YTAA Recommends: Nicholas Johnson – Back Upstate

Ever hear a record that you did not know anything about and were completely surprised, enamored and then drawn into a new musical world? Well, that has happened to us here at YTAA.

We are currently listening to the new record from Nicholas Johnson and to say that we are impressed is an example of classic understatement! The music he makes sways from sounding like Whiskeytown (‘Come Around’), smooth LA sounds of the ‘70s (‘I’m a Ghost’, Night Ride’) to rocking like a midwestern Lucero (‘Lonely Girl’), the story closes on a bluesy swirl about getting out and embracing experience (‘Nashville’). The record explores a music space that is reminiscent of the past and stands squarely in the present. For us the standout track is the shimmering vulnerability of ‘Sinner’

‘Sinner’ is a powerful, convincing and decisive tune. If you hear that song and do not feel the naked emotion, then you have some work to do. This song captures heartache, emotion and the soul ache that is part of living. In addition, the backing vocals from the always stellar Amber Hargett are just simply perfect and compliment the contemplative delivery of Johnson. Their voices together elevate the song. When Johnson sings: “I’m a sinner, ’cause I hate myself, I’m a sinner because I want to be” — you feel it because the Ryan Adams like patience in Johnson’s delivery makes it matter, you have felt this way too. You may not want to embrace your brokenness but it is there inside us all, just the same.

We would not be doing our job if we did not complement Rich Reuter’s production on this album which allows each song to shine on its own and as part of the collection. Reuter is a musical chameleon on this record playing guitar, bass, lap steel, mandolin, keyboards, drum programming, background vocals and percussion in addition to producing, engineering and mixing the songs. We have no doubt that the gathering of musicians who worked with Johnson on this record including some powerhouse alums of the Dayton Music Scene Khrys Blank, Jenna De Gruy, Amber Hargett, Patrick Himes, Eric Reith, Sara Gomes and Rob Spahr who all share a musical companionship and vision. Johnson not only has ties to the Dayton area but also has interesting stories from being a touring musician in Italy and throughout Europe. Some of those connections are demonstrated through the contributions of Lorenzo Testa on banjo and Lorena Vezzaro on violin.

Johnson draws on his music and storytelling influences while showcasing his unique focus on the textures of each song. While the songs stand on their own, the assembled music together paints a narrative that is relatable and meaningful. This approach should occur far more often than it does in music. And Johnsons voice is perfectly authentic as he sings across forms and styles in this incredibly catchy collection about human foibles and insecurities without sounding downtrodden.

Nicholas Johnson has crafted a fantastic record that has strong Dayton Music Scene connections both behind and in front of the microphone. Our compliments to Ninja Jam Records. Get this record! Get it right away!

Lisa Gain’s Short Takes

Short TakesToday’s Short Takes arrives from the pen of singer, guitarist Lisa Gain of Lisa Gain & The Rusty Silos. She has a new song ‘Run’ featuring Tino and Erin Coburn. The song is a Columbus – Dayton – Cincinnati “Ohio Super Collab” and will be released on August 27th!2020-03-03 17.40.08-2

Lisa’s powerful voice captures such raw and stark emotion that to experience her music is to be transported into a space where we reflect on the decisions we and others make everyday. Her arrangements vary from Americana, folk, rock, country and beyond. The songs paint a picture on the emotional canvas.

We greatly appreciate Lisa taking the time out of her busy schedule to share the music that she is listening to right now with us.

Dr. J: What are you listening to right now?

I have always been a true lover and supporter of local Ohio music! I’m blown away by someone every time I get to go out and see live music in Ohio! So I am proud to say that the majority of my digital music library is currently music by Ohio musicians. Many of whom I’ve been fortunate to meet over the years. Ohio is chock full of talent! So before I get to the local musicians I’ve been jamming to lately, I’ll start with the much more widely known artist Suzanne Vega and her hit song “Luka” from 1987. I was only 10 years old when this song came out. All I knew was it was a nice happy tune that I found to be very catchy and enjoyed hearing on the radio as a child. Once I started playing coffee shops back in the mid 90’s I decided to add “Luka” to my setlist. Almost 10 years later hearing the song again, learning those lyrics it hit me that whoa this tune was really heavy! The story is way heavier than the sound. Suzanne Vega has some great more recent slower acoustic versions of this on youtube that are more fitting to the mood and I prefer those versions over the original recording now. Unfortunately there are a lot of Luka’s out there so the subject of domestic abuse is still relevant 34 years later and sadly it will always be a subject that should be spoken about and acknowledged.

My second recent jam is provided by Dayton’s Rap Artist TINO! (P.S. I’m SOOO Excited about our collaboration that will be coming out soon “Run”!!! I am not worthy!). His EP “Past Due” that he put out during the pandemic (May 2020) is great! One of the reasons I reached out to Tino and asked him to work with me is because in my opinion he has that old school 90’s sound that I always loved! I think some of the best rap music came out of that era and he takes me back to that time! His opening track “You know” is a great example of that. Nice catchy hook and you will know it’s TINO-O! His track “95 Tribe” really takes me back since I graduated High School in 95′. It’s always nice when you have a personal connection to a song. Even if it may mean something different to us the listener sometimes than what it means to the artist who wrote it. If you buy the EP you will get his bonus track “Summertime” which is one of my favorite tracks on the EP and it’s PERFECT for this time of year to jam to! All in all I love every track on this EP and highly recommend that you check out TINO and his other collaborations!

