Cosmic Collective: A Space For All The Things You Love About Live Music

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Amoramora, Cameron Bailey, Cycles, Euforquestra, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Na’an Stop, The Runnikine, and The Beeves. What do all these awesome artists have in common? They’ve worked with Cosmic Collective. The studio and performance space, which is located near 55th and Arapahoe in Boulder, came together back in 2015 with creative mastermind Eric Plein at the helm. The space, which has hosted live shows, rehearsals, performances, a podcast, and doubles as a recording studio “seeks to harbor community and creativity for conscious audio and visual artists by giving their work a place to manifest its full potential.” The DIY vibes draw you in; the professionalism of Plein and his crew keep you invested. Needless to say, we were stoked to have the chance to chat with Eric about all things Cosmic Collective. Read on:

Cosmic Collective is a part of so many musical happenings. What inspired you to start this?

After years of playing music with my brother and friends I had accumulated a fair amount of gear. When I was living up on 10th and College [in Boulder], I had all of that gear from my basement in Virginia shipped out here, and we set it up in the garage behind our house for jam sessions. In some respects it was a grungy precursor to what Cosmic is now. Between that and and learning from my experiences with Z2 Entertainment and Madison House, I took a leap and put together Cosmic Collective.

Eric Plein.

Eric Plein.

What all goes down at the CC?

Most of the time, Cosmic is rented out by artists and bands to rehearse for shows and write music. We provide everything you need including instruments, amps, drums, microphones and a PA system, although a lot of people like to bring some of their own gear.

Recently we’ve been doing more and more recording, ranging from live, in-studio performances to working on more polished material for some upcoming projects. I’ve always loved watching music documentaries and reading biographies so when Tyler Gwynn (drummer of Tenth Mountain Division) approached me about starting a podcast, I was all about it. We have local, regional, and nationally touring acts come in for an interview, and then have them play a couple songs live in the studio.

Boulder has an amazing music scene, but it’s not the most diverse. I started to miss going to folk, indie, punk, hardcore, and metal shows, but had a hard time finding venues to go and get my fix for smaller-scale artists. That’s when I started to put together events to help foster those musical communities and provide a space for them.

We hear that. Who all is on the Cosmic team and what are their roles?

On paper, it’s just me running the show, but in reality I’ve had a ton of help from friends, musicians, and mentors in the Colorado music community. There is no way I could do all of this on my own. I am constantly humbled by the desire and willingness of all those who help Cosmic.

Danny Evans of Amoramora (left) & Plein mix before a podcast. 

Danny Evans of Amoramora (left) & Plein mix before a podcast. 

How long ago did you guys start the podcast?

Tyler Gwynn and I started the "At Cosmic Collective Podcast" back in September of 2016. We didn’t really know what we were doing when we started- we just did it... Still not sure we do either. Pretty much all of our guests are touring acts passing through Boulder, or artists we’ve met or know that live in Colorado.

Anyone you can talk to us about that you’ve been stoked to record with recently?

I just finished recording an album for the project Mr. Smiley, which consists of two members from Shantyman (R.I.P.). They’re going to see if they can beat Anton Newcombe’s (Brian Jonestown Massacre) accomplishment of six albums in one year. We just started recording the second one and they’re already done writing the third.

Some of CC's pedal collection.

Some of CC's pedal collection.

Tell us something you have at CC that a true music gearhead would drool over.

Definitely the 1975 Fender Rhodes 88 keyboard. At one point in its not too distant past, it was bought to go on tour with Hieroglyphics, but the thing is a beast to lug around, so it wound up in an office until I picked it up.

The setup.

The setup.

What has been one of your favorite events put on in the Cosmic Collective space so far?

That’s a tough one, but I think I’d have to go with the first one we ever did with Jeffrey Martin & Anna Tivel. Maybe 25 people showed up, but we all sat in the stillest silence listening, half of us almost brought to tears. It was really intimate.

Do you sponsor events outside of the Cosmic studio?

Cosmic just started teaming up with one of my favorite non-profits, Bus To Show, to put on a series that takes place on the first Thursday of every month at Bohemian Biergarten. There is more in the works too, so stay tuned!

Life behind the board. 

Life behind the board. 

In these very politically charged times, do you have any comment on how the conscious community at CC creates change through art?

