Olivia Grace: An Interview

By Delaney Clifford

Photo By Bianca Garcia

Photo By Bianca Garcia

Olivia Grace is a fresh new musician that’s ready to be heard. Hailing from Maryland but taking current strides in New York City, Grace has set her sights on breaking the mold with her airy, melodic voice playing into your dreams. With her three song EP “Heart Shaped Bruises,” Grace showed us her powerful voice, boasting multiple influences from separate genres and creating a versatile sound that any listener can get behind. With the upcoming release of her new material, I got the opportunity to talk with the young artist to get some insider information on what we could expect from the upcoming release of “Blackbird.” Here’s what she had to say:

Can you tell us some of your musical influences?

Growing up, my dad would play a lot of jazz music. He loved Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole— all the jazz guys.  My mom, however, would play artists like Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, and Joni Mitchell— so I got the best of both worlds growing up. I listen to a lot of various styles of music, though. I’ve always admired artists like Regina Spektor, Agnes Obel, CocoRosie, etc. My influences are constantly changing. I hear music coming out now that I really connect with and get inspired by.

With your release of Heart Shaped Bruises back in February, you described a story of a lost love of some kind, and the recovery from that hurt. Can you tell us a little about that story?

Well, when I wrote that song there was a lot imagery in my mind. It felt like watching a movie that hasn’t been created yet. The song wasn’t really created from a specific situation I was personally going through. At first, the song was inspired by certain words. I wanted it to be kind of playful, using words and phrases like “bubble gum balls and a chocolate heart” or “curled eyelashes flutter away.” As I writing it, the combination of the chord changes and melody together felt really nostalgic to me— especially when it goes into the chorus. It changes tempo, rhythm, and key. The whole song kind of became about creating this feeling of transporting through time, reflecting on something that once felt magical, whatever that may be for the listener, and reliving that— like having a really great dream that you wake up from. 

With your new single, listeners can prepare for a bit of a darker sound than they’ve grown accustomed to. What prompted that change?

I think the sound started to get really dark once I got into the studio. I originally wrote it on the piano. It already had this underlying chaotic feeling to it, but the production really brought that out. It just felt right. We started playing with beats and harmonies, and it just got darker and darker, but I really liked it.

In your new single, you feature a lot of animal imagery; can you tell us about that choice and how it ties into the message of the song?

I had this line stuck in my head that I wanted to write a song using— “into the jungle, into the wild.” So I already had this jungle imagery in my mind, and when I was writing the song, it got kind of chaotic. When you listen towards the end of the song, it starts speeding up pretty intensely, and I wanted others to feel that same level of chaos I felt when I was writing it. The song can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. For me, the blackbird is a symbol of a guardian and someone you wouldn’t expect to be there for you even though they end up being the one to come through. The lines “snakes at your feet wrapped in a pile, pulling you in won’t you stay for a while, until the blackbird flies the mile…” symbolizes the people who aren’t good for you. They aren’t trustworthy— they’re snakes, and sometimes you might not see that right away. They’re this representation of deceit. The jungle and animal imagery just felt like a good way to get this message across, even though it wasn’t originally the inspiration for how the song came about being created.

Can you tell us about what’s next for you with this new release?

I have some things in the works, but nothing I can confirm just yet. I’m very excited, though! Listeners can hear “Blackbird” out everywhere September 30th.

You can check out Oliva Grace here:

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No Faking, No Shaving

By Delaney Clifford

The latest and greatest track from the status quo-challenging duo Holychild is a true kick to the teeth. The two have collaborated with singer Kate Nash to bring us “Rotten Teeth,” a dance-anthem that goes far deeper than the heart-pounding beats and groove that lie on the surface. Coming to us with a video full of sexually charged imagery and feminist-allied lyrics, this is certainly deeper than other songs that we’d find in the “Related Artists” column. Self-described as “Brat Pop” by the duo’s Liz Nistico, the video for “Rotten Teeth” speaks entirely for itself. Featuring powerful lyrics such as “I can never be the girl I wanna be – No, I’ll never be free,” along with the imagery of cheap, disposable razor-blades, gender-bending costuming, and cotton-candy pubic hair, this video and song are a thrust back against social constructs, conformity, and the oppression of anybody who identifies outside of the norms.

Holychild is tired of explaining their art, so they’ve given us “Rotten Teeth” and left it up to us to decide. The lyrics and message are draped in electronic haze and a groove that gets to everyone, something done very much on purpose. This song comes with an air of cynicism, as if the duo just wanted to see how far they could take the joke. Even still, this song falls relatively in line with the creative drive featured in the other music that we’ve heard from this group. It still excites us; Nistico still captivates us with her voice, Diller’s instruments continue to beat and shock through the song, but “Rotten Teeth” seems to show the side of this duo that’s sick of the hype. Sick of the oversaturation of absurdist art and ridiculous gimmicks, this video and song-style are a satire to the way some artists garner attention in the current industry. However, no matter how far the satire reaches, the lyrical content remains, which is resounding. For all of the vitriol directed at the music industry, it doesn’t begin to match the frustration and fury hurled towards the oppressive constraints of being a female. This is where Nistico comes in, pushing back against all of what she and millions of other women are fed up with and saying “no more.”

With this song, Holychild has declared war on restriction and falsity. These musicians want people to exist the way that pleases them, not the way that pleases the people. Whether it’s making music for radio play or shaving your armpits, this is one group that’s sick of it. So if you’re into a band that’s defying convention, and having a hell of a time doing it, Holychild is the band for you. Happy listening.

 

The Multiple Sides of 2016's Breakout Artist, Bishop Briggs

By Delaney Clifford

Bishop Briggs has hit 2016 with incredible force and inexplicable calm through the release of her two singles, “River” and “Wild Horses.” Briggs, who was born in London with Scottish and Irish heritage, grew up in Japan and Hong Kong, where she gathered influences that are all too apparent in these two songs. Capturing the European grit that runs through her veins and incorporating the discipline and control of her Eastern-world upbringing, Briggs brings us two singles with dance-inducing crescendos and sultry releases into a hazy head-nod, making for a hell of a ride all throughout.

