Living Hour: Winnipeg Dreamers with Ethereal Vibe

Touring the US and Canada in the confines of a 2003 Toyota Sienna doesn’t paint a very glamourous picture, but Winnipeg band Living Hour makes it work, and delivers astounding music along the way. The five-man ensemble brings with them dreamy soundscapes, full of evocative lyrics, superior musical talent, and a lot of future promise. With a strong vocal backbone from Sam Sarty (vocals, trombone, keyboard), musicians Gil Carroll (guitar), Adam Soloway (guitar, vocals), Alex Chochinou (drums), and Mischa Decter (bass) are able to shine. Just a few months after releasing their self-titled album, the group has hit the road for a six-week tour.

Across the board, Living Hour’s songs instill a sense of nostalgia, of hazy summer sunsets and picturesque days. “There’s some powerful moments, and it’s very emotional,” Sarty said. “We try to make it ethereal and atmospheric and there’s a pop undertone that some people call shoegaze.” While Living Hour has some definite shoegaze qualities, they’re hesitant to identify fully with the genre. Guitarist Gil Carroll noted that upon its inception, Living Hour was more straight forward indie-rock, but the addition of Sarty’s vocals transformed it into a dreamier, more “pretty” sound. “I still consider us a really young band, so our sound is changing all the time and continues to develop,” he said.

Despite the profoundly airy quality of their music, Sarty said that, for her, the band’s name derives from the feeling of being more alive than ever while doing what she loves. “I like to think that sometimes people are a little turned off and not living in the now or being present,” she said. “I find that when you perform, it’s one of the most present moments that you can be in. You’re living in the hour.”

Kicking off a live set at Elastic Arts in Chicago, the song “Nude” set the stage for a solid performance. Underlying bass tones give the feeling of waking up slowly and starting out the day, with pops of drum to liven things up. Slowly, Sarty’s vocals merge in and the result is a layered, strolling song that leaves the listener wondering how nine and a half minutes have gone by in such a wistful blur.

Later, “Miss Emerald Green” showed the full range of Sarty’s vocals, as well as the skill of guitarists Carroll and Soloway. Starting with the inviting warmth of a lounge singer, Sarty belts out lyrics like, “You’ve grown so tired of the same scene/ You’ve been living in.” The singer says that she pulls from many different places for the feeling she puts into the song. “One day I’ll relate that to growing up in a small town like Winnipeg, or the next day I’ll think about ‘Person X’ and feeling isolated.” With Decter’s bass lines throughout, there is a strong feeling of longing, but right before it gets too heavy, a pop of horn keeps things upbeat. It’s a fun song that conjures the memory of a high school dance coming to a close.

With all of the feelings that their songs evoke, the creative process for Living Hour can take some time. Carroll said, “We’ll start with one singular idea but then everyone will just do their own thing and eventually it comes together.” He went on to say that long tour schedules can slow down the process, but also help hone new material. “We have several new songs that we’re playing [on tour] that aren’t on our new album. We’re trying them out and seeing what can be better and what we like.”

One as-yet untitled song highlighted a beachy, surf vibe and would have anyone listening wishing that they were watching the sun set over a rolling ocean. With a huge rise at the end, the song called to memory that one last perfect summer evening, the one that’ll go down in memory for years to come. Living Hour’s ability to create such vivid imagery with music is hard to come by and sure to be one of their strongest assets as they gain more recognition.

Pulling from many genres for influence and texture, the band creates music that speaks to a wealth of talent and knowledge. Sarty began singing in choirs at a young age, while the instrumental side of the group met in school and bonded over a love of music. According to Sarty, Carroll and Chochinou started off like so many other musicians- jamming in a basement- before they added more members to the mix. Together, the laid-back group has enjoyed some international success, touring in the UK and Europe earlier in 2016 and appearing at the Le Bateau Festival in Champagne-Ardenne, France. While that show was Sarty’s favorite to date, Carroll enjoyed playing to their largest audience yet. “We played at Rough Trade in New York and it was one of the biggest shows we’ve played in terms of people,” he said. “There was a lineup of people to get in. We played really well, and it sounded great.”

Playing live has garnered Living Hour new fans, to be sure, but online streaming has also helped get their music out. “We’ve taken the [approach of] the more exposure, the better, even if we don’t see a lot of monetary gains,” Sarty said. “You’re still getting that exposure, which is a different kind of currency at this point.” Songs “Seagull” and “Steady Glazed Eyes” have a combined 54.4K listens on SoundCloud alone. Additionally, social media has helped Living Hour find other bands to tour the country with. “The best part [about touring is] seeing and meeting like-minded people, some of the most creative people I can even fathom,” Sarty said.

Looking ahead, Carroll hinted that the band has already amassed some new material for their next album. After the Fall 2016 tour comes to an end in Berlin, Living Hour will take some time off to relax, before setting out again in January to escape the Winnipeg winter. Location aside, the band is just happy to be making music. “We’re pretty stoked to be doing what we’re doing so we’re all smiles,” Carrol said.

Hillary Susz Brings the Romance with Striking New Album

With her new album, “The Heart Will Jump (With Nowhere to Fall),” Hillary Susz gives listeners a collection of love songs three years in the making. Through her mix of operatic rock and poetic songwriting, Susz has turned her attention to a genre rarely seen or heard in the music industry: lesbian love songs. “There aren’t a lot of love songs in the world about lesbian love, so just by nature of them existing is somewhat political,” Susz said. “It’s creating a space that hasn’t traditionally been there.” Tracks on the new album include “Pollution,” with a melodic and haunting opening that builds to highlight Susz’s vocals, as well as “Make Me Make You,” which the Boulder, Colorado based musician describes as “romantic” and “poetic.” Additionally, “Dead Stars” gives a feeling of celestical lightness, which is then broken by rock-inspired guitar riffs.

Drawing on her own six-year relationship, Susz is able to cover a range of emotions and experiences in this album. “We’ve been together since we were nineteen years old and just have grown up together,” she said. “So, it’s largely about two people growing up together and learning how to live together.” Susz collected the songs on her new album over the course of three years, while she was balancing an office job with her musical career.

