Sunday Thought Series: A Village of One?

When it comes to the indie music world, I operate under a simple M.O.

Everybody supports everybody.

Independent musicians, radio hosts, bloggers, photographers, producers and supporters already face an uphill battle. The music industry has certain measures in place to ensure that they control the narrative of what’s best for business. It’s no secret or surprise that certain artists are pushed to the moon, while others and their genres – who else is sick of hearing, “Rock is dead?” – are downplayed as insignificant. As time has gone on, and depending on your market, terrestrial radio play and mainstream publicity has become more difficult to come by on a typical indie artist’s budget, and much less opportunity is often the result.

So, the indie community and the internet prides itself on being the counter-culture; the foil to the mass-produced, overly processed content put forth by “the machine.” This self-proclamation is well-intentioned, sure – however, the catch is that the indie community will never be an effective counter-culture if everyone involved doesn’t work together.

Yet, there’s a sense of competition that permeates the indie world, with internet radio stations that all claim to be #1, radio shows and venues who close their doors to certain genres, and artists who, at times, arrive to a show, play, and leave, without so much as a second thought to get to know the other bands sharing their bill.

In a world full of social media noise and clutter – from branded content, to that aunt who shares every sassy Minion “quote” she can get her hands on – your one band, podcast, blog or venue will not bring about change on its own. A movement to point the “noise” in our direction requires strength in numbers. Therefore, we should not only look at our places in the indie world in an individual context. Instead of focusing on being “number one,” we need to look at the people around us – regardless of genre – and determine how we can raise up together. How can we, as a united community, fight for and achieve more relevance – and how can we do so while achieving a balance between individual and group success?

For starters, I suggest that you check out some artists you don’t yet know. Buy their music and go to their shows. Uncover things you like about different genres, and expand your horizons. Find some indie music media – radio shows, podcasts and blogs – and start to follow them. Reach out to the folks doing the work, tell them how much you appreciate what they do, and spread the word about it. Use your platform – whatever it is – to strengthen the indie community into a force to be reckoned with.

It’s going to take a village – here at home, and the world over – for our vast music community to get the respect it deserves. Don’t be a village of one.

The Quinn Spinn Super Saturday: Live-tweeting interviews starting today at 10 a.m.

On Monday, The Quinn Spinn makes its Lehigh Valley Underground debut. We’re celebrating by recording a whole slew of upcoming interviews here on Super Saturday, starting today at 10 a.m.

Join The Quinn Spinn on Twitter, as we live-tweet throughout the next few hours of interviews with artists like John Scargall, D.S. Bradford, Rod McCoy and uMan ERA.

Also, don’t miss the return of The Quinn Spinn this Monday, February 1. DJ Pearlman of REVEL 9 joins us to talk about the band’s new album, “The Reality Crush!”

Review: REVEL 9 – The Reality Crush

Catch DJ Pearlman of REVEL 9 on The Quinn Spinn‘s return episode this Mon., Feb. 1 on SoundCloud and iTunes!

Artist: REVEL 9
Album: The Reality Crush (LISTEN)
Release Date: Oct. 30, 2015
Genre: Hard Rock

Long Island-based hard rockers REVEL 9 have developed a signature sound over the years; one that features pensive – sometimes brooding – lyrics with heavy instrumentals. That sound has evolved a step further on the band’s latest release, “The Reality Crush.”

Frontman DJ Pearlman has made strides as a vocalist from 2011’s “The Razorblade Diaries.” Pearlman’s ability to convey emotion – you can sense his anguish right away on a track like “Senseless Tragedy” – brings the listener in to hang on his every word he sings. Pearlman combines thoughtful lyrics, good vocal range and pointed delivery, making him a force to be reckoned with on “The Reality Crush.”

Musically, it is apparent that the band challenged itself on “The Reality Crush.” Album closer “Say” features hard rock chords over jazz rhythms, making it an intriguing listen for rock fans and music theory aficionados alike. Meanwhile, “Wailo” features tricky vocal rhythms over a dark tone set by the song’s bass intro, and is among REVEL 9’s finest work so far. “Quietmind” also sees the band pushing past old boundaries by featuring Raiana from KHz, who offers a soulful female vocal element to the band’s sound.

After listening through “The Reality Crush,” it is easy to understand just why REVEL 9 has an increasing number of hard rock fans excited. Their music is equal parts catchy and aggressive, and “The Reality Crush” establishes them further as a band with the power and ability to appeal to the masses.