    Beginning with “Wild Horses” at the beginning of 2016, Briggs created a track with the help of Los Angeles producers Mark Jackson and Ian Brendon Scott that conveyed both her softer side and her heart-pounding angst that dwelled within. The track begins with Briggs’ smooth voice reeling her audience in, soon to be sucked in by the percussive cacophony laid over the ever-smooth guitar riff that persists throughout the song. However, Briggs doesn’t stop there; she pushes the bounds of her sound and includes resounding electronic beats that throw every listener for a loop. What was expected to be a string-plucking folk song has now burst into a energetic, pounding triumph, never forgetting to recognize Briggs beautiful voice. “Wild Horses” brings the listener into the scene— an open plain, surrounded by the calm of the fresh air, the emptiness of it all. But before you know it, you can hear those hooves pounding towards you, making your heart skip and jump in bounds, exciting you nonetheless. Briggs has the special ability of the artist to pull her audience into the sound she created, and somehow change the perception of what that music is supposed to sound like.

    Moving onto Briggs’ latest single, “River,” listeners find a familiar sound, but something has changed about Bishop Briggs; her voice has found new power, which she uses to its full potential to belt out the chorus of this nearly Wild-Western sounding track. When I first listened to it, all I could imagine was looking out over a canyon, watching the sunset over the powerful Colorado River. But before the listener can fall into rest with that scene, Briggs shocks you right back into chaos, using backing gang vocals and the ever-familiar pounding electric drums. Parts of this track suck the air right out of the room, but Briggs never fails to throw us right back into the mix with her smooth guitar playing and slick voice. “River” has something for everybody.

    With these two singles, Briggs has introduced us to her sound that pulls from different audiences and newly explored combinations, highlighting the very best of her artistry and leaving us only wanting more. 

You can catch Bishop Briggs on tour at the following dates:

June 4th @ Live 105 BFD // Mountain View, CA

June 7th @ Troubadour // Los Angeles, CA

June 18th @ Shadow of the City // Seaside Heights, NJ

July 1st – 2nd @ Mamby on the Beach // Chicago, IL

July 23rd @ Mo Pop Festival // Detroit, MI

July 24th @ WayHome Music & Arts Festival // Ontario, Canada

September 2nd – 4th @ Bumbershoot // Seattle, WA

LITTLE GREEN CARS: A Performance About Honesty and Vulnerability at Chicago's Metro

All images by Annie Zidek

All images by Annie Zidek

by Nohemi Rosales

The last time I saw Little Green Cars perform at Lincoln Hall in 2013, I was blown away. 

Though the audience back then was small, with less than half of the main floor filled up, they left a lasting impression on their Chicago audience. 

Three years and a new album (Ephemera) later, they returned to Chicago for their May 5th performance at Metro. This time the turnout increased significantly, filling up not just the main stage, but the balcony and both VIP sections - proving a true come-up for the band. 

If you don’t yet know who the Little Green Cars are, do not fret. I am here to tell you.

To put it simply, a harmonizing quintet of 20/21-year olds from Ireland who are honest, emotional, and a little awkward, but equally inspiring and breathtaking.

What makes them truly admirable, is that all members (Faye O'Rourke, Stevie Appleby, Adam O’Reagan and Donagh O’Leary) have been friends since secondary school and have been playing music together for just that long. 

Not all bands have come together under the unity of friendship – but for Little Green Cars, this unity is something obviously evident in their performances. From the setup of their stage, with four microphones lined up evenly apart from each other, to the way they take a step up at the exact same time when harmonizing, one can’t help but to see them as one magical, beautiful entity.

Standing under a shower of green lights and smoke, they began the show with “The Party” from Ephemera, their newest album (released in January of this year). It was a brilliant first song choice, as the lyrics were telling and set the mood for what the rest of the show would be like:

“Now it’s over. And they’re leaving. Did I try too hard to tell them how I feel? Did it sound like a joke? So I’m going to wreck your party. Because I’ll make you cry the tears that I can’t. I don’t wanna wreck your party.”

Little Green Cars’ music is known for being sad, intimate, and personal - though their upbeat melodies contrast these darker kind of lyrics. And what better way to be honest with your fans about your feels than to start a show with the song you wrote about it? 

But of course, they didn’t wreck the party, they light a match and had the audience captivated and singing along. Right before their 7th song,“John Wayne” from their first album Absolute Zero, Stevie Appleby stopped to tell the importance of the song - how a fan went up to him after one of their shows and told him how John Wayne had influenced him after a friend committed suicide. Appleby ended his short speech by saying,

 “I say this because I feel that when I’m up here, I have to say something worth saying. So I want to say that this song should inspire you to be honest about how you feel. To tell the people you love that you love them.” 

Something that really struck me while watching the show progress was the way that they performed - how they closed their eyes and relaxed while performing - truly focusing on the meaning behind the lyrics beyond their stage presence.

This is especially true for Faye, one of the two lead singers, whose killer vocals were like a cool wave of comfort the entire night. While singing “Ok Ok Ok” (which she wrote in High School) from Ephemera, the room grew incredibly quiet. Everyone had their eyes on Faye and became still; her voice transcending the audience to the pain and beauty in the lyrics: “But if you touch me and I scream, just remember what I mean. I'm alright.” Not only were her vocals outstanding, but so was her humble presence on stage - the way she clenched her hands, blew kisses, and bowed to the audience to say thank you. She definitely goes on my list of badass women.

As the audience looked up on stage starry-eyed and clinging to the last few seconds of “The Consequences of Not Sleeping” (what everyone thought would be their last song) Little Green Cars stopped and took to the floor. They climbed over equipment, the front barricade, and over people’s heads until they made it to the center of the floor, where they were engulfed by the audience that looked on in anticipation of what would occur. 

A warm yellow light that resembled a sunset flooded the hall as they played the last song “The Factory” from their newest album and the last words they sang,“I’m alive again,” echoed long after Little Green Cars returned back to the stage, bid their farewells, and left.

Stevie Appleby, lead singer aside Faye, who I got the chance to speak with after the show, told me about their ending. “You really have to have a lot of trust and be open to being vulnerable in situations like that. Our audience could have definitely shredded us to pieces if they wanted to, but it was a really intimate space for us to be singing in, surrounded by everyone.”

