Music

Chicago-based sextet The Heard brings funk into the modern age

By Dana Getz

Known for its deep pocket, authentic groove and explosive live shows that stretch late into the night, Chicago-based six-piece The Heard is bring legendary funk alive in the present day. The funk aficionados combine smooth horn, soulful keyboards, hard-hitting percussion and chicken-scratch rhythm guitar into groovy yet danceable beats, putting on a sweat-drenched show every Thursday at aliveOne.

Outside of their weekly residency, the group has backed former Galactic vocalist Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet and shared a stage with Dumpstaphunk, Dragon Smoke, The Mike Dillon Band, and Passafire, as well as supported three dates of Slightly Stoopid’s national tour. We had the chance to chat with guitarist Taras Horalewskyj, discussing what he loves about funk, the band’s songwriting process and the inspiration behind their name.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys met and when you started playing together as a band?

A couple years ago I called my friend Mike Starr—the bass player—and told him I wanted to start a funk band. From there we just kind of picked up a few more players that had the same style and took it from there.

Where does the name “The Heard” come from and what does it mean to you?

I kind of thought of it when I came back from New Orleans, where they were saying, “Ya heard?” all the time. So It was kind of a play on words.

Have you always been into the funk music?

Pretty much, yeah. I mean some of us have more jazz backgrounds but we’ve all had a relation to funk.

Do you think Chicago has a strong funk scene?

I think the funk scene is developing and getting a lot stronger, especially these last couple years.

Where are your favorite places to go see funk music in the city?

Well, there’s aliveOne that we play at every Thursday and they have a lot of funk. Other than that they just kind of play all around, I don’t know a straight funk venue.

Your sound gravitates toward more authentic soul-inspired funk music, despite the societal trend toward more digital tracks. What attracts you to that specific sound?

Just the raw energy of working together with your band. Developing a different pocket and feel—that’s what funk is all about.

Who have been some of your greatest influences and how do they inspire your sound?

We really love The Meters from New Orleans. There’s the old school guys like Fly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and some newer acts like Lettuce and Soulive.

What do you feel is the biggest different between legendary and modern funk?

I don’t know. We’re trying to go for that old school sound because they did it first and they did it right, but it’s just about going a different direction, like with our horn players being up front and at more of the melodic center.

Since you have a weekly residency at aliveOne, you must have to come up with new material constantly. What inspires your songwriting process?

We actually learn tunes for that kind of residency, but one of us will come up with the groove and then we’ll start playing all the way through and see if we can hash out a tune just at rehearsal.

What are you working on right now? Any upcoming albums?

Yeah, we’re gonna try to put out an EP soon and we’re gonna go on the road at the end of October down to New Orleans and Florida—the southeast.

What are your goals in the upcoming years?

Just to play those big summer festivals. This past year we played Jazz Fest which was a huge bucket list of ours, so we kind of just want to go on tour now.

Is there something you particularly like about festivals?

Just being able to play in the presence of all those other great musicians.

Brassft Punk’s Earl Scioneaux explains the madness behind his multifarious career

By Dana Getz

With a signature pair of oversized heart-shaped glasses and an afro rivaling that of Jimi Hendrix, Earl Scioneaux III is hard to miss. Born and bred in New Orleans, the sound engineer/producer/performer has been turning heads from an early age.

Scioneaux’s parents enrolled him in piano lessons at four-years-old after noticing his aptitude for music, later sending him to local arts school New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. While performing in miscellaneous bands throughout high school and college, he discovered a knack for operating recording equipment, eventually leading him to a career as a sound engineer. He has since recorded albums for the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz band and worked on various projects for Pretty Lights, Lenny Kravitz, Mos Def, My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird and more, as well as put out several of his own albums under the moniker The Madd Wikkid.

His latest project, “Brassft Punk,” brings together a group of New Orleans brass musicians to perform adapted versions of Daft Punk’s greatest hits. Though the robots haven’t personally responded, the record has gained significant attention, earning them slots at several summer festivals. We sat down with Scioneaux to discuss the band’s formation, his varied career and the uniqueness of New Orleans music.

 

You’ve been trained in more of the classical and jazz arenas. What made you decide to start working with alternative acts such as Pretty Lights and My Morning Jacket?

Those opportunities just came up. For me, music is music. I don’t really worry about genres much. Style is kind of an inconsequential artifact, you know? I just look for good music to attach myself to.

How would you describe the difference between sound recording and producing versus composing and performing?

Oh my God, it’s very different. A lot of times when I’m engineering for an act I try to stay completely out of the way and just capture what they’re doing, but working with an act as a producer is sometimes a combination of both some degree of engineering but also trying to help the artist or the band highlight themselves. Sometimes when you’re in a band you don’t always see what the real high points are or how to bring out the best, so I feel like that’s really a producer’s job. Composing in particular is a very personal thing. I don’t even know how to describe that process, but it’s very internal, and performing is almost like letting it all out. You just externalize all these emotions and ideas. You’re putting out in the moment into the world. All of those things are pretty drastically different.

In your most recent album you brought a brass band together to perform adaptions of Daft Punk’s hits. Where did you get the idea and how did the Brassft Punk band come together?

I got the idea because I was looking at these records that I’d seen people do where they’d taken older, classic tunes and modernized them in some way. I felt like that juxtaposition of styles was cool but I wanted to go the opposite direction, so I thought, “What are the ‘modern classics?’ What are the EDM big hits?” And Daft Punk seemed like a pretty obvious choice. Living in New Orleans, I’m surrounded by brass bands—they’re just everywhere—and with Daft Punk and brass band music being very dancey, feel good, party, fun music, I felt like that would be a good fusion. So I had the idea, wrote out a chart, and some friends of mine in The Soul Rebels were kind enough to let me crash their rehearsal. I handed out the charts and they played through it, kind of like a proof concept, and it translated really well. So from that point I started to put together the rest of the project. Pretty much once I had the charts done I hired the band to make the record. That was the whole project in my mind at the time. I guess through just the exposure—we put this on Kickstarter, started getting a lot of inquires about shows and stuff—it was clear that people wanted to see this live, and the band just sort of came together naturally.

Do you plan to do this with any other popular music?

I definitely wanna take this some other places. I’m toying with a couple ideas, but I’m not sure yet. I don’t want to tease something and then not come through with it, but I’m definitely going to take it some other directions toward the end of the year.

Let’s talk about your upcoming mixtape, “Don’t Tell Nobody.”

Well, it’s a series of mashups where I’m just drawing from a very wide swath of New Orleans music. Everything from old stuff from the 1950s to the Cosimo Matassa studio through the decades into Dr. John and so forth, some early bounce rap, Lil Wayne—all kinds of very, very different types of music kind of woven together, with the common thread being that they’re all New Orleans music. As far as I know no one’s done anything like it, and it had been on my mind for a while, so I just decided it was time to sit down and make that collage.

Yeah, most of your music features New Orleans artists. I know you’re from the area, but is there a particular reason you’re so drawn to New Orleans’ talent?

I think there’s a really special thing that’s going on there. And you know, to be honest, I didn’t realize it until I moved away from New Orleans for a while. A little over a decade ago I moved to New York and lived there for a few years and then I spent some time on the road. I realized there’s a very unique feel and sound in the way that the musicians play that really doesn’t happen anywhere else, it’s almost like an accent. I don’t know, maybe because I grew up around it I’m particularly drawn to it, but it seems like people around the world have developed some kind of affinity for that character as well. I realized that no one had kind of drawn that into the electronic world at all, so that’s kind of been my thing—finding ways to bridge that gap.