My third recent jams are provided by Cincinnati based Blues/Rocker Erin Coburn! I bought her album “Out from Under” at a live show a couple months back and had her sign it because if you don’t know who Erin is yet I’m sure you will in the near future! She recently got 2.9 million views on a Facebook live stream concert and I predict she is on her way to doing big things! I am so happy to support her along her journey! (P.S. Erin also collaborated with Tino and I on our upcoming single “Run”. I am not worthy!!.) She just turned 20 and has been playing guitar since she was just 7 years old. She plays like no woman I’ve ever had the pleasure to personally meet! Like an old soul that should have played in Woodstock! This album proves that not only is Erin a genius on the Guitar she also has soul in her voice and the subjects she writes about. The ENTIRE album is Fantastic, but some of my favorite tracks are the title track “Out from Under”. “Diggin’ you Heavy” is Amazing! “Your mind Gun” has a great guitar solo in it that reminded me of something Slash would do. “Trip on this” grabs you at the 1st line “Trip on this we don’t need the shrooms to get high”. Honestly all 11 tracks are standouts to me! I also HIGHLY recommend you see her live if you get the chance! She and her current band mates are phenomenal!!!

2020-03-03 17.52.30-1And last, but certainly not least is Dayton’s very own Gem, Windsor Knotts. I bought his album “Forgotten… But not Gone” the last time I went to the Dayton Songwriters Showcase Thursdays at the Yellow cab Tavern last June. I feel like Windsor is one of those unsung heroes. I met him over a decade ago when he was hosting the Showcase at the Canal Street Tavern here he is 10 years later still doing it to feed us artists. To feed our Souls with what we love to do. He and the yellow cab tavern helped me to keep my sanity by continuing to host these safe outdoor events during Covid-19 and providing me with a creative outlet that unfortunately my hometown of Columbus was not able to offer me at the time.

I can’t thank them enough for supporting local artist’s such as myself to the ones that may just be beginning. Windsor cheers us all to get on stage! I feel like I found a second home in Dayton with my music and the songwriters showcase is a huge part of that! It’s where I have meet so many other talented musicians! So when I bought Windsor’s album he warned me and said “It’s not normal”. I played it several times on my ride back home to that night. I truly enjoyed this album! Even the “Opossum” singing… lol.  I’d describe it in the vein of Bluegrass/Country. Sometimes it reminded me of old Grandpa Jones that my Dad used to spin on record. Comedic sometimes, yet other songs are serious. If you see Windsor out and about in Dayton buy his album and then please thank him for encouraging so many Ohio artists like me!

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Many thanks to Lisa for sharing some of her musical journey with us!

If you would like to contribute to a future Short Takes essay, just let us know at drjytaa on gmail.com! Our contact us through this page. We would love to feature more artists and listeners of Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative! Photos of Lisa Gain taken by Dr. J in the WUDR Studios.

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11 Questions with… Nick Kizirnis

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThe 11 Questions with… column returns with guitarist, songwriter Nick Kizrinis! He graciously answered these questions about his latest music projects. We want to publicly thank him for taking the time to answer these questions!

Nick has been involved in numerous music projects. He first picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and one could say that he never really put it down. Some of his earliest music followed the creative playfulness of the surf rock guitar sound. The overlooked band The Mulchmen played an updated surf rock that captured the energy of that style while simultaneously exploring new musical terrain.

Nick has released some tremendous solo work including the incredible ‘Into the Loud’ that expanded on the guitar driven rock genre with a touch of pastiche and a heart full of passion. More recently, Nick has explored the textures of guitar driven melody with elements of jazz and swing in The Nicky Kay Orchestra. Work with several notable Dayton musicians like Paige Beller led Nick to an enthusiasm for adventurous lyrical expression. This led to the expansive latest record, The Distance. A musical work that stretches across rock, folk, Americana, jazz and more. That record includes the contributions of veteran songwriters and performers Kate Wakefield (Lung), Mark Patterson (Son Volt), Tod Weidner (Shrug), “Crazy” Joe Tritschler and Patrick Himes (Bribing Senators, Black Jacket Symphony, Reel Love Recording).

Nick Kizirnis 1 by Jennifer TaylorThe Distance demonstrates Kizirnis’ remarkable skill as a guitarist and a songwriter. Bridging musical spaces that make for an emotional listening experience, the record reveals lessons to be learned about the affairs of the heart. The collaborative process that Nick undertook allowed him to move past any limitations of his own perspective and voice and give flight to songs that drew stories about life, love, loss and the discontinuity of connection that is universal to all of us.

The album begins with the emotional devastation of ‘The Beginning’ in which Wakefield sings powerfully about loss with lilt that has the impact of a million sledge hammers, especially when she sings ‘used to hold me as I slept at night, now I sleep alone’. ‘Way To Me’ counters with an almost hopeful quality that the path back to one another may be difficult and treacherous but is not and should not be impossible. And then ‘The Distance’ patiently takes the listener into the social dislocation of impending separation where the music and the lyrics wrap and twist around one another implying and delivering that sense of falling apart. And that is only the first three songs on this record! Listening deeply to ‘The Distance’ and not experiencing an emotion is simply not possible. The inclusion of a few covers on this collection of songs only adds depth to the ideas explored.