When people talk about change they are inclined to jump to something lofty and sweeping; end world hunger, find the cure to cancer. That’s not really my style- I see meaningful change in smaller day to day things. With all this divisive rhetoric bombarding us all the time, people have an intrinsic need to be part of communities that value them. When you meet someone new, find something you have in common before you define what makes that person different from you. At Cosmic, music is the built-in commonality that we all share. That’s the launching point for getting to know each other; getting to know ourselves. I think there is immense value in appreciating all the different perspectives and realities that define how one sees the world we live in.

Beautifully said Eric. We can’t wait to see who stops by Cosmic next.

Keep up with all things Cosmic Collective 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.

Envy Alo: A Danceable Fusion

By: Will Baumgartner

"It never ceases to amaze me what three people can do with a guitar, drums and a Hammond organ. I recently got the opportunity to master Envy Alo's new EP and I was excited to hear so many great rock, funk, and hip hop influences, all wrapped up into their own unique sound. I can't wait to see what these cats come up with next and really hope I can be a part of it!"

-Alan Evans, Soulive

There you have it from the mouth of Alan Evans, the drummer of Soulive, one of the most popular jazz/funk fusion bands on the planet: Envy Alo, a trio of young Front Range musicians, are already well on their way to a bright future after only eight months of existence as a group. While their instrumentation is the same as Soulive, and they obviously share a lot of the same influences and tastes, these boys definitely have their own distinctive thing going on: a stew of jazz, funk, rock that is not only technically impressive, but tremendously exciting and infectious, and definitely dance-friendly. I couldn’t stop moving the last time I saw them live!

In anticipation for Envy Alo’s upcoming performance in The Pamlico Sound’s latest Funkstravaganza (five funk bands in one night at Cervantes’ Other Side this Saturday, June 18th), I recently spoke with keyboardist Aaron Pettine and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Hinder to get some insights into their process, progress, and plans. Check it out:

You guys have been around for less than a year and are already making pretty big noise on the local scene. How did your group come together, and what do you think were the key elements in your rapid rise?

Aaron: Kevin and I knew each other from attending James Madison University in Virginia for our undergrad studies. After we both relocated to Boulder, we met Tyler Gwynn (drummer) through mutual friends. After a few jam sessions with him, we knew we had a unique sound and chemistry and decided to move forward as a band.

Tyler and I both had been playing in other Front Range bands for a while now (Booster and Tenth Mountain Division respectively), so that helped us attract some of the fans from those bands to see this new project. We had developed great relationships with many of the local venues too, who were gracious enough to offer Envy Alo opening slots and gigs within our first few months of being a band.

Kevin: Another key element was just the initial drive that we wanted to do something different. A lot of bands in the area have that typical “jam band” sound, and we really wanted to create something unique. We had the tools already in place individually to do something new, and so far it seems like people enjoy it!

Kevin Hinder.

Kevin Hinder.

With your unusual and rather sparse lineup- keyboards, guitar and, drums- you create a very full, rich sound. How do you accomplish this?

Aaron: It’s simple really: add a synth bass line, swirling organ chords, furiously fast, yet tasteful jazz-rock guitar licks, and a danceable funky drum groove, and boom, that’s our sound!

Speaking of sound, I hear echoes of a lot of familiar sounds and styles within Envy Alo. The obvious comparison would be to the great funk-jazz trio Soulive, but not all your influences seem to be so contemporary. Some of the “organ trio” groups of the 60’s come to mind, as well as the solid classic groove of Booker T. & the MG’s. Who have some of your main influences been, both compositionally and in your individual styles as players?

Aaron: As a keyboard player, it's legends like Jimmy Smith, Booker T., Herbie Hancock, and Stevie Wonder. I also got a lot of my influences from current players like Neal Evans (Soulive/Lettuce), and Beau Sasser (Kung Fu) as well. I’d say my biggest influence is John Medeski from Medeski Martin & Wood, who I was lucky enough to study under in 2015.

Kevin: When I was a kid, I went through a heavy Hendrix phase, and was into heavier rock and the blues. But as I got a little older I started listening to bands like Phish and Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks, and Umphrey's McGee. I would say Jimmy Herring is probably my favorite guitar player out there, but when I really started studying music, my focus shifted to jazz with players like Pat Metheny and John Scofield (probably #2 to Jimmy Herring for me).

Aaron Pettine. 

Aaron Pettine. 

