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Unplugged August 2013

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Moon Mantis INside: - Mixtapes, you blew it!, dads & more - Local artist Xochitl Hermosillo - top 5 overplayed songs in sports - two records from topshelf records - reviews of Jay Z, defeater, milo & more


Letter from the staff:

Dead or alive

A

few months ago, I spoke with a music producer who is in charge of various cover bands. He told me about how he coordinated the music for Drew Barrymore’s most recent wedding and I proceeded to tell him, “Cool! This morning I poured cereal in a bowl and I didn’t spill the milk, so we’re both pretty successful, right?” He stifled a giggle. I digress. As the conversation continued, I asked him more in-depth questions about his work. There was one question and one response that struck a chord with me since: “Do you believe in music still? Or do you believe it is a dying art?” He responded with, “I believe music is dying. There is good music out there, but it’s all gone downhill and it’s all about politics. There’s nothing fresh or new anymore.” I took a big sip of my margarita, which they were serving at a child’s birthday party that we were at, and I told him that I disagree. I disagree. And this is why: music is constantly changing and flourishing. Yes, there is always going to be music that not everyone enjoys or connects with, but there has been an explosion of independent artists from every style imaginable. Look at how many artists have been supported through YouTube, Kickstarter, Bandcamp, etc. Music is expanding; people just need to know what styles they can empathize with and then go searching for new artists. There are so many great gems out there: A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Xochitl, Mixtapes and Sol, just to name a few. If you search, you will find. There is much more than hit songs on a radio; there are musicians out there that should be recognized and praised for bringing different perspectives into the music community. I wholeheartedly believe that we, at Unplugged Magazine, try to bring a new perspective to music and showcase talented artists that have worked hard and deserve to be noticed. So go out to a local coffee shop, an intimate bar, or a stadium concert! Just go out and support artists and show that music is still alive.

Cheers, Robert Aguilar Copy Editor

Top 5 Songs On Repeat “Hercules”

One

The Blessed Unrest

Sara Bareilles “A Better Son/Daughter” The Execution Of All Things

two

Rilo Kiley

“Multiple Love” Little Letters

three

Paper Aeroplanes

“Taro”

Four

An Awesome Wave

Alt-J

“Royals” The Love Club EP Lorde

Five


Table of contents

05

Drop the needle again Alisha gives two of her favorite Topshelf Records releases. PG

PG

06

And the record rolls on

Scottish John talks about the importance of the bassist. PG

08

Listen A** Hole

Jorden and Steven discuss the controversial way Jay Z’s latest album was released. PG

09

You blew it!

Josh talks to the Florida-based band about their next release and the work behind it. PG

10

My scene My Music

National contibutors get asked: What is your favorite newer artist from your area?

11

Staff picks Jorden breaks down the top five most overplayed songs at sports events. PG

PG

12

DADs

15

artist spotlight

The New Jersey duo travels across the nation, giving advice to those who ask for it. PG

We take a look at the multi-talented local artist Xochitl Hermosillo.

16 Alisha talks to the Connecticut band about their latest The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

PG

video for “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay.” PG

17

mixtapes

18

Album reviews

The Ohio band talks to Josh about the apreciation for their fan-base. PG

Jay Z, Sara Bareilles, Milo, Defeater & more!

mag

Up

Editors in chief

Copy editors

Writers

Photographers

Steven Condemarin alisha kirby Josh Jurss daniel Romandia Ian La Tondre (columnist)

Intern

Jorden Hales

Robert Aguilar Megan Houchin Allen Dubnikov

Contributors Kendra beltran Eric Delgado

13

PG

Moon Mantis


T

opshelf Records consistently releases some of my favorite music by artists that I wish everyone knew about. This year alone they’ve released music from The World Is a Beautiful Place..., Into It. Over It., A Great Big Pile of Leaves and Have Mercy. In July of last year alone, they also released these gems: by Alisha Kirby

Drop The Needle Again

Prawn - "Ships:" Light grey/ 100 “Ships” is everything an EP should be. It’s six songs that take you on a short trip to somewhere melodic and just fun to be. Whoever Topshelf went through to press this one did wonders. Everything sounds full and you can pick up on more of the band’s nuances from the record that you can’t quite catch through your iPod’s headphones. This one still finds its way onto my turntable every few weeks. Both the music and the record itself have lasting quality.

& Pswingset - "All Our False Starts:" White/ 100 This record grew on me after I reviewed it. Pswingset writes music that’s sort of a mix of ‘90s alt-emo and this newer, welcome wave of midwest indie, which makes sense when you find the members belong to bands like Annabel, O Pioneers!! and Brother/Ghost. Plus, it was mixed and mastered by Tim Gerak of The Six Parts Seven. All of these aspects added up to nine tracks that sound fantastic—especially through your nicer speakers.

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And The Record Rolls On

the importance of low ends

I

once heard a story: a very famous band, The Academy Is…, was on tour, and during this tour, like all tours of legitimate rock stars, there were some sexcapades between a musician and a groupie. Groupies are an important part of any rock star’s repertoire, but I’ll dawn on that another time. This certain groupie had approached one of the members of T.A.I., the evening progressed, and that progression ended in the wonderful glory of coitus. But after that night of passionate “rock and rolling” around with said member, the fan felt horrified to find out that he was, in fact, the bass player. This is what I’m here to talk about: bass players. Let’s be honest, the general public doesn’t give a damn about the bassist. I mean, the story above is a great example of it. I remember hearing it and thinking two things: one, this is so hilarious, I can’t seem to eat my cereal anymore, and two, this is not surprising. Here’s why the bass player is so important though. Why he or she is neces-

