Brandon Berry’s Short Takes

Short Takes

Our Short Takes today comes courtesy of Brandon Berry of The Paint Splats. The band came on the scene with a blast of indie rock goodness with “I Gutted My VCR” which eventually joined nine other songs for the first self-titled record released on November 16, 2019! A split with Mike Bankhead, “Defacing the Moon” came out around the same time! Some of Brandon’s contributions to that shared record includes the heartbreakingly beautiful “Annie”.

a2463795233_10This past March, The Paint Splats released a terrific EP …With a Side of Fries. That continues the terrific indie pop and humor that The Paint Splats are becoming known for in the Miami Valley. As Brandon wrote about the project: “An unhealthy blend of power pop melodies that grew up listening to garage rock and the man shouting obscenities from the comfort of a street corner.”

Reaching out to Brandon to ask if he would give us a few ‘Short Takes’ of music that he is listening to lately was an easy call for us to make here at YTAA. Take a few minutes and review his excellent recommendations!

The Kinks – Sleepwalker

In my high school band, we attempted to cover the Kinks – “All Day and All of the Night” and our “Lola” parody, “Ebola” – but I just passed them off as another forgotten novelty spawned from, and muddled up by, the swingin’ ’60s. It wasn’t until I started taking chances at the record store that I discovered their massive catalogue of inventive tunes that would serve as major inspiration for my own songwriting. The early stuff will always be dear to me, but their late ’70s and early ’80s albums, like Give the People What They Want and Sleepwalker, stand out for the risk-taking, something they’ve been known for since the amplifier cabinet-slashing origins.


kink2Life goes on
It happens ev’ry day
So appreciate what you got
Before it’s taken away


I’m not sure if there’s a more apropos quatrain for this present moment.

Kurt Baker – Brand New Beat

Power pop never died; the arena has just been cluttered by artists who shouldn’t be included in the category. There is hope, though. Musicians like Kurt Baker are keeping the original spirit alive. I came to this guy fairly late, but after hearing “Weekend Girls” and “She Can Do It All” from Brand New Beat, I had to get the record. I wear my nostalgia on my three-quarter length sleeves. The album cover alone would’ve been enough for me to throw down the cash. With vocal fluctuations à la Elvis Costello, I can’t help but get sucked into Kurt’s expertise in the genre.

a3565109622_10The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin

When I write lyrics, I channel my inner John Darnielle. Destructive and off-putting sentiments with underlying sadness and regret over a major key chord progression. When I heard that he was recording a new album during quarantine, I had no idea the promo videos involving John and his sideways, trusty Panasonic tape deck would be the final product. Going back to his roots, he released the new batch of songs on cassette. I wasn’t around or conscious enough to consider myself an original fan, but I feel like I’m a part of something special now. I’ve been listening long enough that when a limited release such as this presents itself, I am to jump on the opportunity to be one of the few to have a copy. Though the cassette hasn’t been officially released, the lo-fi grain can be streamed online. Gather up your pagan crew. Do yourself a favor and listen to this record.

Various Artists

I have a playlist on Spotify called “songs that make me feel better,” which is comprised of mostly ’80s ballads and bops, like Mike & The Mechanics’ “All I Need is a Miracle” and “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister. You’d be surprised what else you can find in there. When I was a youngster, I discovered the Beatles and the Stones through my dad and the big haired ’80s through my brother, eventually blending and inspiring me to dive into genres from every era. During the time of mandated isolation (remember that?), I needed something positive to listen to, so I dug up the old playlist and added some new songs to the repertoire amongst all the Scandal and Wilson Philips songs:

YTAA MonsterI suggest you make a playlist like this, too, adding only tunes in the key of happy that you can dance to at the drop of a hi-hat. A dash of positivity never did any harm.

Many thanks to Brandon for sharing what he has been listening to with us!

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11 Questions with… Kailynn West

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThe seventh installment of 11 Questions… comes courtesy of Kailynn West of Tiny Stills. It is difficult to separate Tiny Stills from her vision!

In 2015, after an unexpected situation left an opening on a national tour with Anthony Raneri and John-Allison Weiss, guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Kailynn West stepped in at the literal last minute to finish the tour with her power-pop project Tiny Stills.

LA-based Tiny Stills have released some of the most engaging and catchy emotional indie power pop beginning with a series of terrific songs and albums including the excellent “Falling is like Flying” from 2014 and the independently released “Laughing Into the Void” in 2018!  Recently, the band has released a series of compelling and catchy singles!

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104164797_1857630154373724_1517628563165917919_oTiny Stills arose from intense personal experience as a direct response to West’s experience being held up at gunpoint in 2011 and as a way to work through the inevitable social fallout that occurs so often after traumatic experiences.  Tiny Stills craft honest and intense songs with powerful guitars and inescapable melodies that pay homage to early ’90s and 2000s indie and pop-punk. At the end of the day, Tiny Stills and the music they make is an effort to remind you that even the worst days have a silver lining, that at the very least you are not alone in an overwhelming world.

a4066922409_10Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released song, “Craigslist Bed“?