Take a Look Inside Rofo Audio’s “Now Broadcasting”

Rofo Audio, a rock band from nearby Royersford, took 18 months to create their debut album, “Now Broadcasting.” Their passion towards this project shines through, not only in the band’s music, but in the band’s willingness to document its journey for all to see.

We were made aware of this band and its webisode series Inside “Now Broadcasting” on our Facebook page, and we wanted to make sure we shared it. It’s an honest and in-depth look at the band’s creative process, and we think creators of original music will be able to relate.

The first episode is below for your convenience!

 

Lights Out in Philly?

Yesterday, BillyPenn.com reported that Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla proposed a bill that would require all musicians who gig in the nation’s fifth-most populous city to provide their names, phone numbers and addresses – you know, “register” – with the city’s venues. Upon request, the venues would be required to surrender that information to police.

Squilla went on to say that this bill was proposed in the interest of public safety, telling BillyPenn.com, “Giving performers’ information to police when requested enables them to review past performances to see if there were any public safety issues during their events.”

This proposed legislature, in my opinion, is absurd. To pin “public safety issues” on a particular act (or genre) because folks who attended a show may have gotten out of hand is unfair. Anyone who has ever been to a show – and, just saying, I’ve never seen a city councilman wearing a Slayer t-shirt on the scene – knows that the vast majority of people who act a fool on a night out do so on their own volition, and not because they are incited by a particular artist.

This bill to make artists register – like certain sets of criminals are required to – due to the actions of a few bad apples is unreasonable and damaging, both to the artists and the city’s thriving music scene. And, at the end of the day, it sounds like little more than an ignorant gripe about “those darn kids and their rock/rap/devil/pick-a-genre music” from a yacht-rocking, out-of-touch (grand)father.

The venues don’t make out well in this scenario, either. Squilla’s bill proposes that venues will have to pay a steeper performance licensing fee, which would go from $100 per year to $500 every two years. Many Philly venues – some of which are struggling to keep their doors open in the first place – may balk at this number, opting to forgo live entertainment altogether. This would mean fewer opportunities for a city full of immense talent, which would be the real crime.

If passed, this bill has the potential to bring a bustling arts community to its knees. The hard work, dedication and talent that has been put forth into making Philly a great music destination should not be discounted, and it’s time for the scene to rise up and fight for its life as we know it.

Sign the petition and let Mark Squilla know that his bill is unacceptable.

Review: The Groove Merchants (Self-Titled)

Artist: The Groove Merchants
Album: Self-titled (LISTEN)
Release Date: Jul. 24, 2015
Genre: Blues/Funk/Rock

One thing a music lover will notice about The Groove Merchants is their prowess as musicians. They are seasoned beyond their years, and are only getting better with the recent addition of trumpeter Dylan Hinnershitz.

Their self-titled album was released in July, before the addition of Hinnershitz. However, it is an impressive introduction to this emerging funk rock juggernaut out of Kutztown.

That introduction is made right away, with the opening track, “John the Savage.” Tye Vallone’s smooth vocals are accompanied by funky rhythms from bassist John Evin Groome and drummer Anthony Guidotti, while guitarist Luke Ferracone shows some impressive guitar chops on his first solo of the record.

Overall, a listener gets the sense that this band’s creative process is fun and fluid. A track like “Modern Days” is an enjoyable six-minute ride that goes unexpected places, while album closer “Uhuru” is a slow-building jam that knocks on the door before kicking it down about five and a half minutes in, bringing the song and album to a climax with an exhilarating wall of sound.

The Groove Merchants offer some softer moments on this album. “Monster” is a love song that seems ripe for an acoustic set or album, while “Princess Please” is a beautiful ballad that has the potential to be used for a romantic candlelit dinner or the first dance at a wedding.

While the band continues to evolve its sound with the addition of horns, The Groove Merchants’ first effort is as solid an opening statement as you’ll find from a young band. The excitement to see where they go from here is palpable.

Beyond the Valley Q&A: Leaders in the Clubhouse

While the Lehigh Valley has plenty of stellar talent, there’s an entire indie music world out there. We’re privy to the great music out there, and we’re happy to make sure you are, too. 

Today’s Q&A takes us across the country to beautiful San Diego, California. That’s where Leaders In The Clubhouse – a project from friends and collaborators Charlie Recksieck and Spud Davenport – are based. Spud took the time to answer some questions, and we can promise a read as fun and entertaining as LITC’s current album, “Won.”