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sary in just about any type of band – and I’m not even talking sonically or soundwise yet – is because the bass is the glue; it’s the glue that holds those banging drums and melodic guitars to let a vocal perfectly crest over like a soaring eagle. Without it, it just doesn’t sound right. Now let’s get something straight here, I’m talking right now in a very general rock band sense. You take a band like Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Who or Phish, and the bass becomes a lot more. There you begin to have ass-kicking slap lines, rock and roll leads with cranked distortion, and tons of fun effects. For now, I’m just speaking in general. Besides being the low end and throwing down like a mad man on stage, they provide what I would like to call the groove. Kick drum and bass, man, is the groove. Now, for those of you who don’t know what the groove is, the simplest way to put it is that it’s what makes you groove. It makes you dance and shake that sexy body of yours. (Yes, all of you are sexy. Deal with it). Now, rock music

is rock music so it usually involves more of just bobbing your head and occasional violent shoving and face punching. You know what they say, “If you’re not punching faces, that ain’t rock and roll.” But I digress; bass lines are groovy. Take the song “Hotel California;” great classic song, everyone knows it, and everyone wants to sing along. Here’s the catch though, without the bass line, that song would be so empty. It’s a great reggae-style bass line that’s providing a solid counterpoint accompaniment to the vocal, while still being just freaking groovy as hell! That’s the best way to put it: it’s the groove. No low end is bad, my friend. No low end is like eating a fat-free cake, where after one bite, you’re just kind of like, “Who the fuck would eat this cake?” Ask any band, hip-hop act, pop act, country group, jazz quartet, techno DJ, etc. But that’s a pretty simple concept to grasp. I mean, just take any song, listen with your teeny tiny iPod headphones, then listen to the exact same song on your buddy’s


bitchin’ car stereo with the massive subwoofer and the deck that you can play DVDs on. You know, that one friend we all have where you know he’s at your house because you heard him driving up the street with his car rattling? The song will sound better in his car; it’s going to sound better just because there’s the warmth and depth of all that low end. I will say, though, it’s OK to find a middle ground between the two. You don’t always need more bass in your face. Now here’s something else I wanted to talk about: the role of the bass player outside of the music. I strongly believe that a lot of musicians portray their role inside and outside of the band quite often, and over the next few months, I’m going to go in depth with this for a lot of main positions in a band. For example, singers. The lead of the band, usually, acts like the lead outside. They’re the center of the limelight, usually speak the most during interviews, and get treated as the face of the band. Here’s the way it rolls with the bass though: a good bass player is

a chill bass player. They show up on time, play the right things in the right places, and their tone is off the hook. They don’t need to do much else or cause band drama. In most cases they aren’t the irreplaceable piece of the band. Not every band has a Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers). I will say though, a lot of bass players stereotypically can hold the band together. They like to mediate things between other members. They’re usually just laid back, and when it comes to rocking out onstage they do their job. Now, to reiterate what I’ve said before, I’m speaking in generalities. I’m talking about your average band. I think it’s great when you have a band like The Beatles, for instance, who had an amazing bass player/singer who wrote so many incredible tunes and had such an incredible personality that inspired millions of people. It’s just not everyday you get a Paul McCartney. Well kids, all I can say is, “Slapadabass Mon.” -Scottish John

Swing on over to our website to check out some more cool stuff!

No low end is like eating a fat-free cake, where after one bite, you’re just kind of like, “Who the fuck would eat this cake?” Aug.2013.unplugged.07


LISTEN LISTEN

A**

Jorden

HOLE Debates about music we love and songs we hate are common place within our group of friends. Sometimes they’re lighthearted and amusing. Other times arms will flail in frustration and the volume of everyone’s voices will rise.

S

amsung and Jay Z recently teamed up to give “Magna Carta...Holy Grail” away to those who purchased the Samsung Galaxy and downloaded the free “JAY Z Magna Carta” app - these downloads counted toward the album’s sales numbers with the RIAA, which is the organization that deals with dishing out the gold and platinum record titles.

Is the way Jay Z released his album fair?

V.S Jorden: I like that it’s giving artists kind of a

blueprint of ways to make some money off their albums. They’re not going to be able to sell albums the same way because Jay Z is a huge artist, but this opens the door for making albums into a radiotype thing. You could have local venues, recording studios, labels... they’re finding different ways to generate revenue, kind of like crowd-sourcing, but you’re using a company instead of fans. The only thing I don’t like about it is certifications. We’ll have to see how the RIAA handles it because if you have a big artist and/or big company you’re going to be able to distribute to a lot of people and if it gets to a point where they’re just giving their music away, that’s going to skew sales. So you’ll have to find a new way to gauge the interest that an album generates, but I like it. Jay Z has used the hashtag “#NewRules” to promote the album because he says he’s kind of writing the industry’s new rules with this method.

Steven: I think it’s cool that the blueprint is be-

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Steven: Yeah, it just makes it way too easy for

some of those artists. Like Eisley, they crowdsourced asking for way too much money and let’s say some other company just sponsored them to do it. Where’s the effort? With crowd-sourcing, they didn’t reach their goal, but it was the effort behind it that they wanted to pursue that goal, whereas if a company behind them just tosses the money at them and says, “Just go on tour and we’ll just make money off you that way.” I think it makes it easy for the artists, you’d get to this point where artists now have an easy road and also have the hard road.