Built by many gifted players over several years, Kizirnis has created an album that bridges different tones, textures and colors that explore the dilemma of love, concern and connection without unnecessary drama.

Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest album The Distance?

Nick Kizirnis 2 by Jennifer TaylorNick Kizirnis (NK): I started writing the songs for the album back in 2016 as a challenge to myself to see if I actually could do it. I’d written a lot of songs before, but most of them were actually instrumentals.

I started waking up at 5am every day to write, which turns out to work well for me (I still do it today). Once I had a good routine (coffee, write, more coffee) I found that the work of writing became easier, and then I found other times that I could take advantage of because I was ready. And it became really enjoyable.

At some point I realized that writing for my own singing voice was really limiting what I thought I could do with these new songs. I decided that my songs could be in anybody’s voice, it didn’t have to be mine. Suddenly that limitation disappeared, and everything started coming together.

Around the same time my friend Mark Patterson was in town and we decided to give the songs a try between his tours with Son Volt. Patrick Himes challenged me to just come in and record a song. At that point everything started to move forward very naturally.

Nick Kizirnis Band Live 2 by Chris CosenzaDr. J: You worked closely with several local musicians, especially Kate Wakefield, what led to your collaborations? Can you discuss your partnership with Kate?

NK: After deciding that I didn’t have to sing the songs, I started thinking about where else I could take the idea of removing limits I usually put on myself (that is do it mostly myself). I started asking other friends to come in and play guitars and other parts that I would usually do. I invited Patrick, Tod Weidner, Kate Wakefield and Joe Tritschler see what would happen when they interpreted the songs. While I was still playing a lot on the record, I intentionally took my hands of the steering wheel and listened to what everyone else came up with and let that guide the recording process.

I would work out the arrangements with Mark, then we would record demos of each song, get everything mapped out, and send them to everyone so that they would know what we were going for. And then everyone would come into the studio and recorded what they felt the song should be. It was a great experience to watch these songs evolve as we all worked together.

Nick Kizirnis Band by Jennifer TaylorThe band (or part of the band) would record a few songs, scheduled around Mark’s tours with Son Volt. Kate was also on tour with Lung during this time so she would record vocals and cellos separately. Between Lung and Son Volt, Mark and Kate have never met. Kate worked off my demos or the band’s rough tracks, using them as a reference to build out the melodies and harmonies. Regarding the cello, those parts were always thought of as mood/texture – same as the keyboards Patrick would play later. We ended up with a couple of songs, especially “The Distance,” where the cello and keys created a very heavy mood, which I loved – and which I had never planned for on the original demos. That was one of the many great things about the process. We would build these songs up and then opportunities would present themselves.

The Distance Album Cover Art by Rachel BottingI want to mention here how amazing and generous everyone was, and how grateful I am for the help and support and their friendship. Patrick is an amazing multi-instrumentalist and studio magician and really know how to work with me through the process of making album. Mark taught me all about touring and running a band when I was a teenager, and through his years in Austin is this brilliant “song-writers drummer” … he helped coach me through the song arrangements and that alone was an amazing experience. Tod has been a friend and I’ve long admired his singing, playing and writing. Kate is my favorite singer in the world, and I think she’s an amazing cellist with a really unique voice and also a great songwriter. Then of course there is Joe who has been my friend and musical partner for years. Joe. The brilliance and “effortlessness” in his playing is so inspiring, and I feel very lucky to have played, recorded and travelled with him over the years.

And while I’m at it, I really appreciate Rachel Botting’s beautiful album artwork, Sean Haney’s precise mastering, and Scott Kinnison at ATOM Records who has been releasing my albums since 2000. To have that kind of support is truly amazing and I am very grateful.

Dr. J: ‘Tell Me Tomorrow‘ is a personal favorite, so I am curious about it. The song is catchy and very different than some of your previous music. What were you trying to capture with that song?

NK: Thank you! That song is different, maybe even from the rest of the album. I’m really happy with it. By the time I started that song I was knee-deep into songs about heartaches and heartbreaks, and of course this one was going to the same, but it’s actually about trying to on after a relationship falls apart. So it’s bit stronger – it rocks a bit harder (for me), and as you said, and for some reason it’s catchier. All of the other songs have people who are caught or left behind in their relationships, but this is the first one who is actually breaking free (actually it’s the second, I’ll let you guess who was the first). It was always intended to be the last song on the album, and it actually is IF you think of the last three as more of a coda to the album (which I do).

I did not know that Kate would add a mini-choir to the end of the song. That’s one of my favorite moments of the album, I love the way it works with Tod’s guitar solo. There are a few moments like that on the album where vocals, cellos, keys, and guitars work together and add textures that I’ve always wanted to hear (but didn’t know it).

Dr. J: ‘The Distance‘ also seems to addresses not simply physical separation but social distance. If that is correct, did you intend to address that theme? Is there a theme to the songs on the record as a whole?

