sound, along with her own styles and musings.

Allie Chipkin. Photo Credit: Justin Camerer.

Allie Chipkin. Photo Credit: Justin Camerer.

Fast-forward beyond her graduation and Chipkin is now a Boulder-based resident about to release her follow-up EP Cascades. Recorded back in Boston with producer and collaborator Kevin O’Connell, Cascades explores in subject Allie’s time spent traveling over the past couple of years. This is obvious on tracks like “Seattle,” which includes percussive elements meant to emphasize rain. Other songs like “Lovesick” don’t directly have a wanderlust feel, but more subtly explore relationships. In fact, Chipkin told us this track is more specifically about the electric creative force behind Chipkin and O’Connell’s collaboration on the record.

Said Chipkin, “I’m ecstatic to release Cascades, because it came to life through the support of the many people in this world I love. This EP showcases talents, sounds, and inspiration from my creative colleagues across the country, and was generously funded by dear friends, fans, and family. Cascades feels like a crisp ‘high-five’ with everyone who has supported my artistic/personal journey thus far. This week, I send gratitude to those who share their love with me, and to anyone who has smiled or winked at me along the way.”

Artwork per Michaella Twersky.

Artwork per Michaella Twersky.

With the digital release of her record slated for this Friday, February 23rd, you have the chance to check out Cascades before Chipkin’s release show the following night at Longmont’s Still Cellars. She’ll be joined onstage by fiddler Oliver Jacobsen, and David Burchfield will open the night.

Make sure to join Allie this weekend and check out her newest release. You just might get the chills yourself.

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

Premiere: J.W. Schuller's Signature Humor Is Apparent In New Music Video For "No mud in Joyville"

By: Hannah Oreskovich

BolderBeat first caught up with Boulder transplant and singer/songwriter J.W. Schuller about a year ago when he released his tongue-in-cheek video for “When I’m President.” Schuller is well-known for injecting his sense of humor into his work, and his recent release for his single “No mud in Joyville” is no different.

“No mud in Joyville” is the title track from Schuller’s newest record, which dropped this past January. The song’s somewhat nonsensical verses and catchy chorus are of Schuller’s signature style, one which keeps the listener wondering what he’ll say next and simultaneously has them singing along after a minute or two. In the song, Schuller imagines a place where there won’t be hate, deer ticks, and of course, mud among other things.

J.W. Schuller.

J.W. Schuller.

The video for “No mud in Joyville,” which we’re premiering here today, brings Schuller’s goofy sensibilities to light. The video features scenes of Schuller and his bearded nephew Jens Larson playing in front of an old stove in a living room of sorts, interspersed with abstract skeleton art sequences, and at one point a scene where they launch skittles from a drum in Larson’s mouth.

Said Jeff about the video, “I conceived and directed the video and it was shot on an iPhone 6 by the abstract artist Jaci Lee Reno, who I'm also lucky to call my wife. The flower and skeleton imagery in the video is an offshoot of my idea for the album cover. I've always been struck by Mexican Day of the Dead folk art and the juxtaposition of skeleton figures and flowers have been a recurring theme in videos and gig posters for me. It’s kind of an off-puttingly cute way to reflect on our mortality, I guess."

Schuller and Larson.

Schuller and Larson.

No mud in Joyville is the second release from Schuller as a solo artist, and is a follow-up to his 2013 release All Important Artists. His latest was recorded and mixed at Underwood Studios in Minneapolis by Mark Stockert, which are Schuller’s old stomping grounds.

J.W. Schuller’s album release show is slated for Saturday, March 10th at The Walnut Room in Denver with Red Petals and Kait Berreckman. Snag tickets here and make sure to keep up with Schuller on Facebook.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

Michael Howard Cuts Through the Noise With Debut Record 'Impatiens'

By: Brody Coronelli

The folk Americana singer/songwriter reflects on his debut album Impatiens and how the Front Range brought new life to his songwriting.  

Michael Howard is a seasoned musician who often plays a hundred shows in a year, has actively performed and collaborated with multiple bands along the Colorado Front Range, and has been writing music in a prolific and soul-searching manner since his early teens. The catch is that you’d never guess any of this from a first impression.

When we met, Howard donned a flannel shirt, loose-fitting blue jeans, and work boots, looking fit more for a day’s work than a night onstage. He works as a contractor when he’s not making music, but the combination of dress and his uniquely relaxed, informal way of talking about his music make him feel like a true everyman; an everyman, that is, with an affinity for a rousing melody.

Born in Colorado but raised in Virginia, Howard came back out to the Rockies three years ago for a fresh start. Back in his home state, he tapped into a newfound sense of inspiration to take music more seriously than he ever had before. He began playing hundreds of shows a year, collaborating with multiple local acts, playing with The Wooden Spoons, The Healthy Herd, and working prolifically on his own solo material.

In November, Howard released his solo debut Impatiens, a sprawling anthology of stripped-down and forthright Americana-driven songs:

“The album is named after a flower that shoots its seeds out of its pods when lightly touched. They just explode and fling their seeds everywhere,” he said, cracking up.