Other than the mixtape, what else is in store for the future? Any definite plans?

Well, kind of tying in with this mashup record, I think I’m going to do kind of a duo or a three piece. It will be me and a drummer, or me and a drummer and one horn player, and kind of do more things that are very dance-floor-oriented. It’ll almost be like an enhanced DJ set more than a band. So hopefully October/November we’ll start rolling that out and doing some shows that way. I think a compact ensemble like that will make sense more places, and Brassft Punk will do the big festivals.

THE MADD WIKKID’S MIXTAPE, DON’T TELL NOBODY, IS OUT SEPTEMBER 24.

From Potbelly to national TV: Voice veteran Jamie Lono’s journey to a full-fledged music career

By Dana Getz

Jamie Lono sits casually at a worn, wooden picnic table in Chicago’s Union Park, gratefully twisting the cap from a coconut water as he relieves his throat from the hot summer day. His floppy red hair is covered by a backwards baseball cap, and the beginnings of a sunburn span across his fair-skinned cheeks. Dressed in a simple, striped T-shirt, Lono looks like any other young passerby, his unassuming nature deceiving to those unfamiliar with his face. But Lono is more than meets the eye.

The 23-year-old singer/songwriter first gained prominence on NBC’s “The Voice,” charming audiences with his eccentric style and humble beginnings as a Potbelly sandwich maker. Though his time on the show was short-lived, Lono has since come a long way, ditching the sandwich gig in favor of a full-time music career. His sound is poppy with a hint of soul, melding heavy instrumentals and towering hooks with beautifully gritty vocals. He’s played a bevy of college campuses and local Chicago venues, including this past weekend’s North Coast Music Festival. We sat down with Lono to discuss his sophomore EP, facing life’s challenges and how he’s stayed positive throughout it all.

When and why did you first get involved in music?

I started when I was 14. I played guitar in a metal band. Me and all my buddies were in it and we played in that for like five or six years, and that was pretty much all we did. Then when I was like 19 the band broke up, and my house had a fire. I was still playing guitar and doing my thing, and I started singing and songwriting after my house had a fire ‘cause there was nothing else to do. I’d just go out to the car and write.

You’ve struggled through some difficult times, including early health complications and financial troubles. Could you talk more about those experiences and how they’ve influenced both you and your music?

Yeah, I mean my family was bankrupt when I was like two. Obviously I didn’t notice it, but growing up we didn’t have much money, so me being sick when I was two kind of affected my entire life. There were always money struggles, but I think it brought my family closer. It made me an emotional person, which is probably why I’m here. When I was around 19 is when my house had a fire. But I think everything happens for a reason—I mean I started singing when my house had a fire. I think if anything, these really terrible things happened in order for good things to happen.

I know you focused a lot on positivity in your first album, “The Feel Good Nation.” What inspires you to remain optimistic despite such difficulties?

If you’re not optimistic and happy, you’re barely fucking living. I don’t know, my first album was totally different. It was like, ‘Oh let’s feel good, let’s go to a festival and all this.’ It was cool, but I don’t know if it represented me entirely. The album that I just put out is a lot different; it’s a lot darker. It has darker themes, but it’s more about having that stuff happen and then kind of forgetting about it and realizing what’s good in life, and why you should cherish certain things.

So you said you played metal in the past, but now you have kind of a pop/soul sound. What drew you to that sound as opposed to something harder?

I still love that music, so in this new album I kind of tried to take it more in that direction because I think that’s still where my heart lies. I’ve had a lot of frustration, and it’s great to take it out through music. For me, that’s why I loved playing metal music. I loved playing the acoustic, singer/songwriter kind of stuff, but I think at the same time I was trying to fit into a certain genre and not really representing myself in terms of who I am and how I feel about the world. But I still would like to keep those general themes. I like writing about all that stuff because it’s how I get over things.

You gained prominence on NBC’s The Voice. What made you decide to try out for the show?

When I started singing I was 19, and I saw “American Idol” and there was this dude singing the blues, and I was like, ‘All right, I can do that.’ I started working on it more and more, and I didn’t know any other outlets really. I was like, ‘Okay, this is what you do. You sing and then you go try out for ‘American Idol.’’ I thought that was the industry. I got turned down from “American Idol” like twice, I got turned down from “The X Factor,” and then two weeks later I got a call from “The Voice,” and they were like, ‘We wanna give you a private audition,’ and they flew me out to L.A. From then on it was smooth sailing. The reason I was happy to get on The Voice is because they were the coolest people in that entire industry—the casting company is the nicest, the producers are the nicest. I guess I just didn’t really know what to do, and I had The Voice to do it and I went for it.

If you’re going to have someone on your side it might as well be Cee Lo Green, but you’ve done pretty well for yourself despite being kicked off early. How has your life changed since the show?

I’m able to make a living as a musician now. I’m not able to get to the point where I’m like, ‘All right yeah, I’m gonna go buy a house,’ but I do well for myself and I don’t have to make sandwiches or work at a 9 to 5 job. I have a cooler job than most people. I’m able to play at colleges and just tell people my story. The thing that sucks about the music industry these days is that you can’t just be a musician anymore, you have to have somewhat of a business sense and know when to grab shit and know when to go for it. So for me, I think I just took advantage of everything I was given.

You just released your sophomore EP, Reject. What were you listening to while making the album? What experiences inspired it?

I actually started listening to metal and stuff. I started listening to heavier stuff. I think I was just going through a darker time, and I was starting to really figure out what it is to song write, which is just honesty. If it hits something with my heart, then maybe it will hit somebody else. It’s a darker themed album, but I think it represents me more as a person, and it’s also at the same time about overcoming things and maintaining an optimistic point of view on the world.

Do you have any plans for a full length album?

Yeah, we’re gonna keep recording with the same producer. We’re going to get some funding and record maybe eight more songs and finish it up. We have a full band and all that, so it should be fun.

You’ve released all of your music independently so far. Do you plan to sign to a label at some point or is remaining independent important to you?

My manager explained it to me like this: signing to a record label is like buying a BMW and going really fast, and being independent is like having a Volkswagen that’s pretty steady but goes a lot slower. Whatever opportunity comes to me I’m going to take it. My goal is just to play for people every night; I don’t care about anything else really. I just want to share my music, and whatever happens, happens—I’m open to anything.

Since you’re a Chicago native. What’s your favorite venue to play music in the city?

Favorite place to play is probably the Beat Kitchen.

What’s the greatest concert you’ve seen here?

James Taylor, by far. I went to Sting too, and he was pretty amazing as well.

Other than your album, what’s next for you? What are you goals for the next few years?

Honestly to sign on to something, whether it be a booking agent or anything. Just take stuff to the next level and start gaining a bigger fan base, and play every single night for thousands of people. We’ll see where it goes.

jamie lono ft. 3

LONO’S SOPHOMORE EP, REJECT, IS OUT NOW.

North Coast Music Festival: Photos and Recap

By Dana Getz

Despite torrential downpour and severe thunderstorms, festivalgoers raged on at Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival last weekend. Nicknamed “Summer’s Last Stand,” the three-day fest is held annually in Union Park over Labor Day weekend. Though relatively new to the festival scene, North Coast has gained notable traction in its four-year period, drawing in thousands of scantily clad teens and twenty-somethings eager to celebrate their final weekend of freedom.