Jorden: I agree to a point, but then I also think

that’s essentially what all artists are trying to do with labels, unless they want to be independent and that’s just something they stand for. You’re always trying to get somebody’s attention so that they can distribute for you, so they can help you pay for things, so that you can tour, can be global. It could just be a little different.

ing put out there for newer artists, but I also don’t like the fact that a big company can just swoop in and just say “Oh, we want to buy your album, so we’re just going to buy it until it’s a platinum album and we’re just going to give it away to our specific demographic.” I would say that, because Jay Z is a huge artist, that regardless of Samsung he would have made platinum and gold because he’s Jay Z and people actually want to buy physical copies of what he does, or at least digital copies. But any other normal artist would not have been able to hit that high mark if it wasn’t for Samsung buying all those digital copies from his or her label. I think that it definitely has the potential to skew the way artists are rewarded.

Steven: Even with labels though they still put a lot

Jorden: With big things like Grammys and legacy

Jorden: Do you think that it could make local mu-

things that you’d look back on?

Take a listen to the whole album on Spotify.

Steven

Steven: Exactly. Jorden: Yeah, I agree with that. Do you think that

if this style of promotion catches on that middleof-the-pack bands, say if they get a company like Wal-Mart on board, that it can skew their careers if they’re a band nobody’s really going to listen to regardless, a band that other bands might have tour in their little vans and such?

of work into it. They still have to plan everything, they have to make sure they have time. There’s a sense of workmanship behind it that really shows, mostly in bands that really come from the ground up. For example, Jay Z. He has multiple albums writing about his struggle, about how hard it was to get where he is and how proud he is of where he is now. Bands that just get handed the money, their music just kind of fizzes out after a couple albums because they don’t have anything to write about unless emotional and personal things come into play. Other than that it’s just like, “Well, alright, I’m going to sing the same song for the next couple of years.” sic better? Because what I like about this is it gives smaller companies – venues, stores like Zuhg, etc. – a chance. If they want to sponsor bands it could help local music.

Steven: I think it could definitely help local

music. I think it could just improve the sounds of local music. I don’t think it will necessarily help the artists too much. I just think the artists will be pushing a little harder to get that sponsorship, to get the money or whatever, to get out of where they are. But in terms of content I think it will push the artists to be a little better.


time, patience and determination

stay tuned to you blew it!’s facebook to catch their upcoming album

“I

hope you can hear us over this music,” You Blew It! guitarist Andy Anaya says standing up from his chair. The band is hanging out pre-show in a secluded bar within the bowling alley venue they are playing tonight. The music playing over the speakers is a mix of of the cheesiest ‘70s tunes imaginable and there’s one sole, raspy voiced, elderly bartender who refers to everybody as “hun” serving cheap craft beer. Apart from another trio of patrons, the bar is completely empty. The band is traveling along with Mixtapes on the Ordinary Silence Tour. However, before the tour began, the band had been hard at work tracking their new album in Chicago. “Evan Weiss [Into It. Over It.] approached us one night and asked if he could produce the record,” says vocalist Tanner Jones. This happened back in January. They agreed, whipped up 12 to 13 songs, decided on the best ten tunes, and presented them to Weiss this past June. The amount of time spent writing this album was significantly less than their previous record, “Grow Up, Dude.” As Jones explains, he and drummer Tim Flynn “were actually the only dudes in the current state of this band when we were writing [“Grow Up, Dude”]... It took two years from inception to finished tracking.” The singer estimates that the group wrote somewhere between 35 and 40 songs for the first full-length record, selecting only the best songs to be recorded. “The [new record], when we’re playing it, feels more aggressive.”

You blew it! talks about their long recording process Story by Josh Jurss

This new aggressive outlook is being attributed to Jones’ vocals. As Flynn puts it, “Life got better when Tanner got angrier.” Everyone in the band agrees the record is more passionate, and that the vocals are best described as having an almost snarl-like quality to them. During the writing process, the members were collectively listening to more Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World, which had a massive effect on the songs. The first few days of recording took place with engineer Matt Jordan in Atlas Studios, tracking drums. Flynn flew through tracking his parts in a self-proclaimed “26 hours and 27 beers.” Although tracking drums was quick, it was still a very thorough process. Flynn credits Jordan and Weiss with making the tracking process so smooth and successful. Because the drums were finished much sooner than expected, the band was able to lay down first guitar tracks at Atlas as well, taking advantage of the studio’s equipment. The days following recording, the band moved on to a basement studio at a friend’s home. “We left for tour right after recording. We actually booked more time than we needed,” says Jones. “We finished everything really quickly and had four days left just to fart around Chicago.” As for the record’s release, no date has been confirmed just yet, but you can count on a vinyl pre-order to pop up via Topshelf Records.

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My Scene, My Music

Kendra Beltran Los Angeles, CA Founder of Golden Mixtape goldenmixtape.com

Josh Jurss Chicago, IL Unplugged Mag. Staff Writer

@JoshJurss

Eric Delgado Abbeville, SC Contributing Writer blessyerheart.com

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What is your favorite newer artist from your area? One of the most annoying things my friends can do, other than wearing sandals in my presence, is tell me that all of the best new bands come from the East Coast. Yes, they have a good stock, but come on. If you’d pay attention to those dudes and dudettes (sorry, that’s the SoCal speaking) handing out flyers after shows, you’d realize the West Coast not only has an immense amount of In-N-Out Burgers, but talented musicians as well. When poised with this question, I had a few in mind but settled on Sink Swim. One listen to “Beneath Our Sleeves” and I noted to keep an eye on them. Their “Elements”-

EP was straight-laced pop rock, but they upped the energy and aggression a bit with “Heights,” and I was like Joey Lawrence on “Blossom;” whoa. They shifted their style enough to notice but not enough to make me toss them aside. The growth only served in their favor. They’re a trio from the Thousand Oaks area and I’m 100 percent OK with pushing them on anyone who’ll listen. If your musical palette contains There For Tomorrow and Artist Vs. Poet (before the singer switch up), then you won’t be disappointed with Sink Swim.

