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Lawrence music

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May 2015's Artist of the Month: No Cave

Congrats to No Cave, The Deli KC’s May Artist of the Month! Having been a band for slightly over a year, No Cave has already made strides acrossLawrence with its groove-based psychedelic jazz rock sound. Just last month, the band beat out seven other semi-finalists in KJHK’s Farmer’s Ball competition. We talk with frontman and guitarist Ross Williams a bit more about the project.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: one sentence to describe your music.
 
Williams: Dark Bandicoot Jazz.
 
The Deli: Give me some background on No Cave. How did the band come to be?
 
Williams: No Cave started a little over a year ago at this house James (Thomblinson) and I used to live at about 15 minutes west of Lawrence. We had about 80 acres of land, a 5-bedroom house, and a converted wood shop we used as a rehearsal/recording space and as a DIY venue. James and I had been having weird krautrock jams regularly for about 6 months before I asked Nick (Frederickson) to come over and jam. We knew immediately we were a band. I recorded our first jam! It didn’t just feel good, it sounded good too. Just recently we have added a member (Joel Stratton) to play bass with us, while James is going to move to synth.
 
The Deli: What have been your biggest accomplishments as a band?
 
Williams: We won this battle of the bands sponsored by KU a few weeks ago called Farmer’s Ball. That was big for us because it exposed us to the students of KU and the crowd of people who won’t come out for a show that starts at 11 pm. We also won a big cash prize, which is great for us. And you know, we won this reader’s poll! We found about this right after we won Farmer’s Ball, so I would say we got some momentum in the month of April from multiple sources.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting?
 
Williams: We do a lot of writing together, so the camaraderie of hanging out with your best friends trying to have fun but think critically together and create something greater than the sum of its parts. There is so much instability in the world,; ust having friends that are on the same wavelength as you can make a huge difference in how you perceive your place in it all.
 
The Deli: You recently released your first EP, Eyes Brighter Then the Sun, in early 2015. What can we expect?
 
Williams: It’s 4 songs and about 20 minutes. We recorded it live as a band, and I mixed it and added some overdubs afterwards. I’m extremely proud of the fact that we did it all ourselves and made a recording that is of respectable quality. Stylistically, it’s rock and roll with the aforementioned kraut thrown in for seasoning.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Williams: Well, we are a local band, so it means supporting our friends and people who we like. But on a more philosophical note it means helping to grow something that is a product of its immediate environment. You’re empowering your community to be the best it can be, which benefits everyone. When you see someone you know doing something you like, you want to do it too! The more people pay attention and the more people do to support local culture the better it gets, and there’s a threshold where once a community gets enough continuous support it becomes a hotbed for talent. All it takes is the community getting together and actually interacting and helping each other for the sake of excellence.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
 
Williams: Psychic Heat, Paper BuffaloMajor Games, The Conquerors, The Philistines (SLAYED at MidCoast Takeover), Expo '70, D’Angelo, Flying Lotus, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
 
The Deli: What goals does No Cave have for 2015, and beyond?
 
Williams: KANSAS CITY. That’s where we want to play. Hit us up! We will play our asses off, show up on time, and promote. Let’s book a big show with lots of people and make sure everyone leaves having had an awesome night! I think we’d like to press at least a 7” as well. We’ve got a band fund, we’ll see when we do that.
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Williams: It’s best if the high note is a leading tone, creating tension until the resolving chord is played in a lower octave.
 
No Cave is:
Ross Williams – vox, guitar
James Thomblison – synth, vox
Nick Frederickson – drums
Joel Stratton – bass
 
No Cave’s next show will be at The Bottleneck next Friday, May 22, with Major Games and Paper Buffalo. Be sure to check them out. Facebook event page.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 

 

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Pink Royal releases Taps this weekend

I had the privilege to catch up with one of my favorite local bands, Pink Royal. Guitarist and songwriter Steven LaCour, vocalist Dylan Guthrie, and drummer Alex Hartmann invited me out while they were mixing tracks for their upcoming debut record Taps. Bassist Nick Carswell and guitarist John Dorrell were unable to make it due to prior engagements.

LaCour has been working on his baby Pink Royal for some time and originally recorded everything himself. Now, with the collaborative writing efforts of the band and recording a debut full-length with producer/Hembree drummer James Barnes, the project can be fully realized.
 
It has taken some time but the core of the band has now been playing shows and writing together for about 2-and-a-half years. You can really feel the chemistry during live shows with the way it feels improvised and raw, yet incredibly intricate. To describe what these guys sound like is pretty hard to do. They draw comparisons from Minus the Bear and As Tall As Lions, but as Guthrie points out, they are creating something completely unique. This is mostly due to their different musical backgrounds. "What's interesting about our musical creation or our synergy, if you will, is what we listen to by ourselves is completely different. Where as I am soul—Gary Clark Jr. and Allen Stone—Steve came from a background of progressive math rock. The synergy of that, I think, gives us a very unique sound.” LaCour continued, “It really feels like we're creating something different that people haven't heard before.”
 