Stevie discussed the importance of honesty and vulnerability in their music, saying, ”I wish I had known how to be vulnerable when I was younger. And I know that now, so that’s what inspires me to make music - to be the person I needed when I was younger, maybe to somebody else. Because being vulnerable is the strongest thing you can do.”

For someone who believes in the power of vulnerability, I left the show humbled and touched. I haven’t been able to stop listening to the raw, but necessary reminders that manifest themselves in Little Green Cars’ music.

If you ever need to let your wounds bleed, to be honest about your pain, and to give into the beauty of feeling, you need this humble bunch of artists in your life.

For more info on Little Green Cars:
http://littlegreencars.com

The Perfect Summer Playlist Additions: Knox Hamilton and Coasts

By Genevieve Kane 

As we welcome in the month of May, we are reminded that summer is just beyond the horizon and approaching fast. No one wants to enter the summer season without a flame playlist prepared, and I know one band that has got you covered. The first time I heard Knox Hamilton’s hit song "Work it Out" on the radio two summers ago, it immediately caught my attention. I fell in love with it instantaneously. My sister and I listened to "Work it Out" on repeat and deemed it our summer anthem. Knox Hamilton is the perfect indie pop-rock band to deliver some fresh summer vibes when you need them most.

Naturally, I was very excited to see them live, and at a very intimate venue like Lincoln Hall no less. Their faces were lit by an electric blue light. Boots, the frontman of Knox Hamilton, entertained the crowd with sharp witty banter between songs. “You guys are a very polite crowd,” he joked at one point. And he was not wrong. Being in the audience felt like attending one big love fest. “I love you!” the infatuated crowd would shout to them. It was clear that not everyone in the audience was there for Knox Hamilton in the beginning, but it ultimately did not matter because they won every person over before they had even finished their set. Boots would jokingly ask the audience which songs they would like to hear, prefacing it by saying, “We’re not going to play Wonder Wall...not again.” They then broke out into another one of my personal favorites, "How's Your Mind." 

Knox Hamilton delivered a little nugget of summertime sublimity amidst the lingering fog of spring. By the time they had finished playing "Work it Out," there were salty streaks of tears rolling down my cheeks. Although the temperature outside may have been hovering around 40 degrees, Knox Hamilton made it feel like summer in my heart.

I wasn’t as familiar with Coasts as I was with Knox Hamilton, but I was on such an adrenaline high that my excitement at that point in the night was through the roof. As Coasts began their set, Liam Willford (guitar), James Gamage (bass), David Goulbourn (keys), and Ben Street (drums) graced the stage in their respective spots. The focal point of the stage was a lonely microphone, as the beginning riffs of "Wallow" rung throughout Lincoln Hall. Lead singer Chris Caines then emerged and grabbed the mic in one grand swoop. Their long legs and bobbing heads of hair, were a spectacle in and of itself. Coasts dominated the stage with large gestures and motions, which was then countered by their quiet English demeanor in between songs. Chris would say a few humble words in between songs; always ending with a little, “cheers” which of course would then be followed by an eruption of shouts from the audience.

I was really digging their Two Door Cinema Club vibe, despite the fact I felt a little out of place because it seemed as though everyone around me knew practically every word to every song the band would play. Regardless, it was a very fun crowd to be a part of, especially when Coasts played "Modern Love." However, the audience really went nuts when Coasts ended the night with "Ocean," which is the first song on their self-titled album.
 

Although we still need to fight our way through May, summer is coming up, and I know exactly who I will be listening to thanks to this killer show. Knox Hamilton and Coasts are definitely worth adding to the summer playlist.

Moving The Grey Mountain

By Delaney Clifford 

 

Skylar Grey has released her new single to a resounding acclaim, but only wants more. Her single, “Moving Mountains” was released at the beginning of April in addition to a masterfully created video for the song being released last week. The five-time Grammy-nominated artist produced the song with Mike Elizondo and Mark Batson, creating a sound that perfectly fits the subtlety and underlying motivations of Grey, who is finally putting her unrelenting ambition aside to make room for some personal happiness in her life.

Her recent video was shot and directed by Peter Handler in the rural snowy mountains of Park City, Utah— a perfect location to make a comment on appreciating the moment and letting everything else slip to the side to exist in the present. This seems to be exactly what Grey needed in her life, as she said, “Most of my life I’ve let ambition get in the way of happiness— too focused on the future to enjoy the moment. Now living in Utah, I’ve realized the importance of taking the time to sit back and appreciate a mountain view.  It's amazing how just being present has the power to elevate your mood.”

Grey seems to know better than most what that mountain view can do for someone, and Handler’s artistic video production has conveyed that feeling to viewers in volumes. Featuring the gorgeous views of the Utah mountains as well as the heartwarming scenery of a log-cabin fireplace, those who watch this video will feel right at home in that cabin, perhaps even more so on the icy slopes as the sun peaks over the mountain ridge. All of this natural beauty captured by Handler pales in comparison to the beauty of Grey’s voice. Almost haunting, her voice glides right over the near Mumford and Sons guitar sound that she brings to the table. This combination creates a sound that you’ll want to listen to over and over again.

This song is almost a complete backflip compared to her previous song, “Cannonball,” a soulful pop anthem that seemed to base Grey on the large-scale music scene. “Moving Mountains” is exactly that; Grey has decided to move a mountain in her life, whether that be the shift in genre or maybe a shift in her life overall. One thing is certain, Grey won’t be going anywhere but up anytime soon. Keep your ear to the ground for her new record, a follow up to her debut record in 2013, and expect some serious earth-moving material.

You can catch Skylar Grey on tour with Atlas Genius, presented by Journeys at the following dates and locations:

04/23 Charlotte, NC         Visulite Theatre

04/25 Tulsa, OK               The Vanguard

04/26 Dallas, TX              Granada Theater

04/27 Houston, TX           House of Blues

04/29 Phoenix, AZ           Crescent Ballroom

04/30 Los Angeles, CA    El Rey Theatre

 

You can follow Skylar Grey at the following media outlets:

Website

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The Strumbellas Strike a Chord with New Album Hope

By Olivia Schroeder

The Strumbellas are back at it again. Following the success of their sophomore album We Still Move On Dance Floors, which earned them six awards, including a Juno Award, the indie-folk rockers have released their highly anticipated album Hope today, featuring their hit single "Spirits." 

