Stella Nova's Dominic Ellerbee: From Homelessness to Hope for a Debut Record

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Last July, we introduced you to Denver’s Stella Nova. After a series of lineup changes, the project is now a solo one, and the mastermind behind it is original founding member Dominic Ellerbee.

Dominic Ellerbee.

Dominic Ellerbee.

Ellerbee, who has battled living in poverty and homelessness most of his life, is a 19-year-old Denverite who has been featured on CPR, Ellen, and The Denver Post for his musical work. As a senior in high school, Ellerbee didn’t always know if he would have a roof over his head, but he knew he’d always have one thing: his music. His senior year of high school, Ellerbee wrote, directed, and choreographed his original musical, “So Many Fish In The Sea.” Following high school, Ellerbee was accepted into Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After one semester, Ellerbee didn’t have enough funds to continue on, and he was forced to move back to Denver. Though his dreams were dashed, Ellerbee didn’t give up. He started working and continued to make music through his project Stella Nova. But the hardships continued for Ellerbee, and he recently lost his job and his bandmates. Still, Ellerbee is pushing on, and recently released Stella Nova’s newest single, “Old School Radio.”

Listen to “Old School Radio”:

“Old School Radio” is an alt rock indie/pop jam on which Ellerbee played all instruments himself. It’s got punchy guitars that build into anthem-like choruses with a driving drum beat, and is lyrically about a long distance relationship in which a pair of lovers cope with their loneliness through songs they both hear on the radio.

Along with his newest music, Ellerbee has launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to try and record a full studio album at The Spot Studios, which is where he recorded “Old School Radio.” Ellerbee has already written the tracks, and you can read more about each of his original songs here. Ellerbee’s goal is just $3500 for his entire campaign, and he only has 17 days left to reach it.

Ellerbee of Stella Nova at The Spot Studios.

Ellerbee of Stella Nova at The Spot Studios.

Said Ellerbee, “I really am just trying to make it so my family and I can live a better life and we can all be happy.”

Give Ellerbee’s music a listen today, hop over to his Kickstarter, and consider making a pledge to his campaign. We’d like to see this talented individual continue making awesome music, locally and beyond.

-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.

15 Must-See Bands at The Underground Music Showcase 2016

By: Jura Daubenspeck

Denver’s premier indie festival, Underground Music Showcase, is back for its 15th year and ready to kick it into high gear. The four-day festival (July 28-31) will take place in the eclectic Baker Neighborhood, with over 400 performances showcasing an array of talent. With so many incredible performers to choose from, you really can’t go wrong. Even so, we thought we’d help out by sharing our picks of must-see artists (in no particular order) at this year’s festival.

RL Cole and the Angels

With a voice like warm molasses and a sinfully inviting way with the guitar, RL Cole’s music will take you to another dimension that resembles the underground New Orleans Voodoo rock scene.

Gasoline Lollipops

"Dirt floor folk with the energy and rebelliousness of punk" is one of the phrases used to describe Gasoline Lollipops. You’re sure to get a high-energy set with these guys, who are no strangers to entertaining large crowds.

Plum

Psychedelic rock fans will not want to miss Plum’s performance. Their groovadelic sound and overall stage persona will make you move between headbanging to swaying with trance-like delusions.

Lee Fields & The Expressions

With a worldwide music career that spans over 40 years, Lee Fields set will be history unfolding in front of you. From lo-fi rock to Southern blues, all soul fanatics must get themselves to this show.

Porlolo

It’s “creep rock” mixed with folk flavor and dream-like vocals sure to bring out all the feels. If you’re in the mood to float into some music, check out Porlolo and let yourself vibe a bit.

Open to the Hound

Enter into singularity with Open to the Hound, who are not afraid of exploring the weird. They’re wilderness rock, grunge folk, and a ton of fun to watch.

Methyl Ethel

Australian-made and internationally-known alternative pop group Methyl Ethel aim to dissociate their fans from the present and bring them into their musical multiverse.

