Content published in Performer Magazine

Artist Spotlight: Dead Rabbits

Taking a cue from The Ramones, Dead Rabbits strive to keep their music simple and honest. In the short time that this Atlanta-based rock duo has been together, they have garnered multiple comparisons to big names in music, including Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes, and The Black Keys. Dead Rabbits play bluesy garage rock with noticeable classic rock overtones, as evidenced in the standout track “Freedom” from their album The Rabbit That Roared. The hooks and raw energy transmitted by vocalist/guitarist Joshua DeRosa on this track are genuine and fervent, while drummer Lucas Fuentes explodes concisely alongside, giving the song no room to exist as an artifact of influence.

Though DeRosa and Fuentes have played together for years in other bands, Continue reading “Artist Spotlight: Dead Rabbits” »

Record Review: Sharon Van Etten ‘Epic’

Many songwriters find their inspiration through heartbreak, loss, and love, but few translate it into song as powerfully as Sharon Van Etten does on Epic. Etten manages to add warmth to pain while she sings with honesty and fervor. The album is seductively somber, giving you a sense that even as her tears well, her tenacity is unwavering.

In contrast to her debut album, Because I Was In Love, Etten presents embellished dimensions to the songs on Epic. Besides the opening track, “Crime,” which features only her voice and guitar, the rest of the album offers fuller arrangements, creating atmosphere with prominent drums, keys, lap steel, and the lush harmonium. Etten collaborated with Continue reading “Record Review: Sharon Van Etten ‘Epic’” »

Record Review: The Posies ‘Blood/Candy’

It’s been 20 years since The Posies began, during the explosion of the Seattle scene. While The Posies didn’t attain the popularity of Nirvana, and they’ve split and reunited on several occasions, fortunately, the realization of their seventh album, Blood/Candy has finally come to fruition.

The Posies deliver a memorable sound, sweetened by stunning vocal harmonies and intricate melodies that switch around in style and sound, rendering a Continue reading “Record Review: The Posies ‘Blood/Candy’” »

RECORD REVIEW: Lemonwilde ‘Red Room’

Red Room, the new EP by Lemonwilde, is not a laid-back listen. Instead, each song carries an ephemeral and dreamy essence that allows the listener to get lost in its storm of crashing cymbals over distorted guitars and pounding keys. The album offers some experimentation with sound clips and electronic noise between the emotional gusts from singer Joe Murray. The dramatic tone of the record is desperate and temperamental, saturated with angst toward lost love, fear and death. Though each song delivers you through sonic shadows, the piano parts paint rainbows through the shadowy contrast, providing a hidden trail toward hope and peace.

Lemonwilde share a similar sound to Death Cab for Cutie and Portishead, musically and a suicidal Chris Martin of Coldplay vocally. “Inspired Painter” is among the darker and most beautiful melodies that begins with a hopeful piano, leading into the lyrics, “Poison yourself, Romeo / Kill yourself tonight / The love that you’ve been begging for is gone.” Another song, “Finding Jesus in Math,” carries the same dismal tone, though slightly more upbeat and optimistic with the repetition of the line, “I’m not afraid.”

Lemonwilde sum it up when referring to what’s coming next for the band on their one-sheet, quoting Roald Dahl: “We are the musicmakers and the dreamers of dreams.” Yes, Lemonwilde. Yes you are. And while listening, it becomes hard to resist becoming encapsulated within the dreaminess.

Los Angeles, CA
Self-produced – Recorded by Patrick
Joseph at Red Room Studios in Venice, CA

By: Nadia Lelutiu
January 2010

PRODUCTION: Guitar Tones – The factors that underlie the art

With the myriad of equipment to choose from when plugging in your guitar, it wouldn’t hurt to get some advice on how to achieve that certain guitar tone you envision for your music. Based on the impressive production I’ve heard on recordings done with Justin Mullinix of Generator Sound Studios in Atlanta, I asked him if he would offer up some tips on this matter. As the protege of acclaimed record producer Billy Hume, Mullinix has developed a keen ear and extensive technical skill throughout his time as a producer and musician. His first statement regarding great guitar tones is that the source is the player. “You can have all the gear in the world, but without a player who really knows how to control his/her instrument, you got nothin’,” he says.