This year, Their / They’re / There released one of the best six-song EPs I’ve ever heard. Thus, they have become one of my favorite bands to come out of my area recently. The band is a dream team, with Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It.), Mike Kinsella (Owen, American Football), and Matthew Frank (Loose Lips Sink Ships). Frank’s guitar work is phenomenal, insanely intricate and beautiful. Kinsella manages to accentuate the guitar riffs with his own complimentary drum parts, and Weiss holds it down on bass while taking the bulk of vocals. Each member brings his own separate

style, but it’s obvious that every tune was worked on by the band as a whole. For a project with a tongue-in-cheek name that was started as a creative escape from other projects, I think they have a stellar first release, and I hope they keep playing shows and release more music together. However, each member has main projects that come before T/T/T, so we will see if that hope will be realized. Speaking of which, the new Owen record is great, and I’m really looking forward to the next Into It. Over It. release coming later this year.

Fred Engler is my favorite local artist native to South Carolina. He also has the most unique origin story I’ve ever heard. His parents were German scholars who immigrated to the United States to teach at Erskine College (Due West, SC). He was schooled by Mennonites (the post-hipster Amish), and went on to grab a master’s degree in computer science before dropping his professional career to perform music. He flew out to L.A., attended Musicians Institute, pumped out jams on the Sunset Strip with his band, the Whisky Dicks, and may have moonlighted as an assistant recording engineer to the likes of Fergie and

New Found Glory. His songs contain a unique mixture of witty outlaw-country and Americana. My personal favorite is “How Many More Horses.” Basically, it is a jam that talks about trying out sexual partners like a kid tries out popsicle flavors. The song is humorous, catchy, and done in much better taste than I can describe. If you get a chance, check out his latest release, “Discount Heart Rebuild.” It contains 12 songs that echo the classic sonic sensibilities of Graham Parsons, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, and Jimmy Buffet.


What did YOU say? This is where we grab our favorite answers from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr! Nick Contini (mastermind behind The Boy In The Window) Tumblr: theboy-inthewindow

Top 5

Staff picks

overplayed

songs in sports by Jorden Hales

Music is, for better or worse, a part of how sports fans experience live games. Arenas practically have official soundtracks the way feature films do. Unfortunately, some adhere to such traditions absolutely. Here are five songs I no longer enjoy because they’ve been force-fed to me during games.

Oakville, Ontario, Canada “The best new band from there is Seaway. They’ve put out an EP and a split with Safe To Say, and they keep improving with each new release. They’ve got that classic early 2000’s pop-punk sound mixed with a good dose of today’s. They have a stand alone vocalist and a guitar player that sings, and the vocal-interplay between their two distinct voices really adds a lot to their sound. They just came back from their first U.S. tour and it’s awesome to see someone from my hometown do something like that.”

Jeneffer Acuna @JenniiAftermath Los Angeles, CA “Rival Tides for sure! Not only is the music amazing, they’re also down to earth and they take time to communicate with fans!”

Mike Gomez @Celtsfan3 Anaheim, CA “My new favorite music artist is Rival Tides! Over the past few months I’ve listened to their songs more than any other artist!”

NEXT MONTH: What is your least favoite thing about your local music scene? Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #myscenemymusic and we’ll publish our favorite answers in next month’s issue! @sacunplugged fb.com/sacunplugged

5. Cash out: “Cashin’ Out” The song is called “Cashin’ Out,” and it is performed by a man who named himself Cash Out. Both are grounds for disapproval. It’s been about a year with this one, so let’s hope it’s just a fad.

4. Jay Z: “Big Pimpin’” This may be the most ubiquitous song in professional sports. It is not but a filler, used the same way morning DJs use the weather and traffic to avoid dead air before commercial breaks. Let’s hope the coaching staffs are more creative than whoever chooses the live music.

3. Journey: “Don’t Stop Believin’” Remember your favorite shirt from elementary school? That’s this song. You worn it two days a week all season, slept in it, and bleached the shit out of it. Now the collar is stretched, the color is faded and it seems unwound. It’s time to retire this bad boy.

2. Wiz Khalifa: “Black and Yellow” So, your team colors are black and yellow? I suppose you thought any ambiguity to such things might send your identity into the netherworld (with your hopes for a title). You know who you are.

1. The White Stripes: “Seven Nation Army” I have heard this song at sporting events so much, I had to download a cover to mix things up in my iTunes. From the 300-pound man on his ninth beer chanting, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” to his little bandmate playing air guitar with his arena dog, this song’s antics have driven me to the brink of my sanity. Ironically, I may have to go to Wichita, Kansas, to escape them; there aren’t any pro sports teams there.


Where band meets father figure

Living up to their name, dads gives fatherly advice online and in person

Story by Alisha Kirby Photo by Carly Hoskins

N

ew Jersey’s emo-punk duo, Dads, often spends time in between shows living up to their name by answering fans’ questions looking for advice on Tumblr like surrogate, internet fathers. “I really like it,” says vocalist/drummer John Bradley. “It allows people to talk to us more than just at us, and it allows us to be more than just this musical thing. At some point it got a little weird and people started asking about relationships and lifestyle and shit,” Bradley says, “But it’s fun. I enjoy it.” Not every interaction is pleasant, though. When someone threw out the n-word a few times, Bradley called them out on it. “It’s not even a PC thing, it’s ‘be a good person,’” he explains. “It was definitely on an angrier pitch [at first], but we learned that if a dude says something offensive, not right or wrong, but offensive, you have to talk to them. You can’t yell at them.” Bradley recalls a time in Jacksonville when the band was staying with a kid who explained that he and his friends would call each other faggots, and that they had gay friends who didn’t mind. “I was like, ‘Listen, I love you, I love what I’ve learned of you, but if we were at the bar and I heard you call one of your friends a fag, I would have written you off,’” Bradley says. “You have to think about. Not everyone knows you’re saying this as a joke.”