“I came out to Colorado after a very cloistered, isolated period in Vermont,” he added, explaining the more serious side of meaning behind the name. “It was a very insular, isolated time, so by the time I got out here, there was so much pent up, and it exploded. I went from playing one or two shows a year to a hundred. I suddenly had all this inspiration flying around,” he said.

Recorded with John Macy at Macy Studios in Denver, Impatiens is built mostly from material Howard began working on when he came back to the Front Range. These are songs that came from a period of creative abandon, where music introspectively began taking shape before he put it on paper.

While making the album, which is limited to him, an acoustic guitar, and the occasional, sweeping vocal harmony, Howard replicated the environment of playing live in an intimate setting by bringing friends and family into the studio to observe the recording process. The entire album took only two days to record, many of the songs coming together in only one take.

Impatiens was really about establishing a baseline. These are what the songs sound like without other people involved. There are so many people I’ve played with around Denver, and I have individual songs that’ve been played with three different groups, and they each sound different every time. That’s what was fun about this record: it has that living room experience,” he said.

Michael Howard at Macy Studios.

Michael Howard at Macy Studios.

As a songwriter, Howard’s range of expression is thematically rousing. His narrative, colorful, and folk-informed lyrics meet his percussive, bluesy guitar playing in a manner that’ll latch onto your own stories with every croon.

“Fable” is a song Howard began writing when he lived on a hippie commune in his early 20s. The song stings of early ‘20s wanderlust and dreamlike splendor as it describes a dream he had at the time of his unborn child. Howard came across the song recently, discovering that after some fine tuning, it’d be a good fit with the sentimental mythos of Impatiens.

On the other end of the coin, “I Need Another Lover,” a swooning love song with an undercurrent of dread, was written much more recently. However, the final product took on an unexpected form.

"When I wrote 'I Need Another,' I was cracking up; it’s just a setup for a joke each time the refrain hits. It’s set up like, ‘Here’s another terrible situation.’ But when I actually had it recorded and listen[ed] to it afterwards, I realized that it’s a super depressing song,” he said.

The album’s most soaring moment is the title track “Impatiens,” a heartening love song that shows off Howard’s poetic tongue. Boasting flowery, transcendental quips like, “Time’s a patient teacher/Makes me wait to pay the cost/While I draw the map that gets me lost,” with simple, forthright declarations such as, “Cause it’s too late, I love you/Good luck,” the song is a colorful display of a songwriter that’s able to reside on multiple levels at once.

“The awkward thing about the song ‘Impatiens’ was that three or four people thought it was about them. When I’m writing a song, I don’t change names or circumstances. If you’re unlucky enough to know me personally, it’s only a matter of time,” he said, laughing.

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This sense of humor and lack of self-seriousness is part of what makes Howard- and his music- so charming. Whether he’s joking about his album title, or how a song deceived him by the time he’d finished writing it, he doesn’t let himself get lost in the emotional severity of being a songwriter. It isn’t to say that he doesn’t take his craft seriously- he’s already completed an album’s worth of new material since Impatiens released- but he keeps a relaxed grin on his face through it all, constantly acknowledging how appreciative he is to be able to do what he loves.

“The feeling I get after playing a solo set is one of total peace. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. That feeling? It’s [like being] on top of the world,” he said.

When asked about how he feels playing by himself as opposed to with a band, Howard speaks about the pursuit of being a singer/songwriter with equally high regard for its challenges as well as its virtues.

“I love doing solo stuff because it’s the hardest. Playing in front of hundreds of people with a group doesn’t have that feeling; it’s just fun. When you’re playing alone, presenting material where you’re not lying or changing names- it’s just nakedness,” he said.

In many ways, its as if Howard is often only playing to an audience of one person: himself. He isn’t preoccupied with self-promotion, technology, and other variables that can cloud the consciousness of an artist in the modern age.

“To go from doing all of that booking, promotion, and social media to not going on Facebook ever- I’m a much happier person now. I’ve had periods of time where I’ve been tied up in it all, but overall, I just want to show up, have a good time playing, and meet other people in person. The great thing about social media being such a big thing right now is that it rarifies the actual in-person, face-to-face experience,” he said.

Michael Howard is bringing things back to the music and the music alone, and that’ll prove to go further than any amount of likes or shares.  

Keep up with Michael here.

-Brody

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

Trevor Hall Bringing 'The Fruitful Darkness' To Cervantes' Denver for New Year's Eve

By: Trevor Ryan

Veteran singer/songwriter Trevor Hall has just released his new EP The Fruitful Darkness PT. 1, a three-track record that leads off with the mellow acoustic riffs of the title track. This particular song appeals to the wanderer in us all. As Hall croons, “I had to find my way through,” his raspy vocals are accompanied only by his guitar and a small choir near the end.

Listen to The Fruitful Darkness PT. 1:

Next is a slightly more upbeat tune with the follow up track, “What I Know,” a song that shows off the reggae roots that Hall is known for, but features an R&B feel as well. From here, we’re set up for more catchy rhythm and synth work with the final track, “Wander.” His smooth voice grooving, “my home is where I wander, body and soul” shows Hall’s rawness and gives us a welcomed twist to a more standard, overall R&B feel. The feels are strong with this one.