Sunboy

Another psychedelic treat for any attendees who want to escape themselves for a bit, Sunboy’s multi-layered musical concoctions will leave you talking about their set for weeks.

Thee Oh Sees

Garage rock, psych-pop rock, or however you interpret their style, Thee Oh Sees are a headliner you do not want to miss.

SPELLS

Often known for saying “screw it” to the stage, SPELLS will have you moshing, flailing, screaming, and sweating all over each other.

Dirty Few

Dirty Few is the perfect group to celebrate your Saturday night second wave with. Their party ‘til you drop mentality is sure to blow the roof off of the devilishly fun Hi-Dive.

KITTY CRIMES

If you’re a fan of badass chicks who can rap, sing, and play guitar, check out KITTY CRIMES, who will keep your booty shaking even after her set is over.

Bud Bronson & The Good Timers

Playing at their second home, the Hi-Dive, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are a group of hilariously charismatic rockers who just want their fans to have a good time. Their feel-good summertime party rock is impossible not to like, so grab a beer and get in on the fun.

DéCollage

One of the most unique sets I’ve ever witnessed came from DéCollage. With costumes, lights, fog machines, and shiny mylar galore, you won’t be able to stop your body from moving.

The Yawpers

Rock music resembling the moments right before a fever breaks, The Yawpers will leave you wide-eyed and craving another dose of their mania.

The UMS this year is bound to be one for the books, and with so many talented performers on the bill, it is encouraged to see every band you possibly can. If you can barely walk by day four, you’ve done it right. So grab those tickets, coordinate your schedule, and prepare yourself for a wild weekend. We'll see you out there!

-Jura

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

BolderBeat Chats with Kendall Smith, Director of Denver's Underground Music Showcase

Denver's UMS is coming up fast!

Denver's UMS is coming up fast!

Kendall Smith has been the director of Denver’s Underground Music Showcase for six years now. And in that time, the event has grown from a few local bands playing a few local venues to a 16-venue, 168-band, 280-volunteer production. So how did someone with a background in corporate finance enter the Denver music scene and manage to create one of the best regional music events around?

When I ask, Smith just smiles, “I got lucky.”

After graduating from the University of Northern Texas, Smith joined the corporate ranks, where he worked in finance and accounting. After 20+ years in that game, he left in 2009 to “ride my bicycle for a year and think about what to do next”.

Kendall Smith.

Kendall Smith.

Enter The UMS.

Smith had volunteered for The UMS under former director Ricardo Baca, who you may know as The Denver Post’s prolific former music critic, and current editor of The Cannabist.

“I’d volunteered for couple o years [at UMS]. When Ricardo left, he recommended me as his successor. As part of my interview with the CEO of the Denver Post, I was asked to put a plan together for the next year. I relied on what I knew. I presented the plan as a comparative financial statement. This allowed me to walk a room full of people with little familiarity with the operations of the festival through the changes needed to bring it into the Denver Post Community Foundation.”

Slow Caves, one of the local acts on this year's ums lineup.

But taking over and successfully building the biggest independent music festival in the region wasn’t something that always allowed Smith to rely on his background in finance.

“There were plenty of learning curves,” Smith told me, “But I brought a strong team together, and when you do that, it is a little easier to get up those curves.”

Smith and his team have arguably climbed those learning curves to the top of the music festival mountain. With thousands of artists vying for a spot on the lineup every summer, over 280 volunteers begging to join the team, and 25 sponsors backing the showcase, The UMS has certainly built itself into a Colorado music scene staple.

Some of 2016's UMS lineup.

Some of 2016's UMS lineup.

So what is Smith’s vision for the future of the event?

“I want us to continue to help grow the local music scene here in Colorado, and I want this to become a destination event as well. That’s one reason we have started the city-specific day parties.” he added.

Essentially, The UMS has branched out to surrounding music markets and partnered with them for a few shows at the festival. These cities (which this year include Fort Collins, CO, Sante Fe, NM, and Boise, ID) bring in some of their talented local acts, and they share the stage with Colorado bands, giving all artists involved the chance to connect and chat about the industry in their state. Some bands have gone on to tour with the artists they met through this partnership, trading hometown shows and putting bills together across multiple music markets. Simultaneously, it’s allowed other regions to really showcase their scene, creating the kind of community that one might have found in the earlier SXSW days.