Always an eclectic lineup, this year’s festival boasted a hodgepodge of indie-dance, jam, hip-hop and electro-dub artists, as well as a host of local Chicago talent. Headliners included Passion Pit, Mac Miller, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and more, though several acts were cut short due to weather concerns. Mother nature wreaked havoc on festival grounds Friday evening, shutting down the park for a lengthy rain delay. Indie pop duo Capital Cities were cut-off mid-performance, barely squeezing in hit single “Safe and Sound” before being forced off the stage. The park reopened around 7 p.m., shuffling set times to allow condensed performances from the big draws— Mac Miller, Passion Pit, AlunaGeorge and the Disco Biscuits—though earlier acts were cancelled altogether. Headliner Passion Pit took the biggest hit, spinning an impromptu DJ set due to severely damaged equipment.

The sun made a welcomed appearance on Saturday, permitting seamless performances from crowd favorites like Gramatik and Afrojack. Aloe Blacc garnered major attention earlier in the day with his minimal soul/progressive house fusion, while sax-electro Big Gigantic rivaled dance-heavy Afrojack for the show-closing slot.

Sunday got off to a seemingly good start, with local funk seven-piece whysowhite amping up festivalgoers early in the afternoon. Their three front men alternated turns on vocals while the band threw out a gamut of percussive sounds, simultaneously throwing water bottles, fruit and an adorable stuffed dog into the awaiting audience. Nashville electro-duo Cherub seized the crowd’s high-spirits later in the evening, dousing their fans in champagne during a lively rendition of their debut hit “Doses and Mimosas.” Despite riveting performance throughout the day, Mother Nature reared its ugly head yet again as the night neared its end. Legendary collective Wu-Tang Clan was cut short during its finale performance, playing only a brief 30 minutes before a National Weather Service announcement sent them packing up early.

Though it faced some difficult weather challenges, this year’s North Coast brought together a diverse array of local and international acts, battling the storms with equally powerful sound and undying enthusiasm. Still a budding festival, this up-and-comer knows how to pack a punch, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the coming years.

Photos by Justin Barbin.

Rock ‘n’ soul foursome Vintage Trouble is bringing retro back

By Dana Getz

A live-wired soul band straight from the heart of L.A., Vintage Trouble knows how to get down and dirty with rock ‘n’ roll. The funky four-piece has been gaining major attention for their raw, retro-inspired sound and electric live shows, landing them opening slots for high profile acts like Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, The Who and The Rolling Stones.

Frontman Ty Taylor founded Vintage Trouble alongside Swedish guitarist Nalle Colt in 2010, quickly teaming up with bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson. The quartet recorded their debut album during a three-day session in L.A.’s Bomb Shelter Studio, emerging with a 14-track record that effortlessly channels mid-century soul music. Taylor sounds smooth and sultry against his bandmates’ groove-heavy style, combining twangy blues with a pop of R&B sex appeal. Now in the midst of their summer tour, Vintage Trouble will play tonight at Park West in Chicago. We chatted with Taylor a few days before the show, discussing the joys of imperfection, his favorite rock concert, and the band’s experience opening for The Rolling Stones and other rock legends.

 

First off, what brought you guys together and how did Vintage Trouble form?

Well, I knew all the other players, and we’ve been around the music scene for years and years. Even in a big city like L.A. there are acts that play the same clubs and tend to come together every week, but we wanted to do something different. So we started at this one place called Harvelle’s, this blues club in Santa Monica, and then before long we were playing full residencies all over L.A. So even as a band that had only been together for about two months, we were playing at some of the best clubs in L.A. From that point on we had in our minds that we wanted to go to England like a lot of the sax artists did in 1957, and we did that, it kind of worked out in our favor. We got a great TV show, the Jools Holland show, and that led to us being on the road with Brian May from Queen, and then Bon Jovi, and then we went on our own for 100 days playing shows in Europe. We went from playing little clubs to thousand-capacity venues. But we came together out of a mission really to kind of allow ourselves to release all of our preconceived notions about what a band could be like, and just set our own precedence. We were all into musicians from totally different styles, but collectively right in the middle of it was that 1950-1960 period where rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll were fully married for the first time.

You’ve all played in bands prior to forming Vintage Trouble. Were you playing a similar style of music before?

No. I think for me as the singer, I’ve done all different kinds of styles with all different kinds of bands. We all come from different styles, so we had this pool of influences that we had to fine tune into what we wanted to have be our own sound.

What about this sound and this group of people do you think really clicked?

I think that because the world right now happens to be so media-based and cultural-based and computer-based and very technologically advanced, that there was something about the idea that music was devolving through technology. We just wanted to play music and record it in full takes without any over-dub, and I think in our live show we clearly do have a set that we can kind of go with the audience and how that feels. I think people really connect with something that’s wild and abandoned and free.

What does it mean to be a vintage troublemaker?

First of all, it’s a great community. When I was growing up and listening to music, I always loved the idea that there were things like the Grateful Dead and Fish—these bands that had a culture happen around them. We didn’t try to have that happen, but just all of these people started coming to our shows and gave themselves the name The Troublemakers, and they just started a beautiful, beautiful circular community of artists and doctors and lawyers and teenagers and grandparents. These people are definitely people that don’t deal with a lot of bullshit, and they’re people that want to stand for something, and they’re people that understand the importance of music and they understand that it’s just as important to have your body move your head as it is for your head to move your body. There are troublemakers that have actually married from meeting each other at shows, there are troublemakers who have played songs as their first dance at their wedding, there are troublemakers who have paid for people’s tickets to fly to where there’s going to be a concert. It’s a really inspiring and encouraging family.

How did you come up with the name Vintage Trouble?

I was in an airport one day with my friend Cindy Holiday, and she was asking about my dad, and I was saying he got into trouble—vintage trouble. And at the time I was writing lyrics to a song, “Blues Hand Me Down,” so the song came first and after that we took on the name.

You recorded your debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions in only three days. Did you sleep in the studio? What was that process like?

Well, when you record a song all the way through and just use the best take, it takes a lot of time to record. So we just played each song about four or five times and chose the best take…but played together, three days actually seemed like a long time at the time.

It was originally intended to be a demo. Did it feel like an album while you were recording?

When we were recording it the songs were coming out a lot better than we thought, and then once we were hearing them we were like, ‘this actually does sound like a record.’ So we just ran with it. There wasn’t a lot of thought, there wasn’t a lot of planning, we didn’t pace back and forth about a lot of things—we just let it come through.

You’ve opened for some incredible rock legends, including Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, The Who and The Rolling Stones. What were those experiences like?

They were so different. Bon Jovi was like being in the middle of a rock ‘n’ roll dream, kind of like those movies you see with Mark Wahlberg. It was very much a rockstar kind of concert. It was a big, huge stadium and it was the wildest thing ever, the sounds coming back at you were just so huge. The wall of sound coming from your band, going through the first sound check and hearing all that echo coming back at you two hours later at a 60,000 person venue is incredible. Lenny Kravitz was a whole different thing, it was like a rock ‘n’ roll bohemia. Everything was so love-based—you feel like you’re part of a revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll period with everyone just so open and loving and caring. And then The Who was just so significant in terms of pop culture—it was an unbelievable rock ‘n’ roll presentation. Then there’s the Rolling Stones, where all you wanna do is feel like a bar band amplified. For us, being a band that combines blues and rock ‘n’ roll and the Stones being one of the best examples of that of all time, they really exemplify what we want to do with our careers and our lives. So it was overly humbling and overly empowering as well.