NK: ‘The Distance‘ is a collection of songs about the loss of love, separation and emotional distance … but I never thought of the album as having a theme or concept. In my mind I was thinking about how albums by Roy Orbison, Gram Parsons, George Jones and similar artists collected these sad love songs and stories and presented them not as a theme but maybe as a soundtrack for the sad and lonely, maybe as they drive around late at night all alone. I’ve had people tell me as much, which feels nice – oh, not nice, I guess but validating.

Social distance is an interesting observation … all the songs on ‘The Distance‘ deal with relationships ending and people leaving, but also the emotional and social separation of partners and their interactions as they go through these ordeals. Not sure if that’s what you are getting at it, but it seems like everyone on the album goes through it in quite a bit of detail.

Dr. J: How did The Distance come together musically for you? What was it like to collaborate on a video for the song?

NK: I was looking for the chance to collaborate on a music video during the pandemic – obviously all plans were halted, we were all trying to figure out what to do. (Artist/Animator) Katie Marks reached out to me with a treatment for “The Distance” and I loved it. Katie went all out, creating 2,000 images, elaborate puppets and backgrounds, and an amazing storyline that really communicated the song in a new way. It was such a great experience for me and I hope folks will check out the video and Katie’s other work (www.katieannmarks.com) … and hopefully it’s a good example of what can happen when two people get together and trust in each other to make something really exciting.

Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

NK: I’ve been listening to music since I was kid – at first it was Elvis, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy, and then a crash course in jazz, blues and classic rock before I discovered punk. By then I started playing guitar, I was in a band, and I wanted to write my own songs based on all this music that inspired me.

At first it was the sounds that artists made – with their instruments, but later in the recording process. To this day it’s a huge influence. But as time passed, the stories that artist told and how they told them (through lyrics, voice, instruments, recordings, arrangements) really motivated me. I’ve always wanted to figure out “how did they do that,” and that’s led me to listen to many styles of music to better understand and to take away as inspiration.

Sometimes that can result in a very weird mix of inputs – imagine a mix tape with GBV’s “My Son Cool” and the first Trio Bulgarka album and Sleepwalk (Danny Gatton’s version). But I love it all. I love discovering new music and realizing that there’s so much I have yet to hear (and so much amazing music still to be made).

How many times I tried - The Distance music video - Katie MarksDr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey across your various projects such as your earlier music – I am a big fan of ‘Into the Loud’, the Nicky Kay Orchestra, The Distance)?

NK: I have always been interested in playing different styles and exploring different sounds, and so I’ve never stayed in one place too long – I started in Ramones/Replacements punk rock, then Devo/CVB/Robyn Hitchcock/XTC – influenced indie/alternative, and it just kept changing from there, including alot surf instrumental, some rockabilly, and finally what I think I do now, which in my mind is a combination of all these things – but not directly.

I used to write with a band, within a style of a band. Now my main focus is on writing songs that I could perform on my own but could also play in record in other styles with different sounds. It’s a great feeling to not worry if a song doesn’t fit a style or genre for a specific band. I love having a band, I love having friends to work with, but for whatever reason when I get outside of a given group I am more creative and productive. Maybe that will change as I learn to be a better songwriter, which would be fine with me! I’m enjoying the journey, it makes me feel happy.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after ‘The Distance’?

NK: I am very happy with how ‘The Distance’ turned out and how it was received, so now I am also asking myself “what’s next”? I thought I would just keep writing, maybe in the same style, and then the pandemic put an end to any expectations. I didn’t write for a few months, and when I did the songs were very different. That’s fine of course, who knows what songs will become, but it did make me start to wonder where I would go from here. Now I have enough songs to start work on another album, and while I don’t feel it will sound like The Distance, I do think there are sounds and ideas that will be a continuation, or a next step.

I’m challenging myself again – how can I continue to improve? What do I need to learn? Who could I work with to help me progress? It’s all really interesting to me, just to find out what I can explore as a songwriter. Last time I worked alone, then brought in a friend to help with arrangements, and then had more friends really take over the recording, although I was still there to direct. Where could I go from there? What else can I do to experiment?

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances?

NK: “Cone Back to Me” from The Distance is definitely my favorite. I’ve played it with the band, as well as solo (for the NPR Tiny Desk Contest, as well as live), and we are working on a video for it. It was the second song we recorded together (the first was “The Beginning”) and it turned out so well that I was really encouraged to continue working on the album. I’m very happy with how the song turned out, but really the experience of recording it was a great one. “Slipping Away” is another one, because I get a lot of positive feedback about it (always nice!), I made a fun video for it with Sam Manavis, Mark and I had a great time arranging it, and it just turned out right (I think).

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

NK: Well, this may sound strange considering most of the songs on the album are about the loss of love and the failure of relationships, but through the songs and the way we recorded them I hope the listener will hear that love and every happiness that brings is possible – even when we have some seemingly bad experiences and/or learn some hard lessons. Maybe some of these songs remind people of their own experiences and help them see that here they are, they’ve been able to learn and move on.

(I actually wish those experiences on no one ever, but hopefully whatever people do go through will help them get to a better place in their lives).

Nick Kizirnis Band Live 1 by Andy ValeriDr. J: As a musician, how did you adapt to the challenges of the Coronavirus? Is that changing for your now as music events are opening up again?

