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10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

The traveling version of Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art, and Tradition is organized by the Japanese American

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015 National Museum in Los Angeles, California, and is supported, in part, by Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman.



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


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RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

RVA #21 SUMMER 2015 2005-2015:10 YEARS OF RVA WWW.RVAMAG.COM R. Anthony Harris, Jeremy Parker FOUNDERS R. Anthony Harris PUBLISHER John Reinhold PRESIDENT Drew Necci EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Brad Kutner EDITORIAL ASST. Brad Kutner, Amy David RVAMAG.COM & GAYRVA.COM Banana Jones CREATIVE DIRECTOR Drew Snyder DESIGNER John Reinhold, Josh Lingerfelt, Ronny Lopez ADVERTISING Taylor Womack ADVERTISING ASST. WRITERS Drew Necci, Brad Kutner, Shannon Cleary, Doug Nunnally, Kyle Shearin, Black Liquid, John Reinhold, Cody Endres, Tyler Spindle, Haruko Hirukawa ILLUSTRATION April Kelly PHOTOGRAPHY Mr. Fili, Jake Cunningham, Jeff Miller & Heaton Johnson V INTERNS Rodrigo Arriaza, Bridget Douglas, Tyler Hammel, Calyssa Kremer, Ben Weiner, Victoria Zawitkowski e: GENERAL INFORMATION e: EDITORIAL INFORMATION e: DISTRIBUTION ADVERTISING p: 804.214.6350 e: e: SUBMISSION POLICY RVA Magazine welcomes submissions but cannot be held responsible for unsolicited material. Send all submissions to All submissions become property of Inkwell Design LLC. The entire content is a copyright of Inkwell Design LLC and cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without written authorization of the publisher. ONLINE Every issue of RVA Magazine can be viewed in its entirety anytime at


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HEADS UP! The advertising and articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinion and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publisher or editors. Reproduction in whole or part without prior written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. RVA Magazine is published quarterly. Images are subject to being altered from their original format. All material within this magazine is protected. RVA Magazine is a registered trademark of Inkwell Design LLC. RVA Magazine is printed locally by Conquest Graphics. cover art by Chris Vision

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


DON’T SLEEP Follow us @RVAmag Top: Tino Middle Left: RVA Beard Championships at Canal Club Bottom Left: Phantogram at The National Middle Right: Bear Nation of Reefer Mascot Bottom Right: Lost Bowl Opposite Page Top: #latenightcreepers Opposite Page Bottom Top Left: @bigbootlegdrop at WWE Raw Top Middle: Cary Street Cafe on a Wednesday Top Right: Steady Sounds afternoon Bottom Left: DJ Battle at Broadberry Bottom Middle: DJ Seph Tekk & friend @Portrait House Bottome Right: #sensualthrash If you would like your photo work featured in the Don’t Sleep section, send us an email at 16

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RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



The past decade has been a great era for culture here in Richmond. As the city slowly left the spectres of poverty and violence that once haunted it further in the past, the traditional view of Richmond’s identity as a Southern town obsessed with military conflicts long ended began to fade. For the wide-eyed college freshmen who come to the city this fall, Richmond will appear as a bustling, artistically-oriented city with a modern, youthful sensibility. A lot of events that have occurred here over the past decade of RVA Magazine’s existence have helped to create that impression. This is how we got there.

RVA’s Thriving Music Festival Scene: A decade ago, the number of annual music festivals taking place in Richmond stood at zero. Even at that time, there was still plenty of great music coming out of this town, but the growth of the local music festival culture over the past ten years shows that more people than ever are paying attention to and getting involved with Richmond’s bounteous music scene. Of course, towering head and shoulders above the rest (literally) is the GWAR-B-Q, a huge, depraved party thrown each summer by RVA’s favorite alien sons and featuring the best of metal, punk, and hardcore from this city and around the world. Fall Line Fest has shown itself to be a powerful player as well over the past few years, bringing heavy hitters in the indie rock world to a variety of venues around town. On a more specialized level, United Blood Festival has been going strong for nearly a decade now, presenting the best hardcore bands in the world to an extremely amped-up audience that always snaps up all available tickets months in advance. Smallerscale endeavors focusing entirely on local bands, such as Prabir Mehta’s Ghost Of Pop showcase; Slapdash Entertainment’s annual megadose of hip hop, Epic Fest; and Shannon Cleary’s always masterfully-curated Commonwealth Of Notions also provide the opportunity for audiences to figure out everything that’s happening around RVA in one whirlwind weekend.


RVA Street Art Festival: The local love affair with art has only grown over the past decade, and it’s no surprise that it would eventually leave the galleries and spill out into the streets of the city. A collaborative project bringing together local artists with support from Venture Richmond, the Greater Richmond Chamber Of Commerce, and Altria, the RVA Street Art Festival started with the goal of taking over and beautifying multiple spots around town. Enlisting over a dozen artists for each project, including Mickael Broth, Ed Trask, Chris Milk, Hamilton Glass, and more, this multi-year festival beautified the walls of the Canal Walk downtown as well as the former GRTC Bus Depot on S. Robinson St. In conjunction with the many murals that have appeared on walls around town over the past several years, the RVA Street Art Festival has helped make Richmond a more colorful and engaging city than it ever has been before!

First Friday: Of course, the movement at the heart of Richmond’s changing face over the past decade is the First Friday Art Walk. Beginning just after the turn of the milennium with just a few galleries located along W. Broad St at the southern end of Jackson Ward, this monthly event has grown by leaps in bounds ever since. It even spawned an officially-endorsed neighborhood designation, the Arts And Cultural District. Of course, these days, with satellite art walks springing up on W. Main St near VCU and on Hull St. in Manchester, this idea has already outgrown any geographical boundaries that could be drawn around it. It’s a big part of the reason this city now has several dozen active local art galleries, and definitely a vital encouraging factor in the continued growth of Richmond’s artistic scene.

Obama victory celebration, November 2008: 2008 was a huge year for electoral politics in Virginia. In a city populated by inspired, tuned-in young people, the excitement around Barack Obama was palpable, and Virginia showed a distinct possibility of voting Democrat for the first time in 25 years. On November 4, when the state lit up blue on TV electoral maps as Obama swept to a decisive victory, citizens of RVA couldn’t contain their joy. Celebrating crowds took to the streets around VCU, stopping traffic to scream victory chants and dance in the streets. Down on Franklin St near the VCU dorms, I saw kids crowdsurfing and climbing traffic lights, as cops watched with smiles on their faces. It was the beginning of a new era for the city, the country, and the world, and here in RVA, everyone was delighted to greet it.

Occupy Richmond: Obama becoming president didn’t mean everything was fine, though, and as the recession of the late 00s dragged into the next decade, discontented masses facing lowered wages and unemployment created a public protest movement. Beginning at Wall Street, the Occupy movement spread to cities throughout the country, and a satellite protest here in Richmond occupied Kanawha Plaza in October 2011. Involving hundreds of local citizens at various points, the protest was eventually broken up by order of Mayor Dwight Jones the night before Halloween; during the ensuing fracas, RVA Mag photographer Ian M. Graham (RIP) was arrested, amongst several others, creating a story of its own. While the local Occupy protests only lasted a few weeks, they’ve had a significant effect on the political consciousness of the city ever since, with many participants still heavily involved in local political activities.

Venture Richmond’s RVA sticker campaign: When we started RVA Magazine, we took our name from a term applied to the city by musicians and artists from the local underground scene. At the time, the three-letter shorthand was decidedly not a mainstream nickname for Richmond VA. However, that all changed with the promotional campaign launched several years ago by Venture Richmond. These days, you can’t drive six blocks anywhere around this lovely city without seeing an RVA bumper sticker. As a statement of pride in the artistically-oriented city Richmond has become, the campaign is a very popular one--over 100,000 stickers have been given away since it began in 2011. Today, it seems that RVA Magazine’s cultural mission and the goals and desires of Richmond as a whole are very much in line--and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

VCU makes Final Four: 2011 was the year that put Richmond VA on the map in the wide world of sports. VCU’s men’s basketball team weren’t incredibly well-known before this season, but by the end of the year, no one inside or outside of Richmond would ever forget them. With head coach Shaka Smart implementing his Havoc system, the team had an aggressive style of play that helped them attain an at-large bid into the March Madness playoff tournament. From there, they shocked the nation by working their way up to the Final Four, defeating basketball powerhouses like Georgetown and Kansas along the way. For a few weeks, the entire city was overcome by basketball fever, with huge crowds gathering around televisions in even the sleepiest bars as those playoff games neared their exciting conclusions. While VCU didn’t manage to win it all, finally falling short in the Final Four against Butler, their 2011 playoff run stands as one of the most memorable Cinderella stories in college basketball history. RVARVA MAGAZINE MAGAZINE 21 | 21 Summer | Summer 20152015

10 Classic RVA Albums You Need To Hear

Here at RVA Mag, we like to keep you posted on the latest happenings around our fair city. But sometimes it’s good to take a look back, and remember some of the great artists who helped create the cultural legacy we all enjoy today. This issue, we’re looking back at some of the great RVA bands of yesteryear. If you haven’t heard all of these albums, you’re going to need to do some crate digging, because they’re all essential artifacts that you need in your life.

Four Walls Falling Culture Shock (Jade Tree, 1991)

A decade after the birth of American hardcore, these veterans found a new approach to a sound in danger of getting formulaic. Culture Shock features stretched-out song lengths and an abundance of ideas, turning some songs into multi-part suites full of passionate fury and anger at the pathetic status quo--feelings that are all too relevant a quarter century later.

Mad Skillz

From Where??? (Big Beat, 1996)

Titled in reference to the overlooked state of VA hip hop 20 years ago, Mad Skillz’s debut album shows sometimes even the most talented MCs can’t catch a break. With some of the most inventive lyrics to be found anywhere, plus production from J-Dilla, Large Professor, and Buckwild, Mad Skillz nonetheless missed out on mainstream recognition for this forgotten classic. What a shame. 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



(Catheter-Assembly, 1992 /Lookout!, 1994)

There’s no way to minimize the importance of this one. Avail’s debut LP singlehandedly put Richmond on the 90s punk rock map. Brilliantly unique tracks filled both sides of this album, and surely highlights like “March,” “Bob’s Crew,” and “Stride” are still stuck in the heads of anyone who caught one of Avail’s crucial live performances during this era.

House Of Freaks

Honor Role

(Rhino, 1987)

(Merge; orig. released 1985-89, reissued 1997) Some might prefer Pen Rollings’ later work with instrumental math-metal pioneers Breadwinner, but for my money his best moments happened when his guitar explorations were paired with Bob Schick’s spooky, thought-provoking lyrics. This posthumous collection pulls together Honor Role’s two LPs and several EPs, on which they test the limits of hardcore and create challenging, angst-ridden noise.

Monkey On A Chain Gang In the heart of the glitzy, overproduced 80s, Richmond’s most popular musical export defied trends, anticipating the bassless-rock-duo craze by nearly 20 years. This heartfelt slab of minimalist rock n’ roll was too ahead of its time to receive the recognition it deserved, but it’s full of great riffs and excellent performances that still sound inspiring today. RIP Bryan Harvey.