“Playing The UMS means that you’re promised a set that starts on time, a room that sounds good, promotion from our team, and a crowd. And with all of that comes great community- artists are talking and playing together, and other people in the industry are connecting and having a good time.”

UMS Sunsets.

UMS Sunsets.

And so, after clearly seeing Smith's passion for this live event, I had to ask, was Smith ever a performer himself? Maybe before his corporate days?

“No!” he laughs. “I couldn’t be up there myself, but I love watching artists when they’re really in the moment. I grew up going to shows in Texas’ Golden Triangle (between Denton, Dallas, and Forth Worth), so my love for live music grew there. It didn’t matter if we had to drive 40 miles for a good show, that’s just what you did and it was always worth the time.”

Tacocat, one of the national acts on This Year's UMS Lineup.

Tacocat, one of the national acts on This Year's UMS Lineup.

So whether you’re walking down the block to get to The UMS, or you’re driving in from somewhere else in Colorado or beyond; whether you’re coming for the local or the national acts on the lineup; whether you’re working in the corporate world or the music industry; whether you’re an artist who loves to play, or a spectator who just enjoys good, live music, there’s a place for you at The UMS. And this year’s event is only a few weeks away (July 28-31)! Get your tickets here, read up on volunteer info here, and keep up with special announcements from Kendall and his team on The UMS Facebook page.

PS: Wondering about the full lineup for The UMS this year? Here it is! It’s a killer one, folks. Stay tuned for our updates as we're covering the fest! See you there!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per The UMS and The Denver Post. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The UMS Starts Tomorrow!

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Denver's giant rock festival is this weekend.

Tomorrow is a magical day. The Underground Music Showcase begins! Just what is The UMS you ask? Why, it’s Colorado’s biggest indie musical festival! Located in Denver, 2015 marks the 15th year for the festival, which features more than 400 local and national music acts at 20 venues. What originally began as a collection of groups playing one Bluebird show is now a four-day fest spread throughout Denver’s best rock venues. Not only is it huge for local music, but all proceeds come right back to Colorado through the Denver Post Community Foundation. You can buy $50 tickets here, or pay the walk-up price of $75 at the box-office. And if you just want a single-day pass, it’s $35. The UMS is always a whisper of aspiration among local artists, so check out the bands who made the cut! See you in Denver! Here’s the schedule for the weekend.

PS: Don't forget to read about the bands we interviewed on the lineup & check out their shows:  A Shadow of Jaguar, Josh Moorehead & the GuestlistSnake Rattle Rattle Snake, The Strawberry Runners & Tyto Alba.

-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.

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake: A Chat with the Venomous Band's Frontwoman Hayley Helmericks

By: Deana Morton

The band with a bite: Denver's Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

There’s something venomous about Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. The band name alone describes a sound that is alluring, hypnotizing and mesmerizing, all of which the group manages to deliver effortlessly. As someone who leans toward bands like The Cure, Joy Division and Depeche Mode, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake fits right into my wheelhouse. Their latest release Totem is textured with synthesizers, guitars and drums. Lead singer Hayley Helmericks' psychedelic crooning voice is reminiscent of great singers like Siouxsie Sioux or Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen. SRRS have a unique sound with a progressive modern edge.

Hayley recently chatted with me to discuss the evolution of her vocals, the Denver music scene and how Snake Rattle Rattle Snake is a family affair.

Do you remember your first exposure to music?

My brother Wilson (guitar/keyboard) and I grew up in a household where there was always music on. My folks were taking us to music festivals from the time we were born!

Was there a particular album or singer that inspired you to start singing?

I was always drawn to Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac when I was young. Then of course there was a brief Top 40 radio phase, then a singer-songwriter phase and by the time I could drive myself to the record store and buy my own music it was all PJ Harvey, Fugazi, Radiohead and Sleater-Kinney.

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.  