Your music is rewarding on both an intellectual level and a visceral one. Musicians get plenty to appreciate in terms of skill and complexity, while your average concertgoer gets a solid dose of dance music. Has this been a conscious thing? How do you approach creating music like this?

Aaron: [It has] absolutely been a conscious thing. We want to challenge ourselves in the music we write, but we also want it to be accessible and fun for the listener and concertgoer. Finding that happy medium can sometimes be the toughest part but it's one of the great joys of writing our own music.

One of the things that keeps your music interesting and exciting is while your primary focus is clearly on the funk/jazz side of the spectrum, there are also occasional flavors of rock. Where does this varietal spice come from?

Kevin: I think listening to an extremely wide range of styles helps us to draw on those influences and place some of that into our own sounds. Whether it’s conscious or not, it definitely comes through in all of our playing and writing. A Tribe Called Quest is a big influence in that regard, since they mold hip-hop with jazz, funk, rock, and more all into their sound.

Tyler Gwynn.

Tyler Gwynn.

Yet another thing that sets Envy Alo apart is the fact that not all of your stuff is strictly instrumental; you have some actual songs with well-written and interesting lyrics. What songwriters have influenced you?

Kevin: I’ve been listening to Jim Croce a good bit lately, and his lyrics are so well developed, funny, and his flow is so good. The obvious ones come to mind [too]: Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards. I also love Jerry Joseph. The imagery in his writing is so strong and deep, you can tell he has really been through some shit and has a lot of demons and skeletons in his closet, so pulling on his writing is big for me.

Do your compositions come completely realized from individual band members, or are they more often group efforts?

Aaron: It’s a little bit of everything. A lot of earlier tunes came to be through us just jamming, liking something, and putting some structure to it. Recently, Kevin and I have been doing a lot of writing on our own, either chord structures or lyrics or both, and then we get together and finish it up with Tyler.

Listen to Envy Alo's debut EP One Time

I’m very excited for your performance at The Pamlico Sound’s Funkstravaganza show this Saturday. Can the audience expect any special treats from y’all at that performance?

Aaron: Yes! We will have some special treats in store. We are very excited to play our first show as Envy Alo at Cervantes’- it’s one of our favorite Denver venues!

What the hell does “Envy Alo” mean, anyway?

Aaron: It’s a play off of the Spanish word “envialo” which means “ship it”. It’s a term we use when we need to spur one of us to really rock something.

Kevin: Basically, we just replace every verb related to doing anything with “ship it”.

Watch Envy Alo's live performance of "Manic Depression":

I never could have figure that one out on my own! So what’s on the horizon for Envy Alo? Where do you see yourselves a year from now? Anything our readers should know about in advance?

Kevin: We have a summer full of dates we’re ready to announce soon, and we will be playing some of the bigger local venues too, so we’re pretty jazzed about that. We were just booked to play at a music festival in Taos, NM in September, which will be our first festival. Sometime in the fall, we plan on recording a full length album. We’ve been talking to Al Evans from Soulive about recording in his studio out East, so we have some pretty lofty goals. We’re ready to dive in headfirst and become the best and most unique band we can be!

So make sure to “ship it” with Envy Alo and all of the great funk bands on the Funkstravaganza lineup this Saturday at Cervantes! Keep up with Envy Alo on Facebook.

-Will

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

Tenth Mountain Division Blend Genres and Define "Ski Rock" on Debut Release, "Cracks in the Sky"

By: Eric Martin

TMD is going to make you love "ski rock".

As my friends and I stumbled out of the Boulder Theater adorned in all the green clothing we own and drunk on Irish car bombs, we headed in the direction of home. Or so we thought. It had been a successful enough St. Patrick’s Day. We all agreed, alarms already set and ready to wake us in a matter of hours, that home was the direction to go. But we didn’t make it far. Mere steps from the Theater, we were drawn elsewhere: the music was loud, the crowd was huge, and there was a buzz of energy in the air from more than just the alcohol.

We found ourselves stumbling into The Lazy Dog, and immediately, I noticed that I’d never seen the place so crowded. It was shoulder to shoulder; toes on toes. I couldn’t see the stage. I had no idea who was playing. It was rock music and the crowd was definitely into it. Was that a mandolin? I made my way closer to the stage.

Tenth Mountain Division.

Tenth Mountain Division.