Mullinix acknowledges the guitar as the second link in the chain. “For a noisy high end and a crisp crunch and attack, you might want to go with the Fender Stratocaster,” he says. “It’s a classic guitar used by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Johnson and Green Day among countless others. Maybe you want a darker, heavier sound. In this case, a Gibson Les Paul might work for you. With a thick full tone, this guitar works great in (but is not limited to) hard rock music. Joe Perry is famous for using one on almost every Aerosmith song and Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses can certainly be seen playing one. Sometimes though, you just want a clean mid-range sound. I use the Fender Telecaster for this. While very popular among current indie rock bands for its punchy sound, it has been a staple in country music for decades.”

As you might imagine, your amplifier will also influence the type of sound you produce. Mullinix reveals that he will almost always use a tube amp in his recordings. “But really nothing is off the table if it sounds good,” he says. His recommendations start with a Fender Blues DeVille or Twin Reverb amp, which he cites as very versatile. “I have used them on anything from punk rock to female pop music,” he says, adding, “Stratocasters are amazing with these amps.” Mullinix also gets great results using Orange amps, affirming that “they have a natural compression on them that can sound amazing and with a nice crunchy distortion, the Orange amp can be perfect for specific situations. The Telecaster/Orange duo is very popular.”

Microphones play a part in the type of sound coming from your amp and Mullinix asserts that the Shure SM57 is a must have. He emphasizes, “No two SM57s are the same. [Hume] still labels every one he has and if it works well with a specific amp. So, stock up on those.” Mic placement is also a factor and Mullinix describes his tactic, “I close-mic the speaker anywhere from one to six inches away, moving the SM57 towards the center of the cone if I want a brighter tone or toward the edge of the cone if I want it to be fatter and warmer.” The key is to experiment, since there is no set way to do this. He suggests trying out different placements to see what works best with your setup. If you’re working with an amp that has an open back, he advises, “put a Sennheiser 421 in the back to catch some low tones to mix in along with the more top-end tones you get from the SM57.”

“Remember that your ear is the most important part,” says Mullinix. “Try different combinations of gear and mic placements until you find something you like or something that fits the song.”

Generator Sound Studios // 141 New St. // Decatur, GA 30033 // // 404-454-1994

By: Nadia Lelutiu
February 2010

RECORD REVIEWS: Honest Engines ‘Captain’s Log’

Poetic, textured, indie rock with a timeless touch

The moving melodies on Honest Engines’ EP, Captain’s Log, carry an extraordinarily timeless quality, which seem to incorporate classic influences such as the Beatles, along with touches of Wilco or Oasis topped by the vocal magnitude of Thom Yorke. The songs are extremely textured with soaring vocal harmonies, strings, keys and distorted guitar. The rhythm section shines with march-like beats that carry the somber melodies into a powerful arena, which acts to raise the listener’s awareness of the sheer emotionality behind the various layers of instrumentation.

The EP’s title track is a phenomenal poetic experience, almost disguised within a catchy pop rock chorus that could easily be compared to Oasis’ “Wonderwall” or even the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” The second track begins with an ambient, space-rock feel, appropriate for a song named “Asteroid.” However, the introduction is no indication of what follows as the melody moves into a stark, beautiful tune that could almost pass for acoustic, until the climax is presented with intense cymbals crashing, guitar distortion andelegant harmonies behind vocals that continue to be stark and alluring.