NK: The big thing for me was recording at home and collaborating with other friends and musicians virtually. I had recorded songs but never anything I would think about releasing. I had the opportunity to record music for an animated short titled “Darryl” produced by Lydia Kladtis at the University of Dayton. I recorded guitars and sent the tracks to Kate Wakefield who added cello and vocals. We produced three short songs for the film.

That motivated me to record an (unreleased as of yet) acoustic instrumental EP following the same process. Once the record is finished we are going to create a second version with a friend that will be a percussion-based, completely remixed treatment of the same songs. All remote.

That went so well that I started reaching out to other musicians to contribute tracks to some new songs I have been writing. Soon we’ll take my tracks and theirs to the studio and merge them with new in-studio tracks.

I also recorded a song for The Breeders where we were in their home studio, but everything was being edited and mixed at another studio in New Orleans at the same time. It was a really fun experience.

So, I guess being quarantined led me to an opportunity that was always there but I never took advantage of. I’m excited about what else I may be able to do once I’m better at recording and collaborating with other people.

You can follow Nick Kizirnis on various social media including:

Facebook     Website     Instagram    Twitter

Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube   Atom Records

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Nick Kizirnis for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Nick’s social media or to listen to various songs that were discussed! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos and images courtesy of Nick Kizirnis, Andy Valeri, Chris Cosenza and Jennifer Taylor Photography.

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Video of the Day: The Nautical Theme – Somewhere Just Ok (But Not Alright)

The modern folk-rock duo from Dayton known as The Nautical Theme have released their latest video from their recently released EP ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed‘ entitled ‘Somewhere Just Ok (But Not Alright)’. The EP includes this new song, plus an older song and a Jimmy Eat World cover. The lifting arrangement carries lyrics that are profoundly felt and universally shared by all of us. Keyboardist, vocalist Tesia Mallory and guitarist, vocalist Matt Shetler formed the group in 2017. When you listen to them sing you will feel as if they were born to sing together. The harmonies between them can send shivers down your spine.

The EP can be found everywhere you stream and download music. We highly recommend grabbing the music from TNT’s bandcamp page! Those of us in the Dayton area can see them play St. Anne’s Hill Porchfest on August 21, 2021 at 4pm.

Video of The Day: Oh Condor – Colors Collapse

Our fine city of Dayton, Ohio, US not only has a storied history of music with Brainiac, The Breeders, Guided By Voices, Shrug not to mention all of the funk music legends, but it is also home to some of the most exciting music being made today! Adding to that musical legacy is Oh Condor. The post-punk quartet has an exciting new record for you! Equal parts indie, noise rock, math rock, alternative — this is a band that quite rightly defies labels.

Out since May 21, Emergency Psychic is the band’s first Blind Rage Records release and the group’s most recent since 2012’s Reflector. We encourage you to take a trip through the band’s catalog.

You can read about the song courtesy of the fine folks at Punk Rock Theory!

You can follow Oh Condor on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

11 Questions with… Kyleen Downes

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nIn our tenth installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column, we are excited to feature Kyleen Downes. She is a gifted songwriter, singer, guitarist, pianist and ukulele player. We want to publicly thank Kyleen for taking the time out of her schedule to answer these questions for us here at YTAA!

Kyleen have been making some of the most open and energetic yet introspective music in the Dayton Music Scene. She has a clever way with words that inspires listeners while not feeling calculated to produce a particular feeling. Kyleen is able to turn a phrase in a way that is direct and welcoming. Her insightfulness allows a listener to see themselves and their experiences cast with an unfailing honest optimism and generosity of spirit that opens the heart.

a2299765261_10Kyleen has been making music since 2009 when she took inspiration from the social bond of those involved in the Dayton music community.  This sense of attachment and commitment led to 2016’s ‘Maybe Sometimes.’ This first collection of songs from Kyleen demonstrate her range as both a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.  The seven songs on this album stretch across a continuum of personal reflection (‘Things Change‘) to the accessible optimism of finding those splendid moments with those you care about (‘Perfect Ending‘) and the percussive staccato of ‘Talk Like You Don’t Know‘.

a3999839670_10Kyleen’s next record in 2018 was the enthusiastic ‘Friends‘ EP. Kicking off with the driving ‘Exhale‘ and then flowing into the rocker ‘And So It Goes.’ An excellent One-Two punch. The upbeat attitude on ‘Goes‘ pulls one into a happy space. The next two songs, the confessional ‘Six Years‘ and imaginative ‘In Dreams‘, showcase creative guitar work and inventive lyrics. The album demonstrates her humor and continuing evolution as a songwriter. ‘Friends‘ marks Kyleen’s collaboration with producer extraordinaire Patrick Himes. Himes’ analog approach to recording allows the songwriting to stand on its own in a way that digital recording all too often interferes with. Instead of approaching recording the music in an overly serious manner or in a heavy handed way, Downes and Himes establish an accessible palette that still explores deep and real emotion. The delightfulness of the album is a strength. The partnership with Himes will lead her to the most recent album ‘Come On Sit Down.’