Introducing lesbian love songs to the world has been a double-edged sword for Susz. While her voice helps to add dialogue to the discussion of queerness in modern music, she said it still makes some uncomfortable. Occasionally, people have walked out of shows, or yelled rude remarks, which she said is all too common for female performers. Susz admitted that the music industry is very tough and requires “a lot of self-perseverance, a lot of strength,” she said. However, artists like Susz are providing an increase in information and perspectives and, as she said, “More options are available to you. You aren’t just getting straight people’s love songs or one particular kind of voice in music.”

The depths to which Susz reaches on “The Heart Will Jump (With Nowhere to Fall)” highlight a writing process that takes time and a lot of insight. “I’m very patient with my songs, I have drafts and I try to play them many times and see how they can organically develop,” she said, explaining that everything from time and practice, to performing a song live can change how it will eventually be recorded for an album. She also said that she makes it a habit to return to old work and reimagine it. “I’m a big believer in recycling work, and these themes and motifs don’t really go away, you acquire new language or new music to express them.” Susz’s listeners benefit from this recycling, and are introduced to metaphor-rich lyrics, guitar samples with just enough grunge, and a wholly new voice in the folk-rock realm.

Susz’s ability to create deeply emotional verses stems from years of songwriting, and is also strengthened by her development as a fiction writer. “I’ve been writing songs longer than I’ve been delving into fiction and poetry, that’s a little bit newer for me,” she said. In between touring, writing songs, and putting out a new album, Susz is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, while also teaching writing classes. For Susz, each setting calls for different focuses in her writing: “With music, its more immediate emotion, and with fiction its more cognitive and character-driven,” she said. With so much going on, Susz makes use of her breaks from school to tour, and will be out on the road with her new songs this fall and winter.

While in her classroom, Susz says she is able to give students advice from her own experience, and her students often discuss insecurities in their work. “I always just tell them to keep producing work; it doesn’t do an artist any favors to not have work. There’s no one in history that’s famous that has one painting or one book, one album,” she said. “Always just keep making things.” For Susz, it has always been important to keep creating unique work. While she said that she’s never made it a point to learn to replicate other artists’ work, she does follow other female singers and songwriters such as Angel Olson and Neko Case.

As Susz continues to grow and develop her unique genre, fans can expect to hear familiar themes in her music. “At the core – content-wise – part of me just thinks that it is the same record over and over again and you’re trying to make it more true,” Susz said. “Maybe I’m writing the same album over and over again, just trying to make it better.”


Prince Fox on his way to new music royalty

Just two years ago, Sam Lassner, aka Prince Fox, was a junior at NYU learning to create and produce music. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find him touring the festival scene and collaborating with the likes of Hailee Steinfeld (Ender’s Game, Pitch Perfect 2). Their first track together, “Fragile,” has over 800,000 Spotify plays in less than one month since it dropped. Having never worked together before, the two struck gold, with Steinfeld’s deeply layered vocals and Lassner’s instrumental-electronic hybrid sound.

“Initially it came about through Twitter between my friend Lil Aaron and I,” Lassner said. “He had the idea for the song so we brought it to the label and they really liked it and asked who I wanted on it.” After sending the song to Steinfeld’s camp, things moved quickly, with Lassner flying to LA to get work started. “It was amazing; she is an incredible vocalist. She was able to layer octaves over the track. The texture of her vocals is due to her really being proficient and being able to layer herself really well.”

Having many friends in the industry, Lassner has had the chance to work with several talented artists. “Fragile,” however, holds special importance. “I feel like all collaborations are unique and special in their own right but as far as my favorite track I’ve put out that’s probably it.” But hopefully, there are many more partnerships in the future. “I would love to write a song with BloodPop; I would love to work with John Mayer, Chance the Rapper, and A$AP Rocky.”

In the meantime, Lassner already has some interesting collaborations in the works; as he continues to travel around festivals for the summer, he’s making new friends along the way, including Australian DJ Allison Wonderland. “I’m supposed to be in the studio with her in less than a week, so I’m pretty excited for that.”

While his future collaborations are sure to be hits, Prince Fox has already started making waves in the music industry. In late 2015, Prince Fox released “I Don’t Wanna Love You,” an energetic, upbeat track featuring Melody Noel, which has garnered over 2 million listens on Spotify and another 1.56 million plays on Soundcloud.

Prince Fox’s music has a definite foothold in the realm of Internet radio and streaming services. “I’ve had more consistent success in the streaming world because it’s a lower barrier to upload it and be on that platform, whereas someone has to decide to put your stuff on the radio.”

With his tracks blowing up on the Internet, it’s no surprise that Prince Fox has hit the road and taken over the festival scene, as well. This summer alone, Prince Fox is headed to the Hangout Festival, Corona Electric Beach and Electric Forest, to name a few. With so much travel, though, it’s important to stay grounded. “Sometimes it gets overwhelming, sometimes it gets lonely when you’re in the middle of nowhere in a hotel room by yourself for eight hours,” Lassner said. “But I’m in it because I love to make music and I love to express myself, so any time I’m down or upset I have to remind myself that I get to do what I love. Through the ups and the downs that’s nothing to take for granted.”

Making music has been Lassner’s means to express himself for a long time. “I started playing guitar when I was in eighth grade,” he said. Through high school and into college, he taught himself how to produce his own songs, eventually studying music technology at NYU. “You look back two years later and you see how much you’ve grown,” he said. Between a natural talent for music and classic training Lassner is somewhat a self-taught musician and producer. “I’m a pretty obsessive person so I knew what I wanted and I didn’t stop until I was as proficient as I felt I needed to be.”

While Prince Fox’s blend of instrumental and electronic is uniquely crafted, Lassner keeps up on trends and integrates his own style. “I try to keep it very song-orientated,” he said. “It’s kind of a challenge to constantly upgrade every song but it’s a good challenge and it’s a fun puzzle when you’re finishing a track.” From start to finish, a new track can take him anywhere from a few hours to weeks to complete. “It’s just a matter of how much inspiration I have going into a given session.”

The personalization and effort that Lassner puts into each of his tracks for Prince Fox is apparent, and fans get to enjoy not only a great sound, but an overall experience. “You can go home and listen to any artist but what makes going to a show unique is getting involved and participating: singing along and interacting with the artist.” The artist also enjoys meeting fans face to face and seeing how his work effects them. “When you’re home on your computer and see streaming numbers or your followers, it’s cool and great to see numbers go up, but when you put a face to it, these people in this room are part of it.”