The production of the record is crisp and the well-crafted tracks sparkle as the songs move through musical complexities in juxtaposition to pure and barren moments, leaving much to reflect upon. (Tandem Shop) X

Chicago, IL
Produced & recorded by Jamie Carter at Carterco Studio in Chicago
Mastered by Dave Gardner at Maneto Mastering in Minneapolis

By: Nadia Lelutiu
February 2010

PROMOTION: Getting Radio Airplay – The details from industry folks who make it happen

To help decipher a path for musicians to the airwaves, I’ve enlisted the insight of several players in the radio game. Here’s how to pursue airplay from the business side and the radio side.

Randy Sadd, president of Protocol Entertainment, which recently won Radio Promoter of the Year at the New Music Weekly Awards, has been the catalyst behind successful radio promotion campaigns for Shawn Mullins, Butch Walker, Rehab and Cowboy Mouth. First, he assesses the quality of production and whether a song makes sense for radio. According to Sadd, it has to pass the one-minute test. “A programmer might only listen to the first minute of a song,” he says, “so it has to grab their attention within that short timeframe.” Once your songs are well-recorded and you choose your catchiest tune, send a package to radio stations including a CD and a one-sheet.

The packaging for the music is also important. Sadd explains, “CD packaging for an independent artist is definitely crucial, as it is the first impression the radio programmer has for that artist. It always comes down to the music, but we are also in an image-driven industry.” And although you might not have a distribution deal for the disc through a label, Sadd contends, “Back in the day it was essential to have a label. But that model has changed. For an indie artist, the landscape allows for a platform to be built, step by step.” Airplay could very well lead to a label. BJ Kinard from 99X on 97.9 FM in Atlanta cites a prime example of this phenomenon. “We played the local band, the Constellations, last year ?and they were unsigned,” he says. “Because they had a great CD and our support, they got a record deal with Virgin/Capitol Records.”

You may not need a label in order to get your music played on the radio, but do you need a radio promoter? Sadd emphasizes that radio promoters have access to two major elements in the music industry, “experience and relationships.” He adds, “A reputable promoter will make all the difference and works with songs and artists that they feel have a competitive chance of gaining airplay. Programmers recognize this and a relationship is developed and built over time.” Kinard agrees. “I would say that it helps,” he says. “I have long-running relationships with lots of people in the music industry. If they bring a record up to me, I’m likely to move it to the top of my listen stack just to make sure that I get to it. Plus, if they are helping on it, they must believe in it, too.” However, if college radio is your goal, this may not hold. Maria Sotnikova from WREK 91.1 FM, the student-run Georgia Tech station, says, “Submitting music to WREK via this avenue provides no advantage.”

Once the music gets to the stations, the fate of the song lies only in the decision-making of the music director. Music directors have hundreds of submissions to sort through, so what do they look for among the plethora of choices? Both Sotnikova and Kinard agree that the quality of the recording is crucial to placing it in rotation. “One factor that automatically disqualifies a piece of music from rotation is an FCC obscenity,” says Sotnikova. “Don’t send elaborate press kits and one-sheets. More often than not, these items don’t even make their way to the music directors and in the worst-case scenario, autographed press photos end up being posted on the ‘wall of shame.’ Do, however, get creative with album artwork.” Kinard points out, “Make sure you include everything I need about you: the band bio, contact info, etc. It needs to be broadcast quality. You can have the best song in the world, but if the quality is bad, we can’t play it. Don’t hound a radio station. We’ll get to it and if we like it, you will hear from us.”

By: Nadia Lelutiu
March 2010

RECORD REVIEW: Tindersticks ‘Falling Down a Mountain’

Falling Down a Mountain is the eighth full-length album release by Tindersticks. The vocals of Stuart A. Staples are reminiscent of the smooth, smoky sound of Luther Vandross, complete with vibrato and soul. As an album, Falling Down a Mountain presents very tender, mellow compositions that would be appealing to a serene and breezy mood. Many of the tracks present an orchestral element, introducing strings, horns and various percussion. The tracks carry impressive song structures, with interesting layering of multiple stringed and brass instruments in unique patterns.