a1895125481_10Come On Sit Down opens with the community jam ‘Give Up The Ghost.’ The handclaps and percussion drive this sing along! The next song, the single, ‘Last Drop‘ demonstrates the strength of Kyleen and her band. They can move across genres, styles and arrangements surprisingly easily without feeling contrived. Authenticity is a rare pleasure in popular music. Kyleen’s background in music and as a guitar teacher/instructor are consistently illustrated on this record. The background vocals from a Dayton Power trio of vocalists — Khrys Blank, Amber Hargett and Heather Redman elevate ‘Last Drop‘ into a remarkably evocative ending. All My Life leads the record into personal reflection which is then followed by the poppy Keep Your Ways.’Tiny Little Table‘ courses with an electricity and humor that are distinctive to Kyleen Downes. The album closes with the meditation on thankfulness of In The Dark.’ Consistently, Kyleen’s lyrics are descriptive, accessible and deeply affecting. If you have had the opportunity to see her perform, you know that Kyleen’s stage presence is charismatic.

Kyleen Tiny TableDr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest album Come On Sit Down?

Kyleen Downes (KD): I had written a few new songs in 2018 and started working on them with the band.  I booked some studio time in November of 2018 and unfortunately, the band hadn’t had enough rehearsal prior to going into the studio.

I went to the studio solo and brought in two low-key songs, In the Dark and All My Life. I had initially thought of releasing a few singles but once the band started recording in 2019, the song list began to grow.  So I figured I’d hold out and do a big sha-bang of a full length LP to be released on vinyl (a first for me!) I really liked the idea of combining songs I worked on with the band, with the songs that I fleshed out in the studio with just myself and my producer Patrick Himes.

Dr. J: You worked closely with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company here in Dayton, Ohio, what led to your recording with Patrick?

KD: Patrick reached out to me several years ago, just to say hi and introduce himself.  Which is a great example of just how cool Dayton musicians are! I knew of his work through Paige Beller when he worked on her live album, Live and a Person.  After seeing her show and hearing that recording, I knew once I had material to record I wanted to work with him.  It’s an added bonus that he records analog, or to tape, because that was a new experience I wanted to try!

Dr. J: ‘Myself’ is a personal favorite, so I am curious about it. The song is compelling and driving musically. Yet the lyrics seem to address loneliness. Did you set out to address the concerns and challenges of human connection when starting to work on that song?

KD: I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of this question, it’s almost like you knew my state of mind when I wrote it!  I was spending a lot of time by myself and with my thoughts.  Even after spending time with others I was coming home to just me.  I had recently gone through a very challenging separation after a long relationship.  I was desperately trying to find security within myself, because I was realizing how it can be unhealthy to have it only come from someone else.

Dr. J: All My Life also addresses other connection – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and feel of the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address connection, love, and relationships or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

KD: That song came out of strumming chords in waltz time, which I wonder if that made me feel a certain sweetness about it when the lyrics started to flow.  It’s definitely rooted in the sense of connection you feel when you realize you’ve longed for a certain feeling all your life and now that you have it, you must not take it for granted.

Dr. J: How did Myself come together musically for you?

KD: Funny enough, it came to life after opening my front door and hearing a melodic squeak from the hinge.  I hummed it and went down to my basement to harmonize it on the guitar.  Then I let the lyrics flow.  I was so caught up in this song, I wrote some of it while sitting in my personal finance class, haha!  The song was originally an acoustic song, but when I was prepping to take it into the studio, I really wanted to play around with amping it up.  I started by playing it on the electric guitar and then adding some guitar parts.  I heard a song on the radio one day and used that for my drum inspiration.  I’ll be honest, it still feels like a puzzle to me, so I’m really happy to hear it resonates with you!

0019634116_10Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

KD: Through listening to music.  As a kid, I loved singing a catchy song or letting music transport my daydreams.  Then once I started playing guitar, the sound of it inspired me to create different musical ideas.  So often, I will come up with an idea after or while listening to music.  If I connect with the vibe, I like to channel my own version of it.  And undoubtedly if there is a guitar in my hands, I end up playing something that catches my ear and I want to start fleshing it out (which can sometimes lead to late bedtimes, ha ha!)

Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Friends to Come On Sit Down)?

KD: I describe my music as sonically approachable.  As I’ve progressed, I’m getting more comfortable with taking risks and I feel/hope my music has become a little more candid since the beginning of my journey.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Come On Sit Down?

KD: I have several thoughts on future projects BUT I know I need to focus on the material first.  There are several songs I am excited to finish.  I think once the music comes to life, the projects will reveal themselves more clearly.  I’ve also lost a few songs along the way because they get pushed aside once a project starts.  I plan on finding them though! (They may have fallen under my couch, who knows!?)

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your
performances?

KD: I LOVE performing Tiny Little Table, it has SO much fun guitar stuff. I have a looper pedal which allows me to layer different guitar riffs and solo.  I use my looper to harmonize vocals as well, which is a new skill for me.  When I am playing with my band, Six Years will forever energize and empower me!

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

KD: We are all human and we are only human.

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

KD: I’ve taken this forced downtime to put effort into my website, creating a virtual store, and performing some livestream shows.  I’ve learned a lot about the different technology available that can help me be more creative and produce new content.  I’ve also been maintaining a consistent newsletter.  I used to get so overwhelmed about writing a newsletter, but now I’m so happy about being able to engage with people, it’s become a fun part of my month!