First thing’s first – tell us about how Leaders in the Clubhouse came together.
Well, this was simply a songwriting partnership gone nutz! Charlie Recksieck and I have been friends and mutual musical admirers for years. We started writing together about three years ago, and this angry-but-funny retro-70’s style music came out. We honestly thought, still think, people will want to hear this stuff. Pressing a record and calling it a band just seemed a logical next step.

How about influences? What artists have inspired you to make music?
One thing that Charlie and I have in common, off the bat, is a great love for the music of the incredible Randy Newman. And Warren Zevon. And Jeff Lynne. Leaders In The Clubhouse pull from a lot of those, plus other ’70’s icons like 10cc, Joe Walsh, Queen, and ELO. OK, that’s Lynne again.

You guys emphasize yourselves as “Fun Rock & Roll.” Why is it important for you guys to keep things upbeat?
We sing about some touchy subjects, so keeping it light keeps the audience engaged, I think. If we were head-banging a song like “Law of the Jungle”, less people would probably listen long enough to say, “Hell yes! I agree with these guys!” So it’s gotta be a toe-tappin’, sing-along vibe for us. We like the visual of people singing along to “These goddamn devices don’t make life much better, in fact they make it worse…”

You come from varying musical projects out there in San Diego. How, if at all, is Leaders in the Clubhouse different from those other projects?
Not that different at all. Charlie and I have always tried to laugh at ourselves. I think we feel less guilty when laughing at others. But live, instead of me standing there with a guitar, I’m standing up playing the drums and right now, Charlie is standing up playing his keyboard, so that’s different! And we share lead vocals, so there’s more variety. We’re almost Fleetwood Mac over here!

Do you think you’ll ever deviate from the “fun” and go a more serious, downtempo route as Leaders in the Clubhouse?
Never. I’ll save that for a solo venture. Call myself Les Wages or Billy Clubb & the Baby Seals.

LITC Won
The cover art for “Won,” the album from San Diego-based Leaders In The Clubhouse.

Your current album, “Won,” has been out since the summer. Who worked with you on the record?
Charlie and I played most of the instruments, but we hired out for the horns. Our good buddy Andy Machin helped with recording, production, mixing, and he played all the guitar solos and some bass guitar. He’s a great go-to guy.

We also had some local San Diego stars sing on a few tracks: Christopher Dale, Mary Grasso, Margaret McClure, and Sierra West. All really talented artists in their own right. You should Google them!

What was the writing process like? What was it like for you guys to come together and make original music?
The writing process varies a bit, but really, a lot of times we just finish each other’s ideas. Most people who don’t collaborate wouldn’t know this, but it’s really about “selling” your idea to the other person. It’s that simple. If Charlie can’t get behind a theme, melody, or groove I come up with, or I did a shitty job of selling it, well, we move on. We both need to be above excited to keep working on something. We’re very critical, and I think that’s a good thing.

What are your personal favorite tracks from “Won?”
Good question! Haven’t been asked that yet! I know for a fact we both still have a soft spot in our hearts for “She Gets Loud”. It’s the tune that started this whole mess!

I still like all the songs. That’s rare, but my favorite has to be “Trophies.” It was the last song we finished writing and recording, and it has such a strong message. “You don’t get a trophy” and “You don’t need a trophy.” It’s one of a few “message” songs on the album.

I have to say, I love the video for “LawnChairs.” Not only does it laugh in the face of doomsday paranoia, but it looks like it was a blast to make! Tell us about it.

Oh, I’m so glad you like it. Man, the filming of that video was, like Charlie has said, “Music Video 101” class. The two of us didn’t know what the hell was going on. We have such good friends in Los Angeles who brought this all together. We just showed up and said, “What do you want me to do?”

Mike Stutz wrote the storyboard, directed, and acted as the reporter. He’s so freaking talented. We also had Emmy winner Jay Lafayette do the shooting with his crew of supermen.  There was so much luck and good fate. Or, is that the same thing?

And there were the girls doing “their thing” with a loaf of Velvetta cheese, so we were in Heaven. Oh yeah.

Moving to the live scene, what can people expect at a Leaders in the Clubhouse show?
A Leaders In The Clubhouse show is going to be an extravaganza! If all works out for us, it will be similar to early shows by the Tubes. I mean, I’m not dressing up as a White Punk on dope, but we want to have a three-ring Circus on stage. Dancers, jugglers, fire-eaters; as much as we can afford on a fixed income!