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go to Dads’ facebook and check out their newest release “boat rich” Yet, Dads didn’t set out to start an advice blog. Actually, they didn’t even set out to be a full-time band. “I wanted to become a professor to teach film,” Bradley says. “That’s what I was working to do. Then I didn’t get into the grad schools that I wanted to, so we toured for four months instead.” The band released “My Crass Patch” from their “Pretty Good” EP, out Aug. 6. “I have a hard time writing love songs because I hate sounding sappy and cheesy. I’m a big fan of writers [who] take love and put it in a peculiar way that isn’t ‘I want to kiss you and hold your hand,’” Bradley says with a whine, “but like, ‘I want to smell the sweat on your body after you get home from work.’ Shit that hits you harder because it’s a facet that hasn’t been taken.” “[It’s] about being a dependent lover,” he explains. “The job that we have doesn’t really give us a home, so when you meet these people that you fall in love with, they become your home. There’s a line in that song that says, ‘Be my change, don’t change a thing,’ because you’re depending on them to be that rock.” The song has a darker, somewhat heavier sound, and the switch to 6131 will only allow them more space to grow. “It’s cool to have that broader range,” Bradley says. “We like the idea that we’re on a label that put out a Bane record. That’s awesome to us.”


“Emerging from the cold craters of the moon, an otherworldly mantis arose. One that fiends for funk-tastic space music,” is a quote directly off of Moon Mantis’ bio on Facebook. This rock ‘n’ roll jam band is Sacramento’s gift to the world. From performing excellent covers to heart-touching originals, Moon Mantis has been hitting local venues all around town gracing people with their awesome grooves. Unplugged Magazine got a chance to spend an evening catching up with these guys about their current musical endeavors.

Please state who you are and what you do in Moon Mantis. Luke Rietzke, guitarist and vocals. Forrest Heise, vocals, lyricist, songwriter, guitar, keyboard and harmonica. Xander England, drums. Jack Fanning, I play bass. How did Moon Mantis come to be? England: We had old bands, jamming and word of mouth, that’s what brought us together. I was aware of everyone in the music scene and in the musical Folsom bubble I was in, so it was cool when it finally came together. Rietzke: Me and Forrest, we were both in the first band we’ve ever had. Heise: Yeah, we started out doing [The] Doors covers, which we still do. Fanning: It all just worked out at once. We

Moon Mantis interview by Steven Condemarin // photos by Allen Dubnikov

each had our own skill on an instrument and it happened that the four of us came together to make this kick-ass band, and we started with just playing covers and getting to know each other. I hadn’t been in a band before, so I was intimidated by the whole scene. But once we got comfortable and started jamming, I realized that I was on the same level as these guys and it was going to be totally chill. So that’s when we started writing our own music and developing as a band. Now where did the name “Moon Mantis” come from? Heise: I was hanging out with Jack and we were talking about David Bowie doing “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders (From Mars),” and we were talking about our sound, how we’re spacey, psychedelic rock. So we went off space themes; “spiders from Mars, centipedes from Saturn, moths from Mars, and then mantis from the moon; Moon Mantis, we’ll do that.” So we kind of rolled with it. After that we actually learned that it’s some sort of African fable.

What bands influence you guys when writing music? Do some spill through more than others? Heise: We each bring our own influences to the table and our own vibes. When we’re jamming and we hit on a riff, or certain section, you can definitely get a feeling of, “Oh, that’s a real Circa Survive vibe,” or “that’s Sabbath-y as shit,” or “that’s a Zeppelin kind of thing.” Fanning: Or even Mars Volta. I feel like a lot of the stuff we do lately is close to Mars Volta. Our band, with a lot of the things we write, has roots in funk and rock. Heise: We’re going to get funky, that’s a warning and an invitation. During the photoshoot, you guys mentioned working on an album. How’s that going and when can we expect to see that out? Heise: Well, the material is getting there, and we’re doing well in that department and we’ve been writing a lot, but we

Aug.2013.unplugged.13


will probably start recording at the end of August or early September. We will either record at Alley Avenue or EME Studios, and it will either be a short album or a long EP. Rietzke: Yeah, the songwriting process has been speeding up and speeding up. Fanning: I feel like things really go fast in this band. When someone brings a riff to the table, we really jam it out and we try to figure out where it’s going to go and where we can fit it into other things that we’ve written. So what’s the songwriting process like between the four of you? Fanning: Either me, Luke or Forrest will bring a riff to the table — and Xander always has the rhythm down, don’t mean to leave him out but he doesn’t write the melodic stuff – or an idea more or less, then we all collaborate to bring out a Moon Mantis song. It’s all just fusion. England: We can all hear the individuality. But for other people, it’s just Moon Mantis. What do you guys do when you have some free time? Heise: Drugs! Rietzke: I like to go out to nature and find inspiration and have a good time in the city. There’s a nice nightlife and there’s so many interesting people in the Sacramento area that have been a lot of inspiration for music lately. I think that this place has had a huge impact on me. Heise: I do my solo stuff and I do some session gigs, kind of like a work for hire to do keys, drums or whatever. I do that for money on the side. Besides that, have sex? Witchcraft? I don’t know. England: I started playing in a jazz band back in the seventh grade and played all the way through high school until I graduated a few months ago. In my spare time, I perform in another band called Huj [pronounced “huge”]. It’s like skarock-reggae. Fanning: Well, I play classical music, I play a bassoon in multiple orchestras and symphonies around Sacramento. I also play bass in a really sick metal band called Maid Of The Mist. We have an EP out and you can check us out on Facebook.