The Tornto-based six-piece band has already garnered over 10 million streams to "Spirits" alone, and it's easy to understand why. Featuring big, bold choruses, danceable beats, and vulnerable lyrics, The Strumbellas have created a sound that is relatable and yet unlike anything done before. 

The Strumbellas have fans and artists everywhere getting excited. Check out this creative tribute by one of Hooligan's favorites, New York-based artist Kathleen Mentzer below. 

 

You can keep up with The Strumbellas here: 

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Metamorphosis: Unraveling the layers of Aurora Aksnes

By Delaney Clifford 

If you’ve been searching for an artist that I can only refer to as the “perfect medium,” then you’ve come to the right place. Aurora is that artist, revealed most prominently on her new album, All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend which was released in March of 2016. This debut record had set Aurora out in front of the herd as someone who won’t be ignored. Her style can’t be pinned down, the very same way that her eccentric look refuses to conform to any set of parameters.

On a first listen through her record, listeners might hear a familiar sound a feel the vibe that they’ve experienced while listening to other records… maybe for the first song, anyway. The deeper you get into this record, the deeper you fall into Aurora’s process. Almost as a shield, Aurora uses electronic beats and harmonies to bolster her painful lyrical content. This is an example of an artist that has made her emotion relatable, worth far more than a song to dance to in some club. One of the most interesting features about this record is the way that it changes, the way it morphs as you listen. Almost like getting to know a person, you see the surface first, the beats, the grooves, the melodies and harmonies, but the more you get into it, the more you get to know the person behind all of that, that’s when you feel for them; that’s when you know them.

This example comes in the form of Aurora’s song, “The Eyes of a Child,” a beautiful piano ballad showcasing the best of what Aurora has to offer her audience. Painful content shrouded in an angelic voice that you can get lost in over and over again. For me, this was the real focal point of the record, what everything was building up to. From that song, the rest of the record takes on a different form, a new shape. The beginning of the record seemed to be what Aurora was “willing” to show to her mass audience, and the latter half was a much deeper side of the artist, presenting a different side to both her and her music.

When I first looked at the album cover for this record, the image was all too clear to me. Featuring Aurora wrapped up in cloth with wings emerging from her back, she is going through a change. She began in one style, but she refuses to be pinned down. Her style is fluid, a dynamic flow that will have you listening to every song. There is no filler on this record. Aurora has created a record featuring a metamorphosis, a physical change that we can listen to occurring throughout the record. To me, that’s one of the most amazing things that a piece of music can offer. This album is like a sprint. You start off running headfirst into the night, not knowing exactly where you’re going to end up, but bursting forth anyway. Then before you know it, you’re coming to a halt, somewhere entirely different, and you just have to look around and feel it. So enjoy dancing your ass off, and enjoy feeling yourself, because that’s what Aurora brings to the table. Happy listening.

 

You can follow Aurora here:

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Matthäus Debut Promising to not be a One Night Stand

By Jonathon Burkhalter

March 26, 2016— The bill for Saturday’s performance featuring the debut of Matthäus was a perfect storm. Between the floating vocals of Hanna Ashbrook and the gritty return of mid-century rock n’ roll via Modern Vices, Matthäus proved promising during Easter Weekend with every sense of the word “rising”.

Hanna Ashbrook played one of her final solo sets before she makes ties with a full band, but her set was nothing amiss without the extra stage members. The somber low-fi strings of her electric guitar bring gravity to her floating, bubbly voice. While she admits that even the happy songs have a sting of sadness, her ability to project raw emotion in an unabashed manner creates an atmosphere of peace and hope. Ashbrook’s style is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, featuring lyrical ballads in which she reminds guys to hold on to their girl and sends a farewell wish to a begotten lover, separated by a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep." Ashbrook studied music in her hometown at Columbia College of Chicago and is finishing an EP to be released this fall.

Photo by Kevin Allen 

Photo by Kevin Allen 

Modern Vices is also based out of Chicago. Their charming, noir aesthetic included dressing in late century suits, a few mates sporting moustaches and skinny ties, as well as antique equipment and a cult following that broke out into a mosh-pit behind a row of fans reaching hands out to the shirtless lead singer Alex Rebek and the rest of the devastatingly romantic group. Their sound mixes 50s rock n’ roll with grizzly notes of post-punk, and a great vocal range from the serious tones of Ian Curtis to the same insurrection as Mick Jagger. This group is truly worth seeing live. Their next show is on April 21st at The Empty Bottle.

 

Photo by Kevin Allen 

Photo by Kevin Allen 

 

Matthäus (Matt-a-us) is a new project based out of Chicago that consists of nine men, including one member who came all the way from St. Paul Minnesota, with 13 instrumentalists behind front man Ben Edward pushing the vision forward.

“He is a great guy, but I wouldn’t bring just anyone down here from St. Paul just because I like them,” Edward said of drummer Lars-Erik Larson. Edward claimed that Larson’s ability to fill in with the band despite the distance spoke volumes to Larson’s abilities and the talent of the whole group. From the audience’s perspective, Larson looked like no stranger to the group— often laughing and joking with band mates between songs while Edward addressed the audience. A lighthearted energy radiated from the entire band, complementary to their seemingly jam session style that made it easy for audience members to stomp their feet. However, these guys are no jam band.

Photo by Kevin Allen

Photo by Kevin Allen

Every member of Matthäus has been professionally trained in music, most in jazz, while Edward and Joe Meland, the keyboardist, have been trained in music composition. Their vast knowledge of music was displayed in their odd meters and their ability to establish rhythm then dissect strands of their 13 instrument ensemble into pleasing dissonant noise for non-noise-show-goers. Their style is like the skeletons of classical jazz with the dressings of indie folk, similar to artists such as Bon Iver and Neutral Milk Hotel. They also paid homage to their hometown within the albeit wide realms of their style with a cover of Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago." 

