Scott Zuniga is an emerging songwriter who has just released his first demo recordings—a small set of impressive, mature indie/folk compositions. But Scott has been involved with music internationally for years as a director and producer, among other roles. We were lucky to catch this talented neophyte to learn about his runaway successful kickstarter campaign for the new album, how the Loch Ness monster helped him come back from a difficult period, what it’s like to direct a music video for an Arabic rap star, and how having a Scottish mom can influence your dreams.
Today a friend of mine (who I didn’t know was a Low fan) posted a link that has had me smiling all day.
I had not heard this news but it was like candy to my reading eyes. At this weekend’s Rock The Garden music festival in Minnesota, five indie bands were gathered together to play a long evening of rock ‘n roll. Among the bands invited were Minnesota’s own Low, the very band that inspired this website (including the name).
The crowd had just been rained on so much that some were literally standing in ankle-deep water, and as Low took the stage certainly no one was expecting what would come next: a 14-minute, droning, noisy, ambient tune from The Curtain Hits the Cast that was stretched out to fill their entire almost 30-minute set, followed by a simple three-word punchline. ”Drone, not drones.”
Apparently the majority of the audience weren’t amused (warning: foul language in that link).
Listen, folks, I understand that:
- the audience was filled with people that probably don’t know the iconoclastic side of Low and were looking for just a good night of music, and that
- this amounted to a preachy political statement at an inconvenient time, and that
- people paid a lot of money to see a night of what they hoped would be music, and
- Alan probably alienated some potential fans by making this statement.
That having been said, reading about it has reminded me once again what made Low so life-changing for me in the first place. Here is a band who, from the beginning, wanted to be like nothing you’ve ever heard before. They played quietly and slowly, with subtle harmonies and lots of ambience, to crowds that often sat while listening, and would often turn their volume down in hostile venues, during the era when Grunge was hitting the scene. And they not only succeeded in doing it, but they’ve earned a throng of loyal fans, some of them quite high-profile, and managed to stay married and active in the church, while raising children, for over 20 years. Perhaps Alan is right that it’s a fluke, but it gives me hope that I can stay true to myself and still find a niche in life.
Secondly, without getting too political here, the issue of drone strikes by the United States government is a concern to me, and it’s sensitive, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and interrupts my daily life and thoughts in a disturbing way. Anyone that reads a lot about the subject should lose at least a little sleep over it. It seems to me that Alan feels the same way, and what better way to bring awareness to the issue than point it out starkly to a crowd of art fans who might be receptive to the message? And I’m noticing that this seems to be the overlooked point of Alan’s stunt. So Alan seems to have miscalculated, perhaps, and a crowd of 5000 potential fans might have been the casualties of that bold risk, but I’m so glad he took it. So glad. Like, tonight when I put my kid to bed and he was brushing his teeth I was just beaming to myself the whole time, just thinking about it.
While many of the crowd probably wanted a refund on the money they spent on Low, I literally would have paid $100 to see it. And you know, as far as I can tell, they seem to be the most-talked-about artist that played that show – and hundreds and possibly thousands of people are hearing the phrase “drone, not drones” for the first time (including me), so perhaps Alan knew what he was doing after all.
It usually takes years for a musician to become an “overnight sensation”. Such is the case with Ryan Hayes, also known as 1/2 of the epic and eclectic duo “Midas Whale”, who recently exploded on the music scene thanks to their strong performances and witty humor on the hit television show “The Voice”.
I sat down with Ryan to find out more about him, and what comes next for the folk duo.
Linescratchers first became aware of you when you were part of the brother-sister duo “Sunshine Brady and the Moonlight Lady“. Tell us a little bit about this project – how did it get started? Did you record or perform or both, and what was the music like?
RH: Sunshine Brady was my first performance project. I have always been a writer of music or musician of sorts, but to stand in front of people and play was an entirely foreign thing that I wanted to try out. I recruited my sister Becca because performing solo is very lame in my opinion. She has a way of making people comfortable and that made performing very easy. The music was fun and folky and we were a hit in Rexburg in no time at all. I think a lot of people were drawn to what we did because we refused to take ourselves seriously. We never recorded, though some live recordings do exist if you know who to ask.
Was that duo your first serious effort with music? If not – where did you really get your start with music?
RH: It was my first effort as a singer, but no. I played the trumpet since I was 11 and I had been writing music on the guitar since I was 14.
You mentioned you think playing solo is lame…
RH: I always work in groups. Like I said, I think solo artists are lame. For me, I get much more joy out of hearing one of my songs sung by another person than I could ever get from singing it myself. Deep Love is a prime example of this. It has grown into a family of 40+ people with many moving parts and I am content just being a part of the motion rather than the star.