Of all the shows that he’s played, Lassner cites Audio San Francisco as his favorite, thanks to the fans. “It was insane, way over capacity two hours before I got on,” he said. “Wall to wall, everyone was into it; it was really amazing.” Months later when Lassner’s Austin show was cancelled due to weather, he had an unexpected opportunity to hit the stage, this time with many other artists. “It ended up that Kill the Noise invited me, A-Trak, Gorgon City, Amtrak, and Yung Wall Street to go back-to-back with him at his show. I met all these DJs that I either wanted to meet or looked up to or had been listening to for a while, all because I had a series of cancelled shows.”

There seems to be no stopping this up and coming artist. Moving forward from his previous collaborations and fateful live shows, Prince Fox has a lot for fans to look forward to.

Los Angeles fans can see Prince Fox at Skybar at Mondrian this Sunday, RSVP at

Carly Rae Jepsen: Pop’s Newest Princess

Pop-Tarts Crazy Good Summer Concert in Chicago with Carly Rae Jepsen

When it comes to picking a favorite collaborator from her debut album dropping this September, Carly Rae Jepsen just can’t do it. “I mean truthfully it’s hard to pick favorites like that because they are such different collaborations,” says Jepsen of the chart-toppers that range from Redfoo of LMFAO to Justin Bieber. “For me there’s still that moment where I kind of pinch myself and ask if this is all really happening.”

One of those songs, “Good Time,” a duet with Owl City, is quickly leapfrogging its way to the top of the charts, where her bouncy, syrupy “Call Me Maybe” has held the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for the last seven weeks. “It’s the project of my life. It’s my baby. I’ve written on every song that’s on there,” she says of her involvement on the new album.  “Some of them I did myself but some of them are collaborations, but the main focus was always on how the album should sound, so it was really important for me to be a main writer on this album.”

Even before working on the new album, Jepsen had an idea of what she wanted it to sound like. “I’ve been addicted to Robyn. I listen to her so much that people who are friends with me are sick of it.” Electropop band Dragonette and Sinead O’Connor, who Jepsen calls “an oldie but a goody with an incredible voice,” also helped add to the creation process. “Those three artists are the vibe I’m going for with the new album. But with that being said, when I listen back to the CD, it sounds like none of them. It’s kind of cool that what you’re inspired by has an effect but really doesn’t sound like any of them at the same time. The end result sounds totally different.”

Though her new album won’t be released until September, she’s already thinking of dream collaborations. “I know they wouldn’t work right now, they would work in my later years when I transform into a late-life Norah Jones,” she says, laughing. “But I definitely think John Mayer is on the top of that list. I’ve always wanted to sing with him or James Taylor, because that’s the music I grew up listening to.”

While Jepsen is no stranger to the spotlight, having placed third in season five of “Canadian Idol,” she was thrust into worldwide superstardom rather suddenly thanks to her boss—Justin Bieber. One would think she’d be under pressure to match the success of “Call Me Maybe” with her new tracks, but she says she hasn’t had the time to sit back and have too much concern for anything. In fact, she’s having the opposite feeling of pressure. “It’s more excitement,” she says. “And I just feel very blessed that I have such an amazing group that really seem to get me and respect what I’m doing. They’ve made a platform for me to be able to do it in a worldwide way and not just in Canada.”

While that platform has led to her partying it up with Katy Perry (“She’s the bomb. Katy is one of those people I really, really love.”), don’t expect her to deviate from her squeaky-clean pop princess trail. “I’m one of those few people who has only gotten a hangover once in their life and it was a lesson learned that I haven’t done twice,” she says. Jepsen is just happy being blessed with the man (she’s not willing to go public with his name just yet) she’s found. “It’s definitely important to have somebody who really knows you and gets what you’re doing. It’s fortunate to find somebody who gets that.” Does that mean we shouldn’t expect any public displays of affection with her current beau, then? “I’m still kind of in the new business of this,” she says of keeping her private life out of her professional one. “I think I’m still learning to balance that right now. But it’s good to have something that’s inside and outside this world I’m living in.”

The world she’s living in also requires the pop star to know her designer labels. Jepsen isn’t afraid to admit that she’s new to the designer world, too. “The Dolce & Gabana dress I wore at the Billboard Awards made it my Cinderella night. I felt very, very special in that dress.” And when she’s just out hanging with friends? “I like a nice twirly skirt or dress—something that I can move around easily in.”

Learning the latest fashion of the season takes backseat for Jepsen. She’s all about carving out a long and diverse successful musical career for herself. “There are so many people I admire, but those artists that have such longevity in their career and remain classy are those I most admire,” she says. “John Mayer is one of those artists where every album of his is a little different, but there’s so much quality in each of them. But then I’ve always had a secret crush on him so that probably doesn’t hurt my view,” she says, laughing.

And where does Jepsen see herself down the road? “That’s a great question,” she says. “I think my main goal is to continue writing and hopefully improving that skill. And I think it’s something you can learn from collaborations and life experience. My main goal has always been to put out that song that really lasts after I’m gone—and that connects with a lot of people, the way that the songs I love have connected with me.”

Introducing the dame: newcomer Ivy Levan redefines herself on debut EP

By Dana Getz

With a voice reminiscent of Christina Aguilera in Burlesque and a face to match, Ivy Levan has been making quite the impression on the L.A. music scene. Influenced by everything from Whitney Houston to Depeche Mode, the brassy-voiced singer debuted her first EP, “Introducing the Dame,’ last June, though this isn’t her first brush with the music industry. The now 26-year-old went from her Arkansas hometown to Hollywood at the age of 16 in pursuit of her music-making dreams. After a sour record deal and several forays into modeling, Levan quit singing altogether and began club promoting to make ends meet. It wasn’t until early 2011 that she met producer/songwriter Lucas Banker, who encouraged her to rekindle her musical roots.

The resulting sound is an eclectic mash of sassy jazz and blues-infused pop that elicits visions of down-and-dirty New Orleans soul— think 50’s pin-up with a hint of Motown swagger. Whether she’s belting about penny-pinchers on sexed-up single “Hot Damn” or crooning sweet serenades on “Hang Forever,” Levan is reincarnated and feisty as ever, fresh off a summer tour with Fitz & The Tantrums. We chatted with the up-and-coming pop star about her Hollywood experience, touring as a new artist and just how hard she “bros-down” in her spare time.