The title track starts the album off with a long instrumental intro, permeating with atmospheric percussion and occasional, splashy horn blasts. Once the vocals join this jazzy concoction, the ethereal feel of the melody is accentuated by the repetitive chorus, eliciting an almost trance-like disposition. “Harmony Around My Table” shifts away from the tranquility into an upbeat ditty with sweet harmonies, a clean rhythm and swooning vocals. “She Rode Me Down” is another notable track with a different sound that conveys a Western, cowboy semblance featuring hand claps, menacing horns and clarinet behind an elegantly sung melody. The record offers an engaging, soothing experience, while maintaining a complicated intermingling of instrumentation and smooth melodies. (4AD/Constellation Records)

U.K./Czech Republic/France
Recorded at Le Chien Chanceux in France
& ICP Studios in Belgium
Produced by Stuart Staples
Mastered by Tim Young at Metropolis
By: Nadia Lelutiu
March 2010

RECORD REVIEW: We Are Wolves ‘Invisible Violence’

Upon first listen to We Are Wolves’ new album, Invisible Violence, I found myself in a zone of recognition. The sound was so familiar, yet the idiosyncrasies that stood out within the music make it difficult to place. The opening track, “Paloma,” is a guitar-driven, high-energy compilation of catchy riffs, exploding drum beats and flawlessly placed synth accents. The music brings to mind the Killers and Franz Ferdinand, as easily as it does Black Sabbath and INXS.

The vocals of Alexander Ortiz, reminiscent of the powerful emissions of Ozzy Osbourne, soar above the electronic creations mingling with a post-punk-influenced rock soundscape. “Reaching for the Sky” is another highlight track that starts out with a fluttering keyboard and crescendos into an all-out whirlwind of danceable, discotechque-worthy rhythms, interspersed with strong guitar licks and an ethereal melody. The album closes out with an exquisite track, “The Spectacle of Night,” which oozes with fun, punk-inspired vocals that run on top of contagious rhythm and bouncy keyboard riffs, similar to what we got from Devo, without the ’80s tinge.

The entire album maintains the energy found at the start, making it an indulgent listen the whole way through. The Quebec-based group even includes lyrics sung in French on several tracks, such as “La Rue Oblique” and “Paloma.” Invisible Violence is neither invisible nor violent, but rather distinctly rapturous. (Dare To Care)
Montreal, Quebec
Produced by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh
& We Are Wolves // Engineered by Arlen
Thompson // Recorded by Moumneh at
Thee Mighty Hotel2Tango // Mastered by
Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering

By: Nadia Lelutiu
April 2010

FEATURE: Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters – Hitting the trail with true space cowboys

[slideshow]Stumbing upon Georgia’s Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters was akin to stepping out of the realm of consciousness and becoming briefly captured within a mesmerizing altered state of reality, where stunning melody above an amalgamation of noise-infused, psychedelic folk rock has its way with you. Like a drug, it’s addictive and powerful – never provoking the same experience twice.

This listening experience was inspired by Moon’s vivid dreams, the fulfilling yet taxing time spent in various places on the road and the Atlanta-based band’s dynamic lineup, which has “haphazardly” switched-up on multiple occasions. Currently, the band includes Damon Moon on electric and acoustic guitar, Jacob Smith playing lap steel and bass, Charlie Bennett on bass and keys, Chris Cooke handling electric guitar duties and Shawn Jacoby on drums. According to Moon, “The different lineups have definitely translated a bit into the tunes. Some of the things we’re doing now, I can’t see ever being able to do with older lineups. I’m definitely not afraid of change.”