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Be sure to keep up with Trevor Hall on Facebook and catch him at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on NYE weekend, December 30th and 31st. You can find tickets here.

-Trevor

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

Review: Eric Dorr's 'Dream Routine' EP Showcases His Ability To Slip Into Many Corners Of Indie

By: Julia Talen

Boulder resident and eclectic musician Eric Dorr has recently released his debut EP, Dream Routine. Dorr moved to Boulder five years ago with his close friend and collaborator Sawyer Bernath after studying music at Temple University in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bernath produced Dorr's polished EP and much of it was recorded in apartments throughout the city of Boulder.

Eric Dorr.

Eric Dorr.

Dorr began playing music in high school band, the trumpet specifically, and that early inspiration definitely weaves into his EP with horns cropping up in many of the tracks. The tracks are quite surreal as the EP's title insinuates; the lyrics often connote dreams and consciousness as the tunes incorporate all sorts of sound, from keys, to overlays of whispers, echoing vocals, hazy instrumentals, horns, and even chimes. Many of the tracks reminded me of Dr. Dog; each song layers and builds while listeners can feel the emotion behind Dorr's vocals. Additionally, the EP's title works, because while every song reflects Dorr's musical interests and abilities experimenting with different sounds and various contrasts, the tracks have a similar formula or structure, like a routine. “Dream Routine” showcases Dorr's seamless ability to slip into and explore assorted sub-genres of indie rock.

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The EP begins with "Kerosene." Sturdy guitars and ample percussion thicken the introduction, which is followed by a beat of silence. Then Dorr's vocals come in, reminiscent of Ben Gibbard's, accompanied by harmonies and instrumentals which steadily progress as the tune unfolds. The end of the song propels us into the album with a culminating build that crescendos as Dorr sings "headed off into an endless dream."

As you move through the EP, you get a taste of Dorr's musical curiosities and wanderlust. The second track, "Around Again," shifts gears, radiating poppy vibes, as it opens with sugary "ooo's" and "ahhh's" that thread throughout the tune. The song builds, similarly to "Kerosene" and the forthcoming tracks, ending distinctively with a couple of verses from the tune sung in a more rustic, faded way, as if we are listening through a wall. It almost feels as though we are crossing time, getting a look into what the first pass of the tune sounded like before it went "around and around" through edits as Dorr added to it.  

Listen to Dream Routine:

"Leaves," the fourth track on the record, also emphasizes Dorr's ability to explore a more pop-indie-rock genre. This catchy, quick tune highlights the whimsical, reverberating keyboard as swift drum beats keep the track moving forward. Dorr's vocals, accompanied by the keys, reminded me of Keane. The lyrics compliment the contemplative themes laced throughout the EP with poetic verses like, "So familiar/Just like a dream… Countin' all the leaves/in the land of a thousand trees/reachin' up your sleeve/for all that use to be." "Leaves" uses lyrics and musical experimentation to navigate themes of dreams and memory as sounds swell and drift away over and over.

Later we hear "The Loss," possibly the tune that ties all of Dorr's musical directions together. The track starts out swaying slowly and moves forward into a catchy refrain echoing the introspective theme of the tune. The backup vocals and Dorr croon, "It won't let go, let go, let go/It won't let go of me/I can't let go/It won't let go of me." Captivating, experimental, and slightly electronic keys interpose between the refrain and verses, and launch forth after the second verse. Everything begins to evolve and grow as the lyrics "a quarter short of a diamond hand" repeat. This song reminded me of something that could be on Dr. Dog's album Fate. "The Loss," surveys a plethora of sounds and instruments within the span of five minutes, from echoing vocals, interesting drums and cymbals, and groovy keys. Though this tune starts out slow, momentum surges as Dorr layers on different resonances that you might not expect to blend, but they do, making the track super stimulating and perhaps my favorite of all.

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Dorr has laid it all out on his short EP. He showcases his ability to slip into the many corners of indie music, and he is not afraid to take on diverse sounds, instruments, and styles. Dorr said in a recent interview regarding his EP that he, "wants to have a few different styles to catch someone’s ear. [My] goal for the next project will definitely be to see how this next couple of months go, how the EP is received… and push in a more specific direction." Though "Dream Routine" navigates all sorts of musical sounds and directions, the consistent builds and structure of each track, along with the introspective thematic content tie the tunes together. See for yourself as Dorr continues to tour and perform tracks from this EP. His next show is Saturday, December 16th at Hunter Bay Coffee Roasters in Arvada.

Keep up with Eric Dorr here.

-Julia

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

Danny Shafer Bringing Back Open Stage Nights At New Boulder Venue

By: Elizabeth Lee

Singer-songwriter Danny Shafer will be bringing his Open Stage nights back to Boulder starting tomorrow, Tuesday, November 7th. After a 16-year run hosting the open mic night at Boulder’s now defunct Conor O’Neill’s, Shafer is ready to reconnect with the amazing community he’s helped create over the years at a new venue. Here at BolderBeat, we’ve heard stories from numerous local musicians who started playing out at Danny’s previous open mic night, so his new stage is sure to bring even more local talent together.