Forrest Heise Forrest Heise is no stranger to the Sacramento music scene or Unplugged Magazine. With an updated version of his EP in the works and set to release in mid-August, we got a chance to catch up with him to see how his last release was and to see what he has planned for the next couple of months. Last time we caught up with you in February you were about to release your EP titled “Forrest Heise 2013.” How was the reception on it? It was good. The reception was surprising to me. It was very well-received and I sold a lot of online copies. That sort of motivated me to do a little bit more lengthy EP to try to get some more themes and ideas across. It’s hard trying to get yourself across in three songs. So the response encouraged me to add a little more to it. On your Facebook page, you posted about a video shoot with Zac Becker, what’s that about? We’ll be shooting the single off my EP, “Suicide Starchild.” [Zac’s] an up-and-coming visual artist here in Sacramento. He’s done some recent work for Incredible Me and Merchants, both locals, and he’s an old friend of mine. We will be shooting a video at EME [Studios] in mid-August, so you can expect to see that probably early September.

Upcoming shows Check out moon mantis’ facebook to hear live recordings from around town

Aug. 24 @Churchill Arms Pub Sep. 14 @Pistol Pete’s

Stay posted to Heise’s Facebook for updates on impromptu open mic performances

14.unplugged.Aug.2013 moon map: www.oera.net


Artist spotlight

Xochitl Hermosillo X

Go check out Xochitl’s Facebook to hear her music!

ochitl Hermosillo, pronounced “Sochee,” is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter who labels her sound as if “old Katy Perry hung out with John Mayer a lot, and then John Mayer had sex with Lily Allen and had a James Taylor baby.” After ten minutes spent meticulously sifting through her 160 GB iPod, the above description started to make a lot of sense. For someone who hated school, Hermosillo is constantly studying. She takes a band, whether she personally enjoys them or not, and breaks down every aspect of their entire catalogue—from Sleeping With Sirens to Tracy Chapman—nothing is off-limits. It’s this dedication and attention to detail that she brings into her own music. “I’ve been playing music my entire life. Like, since I could walk to the piano. I’ve just been obsessed with music,” says Hermosillo, who has played piano, violin, guitar and ukulele, all before taking up singing and immersing herself in Sacramento’s local music scene. “I will always go to any show. Music is what I do, so I want to listen to music,” she says. Her influences read like a “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation track listing. There’s no assuming which of her favorites, be it Demi Lovato, The Beatles or Chevelle, will spark a song, and Hermosillo is OK with that. “I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she says of not fitting into any one genre. “When I started, people were like, ‘You need to figure out your sound, you need one genre.’ But I’m cool with changing. It’s just who I am,” she says. If all goes well, Hermosillo says her new EP will be out in August and it will be between five or six songs that touch on each end of her spectrum of influences. It took months of preparation, writing, practicing and tightening up the live shows by playing 10 shows in two months. This lack of a dedication to any one genre gives all of her live shows new breath from the last, especially with the recent addition of a permanent drummer and bassist. “We’re all so tight and we all have chemistry, and it’s so much fun. It’s a totally new experience,” says Hermosillo. She’s experiencing something new with her fans; hearing old songs fill out and reach their full potential. “When I wrote these songs, I remember standing in my living room playing them and hearing a band behind my head, and now it’s happening.” By Alisha Kirby

Aug.2013.unplugged.15


IT LOOKS GOOD ON A SHIRT

The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die talk about their latest video for “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay” Story by Alisha Kirby

“T

he philosophy on naming your band is that it should look good on a Tshirt,” Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak says with a laugh. “I think I read that in a comic somewhere.” He is one of three guitarists in The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, an atmosphericindie-emo type band from Willimantic, CT. Or as Shanholtzer-Dvorak jokingly coined it, they’re “a maximilistic indie-rock band.” The band’s latest album, “Whenever, If Ever” debuted No.196 overall on the Billboard Top 200, and No.3 on both the vinyl and on the Heatseekers charts. The album was technically released June 18, though it was leaked online nearly a month earlier. Records get leaked all the time, but rarely do you see a band so calm when it happens, let alone see a band who accidentally leaked their own record. “I sent it to a lot of my friends so it’s probably my fault that it leaked—I just have shitty friends,” Shanholtzer-Dvorak admits. “I

16.unplugged.Aug.2013

wouldn’t say ‘probably,’ it’s definitely my fault that it leaked. It took us so long to make it, I just really wanted it to be out there.” Though it hasn’t been out long, “a lot of stuff has changed and is different than it is on the record,” Shanholtzer-Dvorak explains. “When we play live, there are a lot of interludes and stuff to do while people are tuning, and there’s a lot of improv in there.” According to Shanholtzer-Dvorak, the band’s first single, “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay,” is one of his favorite tracks off the record. “There’s sort of just weird space in the beginning of it that we fuck around with differently every time we play it.” The band released a video for the song with the help of their friend and visual artist Geoff Hoskinson. “[He’s] a really brilliant dude and we told him to do whatever he wanted and take from the song,” Shanholtzer-Dvorak says. “None of it was our input, we just said nothing corny, no rela-

tionship stuff. We just said, ‘Maybe people pissing in the woods.’ So I guess he took the woods.” Shanholtzer-Dvorak was in middle school when music videos were still a big deal. “I was into Bush and The Smashing Pumpkins and they always had really visually stimulating videos,” he remembers. “When we set out to make one I was like, ‘This can’t be some lame, here’s shots of us on tour, and here’s us doing something goofy.’” “I really wanted it to be the work of an artist that we were into and stand alone as a piece for [Hoskinson],” he says. “[To] be sort of a companion to what we do and not like a promo thing for our record.” The only thing Shanholtzer-Dvorak regrets about the video? “There was no piss, so for the next video, hopefully there will be,” he says, grinning. “We’ve been talking about a video for “Fightboat” and it’s going to be pretty ridiculous, and there might be some piss in it.”