You can follow Kyleen Downes on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @KyleenDownes     Instagram at KyleenDownes

Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Kyleen for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Kyleen’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos and images courtesy of Kyleen Downes and Gary Mitchell.

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Joey Beach’s new song with a purpose

On the Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative program today we are playing a terrific new song ‘Come Outside‘ from the forthcoming ‘Horrible World’ album from Manray’s Joey Beach courtesy of the fine folks at REALLYREAL RECORDINGS. We are excited about new music from Joey but are especially moved that he is taking the opportunity to support the family of Simon Kingston who was taken from us far too early.

Joey is running a preorder on his two-track 7” (‘Come Outside’ and ‘Horrible World’ and all profits are going straight to the Simon Kingston Memorial Fund. So, listen to the program today and get a peek at new music from Joey and consider supporting a most worthy cause!

YTAA Past Guests: Neo-American Pioneers

Neo American Pioneers visited Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative on August 14, 2018! The band joined us for an interview and were kind enough to play a few songs for us! Happy to report that they are hard at work on a new record!

11 Questions with… Kyle Melton

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nAfter a hiatus of a few months, we return with our eighth installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column. We resume these articles with an interview featuring Smug Brothers‘ songwriter, guitarist and singer Kyle Melton. We want to publicly thank Kyle for taking the time to answer these questions!

Smug Brothers have been a prolific and active band without sacrificing quality. The vision for Smug Brothers is reflected in the interests, lyrics and approach that Kyle Melton has crafted for the group. The development of this band parallels the songwriting focus.

Smug Brothers begin in 2005 with the exciting debut record, Buzzmounter. This record featured the driving Valentine Chapel. In the beginning the band’s music was written by Darryl Robbins [The Motel Beds, Overthought Musik‘s numerous side projects] and the vocals and lyrics were created by Kyle Melton. Over time, Smug Brothers transformed into a cohesive band adding several musicians and artists into its indie rock sensibility.  The eventual addition of Ex-Guided By Voices and Swearing at Motorists drummer Don Thrasher on drums and percussion and the departure of Darryl Robbins transformed the band. The addition of guitarist Brian Baker [Brat Curse] and then Scott Tribble added sonic texture to the group’s sound. Several talented bass players have participated in this project over the years including Marc Betts, Lurchbox’s Larry Evans and the current bass playing of multi-instrumentalist Kyle Sowash [The Kyle Sowashes]. While additional lineup changes have influenced the sound over the years, the vision for the project has stayed true to an imaginative concept for the most impactful and concise indie pop sound.

SBBMThe band has been incredibly active from 2005 – 2019, releasing several excellent Midwestern indie rock album including the fantastic On The Way to the Punchline, the powerfully inventive Woodpecker Paradise and the amazingly accessible and catchy, Disco Maroon. In a just musical world (do not hold your breath waiting!), Disco Maroon would have produced top 40 singles with ‘Hang Up’ and ‘My Little Crowd Pleaser.’

In 2019, with the record Attic Harvest the band released its first record on vinyl — which is an important achievement. The group also released Serve A Thirsty Moon in that same year which speaks to their productivity! And to add more fuel to the idea of productivity — in the past challenging year because of the pandemic — the band was still able to release two terrific EPs, Room Of The Year and Every Surface Under Heaven and the single ‘Flame Verbatim.’ 

Originally formed in Dayton, Ohio and then Smug Brothers HQ relocated to Columbus, Ohio, Smug Brothers  have released some of the most catchy, interesting and melodic Midwestern indie rock and roll in… well, the Midwest and beyond. 

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a2655189097_10Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing the latest album Room Of The Year?

Kyle Melton (KM): Much of Room of the Year, as well as ‘Flame Verbatim’ and Every Surface Under Heaven, was written between fall 2018 and fall 2019. I was working from home during that year and had a guitar handy a lot of the time. We whittled down a batch of about 100 songs to 30 or so that we liked best, then set to work recording in December 2019 and got the 12 songs that appear on these three EPs before COVID-19 hit and we couldn’t get together to work on any more.

Dr. J: What is your approach in recording? What are your biggest challenges when creating new music? What is the biggest reward for you when making new music

KM: For these three most recent single EPs, we stuck with our tried-and-true method of Don [Thasher] and I getting in a room together and hashing out a rhythm track to build off. With the COVID-19 situation this year, we had to figure out how to get [Kyle] Sowash to record his bass parts from where he is. Scott had done a lot of work from his place and sent it over with Serve A Thirsty Moon, so we had that dialed in. For us, the biggest challenge is making time to get things done. As you get older, there are a lot more obstacles to getting music done than when you’re 25. I think there are levels of rewards: when you know you have a good basic track with a good energy you can build up, when everyone’s parts get added and the picture becomes more complete, when you add the extra touches to flesh it out, when you have a final mix/master that is what is going out. The whole process is still just such a buzz, really.

Dr. J: Freshman Zephyr is a fascinating song. There are some of the classic elements of the band and some exciting experimentation. In particular, for me, the use of electronics/keyboards adds an unexpected dimension to the song. When I expect a guitar part to come into the mix, a keyboard/electronic part does instead. Did you set out to explore a more expansive sonic feel when starting to work on that song?