Danny Shafer.

Danny Shafer.

With over 200 shows a year on his own, Shafer has been bringing his original country and bluegrass tunes to audiences at venues such as The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, The Boulder Theater, The Fox Theatre, and Swallow Hill as well as many others across the country. His acclaimed songwriting skills and fingerstyle guitar are a treat to witness in person.

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For a fun night of tradition, community, and awesome music, be sure to catch Shafer’s Open Stage every Tuesday at Boulder's new Oskar Blues Taproom (formerly World of Beer). You can sign up for 15 minute sets starting at 7PM and the music begins at 730PM.

RSVP on Facebook and keep up with Danny here.

-Elizabeth

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

I Traded Bison Bone Some Mangoes For A Great Conversation & Some Heartfelt Tunes

By: Joliene Adams

I arrived with two mangoes and departed empty handed, heart full, reeking of campfire at the next morning’s unrelated 8AM professional meeting for my day job. I blame and thank two fifths of Denver’s cosmic country band Bison Bone: Brianna Straut (vocals, harmonica, tambourine) and Courtney Whitehead (vocals, guitar, songwriting). Both are singer-songwriters in their own right, currently on tour performing both as individuals but also as a stripped down Bison Bone duo. Brianna is also a member of Denver’s Americana folk group Tomahawk Fox, where she handles vocals and rhythm guitar.

Brianna & Courtney.

Brianna & Courtney.

They stopped off at Patterson Alley in Eugene to play the outdoor backyard alley house venue; the backyard that pulls a lot of shows and knows how to host food and drinks with fancy strung up lights and all. Denver’s own King Cardinal has also played here within the last year.

The Beer Pairing

Naturally, the first thing I wanted to know was: What kind of beer best pairs with your music? Brianna infectiously belly laughs, endearing her to anyone in earshot.

She explains: “That’s really funny. We talked about that on the way up here and about making a little flyer for all the shows, and saying with each song of mine, or his, or us together, which beer goes with it.”

Courtney chimes in that as for the band’s sound overall? “Probably some kind of sour.”

More laughter from Brianna, then from Courtney and myself reflexively as a doctor’s knee-hammer at just the right spot on the patella. That the two are sardonically earnest comes through in interview as much as it does in their lyrical content.

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Brianna swiftly recovers, reflecting on her own personal singers-songwriter musician sound: “Probably some kind of pale ale.” She specifies: “an Oskar Blues [pale ale but consumed] at a tasting room in Austin, Texas.” Brianna grew up in east Texas and last lived in Austin before her move to Denver. “So a little bit Texas, a little bit Colorado,” she explains. Courtney hails from Oklahoma.

Silence lingers in the air for a moment. “Yeah, sour.” he chimes. More laughter from all.

The Good, the Bad, & the Ass-Busting

It’s a fine line between surviving and surthriving in this world. Musicians often endure this reality acutely. Bless their darn hearts. Brianna and Courtney opened up about it.

Courtney first: “You know, whether you’re creating new music or rotating band members, people don’t realize [the hard work it takes]. They show up in their town and they’re ready to party.”

Yet Courtney and Brianna’s own appreciation for their encountered gains is as blatant as it is poignant.

“This tour has been really incredible and I think it’s always like such an amazing way to see how people respond to this travelling circus we have… The way that they like welcome you with open arms… the last place we were in we were staying at this girl’s house for two days. She hosted us for a night of music. We have some friends that live there that took us out, they bought us drinks, they spent a lot of money on merch… [and this girl] was just constantly leaving little notes out for us and it was just that kind of stuff is like what really helps move us on to the next place. Not only monetarily but just like…”

Courtney pipes in, “... soulfully.”

I sat there thinking, "They brought music and all I brought were two mangoes. At least I brought mangoes? At least I brought mangoes."

Brianna continues, “It keeps our spirits up because it’s really hard whenever you go back you’ve got, you know, we’ve got our bills to pay, we’ve got everything else… you know we have life and society telling us we are doing something that’s so bizarre. But it’s really nice to see what it ignites in people… it opens our eyes up to really great times of people just being really wonderful in a time that’s really hard to see the good in people.”

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Brianna and Courtney take their music and that appreciative attitude on the road. I can only hope they see that they themselves embody showing the good, being the uplifting and relatable in the tough times.

Songs like Courtney’s solo performance of Bison Bone’s "Walls,” which is about coming home for the first time after your dog’s died but is relatable in terms of other loss, may not be happy sunshine feel-good uplifting, but people need the real and relatable so hard sometimes and particularly in hard times all the more. We all need the keep-it-realers and these two are expert at it.

Nine times out of ten, someone will appreciate your saying, “sometimes life gives you lemons and makes you eat them rinds and all” far more than “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” on a bad day. I’m not suggesting negative is good, but that real and raw, empathy and emotional insight matter a hell of a lot; Brianna and Courtney are capable of bringing that and it rings loud and true in what they do together and apart. They touch you right where your wounds are in a way that might hurt, but simultaneously cleanses and heals like castille soap on a newly scraped knuckle.