How did you first get started with music?

I’ve always been a singer; I’ve always been into that whole thing. I had my first talent show when I was seven, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

When did you know you wanted to pursue it as a full-time career?

Probably after that talent show. I won, and I beat 20-year-olds. I loved all the attention and the crowd, and just being up there and having all eyes on me. After that I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

You moved from Arkansas to L.A. when you were 16. Why did you decide to take that leap?

Well, I didn’t really have a choice. I got kicked out of high school for having cough syrup in my backpack. So I got kicked out of school, which was fine because I didn’t wanna be there anyway, and my mom and I packed up and left.

Tell me about your experience in L.A.

My first experience I was naïve and it was all glamorous and what not, but slowly but surely I found out the hard way that it’s not all as glamorous as it seems. It was very hard work, and there are a lot of people that will step on you to get what they want. So it was just all about learning through trial and error.

You landed a deal with a major label, but later backed out. What compelled you to make that decision?

It was pretty easy because I didn’t really have a say in what I wanted to do. Everyone had their own opinion of what they wanted me to be. They heard my voice and they thought, ‘Oh, she’s a ballad singer like Celine Dion,” or they heard like a female Gorillaz. I really didn’t even have my own idea of what I wanted to be, so I was just going through a lot of growing pains. I had a horrible experience, but it was all for the better and I learned a bunch.

Do you ever miss living in the south?

Some. It took me a long time to be able to say that because I rebelled for so long to get away from that, and I’m just now embracing it. I have these moments where I do miss it, but I love L.A.

After you dropped the label you stopped making music for a while. What was going through your head during that time?

I thought it was over. I thought, ‘If this is what it’s like I don’t wanna be a part of it.’ I gave up hope.

But then you met Lucas Banker. Where did you guys meet? What about him inspired you to get back in the game?

He actually contacted me via email. I met somebody just kind of randomly, he saw me at a club—I was club promoting after I left my label. Someone came up to me and they were like, ‘I heard your music on MySpace, I think you should do this,’ and I kinda just said, ‘All right, I’ll give it another try.’ So he had taken me to some meetings, and I met this guy who knew Lucas and thought Lucas and I would make a great pair as far as writing goes. And then Lucas tried to contact me for like two months, and I was not having it. I was like, ‘No, I don’t know this guy, I’m not sure about this,’ but I finally gave in. After that it all just started happening, so I’m glad I took that email.

And now you live with both Banker and Patrick Nissley. What’s it like living with them?

It’s awesome, because any moment at any time of day at the drop of a hat we can make music. We can create organic stuff about what we’re doing during the day or how we’re feeling. So I’m very spoiled.

What’s the biggest challenge about living with two guys?

You know what, I’m kind of a dude myself. I’m very much a tomboy. I do like to be glamorous every so often, but I’m a dude. I can bro down.

Let’s talk about your music. Who are some of your biggest influences?

Oh man, the list goes on. Anywhere from Tina Turner, Whitney Houston to Depeche Mode. I mean there’s so many people that have inspired me.

Tell me about your first EP, Introducing the Dame. What were you listening to while make the album? What other experiences inspired it?

The EP is organic. We wanted to make something that was an introduction, rather than a ‘Look at me, I’m so cool, I’m the shit.’ It wasn’t a show off move, it was basically just giving people a change to know the music and kind of sniff it out, and be prepared for what’s to come in the future. I feel like we’ve created a sound that hasn’t really been touched on. It has a lot of throwback and retro, whatever, but it’s also very fresh. It has it’s own brand.

Do you have any plans for your first full album?

I do. I cannot wait to get home and start on that. I think we start around September, so I’m very excited. I can’t wait to show everybody what we’ve got under our coat.

You recently toured with Fitz & The Tantrums. What was that experience like?

It was awesome. It was definitely an experience. Being a new artist, nobody knows your music. So you either go out there and win them over and everyone’s loving you and they become your fans, or everyone’s snoring and there’s crickets. So it was a nice experience to give people a look at the music, and kind of converting people into the world of the dame.

What do you like to do when you’re not making music or touring?

I play video games like a mad man. I just sit on the couch eating really good food, cuddling with my cat and playing stupid video games for hours on end.

 So you really are a dude. What’s the longest video game binge you’ve been on?

I’ve gone from probably like nine o’clock at night till maybe 6 a.m. in the morning. I game so hard.

You’ve also dabbled in modeling and acting. Are those things you’d like to further pursue in the future?

Yeah, I love it. It’s just another medium for me to express myself with. I’m an artist 100 percent, so any time I can do something creative I’ll take full advantage of it.

Where do you hope to see your career in the next few years?

Well, hopefully I can pay my bills with it. But also I want to shake up the music industry. I feel like it’s a dying star right now, and it needs a little life brought back into it. So hopefully I can kick open some doors and fix it up.

Ivy feature 2


Interview with Eric Rachmany and Wesley Finley of rastified reggae group Rebelution

By Dana Getz

A California quintet hailing from Santa Barbara, Rebelution has a history of making sunny, island-flavored sound with a West Coast twist. Though reggae at its core, Rebeultion’s style is a medley of SoCal pop, breezy funk and acoustic folk with a burst of Jamaican dub, resulting in an unpredictable yet effortlessly refined flow.

The group has honed their uniquely eclectic sound throughout their near 10-year period together, performing on extensive national tours and at notable summer festivals. Members Eric Rachmany, Rory Carey, Wesley Finley and Marley D Williams met in college while residing in Isla Vista, adding New Orleans saxophonist Khris Royal around 2011. Having just finished up their Good Vibes Summer Tour, Finley and Rachmany sat down with us to discuss their label, being on the road and Snoop Lion’s recent foray into their reggae realm.

You guys met back in college. At the time, did you have any idea what Rebelution would turn into?

Finley: No, because there were so many bands that were just playing on the weekend just for fun. Usually when you graduate you disperse and do your thing, but we actually garnered a pretty decent following and turned it into something serious. So we’re kind of blessed in that aspect.

What drew you to the reggae sound?

Rachmany: I guess I was listening to a lot of reggae at the time. I got into it in late high school and then when I got down to Santa Barbara I was kind of looking for people that were playing reggae music. I met Marley and we kind of bonded over that. So we were listening to reggae and we were playing a lot of reggae cover songs, and then when we started writing original tunes we started incorporating our other influences to make the Rebelution sound.