Kailynn West (KN): It started as inspiration after a most recent breakup. I had to move out of my apartment and start over. Specifically – I didn’t have a bed. The apartment I now live in (a garage, with a bathroom, literally.) came with a bed that the previous tenant left. I was otherwise going to look at craigslist beds because I didn’t have one at the time, but I ended up just keeping this one. It all worked out! But it was definitely the inspiration behind the song.

Dr. J: Tiny Stills evolved out of a personal experience for you, can you describe that experience and how it shaped the formation of the band?

KW: I was held up at gunpoint in about 8 years ago in Los Angeles. After that, I had a hard time relating to people and connecting. People couldn’t understand what I was going through, rightfully so, and I was dealing with coping with trauma and PTSD. I lost a lot of friends and my social circle during that time, and so I started writing music to try to work through some of the pain I was feeling trying to function. Tiny Stills was originally a solo project, that has morphed into a band. I’ve found that sharing
my story helps me connect with people, so I try to write honest songs.

Dr. J: “Craigslist Bed” is a meaningful song for all of us who deal with challenging relationship and the breakup of relationships; did you set out to address those concerns and challenges of when starting to work on that song?

KW: 100 percent yes. Particularly the bed, and do have a key ring with a million keys on it and I don’t really know which ones I need to keep at any given time.

a1000195355_10Dr. J: A previous song “Everything is Going Great” is a powerful song for the current moment we all find ourselves in today. Do you think that is a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? Can they apply to the world today? Or would you say the focus should be more internal to the individual?

KW: I think songs are meant to be interpreted however feels best for the listener. For me, this song was about an internal battle of trying to pretend everything was OK, but I do think that’s a very universal experience, and definitely applies to today- mostly because the title of the song is sarcastic!

Dr. J:  How did “Everything is Going Great” come together musically for you?

KW: It came together pretty fast. I actually do a “song origin” on my patreon where I break down the different levels of demos- from the very first voice memo, with different lyrics and melody, to the demo we took into the studio, to the final version. It evolved pretty naturally, but it did start in a different place than where it ended up.

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

KW: I have something I need to get off my chest.

a4048710410_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 the album “Laughing Into the Void” to the current single “Craigslist Bed“?

KW: I’ve gotten better at self editing. With “Laughing Into the Void” I wrote a song and it was done. Now I go back and I’ll rework the chorus multiple times until it says exactly what I want it to say, or until I can’t get it out of my head. “Craigslist Bed” originally had a completely different Chorus! I do a “song origin” breakdown of that one on Patreon too. I’ve just gotten more critical of my writing and where I want the song to land.

Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after “Craigslist Bed“?

KW: We have new music coming out basically every month. Our next two singles are coming out August 7 and September 25th. They are two songs that were meant to be on the EP we were originally planning on releasing on our EP in April 2020! The second single is called “Resting in Pieces” and the third single doesn’t have a title yet!

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

KW: My favorite song to perform right now is “Small Talk” because it’s a straightforward fun pop/rock song and when the band comes in live, we feel huge.

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

KW: That just because you’ve failed at something, it doesn’t make you a failure.

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

a2642919434_10KW: I’m spending time working on myself. It’s leveled the playing field – No one can tour. We only have our songs now. I’m honing my craft and trying to elevate my work so it’s more than just noise. I think you have to practice being honest with yourself, and this is one of those difficult times when no one can really ‘look away’ we can only look at the problems we’ve created for ourselves as a society. I don’t like saying that we’re going to ‘get a lot of good art out of this (quarantine/the COVID crisis)’ because artists are under the same kind of pressure everyone else is, and our industry was collapsing years before COVID. Touring was one of the last ways musicians could make money. Artists can’t survive on streaming royalties- please directly support the artists that you like if you want them to continue making music. Between the death of album sales and now touring, we sure could use a break. I just want to survive this in more ways than one.

You can follow Kailynn West and Tiny Stills on various social media including:

Facebook     Twitter at @tinystills     Instagram at TinyStills     Links     Spotify    Bandcamp

YTAA MonsterWe want to extend our sincere gratitude to Kailynn for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Tiny Still’s Bandcamp page! Thanks again! 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 Kailynn West.

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Today’s YTAA Playlist

The playlist today includes new music from Lydia Loveless, Al Holbrook, Bob Mould, Chris Forsyth, The Beths, Momma, Mike Bankhead and Tino, Waxahatchee, Speaking Suns, Rufrano, Nada Surf and more! Plus music from David Payne, Wussy, The Story Changes, The Typical Johnsons, Shrug, The Pullouts, Tim Pritchard, The 1984 Draft, The Nautical Theme, The Flamin’ Groovies, Me & Mountains, The Mayflies USA, Toxic Reasons, The Regrettes, American Werewolf Academy, Ass Ponys, Greg Dulli, Son Volt and Samantha Crain.