The Band Description

Bison Bone’s band description is that of  “a working class cosmic country band from Denver, CO.” Previously, Daniel Mescher of Colorado Public Radio (CPR) and Tom Murphy of Westword both asked Courtney what puts the “cosmic” in the “cosmic country.” Much of it comes down to the psychedelic influences of the 60s and 70s that blend with the country at the roots. I probed the “working class” element.

Courtney explains, “I would say that mostly when we talk about that [the working class element], obviously any band now can say that with regards to the way they work: loading their own shit, buying their own van, running around doing everything, that kind of do-it-your-own. Even if you are playing a thousand-person venue in any city, you know, you’re still doing a lot of that on your own. Creating your own art, creating your own merch… But when I describe it that way [as a working-class band], I’m mostly talking about it lyrically, and somewhat sonically. We write about the stories we know- where we come from, the people we know, and we come from a working-class background.”

The Road Test

Even when it isn’t raining everything is wet, always, in Oregon Octobers; dampness, cold from the inside to the brim of your bones. It lent itself to habitual bouts of guitar tuning this eve. But tuning guitars in different environments is ultimately the first step to tweaking perspective and being self–reflective for these two.

Brianna reflects, “You can only play so much in your hometown. But when you’re playing a different place each night [on the road], to a different crowd, you really get to test out and see new stuff.”

Courtney adds, “Yeah, I like to use the word road tested or lived in… it is different to drive somewhere, show up, load your stuff up, set up, and then you may play a song that you’ve played thousands of times before but it’s going to feel different in that place if it’s your first time being in that venue or geographical location.”

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The road, currently, is a way to help the pair try out new tunes. I naively assumed it was about promoting Bison Bone’s History of Falling album, out this past April. The 10-song, approximately 47-minute album is no longer the primary focus. It was initially recorded around a year ago but now, the band is learning from what it was and moving on towards what they want to be(come).

The Artistic Process

Bison Bone’s History of Falling was by and large a live, in-studio recording. Research tells me this is partly a function of preference, partly a function of time and expense. Research, listening, and an interview also tell me the band is highly process and discovery-oriented. They are at once intuitive, attentive, attuned, and insightful.

Courtney resonates, “[A] lot of it, you know, as any artist from any medium- a lot of what you’re doing is taking stuff and throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks and adjusting after that, you know.”

As for the storytelling that at least partly drew Courtney to country, it often first comes with a melody. If “it’s a happier melody,” you’re more liable to think of a happy story you know from real life, “but if it’s something sadder, like in a minor key, you’re probably going to write something mad or sad,” Courtney clarifies, the latter being much more of what Bison Bone naturally leans into. But again, Courtney pins down the whole statement by reflecting on the process, and how the melody “kind of does the job itself if you allow it to get out of the way.” It’s a touch and go of inception and discovery.

Note to self: throw the pizza against the wall and see what happens, but don’t stand in the path of the pizza’s trajectory. That’s where art comes from. End essay.

The Relationship Business And Next Big Thing

In an AXS interview “Get to Know a Denver Band” with Alli Andress, Courtney reflected on learning that “it’s not the music business, it’s the relationship business.” That’s a good chunk of what being on the road is about for these two. It’s about the relationship with the people and places they encounter, the relationship to their music, and the relationship between the two and the three back in Colorado.

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“Next we’ve got a lot of shows,” Brianna informs, adding, “We’re looking forward to getting a new album out and working on that with the band, coming back with what we’ve learned from tour.” As for the pair, “The biggest impact I’ve seen [on the road] is the way we communicate. Bring tired, being hungry, and working every day, and uncomfortable… that will strengthen us as two friends in our friendship and in our relationship professionally.”  

Courtney resonates, “You just learn so much [on the road] and you’re excited to put whatever you learned into practice.” He reflects that since History of Falling, Bison Bone had a great year that followed, playing a lot of great Colorado shows, festivals, and playing in New Mexico.

“Doors were opened and it’s allowed us to keep moving forward... I think that’s what we’re always excited about is when we do something new. When we come back to something a little more normal or routine, we’re going to come back and be way beyond the levels that we were at in most normal situations before. Just more professional, more sonically in tune, just better at all aspects of it; more efficient with all of it and getting a better ear and growing patience and figuring it out. It’s just all problem solving, you know.”

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As for what radio stations the band’s encountered on the road and recommends listening to? Podcasts. Particularly, Dan Savage Lovecast, Sword and Scale: A True Crime Podcast, The New Yorker podcast, and KCRW’s Left, Right, & Center podcast.

“Don’t listen to music!” Courtney fervently quipped when asked about radio stations. This time, the laughter was sufficient to garner glances from the gathering crowd at the stage. Really, it was Courtney’s way of saying we all need a break to produce our best when your passion is otherwise your every waking moment. Heed the intelligence.

Thank you Brianna and Courtney for your hard work and stout hearts. Everyone in Colorado check out Brianna at The Jamestown Mercantile this Friday, October 20th at 6PM. She masterfully blends crooning and lullaby, tinged with grace, humor, and aplomb. I can’t say enough about these guys and how much you’ll enjoy them live no matter what mood you are or aren’t in, or your feelings towards and preconceived notions about country generally.