Is there a strong reggae scene in Santa Barbara?

Rachmany: Not really. I think we kind of helped bring it up a little bit just by being there, but historically there has been a lot of reggae bands come up in Isla Vista. I think maybe just because it’s on the coast— the beach kind of vibe. We definitely feel proud to bring that to Santa Barbara and kind of make the scene a little bigger.

It was originally just the four of you—when did you meet Khris and what led to adding him to the band?

Finley: He played a few shows with us in New Orleans, where he’s from, and we were looking for a horn player and he just killed it. He was the same age as us and he was used to touring, so he kind of just fit right in. We’ve had some other people join us here and there too, but Khris has always been the solid member who feels like an extension of us. It just fits naturally.

Rachmany: At this point it just feels like he’s part of the band, like he’s always been there.

You’ve been releasing your music independently on your own label. Why was it important to you to go independent?

Rachmany: We’ve always done everything ourselves. We always want to own our own music; we want creative control. A lot of times bands lose that creative control when they go to a major record label. Honestly, I think Rebelution spread through word of mouth from the very beginning. We played parties and people would just tell all their friends and their friends would tell friends, plus the fact that we live in a time where music is accessible by the internet. We’re very fortunate that our music was able to spread that way. We never really felt the need for a major record label, so it’s been nice doing everything ourselves.

Have you been looking into signing any artists?

Rachmany: We haven’t. We don’t really make too much off of record sales, it’s mostly touring. But we’d like to eventually. If we can build this band up to a solid state and bring on bands that we love, that would be really cool.

Are there any up-and-coming bands that are on your radar?

Rachmany: There’s definitely a lot, yeah, too many to narrow down. There’s so many great bands that we’ve come across along the way—bands that work just as hard or even harder than Rebelution. The thing is that the most talented people are never really found, you know? There’s always someone that’s writing incredible music in the basement at their mom’s house.

You consider yourself a tour-driven group. What do you like about being on the road?

Finley: I mean you’re traveling for a living. Some people don’t even leave their own state, but we’re in a different state every day. It’s kind of crazy that we get to see all these main cities that some people might never get the chance to see, so it’s cool to reap the benefits of being in different cities, eating different food along the way, meeting different people and seeing all kinds of different sights, but the drawback to that is loss of sleep.

Rachmany: Yeah, touring affects literally everything. I could probably go in depth but it would take me a while to name every single thing that it affects, but we like it and we love performing so that keeps us going.

Do you ever get into arguments being around each other all the time?

Rachmany: We have a great relationship. We’ve been a band for nine or ten years and we practically live with each other, so we resolve things pretty quickly. We get along great. We hang out with each other even when we’re off the road sometimes, so if we have a little argument we always figure it out.

For someone who hasn’t seen you perform, what can they expect from a live show?

Rachmany: We like to keep the energy pumping, but we also like to keep it mellow too.

Finley: Yeah, just high energy and crowd interaction. We vibe off of people participating—putting their hands up and showing us energy—that motivates me to play, play harder, be more active. I hate going to shows where the band barely even moves from where they’re standing, you know?

How do you feel about Snoop Dogg going reggae?

Rachmany: I think it’s cool the message he’s putting out after talking about a lot of gangster shit for many years. He came from a rough place and I think he wants to put out a positive message, he wants to encourage people—similar to what I think we’re doing. He’s through with gangbanging and he realizes he’s a in a fortunate position now and wants to put out something positive, but I think the whole reggae thing might be a work in progress for him. I like some songs and some songs I’m not feeling as much, but overall I really admire the message that he’s putting out. Everybody has a choice to talk about what they want to talk about in music, so I think it’s really cool what he’s doing.

Finley: I just hope it’s not a gimmick. I hope he doesn’t reverb back at some point. I just hope he has true intentions.

Are there any artists that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to?

Rachmany: There’s so many bands that we want to tour with. Me and Wes like this band called Dredge a lot. They’re a really cool progressive rock band.

Finley: That would be crazy.

Rachmany: I also love Dave Matthews Band. I’m a huge Dave Matthews fan, so think it would be cool to tour with them at some point. Obviously a lot of reggae legends we’d love to tour with that are getting older and may not be around forever. A lot of hip-hop artists, like Far Side would be cool to play with.

Finley: Some of these groups it’s just hard to get everyone together. Living Legends comes to mind. We’ve toured with a couple of the individual members, but to get them all together is difficult.

What’s next for you guys? Any upcoming albums?

Rachmany: Yeah. Right now we’re on the summer tour but we’re working on new material as we’re on the tour, and we’re gonna get in the studio later this month. Hopefully we’ll have everything done by the end of September and try to get it out by next year. That’s the goal. We feel very inspired at this point in terms of getting new music out.

Do you have any ideas for what the new album will sound like?

Rachmany: I think every album is a progression from the last. We’re always trying to do something different than before. It’s easy to just write the same style of music. over and over again, and I think we’re always challenging ourselves to do something different. I think that’s the key word—always challenging ourselves, whether it’s musically, lyrically—trying to do something difficult, that’s what I want to do.

Ohio-based jam band The Werks on their metamorphic style

By Dana Getz

Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, The Werks are a genre-hopping jam band that play everything but the kitchen sink. In fact, they’d probably play the kitchen sink, too, if it had any sort of musical resonance. Comprised of Rob Chafin, Chris Houser, and brothers Dino and Norman Dimitrouleas, the four-piece blends rock, funk, jam and everything in between into a kaleidoscopic mix of psychedelic dance rock.

Known for their improvisation and dynamic live shows, the group first gained prominence in mid-2011 when they reached the number two top searched artist on the leading online Jam Magazine,, and again in early 2012 when they hit number one. The foursome has since appeared at major festivals and events across the U.S. and abroad, even starting their own entitled “The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival” in 2010. We caught up with the band behind scenes at North Coast Music Festival, discussing their erratic songwriting process, love-hate relationship and newfound love for doing absolutely nothing.

 Okay so first of all, tell me a little about how you guys met and how The Werks first came together.

Dino: Norman and me are brothers, so we were forced to meet at birth.

Rob: Me and Houser started The Werks back in 2005 or 2006.