Just by listening to the mixes and the subtle tweaks to get it just right, you can tell this is a well crafted work by some seriously talented musicians. For all its intricacies, it’s very groovy and poppy, which is usually hard to get out of technical acts. “From Steve's musical background, we have elements of math but we’re more groovy than anything, which makes it more palatable than most math rock is,” explained Guthrie.
 
Hartman said, “Palatable is the term I always use, because we want the songs first and foremost to appeal to everybody.”

The vulnerability of lyrics and sheer sexiness of the groove gives Pink Royal something truly special, and I personally can't wait till the world can hear it. The guys recently released the single “Give Me Something Real,” a very nice teaser until the record drops.
 
--Chris Mowry
 
 
Pink Royal will be releasing Taps tonight at The Granada in Lawrence, with special guests Sharp 9, Toy Cartel, and Spencer Mackenzie Brown. It’s a free, all-ages show presented by KJHK 90.7 FM and starts at 8 p.m. If you want to catch them in KC, you can see them at Middle of the Map Fest on Saturday, April 25, at The Riot Room at 3 p.m. for I Heart Local Music’s day party. Facebook event page.
 
 

 

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Album review: Hembree - New Oasis (EP)

Music—writing songs that resonate with people, observing snapshots in time, and reconciling emotions in one’s head—can be cathartic and somewhat serious business. Out of a conversation with Hembree singer/guitarist/songwriter Isaac Flynn, you get very little of that. The guy is just really nice. He says early in the conversation that they “want to make fun music.” New Oasis, Hembree’s eagerly awaited debut EP, does just that. In spades.   
 
From the ashes of Lawrence/KC group Quiet Corral rose Hembree. This quintet—the remainder of the QC members after vocalist/guitarist Jesse Roberts departed—took stock of its situation and instead of going their separate ways, they seized—as Flynn tells it, the “opportunity to create something totally different.” Take a liberal dose of supremely fresh Americana and add to it a couple scoops of vintage keyboards and beats and you’re beginning to get the idea.
 
New Oasis is, from front to back, a journey of gritty and honest vocals, dreamy and ethereal harmonies, beautifully constructed guitar layers, a near perfect rhythm section, and killer keyboards that provide a yin to the roots rock yang. The lyrics come from the heart as well; all drawn from, as Flynn asserts, “my life experience and those close to me.” He fills pages, his mobile phone memo app, and has even inundated the memory in his car’s onboard voice memo storage with lyrics he sings aloud to remember tune ideas that randomly pop into his head. 
 
“It’s like an ‘80s band decided to become an Americana band but forgot to tell the keyboard player,” he explains. Well said. 
 
The feel of New Oasis is poppy but real. Many of Hembree’s musical influences such as Tom Petty, Hall & Oates, and Tears For Fears can be heard, but with a definite modern freshness. Hembree has taken these filters and molded them into a remarkably cohesive sound that literally anyone could listen to and find a slice that inspires them and leaves them wanting more. 
 
The opener, “Whistler,” is a longing introduction that sucks you in with an Alan Parsons-ish vibe and is followed by the hopeful title track, which seems to spell out the bright outlook of this group that—in spite of their losses—sees only promise for the future. “Subtle Step” is a downright infectious number (I’ve had it in my head for literally days) that would be perfectly placed on the soundtrack for Real Genius or Weird Science. “October” is that perfect, lovely mixture of the Americana/synth compound: Equal parts Tom Petty, a wide-open Midwestern twang, and OMD. “Walk Alone” is a modern and somewhat lonely song that belies its outwardly upbeat meter. The hooky and interplaying vocals, dynamics, and immaculate guitar riffs make this one as strong as any cut from the record. “Six Years” closes it out with greater guitar fuzz and an earnest entreat: Meet me on the other side / Where there’s time to learn this life.
 
New Oasis has focus, it has balance, and it has integrity. My only complaint about the record is that it’s too short. As to Hembree’s goal of making “fun music”? Check that one off the bucket list, guys.
 
Hembree is:
Jim Barnes: Drums, vocals
Garrett Childers: Guitar, vocals
Eric Davis: keys 
Isaac Flynn: Guitar, vocals
Matt Green: Bass
 
 
--Jeff Stalnaker
 
Jeff Stalnaker plays in a local band and can open a beer bottle with his wedding ring.
 
 
Hembree will be celebrating the release of New Oasis in Lawrence this Saturday, January 31, at the Granada Theater. It’s an all ages, free show sponsored by KJHK, with special guests Paper Buffalo, Ebony Tusks, and The Phantastics. Facebook event page.
 
