Songwriting

3 Bands to Watch from SXSW

Midland, Temples, and Ocean Park Standoff draw crowds at Texas fest.

Most Likely to Succeed: Midland

If the crowd at the South by Southwest (SXSW) TuneIn Studios Big Machine Label Group Showcase on March 17 was any indication, Midland is going to do great things.

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Midland appears as part of the SXSW Big Machine Label Group Showcase at Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden.

Singer Mark Wystrach hit all the right notes as the audience actively appreciated the band’s first single “Drinkin’ Problem.” Fans of outlaw country, take note (and a shot of whiskey). Midland joins the Soul2Soul tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill this summer.

Top Import: Temples

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Temples performs “Shelter Song” from their first record, Sun Structures at the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center.

UK band Temples is making its debut across the pond and should be a shoe-in for summer playlists with their latest effort, Volcano. Busy industry folks floated into the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center on March 15, wooed by the voice of lead singer, James Bagshaw. Though they’re playing all over Europe, only a handful of (mostly southern) dates stateside will have to suffice – for now.

Best Earworm: “Good News” by Ocean Park Standoff

“Good News” wins the fest on catchiness alone. Amidst a turbulent political climate and a long winter, this sunny track is just what the doctor ordered.

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Ethan Thompson, Pete Nappi, and Samantha Ronson of Ocean Park Standoff soundcheck at the Steampunk Saloon, Austin, TX as a part of the Mix 94.7 West of the Fest event.

“I need some good news baby, feels like the world’s gone crazy,” singer Ethan Thompson implores, while Samantha Ronson and Pete Nappi provide a healthy helping of keys and beats. Their EP is out now and you can catch them on tour with Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups.

All photos and content copyright © 2017 Melany Joy Beck, all rights reserved.

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On the Road with Hunter Valentine

MELANY JOY BECK & JANELLE BECK

Hunter Valentine are touring and will play 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis on March 16, 2016.

“It’s about a girl who comes back to kill her rapist,” explains Hunter Valentine frontwoman Kiyomi McCloskey about the controversial track, “Revenge” from their album Lessons from the Late Night.

“Unfortunately I have a friend who was taken advantage of, and it kind of messed with my head for a very long time. Writing this song was the best way I could get it all out and process it,” McCloskey shrugs and leans forward on the stone ledge in front of the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. “I guess a girl took things into her own hands.”

Hunter Valentine has also done a fair job of taking matters into their own hands. In their seven years as a band, they have weathered the ups and downs of the music industry.

Releasing The Impatient Romantic in 2007, an eponymous EP in 2009, and their most recent effort Lessons from the Late Night, with the support of Tommy Boy Entertainment (released in May, 2010), the ladies of Hunter Valentine have logged the miles and paid their dues.

Currently traveling the country with Sick of Sarah and Vanity Theft on the Lady Killer Tour, Hunter Valentine shows no sign of slowing down.

“It’s going to be crazy,” drummer Laura Petracca says. “All three bands are extremely professional, but we all like to undo our top buttons as well, so to speak, so we have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Petracca glances up at her tourmates sharing cigarettes and loading gear into the club. “We’re all very different,” she says. “Vanity Theft is poppy. They are one of the better choices to get the party started. You want to rip your clothes off and get naked and start dancing. Sick of Sarah falls in between us. Pop-punky. Emotional.”

Touring almost non-stop for the majority of their careers, it’s clear they love what they do. Even the most rigorous aspects of the job become routine.

“Getting to a new city every single day is an amazing thing to do when you’re doing it with your best friends [who are also] in your band. And then with these other two groups,” McCloskey says. “I’ve started to not really feel normal when I go home now. So I prefer to be on the road.”

For these girls, the road is their home; and close quarters definitely lead to really getting to know your band mates.

“Vanity Theft is poppy. They are one of the better choices to get the party started if you want to rip your clothes off and get naked and start dancing.” – Laura Petracca of Hunter Valentine

“I’m actually an accidental cupper. I’ll cup in my sleep,” laughs Petracca of her nocturnal tendency to crotch-grab. “I’ve shared a bed with a woman, with women, and it’s just automatic. Sometimes I’ll go for the boob, but most of the time I’ll go for the gold,” she admits. “I’m a cupper.”

Playing as a three piece is another thing that separates Hunter Valentine from the pack.

“For a while we had the idea that we had to be the perfect four,” McKloskey says, “As we continued as a three piece, it sort of evolved and became really strong and tight. It became clear that adding someone else to the mix was going to be really difficult.”

Having perfect musical chemistry is important when spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together, and is critical to the live performance.

“I think it’s a really honest rock show. I don’t think we plan things out. We write things and our emotions are on our sleeves. It’s a great show because it’s at a time when we’re at our most creative and vulnerable points,” McKloskey says.