The band was Boulder’s Tenth Mountain Division. And that was a mandolin. The eclectic mix of musicians onstage included MJ Ouimette, Campbell Thomas, Winston Huega, Connor Dunn, and Tyler Gwynn. I soon realized maybe this wasn’t “rock music” after all, because according to the band “well known amongst small groups of people”, this was “ski rock”. And it just so happened that I had walked into TMD’s ski rock album debut. Gnarly.

The release, Cracks in the Sky, features the 5-piece group on guitar, keyboards, mandolin, bass, and drums, as well as a handful of guest musicians on saxophones and banjos; oh my! The album starts a little slow paced, picks up early, and drives it home.

Much like the band itself, this release seems to effortlessly blend genres. At any moment, it drifts from String Cheese-inspired jams to Shakedown Street funk, to traditional bluegrass breakdowns to sax-heavy jazz beats, all without ever digressing too far from the true Hercules of this band’s repertoire: fun. “Storm of the Century” is the perfect example of this, a funky ballad beginning with a driving drum beat accompanied by a mellow, instantly catchy piano riff, joined in perfect harmony by funk-rock bass lines and high energy mandolin chops.

The track “Eskimo” sums up more than any other tune what “ski rock” is all about. It is probably the most improvisational song on the album, and features their now (kind of) famous catchphrase, “A man could go crazy in a search of snow”.

Though the energy found at their live shows seems a little lacking in the album, several songs, including “Drunk Man’s Blues” and “Camp Hale”, serve to keep live performance fans happy with the high energy TMD they’ve come to appreciate.

Cracks in the Sky closes out with its title track, a banjo/mandolin-heavy tune that once again perfectly blends and bends (genres that is). This album is definitely worth a listen, but even more so, get out there and catch these guys live! You can find their upcoming show dates here.

-Eric

Connect with Eric on Instagram and Facebook.

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

Tenth Mountain Division: Ski Rock for Your Summer

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Tenth Mountain Division dropped their debut album recently, and it's taking off like a skier on fresh powder.

Ski Rock. That’s the sound Boulder’s Tenth Mountain Division have coined for themselves, and it fits. With rock, jam, and bluegrass influences, the five-piece have been picking up notable steam  in the local mountain scene and beyond. Just this spring, the band released their debut album, Cracks In The Sky, which quickly earned them critical acclaim, a summer tour, and a spot on Illinois’ Summer Camp Music Festival. Before this rockin’ crew hits the road, we decided to sit down with co-founder MJ Ouimette to get the full scoop on TMD’s formation, their record, and more! The boys play a hometown gig at The Lazy Dog tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo, which you should definitely check out. Read on:

Boulder's Tenth Mountain Division. 

Boulder's Tenth Mountain Division. 

So MJ- how did Tenth Mountain Division get started, and how long you have been playing together as a band?

Winston Heuga and I originally met in highschool in our hometown of Vail, CO. After practicing together for a year or so, and writing our first original tunes, we decided to legitimize our music from the ground up; from Winston’s Mom’s basement to the stage. We had the idea to perform as a bluegrass band, since our main influences included Sam Bush and Leftover Salmon. Eventually, we evolved into an electric adaptation of our prior selves, and our “ski rock” sound was fully realized at CU, where we met Connor Dunn, Tyler Gwynn and Campbell Thomas. In total, TMD has been a project for a year and a half.

Wow! That’s sweet that you guys were able to put out your debut album within essentially a year’s time. Where was Cracks in the Sky recorded? Did you work with a producer, and if so, who?

Cracks In the Sky was recorded at KMG Life Inc. Studios. The album is self produced, but has largely been successful thanks to our sound engineer Cameron Mannix. He worked with us tirelessly and off the clock to help us achieve what we desired. Mannix had actually been working with us for the year leading up to our recording process on projects, and because he had that knowledge of our sound coming in, his work really contributed to the authenticity of Cracks In The Sky.

Awesome. What’s behind the name of the album?

“Cracks In the Sky”, the album’s title track, is the first song Winston and I wrote together. For the most part, he wrote it and I helped arranged the music and the middle verse. But the title, in short, is the easiest explanation of everything we’ve done up to this point.

Cool. Talk to us about the other tracks on the album. How did you choose what to record?