I feel like it’s so rare to hear retro, soul-inspired music being produced in a new format. What most inspires you about that sound?

That it’s imperfect. I think when things are too correct—which happens for a lot of musicians today—you leave restriction inside of the music. When you strive for perfect, your body can be unfulfilled. It’s kind of hard to understand how to package yourself when you have something that’s not aligning with what the studio hears and your body. It’s like people wiping their brows all the time on television. People used to watch artists on television because it showed that they were sweating and the musicians were working, as opposed to having someone pat you down with a sponge every five minutes so you look clean and perfect to the world. There was less inhibition then, and I think artists were doing more authentic collaborations with each other—more than just what record companies put together.

What was the greatest rock concert you ever went to?

The greatest rock concert I’ve ever been to was the Tina Turner Wildest Dreams Tour. At that point she was over 50-years-old, and to see someone give that much fire and to hear her project herself across the stage like a lion was just amazing.

Of the shows you’ve played together, which city had the wildest crowd?

I think the greatest response for us was in Nashville, because we were opening for The Who. It was the first time we got a standing ovation on the tour, so that was exciting. But out of our own shows, the wildest crowd is in L.A. That’s where we come from. I’ve literally had to pull my earpiece out of my ears because the audience was so loud.

I know you guys have been crazy busy with touring, but are you working on anything new right now?

Yeah, we’re recording our next record, and we have a documentary that’s out now called “80 Shows in 100 Days,” which follows us along our first big tour. We also have a live CD that we’re putting out at the end of the year, and the new record we’ll be putting out in February.

What can viewers expect from the documentary?

The documentary ended up being a music Cinderella story. I think quite often people are told that only one in a million people can make it, but no one ever tells anyone that they can be that one in a million person. So because of the fact that we went to England for only three weeks and ended up touring across Europe for 100 days shows that it does happen for some people. It’s inspiring people to be musicians, and for me if nothing else happens beyond what that documentary will show, at least we as a band were able to prove to ourselves that music can be a reached dream, not only for musicians but for the people around it. So the documentary holds more weight than I could have even imagined.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?

You gotta come to a live show. It shows what real artists are about. It’s really about being there. I have to say that there’s nothing like a Vintage Trouble Show, because for me, I’ve never experienced anything like it. What I see going on while we’re on stage, and what I see going on with all those people, it’s something that if I were a person that could choose that experience, I would choose it. So I would just encourage people to come to our live shows to not only see what our band is about, but to see what our community is about.

VINTAGE TROUBLE WILL PERFORM AUGUST 23 AT PARK WEST IN CHICAGO. FOR REMAINING TOUR DATES, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.

Pryde’s prime: the 19-year-old hip-pop star is one of the youngest in the game

By Dana Getz

The adolescent years of Russel Llantino’s life read more like a lifetime. At the age of 19, Llantino has garnered a fan base of over 250,000 people, toured across Canada with J. Cole and performed in front of thousands of fans at Lollapalooza, all the while supporting his mother in her fight against cancer. The Canadian native shrugs it off, insisting his expedited childhood simply came with the territory.

Inspired by Eminem, the popstar rapper began releasing music to the online community under the moniker of D-Pryde at the age of 14, quickly earning title as a YouTube phenomenon. His channel currently holds over 46.5 million views and almost 300,000 subscribers, consisting of an amalgamation of freeverses, covers and freshly baked originals. His sound is a collection of bright and bouncy feel-good hooks punctuated by clever lyricism, always executed with purpose and a distinct sense of honesty. Though he keeps his rhymes lighthearted, Pryde is all but airy when it comes to his music, dropping out of school at 16 to sign to Mars Music Group in pursuit of a full-time rap career. Three years later, the now New Yorker has released his debut EP Canal & Richvale and is finishing up a U.S. summer tour. We caught up with D-Pryde after an intimate show at the Calvin Klein CK One Color Music Lounge held at the Hard Rock during Lollapalooza, where he discussed making a name on YouTube, staying positive and the little-known intersection between Ontario and New York City.

Was there a large music community where you lived in Ontario?

I found that I was kind of doing it on my own. I just kind of fueled the internet, you know, utilized the internet more than anybody else. I couldn’t really find a music scene. I always did open mics around the city, but they were so spread out—there was really no “scene.”

Did you find you had a lot of support in the online community?

Yeah, definitely. It was a much better idea for me to spread myself on an outlet that nobody used. Nowadays everybody’s on YouTube, but when I started doing the whole YouTube thing it was only a few people, and they were mainly singers. So I came out with rap videos and that got really, really popular. I wasn’t the first, but I was one of the people who blew up off it—one of the only people back then. I was really young, so people were interested in that. I was standing out a lot. I used my racial difference as a huge advantage.

When did you know you wanted to make music your full time career?

At 16, when I dropped out of school and I was like, ‘You know what, this is what I gotta do for the rest of my life.’ You know, I signed to a label, I had no time to go to school or do normal kid things so I was like, ‘All right, I gotta do this. This is it.’

How did your mom feel when you dropped out of school?

She promoted me because she loved what I was doing. She couldn’t say anything because she dropped out of college, so she was like, ‘Do you. Do what you gotta do. I’ll stick by it.’

Who are some of your music idols?

Eminem, most definitely, and Drake being a figure from my city. I would just say those two right now in terms of rapping. For singing it would probably be Chris Brown and Bruno Mars, most definitely.

How would you describe your own style of music?

It’s just a fusion of hip-hop and pop. The subject matter is all light, but it’s all real life experiences—really relatable. My main thing is always being relatable.

In the time that you’ve been making music, you’ve also been growing up. How have you balanced being a kid and also maintaining a serious music career?

I’m just a serious person altogether. I have a lot of older friends, so whenever I hang out with my friends I just feel like I’ve grown a bit more than I’m supposed to. A lot of 19-year-olds have the 15-year-old dude mentality, but I hang around a lot of older people and I listen to my parents a lot more than the normal kid would.

Is there a reason you’ve always had older friends?

Well, in high school I could never make friends with kids my own age ‘cause they all didn’t like me, so I hung out with my brother and his crew. They were always two years older than me, and they hung out with kids older than them so they were influenced by the older kids and then that made me influenced by all of them together. I was just never friends with kids my age back then.

How has growing up so quickly been reflected in your sound?

Well, my EP that’s out right now, that’s basically what it’s about. It’s called Canal & Richvale. Canal is the street I work on in New York and Richvale is the street I used to live on. It’s like an intersection of my walks of life. It’s just like a kid going through a location crisis with everything changing, you know? So I wanted to jot that down in six songs and make a kind of story about how things have changed and how things have really grown.

Do you feel at home in New York now?

Yeah, somewhat. I always want my family to be there. I don’t think it will ever be home without my family.

So you miss your family a lot?

Yeah, all the time. They’re great people, I love being around them. They just have this positive energy about them. My mom at the moment has stage four cancer, and she’s still smiling, she’s still working, she’s still hanging out with everybody. So just off her optimism alone I take it and channel it through being happy every day, ‘cause you know, it could be worse.

You’ve spoken a lot about the hardships of being an Asian rapper in the music industry. What have you done to overcome some of those obstacles?

I just ignore all the hate and I take advantage of my cultural difference. I see it more as an advantage of being different that separates me from the other rappers—I kind of have an upper hand.