Keep up with Bison Bone here.

-Joliene

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

Review: Morning Bear Wrote His Newest Single During Iceland Airwaves Festival

By: Trevor Ryan

Hailing from Denver and releasing new music for the first time in two years is the fiery, folksy project Morning Bear (John Runnels), with his newest single “You’re Right.”

Morning Bear.

Morning Bear.

With hints of Bon Iver and City and Colour in the mix, Morning Bear’s new track is an emotional hitter. The amount of effort put into the instrumentals alone on “You’re Right” is pretty astounding, and when you add those soft, clear pipes from Runnels, it’s hard not to listen to the song on repeat a few times through once you hear it. Although the production is what most stands out with this track, there is still something to say about Runnels’ ability to write a catchy, articulate tune.

When asked about the inspiration behind the track, Runnels told us, “‘You’re Right’ was written in a tiny Airbnb in Iceland during Iceland Airwaves. [It’s] about being stubborn and fighting for something despite all odds, as well as accepting when it's time to give up. It's a song about the struggle between what you want and wish, and what must be.”

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Runnels will be performing “You’re Right” live, this Friday, September 8th at Denver’s The Walnut Room, along with many of his other tunes. He will be joined by a full string quintet, making for a stellar night of orchestral indie folk. Snag your tickets to the show here, and make sure to keep up with Morning Bear and more of Runnels’ new music on Facebook.

-Trevor

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

Review: A.J. Fullerton's 'Kalamath' Is Slide, Blues, & Incredible Fingerpicking

By: Trevor Ryan

Colorado’s award-winning A.J. Fullerton is releasing his new album Kalamath today, and let me tell you, it’s a whirlwind of that fingerpicking blues that we all love him for.

A.J . Fullerton.

A.J . Fullerton.

Hailing from Western Colorado, Fullerton has recently exploded onto the state scene. In just two years, he’s been the Colorado Blues Society solo/duo winner, and won the organization’s “Member’s Choice” awards for best slide guitar, best acoustic act, best young performer, and best solo/duo act. Utilizing these skills and more in his own playing, Kalamath also features several talented local artists, including Megan Burtt, Taylor Scott of The Taylor Scott Band, and Stud Ford and Sharde Thomas of North Mississippi Allstars.

Kalamath Album Cover.jpg

The album, a solid addition to Fullerton’s catalogue, definitely showcases his outstanding slide ability, steaming vocals, and his incredible fingerpicking style, which almost sounds as though he brought the blues back from the dead to teach him how to play it. Gems like “She's So Cold,” “Lover Come Back,” and “Smoke and Mirrors” will all leave you reflecting on Fullerton’s intricate playing. Overall, Kalamath will introduce you to a new world of blues while certainly appreciating the greats in the process.

Keep up with A.J. Fullerton on Facebook.

-Trevor

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

Rodes Rollins EP 'Young Adult' Talks Of Young Love & Growing Up In Boulder, CO

By: Sierra Voss

Rodes Rollins (Talia Taxman) has been honing her songwriting skills since age eight in Boulder, CO, and it shows. Her first EP, 'Young Adult,' dropped earlier this year and is quite the masterpiece for this artist’s freshman release. 'Young Adult' is an intimate look into Rollins’ story of  young love and growing up. Rollins’ songs embody mystery, naivety, wisdom, passion and grit. I recently chatted with Rodes more about her Colorado roots and the story of how this EP came to be. Read on:  

When did you start singing?

I have been writing and recording since I was eight years old. I worked with a guitar teacher in Boulder and she was so supportive and let me use her home studio to start recording my songs. She often brought in studio musicians to play with me. So I have a lot of recordings from a really young age. I was writing pretty mature content, but my voice hadn’t quite caught up yet, so it’s pretty funny stuff to listen to. 

Rodes Rollins.

Rodes Rollins.

So how did songwriting come into play in your life? I feel like most people get into songwriting later in life, after choir, or taking voice lessons for a couple of years. I’m curious how the songwriting part of singing came at such an early age for you.

It's hard to say. For me, it was kind of the way I learned how to play. It was my exploration of music and of the guitar. Like I never really learned how to play other people's songs. It was just me jumping in and making sounds and trying to understand it that way. Even today, I would never call myself a guitar player- it's more always been a writing tool for me. Writing prose and other things has always been something important to me too. I think more than anything, I used music as another avenue for writing. My parents were also incredibly involved in the music scene in Boulder growing up and had us listening to all sorts of music at home.

What type of music did you grow up with? 

We listened to a lot of Cat Stevens and The Beatles. I was also super into my dad listening to Nirvana and punk grunge. I never really fully grasped that type of music in my younger age, but I remember being super drawn to those darker sounds.  

Did you ever play gigs around Boulder growing up? 

I did little things. I actually got to perform at a songwriter workshop. I was working with Wendy Woo, who was a local singer songwriter. She had me come perform at a songwriting workshop she was teaching to a group of adults. She would always include me in things like that growing up. It was really not up until I moved to New York in college at NYU and studied abroad in Buenos Aires that I started performing on a consistent basis. 