How did “Midas Whale” get started, how long have you been together, and where do you see yourselves going?
RH: Jon convinced me to form a duo specifically for the show in August of 2012, so this is a brand new thing. Jon and I have collaborated for several years on producing a rock opera I co-wrote with Garrett Sherwood called Deep Love. We thought that going on national TV would help us to promote Deep Love, and even though it wasn’t talked about on the show we have certainly given Deep Love a sure future by doing this. Midas Whale itself was an instant fan favorite on the show and our untimely departure was a shock to the nation. We are now entirely devoted to keeping Midas Whale a household name and actively increasing our reach. We are hard at work raising money for an album (via Kickstarter) and planning for a summer tour.
You have a sound that is very original, and yet completely classic at the same time. Tell us a little about what music and what artists have influenced you.
RH: My sound probably seems original because I don’t listen to much contemporary music. If you were to listen to music from the early to mid 1900′s you might hear something familiar to what I write. I am a big fan of the piano plunkers like Hoagy Carmichael and George Gershwin along with singers like Bing Crosby and Yves Montand. The writing and singing style of those days appeals to me for its melodic value and as a result can’t stomach much of the rhythm driven music of today.
How has being on “The Voice” this year impacted you personally and professionally?
RH: It has been very nice to see the degree of personal pride my friends, family and acquaintances all take from it. Many people I know personally who have had it rough this last year have found strength and pride in seeing me on TV. It’s weird how that happens, but I know I would feel the same way if I had seen some schoolmate of mine doing the same thing. If I can be the means of raising someone’s spirits then it’s all worth it. Professionally I would say that this season of the Voice has marked me as a musician. Before, I would have hesitated to call myself a musician. Firstly, I am a working geologist and secondly I don’t see myself professionally in the same rank as people who have striven all their lives to master an instrument. THOSE are true musicians in my opinion. The reality, however, is that I think more about music than any other thing, and being paid to do it makes me qualified for the title. I have started calling myself a musician, and it’s beginning to feel less weird.
What was your favorite experience/favorite part of being on “The Voice” ?
RH: I would say the most amazing part of it all is becoming familiar with and close to all of the singers on the show. I feel like many of them are my kindred spirits and I can’t even imagine not knowing them. I made relationships with people there that I will keep for the rest of my life. Initially I thought that they would all be the reality TV type that are competitive and arrogant, but what I found was quite the opposite. They are some of the kindest, most genuine and talented people I have ever met. I know that I’ll be working with many of them for years to come.
In my circles, people seemed pretty surprised and genuinely interested that a couple of young folkies were able to speak fluent Spanish with Shakira and that you had both lived in foreign countries. Did this prove to be an opportunity to have conversations about the gospel, as part of your explanation of how/why you had these skills and experiences?
RH: Hardly. I don’t try to hide the fact that I am LDS, but I don’t try to advertise it either. When people would ask me how I learned Spanish I would simply say I lived in Ecuador, and that was usually enough for them. I am always excited to talk about the gospel but will only open up if I feel like the moment is right.
There were several LDS artists featured on “The Voice” this year…
RH: Yes, Ryan Innes and Amy Whitcomb were both on the show and I have grown rather close to both of them. Coincidentally we were all eliminated on the same week. I am so honored to have known both of them and we all plan to go on the road together this summer.
How has the public reacted to your music? Has the LDS Music community embraced you?
RH: I think the timing is perfect for our music. We are at the beginning of the new age of folk music, both nationally and internationally. Because of my lifelong love affair with the genre I feel somewhat like I do have something to contribute amid all of this. I feel right at home doing it. I think the LDS community in Rexburg stands very firmly behind us, but we’re working to win over Utah. We claim Rexburg because we met there, but the fact is we live and work in the Wasatch area.
I agree that the time is right for a new folk emergence – just look at the recent success of groups like Mumford and Sons and others who have displayed clear folk influences in their music. Even the commercially driven show American Idol produced a folk-flavored winner in 2012 with Philip Phillips. So – What is next for you?
RH: Kickstarter, then album/touring. We’re very hard at work to make sure this all happens.
Where can people find out more about you, buy your music, see your shows, etc etc etc?
and interact with us on our website http://www.midaswhale.com/
Midas Whale is in the last week of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign – if you enjoyed them and would like to support them, please act quickly to help make sure their album project becomes a reality.