Chris: The original band started because I had a band called Cheesecake—it was a three-piece, bass, drums and guitar—and our drummer was moving to Florida, and I’d recently met Rob who was losing his bassist and guitar player. So it just worked out. As time moved on our original keyboardist moved to Maine and got married—that’s when we picked up Norman, it was 2008. Then Dino had another child—that was his second child—so touring wasn’t the best for him so he left the band, and then came back in about two years ago. So that’s how we came to be the Werks as we are now.

Rob: Long story short, we formed from a lot of different bands into one.

Dino: We took the best of the best and we put them all together to become the worst.

So what’s made you stick together?

Dino: Stupidity.

Chris: It’s a mutual hatred for all of us. Each one of us hates each other so much that we’re trying to play ourselves to death. But we’re still alive, and we’re still having fun with what we’re doing.

You guys do tour all the time together. What’s it like spending that much time with the same group of people?

Rob: Have you ever been to jail before?

Dino: That’s a good analogy.

Chris: I think Al Garth said it best: “It’s like a new pair of underwear. At first it’s constrictive, but after a while it becomes a part of you.”

Dino: Basically it grows on you. It’s terrible but eventually you get used to it and you like the terribleness of it, and then when you’re not on tour you even kind of miss it.

Is it really that bad?

Dino: No, no. I mean, I think there’s eight or nine of us who travel together all the time with crew and staff and everything.

Norman: Say you had eight or nine people living in an apartment and you weren’t getting along. That’s in an apartment—you can actually leave. You can’t just walk out the door doing 65 mph down the highway.

You’re largely recognized for your ability to jump across genres. How do you balance the different sounds?

Dino: I think the big thing for all of us is that even though we have our own appreciation for what we think is great music and what influenced us, we all have a great appreciation for music in general. There’s a lot of bands out there that are afraid to go this direction or that direction or play this song, but for us there’s really no constriction.

Chris: We go every direction.

Dino: We just have no restrictions to what we’ll play, and I think that’s why we bridge so many genres because it’s just that fearless attitude. There’s nothing out there that we can’t do and there’s nothing out there that we don’t appreciate to the point where we wouldn’t play it ourselves. It’s kind of The Werks name in general, you know? It’s about a little bit of everything. You get something with “the works,” it’s got everything. I think that name fits us really well.

A lot of your sound is improvisatory. What is your songwriting process like?

Norman: Oh man, it’s weird. We’ll go from somebody writing a song to somebody writing a lick and everybody joining in to somebody coming up with an idea years later.

Dino: I think the cool thing about our songwriting ability is that we take every aspect of what we do on it. Someone will come up with a song and we will respect their songwriting ability to the point where we try to create their vision and really see their vision through. And then a lot of the other songs get written where we’ll just be playing as a band and a lick will come out or a groove will come out and we’ll kind of work on it together. There’s three or four different ways that we’ll bring a song to the table, and you can’t really say which one’s better or which one’s worst because a lot of great songs came out of each way that we write them. So we just try to be open minded.

You say your performance is largely affected by the energy of the audience. What kind of things do you respond to?

Dino: I think part of our popularity and why people seek us out for our live shows a lot is because there’s a lot of energy and interaction with the crowd. We feed off the crowd; the crowd feeds off us. It’s like a vicious circle of energy.

Norman: The better the crowd is, usually the better we sound. If the crowd can really get down, it pushes us to get down even harder.

Dino: The unique thing about or shows is that no show is the same and no song is the same. We try to push the envelope every time we get up on stage, and a lot of it has to do with how the crowd is reacting. If a crowd’s really feeling a certain style then we try to morph in to that style and push that style a little more. We have fans that will run with us for about three or four days in a row because they know they’re gonna get a different show every night, they’re gonna get a different experience every night.

Rob: We kind of ripped out a page from the Grateful Dead/Phish mentality when it comes to shows.

So do you have a plan going into a show or do you mostly wing it?

Dino: Yeah, we have a plan, but we don’t really stick to it.

Chris: There’s nothing wrong with coloring outside the lines.

Norman: The plan is to have a plan that’s not a plan.

You guys have played at all sorts of music festivals. What’s a good festival experience for you?

Dino: What makes any festival is the people, the crowd.

Rob: The vibes.

Dino: A lot of the really good festivals are really good because they create a good environment and a good core of people come. You always get riff raff anywhere you go, but for the most part the majority of the people that come to these festivals are very open minded, they take in what you’re putting out there, they like you to take risks and they like to see something different. That’s what I think makes festival season so special. You’re reaching a large group of people who are very open minded to the style that you’re putting out there.

Rob: And I think the one thing they all have in common is that they appreciate music and appreciate the musicianship. It doesn’t matter if they’re a funk person or a jam person or an electronic person or what have you, it’s the fact that they’re at the festival to appreciate all of it. That’s the people we try to aim for anyway.

Chris: Festival season for us is a great opportunity to reach an audience that would not normally know about us. It’s getting more ears on our music and spreading the word.

Dino: Really, for us, it opens the door to finding a new audience.

Is that why you started your own festival?

Dino: Basically the reason Werk Out exists is that we have so many friends in bands and we see each other at festivals and at shows and stuff, and we thought it would be really cool to just handpick our bands and bring our friends to one spot where we can all hang out. And then the fans from Ohio and the fans from across the country can all come to one spot and celebrate once a year. It’s kind of like a family reunion—we all get together and catch up.

Chris: The bands we pick to come are bands we’ve played with on the road nowhere near Ohio. Typically Ohio is a tough market, so the bands that we’ve picked to come are also very excited to play in Ohio.

Dino: It’s great exposure for them.

It seems like you’re constantly touring. What’s your favorite thing to do when you get back home?

Rob: Do nothing. I never thought I’d actually appreciate doing nothing, and it’s actually one of my favorite things to do now.

Dino: There’s a line from “Office Space” that I always say when we’re in town and they call. They’re like, “Dino, what are you doing today?” And I say, “I did nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be.” But of course we practice and do everything too. There’s no rest for the wicked.

What are you working on right now?

Dino: We have a new album that we’ve almost finished up. We need to get it wrapped up shortly after Werk Out, hopefully get it out by the end of the year, if not early next year. We have a big fall tour that’s taking us pretty much everywhere.