No Ordinary tour

Listen to [or purchase] Mixtapes’ latest album “Ordinary Silence” off their website

M

ixtapes wants you to listen to “Hello” by Lil Wayne. “Listen to the whole thing. [You] gotta give it a chance,” guitarist/vocalist Maura Weaver says. The song has been haunting the band on tour and has been played repeatedly in the van over the past few days. “As a band, mostly what we do in the van is listen to terrible music and wonder how it was made.” Music similar to “Hello,” and the entire Falling In Reverse discography, are the main ingredients to the Mixtapes’ van soundtrack while on the aptly named Ordinary Silence Tour with You Blew It! and Light Years. “This is our first headlining tour. We’ve gone out playing last before or just by ourselves, but not us [with] our name at the top of the poster. All the pressure is on us,” guitarist/vocalist Ryan Rockwell says. The crowd response at the shows has been overwhelming to the band. Each member of Mixtapes is genuinely surprised that kids are coming out to the shows specifically to see them play. “We’ve never really had that before,” Rockwell explains. The tour is promoting Mixtapes’ newest release, “Ordinary Silence,” which, according to the band, has been garnering the best reception they’ve ever had from a release. With all the reactions to the new album, the inevitable band comparisons have been surfacing. As drummer Boone Haley explains, “Mixtapes has always been one for the weirdest comparisons. That crap doesn’t surprise me at all.” One particular comparison the members of Mixtapes hear again and again is of them contrasting the New York pop-

Mixtapes talks about touring and the terible music they listen to Story by Josh Jurss

punk band We Are The In Crowd. Needless to say, the band doesn’t particularly like nor hear the resemblance. In fact, Mixtapes would rather be compared with one of their main influences: The Replacements. Though, Rockwell stresses “I don’t think we sound like The Replacements, obviously, because I know as soon as we say it, people will be like, ‘They don’t even sound like The Replacements.’ But attitude-wise, and the way we progressed, I think The Replacements is the best band.” The progress the band has been making is obvious when the members speak about writing “Ordinary Silence.” This was the first time where the entire band collaborated in the writing process. In the past, Weaver and Rockwell would write songs acoustically and bring them to the band already written. However, Weaver says, “More so than any other time, we brought songs and musical parts to the band, or wrote them electric first, and then we worked through [the song] together.” That being said, there are still many things that haven’t changed. As usual, most of the songs barely reach the three minute mark. The band even considers breaking the five minute mark on any song preposterous. Rockwell even states, “I hope I never write a song over five minutes in my life.” Weaver is the sole member who gives any merit to the five-plus minute song. “‘Jesus Of Suburbia’ by Green Day. People talk shit, but I love ‘American Idiot.’”

Aug.2013.unplugged.17


Album Reviews

Visit SacUnplugged.com for frequen

Jay Z

Mayer Hawthorn

“Letters Home”

“Magna Carta... Holy Grail”

“Where Does This Door Go”

Defeater is a concept band that writes music narrating the life of an impoverished working class family in post-WWII New Jersey. The band’s previous releases have explored the stories of the two children of the family—the youngest and oldest brothers—and how each painted a picture of their father as an abusive alcoholic who gambled the family’s wages away. In “Letters Home,” the band delves into the events that drove the father to this dark place, including his service in the war and the loss of his brother. The album opens with “Bastards,” which is essentially the father’s suicide note before working it’s way back to the beginning of his emotional decline. As it builds into the following track, it becomes apparent that there won’t be a moment to catch your breath through the duration of the album. While the contribution from Blacklisted vocalist George Hirsch in “No Relief ” sails into the melodic aggression of “No Faith,” it’s easy to pick up on similarities to the band’s first album, “Travels.” This is a band significantly improving and honing in on their strengths. “Rabbit Foot” alone proves that, though the chills or the pit in your stomach that comes from hearing vocalist Derek Archambault deliver the line, “I gave away my faith when I gave my brother a coffin,” in “No Saviour” for the first time is a major highlight. “Letters Home” is Defeater’s most cohesive record to date. If you enjoy hardcore, this will be one of your favorites this year.

After vowing to “write the new rules” with the promotion and subsequent release of “Magna Carta...Holy Grail,” hip-hop mainstay Jay Z has simultaneously disappointed and delivered. His raspy voice and reference to both corporate culture and the urban drug trade are anything but new, and the album’s unique feel and implications, brought to life by production from Pharrell Williams and Timbaland (among others), were tangible. Lyrically, the project adheres absolutely to the principles of classic hip-hop. Infused with boisterous proclamations, flagrant disregard for conventional wisdom, and tone of appraisal rivaling that of the actual Magna Carta, the album projects to make a prophet of Jay Z in a manner reminiscent of his debut, “Reasonable Doubt.” The first track, “Holy Grail,” begins with vocals from Justin Timberlake over an ominous piano solo that gives the rapper’s first appearance the feel of an unveiling at a prestigious ceremony. Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, Nas, and Beyonce contribute briefly without being overshadowed by the strong impression of Hov’s best. The album’s only con is its length, with too many tracks near the end that don’t uphold the standard set by the first several. All in all, this is as complete of an album that can be purchased. Jay Z has added yet another volume to his extensive anthology. “Magna Carta...Holy Grail” does right by both hiphop and the world of art with perfect marriages of edgy production and lyrics that are sure to leave a lasting impression on listeners.