Do you feel the same way about people who criticize your young age?

Yeah, I don’t pay attention to that either. I use it to my advantage. I have a couple years on me, but there’s always room for growth, there’s always room for improvement and progression so I just take it as I’ll get better in the future when I’m, like, 25. I’ll be way better than what people think I’ll be.

After you played at Calvin Klein’s CK One music lounge I noticed you stuck around to hang out with your fans after the show. Is that something you do often?

Yeah, all the time. I like hanging out with people that adore my music and I like the compliments. I like people taking time out of their day to really tell me that I did a good job. That must mean that I’m doing something good. So as long as I have some people in the room feeling me, I’m totally fine.

Have you had any favorite fan moments so far?

I’ve had a lot of people who tattoo my lyrics on them and that’s still really overwhelming. It will always be overwhelming to me, but every fan is a favorite of mine. I have a lot of fans I know on a first name basis, too, so that’s really a cool thing.

Let’s go back to your EP, Canal and Richvale. How does it compare to your first two mixtapes?

The six songs I made are way better in terms of crafting. We composed them way better than we did the other two mixtapes. The other two mixtapes were very, like, mixtape worthy, and the mixing and mastering are way different on this tape. The whole sound of it is polished and way better composed than the rest of the projects. The songs are a little more relatable, and it’s a better sum up of everything that’s happened in only six songs, rather than working full songs that I have to try to tell the story in.

Do you have a favorite track from the EP?

Yeah, “Proud.” It’s a cheerful, uplifting, motivational thing for me to listen to and perform, so it’s always great to hear myself on it.

Have you been happy with the response so far?

Yeah, definitely. You know, it’s my first project, but I really don’t care about the sales and I don’t really care about the critics. At the end of the day, I just care about getting the music out there for my fans and having them entertained. At the end of the day it’s all about them.

How do you think the music reflects your personality?

You know, I’m a cheerful kid, but I’m also real at the same time when it comes to my mood and my emotions. So I mix the happiness in with the realness of life. Like I said, it’s all about being relatable. I wanna be relatable. I want everybody to kind of feel like they can always go to me if they have a problem.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

I’m not a foodie, but I like exploring different cultures of food. I’m never a picky kid when it comes to food. I like trying everything. So food searching, and if it’s not music I always try to spend as much time talking to my family as possible. They’re really good people, I like staying around them.

So you’re 19 and you’ve already toured with J. Cole and played Lollapalooza. Tell me about those experiences.

It was fun; it was a growing experience. For both of them it was a huge growing experience, not even in terms of music but in terms of work ethic and personality. You know, handling myself out there and holding my own to an extent, just being a way grown up person about traveling and handling everything. You can’t depend on so many people; you can only depend on yourself. That’s what I learned being on the road. And the thrill of performing in front of huge audiences—I usually perform at, like, 200 cap venues—but when I did the Cole tour we packed in like 2,000 people at the Sound Academy I think, so just seeing all that and seeing the thrill of it and feeling the thrill of it is amazing, too.

Did J. Cole give you any advice?

Yeah, every now and then. It was really casual; we just chilled around every now and then. He was a great guy, really humble. He definitely influenced me to be more humble with my fans and keep the same persona throughout my career as the same small town kid.

What other accomplishments do you hope to achieve within the next few years?

I wanna buy my mom a house. I wanna buy my brother a car. These are all monetary things, but they’re also just goals I set for myself in order to work hard. I want everybody around me to be happy before I get happy. I just want to be the biggest star I can be and do the best I can to make this blow up. I know it won’t happen overnight, so I’m just gonna progressively work and get better at my craft.

D pryde extra

D-PRYDE WILL PERFORM ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 17 AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM IN NEW YORK CITY. HIS DEBUT EP, CANAL & RICHVALE, IS OUT NOW.

After a breakthrough year, Krewella is going deep on their first studio album

By Dana Getz

Much like their club banging electro dance tracks, Los Angeles-based trio Krewella has been hitting the EDM scene hard since their debut single “Alive” topped charts earlier this year. Their anthemic pop–meets-all-things-electronic sound brought them instant acclaim, launching them from warehouse scene staple to “Best Breakthrough Artist” of the 2012 International Dance Music Awards.

Despite being one of the first few artists to layer poppy lyricism over electro-heavy beats, their trademarked style was somewhat accidental.

“We started before we even knew what dubstep or electrohouse or complextro or hard style was,” said producer Kris Trindl, a.k.a. Rain Man. “It was always I made music; they wrote lyrics and sang them. So as we got introduced to the scene of ‘EDM’ and all those genres, it just stayed the same. We just made the same kind of music.”

The resulting blend draws influences from across the board, including Trindl’s roots playing metal in high school bands in the northern suburbs of Chicago, where he eventually met sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf.

“I just wanted to get in a van and travel the country and have people screaming and listening to us just fucking shred. I wanted it so bad,” Trindl said.

After a few years in the metal circuit, Trindl discovered the hit-making magic of Timbaland while listening to tracks like Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” and “Loose” by Nelly Furtado.

“I heard that and I was like, ‘I need to be Timbaland,’” Trindl said.

He began producing crude reflections of Timbaland’s work, eventually honing his skills after being introduced to electronic acts such as Deadmau5 and Skrillex. He then persuaded Jahan to sing on a beat, and by 2011 the two had recruited her younger sister Yasmine. The crew played local shows at first—DJ gigs, underground raves, anything they could get their hands on—but it was hardly enough to pay rent, and by late 2011 they were faltering. Even so, the trio pushed on, and with the new year came “Alive,” a techno-inspired piano-pop hit that kicked their recent formation into high gear.

The group released their debut EP “Play Hard” a few months later, signing a deal with Columbia Records shortly after. Krewella is now finishing up their first full-length studio album, “Get Wet,” due out September 24.

“I’d say we definitely developed our craft more. Yas and I spent more time crafting every single lyric and every hook. We just took a lot more time working on it, and Kris spent a lot of time with production too,” Jahan said. “It’s more in touch with different emotions, too, whereas ‘Play Hard’ is one dimensional.”

Jahan cited emotions ranging from rage and passion to sex, love and happiness, noting she wants fans to feel like “they’re not alone, [that] there’s a song that understands them.”

Yet even with heavier lyrical content in tow, the dance-crazed threesome hasn’t lost sense of their brazen, fun-centric music making.

“I wanna make music that makes people wanna move. Well, not necessarily every single track ‘cause you have to have those ballads—you have to have the “Good Riddance” of your album,” Yasmine said. “But most of the time we’re up on stage and we’re going fucking bananas, and I want people to feel that and wanna rage and get sweaty with us.”

The Chicago natives have since moved to Los Angeles to finalize the album, where they’ve been collaborating with a collection of producers and songwriters including Toby Gad and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump.

“When you make your own music it’s hard to step back and look at it from an objective perspective, so you have tons of talented people who can just give you notes,” Trindl said.

Despite their cross-country move and rapid rise to fame, the Midwesterners still make time to play shows in their hometown, recently returning to Chicago for a VEVO showcase during Lollapalooza weekend.

“It’s amazing to play festivals in front of 5,000-7,000 people, but also we still love shows like [this showcase],” Jahan said. “We have about 150 fans here, and we’re gonna be face to face with them. You can’t forget, as an artist, that no matter how big your shows get, you still want to play those really small shows when you’re having those intimate moments with fans.”