Some looking back indie courtesy of James, The Smiths, Graham Parker and The Rumour and Brainiac. And a live classic from The Replacements! We pay some small tribute to far overlooked songwriter Emitt Rhodes.

So give the playlist a listen or three!

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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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Dr. J’s Singles Club at Off Shelf

106799389_605906167029120_7523683373463049191_nEvery month Dr. J write a run down of 8 to 10 singles that came out the previous month.

The latest Singles Club column covers some pretty spectacular releases from June! Do yourself a favor and go check it out over at OffShelf.net!

Many thanks to the fine folks over at Off Shelf for giving us the opportunity to share some exciting new music every month! And you can listen to these selections by going to the spotify playlist each month as well. Its truly a win-win!

‘Slide It My Way’ – The Great Serpent Mound of Ohio

The Great Serpent Mound of Ohio Band has been hard at work on a new record. Today’s video of the day comes from this terrific Dayton, Ohio band! Their upcoming album “De Temporum” (2020) on WoodyFaz Records promises to be a compelling new release!

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Nick Leet’s Short Takes

Short TakesNick Leet is the principal songwriter of the excellent High on Stress who were initially known for playing with Tommy Stinson and Slim Dunlap. As the passionate vocalist for High on Stress, Leet gives life to their songs. The band came roaring back with the incredible ‘Hold Me In’ from this past April. The record captures both the energy of their musically legendary hometown of Minneapolis and the lyrical authenticity of that fertile ground that gave birth to The Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du. There is realism in the songs without pretense or the sense of ideas being forced into predetermined catchphrases.

a2738656838_10It would be wrong to pigeonhole High on Stress, they pay homage to their city and at the same time transcend the categorization that comes from the label of Minneapolis music. Consider checking into their earlier records especially ‘Leaving MPLS’, ‘Living is a Dying Art‘ and Cop Light Parade.

Reaching out to Nick to ask if he would give us a few ‘Short Takes’ of music that he is listening to lately was honestly not a difficult decision. Check out his excellent recommendations!

20000000078234_(1)Jason IsbellReunions‘ – I’ve been listening to this one quite a bit since he just released it. He is one of the best writers we have out there right now. Standout track for me is the evocative ‘St Peter’s Autograph.’

Billy Pilgrim ‘Billy in the Time Machine’ is a great record that is about to be re-released.

Andrew Hyra & Kristian Bush were born to sing together. Also check out Andrew’s solo record ‘Spill‘. ‘Here I Am‘ and ‘Great Expectations’are killer tracks on that album.

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Jim Soule ‘Forget the Days’ [the record came out on June 5th] It’s Jim’s first solo record and is a great listen. Jim has a wonderful sense of melody and a big voice. Standout track: “A New Brand of Fiction.”

 

 

 

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Fig Dish ‘That’s What Love Songs Often Do’. This is a wonderful rock n’ roll record from the mid-nineties. They were a Chicago band with great hooks. The drums sound killer on here and every song is a knockout. Stand out tracks are “Bury Me” and “Quiet Storm King“. I can’t stop there…let’s add “It’s Your Ceiling” to the mix too.

 

Many Thanks to Nick for sharing the music that he is listening to right now!

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Joe Anderl’s ‘Short Takes’

Short TakesLet us take a moment and introduce our latest feature, Short Takes. We are asking musicians, artists, DJs, writers, spoken word performers and others involved in music and creative expression to write some short comments about what they are listening to right now. There are no rules regarding genre, style or year of release. What are people listening to now? What does it mean for them in a brief few sentences — hence the idea of a ‘short take.’

20992760_10159165029090537_2527313783301675441_nOur first ‘Short Takes‘ comes courtesy of Joe Anderl of The 1984 Draft. Joe is a kind, warm and thoughtful person who not only loves music, he feels it. His passion for music is inescapable in his current project The 1984 Draft. The ‘Draft are a phenomenal live band who capture the spirit of punk and post-punk melded with the introspection of the best music of the ’90s and beyond. 

The Draft’s last record ‘Makes Good Choices‘ was one of our favorite records of 2018!

The-1984-Draft-band-2018As quarantine and social distancing continue, as the world burns around us, and as I find myself filled with more and more rage over the ignorance and injustice in our county, I have found myself searching deeper in my music catalog for little nuggets of joy. Songs that remind of the past. Songs from simpler times. The thing is, there were never simpler times. Just different times. That being said, there can often be comfort in nostalgia, joy in discovering something new, and a new wave of emotions caused by a song listened to in a different phase of life.

These songs are the little nuggets of joy I have had in my life for the last couple weeks.

First, ‘Slackjawed’ by The Connells – I found myself watching a video on YouTube with the Best of 1993 from 120 Minutes. I particularly wanted to watch it as it included videos of the Afghan Whigs, Paul Westerberg, and Buffalo Tom.