Alex Blomarz, who plays saxophone and clarinet in the group, claims the ability for the large group to be so easily in sync with one another is due to Edward’s songwriting and composition abilities. Edward writes the majority of the lyrics and shares composition responsibilities with Blomarz and Meland. While their music is complex and layered, showing off their incredible talent and well employed music education, Matthäus’ lyrics wade into relationships between human and nature, often carrying a sense of solitude and strength while contemplating freedom or celebrating whiskey, bringing their indie folk borderline Southern Rock vibe about.

Photo by Kevin Allen

Photo by Kevin Allen

Between their indie folk and Southern rock sounds combined with their classical music and jazz compositional background, it is safe to say that the big band encompasses quite an array of style under the flag of Matthäus. This attribute widens their palpability for audiences across the board. Matthäus will be taking a short recess to record and produce a new album that should be available when they return to the booking calendar this fall. Until then, find them on Facebook and Soundcloud.

 

In-depth Exclusive with Canadian Rapper SonReal

By Joe Longo

SonReal should not standout. He fits every description of successful rappers before him. With a harsh, fast-paced style and hipster appearance, he could be mistaken for an Eminem or Macklemore knockoff. Moreover, as a native of Vancouver, SonReal's recent breakthrough could easily boil down to Canada's rise as a rap powerhouse. Yet, SonReal avoids these simple generalities. Rather, he stands as a clear outlier to the often over-hyped, stale rap game.

Born Aaron Hoffman, SonReal not only acknowledges his easily generic appearance, but flips-it on its head. Through innovative music videos and a consistent social media presence, he successfully highlights his raw talent and undeniable hard work to transcend past initial impressions. SonReal had little clout getting into the game. But while this star has—finally— —hungry even to prove himself.

Read on as Hooligan Magazine interviews the earnest rapper reflecting on his success, his mother’s influence, and the ever-growing importance of Snapchat.

 

You have two Juno award nominations and embarked on several nationwide tours in both Canada and the US within the past few years. But, you still haven’t released a full-length debut album. Could you comment on your uncommon route to success?

My success story is one of persistence. Because of me not really getting same [exposure] as a lot of people because my music is kind of different, we’ve got to kind of do everything by ourselves. I really owe a lot my success and everything we’ve achieved off of exactly that. My first bit of real success came out in 2013 when I did a video called “Everywhere We Go.” [Since then], I’ve been blessed to work with talented enough people that we can take this to the next level. It’s been a journey.

 

Do you think that taking a different route has made you a better artist?

100 perecent. Taking the same route as other artists, you end-up getting pigeonholed with them. You end up fighting for the same spot. With me I don’t occupy anybody else’s space, so they don’t see with what I’m doing and what my team is doing.

 

Your new single SOHO was released last month and has a slightly new sound from some of your previous work. Is this any insight on what’s going to be on your new album?

It’s not on my new album, SOHO. It’s more of a [single] we just wanted to put out. For me and my crew, we just love bumping that song. It’s just one of our joints in the van or something. We just put on SOHO and turn it up. There’s certain songs we did for the album that didn’t quite make [it] that were some of my favorite bumping songs. Just always wanting to bump. We decided to put it out there in the inter-waves and [we] may have some visuals coming forward too.

 

Do you think there is a benefit to releasing music just online and not part of your album?

Music is music. SOHO at the shows— people know the words to the song; people want to hear it. It’s not on an album. But, we live in a time now where you can just hop on to Soundcloud or Spotify, become a fan of a song, put in it to your playlist and listen to it everyday.

 

Could you comment on how the album is progressing? What can we expect to see?

The first single of the album comes out [in April]; It’s called “Can I Get a Witness.” I think it’s just a good introductory to what the album is going to be like. Everything is way bigger. Everything is more well thought-out. I’m working with some of the best producers on this album. I’m working with RedOne— working with Rush and RedONe. Those two guys have done a lot of work on it. Rocky— Rocky produced Kendrick Lamar’s “i.” He’s one of Kendrick's in-house guys. Just so many great producers that have expanded my mind. I'll be able to achieve what I’m calling my best work to date.

 

You stay very active on social media to connect with your fans. Why do you find this important?

It’s just really good to do; my fans love it. I literally spend an hour or two hours a day if I can. I like spending an hour or two hours a day replying to my fans on Snapchat, replying to my fans on Twitter, and facebook. Because, I was a fan. I remember Method Man taking a photo with me. It’s a lot to the fans. I’m Method Man or whenever I was a fan of to them. It’s nothing for me to do it. A lot of artists they get cocky too quick. So, I try to take the time to comment back to my fans while I can.

 

You’re specifically popular on Snapchat. Why is the app so beneficial for you?

I just started doing it, and I guess I’m good at it. Snapchat is one of the only places for me on social media where I can completely do the dumbest shit I can think of. But, my fans love it. They don’t want me to do that on Instagram or Facebook— somewhere where it lives forever. But Snapchat is so disposable.. my fans love me for it, and it’s my fastest growing social media. So, watch out DJ Khaled; I’m coming for ya.

 

Your music videos standout for being highly conceived and in-depth. Why is that important to produce creative videos?

Because we live in a time that anybody with can go buy an single-lens reflex camera for $1,000 and shoot a video that’s going to look nice and clean. There’s so many videos and so many people doing stuff that we don’t necessarily try to do stuff different. [But], by default I like doing different stuff. I like doing stuff that excites me. Seeing so many things— I’ve done so many things that we always try to get to the next level and be something that we appreciate [as] a fan of art.

I always wanted to do a western music video. I thought it was dope for a rap video to be a Western. I came up with the idea on a plane with my manager. We started talking about it and wanted a bar fight at the end.

 

The video for you song “Woah Nilly” was recently released and again there are comedic elements to the video. Do you intentionally incorporate comedy into your music?    

I like adding comedy to the videos, but not as much to the actual music. Some of the quirky lines and whatever. I’ve never want to become a parody rapper. Never want you to listen to my album and be like, “Oh my god, this guy is so funny. It’s such a joke.” My music is actually really serious. But, I just like juxtaposing that with the contrast of doing something that's a little bit funner and something that’s gonna affect people in that way.