Southside Speedway (Caroline, 1994)

Fudge made waves throughout the indie rock scene of the early 90s with a series of charming singles, but their best work can be found on their final release. Southside Speedway is the perfect stock-car racing soundtrack; revved-up guitar riffs rub elbows with perfect pop choruses and 70s pop culture references galore--plus bonus harsh noise interludes.



Vivadixiesubmarine transmissionplot (Capitol, 1995)

Born of dejection and frustration, Sparklehorse’s first foray into recording was, in spite of its major label release, a notably DIY affair. Recorded by leader Mark Linkous and some talented friends, including Cracker frontman David Lowery, this lo-fi indie masterpiece features found sounds, voicemails, and some of the most beautifully sad melodies you’ll find anywhere.


Kepone Kepone

Pearls From The River

(Pop-A-Wheelie, 1996 /A-F, 2005)

Kepone were another of quite a few math-core bands to arise from the RVA scene of the 90s. Their third and final album is the best showcase of their ability to combine weirdly syncopated riffing and undeniably infectious melodies, which keep your toe tapping even if you can’t quite figure out the time signature.

Started in the early 90s as a noise-rock band, Pelt’s relentless experimental spirit had taken them to a very different place by the early 2000s. On their seventh album, Mike Gangloff, Jack Rose, and Patrick Best explore the possibilities of acoustic drone, using banjo, double bass, and acoustic guitars to simultaneously recall old-time string band music and psychedelic raga epics.

Revolution, I Think It’s Called Inspiration Inquisition’s posthumously-released final album is crammed with impossibly upbeat melodic hardcore tunes. Thomas Barnett’s hoarsely passionate vocals really did inspire a desire for positive revolution in every listener, while Mark Avery’s roaring guitar riffs were impossible to forget. Members went on to Strike Anywhere, River City High, and Ann Beretta, but this is the absolute goods right here.

(Quarterstick, 1997)


(VHF, 2003)



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


RVA On Tap

THE LATEST IN Richmond BREW NEWS CHECK for your daily pint

Strawberry Street Market Now Filling Growlers

7 Hills Brewing Co. to Open Soon in Shockoe Bottom

Richmond to Host Capital Ale House’s National Beer Expo

After over two months of renovations, the fine folks at Strawberry Street Market have a tap system set up specifically for growler fills in the rear of the store. The renovation was initially only going to take a month, but the necessity of a customized bar that allows for the size of 64 oz. growlers complicated things. As far as selection goes, there is an emphasis on local breweries, draft-only offerings, and new beers. I had a chance to sample Ardent’s IPL, and Stone’s Ruination 2.0 while there — both were sufficiently cold and tasted fresh. So in addition to the store’s already massive selection of packaged beer, there are 24 additional beers to choose from. What a complaint to have.

Although 7 Hills’ sign has been posted up for months on 15th Street, promising a new brewpub, it looks like things are finally moving along, hopefully in time for a summer opening. The arrival of brand new brewing equipment in January, and kegs in April, looks promising. The brewers at 7 Hills, formerly named Haxall, have been working on many Richmond-themed recipes, including Pipeline Pale Ale, 42nd Street Stout, and Belle Isle Blonde Ale. Hopefully this means each beer is suited to a specific locale — a light, blonde ale would make sense for the outdoors. Interestingly, 7 Hills has signed up with Loveland for distribution. Many Virginia breweries are distributed by Brown, so perhaps 7 Hills is hoping to distinguish themselves with this move.

This July, Capital Ale House and the Greater Richmond Convention Center will once again play host to an event known as the National Beer Expo. The main event is on the 18th, a walk-around tasting in the Convention Center, with 160 plus beers promised from breweries from across the country. On the 16th, Richmond breweries will host brewery parties, sure to feature some limited special brews. The 17th will feature a taco throwdown, featuring creations from restaurants such as Boka and Mosaic. The 18th is packed, with a culinary walking tour, a craft beer brunch, and more in addition to the walk-around tasting. Advanced tickets for all events and more info can be found online.

Starr Hill Gets a New Brewmaster and a New Look Change is afoot at long-running Charlottesville/Crozet brewery Starr Hill. Back in February, the brewery named Robbie O’Cain as their new brewmaster, after former brewmaster Mark Thompson’s retirement. Robbie has a Masters in Brewing Science from Chicago’s prestigious Siebel Institute, and rose through the ranks of Starr Hill, starting there as a brewer in 2011. O’Cain has already proved himself to Starr Hill and consumers alike by helping to develop the award-winning King of the Hop Imperial IPA and Whiter Shade of Pale Ale. In other Starr Hill news, handsome, streamlined packaging inspired by silkscreened concert posters hits store shelves in July. 24 24

Champion Brewery Canning Two New Beers, Developing Sour Program Slated for a mid-June packaged release are two new-to-cans beers from Champion: the brilliantly-named Czech pilsner Shower Beer; and Tart, a Berliner Weisse. Like Champion’s excellent year-round Missile IPA and Killer Kölsch, Shower Beer and Tart are sure to become warm-weather favorites in Virginia. Also, Champion may soon be one of the first Virginia breweries with a legitimate sour program. Back in February, the brewers put a Flemish Red into Cabernet Franc barrels, and more recently, put a beer into a fresh oak barrel, to be unveiled in 18 months. Very exciting things to come from these guys. RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015 RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

Lickinghole Creek co-owner Sean-Thomas Pumphrey Interview by John Reinhold

Located in beautiful Goochland, VA, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery has been making its presence known on the RVA craft beer scene lately with its water-conscious, farm-produced brews. Growing hops, barley, herbs, and spices on location for use in their Estate Series of craft beers, they’ve overseen every step of the brewing process in order to ensure that their product is both environmentally friendly and of the highest quality. We caught up with Lickinghole Creek co-owner Sean-Thomas Pumphrey to get the lowdown on their process and the fine results they’ve obtained. Could you tell me a little bit about your land? Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is on a 290 acre plot of land. It used to be an old timber company, and they just clear-cut everything. Over the past decade, we’ve taken a piece of it at a time, like a land reclamation project; gotten all the stumps and rocks out of the way, planted something, put nitrogen in the soil, and taken it back piece by piece, so it can be a working farm. When I was out talking to your wife she said, “Welcome to Lickinghole Creek, the farm brewery.” If we need to be technical, Thomas Jefferson probably had Virginia’s first farm brewery. But Lisa [Pumphrey] and Virginia Manufacturers Association wrote the law which defines what farm breweries are for the Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s how we’re Virginia’s first farm brewery, in certain aspects.

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You had to be part of making that legislation and fighting towards getting this done?

Can you tell me the history of the beer itself?

My start as a home brewer was about 13 years ago. I started because when I lived in Montana, we had all of those really great West Coast beers. I was drinking Moose Drool, Deschutes Pale, Black Bear Porter, all those wonderful beers. I came back home, and it wasn’t like it is now, where you got such a great selection at Whole Foods.There was no great place to go to get really good domestic craft beer. So I started homebrewing those types of beers. I picked up an extract kit and I was like, “Oh well, this beer doesn’t suck.” I started making some more, got really into it, and became an all-grain brewer. Then I started messing around with my own ideas. So I have a home-brewing background, with zero professional training. That’s why we hired David Achkio, who’s You grow your own herbs. The beer that I’ve been brewing for 20 years. He’s brewed at heard about was your Rosemary Saison, and Pyramid, he has worked with a bunch of breweries out in Pennsylvania, he’s got a of course I had to try it. long professional career. My home brew Whenever we can, we try and grow at background mixed with his professional least one ingredient for some of our beers, background helps create all the beers that specifically in the estate series of beers. We we have. grew sugar pumpkins for Pumpkin Ain’t Easy. We grew hops for Gentleman Farmer, barley To turn a home brew into something you can for Mango Habanero Brown Ale. I’m working package and sell is a completely different on a carrot cake beer, and we grow the thing. carrots here. I’m also working on a cucumber summer ale, stuff like that. So that’s been It’s a completely different thing. As a home brewer, you can do whatever you want. really fun. But if you put it on this scale, you have to Your water system is one of the things that make really good beer, but you also have to makes Lickinghole Creek unique to the beer make it so it’s repeatable and profitable. You don’t want to just throw every single beer scene in Richmond. ingredient in the world into it and say, “Here Yeah, very much so. All of our beers are made you go. That’ll be three dollars.” with well water. All of it is untreated--we don’t filter, we don’t do anything to it. We’ve Here’s the most expensive beer in the world, had it tested and it’s just a very good, clean we’re giving it to you and losing money. base. If anything, it could use a little more mineral content--and we use some more That’s right. So you want to try to avoid that. minerals for our big IPAs, so they’ll have a little stronger nose on their flavor. We treat all of our wastewater here on site too. We’re a water conscious brewery. Water is a part of everything we do; it’s the base of what makes our beer unique and fresh. Yeah, we actually wrote the code of Goochland to amend what farm breweries are for Goochland. So you can open up a microbrewery on agricultural land--you have a bi-right use. Bi-right use means you don’t have to get approval [to farm your land]. We wanted to get a bi-right use for this project because as you can see, there’s lots of money and time invested. You don’t want to have a conditional use permit where you have a 1015 year window, and then maybe you have a group in the county who isn’t supportive of you and they say “No, you can’t renew your conditional use permit.” So we wanted to make sure we had some more control over our own destiny.

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Hop Along, “Waitress”

Painted Shut, Saddle Creek Records

This isn’t just one of the decade thus far, by a wide margin. It starts with an unassuming rock shuffle before knocking down anything you thought a song called “Waitress” would be like. The music is loud, in your face, and rowdy, but none of it’s a match for Frances Quinlan’s vocal prowess, which she effortlessly yields while telling an all-too-familiar story of being stuck with the last person on Earth you want to see. The emotion pours out of everything Quinlan does here, from her screams of “common kind” to even her polite plea to the nameless foe to “just leave,” making it an unforgettable and undeniable masterpiece. --Doug Nunnally

Navi, “Edward Sharte & The Flatulent Gyros” Illuminavi II,

Navi have called it a day and left Richmond one final offering. On Illuminavi II, the duo cascades between ambience and total chaos. The orchestra-gone-mad feel of this track in particular is a proper farewell and highlights the intricate dynamics between guitarist Jon Hawkins and drummer Kyle Flanagan. It was the rampant energy and swagger that Navi exuded that will be truly missed. There was really nothing quite like them around town. Goodbye, Navi. Signed, the entire Richmond music scene. --Shannon Cleary

Pinecones, “Halo Crown”

Sings For You Now, Arrowhawk Records

Pinecones explore the hypnosis-through-midtempo-repetition gambit that was always Lungfish’s stock in trade, and singer Bo Orr’s hoarse voice also calls Self Defense Family to mind. On “Halo Crown,” things start out relatively controlled, but eventually Orr works himself up to a fever pitch, as the tom-heavy repetitive beat gives it a nervous underpinning. When the song drops to half speed at its climactic moment, it’s not objectively that big a change, but it sounds like the ground falling away under your feet. In the best possible way. --Andrew Necci

Jamie xx, “GOSH”