KM: We’re always trying to figure out how to expand what it is we sound like, so I think Freshman Zephyr is in that lineage a bit. Scott really turned us more toward adding keyboards in a way we didn’t previously, so that’s largely his contribution. We rarely set out to do anything more than whatever the song asks us to do, really. It’s usually pretty obvious if something is going to work for a song or if we need to push out past ourselves to figure out what the song needs. And we typically know when we’ve found something we all like.

Dr. J: Room of The Year seems to address themes of existence apart from the technology that we have become Sbrosso comfortable using without asking what it means to be so dependent. I am thinking Radiator One, Good To Know Your Axis and Freshman Zephyr lyrically raise questions about technology. Would you say that is accurate? What themes were you addressing?

KM: Sure, there are flashes of coming to terms with technology in a lot of what I write. I think it’s just so prevalent in our current lives, that kind of thinking is going to be part of what I’m talking about. I have a very love/hate relationship with technology, as I’m sure a lot of us do. But I think we’re all working to find where we strike a balance between the benefits and whatever our humanity is. Where is your axis, you know?

Dr. J: How did Freshman Zephyr come together musically for you? How does that compare with Good To Know Your Axis?

KM: I think those songs have very different base identities: Freshman Zephyr is more in the pop house and Good to Know Your Axis is more in the postpunk range. So, from that standpoint, we would work on them with very different ideas in mind; you can’t really do the same kinds of things with both of these songs. We built them up in a similar way, but the four of us have developed a good unspoken language of what different types of songs would ask you to do.

Dr. J:  Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?

KM: I always have the itch to make music. The struggle is getting it down on the phone or on tape in a timely fashion. The inspiration is everywhere, really. Listening to what other people are putting out is always inspiring. Going back and digging on things I’ve heard countless times but finding one new nuance, that sets off an idea. Things people say on TV or the Internet or in a text message. All of it has potential to trigger me to get to work.

a0679371235_10Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from Attic Harvest to Serve A Thirsty Moon to Flame Verbatim and Room of the Year)?

KM: I have to feel some kind of energy from the connection between the words and music to get things going. I tend to write words and music separately, so when I try and put them together, I’m hoping there is a cool thing that happens. And there’s a big range, so that’s helpful. The biggest thing for how I work and how we’re able to function as group from Attic Harvest up through these new EPs is sharing demos in advance with the group that gives us a better idea of what we can work on and a sketch of an idea. When Don and I started playing together back in 2008, I would just throw a song at him totally cold and we’d come up with something. He has a little more advance idea now, which he says he likes a lot more. I think a lot of how I put songs together is fundamentally the same as I’ve done for a long time: pick up a guitar, throw some words out, and see what comes together. I raise the sails and hope for a strong wind to get us somewhere new and interesting.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Room of the Year?

KM: It’s hard to predict what we’ll be able to do in the next year, as COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. We have some things we’ve already started working on, so we’ll have to see what we come up with next. I think we’re all game to approach things a little differently, since we’re just not really able to do things the way we normally would.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your
performances?

KM: Well, we didn’t get to do any shows this year, so this isn’t really a current view, but Investigative Years [from On The Way To The Punchline], Reminding Penumbra [from Attic Harvest], and Hang Up [from Disco Maroon] have always been very enjoyable for me. They all have different things going on, but they’re fun to sing and the band typically gets a good headwind going behind each of them.

Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?

KM: I think there’s a hopefulness in this most recent batch of songs. Always keep looking for new ways to engage yourself and the world. Remain open to possibilities. The world is a lot more than most of us realize. Enjoy the ride, you know?

Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?

128173312_10157765610728404_8864351974159478428_oKM: Not playing shows has been a real bummer this year. First year since I started playing in bands in 1992 that I won’t do a single gig. But there’s always time to work on music and I’m grateful the four of us figured out how to work remotely to keep the ball moving. I miss “the Brothers,” but we did a Zoom call recently just to have a hang. That’s what band practice is like in 2020.

You can follow Kyle Melton and Smug Brothers on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @smugbrothers     Instagram at smugbrothers        Spotify    Bandcamp     YouTube

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Kyle for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Smug Brothers’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. All photos care of Kyle Melton.

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Interview Part 2 with Charlie & Amanda

It was a real pleasure to talk with Charlie and Amanda about their music! The new record ‘The King & Queen of Dayton Country‘ is available this Saturday! You can follow them on Facebook! Their CD release is happening this Saturday at the Yellow Cab Tavern. Check the Yellow Cab Tavern’s page for information regarding the social distancing requirements and policies.

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Interview with Charlie & Amanda Part 1!

Part one of our interview with Charlie & Amanda Jackson about their new record, ‘The King & Queen of Dayton Country,’ recording, songwriting and their approach to music. We can consider this record to be a powerful return to a classic country duet sound that has been missing for quite some time. Check out their Facebook page! You can find their music on bandcamp! They are playing a safe outdoor show at the Yellow Cab Tavern on Saturday! Please check the Yellow Cab Tavern’s page regarding their policies for a social distancing outdoor show!

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