Matt Mylroie is an independant music producer, audio engineer, songwriter, and musician from Tampa Florida and a semi-regular contributor to linescratchers.com. You can connect with Matt via the contact info on linescratchers or at www.driftwoodtidemusic.com
The Ghost and the Guest is an interesting album that was recorded in a simple bedroom studio and was released last year by LDS artist Jake Workman. Loyal Linescratchers followers may recognize Jake from his days with the group “The Sweater Friends”. Prior to listening to this album, I had never heard any of his music, and knew little about him. So, it was with a completely fresh and unbiased perspective that I was able to sit down and listen to his music.
I reviewed the album in a digital download form and found that the download contained much more than just music. Graphics from the album are included, as is a scanned copy of a handwritten thank you note from Jake. Most interesting though was a large booklet, which was conveniently provided in a number of different e-reader formats. Right about here is where things started to get weird, interesting, or sentimental – depending on how you look at it. The included e-book comes in at over 40 pages. In the preface, we learn that the songs were inspired by the life of Henry Pickett Pratt, who was born in 1866, and left a journal about some of his early life – a journal which was read by Jake Workman. Something about this man and his experiences struck a chord (pun intended) with Jake, and provided the inspiration for the songs on the album. The e-book includes portions of the journal that provide a backdrop of sorts for the songs. Jake has intended for the journal and the music to be enjoyed simultaneously in order to get the full experience of what he intended to create and capture.
We had an excellent field of candidates this year: Many of the big LDS players had new albums out and we saw some old linescratchers friends come back from the dead. Without further ado, our results, based on a popular vote:
Linescratchers has been sleeping, but low is the band that never sleep and Alan Sparhawk is the shark of the music world. If he stops writing and performing, he dies.
Alan Sparhawk collaborated with violinist Gaelynn Lea in a new band called Murder of Crows. They’re selling a download of their first EP, Imperfecta, for however much you’d like to pay (including $0) here. (Handmade CD version is available here.) Watch their segment on PBS show The Playlist here.
Low has announced that their new album, The Invisible Way, will be released in March (I’m not linking the album trailer because it’s ridiculous, perhaps as a comment on how ridiculous a trailer for an album is as a concept.) Jeff Tweedy from Wilco invited the band to his Chicago studio to record the record and he also took the producer’s helm.
In the meantime, the band has released their second pay-what-you-want digital EP, Plays Nice Places. It’s a collection of live tracks from their recent tour with Death Cab for Cutie. I can never forgive Ben Gibbard for slaughtering This Charming Man*, but it’s interesting to hear him take the vocals for “Words.” Download it using the widget on the right side of the page here.
Low was also featured in an episode of BYUtv’s surprisingly good new series, Audio-Files. Watch the whole 30 minute episode free here.
The Retribution Gospel Choir also remains active and will release their new album, 3, on Chaperone Records this January. “Q: How do you follow-up a four-song 7”? A: With a two-song full-length.” Sounds like they’re going to attempt replicating the live RGC experience this time. I’ve been lucky enough to see them once in DC and once in Santa Cruz, CA. If you haven’t seen them live yet, brace yourself. Prolific jazzy, Wilco-y guitarist Nels Cline joins on one song (half the album?)
*If you want to cover the Smiths, you bring your A game. You do not change the lyrics. Gibbard’s egregious offense:
This man said
that someone so handsome should care.”
This man said
that someone so handsome should care.”
No, a hundred times no. If there is one word that could ruin that song, he found it.
Here is an article about Young Sim’s Feel Good Music in the Deseret News. I was interviewed for this one and my contribution is on the last page. Enjoy!
It’s been quite a while since I have posted, and its been quite a year so far. Do you remember my very first article? It was called “Excuses, Excuses” and can be found here: http://www.linescratchers.com/?p=1113 Well, I stopped making excuses and I’ve jumped into this crazy business full time.
It’s been an interesting year as I’ve started my business (2 businesses actually) and have worked with a number of artists and projects, both in and out of the LDS world. This year, my “flagship” project was (for the first time) something that was not just influenced by my beliefs and values, but that was openly promoting a religiously themed message. Working on it has been enlightening and educational as I have begun to better understand the “typical” LDS Market for music. This project was one that was close to my heart, as it was a personal project done with my teenage daughters. Together, we wrote and produced an album of fun, energetic, and uplifting music geared for young adults and teens, and based it on the values and principles promoted by the Young Women’s theme. This was their first serious project. The music has a great spirit about it, and a positive message. It’s well done, and we’ve received fantastic feedback overall on it. I am not shy about putting in a plug – you can check it out at www.ofpreciousvalue.com – but my point in this article is not just to promote this, I am trying to make a point, and looking for some feedback.