 

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Spotlight on musician/songwriter Cameron Hawk

(Photo by Rachel Meyers)
 
“Sometimes I get kind of destructive, and music is part of how I keep everything together.”
 
Cameron Hawk already has quite an impressive resume: he’s been in a number of successful bands, he’s opened up for KISS, he’s organized the annual Lawrence Field Day Fest, and now he prepares to embark on a completely different adventure. In early 2015, Hawk will be taking off to China to teach English for 8 months.
 
“I’m 33 years old and I’ve never lived outside of Kansas in my life,” says Hawk. He’ll be going to China in early 2015 with his girlfriend Rachel, and stepping out of a comfort zone he’s carved out for himself in the 15 years he’s lived and made music in Lawrence. “I’m always going to love this scene and playing here and the music that comes out of here. But I know that as humans, we are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.”
 
After graduating from high school in 2000, Hawk and his band Podstar relocated from Manhattan to Lawrence. They released two albums on Noisome Records before calling it quits in 2002—right around the same time many other notable area bands broke up, including Ultimate Fakebook, The Get Up Kids, and The Creature Comforts. Hawk recalls, “A huge chunk of people integral to the scene moved away or went on to other things in life right at the same time, and it really felt like a musical ghost town around here for awhile. But that ended up being the best time to start Dead Girls Ruin Everything.” He—along with Podstar bandmate JoJo Longbottom and Ultimate Fakebook alums Eric Melin and Nick Colby—formed the group that same year. “By that time, we cumulatively had a lot of experience with band stuff, and we were all trying to take a more realistic approach to music and how we handled everything.”
 
More than 10 years and a name change later, The Dead Girls have become the area’s most heralded power pop supergroup. They’ve released a number of albums (4 LPs, 3 EPs, and a 7”) and have shared the stage with the likes of Motion City Soundtrack, Dinosaur Jr., and yes, even KISS. Hawk and Longbottom have shared songwriting duties from the beginning, while the entire group composes each song. “We are all such big music geeks that we have very vivid ideas of how a song or album should be,” he mentions. With that type of history, success, and knowledge, he’s learned a lot about being a musician.
 
“I learned how to step up and put myself out there for something I care about. I learned how hard you actually have to work to make something yourself, and how fucking awesome it feels,” he notes. “I learned to try to not rock too hard and to never scream directly into a microphone during sound check.”
 
 
He’s also been instrumental in his other two current bands: Stiff Middle Fingers and Many Moods of Dad. Stiff Middle Fingers injects a heavy dose of personality into their punk rock repertoire, according to Hawk. “We don’t worry about sounding derivative, and we just wear our influences on our sleeves and have fun.” In SMF, he comes up with guitar riffs and sends them to vocalist Travis Arey for lyrics. Hawk considers Many Moods of Dad to be a “psychopop hodgepodge of ideas,” and includes his other Podstar bandmates JP Redmon and Aaron Swenson, who co-writes much of the material with Hawk. “The whole idea behind MMOD was for us to do all the fun/dumb/weird stuff we always wanted to do on a record but never could, because it was always shot down for some reason.”
 
(Photo of Stiff Middle Fingers by Todd Zimmer)
 
(Photo of Many Moods of Dad by Quinton Cheney)
 
When he leaves, Hawk also leaves behind Lawrence Field Day Fest, an event that will be 4 years in the running come 2015. He hopes to continue planning the summer fest from China, and enlisting help from other supporters of the music community. “Even though our [scene] isn’t the biggest or the “hottest” or whatever, I have come to understand how special it really is. There are huge cities—hell, metropoli—that don’t have a music scene of this quality. There should be someone or something around here supporting that.”
 
But regardless of where he’s living and what he’s doing, Hawk will not be ready to give up on music. Since he’ll be out of the country, most of his projects will go on indefinite hiatus (SMF will likely continue with a different guitarist), but Hawk plans to release his debut solo album, entitled Dream You Forgot, in early 2015. “Music is not only what I love to do, but it’s my main source of sanity.”
 
And in this new phase of his life, Hawk plans to apply all of the experiences he’s had through playing and making music. “I think a lot of people lose sight of how every little experience they have in life eventually helps them in some way. We need to actively use all experiences as fodder for learning and growing, and pushing our own limits.”

--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 
 
 
The Dead Girls will perform their last Kansas City show this Friday, December 12, at Harling’s Upstairs. Deco Auto and Rev Gusto will open. Facebook event page. He’ll also be playing with Stiff Middle Fingers on Friday, December 26 at Replay Lounge. Facebook event page.
 
 
  
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Spotlight on KC PsychFest artist: Your Friend

(Photo by Lindsey Kennedy)
 
This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the artists playing KC PsychFest from Thursday through Saturday nights at recordBar.
 