It’s not often that artists are so blunt about uncertainty in music. The meaning behind the title for Mayer Hawthorne’s new album, “Where Does This Door Go,” is obvious as Hawthorne has no idea where he’s headed with this release. Most people didn’t expect a Jewish kid from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be the face of neo-soul and what is starting to be called PBR&B (an alternative R&B that hipsters apparently embrace). But those are labels that kind of diminish what Hawthorne has been doing for years now. He usually sings in a very high falsetto, as many did in Motown’s heyday, and is backed with ‘70s-inspired music that still has its own sense of modern production. However, there is a major difference in this new album. His inspiration isn’t so much Detroit soul, but the so-called “blue-eyed soul” like Hall & Oates and Steely Dan. It suits him just as well as the Motown-esque songs he released five years ago. Gaining success with a genre that hasn’t been all that popular for years can be scary. It means either you’re a gimmick with that one song that reminds people of “old school,” or that you are a pioneer in reviving music that has been lost on a generation. It’s all very uncertain. Hawthorne knows that more than anyone. If this album becomes the success many have speculated it would be, then Hawthorne is opening all new doors. He’ll have to figure out where they lead to in time.

By Alisha Kirby

By Jorden Hales

By Daniel Romandia

Defeater

18.unplugged.Aug.2013


ent reviews throughout the month!

Album Reviews

Sombear

MIlo

Sara Bareilles

“Cavalcade”

“The Blessed Unrest”

Few things are better than seeing a friend of yours come out of an emotional slump. They finally want to be sociable, though they’re still a little awkward, and spend hours watching Netflix with a friend rather than spend days watching Netflix alone. This is exactly where Milo is with his latest EP, “Cavalcade.” Just like any other release in the Milo discography, “Cavalcade,” which is dedicated to Milo’s grandfather, has many references to philosophy, comics, wrestling, and whatever else seems to tickle his fancy. Hip-hop is a very niche genre in that the songs created are very personal and often appeal only to those with the same interests as the artist. Milo is able to transcend that by talking about esoteric subjects while still appealing to the average internet user. This release sounds more triumphant than everything he’s released before. The production, handled by Riley Lake, is sample-heavy and can have a psychedelic sound to it. That makes sense seeing as many of the songs sample the band America. On the song “Ecclesiastes,” Milo uses what seems to be nonsensical lyrics to symbolize his progression in life as he grows older and finally starts to accept the tragedy that was only a few years ago. “I am no longer afraid of the darkness/ I can walk straight into apartments” may seem like gibberish to most, but it’s actually a battle cry. Milo has entered a new chapter in his life where he is no longer scared or angry.

My definition of the word empowerment: to become stronger and more confident, specifically in the realm of taking control of one’s life. The epitome of this description is Sara Bareilles. Her new album, “The Blessed Unrest,” revolves around the liberation of one’s self-doubts, while still acknowledging the fact that those insecurities are still alive and real. Bareilles has grown significantly as an artist over the past year. Her EP, “Once Upon Another Time,” received mixed reviews because she experimented with her sound. “The Blessed Unrest” is like a more organized continuation of the EP. She is classified as “pop,” but has added notes of country (“1000 Times”) and ‘80s pop-gospel (“Eden”). Her vocals have only strengthened over the years. With “Manhattan” she strips the song down to piano and a handful of brass instruments to back up her vocals. The song is simplistic without being hallow; it stays true to the Sara that we all fell in love with. One downfall on the album is the unnecessary layers added onto the tracks. There is no need to add extra synths or programmed drums. Bareilles’ voice is magnificent, so the tracks should compliment her voice, not add extra noise. Highlights include the opening track, “Brave,” the staccato piano in “Hercules,” the perfect break-up anthem, “Little Black Dress,” and the beautifully simplistic “Manhattan,” which showcases her vocal abilities. Bareilles’ has done justice to those who seek comfort, bravery, sympathy, and most importantly, empowerment.

If the man behind the layers of indieelectro-pop known as Sombear looks familiar, there’s a good chance you know him as Bradley Hale, the drummer for Now, Now. Or maybe you saw him at a sandwich shop one time or something. I don’t know, but let’s assume it’s that first scenario. Hale has stepped out from behind the kit and into the spotlight in a big way. This side project of his is already beginning to take off — see his tour schedule with Dessa — and for good reason. This is a damn good debut album. It’s 10 catchy dance songs — though some are “dancier” than others (“The Way We Are”) — that you can vibe to, regardless of the time of day or whether you’re in your car or your room. Though, admittedly, “LA” is perfect for driving at night, and “Loose Ship” is such a sunny tune, I’ve started waking up to it as my alarm. I’m done contradicting my own examples now. What you really need to know about this album is how well Hale crafts inwardly insecure love songs (“Love You In The Dark”), and how he manages to glide from one track into the next in a way that can give you the chills under the right circumstance. Highlights on the album include the opening, “Incredibly Still,” the title track and the lyrically solid “The Good.” If you plan on checking out the album, those are some better starting points.

By Daniel Romandia

By Robert Aguilar

By Alisha Kirby

“Love You in the Dark”

Aug.2013.unplugged.19


Feature Photos By Allen Dubnikov of Allen Daniel Photography Go check out his work!

Unplugged Magazine August 2013 (#8)  

In this amazing, 8th issue of Unplugged Magazine: Copy editor, Robert Aguilar explains why he believes music is not a dying art; Alisha gi...

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