Did you go to NYU to study music?  

I actually studied at the school for individualized study where you craft your own curriculum. I studied- well the title is Iconography- basically it’s the study of what makes a person iconic, looking at the branding of people. So I studied that, which in so many ways relates to music.

So when you studied abroad in Buenos Aires you started performing? Tell me more about that. 

That was my sophomore year. NYU has an campus in Argentina. So it's basically you with other people from the US in Argentina. I felt frustrated with that setup- why would I come all the way down here just to be in classes with everybody from the States? So I started trying to figure out ways to go out and meet local people. I was meeting a lot of people at bars, but it was difficult as a foreign woman to navigate and make friends that way. So I started going to a lot of open mics instead and ended up meeting a really great artist community there. It felt like each gig led to another one. I got to do some radio shows just based on people I met at those gigs. It was a really kind of magical time. That's when I really started getting into performing my songs. 

Once you got back from that semester did you come back wanting to continue pursuing your music?

I think that semester abroad I really struggled with the idea of coming back to New York and being a student. I was so energized to keep doing music at that point. It clicked for me- 'This is what I want to do, full time- I want to dive in.' However, I ended up developing really bad tonsillitis right when I returned and wasn’t able to sing, let alone speak clearly. I ended up having to get surgery for that, which put a huge roadblock on music for me. When all was said and done, that took about a year to recover from. I stayed in school during that time but I kept writing. Once I healed, I started working with Sam Pattillo, who actually discovered my music on Soundcloud. I had recorded an EP at Coupe Studios, so that was floating around. He heard it and I ended up partnering with him on his indie label to do Young Adult. I recorded my EP in LA; Alex Goose (Kevin Gates, Weezer) produced it. That was my senior year of college: going back and forth between LA and New York in order to finish school and record.  

What has life looked like since your release?

It's been great to get my music out there. I ended up going to Mexico City for this release. I went to Casey Middle School in Boulder, which is an bi-lingual school, and from that point on I was very enamored with Latin culture. That led to me studying Spanish and studying abroad. For this EP, we worked on a video there so I ended up going there to release “Young and Thriving,” which is a single from the EP. Since then, I have been in New York playing a lot of shows.

What’s next for you? New music? Touring?

We are releasing a short film we did in collaboration with a group in Mexico. It was inspired by one of the songs on the EP called, “Wes Come Back.” It’s a very dark film, almost like horror. I am really excited to get that out! Hopefully I will be coming back to Colorado to tour. I am going back to LA to record a new album soon, so I am hoping either on the front or back end of that, I will be able to stop in Colorado.

Watch Rodes Rollins' video for "Wes Come Back": 

A lot Young Adult revolves around young love and growing up. Was that a young love you had in Boulder?

Yeah he was. He was my highschool boyfriend and my first love.

Are there any Colorado references throughout the album besides him?

Lyrically there aren’t, but sonically, [there are] for sure. I think a lot of the sounds are Western inspired, from the whistles to the tremolo guitar sounds. I really was envisioning a Colorado Western landscape when I was writing this first EP.  

Take a listen to Rodes Rollins and check out her music video for her song, “Wes Come Back” off her latest EP 'Young Adult' above! Keep up with Rodes here

-Sierra

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

Boulder's rt60.co Curates Magical Shows At The Starhouse

By: Hannah Oreskovich 

Just above Boulder, after a short ride up Sunshine Canyon, sits a magical space: The Starhouse. Surround by 200 acres of open space, pine forests, and a killer view of Boulder, The Starhouse was constructed in 1990 as a living temple for trans-denominational spirituality. It was built by souls dedicated to sacred geometry and astronomy, so its entrance sits aligned with Polaris, and its acoustics are out of this world. The space regularly hosts Solar celebrations and Lunar events, but recently, I went for another reason: an intimate concert series curated by Daniel Herman of rt60.co and Mineral Sound.

The Starhouse.  Photo per The Starhouse.

The Starhouse. Photo per The Starhouse.

Herman has hosted a few shows recently at The Starhouse, all of which have featured local singer/songwriters unplugged in the natural acoustics of The Starhouse’s main wooden room. There’s a sort of sacredness to entering the place beyond the geometry- patrons are asked to remove their shoes, and meditation floor chairs and blankets are provided. There are candles along each windowsill, and after taking a seat, The Keepers of The Starhouse instruct you to turn off your phones and tune in to the present. That’s when rt60.co’s performers take the stage- the recent Starhouse lineup consisted of Megan Burtt, Paul Kimbiris, and Julian Peterson.

Julian Peterson.

Julian Peterson.

Julian Peterson opened the evening just as the sun set, playing a few tracks from his last record Get On This Train, along with his tune “Broken Man.” Though he’s played Red Rocks and The Boulder Theater in the past year, he admitted there is something different about playing The Starhouse.  

“This is so crazy up here! I feel naked.” he smiled, as the crowd laughed.

Julian’s sound is bluesy, soulful, and honest. He has a strong storytelling ability in his songwriting, and with an audience as silent as The Starhouse, it was easy to hear every intonation in Peterson’s range vocally. He ended his set playing a tune on his resonator guitar, which left us draped in delta vibes.