California instrumental duo El Ten Eleven on their full-band sound

By Dana Getz

For a two-man band, El Ten Eleven can make a lot of sound. Known for their unconventional pairing of fretless bass and electronic drumming, the indie instrumental duo utilizes effect pedals to loop and layer the contrasting sounds. The result is an array of chilled out electro ballads and laidback rock jams, compacted into five studio albums and a handful of singles.

Now in the midst of an extensive tour, the California twosome took time on the road to chat with us about their offbeat style. We spoke with drummer Tim Fogarty while guitarist/composer Kristian Dunn manned the van, discussing their label, upcoming EP and the technicalities of their live performances.

Why did the two of you decide to start El Ten Eleven?

It just seemed like a challenge to do something that sounded like a full band with two people. The first few times we kinda messed around it sounded great, and we just kinda kept trying to figure it out and never stopped.

I know you’ve been categorized under a bevy of genres. How would you personally describe your sound?

I don’t know. That’s always the worst thing to decide. I just let other people do it and then make fun of them when I think they’re wrong. I feel bad for people who do have to kind of label us as something because I don’t even know what to label us as. We’re just an indie duo who plays sort of danceable tunes. The experimental one is the one that kind of drive us a little crazy, because when I hear a song that’s experimental I always think it’s horrible and unlistenable. That’s not at all what we’re doing. So when people say that, I kind of think no they’re not getting it, it’s kind of a disservice to what we’re doing.

How did you get started playing drums?

I guess I was like 12 or something when I started playing, but I didn’t take lessons or anything I just kind of messed around. I think I wanted to because I was into The Who. I would say that’s probably why I gravitated towards them. It was one of those instruments you could sit down and play right away even if you had no idea what the hell you were doing. That seemed good to me.

Despite being an instrumental band, you still consider yourselves emotional writers. How do you portray those sort of messages to your listeners?

There’s some songs we’ll play where Kristian will say what the song is about when we’re playing live, and with those songs I’ll actually think of what it means to me while we’re doing it. I don’t know if there’s any kind of tricks that we do necessarily, but I kind of feel like it’s up to the listener anyway. For me, when I attach emotions to songs it’s not our stuff necessarily, it will just remind me of a time or a place in life. It doesn’t necessarily have to do anything other than remind you of a time or place—either good or bad.

Despite being only a duo, the two of you produce a lot of sound in your performances. Could you break down what happens up on stage?

A lot of it is the looper—we couldn’t do without looping pedals. I’ll run my electronic drums through Kristian’s looping pedals as well, so while he’s looping himself he’s also looping me. It frees me up to play other stuff on top of what’s already there. So it’s basically like we’ll play a part, and then 99 percent of the time it gets looped, and then we’ll play stuff over top of that. There’s so much going on, we could probably use another foot or hand.

You started your own record label, Fake Record Label, rather than sign to a major one. What went into that decision?

Basically we realized we can do it better than a lot of other people can do it. No one cares more about it than we do. We’ve been in record label situations before so we’ve taken all the stuff we learned along the way. Basically what it boils down to is that we’re the best at doing that for ourselves, and I’m sure there are great situations out there, but I’d much rather be in control of our own destinies than some guy. The other thing is it’s nice to be able to help out other musicians that we love. We can take some of the work that we’ve already done and help some of the younger bands get up and running.

What do you like most about having your own label?

We don’t have to worry about someone not putting their full effort into a release. There’s no middle man—we are the middle man.

I know you’ve signed Girlfriends to the label. What drew you to that particular artist?

He’s an awesome dude, for one. I wouldn’t be that interested in helping out some dude who’s not cool, but he’s really, really good and super talented. We just thought his music was great, took him out on a tour with us. He’s just a really rad dude and a phenomenal musician, so any little thing we can do to help him out we want to. There’s another band called Nude Pop that we put a record out for and I think earlier in the year had on tour with us.

Are there any other up-and-comers on your radar?

There’s some. We’re taking a little bit of a break now from adding anybody to the roster and kind of focusing on what we already have, but there’s a few that we have our eye on. We’ll see what happens.

You released a remixed version of your fifth album, Transitions, a few months ago, which is something new for you guys. What made you decide to go the remix direction?

We’re both into that sort of music. When we’re driving on a tour or whatever we’re either listening to stand-up comedy or dance-ish kind of music, like electronic music. So we were fans a lot of those producers, and our manager knows a lot of those people and is kind of in that world, so he basically hit them all up and put it all together. It was an idea that we had that we weren’t sure if it would work, but it turned out great. It was really exciting for us to see how someone else would approach our music from a different genre.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

We should have something out by the end of the year. We finished up an EP before we left for this tour and we’re just getting it mastered and all that stuff. I’m not exactly sure when it will be out, but I’m pretty sure it will be before the year’s over.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the EP?

It’s weird because we’ve had those songs in various forms for almost a year I would say. It was kind of just like, ‘Okay, here’s some songs we’re going to put on an EP.’ The song that stuck around are the ones that made it on the EP. There’s not a theme to it necessarily or anything like that, I would just say it’s showcasing what we do but there’s some new sounds happening.

el ten eleven extra


Youth Lagoon keeps things covert at Chicago show

By Dana Getz

On Wednesday night’s concert at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, psych pop solo act Youth Lagoon let his music do the talking. The 24-year-old singer/producer—otherwise known as Trevor Powers—shied away from the small venue’s typically intimate setting, opting for a shadowy show with minimal conversation.

After a near half hour delay Powers took to the stage at last, kicking off his set with “Afternoon,” a sing-songy fan favorite with delicate whistles and synths and a 4/4 marching drum. He continued into an uninterrupted mix of old and new, blending the tracks into an indistinct mash of hushed electro ballads and haunting atmospheric swells.

Hunched over his keyboard in a focused trance, Powers’ performance exuded a near dream-like state. Soft, simple colors illuminated the backdrop as Powers’ mop of curly hair flopped over his half-hidden face, his faded falsetto echoing tenderly throughout the room. The soft-spoken singer remained tight-lipped for the majority of the show, not warming to the audience until the latter half of his set. When he did open his mouth, Powers was surprisingly witty, lightheartedly mocking a concertgoer who urged him to pound his drink. “Pound it? You bro. What are you drinking, Smirnoff? You didn’t think I’d talk to you, did you? No one ever does.” He then briefly introduced a song written for his mother entitled “17,” a keyboard-heavy ode detailing the nostalgia of youthful imagination.