 

Your mom makes an appearance in the video. How was working with her?

My mom kicks ass. She comes to the music video shoots and actually nails her role. I’m gonna get her in more music videos. I’m gonna give her a big role in one of my next music videos. She makes any character she gets.

 

Did she encourage your artistic pursuits growing up?

My parents divorced when I was 15. I lived with my mom, and she was always really supportive. She was raising a mad teenager. When my parents divorced, I was mad. I was straight up mad. I didn’t know why; I just knew I was mad and need an outlet. So, I was making a lot of mad raps and mad ass things. She always supported me. I would come home wearing a 4XL [shirt], size 40 jeans and a big ass Raiders hat. She is supportive of me. If she can love her confused son like that, she earns the respect to be in any music video I drop.

 

You recently did an interview with TorontoRappers.com where you complied a list of your favorite underated artists. Do you consider yourself underrated?

Of course. I consider myself underrated for sure. But I also am firm believer everybody deserves to fail. My time is this year. It wasn’t supposed to be last year, because I wasn’t ready. Now, I’m ready. Everybody has different cards. People have been telling me for a long time--people told me in 2015, “Why haven’t you blown up yet? You should be bigger than everybody.” But, I guess not. If I wanted to do that, I would do that.  I’m proud to say when it does happen for me, it’s gonna be the right time.

 

How would you characterize the difference between the Toronto and Vancouver rap scenes?

Vancouver is really laid back. They’re really great, just don’t have fully the infrastructure Toronto does. But, Toronto had everything really fast. Vancouver has got a lot to offer though--a lot of insane music. A lot of artists I think are gonna be really big. We just somebody to break down the door, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

 

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Feeling Bloo

By Delaney Clifford

           Has the world ever deserved the perfect combination of Sam Smith, James Blake, and Ellie Goulding more than now? Well the time is nigh for the newly acclaimed artist Kacy Hill, who continues to drop jaws as she continues her powerful march onto Spotify playlists and tour after tour. With her release of “Bloo” in 2015, Hill didn’t gain much recognition right off the bat. In fact, most of her notoriety came from a controversial American Apparel advertisement, but what else is new for that brand, really. Apparently, being involved in that kind of controversy, being a backup dancer for the Yeezy tour, and making music that’s seriously ahead of the curve is a perfect storm to get Kanye West, Yeezus himself, to notice you and pick you up as his protégé. But enough about the background, we need to talk about this woman’s music. So, what’s so special about a woman with a pretty voice hopping on a track with a soft electric beat? There are plenty of other artists doing that, right? Wrong. Plenty of female artists are making music today (which is great!), but most of what I’ve been hearing isn’t breaking the mold. Everyone is following the work of the female greats: Beyoncé, Rihanna, etc., and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not… this.


           I really can’t convey Hill’s work through words, so please do yourself a favor and go listen through her debut EP “Bloo” and feel that rush for yourself. But to give you an idea, just imagine the silky smooth style of Sam Smith combined with the ingenuity and creativity of James Blake, and the delicate, yet powerful voice of Ellie Goulding. Not to be redundant, but that’s exactly what you’re getting out of the three original songs that make up “Bloo,” and I don’t think I’ve ever fallen harder, faster for three songs in my entire life. Featuring the ever-eclectic mix of piano and electronic beat as well as a quick jolt of jazz infused piano, Hill creates a sound that clashes against itself, throwing clever lyricism in with soul-soothing vocals, forcing the listener to actually listen. At a first listen, Hill’s music may just want to make you jump on top of the nearest table and dance your ass off, and it’ll definitely make you want to do that with every listen after, but once you start really hearing the pain in her voice, the raw feeling behind her words and her music, listeners develop a connection with her, not just her music. Isn’t that the real point, anyway? Creating connections is what I take away most from music, and if an artist can make me feel for him/her, then I feel their music as well. Anyway, after that little emotional nirvana, Hill takes you right back into that big, comfy, cushy chair that you just keep sinking into the more you listen. This EP has it all; groove, punch, and shine, and it’s just waiting for you to pick it up.

           For all that can be said for Kacy Hill, she is still relatively unrecognized on a grand scale, a true crime and shame when such talent exists just beneath the surface of the Top 40. She’s doing something innovative and original within her targeted genre and audience, and I believe we’ll be hearing a lot more from her sooner than later. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Miss Hill.

You can check out Kacy Hill on tour with Jack Garratt here.

You can also follow Kacy Hill on the following media outlets:

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Sam Hunt Shines With Between the Pines

By Joe Longo

Courtesy of samhunt.com

Courtesy of samhunt.com

Sam Hunt is country music for the anti-country listener. Though his debut studio album Montevallo embraced the pop country notable of Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan, Hunt found a niche in an overcrowded, stale musical climate. Deploying spoken word and undertones of classic 00's R&B, Hunt presents an exciting, unique mixed sound. Much in the same way Taylor Swift expended well beyond on the classic country twang, so too does Hunt.

Yet if Montevallo is country for the pop fan, then his newly re-released acoustic “mixtape,” Between the Pines, is for the true country fans. Serving as a blueprint for Montevallo, the digital reissue of his original mixtape contains both stripped-down versions of his 2014 debut, as well as his take on several songs he co-wrote for other country artists. Thus, Pines’ stripped down, natural sound of acoustic albums naturally embraces a more country-specific tone. There is a soft, muted sound highlighting Hunt, but rarely overtaking him. The two albums expertly portray Hunt’s growth as an artist.

This change is most notable on “Ex To See.” Whereas the original, acoustic predecessor shines as a traditional country male ballad, the mainstream version seamlessly fused the staple Nashville twang with a new, minimal EDM sound. In fact his least “country” single, “Break Up In A Small Town,” with elements of rap and EDM fails to appear on Pines. Instead, the mixtape works to showcase the multi-faceted Hunt. His acoustic take on Keith Urban’s hit “Cop Car,” which Hunt co-wrote and also appears on Montevallo, highlights the strength of his country croon.