R-2028725-1562522314-3760.jpegAs I watched all the videos and reminisced about wrapping tin foil around my boom box antenna to pick up 97X [modern rock radio station from 1983-2004], a song came on that I had remembered loving hearing every time it came on. That song was ‘Slackjawed’ by The Connells. I wondered to myself why I had never tried to purchase an album by them and why this song never found its way into my collection. That will change very soon as I have probably listened to it 30 times in the last week.

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Next, ‘Inside of Love‘ by Nada Surf.  I was a late adopter on Nada Surf. I heard ‘Popular‘ in high school and kind of wrote the band off as a one hit wonder. That changed some 20 something years later watching them headline at Midpoint Music Fest [Dr. J was there too! The band gave a great live performance and won over many music fans that day!] There is an absolute softness in the voice of Mathew Caws. His choice of words can often be so simple and telling in same moment.

When I listened to this song a couple weeks ago, I found myself so grateful that I live in a loving marriage, that I am on the inside of love. So much so I just keep listening to this song every time I need to remind myself how lucky I truly am.

Paul-Westerberg-Dyslexic-HeartLast but not least, ‘Dyslexic Heart’ by Paul Westerberg – What GenXer did not relate to singles in some way?

After spending the last few years of my life completely ravaging my Replacements catalog, I decided I needed to dive further into my Westerberg records. I started with something comfortable and easy. This song and ‘Waiting for Somebody‘ [also from the Singles soundtrack] have been every other day listen for me lately just to try and feel a little normal.

Thank you for a terrific ‘Short Takes’ Joe!

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11 Questions with… Mike Bankhead

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThis interview with songwriter, bass player and keyboard stylist Mike Bankhead is the third installment in our series of ‘11 Questions with…‘. This series is an effort to understand songwriting by exploring in some detail the creative process through a deep examination of the recent craft of a talented musician. We hope that we all learn about area artists and the music that they are making. As well as learning about how they are creating music and doing so especially during these challenging times in which we find ourselves. How artists go about creating music, lyrics, themes, arrangements and more will be explored in this regular column.

A hearty thank you to all of the artists and musicians for taking the time to answer these questions for this column! We appreciate you answering these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA!

Mike Bankhead is a Dayton, Ohio musician who constructs with deliberate care catchy melodic modern rock music that illustrates his gift for vibrant stories about the emotional impact of the decisions we make on our life journey. Mike clearly spends a great deal of time on his craft as his songs capture the just out of reach catchy melodies, inventive chord progressions and energetic rhythms that are fresh and inventive. Mike’s songwriting includes his insightful lyrics that explore the contested terrain of life, heartbreak, love, loss, location and the awful realization that having and not having are equally enthralling.

Mike Bankhead released his debut album, Echo in the Crevices in 2017. He recorded the album at Reel Love Recording Company with well-known Dayton engineer and producer Patrick Himes. The album featured a literal who’s who of area talent, including Brian Hoeflich (Cherry Lee & the Hot Rod Hounds, Flyaway Minion, John Dubuc’s Guilty Pleasures), Tod Weidner (Shrug , Motel Beds), Kyle Byrum (Salvadore Ross), Tim Pritchard (The Boxcar Suite, Shrug, Flyaway Minion), and three-fourths of The New Old Fashioned. Just last year, Mike released a hook-filled exploration of longing called ‘Little Light‘ and the excellent split Defacing The Moon with Brandon Berry of The Paint Splats. And if that was not enough, he most recently — days ago in fact — released his latest single, ‘Promise.’

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Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released songs, Bright Ideas?

Mike Bankhead (MB): Wow, I wrote that long enough ago that I don’t think I remember exactly when. It was sometime after my first album was released back in summer of 2017, but definitely before February 2019 when I went in to Reel Love for a pre-production meeting.   These days I usually write on piano, but this one was definitely written on bass as far as the part you hear the rhythm guitar playing is concerned.  I did use the piano for the hook you hear in the outro, and to double check all of the notes I was singing during the other parts.

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

MB: Patrick did the engineering work on my first album. Aside from that, I’ve probably known him for about 20 years? At least 20 years.  He’s so very talented, and after the experience of my first album, I know that I’m comfortable working with him.  I didn’t think for a moment about doing this song with anyone else.

Dr. J:Bright Ideas’ is a fascinating song for all of us interested in music composition; did you set out to mirror some of your influences when starting to work on that song?