Do you have any shows coming up?
Currently, we’re rehearsing and drinking a lot of craft beer. We’re shooting for local San Diego gigs in early 2016, and hopefully a northern California, Oregonand Washington tour in spring.

We’ve come to the end! Where can people learn more about you online?
We are all over the InterWeb. All links are at leadersintheclubhouse.com, plus CDBaby, Facebook, SoundCloud and Twitter.

Any other parting thoughts?
Thanks for your time and all the support, Gerard!  You deserve a “Trophy!”

Review: Leaders in the Clubhouse – Won

Artist: Leaders in the Clubhouse
Album: Won (LISTEN)
Release Date: 2015
Genre: Rock

San Diego-based Leaders in the Clubhouse – founded by friends Charlie Recksieck and Spud Davenport – are a band that loves to have fun, combining blunt, mostly humorous lyrics with toe-tapping piano rock instrumentals. The band’s debut album, “Won,” achieves that balance in an enjoyable way, so that the listener is having too good a time to realize that society may, in fact, be crumbling all around us.

The question of “What is happening to our world?” is ever-present on “Won.” The album directly laments our overreliance on technology and luxury, respectively, on tracks “These Goddamn Devices” and “Law of the Jungle.” Entitlement doesn’t escape unharmed, either, with the album’s shining musical moment – the six-minute, confident rocker, “Trophies” – which offers the swift wake-up call that “You don’t get a trophy just for showing up.”

Even with so many “state-of-the-world” tracks, Leaders in the Clubhouse have a couple of relationship observations to offer on “Won.” The album’s opening, Ben Folds-esque track, “She Gets Loud,” doesn’t leave much to the imagination with lines like, “We do each other sexual favors.” Meanwhile, the frank chorus of “Hater” suggests that a partner’s personal interests don’t matter toward the health of a relationship, as long as mutual love interest remains.

The band’s ability find humor in a world with many faults is perhaps most evident on the album’s closing track, “Lawnchairs,” which finds Leaders in the Clubhouse laughing at the hysteria created around potential doomsday scenarios. This piano-driven, jazz-tinged number offers up the apparent moral of “Won’s” story: If the world is going to burn, you might as well warm your feet by the fire and enjoy yourself.

Can’t-Miss Shows of the Week: Jan. 25-31

Here at Lehigh Valley Underground, we want to make sure you’re catching the very best independent music eastern Pennsylvania has to offer. That’s why, every Monday, we’ll help you make plans by keeping you abreast of the…

Can’t-Miss Shows of the Week!

Thurs., Jan. 28 | 7 p.m.
The Originals Music Series
Venue: Chicago Restaurant, 1179 Airport Road, Allentown, PA
Description: The Fyre & Ice Show on Neue Regel Radio presents its weekly showcase. This week, the Series features hard rockers King Bison and JingerKroa.

Fri., Jan. 29 | 9 p.m.
Polytheist, Burn the Empire & Already Dead
Venue: The Rusty Nail, 2580 Haverford Road, Ardmore, PA
Description: Get ready for a night of metal in Ardmore when these three bands take the stage!

Fri., Jan. 29 | 9 p.m.
A.D.D.
Venue: Beltzville Bar & Grill, 7435 Pohopoco Rd., Kunkletown, PA
Description: The modern rockers take the stage once more at BBG. 21+; $5 cover.

Sun., Jan. 31 | 8 p.m.
Brian Dean Moore Band
Venue: Molten Lounge at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, 77 Sands Blvd, Bethlehem, PA
Description: The band’s first gig of the New Year features brand new songs to conclude your weekend. 21+.

Sunday Thought Series: The Introduction

Every Sunday, Lehigh Valley Underground will offer insight into what it takes to succeed in the modern indie music climate. It could come from us, or we may feature advice from artists and industry professionals who have had success with their craft. No matter where it comes from, we hope to be a helpful resource to anybody looking to learn more about the indie music world.

Of course, this project – like the music scene around us and Lehigh Valley Underground itself – will only be what the people make it. We want your input!

What topics would be useful for us to cover?
Who would you like to hear from?
Would you like to contribute some content of your own?

Let us know your ideas in the comments, or by reaching out to us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or lehighvalleyunderground@gmail.com.