The following songs morphed into a disarray of subdued psychedelic jams that dipped into hypnotic lulls then built to moments of chaos and grandeur. Ending the show with an abrupt “Chicago, thank you so much,” Powers then exited the theatre with a series of hand-blown kisses, disappearing backstage as quietly as he’d come.

Breaking boundaries: Chicago-based producer Manic Focus explores new sides of the EDM realm

By Dana Getz

Manic Focus is not your typical EDM producer. Rather than lean toward the pop-laced, big anthem club tracks as so many producers before him, the young up-and-comer boasts a more laidback sound, accenting synth-laden tracks with subtle funk, hip-hop flavor, and hoards of dubbed-out bass.

His understated style has caught the attention of a slew of big-name artists, including Big Gigantic, Gramatik and GRiZ, who have grown to be regular touring partners for the Minnesota native. A slave to the studio, Manic Focus has produced three original albums, a remix compilation and a catalogue of singles since his 2011 debut. Now coming off an extensive summer tour, he’s gearing up for some equally hectic fall shows, including Red Rock’s Rowdytown later this month. We sat down with the Chicago-based producer to discuss his most recent album, the limitations of genres and the difference between the Chicago and Minnesota music scenes.


Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you first got started with music?

I got into piano lessons real early, when I was in kindergarten. I can’t sight read music but I had a good ear, so my teacher would play the piece and then I would do concerto competitions. I played piano until I was 13 and then my dad got me a keyboard, so I quit piano lessons and started making beats. From then until about four years ago I was making rap beats, and then I saw Pretty Lights at the first North Coast Music Festival, and I saw Moby and Chemical Brothers and decided I wanted to start doing dance music. So the second North Coast I launched Manic Focus. That’s the date I did it—I didn’t perform that year. I’ve been doing Manic Focus for about two years, but I’ve been making music my whole life.

So you were classically trained on piano. Do you incorporate any classical elements into your current music?

I was classically trained, but honestly a lot of that is kind of out the window. I still have a classical background in terms of all the melodic progressions and so forth, and sometimes I like writing those types of progressions and melodies instead of being all shock factor, crazy synths or whatever.

You’re most often grouped in the EDM category, but how would you personally describe your sound?

That’s a funny thing, because I kind of like having fun with it. I put all of my music online for free, so when you download it and it shows up in iTunes I kind of purposefully leave the genre blank. When I make my stuff I’m not thinking of, “Oh, what’s the formula to make a trap song?” I don’t like putting music in boxes. I think good music is good music. If someone hears a song or a melody or whatever and they like it, why does it matter what it’s called, you know? I’m really about blurring the lines as far as genre goes. I’m not going to say I haven’t been influenced by things like trap and house and hip-hop, but I don’t go into a song thinking, “Oh, I’m going to make this a trap remix.” I just let it become what it becomes; I don’t want to be in a box. I want to make music that people enjoy and let them put it in whatever box they wanna put it in, and leave it at that.

I feel like even with producers who aren’t necessarily writing their own lyrics, the lyricism in vocal samples are still extremely important. What samples do you find yourself drawn?

I choose stuff that’s pleasant but I try to sample as little as possible. When I first started I wanted to sample things that people know, like anything from the ‘90s people just go ape shit for.

Have you ever thought about featuring live artists?

Oh, absolutely. On the album I just released, the title track, “Distant Perspective,” doesn’t have any samples. The guy who says the line “Never paid for attention, the skills to Manic Focus” is actually an MC. I’m kind of cultivating his skills. He comes from a poetry and spoken word background, and he’s getting into hip-hop. He has an amazing voice, so I have him on that and on “Definiton of the Rhythm.”

Let’s talk about your most recent album, Distant Perspective. Can you tell me about some of the inspiration behind the tracks?

A lot of it just kind of came together as a project. It wasn’t really made front to back. I made “We Won’t Land” without even having the album in mind, but when I started making more tracks it just made sense to throw that in that section of it. The album as a whole is supposed to be my journey through the music industry over the last two years. The first track is like, “I don’t need to pay for attention,” and then the second track is like, “I don’t need money,” and then the third track’s like, “Oh wait, I’m broke,” and the rest of it goes from there. So I did try to make it a concept album to a degree, but I want people to draw their own conclusion.

What distinguishes it from your past work? I noticed there’s a lot more bass.

Yeah, I think production wise I’ve just gotten better as a producer. I’ve learned a lot from good friends—Big Gigantic, GRiZ, Gramatik, all those guys. My mixes are a lot cleaner. I think it’s the best reflection of where I’m at now. Of course I love my old stuff, but you know, you’re always getting better as you progress through any sort of profession.

You also released it completely for free, which you’ve done with your music in the past as well. What’s your reasoning behind that?

I think it’s just the way to do it now. I’ll be blunt, I don’t really pay for music online. I grew up with Napster, and now everything’s torrented. I’m all about that digital freedom. It’s nice if people wanna donate, but I put so much time into it and it’s just a file. I want people to have it. I want people to just listen; I’m not trying to sell that. It just makes more sense. If you want to build a fan base they need to hear your stuff, and if money is a barrier to entry for them to hear it you’re not going to have as much success.

You’re originally from St. Paul but now you’re living in Chicago. How would you compare the two music scenes?

Minnesota has a phenomenal music scene—incredibly strong hip-hop scene right now. It’s got Rhymesayers—who I grew up listening to in high school—Brother Ali, Atmosphere, Eyedea & Abilities. While the electronic music scene is popping off and they do have shows there, it’s a lot stronger in Chicago. It’s always been stronger in Chicago, so it made more sense to move here and pursue that field. If I wanted to do hip-hop I would stay in Minnesota, which I do. I think I would move back there eventually because I love it and it’s my home, but I’m just kind of enjoying the ride right now.

You’ve had a pretty hectic summer of touring. What was your favorite place to play?

They were all memorable in their own right, but the one that really sticks out for me is Electric Forest. That was just something else. The Forest is ridiculous, it really is. I will pay to go next year if I don’t get booked just because the Forest is that cool.

What’s in store for the rest of the year?

I’m playing Red Rocks—Rowdytown—at the end of September with Big Gigantic, Adventure Club and Carnage, and then I’m touring with Minnesota in the fall, playing with GRiZ a couple times. It’s gonna be crazy.