17155483_1079840295494479_7656602931119695497_nMB: Absolutely. I wanted to write a Bob Pollard song.  If you listen to the song again, you’ll notice it has no chorus.  Part of that was a mild form of protest against “the music business”… so much of the advice that gets thrown at songwriters takes the form of someone saying “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”… First, if someone is bored because the chorus didn’t happen during the first 20 to 30 seconds of a song, thta’s not a person that I think I want to be listening to my music.  Second, how about no chorus at all then? The structure of the song is A A B C.  There are plenty of Guided By Voices songs that are quite brief and have no chorus, but they’re catchy anyway.  With that in mind, part of this was definitely meant as a form of admiration for Bob and his work, I kind of hope he hears it someday.  I like to imagine it as a GBV song, and I can kind of see Bob doing that little hopping dance he does.  The outro is heavily influenced by Fountains Of Wayne.  That lead riff is played on guitar, but it could just as easily have been played on synth, after all, I wrote it on a piano.  You’ll find some synth leads in their catalog.  I also wanted a bunch of harmony vocals in there, which you’ll hear all over Fountains Of Wayne songs.  All of the above to say that I wanted to take some of the things from these specific influences, but end up with a song that still sounds like ME, and I think we were able to get that done.

Dr. J:Bright Ideas’ seems to address hopefulness – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and/or feeling in the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address hopefulness or did the song evolve in that direction over time? If that is not a correct interpretation, is there a theme to the song?

MB: Yeah, I can see why it could be interpreted that way. I’m not entirely sure it started off heading that way. I definitely know that I wanted to write it in a major key, so it’s in E instead of E minor.  That itself is a change for me, I don’t usually write in major keys, I find something comforting in the mood that minor keys convey.  (As an aside, that’s probably very much a cultural construct based on what we as a whole are accustomed to hearing in Western music, but it’s hard to run from all of that musical history.)  Doing this in major lent itself to a, let’s say, BRIGHTER sound, and I think that really supports the title and overall theme of the song. The word “hope” is actually in the B section, so yeah, I’d say you’re on target with the interpretation.

Lyrically and musically, the thing that happened first here was the lyric and melody “tell your teacher I got some bright ideas.”  I don’t at all remember when I came up with that, but whenever it was, I liked it enough to sing it into a voice memo.  At some point when I was writing the songs that eventually came to the studio with me, I went back and listened to a bunch of my old voice memos, and thought this one had decent potential for a song.  I’m glad I picked it, instead of having it still be out there all alone on my phone.  The rest of the song grew from that starting point.

73333452_1884675495010951_4914365222908592128_oDr. J: How did the song come together musically for you?

MB: Oops, I already kind of answered that in the previous question. To give more detail and leave no room for doubt, working from that voice memo I mentioned, I sat down with the bass and built the skeleton of the song… the rhythmic structure, the chords that the guitarist would end up playing.  Next was finishing out the melody, finishing out the lyrics, then double checking with the piano to make sure there were no false steps.  This thing doesn’t come naturally to me like it does to so many musicians.  I really have to WORK to make music, and the way my mind is, I have to understand how something functions in order to use it properly, so i definitely lean pretty hard on what I have learned about music theory when I’m writing.  Specifically when it comes to melody, I find every single note that I plan to sing on the piano, and make sure that it works within the chord structure of the song.  If it doesn’t, I either change the chord that is causing the clash, or pick another note to replace the one in the melody that sounds bad.  It’s definitely not the most organic way to write, and it’s certainly not the most efficient way to write, but that’s my way.  (Insert shrug emoji.)

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

MB: “Often” is the difficult word in that question, because it’s not a consistent source of inspiration. There are times when there is something I need to say, and I do that by writing a song. There are times when there are feelings that need to be dealt with, and I do that by messing around on bass or piano… sometimes a song comes out of it, sometimes it doesn’t.  (Like David Payne says, it’s ‘Cheaper Than Therapy, though I’m not sure if it’s as effective.)  There are times when I write because I know that I SHOULD, because if you don’t keep writing, you won’t get better.  It’s those times when I try to look at it like a job.  I started my own LLC, a small business around music, so it is very much a second job.  Sometimes on a job, you have to get work done even if you don’t feel like it, so there are indeed times when i don’t feel like writing, but I force myself to write.  I belong to an online songwriting group that has challenges every now and then where you have to write 5 songs in 5 days.  During those challenges, I write whether I’m inspired or not, because that’s the point of the challenge.  Remember when we used to go to shows?  A great show when I’m seeing artists I admire – whether they are from Dayton or a national touring band – a great show has me thinking about writing for the next few days after the show… it’s kind of a like a post-show high for me.  Watching a songwriter I respect do their thing is a massive source of inspiration. I try to learn from the shows I see, from the albums I listen to, from useful criticism, and from advice, if the advice comes from a source I trust.  One piece of advice that I think about now and then came from one of my favorite songwriters, Dan Wilson [Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare].  He’s a Minneapolis guy, so you’re probably familiar with him [Yup! – Dr. J].  He says “if it’s something that you would tell to a friend, it’s something that you can put into a song”… think about the kind of things we talk about with friends… whether it’s our spouse, or close colleague, or lifetime BFF, or someone who is a dear friend that we don’t see so often due to distance.  That’s a lot of material to draw from.