Courtesy of roughstock.com

Courtesy of roughstock.com

On its own, Between the Pines fails to stand-out rise above the mass, regurgitated sound of pop country. Yet the mixtape serves as a nice counter to the stronger, mature Montevallo. Presenting a glimpse into Hunt’s musical upbringing, Pines works to reassure his true country artist persona to those concerned of his multi-genre sound. Both signal a strong opening for the new artist, yet Hunt shines when he embraces all elements of his unique, multi-genre sound where he is at his best.

No wonder Hunt is a staple amongst the millennials. Much like Swift, Hunt seemingly has a clear understanding of his image. Even the cover art for Pines signifies a clear message. The polaroid quality reminiscent of Swift’s 1989 album is easily interchangeable with any given photo of a hip, young male Instagram blogger. And it is this keen self-awareness that transcends Hunt beyond just another country crooner. Hunt is on the path to being both the next big country star and also the next pop heartthrob, but only if he  continues to embrace his unique, urban country sound.

 

Hooligan Mag Meets Up With Oberhofer For A Sunset Walk And An Exclusive Interview

By Jacyee Rockhold

                                                                                                  Credit: Oberhofer/Stereogum               

                                                                                                  Credit: Oberhofer/Stereogum               

When Brad Oberhofer first introduces himself, it’s clear that he’s endearingly odd. Dressed in all black except for a faux fur coat, Oberhofer is standing in the middle of an empty venue, thanking the man working the sound board every time the band bursts into a song for sound check. He’s polite, eccentric, and it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing as he describes to a small group of us how to make a cheap amp from Guitar Center work like a charm.

Oberhofer, not only his last name but the name of his band, has been gracing the world with a mix of heart felt indie pop and surf rock since 2008. Before his energetic show at Schuba’s, he was able to go on a quick sunset walk with Hooligan.  

 

Q: Do you go into a different headspace for DIY shows versus playing in actual venues?    

A: The house shows have a built in audience because it’s people that have friends that put together the shows. The venue shows are like a little bit different, and you don’t know if people are going to come or not. It’s a little bit sketchier. A house show is usually smaller. You don’t have a lot of space to move and you don’t know how it sounds, but nobody really cares how it sounds if the songs are cool or if there’s at least something cool happening. Venue shows are really where everything you play is essentially naked. Everything can hear everything you’re playing.

 

Q: Do you prefer playing one over the other?

A: The show we played last time was sick. I don’t really know. For instance, my favorite show we’ve ever played in Chicago was at Lollapalooza. I love it when I have space to run around, but I like both for different reasons. I like playing house shows because I meet cool people who get my jokes and also make funny jokes, and don’t get offended when you’re sarcastic because they think it’s funny too. A lot of people at more commercialized shows don’t understand sarcasm and I can’t connect with them as easily. They get really offended when I try to make jokes, and I’m like, what’s offensive about jokes? I like both.

 

Q: Do you think studying composition at New York University helped you expand your music or did it prevent you from diving headfirst into music?  

A: I don’t really know honestly. I think being around other musicians and seeing how much more better and talented everyone else is than you is really inspiring and it helps you work harder. I learned a lot from peope. I took an electronic synthesis class. I got my first job in New York working for this venue called Market Hotel through my friend Rick in a class at NYU. There was one day me and Ryan from Colts were sitting on a couch together and I was like ‘I’m playing my first big show ever tonight’ and he was like ‘Me too’. We were both kind of having a big show, and we’re sitting there and he was opening for Sleigh Bells. Weird little things like that, and meeting cool people, and recording cools parts…There was one room at NYU that had a grand piano and no one knew about it and I could just go in there and crank the speakers and lock the door and just cry to music alone in a classroom that had a really nice view of Washington Square Park. I benefitted a lot from music store. It was sort of a place for me to retreat to.

 

Q: Did you drop out to go to music?

A: Yeah, we toured for a month and a half during the semester, so I missed a month and a half of school. I failed a class and I worked really hard and I made up the work and handed it in late, but I failed because of it.

 

Q: You recorded in four different places for this new album. Did the vibe for each recording change with the environment?

A: Every place had a totally different vibe. However, every place that I record in, I try to control the environment. When we recorded in Seattle with this guy named Phil Eck. He was the producer. There was no vagueness about it, he was the producer. We ended up scrapping that whole album. He’s awesome and he’s amazing at his job, but something about having someone else in charge was a little bit uncomfortable for me. We ended up redoing everything, recorded a lot of stuff alone in my apartment in New York, recorded a lot of stuff in my friend’s studio called Strange Weather in New York…We recorded four songs in LA called Sound City at Fairfax Recordings which is Nirvana and Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young recorded…We did the mixing in Atlanta with this guy named Ben Allen.

 

Q: What are you listening to right now?

A: I’ve been listening to nothing new. I just discovered this French impressionist composer and I’ve been listening to some of his music online. I’m obsessed with this guy named Maurice Ravel. He’s really fascinating and there’s not really that much information on him. There’s a lot of things he kept secret. A lot of composers sex lives were open, like their affairs, or their arguments with other composers, and Ravel was pretty secretive. There’s a lot there that nobody really knows about his personality.

 

Q: Was moving to New York from Seattle a big change?

A: I was going to school, and those differences don’t affect me at all. I’m me wherever I go, and that’s the only constant that matters. What does change me is like whether or not things seem to be going well. When I got to New York, things seemed to be going really well, and I was still in school and making new friends or whatever so it didn’t feel like much of a change.

 

Make sure to catch Oberhofer if you can, and pick up their newest album Chronovision, out October 9th, available here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chronovision/id1002166342

The Death Of Ultraviolence And The Rise Of Lana Del Rey

By Anna Brüner

Honeymoon, the much anticipated fourth studio album from Elizabeth Grant (better known by her glamorous alter-ego Lana Del Rey), came out on September 18th after a summer of teasing and sneak peaks, just like a burlesque performer. In the wake of last summer’s edgier, sulkier, grungy Ultraviolence, which was the go-to album of 2014 for crying while looking cool, Honeymoon arrives like a warm tropical breeze. It’s dreamy, sexy, cool, and heartbreaking…but it’s all things we’ve heard before from Miss Grant. It’s not as gritty as Ultraviolence, and fails to capture the fun of Born to Die or the theatricality of Born to Die: Paradise Edition. However, Honeymoon may very well be Lana’s most finely crafted album to date, if only we didn’t have her previous albums to compare to. It is certainly the most “Lana Del Rey” that Lana has ever been, and it feels as though she’s finally arrived. 