This absolute banger kicks off the debut solo album from the producer and musical mastermind behind London soul/pop/indie trio The xx, who delves deeper into his electronic inclinations than ever before here. “Gosh” isn’t anything earth-shattering at first, but it’s the multiple layers mixed into the track that slowly reveal it’s godlike genius. The rumbling, low frequency keyboards and dissonant high-pitched hums that fade in around halfway through the track take it to a whole new level. Suddenly you’re dancing in the stratosphere. --Tim Wellington


SIFT EP, Flesh And Bone Records

Charlottesville-based Raintree has had a tendency in the past to vacillate between serene post-rock melodies and bombastic, Snowing-like outpourings of emotion. However, on this first new track since last year’s touching For A Little While, there is a new sense of equanimity. The song has an almost alt-country feel to it, gliding along smoothly with a combination of acoustic and electric guitars, along with glockenspiel, harmonized vocals, and a gentle but assertive rhythm section. A touching ode to an old friend. --Cody Endres 26 26

STUDIO NEWS It’s only been about six months since White Laces dropped their second LP, Trance, but they’ve already come very close to finishing a follow-up. However, this isn’t going to be a “real new White Laces album,” so to speak. Instead, this 8-song collection is a detour into the programmed, electronic sounds that have previously been only a small part of the band’s entire sound. Singer/ guitarist Landis Wine attributes the existence of this release to “getting deeper into programming/Ableton.” Wine, bassist Jay Ward and drummer Jimmy Held put these tracks together at home, adding a bit of guitar to otherwise entirely electronic tracks. In the next couple of weeks, they’ll be going into Sound Of Music Studios to lay down some vocal tracks, before having the whole thing mixed by Jeff Ziegler, who produced Trance and has also worked with War On Drugs. The new LP will most likely be released as a pay-what-you-want Bandcamp download, though their may be a limited edition cassette version. And lest you worry that this stopgap release will slow the band down, never fear. The band, recently expanded to a quartet with the addition of keyboardist Tori Hovater, is already hard at work on their third album, which they hope to record in the fall. When we get more details on that session, you’ll be the first to know! RVA hardcore band Springtime has faced some destabilization recently with the departure of vocalist Marshall Hawthorne for a new life in Florida. However, this has not put the kibosh on plans to record the band’s first LP, which went forward this May with Chris Compton (of the band Brief Lives, who also recorded the recent Sea Of Storms full-length) behind the boards. The band knocked out instrumentals for 12 songs, then sent those instrumentals off to Tallahasee, where Hawthorne will record his vocals. Meanwhile, you may have noticed that the band has remained active locally, with Sean Patrick Rhorer of 6131 Records taking over vocal duties. Apparently both Rhorer and Hawthorne are currently considered members of Springtime, and the songs Rhorer’s been singing live are part of a completely different set, which the band also plans to record before the year’s out. No complaints here. Venomspitter are a new metallic hardcore band who’ve generated a huge buzz online with only a demo, so of course it figures that they are slated to record not one but two split EPs in the next couple of months. One will be with fellow locals Empty Hands, who will also be making their vinyl debut with this split EP, and who, like Venomspitter, feature ex-members of Caretaker and Postcards. The other will be with DSGNS (Designs? Am I just getting old, or are these vowelless names are getting harder and harder to parse?), an Austin, TX band featuring former VA residents who once played in Spitfire and Project 208, among others. The latter split will be out sometime this fall on Coin Toss Records, and the former should be out by then as well. Get stoked!

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Earl MAck


RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

MARLON DIGGS Interview by Brad Kutner

Traveling between Newport News and RVA, Marlon Diggs is making moves in art circles. He recently hit us up about showing his work and within a few days, we got on the horn for an interview. “Street Pop” is what he calls his stuff and that seems to fit the bill. Made from recycled paper, acrylic paints and pop imagery, his work is youth culture imagery fed through the prism of perhaps watching too much TV as a youth-but when it produces work this good, it’s hard to argue. Check out more on instagram at @ marly_mcfly87. How long have you been painting? I’ve always had it, but I officially got started in 2011. What’s your background? Grew up in the 757. Art was always one of my big dreams. As I grew through school I was always pushing into other things. Like, you know, “You don’t want to do anything else to potentially make more money?” I did go to college, I went to ODU and got a degree there. Art was just the one thing that I always wanted to be my dream, so I’ve pretty much come full circle. I did the college thing, I did the route people wanted me to go, now I’m right back where I wanted to be in the first place. How was the jump back to art? In 2011, I was a manager at a retail store, and all the stress, the long holidays, the long hours... art was my getaway. I’m going crazy at this point. It started out as a hobby, me getting back into it, and that was also around the time that I really started getting into instagram and social media. Other people started picking up and were like, “I never knew you had this talent,” because I had gotten so far away from it. It was new to a lot of people around me. What kind of art do you consider your work to be? I would say “street pop.” A lot of pop art references, but I have that street grittiness to it. I would say a happy medium. What’s your medium to work in? Digital or physical? All physical. Mostly acrylic [and] aerosol [paint]--a nice combination of both. 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015

Do you print some of the images and then paint them?

Has social media been a big part of your success? A lot of them are old comics I have laying Definitely. It definitely has opened up a lot around, or materials I found in the thrift store, of doors, and the networking opportunities or things I had when I was younger. But for the are limitless. I’m shipping art to places I’ve most part, I do paint a lot of them by hand. never even been, like Amsterdam [and] New Zealand. All places I’ve always dreamed about going. My art is there before I got there! I’m Where do you take your inspiration? hoping it opens the door for me to get to those Either old childhood memories, [or] a lot of places someday. It’s definitely something I’m them are subliminal things in my life. A lot continuing to strive for. of things are like women crying; that could be something stemming from a relationship I What do you think are key elements in your was in, or different things in my life. A lot of standout pieces? them are subliminal things about myself. My line usage. They’re bold and at times they You’ve got a lot of the Simpsons in your recent can be shaky, but I want that--it can grab your work - are you a Milhouse or a Bart? attention. But I also have to have my bright colors. A lot of people that want commission I relate more with Milhouse. I am a big nerd work are like, “Well, I want earth tones.” And at heart, but somehow I’m in it to be one of I’m like, “I’m really not your guy for that.” I the cool nerds. I never understood how that like my bright details. Neon colors--I’ve got to worked out over the years but it’s been going have those. good for me. I’ve always been a big Simpsons fan, even when I was younger and wasn’t Have there been profound moments for you supposed to be watching the Simpsons. That that made you think you made it? rebel-ness in Bart is something that rubbed off on me as well. But that nerd side of Milhouse, When I first started, it seemed like everybody that’s something I was tied into myself. was doing the same thing. So then I hit the point where it’s like, “What can I do where I’m You’re a black artist, and your work sometimes still myself, but I’m standing out from those reflects black people. Do you feel a connection, others?” At the time, I would paint cartoon or a need to put that identity in your art? characters straight out. [I’d think,] ”How can I make that mine?” So that’s when I started That’s another big theme that I picked up over playing with different textures and different the last year. You know, a lot of people know colors, with different layers. That’s a big thing me being a wack artist--they would prefer for me now--layers on layers. I got that initial me to do black art. But you’ll notice a lot of painting, but then I add two to three more the people I do, they aren’t any skin tone. It’s layers on top of that, to the point that it’s a lot either an outline or very colorful. I like to play of things going on. on that, I don’t want to marginalize. I don’t worry about skintone or ethnicity, just people You’re from 757 and RVA. Do you put your as a whole. hometown in your work, or this is a way out? What’s your process like? A little of both. RVA is the one place I can say in the world where you can get that big Start to finish, I like to look for old comics, or city vibe, but also that hometown feeling at look for old rotted paper to get that texture the same time. Everything about RVA is my I like. Then I just think back to growing up, personality. From that little mom and pop to the things that made me who I am today. restaurant to the local favorite spots, that’s Whether that’s waking up on saturday and the type of guy I am. So you can get that big watching cartoons... what got me through. city vibe that you would get in New York or And I try to tie it into my today. With LA, but you still have that hometown feeling. Milhouse, I was always that nerd that just So it’s one of those things--I can make my happened to end up being a popular guy, and name there, but it prepares me for those I think Milhouse has become one of the more bigger places as well. popular Simpson characters. @marly_mcfly87 29


RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015


Interview by R.Anthony Harris Translated by Haruko Hirukawa Flown in from Japan to work on a tattoo inspired mural for the Art of Japanese Tattoo show at the VMFA, MOYA did an absolutely stunning piece on the ND&P building at the corner of Cary and Foushee downtown. He has officially been included in the Richmond Mural Project, and we hope to bring him back to town to do more. In the meantime, we had a chance to get a few questions in, and realized he is huge basketball fan that tricks out sneakers in his spare time. Oh, and we also quickly realized he doesn’t speak a lick of English! So here is our interview in both languages, for all of our fans in Japan. Where are you from in Japan? Okayama Prefecture. 日本のどこ出身 ですか​? 岡山県です。

When did you start working as a professional tattoo artist, illustrator and designer? I’ve been making art stuff many years ago, then I started my career about 6 years ago in earnest. タトゥーアーティスト、 イラストレーター、 デザイナー としてのキャリアをスタートさせたのはいつですか? 以前から他の仕事をしながら制作活動はしていまし たが、本格的にスタートさせたのは6年前くらいからで す。

What is inspiring your work right now? Expression of Black-and-White painting in Chinese ink, traditional Japanese patterns and Polynesian tattoos.

滞在中はほとんど制作をしていたのであまり街をまわ れませんでしたが、多くの壁画もあり街の雰囲気は良 かったと思います。 リッチモンドの人達はとても親切な印象で大好きで す。

ありがとう。初めは趣味で作っていて、現在はオーダー を貰って描くこともあります。

I saw that you were part of a basketball squad in Japan. How big of a basketball fan are you? I’ve been playing basketball for 20 years, I’m in a What was it like to get a call to come do a mural local team in Kyoto right now. I’ve been a big fan 現在、 あなたの作品に影響を与えているものがあった here? Did you have any idea before that call that of the San Antonio Spurs since David Robinson ら教えてください you might be coming? was playing for the Spurs. 水墨画の表現。 日本の伝統的な柄やボリネシアンタト Since I’ve seen a bunch of murals in NY last year, ゥーなどのトライバル柄。 I’ve been really wanted to come to the US and あなたはバスケットボールチームに所属しているとの どのくらいのバスケファンなのか教えてく paint for murals. I was really excited about this ことですが、 What artists are you following right now? ださい Tristan Eaton, Atsuo Nakagawa, Kyotaro Aoki, opportunity! バスケットは約20年プレイしていて、現在も京都のク GAKKIN. 今、気になっているアーティスト​・リスペクトしている アーティストが居たら教えて下さい Tristan Eaton, 中川敦夫, 青木京太郎, GAKKIN

Have you been to the States before? I visited NY last June. 以前アメリカに来たことはありましたか? 昨年の6月にNYに行きました。