The songs we decided on put on the album are mostly an amalgamation of the diverse talents in the group. Be it my own “Morning Drive” and “Fine Print”, Winston’s “By the Riverside” and “Matryoshka Mountains” or Campbell’s “Conspiracy”, there is a diverse yet coherent congruency from song to song that demonstrates both our varied backgrounds and influences, and the intersections between them all that make us Tenth Mountain Division.

Awesome. Does everyone in the band write?

Winston has written many of the basic outlines and lyrics for the group; he is a great lyricist. Although I have a few songs lyrically that I’ve written as well, the basic formula is Winston presenting a sketch that I solidify musically with arrangements. There is always constant interaction and influence between all of us in the band though.

Listen to TMD’s Cracks In The Sky:

LP versus EP is always a tough question. How did you guys decide on releasing a full length?

Ultimately, we decided that it’s far too common to release an EP as a first recording effort, and we had too much material that we wanted to exhibit. When I look at my biggest influences, I don’t think about their first EP, I think about their first album. We collectively wanted to create an all-encompassing piece of art rather than just a fraction of it.

Fair enough. What are Tenth Mountain Division’s plans for the summer?

“Eskimo”, one of my favorite tracks on the album, will have a music video that will be released in the very near future. Beyond that, we’re touring the Midwest and East Coast, along with our appearance at Summer Camp Music Festival.

We saw you were on that fest lineup- tell us more about that!

We won Summer Camp’s “On the Road” competition series at the Fox Theatre in January, which allowed us the opportunity to perform at the event. It is both humbling and exciting to have won the event and to perform among the heavy hitters of the vast and talented genre of “jam” music.

Make sure to catch Tenth Mountain Division jamming at The Lazy Dog tomorrow night! Join the Facebook event here. And keep with this talented ski rock outfit here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

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

Why You Should "Ship It" Tonight at The Lazy Dog With Boulder's Envy Alo

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Ship it. Ship it good. 

If you take a smack of Booster, a sprinkle of Tenth Mountain Division, and toss in an accomplished guitarist who’s new to the Boulder scene, what Boulder band do you have? Envy Alo. Formed just a few months ago, members Aaron Pettine (keys) and Kevin Hinder (guitar) have actually known each other for years. They met while attending James Madison University in Virginia and then both moved to Boulder in the years following to pursue music. The two had wanted to form a project together for quite some time, so after linking up with Tenth Mountain Division’s Tyler Gwynn (drums), Envy Alo was born. The group has quickly become known for their “old-school organ-trio jazz funk and newer, heavier rock and fusion stylings.” And tonight, they’ve got a sweet gig at The Lazy Dog! So before you catch their funkadelic show this evening, read our chat with EA’s Aaron Pettine for the deets on the band:

We know that your trio formed last October, and that this is a new project for all three of you, so tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on since your inception.

We are so new that pretty much everything we are doing right now is a ‘new project’. [For our live shows] we are continuously writing new material while also coming up with our own takes on our favorite covers. We are very excited to be heading over to KMG Studios Boulder at the end of the month to record a 4-5 song EP. Because a big part of what we do is improvised live and in the moment, taking away that element and compressing things into this neat studio version is going to be a challenge. But it’s one that we are very much looking forward to tackling.

Righteous. When are you planning to drop that?

We are hoping to release that sometime in March or early April. We’ve got a lot of plans and goals for 2016 and are looking to expand our music and fan base while also performing as much as possible. We are in the early stages of planning a summer tour on the East Coast as well; roughly ten dates in late summer from VA to VT.

Kevin, Tyler, Aaron.

Kevin, Tyler, Aaron.

On the road is always a good place to be. That’s great! And we’ll keep an ear out for the EP. So we’re curious- what’s up with your name?

The short story is that it’s basically a play off of the Spanish word Envialo, which means ‘Ship It’. This has been a saying among the three of us, whenever we need to rock something or get something done, we’ll say “Ship It!”

Nice. Lots of plans to “Ship It” tonight we’re guessing?

Yes- The Lazy Dog is one of our favorite local venues and really a staple here in Boulder for the type of music we play, so we are beyond excited to play our first show there tonight. We’re also excited that we’re supporting a very badass Denver band, Cycles.

Sweet! So head over to The Lazy Dog tonight and get weird with Boulder’s Envy Alo! Keep up with all things EA here.

Watch Envy Alo perform their track "Hottentot" live:

-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.