Finishing up touring for Lessons from the Late Night in September, the girls are set to head home and start writing for their next effort.

That is, if they can manage to stay home long enough.

EDITOR’S NOTE: PORTIONS OF THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED AS PART OF THE CURVE MAGAZINE BLOG, SHE’S ELECTRIC IN OCTOBER OF 2011.

About the Authors:

Melany Joy Beck and Janelle Beck are writers and filmmakers. Their short documentary Bring It 2 Peter was awarded Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, and Official Selection honors at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. They can also be heard in vocal harmony on the Delavan song, Pistols Blazing.

ALL CONTENT AND IMAGES COPYRIGHT MELANY JOY BECK, JANELLE BECK 2016©

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Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

“Let me tell you ‘bout a man I knew…” – Sketches of China, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, David Freiberg

I discovered Jefferson Airplane when I was about twelve years old through my dad’s record collection. At the time there wasn’t a lot going on musically. My early listening years consisted of vacuous 80’s hits and hair metal.

Obviously Hendrix, Zeppelin, and other mid-twentieth-century artists blew my mind. But it was Jefferson Airplane that really resonated. I liked the melodies, the three part harmony, the trippy lyrics that later (with Jefferson Starship) gave way to sci-fi ponderings.

White Rabbit and Somebody to Love clearly belong in the rock and roll canon, but I really thought things got interesting with Blows Against the Empire (the first rock album nominated for a Hugo Award). With this project, Paul Kantner got a chance to explore his interests lyrically and it was a departure from earlier iterations of the band.

To this day, Kantner remains an underrated songwriter and rhythm guitarist. His vision, often not necessarily musical in nature but conceptually compelling, led the group (Slick especially) into uncharted territory. He remains the unsung creative director of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship franchise.

I met Paul once, some years ago, at a divey little casino in Wisconsin. I had gone to the Jefferson Starship website and saw that he was playing not far from where I grew up with Marty Balin and Jack Casady (original members of Jefferson Airplane).

Nervous and weirdly star struck, I approached the band after the show.

“I’ve been waiting almost a decade to meet you,” I blurted.

Paul glanced at me, and then out the window at the blizzard that had begun to rage outside. No doubt wondering how their tour bus would fare on the icy roads.

He looked back at me with a smirk, “You must be cold.”

And then he was gone.

 

About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is a writer, musician, and award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival 2011, and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival 2012.

 

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Slow and Steady | The Songwriting Secrets of BOY

The following interview with BOY took place during SXSW in 2013. I was on assignment for the magazine (with Janelle Sorenson) but due to editorial constraints, the lion’s share of the material we captured (many great bands) was not used in the final article.  

At that time, Steiner and Glass had already begun writing the songs that would appear on We Are Here and discussed the process in detail. We also had the opportunity to hear “Into the Wild” live at Peckerheads on 6th Street as part of the Baeble Music Showcase and fell in love with the song.

Slow and Steady | The Songwriting Secrets of BOY

Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass of the Hamburg-based duo BOY first met in 2007 at a musical workshop where the two hit it off professionally. They soon began writing together and their debut album Mutual Friends with its international hit “Little Numbers” arrived four years later.

“Since nobody was waiting for the [first] album, we took as much time as we needed to find out how we want to write, or how it works to write,” says Glass. “We had enough time to form a vision in our heads about what we would do musically so it was two and a half years of writing, playing live, and going to the studio to record.”

Doing What Works

With the second album, We Were Here, set to drop in September of 2015, it is clear that the two sought to repeat the winning formula.

“When we write, it is like a back and forth,” Steiner says. “Sonja does instrumentals at her home studio and sends them to me. I record a melody with lyrics that fit and then I send it back. So it goes back and forth via email for quite a long time until we really put a song together and then we go to the studio and record it properly.”

Writing music takes time, and in some cases the right space to really bring out the creativity.

“I need to have a very quiet place, actually,” Glass says. “No music, nothing at all, to start a new idea.”

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When asked about what inspires them, the two cast a wide net.

“For me, for the lyrics, I think it’s very much taken from my life or the things I observe with my friends, or just people around me,” says Steiner. “It can also be books or movies or artists that I like. I think inspiration can be everywhere, so you just have to catch it.”

“I’m inspired by my whole life and by the music I listen to, and the sounds I like,” agrees Glass.

What’s Next

The new album, We Were Here will be available to American audiences September 18, over two years in the making – a point not lost on the band.

“We started writing new songs in January or February [2013],” says Glass. “We are very slow writers, really slow. It’s too early to tell what it’s about or where it’s going to be.”

About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is a writer, musician, and award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival 2011, and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival 2012.