今回の壁画プロジェクトで、 アメリカに来て壁画を描 ラブリーグに所属しています。D・ロビンソンがいた時 いて欲しいという話を聞いた時、 どう思いましたか? からずっとサンアントニオのファンです。 アメリカに来て壁画を描きたいという希望は以前か らありましたか? Kobe, Jordan or Lebron? 昨年NYの街でたくさんの壁画を見て、 いつか自分もア Jordan is a perfect player, but I prefer Kobe! メリカで壁画を描きたいと思っていたので、 このような 機会が頂けてとても嬉しかったです。 Kobe、Jordan、Lebronの3人のバスケ選手の中 から好きな選手を選ぶとしたら誰? Love the pimped out pairs of Converse and Vans ジョーダンは完璧な選手だと思いますが、私はコービ you have posted on Instagram. Is that something ーが好きです。

you do for fun or on commissions? I need a pair Are you watching the NBA Finals in Japan? immediately. How was your visit to Richmond, VA? I actually didn’t have much time for sightseeing, Thanks! I started making pimped sneakers for Of course. I’m not a fan of Lebron, so I’m cheering since I was working on painting on the wall most fun at the first time. I’ve been making them for for Golden State. of the time in Richmond. But there are a bunch of commissions recently. 日本で、NBAファイナルを見ていますか? murals on the street and I like the atmosphere in レブロンがあまり好きではないので、ゴ InstagramにUPしていた, コンバースとVANSの 観ています。 the town! I love the people in Richmond because カスタマイズスニーカー、すごいカッコイイね!あれ ールデンステイトを応援しています。 they are so kind. リッチモンドを訪れてみて、都市の印象・感想などを 教えて下さい 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015

は自分の趣味用に作ったもの?それとも何かの仕事 で作ったのかな? とにかくあのシューズが今すぐ欲 しい! (笑)

@moya_mk16 Thank you Adam Garcia! 31


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RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

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RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

SEA Of STORMS By Shannon Cleary Photos by Jake Cunningham

With the June release of their debut album, Dead Weight, RVA trio Sea Of Storms has grabbed quite a bit of attention in the underground scene. As a result, you could be forgiven for thinking that these guys are new to the music world. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Singer/ guitarist Brandon Peck’s original claim to fame was as guitarist for Wow Owls!, a short-lived but widely-heralded RVA band who toured extensively in the US and Europe before breaking up in 2006. Bassist John Martin has an even lengthier history, getting his start in the late 90s with melancholy indie rock band Marion Delgado before going on to heavier things with The SetUp and Tigershark. Drummer Chris Brown is best known for his time behind the kit with Race The Sun, RVA pop-punk strivers who scored a top 10 album in Japan, of all places, back in 2005. By the end of the last decade, these three musicians were playing in the same band-but it wasn’t Sea Of Storms. Instead, they were members of Mouthbreather, a powerful quintet whose heavy posthardcore sound was comparable to that of At The Drive-In. Mouthbreather had released one album, 2008’s Thank You For Your Patience, and several EPs, but by 2010, had begun to wind down, with some band members experiencing a clear shift in priorities. “[Bassist] Tyler [Worley] was planning on moving,” Martin explains. “[Guitarist] John [Hall] was getting ready to go back to school. They just had other stuff going on in their life.” Meanwhile, Martin, Peck, and Brown still wanted to play music together. They began planning to do so even before Mouthbreather broke up. With practices taking place on a 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


farm in Powhatan, a lot of travel time was required, and the three wanted to make the most of their time together. “We started trying to do a little bit more either before or after [Mouthbreather practice],” Peck says. “Trying to start something different that we could focus more of our energy on.” By the time Mouthbreather played its last show in late 2011, the band that became Sea Of Storms had already written a couple of songs. However, they were in no hurry to debut before the public. Martin, who’d been the singer for Mouthbreather, hadn’t touched his bass in four years when Sea Of Storms started. “It was all moldy,” he says. “I had to sorta relearn how to play bass. We definitely had to learn how to write songs differently for this band. Not better or worse, just differently.” From the moment of their formation, Sea Of Storms had a plan intended to separate their songs from the sound of their previous band. “When we decided to do this, John said, ‘You should sing, but you should actually sing,’” Peck explains. “Trying to think about [vocal] melody and how it works in the songs has definitely shaped some of them.” It’s also led to a more deliberate songwriting process. “We definitely take our time writing,” Martin confirms. “In Mouthbreather, we’d finish a song, and everybody would be like, ‘We’re gonna play it next week. Are you gonna be ready?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, totally.’ Then the first six months we play the song, I’m just going ‘Rah rah rah aaahhh ahhh!’ Nobody knows the difference. But in this band, because Brandon is actually singing, you don’t want that. You don’t want us up on stage being like, ‘Peas and carrots...’” The transition from Mouthbreather’s heavier, more punk-derived sound to Sea Of Storms’ emphasis on melody has allowed a melancholy, wistful edge to creep into the band’s music as well. One can’t help but wonder if this change also has to do with the band members, all of whom are over 30, gaining perspective as they mature. Speaking about the lyrics he wrote for Dead Weight, Peck says, “Loss is kind of the overarching theme. Loss of initiative, getting older, becoming complacent.” The album’s title is derived from the name of a song on the album, but the phrase is more significant than it appears at first. “[‘Dead Weight’] was a phrase that was a placeholder in certain songs,” Peck explains. “I am the dead weight on the record.” However, he’s quick to explain that this 36

rather gloomy statement isn’t the entire story. “It’s definitely self-referential, but not necessarily in a bad way. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to look at yourself in retrospect that way--trying to move forward and deal with things differently.”

songs. Closing track “Cedar Run” is a particular standout, summing up the album as a whole with its memorable midsong declaration: “I know I’ve made mistakes,” Peck sings, then continues, “Those mistakes made me.”

Peck mentions other ways in which the album relates to loss. The title track is about “a relationship ending, and how I contributed to that,” while “Belly Full Of Bones” relates to “loss of faith.” Peck begins to explain the lyrics to another song, but before he can even identify which song, he pauses for a long time, then says, “I don’t feel super comfortable talking about it.” Obviously there are a lot of deep feelings that the band is working through in these

Musically, Sea Of Storms have stumbled upon a sound that achieves a greater accessibility than any of their previous projects without losing the immediacy and power they draw from their punk rock roots. Peck’s melodic yet throaty vocals recall various late 90s emo bands, including Planes Mistaken For Stars, Small Brown Bike, and Hot Water Music. As the band’s only guitarist, he avoids solos; instead, he and Martin generate tension through RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

Storms to exist as musical veterans in a scene they no longer understand? Do they even have a peer group anymore? “That’s a really good question,” Peck says. “There are bands that we love to play shows with, but I don’t know if we necessarily fit together.” Then again, he’s not sure that really matters. “I feel like sometimes some of the best responses we’ve gotten are on shows we’ve played with bands we don’t sound anything like.” “I think it’s less about what a band sounds like,” Martin agrees. “It’s more about--are these people that we can vibe with?” Sea Of Storms has been fortunate to find that their music vibes with club owners around the country to a much greater extent than their previous bands did. “As the guy that books the tours, I feel like the band’s music does half the work,” Martin says. “[With] other bands I was in, I’d email a club and be like ‘What’s up? [Can we have a show?],’ and they’d be like, ‘You’re not really good, so no.’” He laughs. “With this band, they’ll be like ‘Yeah!’ Then we’ve got this awesome place to play. But how do you get people to come out to shows in other cities? It’s a different set of problems.” For Sea Of Storms, making sure that their tours go well has taken on greater importance. “If we go out, we have a great time hanging out with each other,” Peck says. “But [if] you play a bunch of shitty shows in a row, you’re like, ‘Man, I could have taken this time to go on vacation.’ That’s an adult thing.” Martin chimes in: “I was thinking about this the other night--ten years ago, I was doing pretty much the exact same thing. I feel like I’m more responsible, like I’m a focused adult in a lot of ways, but I still wear band shirts every day.” repetition, stretching out the lengths of many of these songs beyond the fiveminute mark. Meanwhile, Brown’s dynamic drumming helps to keep things interesting and listeners engaged, even on eight-minute epic “Weak Ones.”

don’t really know what any of that means.” “It’s just dawned on me that I don’t like hardcore, because what is hardcore now?” he continues. “Twenty years ago, you could say this band is a hardcore band, and they could be like Judge, or they could be like Braid.” “Or Botch,” Peck chimes in. “[But now] it’s like, it’s ONLY this,” Martin continues. “Everything else is ‘posthardcore’ or...” Screamo? “Screamo, yeah! I only ever used that term as a pejorative, and now that’s just what that music is called. Orchid is just screamo. Look on wikipedia. They were a hardcore band--now you can’t get around it. That’s just how it is now.”

The overall result seems to fit in with a lot of bands currently categorized as posthardcore, or even alternative rock, but for the members of Sea Of Storms, these terms feel foreign. Martin refers to Sea Of Storms as a punk band on multiple occasions during our interview, inspiring an interesting conversation about what exactly the terms “punk” and “hardcore” mean in 2015. “I don’t know what anything is anymore,” he says. “You used the word ‘post’ a lot, and I So I have to ask--what’s it like for Sea Of 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015

And here we come to a key point in the philosophy that fuels Sea Of Storms. “I feel like we have to go all in,” Martin explains. “Where [we] are, if [we’re] happy playing in a punk band and working in a restaurant, [we] have to either go all in on doing that, or...” Peck finishes the thought: “Stop everything and start over.” “Yeah, scorched earth,” Martin continues. “Go back to school, or ... maybe move? You’ve got to pick your priorities.” One listen to Dead Weight will confirm for any doubters that Sea Of Storms are all in. Indeed, its nine songs are so impressive that many of the band’s friends around the country thought they were destined 37

for a high-profile signing. Instead, the band chose to work with friends they’d made over their years in the underground music world. Dead Weight is receiving a joint vinyl release by Charlotte, NC’s Self Aware Records and Providence, RI’s Tor Johnson Records, while a cassette version of the album is being released by Arizona’s Protagonist Records. “Josh from Self Aware interviewed [Mouthbreather] in the back of our van for a zine,” John explains. “Brendan from Protagonist was our roadie when Mouthbreather went to Europe.” The band cares far more about lasting connections made amongst equals in the DIY scene than they do about getting signed to a massive label. “It’s always nice when your friends believe that you could be signed to [a big] label,” says Peck. “That’s cool,” Martin agrees. “[But] it’s cooler when your friends are like, ‘Hey, we noticed you’re ruining your life playing in a punk band--we want a piece of that.’” All joking aside, Sea Of Storms are much more comfortable with their position in the underground music scene now than they once were. “Ten years ago I’d be really mad at this band for not having had this record out last year,” says Martin. “I just don’t take things as seriously now.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t care--they’ve just become more grounded, self-assured versions of the talented musicians they always were. “As you get older, you prioritize different things,” says Martin. “We don’t really connect with the scene, but our drive and our focus, our ability to do stuff, is better than ever. It’s a weird graph where our punk coolness goes down, but our ability to not give any fucks goes up.” In the end, Sea Of Storms might be a perfect example of that old saying, about how you’ll only find what you really want once you stop looking for it. They aren’t really worried about being a cool band, or fitting into the hip scene. They just want to enjoy playing their music. Can it really be coincidental that the result of them adopting this attitude has been the best music of their careers? Dead Weight is ready to take over RVA and the underground music scene in general. If you’re not paying attention, you’re missing out on one of the best albums and bands to come out of this city in 2015. Don’t make that mistake.


RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

Dr. Millionaire Interview by Drew Necci / Photos by Mr. Fili

2015 is shaping up to be Dr. Millionaire’s year. This RVA hip hop veteran’s kept a relatively low profile over the past few years; a couple of singles, a few features, but he hasn’t released a project since 2011’s Dr. Hovey And Isaiah The Gentleman, when he was still working with producer Hovey Benjamin as part of the duo Isaiah And Hovey. Over the three and a half years since, the man born Isaiah Clements has evolved into Dr. Millionaire and seen his rap talents blossom. Now the world’s about to learn exactly what Dr. Millionaire has in store for us all. This summer kicks off with a bang, with the release of the first official Dr. Millionaire solo release. My First Million is an 8 song cassette, which will be released on NY/ LA label Imaginary Friends. The songs on the EP show Dr. Millionaire to be the cocky, hard-partying ladies’ man he’s demonstrated himself to be on older singles like “Alt Bitcs” and “Pearl Necklace.” “Snapchat Screenshot” could be a sleaze-saturated ode to internet creepitude in lesser hands, but Dr. Millionaire infuses it with enough wit and charm to make his attempts to get nudes sent to his iPhone amusing rather than gross. “More Songs Than Pac” has a menacing sound due to the spooky 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015

piano loop Hovey Benjamin contributes to the track, but features wide-ranging cultural references from Larry Bird to Paul Auster. However, on tracks like “Nigga From Maine” and the moody requiem “Old Friend,” Dr. Millionaire shows he can dig deeper, tell true stories and express real emotions, and still leave the listener spellbound.

fruit in the studio as well--but you can read more about that, as well as Dr. Millionaire’s roots in hip hop and literature, and exactly why it’s been three years since his last project came out, in our conversation below.

You’ve been Dr. Millionaire for a couple of years now, but you were rapping before that as part of Isaiah and Hovey. Why’d you go The intriguing, multilayered tracks on My from being Isaiah to being Dr. Millionaire, First Million are just the beginning. The and do you consider them to be two different Millionaire has plans to follow up this EP characters? with an end-of-summer release featuring beats entirely by Avers guitarist JL Hodges- No, I wouldn’t say two different characters. -an unexpected pairing, but one that makes I would say, it’s just kinda who I became. a good deal of sense once you hear Hodges’ I’ve been rapping since I was pretty sick head-nodding beats. Meanwhile, further young--16 or 17. I was freestyling. I wasn’t collaborations are on the horizon; most writing songs or anything, [but] I was intriguingly, a working relationship based battling people and I was pretty good at on mutual respect has recently developed it. And then my sophomore year at VCU, between Dr. Millionaire and Jellowstone I started working with Hovey. He had a Records’ one-man wellspring of creativity, microphone and shit, and was making Devonne Harris, aka DJ Harrison. At a recent beats. We started making songs. So that’s Dr. Millionaire live performance, DJ Harrison how Isaiah and Hovey came to be, and at manned the beat station, while Dr. Millionaire that point I didn’t have a rap name, I was dominated the stage, tirelessly spitting rhyme just Isaiah from Isaiah and Hovey. So we after rhyme and song after song, keeping the did two albums together. We almost got crowd begging for more even after multiple signed to a label, and the label was like encores. This partnership should soon bear “We think you should change your name.” 43


RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years Yo, Text Me of IfRVA youMagazine read this. 2005-2015 - Tony


So we started brainstorming new names and came up with Dr. Millionaire, which was actually the name of a song on [the second Isaiah and Hovey album, Dr. Hovey and Isaiah The Gentleman]. I guess I just kind of evolved into it. Now it’s almost weird to me that I wasn’t the Millionaire the whole time.

their spare time--I was more into TV and video games. But language has always, to me, sense of language and sense of humor are the two things I kind of naturally have, you know? I could always kill it in spelling bees, and was always very intrigued by words. I was the little kid who spoke like someone much older and nerdier than him, when it came to my language.

When you were young and you first discovered rap, was that your first big Do you pull stuff from books? Do you feel musical love? like reading increases your lyrical lexicon? My first experience with music at all was... I grew up with my mom, and she’d ride around listening to Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. So that was the first music I ever heard. My big sister, Stephanie, was a huge rap fan. She loved Tupac and Bone Thugs N Harmony, and she also put me onto some other groups, like Lost Boyz. As I started coming into my own, I was real into Busta Rhymes. The foundation of music, for me, was rap. That was just all I listened to growing up. Not until I was probably 16 or 17 did I ever really consider any other genre of music.

definitely hung out with more white people than black people in general. That kind of had an effect on me. But now, at this point, I think people kind of understand that I’m just who the fuck I am, and I’m kind of one of the best people doing it. We should talk about that, because at this point it’s been, what, three years since you last put out a real project. So what’s been responsible for the delay?

Oh man. A number of things. Depression You know, I used to more than I do now, I suppose was the real big thing. I split off because I don’t read as much fiction as I with Hovey... used to. I read a lot of nonfiction now. But definitely back in the day, I remember in Are you guys still cool? The Picture Of Dorian Gray, there was a

When you started rapping, what were you taking as influence? Which rappers did you look at as role models? It’s difficult to say, because when I was younger, middle school and high school, I was real into Talib Kweli, Mos Def, more of the conscious political stuff. I felt like they were the best ones, they were actually saying something. When I got a little bit older, mid-late high school, it was all about Jay Z and Lil Wayne. I would say Lil Wayne is probably the guy who influenced me the most. I remember when Da Drought 3 came out, and he kept on saying how he was the best rapper alive. I was like “I don’t know if he is the best rapper alive, but I know that he knows that.” He truly believes that, and that’s why this shit is so amazing. Because he just has all the confidence in the world. That was something I felt like I needed if I was ever gonna do anything. character called Lord Henry Wotton, and he was the most delightfully insightful and What’s your process coming up with lyrics? hedonistic guy. It was a lot of stuff that I Do you go in with a concept in mind, or is it could use for the purpose of rap music. more freeform than that? You’ve rapped about the experience of I write to the beat. It’s stream of growing up mixed race. In “Air Is Nice” consciousness. I throw the beat on, pull you talked about having to fight black kids out my laptop, and stuff starts happening because you were half-white, and white kids in my head. I just go with it. because you were half-black. Do you feel like race still affects your position in the hip I noticed you mentioned some of your hop scene today? favorite authors in “More Songs Than Pac.” Did you grow up reading, or was it [long pause] I don’t know. I don’t know. something you came to later? In real life I think it does, but in the hip hop scene, I think... I think it did initially. I would say I grew up doing it. I was never Especially back in the Isaiah and Hovey the type of kid who’d be reading with all days, having a white partner, and I 46

Kinda. Musically we’re cool. On a personal level not so much. So that made it really difficult for me. It [was] just a bummer. I’m also a really indecisive person, which doesn’t help. I make all these songs, and one of my biggest fears is having my shit get overlooked. Because I like it so much, you know? All the releases that I have had, even though they haven’t exploded on a national level, they’ve been [received] quite well amongst the people who have heard them. So I’ve grown accustomed to that--to getting a lot of feedback, putting out a project and having people really fuck with it. I’ve just always been scared that I’ll bungle the whole thing. I’ll put out this thing at the wrong time, miss the wave, and nobody really catches wind of it. On top of RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

that, I’ve had a few different situations that have fallen through, as far as “We want to help you do this, package your shit and put it out,” and then that didn’t work, and I’m left with all these songs.

me some heat. Gray Matter Beats--really awesome. He’s got more of a traditional MPC boom bap feel to him. Baby Nate is a dude who lives in Baltimore. One of my good friends. I love getting beats from him; his beats are real weird. I don’t know-I just heard your song “Nigga From Maine” people send me beats all the time. Right on a Passion Of The Weiss podcast, as part now I’m doing a project with this guy of an interview with the Imaginary Friends named JL Hodges. label. Is that project still happening? Yeah, I wanted to ask about that. What do Yeah. I’m putting out a cassette with you think of JL’s beats? What kind of thing Imaginary Friends. My First Million is the is he doing? name of the project, it’s an 8 song EP. “Nigga From Maine” is coming out in early I think very highly of his beats. He does June, and the tape itself should be coming all sorts of different sounds. We have one song that’s almost like an EDM beat. I don’t out in late June. know man, he’s just got some fucking fire.

the studio. We’ll film it, and it’ll be a cool behind the scenes type thing.” So I chose to hit up DJ Harrison to make the beat, and I brought in another of my rapping friends named Jawnii-Abhi [who is in] Sons Of THNDR. So we did that project, and DJ just started sending me beats. I really dig his whole style. He’s a hardworking guy, eats sleeps and breathes music, probably more than anyone I’ve ever met, which is really commendable, so I just like being around him. After we did the video, Travis approached me. He was like, “How would you feel about you and DJ coming in and cutting a whole EP in our studio?” So ever since then, we’ve been connected. He’s sending me beats all the time, and we’re making some pretty cool stuff. So what are you going to do with all these other things you recorded over the years? Do you have any plans for those older jams? I know once we drop My First Million on cassette, we’re going to do a digital version with a few bonus songs on it. We’ll use a few of those for that. I’m kind of in talks with some labels, and a management company, so I think it’s pretty enticing to them that I have all these songs just sitting around. So I’m going to see what happens with that. Fair enough. You were talking before about having projects that fell through with other labels--what went down with that? Nothing too official, just people that approached me, and we kinda formed an idea of what was gonna happen... then it just fizzled out. For me it’s not that difficult to tell what people’s intentions are. But yeah, there are plenty of people with questionable intentions that try to contact me all the time. Do you feel like you’re pretty well able to navigate that at this point?

So did you work with different producers? I don’t even know how I would describe it. How’d you put that together? I’m not that good at describing music, to be honest, but it’s very versatile and very Yeah, it’s all different producers. I haven’t high quality. Really impressive stuff. stopped making music since Dr. Hovey And Isaiah The Gentleman, so I have quite a few When I saw you recently, DJ Harrison was songs amassed. But this project is gonna your DJ. Are you guys working together a be mostly stuff that was written in 2013. lot right now? Some 2014 stuff, [and] I think there might be one jam from this year that I made. All Not necessarily. I fuck with him real heavy. sorts of different producers. People have Pretty much everything that came about just been sending me beats. was due to Overcoast Studios [JL Hodges and Travis Tucker]. It’s the same place Who are some people you really like getting where we’ve been doing the shit with beats from? JL. Travis hit me up and was like, “Hey, I think it’d be really cool if we did a video, I have two beats from Conrizzle on [My First you got some people to come in, and you Million]. He’s always great, always gives guys just make a song and record it in 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015

A lot better than I once was, yeah. When you’re young and dumb and really excited about your shit, it’s really easy to believe that anyone else is gonna be really excited about it, and wanna do stuff with you. And when you’re not making any money off your music, it’s difficult to believe that someone’s gonna try to take advantage of you for the sake of capitalizing off you.



