RUST Magazine wants to thank Adam, Ian and Stephen of Highbeams for taking the time to play for us on November 25, 2015 in Ball Ground, Georgia. We shot three great videos – which are posted on our YouTube page – and we also have great photos on our Flickr page. We really like this band. They’re about to go on tour in the Carolinas so catch them if you can!
RUST Magazine recently interviewed James Raftery, half of the creative core behind Rat Wakes Red, along with Jeral Benjamin, who described his work as making “music so beautiful it hurts” and Used Melodies, the debut album from Soft News is just that. Erik Laroi – the man behind Soft News – takes a focused approach to defining his own particular musical space with intense, stripped-down and beautifully re-arranged songs from days past. Used Melodies is much more than a cover album, it’s truly new music in it’s own radiant way. What Soft News does so exceptionally is to isolate particular elements from a song, then re-embellish something new, built from elements of the old structure.
All this is done with gorgeous vocals and immaculate production. The arrangements are so unique and complex that most people would not recognize any of the original songs except for having the same vocals. And the tone of songs is completely different from the original. Billy Idol’s top-40 hit Dancing With Myself here is a lonely ballad, and this is done for songs such as Love Touch by Rod Stewart, Separate Ways by Journey, Holocaust by Big Star and Red Headed Woman by Bruce Springsteen.
Used Melodies is perplexing in it’s pleasing, and that’s what really makes it so unique and special. It’s like a multi-layered puzzle with no answer. Of course it’s the journey, not the destination in music, and Used Melodies is like a labyrinth of memories suspended in golden twilight. You’re forever losing and reconnecting with visions in a whole other time and space. Soft News traps you in it’s dream, and you cannot wake up. After a while, you stop trying to emerge from the dream and give in to it, letting it take you to places both dark and light.
What’s even more interesting about his treatment is that there’s been a big movement in the post-rock space, especially in Europe where really, really great music is being made by slowing the music down and exposing unexpected things within it. It’s like people have been in such a hurry and so socially accelerated that we’re all craving the richness that comes with patience. Maybe that’s why this album, at this moment, is extra significant. It’s got a trans-generational appeal that speaks across time, and will continue to do so on it’s individual merits for a very long time to come.
Whether you know the original songs or not, Used Melodies stands as a unique, personal, intimate album by a very special performer, supported by people like Charles Newman and Ray Ketchem and artists Lorraine Lelis, Margaret White, Perry Serpa and Jean Cook. Deep and rewarding, Used Melodies is itself a world without end.
RUST Magazine had the good fortune to meet up with Thom Jenkins, Kenny Smith, Spike Brantley and Les Horn from Bolder Monkey for a living room demo session last night – and it was fantastic. These four monkey men brought a great classic acoustic rock sound accentuated with beautiful winds from Thom Jenkins. Click the link below to listen to Cocoa Killer Puffs from the session and like the band here:
We had a gaggle of recording gear on hand including mics from our friends at Cascade and we even had a Focusrite ISA 428 MkII mic pre-amp running for this session, and it sounded great. The Focusrite delivered a really strong sound to our Roland VS-2400 and we used it to dial in subtle volumes on vocals, woodwinds and both guitars. This was our first time using the ISA 428 MkII and it really added that high-end sound to what we were doing, even in a crowded living room. We’ll have more info on the Focusrite ISA 428 MkII in future posts.
In fact we had such a good time with the Bolder Monkeys we invited them to come to the RUST Magazine Showcase at the Hard Rock Cafe in Atlanta on January 5, 2015. Come on out and see the guys in person!
Listen to Cocoa Killer Puffs Now!
Being a music writer, and focusing on the indie scene, I’ve seen a lot of lists and tips lately advising aspiring artists on how to break through and get some exposure. Some of this advice is good, and some isn’t – like all advice – but the truth is that there isn’t a play book or check list of things that will universally work.
And there is a big mis-assumption that there is somewhere to break through to… in a lot of ways there isn’t. The best most bands can hope for is to have a tour where you don’t lose a ‘lot’ of money, and to have enough money to record your next album. Sorry kids, but that’s about as good as it gets these days.
Having reviewed and interviewed hundreds of bands, and being the one on the receiving end of all the emails and promotional posts, I’m going to add to the clutter of similar articles with my personal take on the things that get my attention, and that get written about.
1: Hire a good PR person. I get dozens of emails daily about new music. They all sound the same, and I can’t read most of them – because I have a life and things to do – and I already have a backlog of articles to finish. But, when a PR person I have a relationship with messages me and asks me to take a special look at an artist, I do it 100% of the time. A good PR person will be able to cut through the red tape, if you can afford them. The truth of our modern world is that it is pay to play, and if you want to cut to the front of the line it’s going to cost you.
2: Get a good band photo. This is probably the number one tip above all others. Before someone will listen to you, they will see you. Whether it’s on an album cover, a social post or an email message, there will be a visual image of you that people will see before they hear your music, and this is the sizzle that sells the steak. Again, a good shot will cost you, but a bad shot or a lack of one will cost you even more.