Paul Kimbiris.

Paul Kimbiris.

Paul Kimbiris was next, opening his set playing guitar and a kick drum, which he’s newly added to his live shows. He then brought up Philip Parker (Gregory Alan Isakov), who accompanied him on cello for the remainder of the set. With Parker's deep and swift cello sounds backing Paul’s bold vocals and guitar playing, it was impossible to be anything but present in their beautiful tunes. They played several tracks from The Dark Side of Pearl, and though Paul remarked that the two hadn’t shared the stage in quite some time, you’d have thought they’d just come off the road together with the touring chemistry of a string of shows just behind them.

Near the end of his set, as he looked around The Starhouse and into the crowd, Kimbiris smiled and said, “You know- I was thinking, and this- this is so Colorado.”

The Starhouse indeed felt almost like a cozy cabin at that point, with the sun gone, the moon hidden by clouds, and only soft lighting and the glow of candles illuminating the space.  

Megan Burtt. 

Megan Burtt. 

Megan Burtt closed out the intimate Starhouse evening; I had actually caught her set just the day before at Strings & WoodsWestword Music Showcase performance. Burtt has been a touring musician for years now, and this year is one of the first she hasn’t spent either constantly on the road or in the studio. Having played overseas, with symphonies, and at numerous local digs, Burtt agreed there is something different from anywhere else about The Starhouse.

“This is so vibey!” she smiled after taking her place at the front of the room.

Burtt played a couple of tunes from her record The Bargain, including a powerful rendition of her song “Anchor.” The room was exceptionally still for Burtt’s silky vocals- she transitioned between high and low tones with smooth and exceptional ease. She was accompanied only by her guitar playing, which, thanks to sacred geometry, all sounded as crisp and clear as if she were plugged in without her actually having been.

Daniel Herman at The Starhouse.

Daniel Herman at The Starhouse.

When the show came to a close, rt60’s Daniel Herman thanked the crowd as he remarked, “As someone who works in sound, having these artists play without amplification or anything is a sort of a therapy for me.”

I’d argue The Starhouse is a dose of therapy for anyone who has the chance to inhabit the space. Chakras aside, there’s really nothing like it, so make sure to attend rt60’s next curated performance in August.

Keep up with rt60 and check out more videos from this show here. And learn more about the mystical experiences that happen at The Starhouse on their website.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

Review: Anthony Ruptak's 'Don't Let It Kill You' Is A Dark & Timely Introspection

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Denver’s Anthony Ruptak has a new record out this Saturday, July 1st, Don’t Let It Kill You. The 25-minute, five song work is darkly introspective in tone, mood, and lyrics. Songs like “Bomb” and “Eulogy ii” paint Ruptak’s strong lyrical imagery starkly in your mind, while “Follow The Leader” will have you questioning if you’re in need of slowing down time by “sitting back in silence” and “wonder[ing] about nothing, about never.” In a world often clouded by technology and a constant cycle of news, Ruptak’s push on self-reflection is one we really ought to listen to.

Anthony played all of the instruments on Don’t Let It Kill You and is the sole vocalist on the record, except for the drums on “Bomb,” which were played by his brother Matt Ruptak. The entire record was recorded in just two days.

Said Ruptak, “All five songs [on Don’t Let It Kill You] were written within a five month period and deal with a cornucopia of adverse insecurities, dreams, love, death, and my observations of mankind’s inhumanity to man.”

The album artwork for  Don't Let It Kill You .

The album artwork for Don't Let It Kill You.

Though not overtly political in nature, I couldn’t help but notice some political subtleties throughout the record. From lines like, “Learning how to rebrand hate/That is the tried and tested black and blue star-spangled Christian way” (“Vulture And Dove”) to, “The liquor stores have been crowded these days/Things are either getting worse or everybody’s changed” (“Follow The Leader”), Ruptak has accurately identified the sometimes lost, painful, confused, and questioning reality that many of us have experienced over the past year. And then there is the beautiful “I’ll Go Where You Go,” which almost feels like a sentiment of acceptance and belonging that no matter where one is from, we’re all connected in this human experience.

Said Ruptak, “[This record] was recorded during the peak of election season, and though it's not a blatantly political record, it draws from the emotions that surrounded that time- the fear, the uncertainty, the slumbering hatred that was woken by king dipsh*t and the pain that came from watching family members and friends excitedly out themselves as judgement-filled, anti-immigrant, anti-equality, anti-love, entitled Americans.”

His experience is one many of us can relate to. Outside of subject matter, the record overall showcases Ruptak’s incredible vocals and instrumental prowess.

Anthony Ruptak (right) and Matt Ruptak (left). 

Anthony Ruptak (right) and Matt Ruptak (left). 

Said Ruptak, “For the first time since I started recording my songs, I am proud to let this one out into the world. I feel like I'm finally being true to myself.”

And we’re proud to share it. Make sure to catch Anthony Ruptak & The Midnight Friends at his EP Release Show at The Walnut Room Saturday night; tickets and details here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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