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RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015


Interview by Drew Necci / Photos by Jeff Miller & Heaton Johnson V Toxic Moxie is a band of musical misfits. Emerging from the worlds of glam, punk, jam, disco, and fuzz, they have honed in on a sound that is completely their own. This feat is that much more impressive due to the fact their achieving this within the two and a half year lifespan of the group. There’s a reason their fans have gone to great lengths to sing their praises and support one of the most exciting outfits to emerge in town over the past few years. During the summer of 2012, bassist Mitch Kordella and drummer Danny Crawford were experiencing the disintegration of their previous group, Apache Radio. “Mitch and I had been playing music with each other for close to ten years, up until the point where we were seeing our band die in front of us. We weren’t really sure what to do,” Crawford recalls. Witnessing a number of performances at The Republic around this time, they took notice of guitarist Justin Shear, then performing with The Dream Machine. The two felt like he would be a good candidate to nab for a new project. “We approached Justin with the idea of trying to work on something with more structure, as opposed to the jamming nature of his other bands. That immediately piqued his interest,” Kordella says. The trio began to write songs in September of 2012, and even played out a few times as a trio before vocalist Sera Stavroula joined the group. “They had a Facebook page for a band that didn’t have a singer, and they had a message up looking for someone to fill in that role,” Stavroula says. “I knew Mitch and wanted to pursue this. I went to one of their shows and missed their set. I didn’t want them to think that I didn’t care--I really wanted to be a part of this.” Stavroula, a VCU graduate, had previously sang in choirs, and attempted to pursue music during her college days. “It was a bit challenging maneuvering within that system, but I still remained active,” she says. “When college was over, I didn’t know what to do at first. Then, Toxic Moxie happened.” “We made her audition twice,” Crawford jokes. “The great thing about Sera is that when we are working on songs, she will be sitting on the couch and calculating a potential melody. Then she gets up and adds something that I never would have ever even considered.” Toxic Moxie played their first show with Stavroula on board at Tobacco Company on January 20th, 2013. “It was probably the craziest place we could have a first show, but after that, we kinda shrugged it off and figured it can’t get much crazier than that,” Kordella says. “Lightfields played with us and they were dressed up in collared shirts. We joked about how we didn’t know if they worked at Tobacco Company and were playing a set on their break,” Crawford adds. “Also, there was someone on the bill who kept shouting ‘fuck the police’ in the middle of this dining room where families are eating dinner and there are businessman everywhere. It was just something else.” Soon after Stavroula joined the band, the four began to start work on their debut release Episode IV, which was released in August of that same year. Crawford helped to mix the recording, a role he’s retained for every Toxic Moxie release up to this point. “Our first release probably took longer in general due to our inexperience with recording,” Shear says. The band was also playing out frequently, which helped them develop a unique sound almost immediately. “Our first set of songs gravitated more towards our punk leanings, but our other influences were still being captured,” Kordella says. “Our influences jump from LCD Soundsystem to Rapture to Gang of Four to Prince to David Bowie, and I think glam and post-punk pops its head out in a lot of our songs,” Shear adds. 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


bring someone up on stage with very little prepared, we can usually infer something on the spot and really create a cool moment for the crowd that night.”

The band approaches every aspect of their process with a completely different mindset. “It’s crazy with how we go from songwriting mode to playing out live mode to recording mode and still function,” Crawford jokes. This is even more challenging due to the band’s apparent love for playing as many live sets as possible. “We wanted to try and start saying no to shows unless they were super cool, but we keep getting asked to play cool shows that are hard to turn down,” Stavroula explains. Their frequent appearances have only helped them to acquire a reputation as one of the hardest working groups in town, absolutely owning

sense of the way to translate the Toxic Moxie live sound on record. With the rising theatrical crescendos of “Grand Illusion” and the reverb-laden synth introductions of “Spacious Angle,” these sentiments are perfectly articulated.

the stage at every performance.

to put on a show and have a really cool time this show with [Franz Nicolay’s solo project, which featured] guys from Against Me! and with the audience,” Kordella says. Leftover Crack,” Stavroula adds. The show They are also prone to frequent collaboration went on, and after a few songs, it became with an enormous and varied list of local apparent that Stavroula wasn’t going to be musicians--a further testament to the able to sing at all. This is when Kordella took accessible versatility of the band. “We’ve the initiative and flipped the microphone brought Coldon Martin from Lightfields on towards the audience. “I figured we could stage to play tambourine on some songs. just see what would happen at this point,” Lindsey Spurrier of Hot Dolphin has added Kordella says. The crowd immediately took vocals and Tristan Brennis of Dumb Waiter to the opportunity to participate in a Toxic has jumped up to play saxophone,” Crawford Moxie karaoke night. Fans and friends ran says. “The good thing about our band is, to the stage to sing the parts Stavroula we are pretty good at jamming out. If we couldn’t, and it was a true testament to the impact the band had achieved up to

Soon after Episode IV was released, Toxic Moxie began working on Episode V. The process of creating this follow-up ran a bit smoother and helped further shape their sound. “I found myself working more with synthesizers, as opposed to locking in my parts on bass,” Kordella says. “It also helped us work towards increasing more space in our songs.” Crawford found that he was a bit more prepared for the process of recording and engineering Episode V. Things ran much more smoothly, and the band gained a better 52

In terms of their presence as a live band, Toxic Moxie remains one of the most inventive in Richmond today. Their onstage aesthetic has always leaned towards elaborate stage arrangements, allowing their creative energies to be presented through light shows, costuming, and other thematic elements. “Bottom line is, we like

One of the biggest moments for the band came at a show they played this year on Valentine’s Day. Stavroula discovered on the day of the show that she had lost her voice. “When Sera told us that she didn’t have a voice, I thought she was overreacting. I just figured it would be Toxic Moxie with a little more of a rasp,” Crawford recalls. “We have never cancelled a show and I figured we could manage a weird set while still playing

RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

that point. “After we were done, one of the touring bands approached us, and thought that was our thing. He thought were going for this disco crust thing--I think we all were stoked to figure out our niche in the scene,” Stavroula says.

and my thoughts about the state of affairs,” Stavroula explains. Through several of these outlets, the band has succeeded in raising awareness and generally voicing the opinions of the underrepresented minds in Richmond.

drove me a little crazy. Now, I see how it fits and it just lets me trust the instincts of the band more.”

are detrimental towards the welfare of the planet. “We have always operated within the DIY scenes of this community, and that’s never been something we’ve wanted to lose. Working with as many different causes around town is integral to us,” Kordella says. The band has always been notorious for bringing zines to every show in order to raise awareness about issues they feel strongly about. Their punk ethos is also on full display through Stavroula’s lyrics. “In a lot of Toxic Moxie songs, there are things I write and sing regarding my thoughts on capitalism, gender inequality,

figure out a way that we could present each release,” Kordella adds. After the release of Episode VI, the band is already envisioning a potential full-length LP. “I think that the releases may have been slightly overlooked on first glance due to being shorter,” Crawford ponders. “After we complete the trilogy, I think we could focus on doing a proper full-length and writing with that in mind.” “As we write more and more together, we are just further understanding what we want Toxic Moxie to sound like,” Shear adds. “There’s a song where it has me essentially playing one note. And at first, it

Crawford says. “Playing weird shows is the best because it is an even bigger challenge for us to show that audience a great time,” Kordella adds. “The best shows are the ones where you just look out at the audience and there’s a little of every scene represented. There is nothing separating the people that enjoy our music, and for that moment, the connection is just unbelievable,” Stavroula says. This is the true beauty of Toxic Moxie. Their music is a soundtrack not just for the rebellious but for everyone. It’s dance music for a revolution.

There is an unmistakable energy to Toxic Moxie. They captivate audiences, turning them into sweaty messes as they dance to Toxic Moxie has never been shy about While continuing to perform regularly, their heart’s desire. Their songs are instantly supporting causes around town and Toxic Moxie is also intent on finishing up catchy and raise the bar even further for the nationally. They have been strong supporters their Episode VI EP in the coming months. Richmond music community in terms of of Girls Rock RVA, ROSMY, and the Richmond “We hope to put it out by August and quality of songwriting. They are also a band Reproductive Freedom Project. They were hopefully start touring a bit more,” Crawford that helps bridge many Richmond bands also one of the main musical participants mentions. “We also want to figure out a together. “What I love the most about Toxic in the recent Frack Off! Fest, created to way to put out all three episodes in some Moxie is how we can pretty much exist on any raise awareness about energy sources that fashion, and maybe even take that further to bill and it never seems to throw anyone off,” 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


JUST r o f KIDS! NOT 3005 W Cary St. 54

RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

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SPOKEN WORD RVA Interviews by R. Anthony Harris Illustrations by April Kelly

My mind was first opened to the possibilities of live spoken word performances at a Slam event back in 2006. It was moving to see everyday people share their thoughts and feelings to a room full of strangers. Meanwhile, an undercurrent of competition put a strange spin on it. Some were there to bare their souls, others to be actors in their own one person What is Slam Poetry? play. And of course, the audience just wanted First off, to clear the air, I hate to have it to feel a connection. labeled as “slam poetry.” Poetry slams are We covered the local poetry scene a few times competitions intended to get poetry into more in early issues of RVA Mag, even running venues. Originally the only places to perform poetry in our pages at times. It’s taken a were bars, pool halls and the like; not the most long time for us to catch up on the current ideal place to have an audience actively listen happenings in the local RVA scene, but when to your craft. As a competition, poets now I stepped into an event a few weeks ago to found themselves with large audience that take stock, I found myself right back in that were listening--they just had to find a way to same headspace from a decade ago. Seeing reach them. To call it “slam poetry” would be new faces alongside familiar veterans made akin to calling it “competition poetry.” I prefer me realize once again how much this city’s spoken word--slam is just one avenue of the artistic community has grown in the past medium. decade. Poetry is the foundation for so many art forms, and to find a group of people that embrace it is encouraging. Sharing Richmond’s stories is an important mission. These poets are documenting our shared experiences, and the story of our community, in human terms-getting beyond the facts to the real heart of the matter.

The MC Cel Landicho

“...most aren’t ready for all the truths clawing their ways out of our mouths. We provide a safe space, meaning anyone is free to express themselves...”

In order to present an accurate picture of what’s happening locally, we caught up with several of the poets most heavily involved in organizing events around RVA today. Cel Landicho, Slam Richmond’s organizer and MC, was our first connection, and he led us to several other local poets with varying levels of experience in the scene. Their combined answers help to paint the broad brushstrokes of what’s happening around town--but to really understand, you’ll have to attend an event in person. Learn why How did you get involved? you should, and how you can, below.

“...never apologize for your poetry, those words are your feelings, they once were or are still real, never apologize...” veteran remaining poets including Michelle Dodd, Robert Owens, and myself. You travel over an hour each way by bus to MC these weekly events. Why is this so important to you? There are two sayings in our community: “Poetry saves lives,” and “Poetry is necessary.” These are not clichés, these are undeniable truths that I have witnessed firsthand. Anyone who has come to a poetry venue enough times can attest to that. We watch people find their voice and in turn use that to help others. Having a hand in making that possible for so many has been such an amazing experience. Traveling a couple hours to do so is a small price to pay for the opportunities we give people. I’ve been to a few readings and it feels at times like a group therapy session--is there some truth to that? Several people have come through here as their version of therapy, because it is so freeing. The world is such a crazy place and most aren’t ready for all the truths clawing their ways out of our mouths. We provide a safe space, meaning anyone is free to express themselves. Free from judgment and pretense, we come together because we know how much it means just to be allowed to breathe sometimes. Do you feel the community is growing? The community is growing rapidly, with several events going on per week depending on the season. What I would like to see is a more united community though, something I feel has been lacking in this area for quite some time.