 

Long gone are the days of the short-short wearing, pink bubblegum chewing, diet mountain dew drinking Lolita that defined Lana Del Rey’s style and iconography in her earliest studio works. What Honeymoon projects is the image of a made woman, an old-Hollywood style star who is both mob wife, mistress, and first lady. While all the familiar imagery is evoked (Lana still croons of JFK and James Dean, and says “soft ice cream” like it’s never been said before in the track “Salvatore”), the persona that is Lana Del Rey has matured into a softer, classier, stronger manifestation of the romanticized American dream. It is the next chapter for a character who has gone from playful young girl, to directionless vagabond, to struggling poet, to both victim and criminal, and has emerged a starlet nostalgic of the bad as much as the good. 

 

While at times it feels as though Lana is parodying herself, that self awareness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Songs like “Freak” and “High By The Beach” deliver a dose of cool a la “Florida Kilos” from Ultraviolence, while “Music To Watch Boys To” is as flirty and bouncy as the Born to Die days. By honing her intricately orchestrated sound and image, Lana Del Rey seems to know exactly what the people want, and even if it feels a bit recycled at times, at least it is still more, and it is on a new level. “God Knows I Tried” is as beautifully authentic as the earliest EP’s of “Yayo,” and a smokey, The Doors-esque cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is a solid closer to the whole album as well as a gorgeous stand alone tribute. However, the title track “Honeymoon” falls a bit flat, and the “Burnt Norton” interlude feels like a Jim Morrison-style impromptu monologue…without the poetry or pain of Morrison’s or the 60’s influence. 

 

In truth, Honeymoon is a great and beautiful album that firmly establishes Lana Del Rey as a timeless artist. She captures her character as expertly as Marilyn Monroe and invokes a vision of California through both rose colored glasses and opium smoke. It’s only a shame that it took four albums to get here. 

 

 

 

Dynamic DJ Duo Disclosure To Release Second Album

By Kat Freydl

I don’t care how many times you use the phrases synth beats or fusion of garage and house or modern revival of disco elements coupled with a pop-leaning layout and meaningful lyrics—you won’t demystify Disclosure. All of these elements are true, of course, and resonate with increasing fervor in each track that the duo produces, but they don’t quite explain what makes nearly every song they produce a hit. In 2013, the pair had three consecutive Top 20 hits in the UK (“White Noise,” “You and Me,” and “Latch,” clocking in at #2, #10, and #11, respectively). Perhaps some of it can be attributed to the brothers’ young ages at the time of the release of their debut album, Settle; At just 21 and 18, Guy and Howard Lawrence were, for all intents and purposes, rookies. To produce such a high-quality album, rich with kaleidoscopic beats, raunchy motifs, and frankly impeccable bass lines, was relatively unprecedented. Their ages have been beaten to death by the press, but again, this also can’t explain away the magnetic quality of Disclosure’s tracks. 

 In contrast, the upcoming release of Caracal has been prefaced by several pre-released tracks, featuring artists such as Sam Smith, Kwabs, Greg Porter, and Lion Babe. The released songs are moody, almost bluesy in their delivery, punctuated by syncopated synth stabs and the truly excellent beats which the pair is so well-known for. It is not tension, it is realization; they are not tracks you dance to, necessarily, but tracks that remind you why you were dancing in the first place. “Hourglass,” for instance, which features Lion Babe, juxtaposes a lively beat with emotional vocals, a staple of many of Disclosure’s best works.  This is not to say that the album is devoid of dance-oriented tracks; “Bang That,” conceived to be part of one of Disclosure’s DJ sets, is a beat-based track that pays more homage to their house-music roots than the other songs on the album. Though the track skirts dangerously close to monotonous repetition at times, it brings itself home with periodic rhythmic shifts that keep the piece fresh enough to sustain itself. 

The duo clock in at 24 and 21 as of now, proving that their claim to fame isn’t only their age. Though their talents verge on prodigious at times, the product of a musical upbringing, an interest in music theory and classical music, and genuine passion for what they do, Guy and Howard Lawrence have created an album that not only compliments but perhaps even surpasses Settle. The album is bleary summer nights where the colors bleed together like an impressionist painting, sweating out a fever, getting over heartbreak. It is subdued and passionate where Settle is invigorated and carefree. 

There are multiple ways to be impressive. Disclosure has hit on many of them. Far from formulaic, their writing process has at times been less of a process and more of a chain of events, consisting of afternoon-long consultations with featured artists on their tracks leading to the production of a single in the span of one day; in the case of the aforementioned single “When A Fire Starts To Burn,” when schedules didn’t align for the Lawrence brothers to collaborate with a rapper, the duo cut up bits of audio from a motivational speech to create the illusion of rapping, leading to the creation of a video that featured a congregation having a spiritual experience at the behest of a Southern preacher, the repeated refrain “when a fire starts to burn/and it starts to spread/she gon’ bring that attitude home/don’t wanna do nothing, what they like” just barely kept from being monotonous by the lively beat overlaying it. This simultaneously illuminates one of Disclosure’s greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses: while the music coming so naturally to the duo spills into the sound and comes out in a way that appeals to the listener, the fact that many of the songs are created as parts of DJ sets or dance mixes can make them less pleasant to listen to as an album rather than hearing them in a club setting. However, this flaw is all but resolved in Caracal; the tone of the album is fuller and more somber—not just the party, but the moments after. “Willing & Able” feat. Kwabs pleads, “If you don’t feel it the same as me/speak now or hold your peace.” Unlike Settle, Caracal embraces vulnerability, set at an altogether slower tempo without sacrificing Disclosure’s signature garage style. 

Full disclosure (pun 100% intended): I still haven’t demystified Disclosure for you, but maybe I don’t need to. Settle is full of songs that I would love to dance to. Caracal makes me feel okay about when the dancing has to stop.