My point – we don’t fit in “the box”. Most of us on this website don’t quite fit in “the” box, and that’s why we are here. We don’t quite fit the stereotype of an “LDS Musician” and yet there are many in the world who are slow to accept us if they are aware we are LDS. Hence, the “linescratchers box”. Well, I’m not even sure my most recent LDS project (Of Precious Value) fits in the Linescratchers box…. it’s sort of in no mans land. With a blatent religious message and obvious religious target market, its on the fringe at best of what would fall under the classic definition of a Linescratchers musician. And, with music that is much more a blend of modern pop and guitar driven rock, delivered in a fresh and energetic way, it struggles to fit into the “traditional” LDS music box in spite of having a direct and blatent LDS message.
The music I’ve made may never make it into a “Sabbath Sounds” type of broadcast, and at the same time it’s probably not the right choice of albums to review and feature on Linescratchers. And you know what? I’m fine with that! I’m not here to try to fit into a pre-defined box, I’m here to help make a BIGGER BOX! I hope all of us share that same artistic drive and passion. The LDS market is a tough one to crack. If you don’t fit in or have the right connections, its even tougher. But we need to work together to make a bigger box. We need to support each other and work together to expand the box to include great music that is being overlooked. With going back into music full time, I am reminded how many AMAZING musicians there are who will really never be heard outside of their circle of friends and family.
How do we make more room for them? How do we make a bigger box? Shouldn’t the “LDS Music Box” include not only traditional and contemporary musicians but also include a lot of secular music that is just…well….Good? Free of profanity and questionable subject matter, music that simply celebrates and speaks of the ups and downs and experiences of life? Shouldn’t the “Linescratchers Box” include not only those who are LDS and make secular music, but also include those who are bold in challenging the status quo for LDS spiritual music ? (while staying appropriate of course!)
I am asking for your help making a bigger box. I have a lot of ideas running through my head. I know a lot of LDS youth and young adults and very few of them are listening to LDS music or LDS artists. Some LDS bands and artists are popping up thank goodness, but they are a drop in the bucket on the ipod playlists of our youth. Really?? Do we not have amazing talent among us, both for religious and secular music? How do we reach these people who are ripe to accept us if we can connect with them? One thing I’ve noticed is that the overwhelming majority of broadcasts of LDS music (real or online) are more “Sabbath Sounds” oriented. There are some that are broadcasting, podcasting, or streaming more contemporary music and even secular music, but I haven’t found many. Kudos to Steve Larson at LDS Music Today who has included a very diverse range of music in his regular podcasts. We need more of that.
With all this in mind – I’m asking for your input. What can we do? I’m considering a lot of things. One is I’m thinking of starting a 24/7 online radio station that will play a wide range of good music – LDS Music, Secular music, New Artists, Contemporary Christian Music, etc – with a focus on lesser known artists, interviews, themed shows (ideas: Best New Artists Hour, Linescratchers Royalty Hour, Genre specific shows, and more). I’d initially probably start with 1-2 daily shows and some rebroadcasts of those shows and then work up to having a full 24/7 schedule of good content. I’ve also considered doing an annual compilation CD of LDS artists that don’t fit inside the box (for example, did you know that there are some really amazing LDS artists doing country music? Whether you like the style or not – we need to hear more of this diversity within the LDS market!. There are many ideas I’m thinking of as I try to figure out how to help good musicians – LDS Spiritual, LDS Secular, and other just plain good artists – find a voice, and an audience.
Help me make a bigger box. We get a lot more done when we work together. i encourage you to leave your suggestions and feedback.
New single off RGC’s latest EP. It rocks!
Here’s a brand new video from Staci Marie Carriere, Kentucky native who now lives in Nashville and is pursuing a music career (and a little acting, too). She did an interview with us back in 2010, and she’s come a long way since then!
Deep in the heart of Texas is a town known for live music, cowboys, and the blues. When I think of Austin, Texas, I really don’t think of pop music… until now. Allow me to introduce you to Tristyn Elizabeth. After a couple of years of paying her dues as a singer-songwriter at many of the open mic events in Austin, she has emerged from the studio with her first real studio effort, an EP entitled Kiss Me in the Rain. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, she has used her time in the studio to transform herself from a singer-songwriter into a more polished pop artist, without abandoning her roots. I actually know Tristyn, after being in her ward for a couple of years in Georgia. I recently connected with 21-year-old Tristyn to hear her story about her development as an artist.
How did you get started in music?