What advice would you give someone that wanted to start their journey in spoken word I became involved with Slam Richmond a little poetry? over three years ago. I started as a competing poet, trying to make it onto their adult team, My advice to anyone starting out? Take bound for the National Poetry Slam. Week advantage of as many open mics as possible. in and week out I worked with and grew Find your comfort level and a style suitable closer with other poets who were passionate for your voice. Just be sure to find your voice. about bettering their craft, as well as the Also never be afraid of getting on stage and community. Eventually the host stepped never apologize for your poetry, those words down and handed duties over to several of the are your feelings, they once were or are still real, never apologize.


RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

The Poets Lydia Armstrong, Robert Owens, Jonas Rollins, & Michelle Dodd How did you get involved in spoken word?

of the right city and the right day off. I spent Saturday, January 1st, 2011 at both the workshop and the open mic at Slam Richmond and never looked back. The experience of being with people who shared many of the same thoughts and ideas with me was an amazing and surprisingly uncommon moment. Jonas Rollins: In my freshman year of high school, I signed up for a spoken word elective on a whim. My first day in the class, a friend of mine performed an improvised spoken word piece and it blew me away. I’d never really seen anyone so perfectly describe their experience. Something in me clicked and I fell in love with the art. Toward the end of that year, the teacher mentioned a poetry spot down by Art Space, so I showed up one Saturday and saw people take the art that I had fallen in love with to a whole new level. I started showing up every Saturday and writing a lot more.

“...The experience of being with people who shared many of the same thoughts and ideas with me was an amazing and surprisingly uncommon moment....”

Lydia Armstrong: I found out about Slam Richmond while searching writers’ meet-ups online. I’d been writing a novel for two years and was looking to connect with other writers for inspiration. At first I went just to listen. I had no intention of getting onstage or ever becoming part of this community. I hadn’t written poetry since high school. I just wanted to be inspired by other people doing their craft, hoping it would give me the inspiration to go home and keep plugging away at this massive project I’d been working on for so long. But on the third Saturday in a row that I went, I was sitting in the audience listening to someone nail their poem, and I was like, “That looks Michelle Dodd: I got involved through a poetry so cool. I want to do that.” So I went home, group at ODU, where I went to college. From and wrote a poem, and when I came back the there I started to watch and listen to everything following Saturday, I got onstage and read it. I could get a hold of. I wanted to be a part of this world I never knew existed. I started going to open mics and reciting my poems. A good friend of mine, Roscoe Burnems, introduced me to Slam Richmond. He made me compete the first night I was there and I became enthralled [with] the action of slamming. I loved it.

closest family, because it’s the one place in my life where I can talk about anything, and no one gets tired of hearing it. Robert Owens: Most of my poetry deals with political events and concepts. I want to be the person changing the popular narrative into the truthful narrative. When writing about myself and my life, most of my writing deals with either my privilege as a white male or my bouts with depression. Sometimes, I even accidentally write happy poems!

Jonas Rollins: My father left my mom [when I was] very young, so I didn’t see him much until I got a bit older, he was always a drinker but for most of my life [I] blocked out a pretty obvious truth--that my father had been struggling with alcohol addiction for my entire childhood. It’s only really been since I started writing that it really surfaced in my brain, just how much of a problem it was. It really wrecked me emotionally. Poetry helped--and still helps-me cope with a lot of those emotions and the other mental arguments that come with having separated parents. I really try my best to create a way for people who haven’t seen or experienced firsthand the kind of things that addiction can do to a family, to understand what it’s like. It might help them realize an obvious truth they’ve been keeping under the surface.

What subjects do you deal with in your poetry? Lydia Armstrong: I have OCD, and it’s hard to talk about it in normal settings. No one really wants to hear about your struggle, not in everyday life when your friends just want to grab a beer or go to the movies or make small talk. People only want to hear about your breakups and your heartache for so long. I talk about people who’ve broken my heart, about Robert Owens: Like many others, I was inspired family issues I have, about how I don’t really by HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. I never truly feel like I have a solid place in the world. I talk experienced so many ways to call something about every doubt I’ve ever had, about all my a poem before, and it helped me realize what I insecurities, about all the crazy shit in my head. Michelle Dodd: Typically I write about my life was doing was writing poetry. After too many The people who regularly hear me do spoken experiences. I have been through a lot, the years I was finally able to find the combination word know me better than my best friends and majority being while I was at college. I write 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


about topics that could need a trigger warning. Most of my poems are about abandonment, rape, abuse, medication, and suicide, because I have experienced it all. Now my writing is becoming more of a platform, not only for me, but for [people] who’ve been through similar situations. I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through and feel alone. Was it difficult for you to go up and share your work? Lydia Armstrong: The first time I read, I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. It was like in cartoons when you can see the outline of someone’s heart actually coming through their skin. I couldn’t even pay attention to the poets who went before me. It’s not just public speaking or that everyone is looking at you--you’re about to share something that came from a personal place inside you, and everything is on the table. But after I did it, I felt on top of the world. Robert Owens: Most people have the “paperquake” the first time they share and I was no different; though I suppose it’s more of a cell phone shake these days. In a way it was hard--the nervousness, my reserved nature being incompatible with being the focus of everyone’s attention. But in a way it was very easy; I was staring directly at words I believed in and all I had to do was say them. It’s a very powerful moment. Jonas Rollins: The first time you hit the stage is always nerve-wracking and it wasn’t any different for me, but Slam Richmond has one of the best communities I’ve ever seen--everyone is really supportive and honestly just wants to see people write and perform better. With that atmosphere, I was able to quickly get over those initial jitters and commit more to the stage. That being said, whenever I’m trying out a new style of writing or doing a piece that I know is very emotional for me, I do get few butterflies; but all of that fades pretty quickly once I get up. Not focusing on the crowd or what anyone might think, and simply letting the emotions and words flow, is a great way to help you get past a lot of nervousness. The people here will support you no matter what. Michelle Dodd: Performing gets easier with practice, but sharing your heart and every beat that keeps it running can be scary. I have had many times where I get off the stage and cry because it’s overwhelming. However, sharing is cathartic, and I always feel better afterwards.

“...Therapy, for sure. They get me out of my comfort zone and show way more than support for anyone going through a rough time. There are places where people come together once a week for the slams and then they don’t speak until the next one. This group, Slam Richmond, is a family. We talk every day, about anything and everything...” because it challenges me to write better poetry and learn how to connect with the audience. The goal is always to reach someone and make a difference to someone, and the poems I write to slam with are tighter and more concise with my message.

Robert Owens: I’ve been in a fair number of slams, my first being several months after my first appearance at Slam Richmond. There are a lot of emotions and intricacies in slam poetry. First, like any art, there are many disciplines, goals and personalities in the slam community. For some, slam is a tool to be heard. For others, it’s a way to coordinate performance with their What’s your feeling on poetry slams? Have you own truth. One thing that is certain is there is performed at one? no such thing as a slam poet. There are only poets who participate in slams. Maybe some Lydia Armstrong: We have them at Slam people craft their work around the audience Richmond every couple of weeks, and I’ve but who is to say a writer of science fiction or done larger ones where money is on the line, romance does anything different? What I do or a spot in a higher competition. At Slam love about slam is [that it] gives poetry a place Richmond, we do it for the love of the game, to breathe and be heard. Poetry, to me, is much and to practice our skills. The competition side more amazing aloud. The stories are more real, of spoken word can get a little hairy, but I like it more personal, more undeniable. 58

I also see slam poetry as being embraced by many communities. Poetry has always had a tinge of elitism as previously you had to be affluent and white to even read standard English, let alone compose poems. Even now universities do not view the intersectionality of voice with racial, gender, and sexuality as important or further as a true poetic expression. That’s why you can get some sneers and classification as a “slam poet” in different parts of the poetry community atlarge. I believe poets are in a great position to get the world behind the things artists typically believe in such as social justice, equality, peaceful interaction, and the ability to grow able to confront all of our inner demons. Jonas Rollins: I’ve performed in quite a few slams, including on our youth team that we send each year to a competition called Brave New Voices. I really enjoy slamming. I feel that little extra pressure of it being a competition helps me to perform better. Some of my most emotional and intense performances have come out of a slam. It helps to how no one at Slam Richmond is really cutthroat when it comes to the competition. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to win, but at the end of the day we’re here for the writing. Michelle Dodd: I have been in tons of slams. I enjoy it. They do get intense. I like the rush I get when it comes down to a three minute time limit and it challenges you to leave everything on the stage. We call it getting free, and that is what I do in slams. For me, it’s more about the performing aspect, rather than the scores from judges, or even winning. I’ve really just fallen in love with the feeling of sharing. How would you describe your experience being part of this group of poets? Lydia Armstrong: I’m in the healthiest, most balanced place I’ve ever been in my life, and I would not be here if I didn’t find this community. This isn’t just a open mic venue, it’s family, and it’s the most supportive group of people I’ve ever seen assembled in one place. It’s extremely therapeutic to get onstage and share your truth, unload your burdens. We call each other “slam-ily,” but it’s not just the core members of Slam Richmond that facilitate this atmosphere. We have new poets every week, and there’s a welcome and safety between us that I just haven’t experienced anywhere else. If my first spoken word experience hadn’t been Slam Richmond, I may have never gotten onstage. Robert Owens: There is always catharsis in poetry. No matter what you say, it’s something you want to say. I think that’s so important, having a voice – ensuring you live with your own voice. Not only do you get to delve into topics embedded in your life but some of us with the harshest experiences truly get a release. I think the group of poets in Richmond and every city that participates in regional, national, and international competitions are all RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

a very special group who are all so meaningful yet still so human. I’m glad to be in Richmond and have been able to meet such a great variety of people who had a lot to teach me through their approaches to poetry and to life. Such a diverse group of people has been important in giving me relationships I hadn’t had before. Jonas Rollins: For me being a part of Slam Richmond has been the ultimate form of therapy. Writing helped me put a lot of demons in my life to rest. Finding the best way to express your feelings and experiences to an audience there to accept and support you is one of the greatest joys of my life and has really changed me for the better as a person. If it wasn’t for the support of this community I don’t if I would have ever realized my father’s problem, and if it wasn’t for the mending words of everyone at Slam Richmond, I don’t know if I would have been able to finally make amends with him. Michelle Dodd: Therapy, for sure. They get me out of my comfort zone and show way more than support for anyone going through a rough time. There are places where people come together once a week for the slams and then they don’t speak until the next one. This group, Slam Richmond, is a family. We talk every day, about anything and everything. Are there any upcoming local events that people should know about?

called Commonwealth Slam that’s definitely worth the road trip. Robert Owens: I run a show a minimum of once a month in Fredericksburg, Virginia. That’s how much Slam Richmond has meant to me – I want to give the same thing in other communities. People can visit to learn more. I’d encourage everyone to also attend Good Clear Sound at VCU, another free show, during fall and spring semesters on campus. VCU has reached the final stage at the last two College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) slams, the gathering of most college slam teams, and even hosted the event this year. Jonas Rollins: BNV, or Brave New Voices, is an all-youth international slam with teams coming out to compete from California to Guam. I had the privilege of being on the Slam Richmond youth team that we send each year to BNV, and it was a truly life changing experience. Just being able to be a part of it and witness so many poets [my] age perform at such an incredible level was really awe-inspiring and made me realize what can be accomplished if you really work at improving your writing. Michelle Dodd: We have our open mics every Saturday at ArtSpace (0 E. 4th St). [They] start at 8:30pm. The events I want to stress the most are our writing and performance workshops. They are free and very in-depth.