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
 

You have such a beautiful, distinct voice with so much confidence and a command over your lyrics when you sing. I’m guessing it’s been a journey to develop your vocals. Can you talk a little bit about that process?

First of all, thank you! I've always been a singer but I definitely wasn't always confident about it. I was the little kid who would sing and show off for my family but if put on the spot, I would shut down and get super shy. That said, I've always been outspoken and confident in other areas of my life, so once I started playing with other musicians and turning [things] up loud, it became easier. I have a low voice so it took me some time to figure out how to use it to my advantage. My first band Monofog was loud and raucous and I was screaming a lot. In Snake Rattle Rattle Snake it has been more about maintaining the natural power of my voice, but using it in a more precise way. I think I'm a much better singer than I was 5 years ago.

What year did Snake Rattle Rattle Snake form and how did you all come together?

We played our first show on Valentine's Day 2009, so we've been together 6 years now. My husband Doug and I were in Monofog together for many years before that and knew we wanted to start a project with my brother Wilson. The three of us had written songs and jammed in the past and it was good timing to start something new. We knew Andrew Warner (drums) from the days of playing shows with his old band Red Cloud West and he'd always expressed interest in playing too. We've had a couple of people come and go, but Jon Evans has been playing bass with us for a while now. [He is] another addition brought on from being friends through music, namely his old band Achille Lauro who practiced in the same building as us.

Scaled.  

Scaled.
 

You guys have received a lot of attention as one of the best Denver bands of the year from 303 Magazine and The Denver Post. How is the Denver indie music scene different or the same from other indie scenes around the country?

This is a tough one and the short answer is I don't know! The scene in Denver is very insular, a nod like "Band of the Year" here doesn't mean anything anywhere outside of Denver; outside of Colorado. And that's fine. We've been lucky to get local attention and it has afforded us lots of great opportunities. There has been, and continues to be, the problem of getting noticed on a national level. Things like OpenAir and various arts programs help, but there isn't the infrastructure here yet to support bands/musicians/artists because our scene is still relatively new and growing. We are lucky to have a diverse sound and a large talent pool. There is a LOT of music here- we are beginning to be known for that in Denver and people are certainly banking on it.

Hayley on   OpenAir   Colorado Public Radio.  

Hayley on OpenAir Colorado Public Radio.
 

You’ve shared the stage with bands like The Dead Weather, The Rapture and Devotchka. What has been your most memorable performance and how has sharing the bill with such high profile bands impacted how you approach to live performances?

Watching the Dead Weather sound check in an empty Ogden Theater while we folded freshly screened shirts will always be at the top of my musical memories list! And playing with The Rapture after spinning their music at every dance party I've ever had was amazing. Playing with those bands just makes you want to get better, write better songs and put on a better show (but I feel like that after I see any amazing band, high profile or not). It definitely does make you consider the production of it all- I want fabulous lighting and set design and outfits too! And good sound, I always want good sound.

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake recently released the video for “The Breath and Glow” by filmmaker Matthew Brown. What was the concept behind the video and how did the creative process unfold?

Matthew Brown is a friend of ours and he had always shown interest in doing some kind of film work for us. When we released Totem he singled out "The Breath and The Glow" immediately and we basically let him go wild with it. He had recently moved to LA, so he was primed to cast great actors and find cool locations. He picked up on the dark, psychedelic vibe of the song and went with it. We couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

SRRS's latest release:  Totem .  

SRRS's latest release: Totem.
 

I think the chorus to “Versus” is a perfect example of the dark, enchanting lyrics that fill Snake Rattle Rattle Snake’s catalog. Is there someone in the band that takes the lead writing lyrics for each song, or is it more of a group effort?

I write all the lyrics. I've been a journal-keeper and poem-writer since I was young, and that took the form of lyrics once I started playing music in my teens. I like to create imagery without spelling it all out for the listener. I like there to be a little mystery, a little bit of obscurity.

Catch Snake Rattle Rattle Snake at their next Denver performance: at UMS!

-Deana

Follow Deana on her music blog 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.