Krewella

KREWELLA WILL PLAY SUMMER SET MUSIC FESTIVAL SUNDAY, AUGUST 11 AND ELECTRIC ZOO FESTIVAL SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1.

Songful siblings: alt-pop twosome Blondfire keeps it in the family

By Dana Getz

Some kids get their parents’ eyes, others their sense of humor and knack for entertaining. Bruce and Erica Driscoll, however, inherited something of a different genetic variety: a musical ability that landed them a slot recording in a big shot NYC studio, launched their single to number one on the iTunes alternative chart and earned them the soundtrack for the 2012 Honda Civic commercial.

Born and bred in Grand Rapids, MI, the two began piano lessons at an early age due to their persuasive musician mother. As they got older, the pair developed their own flair for music, teaching themselves guitar and writing songs in their homemade studio. By high school they had started a band with their older sister, but eventually branched off to move to New York and pursue music as a full-time career. The siblings now produce synthy-sweet pop-centric music under the moniker of Blondfire, grabbing the attention of music veterans and bloggers alike with their dark, dream-like melodies and electro-laced rhythms. We caught up with Erica a few days before their Lollapalooza show to discuss family dynamics, youth and trying to stay normal amongst the chaos.

So what made you decide to start a band with your brother?

It’s funny because I feel like it was just so natural, just because we were both so into music. We’d get really cold in Michigan, so we occupied ourselves a lot of the time with music. We had a little studio set up where we would just write songs and record, and that was, like, fun and kind of entertainment for us. It was just a natural progression.

Can you tell me about your journey as a band and your transition from Austaire to Blondfire?

Well, we moved to New York and decided to pursue music. We had a connection with this guy, Andy Chase, who works with this band Ivy. We knew that he owned a studio there, so we sent him a demo that we’d been recording and went out there to record with him. He had a studio that was also owned by James Iha, from The Smashing Pumpkins, and Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, so it was a big deal to us that they liked our sound and wanted to work with us. We knew we either had to go to L.A. or New York, so we went to New York first. We were pretty young, and we toured opening for Ivy all over the states and Canada, and with this other band Stars. So we were doing pretty well with the band name Austere, but apparently Fred’s widow didn’t like the fact that we were using the name, so we unfortunately had to change it. Which was hard, because when you have a band name for awhile and you think that name represent you, it’s hard to come up with something else. But now I’m pretty happy with the new name, so it worked itself out.

When did you first realize “Where the Kids Are” was going to be big?

We were in Texas at our first show with Awolnation, and we just got back in our van after the show and heard it on the radio. It’s a really cool feeling to be somewhere that’s not the city you’re from and know that you’re playing there.

So what’s it like being in a band with your brother?

It’s really fun. It’s cool, ‘cause I feel like when we write together we’re coming from the same place. Growing up we had similar experiences and influences in music, so when we go to write a song it’s just a natural thing we do together. So it’s fun, and we have a special connection with each other.

Which one of you usually wins the arguments?

Oh my gosh, it depends. The funny thing is we can fight or piss each other off, but within five minutes we forget about it pretty much.

Let’s talk about your upcoming album. What most influenced you while making it?

Well, I feel like it’s a little more leaning toward, like, dream pop and it’s a little bit softer. When we were in the studio we were just trying to write the music and just work on finding new sounds and stuff. We just thought it would be cool to go and try to find like an edgier side to it, even though our music’s not hard or anything. We were just kind of trying to push ourselves in a different direction a little bit. We wrote “Where the Kids Are” and the song “Young Heart,” which just kind of set us on a path for the whole album with the vibe we wanted to create. I feel like once we wrote those two songs we kind of had the vision with where we wanted to go with it. We didn’t really set out with a vision lyrically, but I feel like as we wrote stuff a lot of the songs seemed to have an underlying thread about just living in the moment and enjoying life. Just feeling young and living like you’re young I guess.

Why do you think this was an important message for you guys to get out now?

I don’t know, it wasn’t really planned. It just sort of came out naturally, but I think it’s a good thing to live by. You know, life’s short, so you gotta enjoy it.

“Where the Kids Are” was kind of a surprise hit for you guys. Are there any songs on the new album with the same sort of potential?

I mean, I hope so. All of the songs have a pretty special theme, so I think that because of that we’ll probably get a good response and people will really like it.

Do you have a personal favorite?

It really changes all the time, but I really love “Young Heart.” It just has a very kind of dreamy quality and the lyrics are very spacey, I just really like the vibe of that.

You’re playing Lollapalooza’s BMI stage in a few days. What are you looking forward to about that experience?

I’m really looking forward to being included in such a cool festival, and being included with bands that have been so important to me is a cool feeling. It’s a big deal to be listed as playing the same events as them, you know? It’s a cool accomplishment for us.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

Yeah, I really love playing the songs that people know, like “Waves” or “Where the Kids Are.” It’s such a cool feeling when we start playing a song and people recognize it, and when people sing the lyrics back to you.

Your life seems to be jam-packed with performances lately. How did you stay calm amongst all the craziness?

It does get really crazy. I think the main thing I do is just try and be comfy, and just be active as much as possible so I can feel semi-normal, ‘cause a lot of times you’re just sitting in the van late into the night. I try to go for runs as much as I can and do workouts and that sort of thing. I try not to each too much pizza late at night.

What do you want to accomplish in the next few years?

I think we’ll be touring a lot, and I just want to keep writing a lot and putting out new music. I love writing songs, that’s probably my favorite thing about it. I’ll be doing some more collaborations—I’ve been collaborating with a couple DJs—and just kind of exploring different cavities of songwriting.

Is there anyone you’ve been dying to collaborate with?

Oh, there’s so many. I think the biggest one for me would be, like, bands I’ve been listening to since I was young, like the Pet Shop Boys would be amazing for me. Definitely Depeche Mode. Tom Petty would be amazing. I’m a huge Tom Petty fan.

BLONDFIRE WILL PERFORM SATURDAY, AUGUST 3 AT LOLLAPALOOZA.

Work hard, play hard: electro-dance duo Brite Lite Brite does both at the same time

By Dana Getz

Calling Luke Johnson and Andrea Stankevitch workaholics would be an understatement. But when your job is music, it can be easy to get addicted. Individually, they each hold full-time positions at Berklee College of Music and perform with multiple bands and producers, but together they form Brite Lite Brite, an electro-dance group with layers of bass-ridden dubstep and haunting vocal textures. Stankevitch sounds much like a feminine Conor Oberst atop Johnnson’s dance-driven club beats, singing longingly of unrequited love and disappointment. The dark, restless quality of their compositions is undoubtedly a nod to their acoustic roots, noted on tracks like “Song On the Radio” from their debut album Universe Universe. Since its release in 2009, the duo has been scrounging their limited down time to finish their sophomore album, Stalker, due out later this year. During a rare free moment, Johnson chatted with us about sleep deprivation, cyborgs and their upcoming Lollapalooza performance.

So how did Brite Lite Brite get started?

Well, Brite Lite Brite got started a long time ago as a different band called Tatter. We met at Berklee College of Music when we were both students there, along with another guitarist—I was playing guitar back then—a drummer and a bass player. So that basically evolved into an acoustic duet with me and Andrea. And then that evolved into incorporating some electronics until we pretty much went full electronic, and at that point we changed the name to Brite Lite Brite.

What moved you to change your sound to electronic?