Lydia Armstrong: Richmond has tons of poetry events. Every Tuesday there’s Verses at Addis Ethiopian Restaurant in Shockoe. Chris Randolph and Roscoe Burnems were doing a Friday event at The Top, which recently ended, but you can check out Think Rich RVa and The Writer’s Den Poetry Slam on Facebook to find out what their next chapter is. VCU has an awesome poetry group that hosts an open mic on Mondays during the school year, and there’s an organization called Sanctuary RVA that uses poetry and music as outlets for men and women who were once incarcerated. I’m hoping Slam Richmond can partner with them soon to maybe do some fundraising slams or workshops together. And our very own Robert Owens hosts an open mic in Fredericksburg 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015


RECORD Reviews

Nate Bargatze

Full Time Magic (Comedy Central)

You might not immediately know Nate Bargatze’s name, but after Full Time Magic, this comedian might become one of your favorites. With bits about misunderstanding baseball, evolution of customer service, parents yelling at you while dressed as clowns, and so much more, Bargatze might be a candidate for best in comedy album of 2015. (SC)

Broadside Old Bones (Victory)

Not every RVA pop-punk band is all about beards, beer, and gruff vocals. The fresh-faced kids in Broadside have hit the big time with their debut album on Victory Records, and they celebrate with a pile of upbeat tunes inspired by Saves The Day and early Fall Out Boy. YMMV but IMHO this album is dope. Give ‘em a shot. (AN)

High on Fire Luminiferous (EOne Music)

At this point, one knows what to expect from a High on Fire record — sludgy riffs, high tempos, and Matt Pike’s gravel-throated vocal delivery. Luminiferous delivers the expected, albeit in particularly fine form. The record is perfectly paced, and Pike delivers some surprisingly melodic, even catchy singing. Kurt Ballou’s production provides just the right amount of grit. (CE)


Bell Witch

Four Phantoms (Profound Lore)

Listening to this album, one would be hard-pressed to guess that two people are behind the sounds heard: six-string bass that often simultaneously navigates both lead and rhythm, thunderous drums, and vocals that range from mournful, reverb-laden singing to guttural roars. These ten to twenty-plus minute songs are hardly summer pop jams, but that’s kind of refreshing. (CE)

Black Liquid

Fall For The Fly

( Liq took two years off but he’s back on his grind in a big way with the third new release in six months. On Fall For The Fly, this rap veteran has strong opinions about how the game should be played and he’s letting MCs know over some heavy beats. Plus, “Work It Out” might be his catchiest, most memorable tune yet. (AN)

Diamond Youth

Eternal Summers

A lovely album full of mannered power-pop tunes harking back to some of the post-grunge alt-rock bands of the 90s. There’s definitely a good bit of 60s rock n’ roll mixed in here, which is where Diamond Youth gets its admirable sense of restraint. Still, they turn it on when it really counts. You’re gonna dance to this one. (AN)

Eternal Summers are true champions of their craft. Remaining solid throughout the years with their ephemeral pop dynamics and lush, moody soundscapes, Gold and Stone marks another phenomenal addition to the band’s impressive catalog. This is sure to pique the interest of longstanding fans, and introduce new converts to their favorite summer listen. (SC)

Nothing Matters (Topshelf)

Hop Along

Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

Painted Shut starts with a punch to the gut and leaves you smirking blissfully in all its glory. On this release, Hop Along have figured out where they belong in the musical spectrum. Whether it’s the raspy vocals or the informed take on catchy pop tunes, Painted Shut has generated plentiful enthusiasm among a variety of audiences. (SC)

Gold and Stone (Kanine)


Casual Dracula (

RVA alt-country vets expand to a 5-piece for their fifth album, but piano does nothing to dull their twin-guitar attack. Casual Dracula vibrates with the same Rolling Stones, Drive-By Truckers, and Wilco vibes that Horsehead’s always shown off. An incredibly self-assured set of tunes that’ll have toes tapping for sure. (AN)


All Fours (Profound Lore)

Bosse-de-Nage play a kind of semi-traditional black metal, steeped in delay and focused on longform, dynamic compositions. Unlike Bay Area contemporaries Deafheaven, Bosse-de-Nage’s lyrical purview is of ornate grotesqueries, laid atop a base of crawling post-hardcore, dismal slowcore, and speedy blast beats. Vocalist B. drives this record, incorporating feral shrieks and spoken word. (CE)

Go & Tell

Childish Air (

These high school graduates aren’t long for Richmond, but they’ve left a mark in their short time here with a promising album full of clever ideas. While the music jumps around, even midsong, the lyrics and exceptional delivery from Matthew Hausser and Tallie Rucker paint a clear picture of the frustrating feeling of “waiting in line,” common to all youth. (DN)

Jason Isbell

Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

The southern rocker strikes gold again with his most deliberate work. It’s a perfect showcase for Isbell, featuring plenty of songs written only like he can in a style that’s a perfect marriage of soul, country, and southern rock. This touching record will make you want to re-examine your life, as Isbell has famously done time and time again. (DN) RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

Shannon Cleary (SC), Cody Endres (CE), Andrew Necci (AN), Doug Nunnally (DN)

KEN Mode

Success (Season Of Mist)


Kings (Jellowstone)

Kendrick Lamar

Laura Marling In the face of high expectations, the British singersongwriter continues her string of strong folk records with a collection of songs more down-to-earth and relatable than the generalizations of her past work. Most notable is the direction in which it points the singer, almost serving as a bridge between her pure folk sound and a potential rock sound to come. (DN)

To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath)

KEN Mode has been putting out visceral, groovy noise rock records for a decade plus now, always hinting at the brilliance showcased here. Gone are the attempts at post-rock, and some of the metallic edge of their heavier songs. The more strippeddown, yet more manic approach taken here is invigorating, and is perhaps due to Steve Albini’s presence in the studio. (CE)

This town has been long rumbling about Kings, and from their self-titled release, it’s easy to see why. Expanding from musical tropes developed by Prince and Stevie Wonder, Kings are experts of the genre, and invert that knowledge to effortlessly develop their own sound. Kings is sure to make it onto a number of best of 2015 lists. (SC)

A hip-hop masterpiece that will be looked at years from now as a landmark not just for hip-hop, but for music in general. Despite the turbulent times, Lamar is able to celebrate his race in a way that listeners of all backgrounds can appreciate. With a surprise cameo at the end, it ends with a message unlike anything hip-hop’s ever heard. (DN)

Mac McCaughan

The Mountain Goats

Sea of Storms

Mac McCaughan’s Non-Believers feels more like a proper extension of the songwriter’s immaculate talent, escaping “these songs didn’t fit on my other band’s records” territory. This release has a tender vulnerability to it that feels right at home as a companion to the more raucous nature of Superchunk and the southern charms of Portastatic. (SC)

The loveable North Carolina folk group return with perhaps their best work to date, but definitely their most ambitious: an accessible take on pro wrestling. Despite the subject matter, bandleader John Darnielle is able to make each strong song relatable to anyone worldwide while still paying tribute to an art form that’s often derided and rarely celebrated as well as this. (DN)

Non-Believers (Merge)

Sufjan Stevens

Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)

The folk singer’s most personal work to date has quickly become one of the strongest of his deep catalogue. Stevens’ strained parental relationship is fully explored here with shocking honesty and intense vulnerability. There are no grand gestures on the album; instead, it features plenty of quiet and graceful moments that hold your heart hostage for days afterwards. (DN) 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015

Beat The Champ (Merge)

Sun Kil Moon

Universal Themes (Caldo Verde)

Singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek finds poetry in the mundane, stringing together observation, introspection, and bone-dry humor into lyrics. His approach may seem oddly tepid at first for an indie rock veteran, yet, the singular appeal of his material becomes clear with some patience. The sprawling, experimental instrumentals on this album coalesce with Kozelek’s fractured singing into something that is anything but everyday. (CE)

Dead Weight (Self Aware/Tor Johnson)

After teasing us with demos for close to two years, Sea of Storms have finally put out a proper debut and it showcases the band perfectly. Dead Weight is a great mix of melodic hardcore and towering emotional intensity. It’s nice to see a band take this awesome staple sound of nineties punk and effortlessly make it their own. (SC)


Peripheral Vision (Run For Cover)

Moving in an Anglophile direction on their latest album has done this VA Beach pop-punk band a world of good. If you were let down by recent Title Fight and Ceremony releases, take heart--Turnover nails what those bands tried and failed. Gorgeously downbeat melodies, glittering guitars, indelible choruses--this one has it all. (AN)

Short Movie (Virgin)

David Shultz

A Gentle Evening At The Virginia Moonwalker (

Richmond has a wealth of great songwriters, but David Shultz is in a league of his own. This live release is a great example, showing the timeless nature of his older songs and unveiling an intriguing set of new ones. A full return may not be in the works, but the moments captured on this record are just as valuable. (SC)

Paul Willson

Fluid Key (

RVA singer-songwriter follows up his 2013 double CD Heaven Reaches with yet another ambitious two-disc release. Fluid Key’s impeccably clear recording can at times be too polished, but the resemblances to Sufjan Stevens and Tim Buckley that come through in Willson’s gorgeous acoustic compositions will make many smile. (AN)



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

Oysters & Wine Tour

Take an Oyster Wine Tour with bioRide and Chapel Creek Oysters. Get whisked off to two of Virginia’s most critically acclaimed wineries, Saude Creek Vineyards and New Kent Winery. End the ride with a tour of Chapel Creek, where you will explore one of the most beautiful creeks in Mathew County and taste the finest oysters, fresh from the water. Contact bioRide today to plan your Oyster Wine Tour at Chapel Creek. (804)926-0393 10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

10 years of RVA Magazine 2005-2015



The traveling version of Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art, and Tradition is organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California, and is supported, in part, by Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman. RVA MAGAZINE 21 | Summer 2015

Profile for RVA Magazine

RVA #21 SUMMER 2015  

The days are getting longer, the sun is warming up the RVA streets, and summer is fast approaching! And all the while, RVA Magazine’s ten ye...

RVA #21 SUMMER 2015  

The days are getting longer, the sun is warming up the RVA streets, and summer is fast approaching! And all the while, RVA Magazine’s ten ye...

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