3: Videos, videos and more videos. They don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be from an expensive camera. They don’t even have to be good! Seriously. But you’ve got to have them, and the more the better. YouTube is the number one promotional platform for music. Having a video link gives you the “thing” to blog about and for your fans to share. If you had started doing a video a week last year, you would have 50 videos online right now and that would give the search engines something to find… and that’s how people will find you.
4: Write a personal letter. I can tell the difference between a form letter and a personally written letter in my email box instantly. I trash the form letters and read the personal ones, and when a band takes their time to write to me personally, and to ask me if I want to check them out I say yes 100% of the time. Even if I don’t have time to write a full review I will take my time and blog about them if they have taken their time to write to me. I consider it being polite. Remember, music writers are people too. Try to make a personal connection.
5: Be so good they can’t ignore you. This quote is attributed to Steve Martin, and if you have exceptional talent, and an authentic belief in yourself and satisfaction with your artistic accomplishment, it shows through no matter what the medium. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you, so don’t try to sell yourself, let your talent sell itself. And if, like most musicians, you fail to find commercial success, you will have the pride of accomplishment within yourself. That’s something you cannot buy no matter how much money you make and it’s also something that can never be taken away from you.
A little more personal advice? Relax and enjoy your time in the band. You might make money, you might not, but the time people spend expressing their art and their rock and roll spirit together with like-minded people defines them and grows their humanity and depth. There is a 99.9% probability that you’re not going to break through, so if you orient your life around that and it doesn’t happen, you’ll feel that you have failed. So make the music that you want and be grateful that you are privileged enough to have a life where you even have the chance to spend your time making music.
PHOTO: World War IX
RUST Magazine 2014 Artist of the Year: The Grahams
RUST Magazine met the Grahams twice this year, once at the Atlanta Amtrak train station on National Train Day, and again weeks later on the train between Gainesville and Atlanta. After walking the length of the Mississippi river to prepare for their 2013 album Riverman’s Daughter, they embarked on a month-long-plus journey across America by rail to get inspiration for their next album. This trip took weeks and, besides the material cost, it took an unbelievable investment of heart and soul.
Without a doubt, The Grahams displayed the most dedication of any band we met this year. Not only are they dedicated to what they do, but the doing of it intertwines their lives and their music, merging the two into an expression of both individuality and shared humanity. For them, making music means a complete and total immersion in the process of creativity. It means leaving the comforts of home and creating new life experiences with unknown people in strange places. It means changing their own perspectives through travel and adventure. It means that they have new, relevant, personal things to say as people and artists, and it gives their music a unique value.
We congratulate The Grahams on their excellent music and their imagination as music makers, and we hope that their example inspires others to go out there and take journeys to grow both their own skills, and their souls. Alyssa and Doug Graham are the RUST Magazine Artist of the Year because they lead by example – literally. And to reward The Grahams, our friends at Kopf Percussion have generously donated one of their ToeKicker Stompboxes. We hope this prize will be a part of their future journeys and music, and be with them on their next adventure.
And look for them on the cover of RUST Magazine Issue #5 coming in spring of 2015!
Hey RUST readers, we have a crazy good new LP to tell you about today. It’s a punk rock opera called Zanzibar III: Analog Prison from some of our friends in Chicago. The band is called Look What I Did and you definitely want to get your pre-order in by the 26th from the So Say We All Records website. We’ll have more info on this release soon, but trust us, you don’t want to miss out. Full of energy, drama and even a secret track, ZIII is one of the new high-concept albums coming out, kind of like Ragnar, our winner for Project of the Year 2014. Seriously, order one now because there will be a limited run on real vinyl and when they’re gone, they’re gooooooone!
Check it out!!!
Matt Turk – Cold Revival
There was absolutely no doubt which album was the best of the year for 2014. Matt Turk is a seasoned performer with decades of experience, and it all pours out like molten gold in Cold Revival. There were many great albums in a similar singer-songwriter space this year including Chris Grant, Sean Watkins and Xander Smith but Matt Turk took it to a whole other level emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. His songs are so passionate, so personal and so human… you cannot help but stop everything you are doing and listen when you hear his music.
Cold Revival is non-stop genius from beginning to end. Highlights of the album are songs like In Her Smile and Ilana Donna, and – for us – the definitive track for Matt is The Ballad of Reuben. It blows like a clear, chilling wind with the details of a million leaves caught in the flow. Each note is perfection. This is a legendary album that has grown and grown in our appreciation since the original review was written several months ago. And it’s a work of art from a community of people united in a vision of musical excellence. The sense of family and friendship comes through in every aspect.
Whoever you are, Matt Turk has something to say that you will relate to. He will inspire you and give you perspective on the trevails of life, love and the challenges of a rainy day. Matt Turk is the best of the best and Cold Revival is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.
And, this year we actually have a prize for the Album of the Year! Our friends at Cascade Microphones have generously donated one of their Fat Head BE Microphones as a prize and we’re super happy to award it to Matt. We regularly use the Fat Head II mics on our shoots and we love them, and we thank Cascade for sending us one for Matt. Maybe this mic will be a part of Matt’s next great song? We hope so, and we congratulate Matt again on his excellent achievement.