Moon puts emphasis on art and creativity in his performances and recordings, one of the reasons he doesn’t fear an overhaul of his lineup. He interprets change as an opportunity “to let the songs kind of reinvent themselves, letting the songs breathe a little and evolve – or devolve for that matter.” Moon’s philosophy on songwriting also helps to instill magic in the music. “I just think it’s selfish, as an artist, to ‘finish’ a song and place those limitations around it,” he says. “After all, who am I to say when something is in its final form of creativity? Ultimately, I just want to respect the song and let it use me as a form of expression, rather than the other way around. I know that I’ve definitely had lineups and done tours where ‘tightness’ was the goal. That’s fine, but after doing it night after night, it gets to be an act and eventually I think you become a bit more of a performer than an artist. It’s all about finding balance between the two, and that’s different for everyone.”

DMATWD’s first album – the self-produced Meridian Road – was recorded in a home studio in Flowery Branch, Ga, mastered by the illustrious Rodney Mills and released in 2009. Tracking began soon after Moon’s departure from Atlanta band Ocha La Rocha and much of it was recorded as the songs were being written, or conversely, written as the recording ensued.

Moon recently licensed the sludgy, melancholy “Dream Forty-One” to a movie called Person of Interest, which has been through a few rounds of film festivals this year, but as of now it’s unclear when it will hit the big screen. Success like this again proves the exquisite intensity and kaleidoscopic atmosphere in the band’s folk-inspired rock, along with its melodic vocal drones, is working. The group is currently busy on their sophomore effort, which Moon describes as a departure from Meridian Road, though the new content is still in its infancy. The band is taking the new songs on tour this spring. The road has become a familiar friend and foe to DMATWD, as this will be their third completely DIY U.S. tour. Their first proved to be a valuable learning experience, in terms of triumphs and failures. Though the tour ended midway through, “due to a blowout, some shows falling through in middle-America and all around financial woes,” Moon views the entire experience as a success – especially considering it was his first shot at booking a tour, for which he admittedly didn’t know whether what he was doing was right or wrong until they were out there in the thick of it. He sums up his adventures as, “liberating, frustrating, dirty and taxing” and believes the most fulfilling aspect is “definitely the 30-45 minutes I spend every night just creating.” He continues, “On tour, there’s so much to think about throughout the day, like wondering when will be the next time you’ll have a warm shower, a clean pair of socks or the Holy Grail – a bed! But for those 30 minutes, it’s amazingly fulfilling to let all of that go, stop thinking and just do what you’re there to do. Also, being on the road with a band, some serious bonds get made and you figure a lot out about yourself.”

Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters is an example of a band beautifully functioning independent of the support of management, agents or a label. “Honestly, I’ve been completely DIY thus far for a few reasons,” he says. “Mostly, I like being in control of my art and how it’s represented. Also, the actual work that goes into something like booking a tour, though it gets extremely taxing, is quite rewarding when you try and fail a time or two, and then get better and succeed. A lot of bands pay big money for someone to book them a tour. That’s awesome, and those agents are definitely worth their weight in gold, but anything they can do, you can do as well. You’ll be really bad at it for a time, and that can cost a lot of money over time, but a completely DIY band like mine doesn’t have the money upfront to pay someone like that, so really it’s the only option right now. It’s starting to pay off ?and it’s really rewarding.”

Moon doesn’t knock the music industry that exists, though he does observe an indefinable shift occurring. “The model for a successful band these days is all messed up,” he says. “The industry is in shambles, but I think anyone can tell you that. The truth is that no one knows what to do right now. Everyone is kind of shrugging their shoulders, waiting to see who’s going to make the next big move. I’m not at all opposed to signing to a label or contracts in general, but whoever is on the other end of that contract is going to need a pretty convincing argument that they know a path to higher grounds – one that I couldn’t reach on my own. Until someone approaches me with something I can’t do on my own, I feel like I need to keep recording, keep releasing and keep touring as much as possible on my own. I don’t see that model ever not paying off, at least on a personal level, and ultimately, if I’m not in it for that reason, what am I really doing?”

Photographer: Dave Greer

By: Nadia Lelutiu
April 2010