I should also probably add that just because I write a song doesn’t mean anyone else will ever hear it.  I don’t throw away as many ideas or completed songs as I used to, but there are still things that I write that aren’t good enough to be heard by anyone else, and that’s OK.  At the end of the day, I think a songwriter has to write for them-self first.  Write what speaks to you, write what moves you, write something that says what you need to say, write what helps you deal with whatever you need to deal with, be authentic.  Maybe that’s something that nobody else should hear, and if that’s the case, it’s OK.

0020011062_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 Echo in The Crevices to Little Light to Bright Ideas)?

MB: This sounds like you’re asking for an updated elevator pitch. If you’re not, that’s how I’m going to approach the answer, because I think we artists should always be ready with an elevator pitch.

I make Midwestern indie rock that sounds like a less jocular version of Fountains Of Wayne trying to cover a Guided By Voices song in the style of Superdrag on one of their angsty days.  It usually is guitar-driven, but sometimes features piano.

For how it’s changed since my first album, I’ve been making a conscious effort to write songs that are a bit tighter.  This isn’t a reaction to anyone complaining about long songs, it’s just that I haven’t recently found myself to need 6 minutes or 8 minutes to do what I want to do lyrically and musically.  On my first album, there are some long songs, but there needed to be.  I’ve been feeling less of that need recently. That said, I do kind of want to write a ten minute epic, but I have to find the right music for something like that. I’m also leaning a bit harder on my power pop influences.

a3589681113_10Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Bright Ideas?

MB: I spent February 2019 to February 2020 in the studio. I have 21 songs in various states of having been tracked.  Five of those songs are already out on the Defacing The Moon split.  “Bright Ideas” was also one of those songs.  A bunch more of those songs are going on my second full-length album, which is called Anxious Inventions & Fictions. The album is done, and the compact discs should show up before the end of June.  For the next few months, I’m going to be doing a PR and marketing campaign for the album.  I’d love to hire a company to do that for me, but that’s expensive, so I’ll be going full ‘DIY’.  That’s a great deal of work.  Sadly, I know that I won’t find much time to write new music or even practice my instruments over the next few months.  I’ll try to carve out some practice time here and there.  In order to get any writing done, I’ll have to specifically set writing appointments on my calendar and squeeze in time here and there. I also might release a stand-alone single near the end of this year, and maybe another one next spring.  These would be songs that are already tracked.

Once the album is out, then I will turn attention to another project I have.  I have an outrageously talented co-writer named Ruth who lives in Ipswich, on the East Coast of England.  We have a project called ‘We Met In Paris’ (it works because it’s true), and we have around 25 songs now in various states of completion, and the plan is to keep writing.  No rush here, but we’re definitely going to make an album.  No rush because we want to do it right.  If a song isn’t good enough to go on the album, no worries, we keep writing.  That project is going to have a different sound than my solo work.  It’ll dip maybe a little into indie folk on occasion.  I promised Ruth that I will not make another full solo album until we release a ‘We Met In Paris’ album.  That doesn’t mean I might not run to the studio for the occasional one-off single if I can pull it off quickly, but for a lengthy project like I just finished, yeah, that won’t happen for at least a couple of years.

I’m enthused about ‘We Met In Paris’.  Writing with Ruth feels good.  I see so much potential in the work we’re doing. As long as it keeps feeling good, we should keep writing, while at the same time being sure to make sure we’re making quality art.

Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances? Do you enjoy Live Streaming?

MB: My favorite song to perform is ‘Promise. Interestingly, that’s the lead single for the next album, and it’ll be out in June. (The single, not the album.)  Part of what I like about it is that it still has that new song shine.  I guess it’s not super new anymore, but I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and playing it is kind of positive reinforcement.  Surely I’m not the only artist that goes through periods of hating everything I create, right?  Well, I haven’t had any of those feelings come up around ‘Promise yet.

I enjoy the Live Streaming very much.  This reminds me that I should do it more often.  I actually get much less nervous doing streaming than playing live in the same room with people.  That said, I miss playing live in the same room as people.

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

MB: Honesty. I think that goes for my older stuff, too. Even when the protagonist of a given song is not necessarily me, and even if the song is not meant to reflect an actual real situation (looking at YOU, “Little Light”), the lyrical content should still be honest.  Sure, sometimes as songwriters we write fiction, and that’s OK, as long as it feels true.  I’m probably not expressing this in the best way, but it goes back to authenticity.  When you listen to ‘Bright Ideas, and when you listen to the upcoming Anxious Inventions & Fictions, I hope that you take away a feeling of authenticity.  I wish for people to realize that I’m not trying to chase musical trends or write what’s popular, I am trying to write the music that speaks to me first, and then share my art with others.  That doesn’t mean I will never experiment with playing around with genre or instrumentation, on writing from other points of view, writing in languages that aren’t English… but I wish for people to realize that I’m not pandering to anyone, and that I’m being honest and authentic.

