Tag Archives: indie bands

Sword in the Stone

24 Jun

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“Be the change” has been my mantra for years.  In fact, when I was teaching in Michigan, I said it so often that students would sometimes attribute the quote to me (as an English instructor I used it as a “teachable moment” to discourage plagiarism by properly attributing it to its rightful owner – Gandhi).

Attribution issues aside, I was gratified to realize that the message was getting through because my students felt like the best hope for change, and when I left the classroom in 2012, I worried that I wouldn’t feel that hope anymore.

I need not have worried.  Thanks to technology and social media, I’m finding small pockets of people who are doing things they love and being the change in their own corner of the world.

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet from the Baltimore band, Blind Man Leading.  I followed the link, and watched one of the most uplifting band videos I’ve seen in a long time – maybe ever.  As I listened to the music and the band members (drummer/producer Paul Mercer, bass player/vocalist Tyler Wheeler, and guitarist/lead singer Dave Wentz) talk about what inspires them to make music, what struck me was their gratitude for their fans and their desire to build a community by making music that draws listeners together.

Dave explained, “Swords is a thank you to all of the people who listen,” Tyler followed, saying, “The purpose of this album is to get people to come out and listen,” and when Paul chimed in, “We appreciate all of the people who come to see us so much.  How do you capture that in a recording – that sense of community?” I was hooked.  These guys make music because they love both the creative process of making the music and the experience of gifting it to their listeners in their performances.

So, I tweeted back and told them they should come to Chicago, and to my surprise they responded!  As we engaged in a short exchange about a tour budget and how fan lottery winnings might be the way to fund it, I was amazed at their genuine interaction with fans via what can be such an impersonal medium.

I did a little research and listened to more of their music on their Bandcamp page, then bought the album, and listened to it for a few days.  The Bandcamp description of them as crafting and playing “…melodic, expressive songs that feature bright chords and upbeat, jazz-influenced rhythms” is absolutely accurate.  There’s something very honest and real about their music, and I felt uplifted hearing them sing, “You have choices.”

Dave, Paul, and Tyler in Philadelphia

Dave, Paul, and Tyler in Philadelphia – photo credit @amorealta (Paul’s Instagram)

So, being the rookie fan I am, I found the band’s email address and wrote them asking if they’d mind me blogging about them and their positive message. They responded much more quickly than I’d imagined they would, and were incredibly open to being part of my blog and generous about answering questions.

I wrote, “I’ll tell you that what really inspired me to want to write about you guys (beside the fact that I enjoyed your music) were two things in particular: the YouTube video where you talked about how you feel about your fans and the link on your page to the International Justice Mission.  In a world full of slickly packaged, commercialized music (which has its own place/value), I think music lovers are searching for (and often desperately craving) “real” experiences and it appears to me that this is something you guys strive to provide.”

To which Paul responded, “…we’re pretty fed up with the “slickly packaged, commercialized” part of the industry you’re alluding to, so we’ve made it a point to just write the best music we can and share it with people in an honest and genuine way. We seriously appreciate people who listen to the tunes and come to see us…we mean it when we say it means the world to us. So instead of complaining about the Modern Music Industry, or trying to be part of it, we simply try to connect with people through the music.”

When I wrote back and asked for background information, they immediately sent me links to their sites and a review of their album Bostonia.

It’s bands like this that give me hope.  They aren’t out to hit the top 40 (although, I’m sure they wouldn’t object to occupying a spot) or make a million dollars (though, again, I’m sure there would be few objections), they’re dedicated to making music that they love and music that they can share with audiences who appreciate their musical ability to create and fuel a community.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 9.35.59 AM

Design by Sam Paxton of Ghost Hotel

They’re currently working on their next EP release, Kerosene, and will be performing with Ghost Hotel and Seagulls on July 12 at Cafe Nola in Frederick, MD.

I don’t live close enough to make it to this performance, so I’m going to buy a lottery ticket with the hope that perhaps I can win the change that might make a tour possible!

 

 

 

Facebook: facebook.com/blindmanleading
Youtube: youtube.com/user/blindmanleading
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/blindmanleading
BandCamp: blindmanleading.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @BMLtheband
Instagram: instagram.com/blindmanleading

Vivid in the Valley

5 Jun

silvery-ghosts-social

On this blog (and most everywhere else), I talk about dreaming big and having faith in those dreams.  I believe in this, and I try my best to walk the talk, but sometimes my faith wavers and the dream feels like it’s too far out of reach as unexpected detours take me miles away from where I’m headed.