I was very into the electronic scene in the late ‘90s in Buffalo, NY and Toronto, Canada. So that was a huge influence on me, and I always wanted to produce electronic music. I felt that I had a lot in my head that I couldn’t really create with a guitar and my voice. So then I studied that at Berklee College of Music, and as I learned more we started to incorporate a little bit until eventually we said, ‘Hey, this is awesome. Let’s use drum hits and base hits and sing over live, real-time production.’

What have been some of your biggest influences as a group?

Biggest influences for us would be the whole of electronic music, really every genre. We don’t really pin ourselves down with one genre. We’ve listened to a huge variety of artists over the years. Also, science itself and technology, and the way that technology’s been moving. I’m a firm believer that we as humans are almost cyborgs at this point in the way that we interact with computers. The only true difference between us and real cyborgs is in itself, like we still have to type and then look instead of just instantly know. So I wanted to create the closest brain to computer to synthesizer interface possible so that I could basically just think electronic music. That’s what I’ve been working on ever since, and through countless innovations of the system, I think we’ve managed.

Is there a specific place you find most inspiring when you produce?

For me, my own studio is where I produce because it’s right in the heart of Cambridge, Mass., right in Central Square, where the electronic music scene in the northeast is strongest. There are clubs right on the street where I play and go to see really great DJs all the time.

Do both you and Andrea still work full-time at Berklee?

We do, yeah. Andrea works in student affairs I believe, and I work in the electronic production and design department, and I also work at a couple other colleges. I teach classes at Rhode Island School of Design and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

What do you like about teaching? How is it different from producing?

I love teaching because, really, you start them with on knowledge coming in, and then by the end you get to see what they can create, and sometimes that’s really phenomenal. To see that kind of improvement, as well as the interest when they present a student topic and they just latch onto it, makes you want to go to the lab and immediately do it after class. It’s really rewarding for me.

So is that something you’d like to continue?

It is. I want to do both.  Those are the two things I want to do. I want to teach more college classes and eventually become a full-time professor, which, believe it or not, would actually give me more time than I have now because I’m doing that and working at Berklee as a studio supervisor. That would give me more time to produce and release tracks and play shows.

Your life sounds crazy busy. How do you find the time and energy to work on Brite Lite Brite?

It’s tough. I just don’t sleep. I replace sleep with coffee. During the winter I basically work 80-hour weeks. I have a couple classes to teach every week, which is a day each not counting preparation, and I work full-time at Berklee, and I produce overnight. But it’s all really rewarding work; I like all of what I do.

You and Andrea are both pretty involved in outside projects as well, right?

Yeah, that’s right. We collaborate with a lot of electronic producers. I perform with a couple other bands. One of them is Into the Alpha, made up of myself, Al Cleveland and Cobi Mike. Cobi Mike is the singer from Gentlemen Hall, who recently just got signed onto, I think, Justin Bieber’s label. So they’ve actually just made it, but we still play together. He’s a phenomenal singer and has great musical ideas, so it’s a lot of fun working with them. Then I play in another one that’ really a live hip-hop/dubstep band.

Do you feel that it’s important for you and Andrea to continue to work independently?

Important? Maybe. I think it’s more that we both just love doing it so much that we latch onto every good opportunity that pops up and say, ‘I wanna work on that.’ Any dream team bands that are put together, if we’re offered to join it, it’s hard to turn it down.

Let’s talk about your upcoming album, Stalker.

Well, this time there’s really no holds barred whatsoever. Some of the tracks are just bass in your face, complete craziness, and some of them are really out there. It’s more cohesive as an album, too. The last one was very, very diverse. There was some electronic stuff, some acoustic stuff. This one is all electronic, very danceable—ranges from house to dubstep to disco house. I think that it came leaps and bounds further with my production skills and the technology that I understand and know how to build and use. We’ve created groundbreaking new sounds that the technology just wasn’t there for in the past.

Why did you decide to name it Stalker?

That’s gonna be the last track on the album, which we’ll be playing at Lollapalooza. It’s a heavy bass, dubstep-inspired but more house oriented, really creepy, creepy track.

Do you have a favorite track from the album?

Yeah, actually, our single that we just released, “Never Let You Out of My Heart.” That, to me, is my favorite piece of art that I’ve ever created. I think it’s a really sweet, sweet song. You could call it dubstep because it follows all of the basic dubstep rules, but you could also waltz to the song. It’s full and smooth; it’s just really beautiful.

What do you want listeners to understand about your music?

Well, first and foremost, I am not a DJ. I don’t DJ, I don’t know how to DJ. We’re actually a live electronic performance duo. We actually play most of what we do live with drum sequencers, step sequencers, synthesizers, live, real-time vocal effects and a whole lot of controllers. I want people to know that so that they understand, and they’ll hear little mistake that are shown, that kind of shows that this is an actual band that plays music. I actually don’t use my laptop, or I don’t look at my laptop or touch my laptop throughout the whole show. Part of the time my screensaver starts by the end of it, because I’m actually playing on controllers rather than using my laptop.

You’re playing at Lollapalooza in a few days. What does that performance mean to you?

This will probably be the biggest show we’ve played so far, and I’m really, really honored to play Perry’s stage of all stages. I was a huge fan of [Perry Farrell] and Jane’s Addiction. It’s an honor that we got the spot, really. It shows that people do appreciate what we’re doing, and it’s exciting. Last time we played a show at Virgin Mobile FreeFest a couple years ago and it was great, but this time we’re opening for Flux Pavillion and Steve Aoki, who are some of my heroes. I absolutely love them.

What can fans expect from your live set?

They can expect a lot of energy. It may be over the top for a band that’s opening at noon. They can expect some very, very interesting sounds, some beautiful vocals and some surprises. They can definitely expect some surprises. They hear Andrea sing and it comes out all glitched-out, I think they can get pretty excited about that.

Ideally, where do you see BLB in the next few years or so?

Hopefully we’ll be playing Lollapalooza in Brazil, in Chile and Chicago again. I hope that our album sales are doing well, and somehow we’ll find a way to quadruple the rate at which we’re producing and putting out music. And I hope to have my correct brain-to-speaker interface completed by then.

BRITE LITE BRITE WILL PERFORM FRIDAY, AUGUST 2 AT LOLLAPALOOZA. THEIR LATEST SINGLE, “NEVER LET YOU OUT OF MY HEART,” IS OUT NOW.

Nashville duo Cherub lets us inside their crazy fun world of electro love making

By Dana Getz

With a charmingly sarcastic sense of humor and a zest for the fun-loving lifestyle, it’s easy to see how Jordan Kelly and Jason Huber became friends. The Nashville-natives met during their college years and eventually formed Cherub, a funkified electro-pop group blurring the lines between 80’s dance music and contemporary pop. Combining risqué lyrics, silky smooth falsetto and synthesizer-rich production, their musical repertoire is a potpourri of psychedelic chillwave ballads and groove-heavy dance numbers. After landing a slot on Gramatik’s Age of Reason tour last spring, the duo booked gigs at festivals across the globe, including Bonnaroo, SXSW, Electric Forest and the upcoming Lollapalooza. The pair took time between stops on their European tour to discuss gray hairs, crazy fan antics and the importance of finding a good cologne.

Can you tell me a little about your backgrounds and how Cherub got started?

Kelly: Cherub started about three or so years ago, right outside of Nashville where me and Jason were going to school. So we went to school together. I liked Jason’s handshake—he had a firm handshake—and it went from there.