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

MB: It’s strange, my life is mostly unaffected, specifically because being a musician isn’t my main source of income yet. I very much wish it to be. There is nothing I would love more than to get a regular paycheck in exchange for writing songs, but I’m not there.  I still have a corporate job.  Since I work that corporate job from home (and I’ve been doing that for a few years), nothing has changed significantly about my work situation yet.  I realize that not everyone can say this, and that I should absolutely reflect on this and be grateful for my situation.  If I were a full-time musician, things would be difficult right now.

The pandemic hasn’t made its way into my art yet.  I’ve noticed that songs about various aspects of the pandemic and its impact have started to be released.  That’s cool if that is what moves a songwriter, but it’s not something I personally want to write about. Maybe in the future that will change, who knows?

I miss live shows.  I can be in a terrible mood, and go see an acoustic performance at Showcase Thursday over at Yellow Cab, and then be in a better mood.  Something about a person and a guitar and a few songs just kind of makes me feel better.  I like the quiet shows.  I like the loud shows as well.

One benefit of the pandemic is that I’ll have ample time to do my promotion campaign for the upcoming album.  I am going to take a week vacation from my corporate job, and of course, I’m not going anywhere.  (Yes, I realize Ohio has opened up, but I’ll still stay at home other than heading to the grocery store, thank you.)  That gives me plenty of time to put in the work.  Not just promotion, but also research and learning more about the business.  I’m also working on getting into sync licensing, and I plan to take some time to run down some leads in that area as well.


Mike Bankhead Music on Facebook     Mike Bankhead on Twitter at @mbankheadmusic

Mike Bankhead on Instagram at MikeBankheadMusic

Thanks again to Mike for answering these questions! If you would like to participate in a future ’11 Questions with…’ column, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. If you have, a particular picture you would like used in the article, please feel free to attach that as well. All pictures and images of Mike Bankhead courtesy of the artist and photographer Patrick O’Reilly.

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11 Questions with Amber Hargett

101714517_10163801825875154_1076073664824213504_nThis essay marks our inaugural new YTAA series: ’11 questions with…’. The idea is to learn about the artist and how they create, compose and make artwork in the present moment. We have approached several bands and artists to answer some questions about their latest music, a song that they have recently worked on and how they are managing the current extraordinary challenges during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A hearty thank you to all of the artists and musicians for taking the time to answer these questions! We appreciate you answering these questions for our readers/listeners on YTAA!

A few days ago, Dr. J reached out to Dayton powerhouse singer, songwriter and guitarist Amber Hargett to answer our first ’11 Questions with…’ column. If you do not know, where have you been? No, seriously Amber Hargett released the acclaimed record Paper Trail‘ at the end of March 2019. The artist’s first record included songs with emotional heft ‘Carolina Blue’, surviving the challenges of everyday life ‘Broke’, and the power of real authentic head over heels love ‘Fallin’ for You’ among several other stellar tracks.

HORIZONTAL NAMEMore recently, Amber has finished a new song, Painting Pictures, that addresses several important features of the calling to create music and art. We want to extend our deep appreciation for Amber for answering these questions!

Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest released song, Painting Pictures?

Amber Hargett (AH): I spent the first five or six weeks of quarantine in a weird funk. I needed rest, anyway. But I had been struggling to find any motivation to pick up my guitar, write, or perform. One night I couldn’t sleep and started thinking of the kindred spirits I knew who were probably up, too – struggling with expressing their feelings, but determined to keep creating. I wound up staying up until 4 a.m. to finish the song.

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

AH: Back in January, I booked studio time for a single (‘Shine On’) in March and additional dates to begin an EP in May. The pandemic led to an automatic cancellation of the March dates, but when May approached and I had new material, Patrick and I felt we could work together safely. We were both eager to get back to work.

a0025564858_16Dr. J: Painting Pictures is a meaningful song for those involved in creative work/pursuits; did you set out to address the concerns and challenges of artists/musicians/creatives when starting to work on that song?

AH: I guess so. The very first line I wrote was, “I’m down here writing music that nobody’s gonna hear.” Because that’s exactly where I was – in a basement, at 1:00 a.m., alone, writing a tune that I was never sure would see the light of day. Every song feels that way at some point. But then I thought of Megan Fiely, my friend and amazing artist, and how she probably felt the same way sometimes about her paintings. I actually completed the third verse of the song first, with her in mind.

Dr. J: Painting Pictures also addresses other forms of work – for example service – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address many forms of work or did the song evolve in that direction over time?

AH: Yes, absolutely. My husband is a commercial construction foreman. He hasn’t missed a single day of work for the sake of his health during Ohio’s Stay At Home order. (Except for vacation days I begged him to take, just for mental health and rest.) The idea that SOME work is “essential” and other work is not was a big topic of discussion in our house. Nick called himself “an expendable essential worker”, to express his frustration with the fact he was required to work and finish building a hotel for a major chain. That really stuck in my craw, as they say. While we are very grateful for the steady income, we both struggled with the fact that Nick was expected to keep on working – at the risk of his health – for something that seemed like it could wait?