It’s usually at that moment that someone or something presents itself as a hopeful sign of  Steve Jobs’ sage reminder that “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

This week I discovered the debut single from the ambient pop group Silvery Ghosts, and as I began to learn more about the band – and the singer/songwriter behind it – I realized that this was yet another sign that sometimes the long way around is the only way to get to where you belong.

In the past five years, band founder Hank Kim has been through what he calls “an amazing, humbling journey.”  Kim, a native of Dayton, Ohio, released his first album, Blue Alibi in 2005 after having been introduced to New York indie rock mainstay, Mike Daly.  According to Blue Alibi liner notes, Daly, on the rebound after having disbanded his group Whiskeytown, “…became intrigued with the singer’s raw, idiosyncratic voice and melodic hooks, chronicling the jagged tales of misfits, rebels, and other bruised souls, flailing at the ghosts of redemption, in turns that are both comic and heartbreaking.”

At the end of 2001, in the wake of destruction, Kim and Daly walked into Soho’s Magic Shop and began the hopeful process of recording what would become the base for the rest of the album’s tracks.  Over the next two years, they worked with “…Dan Rieser (Marcy Playground, Norah Jones), drummer Alan Bezozi (Freedy Johnston), keyboardist John Deley (Dido), bassist Joe Quigley, and Sir Tim Bright, the renaissance man of Avenue U, who lent his distinctive touch to everything from the guitar and 6-string bass to the harmonium…” to produce an album that cleverly combined acoustic storytelling traditions with the yearning ache of Kim’s vocals and gave it a musical backing that transcended eras planting him squarely in the center of the power pop movement.

If you think I’m overstating the case, give “May/December Girl” a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

For various reasons, the album didn’t get the attention it deserved, but Kim was undeterred and set about working on his sophomore effort.  It would take him nearly four years to record Notorious Rainproof Smile, which moved Kim’s vocals away from the acoustic crooner style toward an edgier, indie rock sound.  The effort took its toll, and by the time it was ready for release he felt lost.  According to Kim, “I didn’t even bother to give the record a proper release.  I thought I was done as a musician and a songwriter.  I felt like the biggest fake – that I didn’t really have anything to say that anyone would want to hear.  All of the old demons were barking real loud.”

At that point, Kim let go of the music and began to reinvent himself by enrolling in acting school and starting his own business.  It wasn’t until 2010, after a failed relationship, that Kim felt the reemerging urge to create music.  In the spring of that year, he sat down at his computer and let loose the river of raw, uncensored thoughts and emotions that would become the basis for Love & Other Ephemera.

Finally hitting the studio in 2013, Kim tapped Nate Martinez (formerly of Pela and Theiving Irons) to produce the album.  According to the band’s website, together they worked to capture musical ephemera, a sound that Kim calls, “music without boundaries…the sense of searching for truthful expression that may or may not be relevant years from now but captures the emotional essence of a given moment in time.” They combined elements of modern electronic music and programming with traditional tools like piano and acoustic guitar as well as touches of Eastern sounds including the Saz (a Turkish 7-Stringed instrument with the intonation of a mandolin) and the sitar. Kim also brought gifted vocalist Kelli Scarr (who collaborated with Moby on 2010’s “Gone to Sleep”) on board for eight of the albums ten tracks.

In Silvery Ghosts’ first single, Vivid in the Valley, the combination of Scarr’s ripe, sultry voice languidly wrapping around the sophisticated ache of Kim’s trademark croon fans the embers and makes the song positively burn.  The official music video is currently being edited by director, Jeaneen Lund.

The release of Love & Other Ephemera on June 9 signals both the rebirth and the return of an artist who has embraced the pain of the past, recognizing that “All the twists and turns of the past were necessary for me to find my voice as a singer and an artist.”  As he looks forward to what is next,  Kim explains, “Silvery Ghosts is an opportunity to finally assert myself.  I feel like the training wheels are coming off with this record.  I may actually know what the hell I’m doing.  It’s a great feeling.”

Once again, I’m reminded that it’s the journey that matters. All of the twists, turns, and detours that create our rich, memorable lives are what we carry and, ultimately, leave behind.

The destination is simply the satisfaction of knowing we’ve finally connected all the dots.

Updated June 10: Lund’s video was posted, and all I can say is that this better come with a fire extinguisher because it’s SMOKIN’ HOT!

Silvery Ghosts will perform on June 23 at Rockwood Music Hall in New York.

Soundcloud:https://soundcloud.com/silvery-ghosts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SilveryGhosts
Website: http://www.silveryghosts.com

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