What went into shaping your sound as a group?

Huber: It’s really just an amalgamation of where we all came from musically. Jordan is our songwriter and you can hear all of his influences very, very strongly in the songwriting. He’s been producing for years before we started Cherub.

Let’s talk about your newest album, 100 Bottles. What went into the creative process?

Kelly: It was similar to everything else we’ve done thus far. The difference with 100 Bottles was that it was the least done when we brought it to the studio, so there was a lot added to it in the studio, whereas with the other two albums they were much more finished before we brought them in. With 100 Bottles there was a lot more emptiness that needed to get filled up.

Where did the name 100 Bottles come from?

Kelly: Sampatattillo.

Who?

Kelly: Sampatattillo is our buddy and if we took credit for coming up with 100 Bottles he would be fuckin’ pissed off. He would never stop talking shit. We were shooting a music video in New York for Monogamy and he got really drunk during the music video, and any time he would do anything he said, ‘100 Bottles.’ It was just something he kept saying. He would do something really dumb and be like ‘100 Bottles!’ It didn’t really make sense, and then sometimes it did make sense, so there was that New York trip where we were just saying that a lot and we just kind of called the album that.

Where do you usually draw inspiration from for your songs?

Kelly: Jason’s hair. That’s where we get all our inspiration from. I found my first gray hair in Paris. I didn’t think that I would get them until I was like 35 or something but I guess you get them whenever. It was like six in the morning and we were super hammered and we were in Paris. I couldn’t have found my gray hair in a worse place than Paris. My friend was saying he found some grays hairs when I went back to visit him, and I was like, ‘Dude, shut the fuck up. You’re like 25. You’re just being drunk and thinking that.’ And then I found one and I was like, ‘God damnit!” So I spent the whole morning whining to Jason about it.

A lot of your songs talk pretty openly about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Do you guys consider yourselves big partiers?

Kelly: We don’t go over the top with it but we party. We like to go have fun with it, yeah. Say, hypothetically, that I got drinks every single night on this tour so far in Europe. It wouldn’t be like I’m a big partier but I’m casually drinking with people. When I wake up I have a couple shots, and after lunch I end up having a couple shots. I like to change it up, so usually I wake up and drink a couple shots of whiskey, and for lunch I’ll do a couple shots of vodka. We always go on stage sober though, and then we end up not being sober later. So I’d say we’re medium partiers.

The last year or so has been a pretty crazy ride for you guys. What’s been the biggest surprise?

Kelly: We played a show one time and there was a cake on stage and somebody hopped out of it naked. That was a pretty big surprise.

What’s the craziest experience you’ve had at a show?

Kelly: Well there’s been a lot of those. The first one I can think of that came to my head is we were playing and in between songs this dude told me to come over so I came over to him, and he handed me like three or four hits of acid. He said to me to take them on stage but I was like ‘I’m not gonna do that,’ so I threw them in my pocket. And the whole show in the back of my mind I had this really dumb paranoia that I was gonna be so sweaty that they were gonna get wet and then soak into my legs, and then I’d be tripping during the show and have to run off stage. So that was funny. I’ve had somebody shove Molly into my face before I went on stage one time, which was really annoying because we go on stage sober, so I was freaking out like, ‘Dude, I’m gonna be fucked up during the show.’ So that was kinda shitty.

Huber: Jordan has hit me in the face with a cake a couple times.

Kelly: Also, there was a topless woman dancing around in Germany. That was pretty weird. She was beautiful on the inside.

Huber: People will take Jordan’s talk box, too, and decide to put it in their mouth. And that’s just weird. It’s weird and kinda gross. People take it upon themselves to get on stage with us every once in awhile and it always gets kinda crazy. In Tulane some girl took a selfie picture with me while I was singing a song. She expected me to smile and pose while I was singing, which was just not gonna happen.

You’re playing Lollapalooza in under a week. What are you most looking forward to about that experience?

Huber: We love Chicago in general. We’ve been lucky to come there a lot this summer. Chicago was actually the first city where we’ve ever had a sell out show with pre-sale, so we’re really excited to come back to Chicago and play for all of our friends in Chicago. Beyond that, Lollapalooza has been one of the festivals we’ve been most excited about because of all of the artists that are on it—the lineup is just incredible. It’s a very mainstream and broad-reaching lineup, and we’re honored to be a part of that. Also, our after party with Kendrick Lamar and Baauer—we’re really, really excited to be a part of that as well.

What other artists do you really want to see?

Huber: I really want to see Nine Inch Nails. I love Nine Inch Nails. I know for Jordan, Kendrick Lamar is one of his favorites, so the fact that we get to share a bill with him is a huge, huge honor.

This is your first European tour. What’s the experience been like?

Huber: This is actually our first time in Europe for both of us, so it’s been a really awesome, eye-opening experience. Everybody’s been really friendly and welcoming to us. We had an amazing time in Paris and an amazing time in Amsterdam because that’s where both of our days off were. In Paris we ended up dancing in this club that was on a boat on the Seine River, and we were dancing ‘till like five in the morning to trance music. That was crazy. And Amsterdam is Amsterdam. We sang karaoke in a karaoke bar. It was awesome. It’s just been a really exciting trip for us, and the fact that we get to make new friends in other countries is awesome.

What can we expect from you guys in the future?

Huber: Well we’re just finishing up in the studio now on another album. We don’t have any sort of release date or schedule to speak of yet, but we’re really excited about this new music and we’re gonna keep on touring until we can share that with the world.

Kelly: Better haircuts. More suits. I wanna start wearing more suits. I wanna find, like, a nice smelling cologne that I can call my own that no other guy wears. I wanna get a nice pair of glasses, so I don’t have to wear my contacts all the time because I pass out in them a lot. And I guess music. I guess a lot of new music, but that’s not important. The important thing is just the suits, smelling good, my hair and cologne. The future for me is becoming a man.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the new album?

Kelly: The new album is just basically building on the foundation that’s already been put in place as far as creating a sound that we can call our own, and hopefully having people catch onto it. At the end of the day I think me and Jason and everyone are just trying to build something that’s going to withstand the test of time, so 10, 20 years down the road the songs are still played and sound just as good and are just as catchy as they were when they were made. This album is just a continued from the previous ones, but we’re definitely trying some new stuff. There’s definitely some stuff on there that people will either be thrown off in a good way or thrown off in a bad way. There’s some really crazy sounding shit on this new one for sure, but it’s still dancey and it’s still got fuckin’ crazy lyrics, but we’re definitely trying to incorporate more genres and just trying to stay happy and excited with the music we’re making.

Is there anything on your bucket list as a band that you’d like to cross off?

Kelly: One day I wanna beat Jason in arm wrestling. We wanna party on a boat with Bill Murray. I wanna play Red Rocks as well. Actually, I wanna headline Red Rocks one day, and I wanna headline Madison Square Garden. That would be fuckin’ awesome. There’s epic venues all around the world that I know we’d die to headline or even open up for somebody, so there’s lots of stuff as a band that we wanna cross off and work hard at getting towards. Jason wants to play at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina ‘cause that’s where he grew up watching bands; it’s like a nostalgic thing for him.

Cherub

CHERUB WILL PLAY SATURDAY, AUGUST 3 AT THE LOLLAPALOOZA PERRY’S STAGE AND AGAIN AT ARAGON BALLROOM THE SAME DAY. THEIR SOPHOMORE EP 100 BOTTLES IS OUT NOW.