Taryn Miller’s intelligent songwriting and entrancing music is making its way around, and for good reason. Miller’s project Your Friend was signed to Domino Records earlier this year. With her debut album, Jekyll/Hyde, Miller constructs a simultaneously comforting and haunting atmosphere, fashioned around somber but colorful vocals. 
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
 
Miller: The music itself has distinct differences when presented live or by the actual recordings, but I’d say it’s spacious and constantly evolving.
 
The Deli: Give us some background on Your Friend. Do you have a regular cast of musicians that play with you? How long have you been operating under this moniker?
 
Miller: I’ve been playing under the moniker for over 2 years now. When it began, the roster was always changing, and that was exciting. But I felt that in order to dig deeper over time, I wanted some sort of solidified group to explore with. I really enjoyed the risk in one-off shows but I wanted the trusting element to be more present. There’s always going to be some sort of risk playing with me anyway! It all happened organically though. We all work well together as friends and as bandmates. Nicholas Stahl, Chris Luxem, and Austin Swick are the gentlemen I have played with the longest. I can’t imagine playing with anyone else at this point. It feels like a group more than a solo project than it ever has.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting?
 
Miller: In all honesty, just purely existing. I am very intuitive and tuned in to all that is happening around me at all times. This is my way of documenting it. It’s very cathartic for me to do this. I’m inspired by energy, and the lack of it, all at once.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
 
Miller: Touring and still loving each other afterwards. It only made it more apparent that these are the people I should be surrounding myself with. It wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without them.
 
The Deli: Your debut EP Jekyll/Hyde was released on Domino Records earlier this year. What can listeners expect? Do you have plans to record again soon?
 
Miller: The most rewarding things about having this amazing company backing the project are that the music gets to be heard by people that wouldn’t otherwise know it exists, and the tools to make something that I am truly proud of. It’s the kind of support that I had always dreamed of. I’m in the process of finishing the writing process of the full-length. The plan is to record it by the end of the year and for it to be available next year. I’d hope that there will be a sense of growth that can be heard with the newer material. I’m definitely in a radically different headspace.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Miller: It means everything from what I’ve experienced. I’ve only had the opportunities that I’ve had from the support of the community. Being involved in it, there is some sort of magic that peaks out of so many different directions. I’ve gotten to grow as a musician and watch all of my friends do the same. I’ve learned so much from the local scene and talent within it.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
 
Miller: Locally, everything coming out of SeedCo and a part of the Whatever Forever collective. I’m really looking forward to Karma Vision’s release. I fell in love with No Magic this year and practically begged him (Ben Sauder) to let me play live with him. KC-based, All Blood has been really killer to watch. I grabbed their earlier tape and really love how unique the material is. I’m also a big fan of Lazy, The Conquerors, and Shy Boys.  There’s also a guy, Nathan Dixey—he plays as The Dan Ryan—who also played bass on my EP and sent me his mixes of his upcoming release. I can’t wait for it to reach other ears. He lives in Austin now but he’s still local to me.
 
Non-local, I’m all over the place. To keep my head clear I find myself listening to a lot more droney things.  Although I have been really excited about the newest Caribou record. 
 
The Deli: Who are you looking forward to seeing at PsychFest?
 
Miller: The Conquerors, Gemini Revolution, Monta At Odds, Jorge Arana Trio, White Mystery, and I’m still holding out for some surprise Expo 70 appearance.
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Miller: This answer would probably change depending on what I’ve been most into. So, currently, Lower Dens, Timber Timbre, with Nils Frahm closing the show.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
Miller: Referencing the last question, it mostly depends on what I’m listening to the most at the time. I would say William Basinski, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, and Leyland Kirby. William Basinski has transported to me to an entire different form of listening. I could say the same of all of them honestly. I’m definitely drawn to composers. Listening to their work is almost like a glimpse of what their brain appears like on the inside. Steve Reich’s arrangements require your attention and I respect that artform. Leyland Kirby has worked in so many different types of environments. I love his spontaneity and also his control and selection. Arthur had sort of the same trajectory. All of his records touch upon something different. From the absolute joyous to morose. He was always creating, and it inspires me.
 
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
 
 
The Deli: What other goals does Your Friend have for 2014, and beyond?
 
Miller: The same thing I tell myself every morning: finish this record. It’s been very challenging to make this next thing. Now that I’m aware of what ears it could reach I want it to be very representative of myself. I also want to make something that I can be very creative with in the live setting and keep it exciting. Those are the goals as of now. If I look too far ahead, the page in front of me gets blurry.
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Miller: I’ll cheat and quote Allen Ginsberg. First thought, best thought. I’m beginning to learn what it means to trust your instincts. I feel as though I spend so much time trying to change what’s inherent. Stay true to who you are and surround yourself with the people that irrigate and continually inspire that.
 
 
Make sure you check out Miller with Your Friend. The group will be playing KC PsychFest this Saturday, October 11, at 8:00 p.m, at recordBar.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.

 
 

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