My dad is a songwriter/producer type as well and he’d always be writing or playing or talking music all the time. That was a huge influence all my life. I remember when Britney Spears and N’sync and Backstreet boys were huge, I’d blast it in the living room and sing and dance to it with my siblings and imagine growing up to be a singer. I started writing sometime in high school. It started when I would listen to songs on the radio and it didn’t fit how I felt. There wasn’t a song I could sing from my soul I guess, I was in high school and I was dramatic. So I started writing music on my guitar. All the songs I wrote were kinda bad and embarrassing. Over time they got better with re-writes and new life experiences. I wrote better ones when I went off to college. Also, when I was in high school my dad would need vocals for various projects and songs and I’d record on those. That’s basically where it started. Continue Reading →
Upon hearing rumors that I had been working hard to wrap up an album project for December release, I decided to sit down with myself for an interview. Here are all the facts for our loyal Linescratchers readers.
Does your album project have a general theme?
To me, these are guitar-driven songs about life. They are real, they are raw, and they are relevant. That’s pretty much the theme of the project.
I can’t tell you how unsurprised I was to learn that Church Williams was a musician. Sharp-looking guy, snappy dresser, coolest spectacles I’d seen in some time. Of course he’s a musician. The only thing that could have made me more certain was if he’d been an utter slob.
Well, no. I’m listening to his album Touch the Sun as I type this, preparing to send you on to the interview, and realizing that “slob” is not an option for Church.
My recommendation? Pop that link open and take a listen while you check out this interview.
Linescratchers contributor Joseph Mecham recently interviewed Brandon Kitterman (guitar aficionado of Utah’s indie rock band Fictionist) for GuitarJunkie.net. Linescratchers gets to join in on the fun.
Brace yourself, dear reader, for a lesson in being awesome. Brandon Kitterman is what I would call a sonic knitting artist. You know those really ugly knitted blankets you always try to warm up with at your Grandparents house, and they’re so riddled with holes they have a 10% heat retention rating? Then you end up freezing to death on their couch while developing terminal asthma because they have 40 years of dust collected in the couch cushions? Well yeah… that sucks, and I share your pain. However, if Brandon were to knit for you a blanket with his sonic textures and tones, it would be made of silk, be your favorite color, smell like vanilla, have a 99% heat retention rating, and it would wrap you like an Egyptian mummy. Yep… he’s that good. Read on for everything you wanted to know about Brandon Kitterman’s guitar set-up and technique.
Continue Reading →
When I review an album, I listen with pen and paper. I take notes song-by-song, recording the vibe and mood of each song, how each flows, and how they work together to make a complete album. While listening to ELiZA WREN’s Returns to Oz, I wasn’t able to do that, and I could not be more delighted.
This double album of 110 minutes of music is set to the movie Return to Oz, one of my childhood favorites. If you are not familiar with Return to Oz, watch it right this minute. Otherwise, here’s a three sentence synopsis: It’s a very dark, somewhat creepy non-musical 80′s sequel to the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz in which an inexplicably younger Dorothy, played by Fairuza Balk (who I had a crush on as a kid and again later after watching The Craft), gets sent to an asylum by her loving aunt and uncle to get electroshock therapy to rid her mind of the Oz mumbojumbo that she won’t shut up about. Whilst escaping the asylum, she falls asleep and wakes up in Oz, only to find it has been ruined by the creepy wheelers (imagine less cool flying monkeys on rollerblades), a gnome king who is sporting the ruby slippers, and a headless witch who has a varied collection of heads she can swap. Oz can only be returned to its former glory by stopping these evil characters, and the only ones who can stop them are Dorothy and her verbose chicken, along with the help of a robot soldier, a jack-o-lantern headed dude, and a flying couch with a talking moose head.
If that amazing preview didn’t immediately compel you to watch Return to Oz, I have yet another excellent reason: EliZA WREN’s album Returns to Oz. Much like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz (the syncing of which is commonly known as Dark Side of the Rainbow), ELiZA WREN’s album can be synced with the film Return to Oz. However, when playing Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, coincidences are few and you really have to be generous in accepting things that seem moderately in sync. With Returns to Oz, the songs are purposefully and amazingly crafted to accompany the movie, and they do a fantastic job of enhancing each other. The moods of the songs fit perfectly, and the lyrics are usually, though cryptically, describing what is happening in the movie. I can’t quite describe the audio/visual aspect of the whole experience, all I can do is recommend you try it (start by watching the trailer).
Apart from the visual, the music definitely holds on it’s own. The album uses ongoing motifs and recurring song themes that range from old timey bluegrass and folk music to indie rock to piano-based spacey tunes that would fit very well on a Pink Floyd record. Whether you experience the album on its own or accompanied by a delightfully creepy Disney movie, I highly recommend giving it a watch and/or listen!