On the other hand, I felt as though artists and songwriters and such were just considered unimportant during these times. For me and my cohorts, it is unlikely unemployment will ever be granted, yet I’ve already lost a couple thousand dollars in promised gigs and in merchandise costs that I doubt I’ll recoup. I guess the main point is: everyone’s work is essential. It all matters. If you’re writing songs, building infrastructure, creating art, or serving and ministering to your own family or the community, it’s all essential.

0020197789_10Dr. J: How did the song come together musically for you? I began with writing lines that would fit the cadence of the last line of each verse, and then worked backwards to create a “character” for each segment of the song.

AH: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music? Oh boy. Many sources. Sometimes it’s my most passionate opinions on a sensitive subject, (like ‘Churchmouse’), personal experiences, or it’s observational, like in Painting Pictures. I also like the challenge of stepping inside someone else’s shoes and trying to present their voice through a song – but only if I have something personal to lend to it. Otherwise I think it would feel disingenuous. Listening to other people’s music is also a huge pathway to writing new music. Especially LIVE music! Experiencing someone else’s work is a constant source of inspiration. A sound, a chord change, a vocal moment, or its presentation often sparks something in my brain to take home.

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 Paper Trail to Painting Pictures)?

AH: Well, Paper Trail was really a “catching up” project, composed mostly of songs that existed for several years. I dusted them off and “hodge-podged” a record together. I liken it to making a quilt out of scrap fabric. Don’t get me wrong! I love how she turned out. But it was also my first fully-produced recording experience, so there was a learning curve.

Since then, I would say there has been more of a change in me as an artist than in the writing or creative process. I feel myself maturing and growing more comfortable calling myself a songwriter. I’ve finally begun to embrace it, and I think that shows.

Recording ‘Painting Pictures’ was such a pleasure because Patrick and I had already established a great working chemistry both in the studio and as band-mates. It was also the first time I was writing something especially relevant, so I felt more of an urgency to share it. There was a time I would have sat on the song and poked holes in it a few months before I dared record it.

100731620_3890002181041330_5834964301433012224_oDr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after Painting Pictures?

AH: The next project will be unlike what I’ve done so far. It will be an EP featuring a collection of songs that feel connected to one another, and with a sound that suggests they come from another time. My artistic vision for this work is far more specific and I can’t wait to get started. The grouping will include ‘Churchmouse’ which is by far my heaviest writing yet, but a piece I feel is incredibly important for me to take to a fully-produced form. Overall, the EP will have a darker tone, but it will still contain glimmers of hope and light. Something I intend to be true of the majority of my writing and performances.

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

AH: In a solo set, I think Somebody Loves You will always be my favorite song to perform. It is the first song I memorized, and I think it’s because I feel it’s message is the most important. Once in a while I can hear the crowd sing the phrase and it moves me to tears.

With the band? Probably ‘Without You’. That song is the prayer of my heart and one of the most personal from Paper Trail. Fun fact: Brian Greaney insists that song go on every set list! Ha ha!

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

AH: That they are loved, seen and appreciated.

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

AH: From a business perspective? I am forcing myself to apply my 10+ years experience s174958706945291087_p3_i1_w1815in advertising and branding (in my past life) to promote myself and the new music. I eternally loathe this part of being an artist. But, the quarantine did offer me time to get an online merch store up and running, which helps out here and there.

Musically, it is harder to find inspiration. The loss of live shows is definitely taking a toll on the inspiration bank. But I have also taken some of this time to reach out to my other artist friends and encourage them to keep doing their thing. I think the community here is looking out for one another in big ways, and that encourages me! It will make our reunions that much sweeter.

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Amber is playing a safe socially distancing show at The Yellow Cab Tavern tonight! Please check with Yellow Cab regarding their procedures for a fun and safe event! Then on Saturday, May 30th, Amber is joining other luminaries of the Dayton Music Scene for a virtual concert, Tip Jar: A Show of Thanks to benefit hospitality workers.

Thanks again to Amber for answering these questions! If you would like to participate in a future ’11 Questions with…’ column, please feel free to email us at drjytaa@gmail.com. If you have, a particular picture you would like used in the article, please feel free to attach that as well. All pictures and images of Amber Hargett courtesy of the artist.

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Amber Hargett on Bandcamp     Amber Hargett on Facebook

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YTAA 05-26-2020 Playlist

We continue to share our playlists via Spotify here. Please give our show a listen and support these terrific artists directly in any way that you can! Now more than ever we need to support and take care of one another!

This week we are playing music from Yuppie, Jetstream Pony, Kidbug, Charlie Jackson and the Heartland Railway, The Beths, Steve Earle, WOODS, Trace Mountain, Khruangbin, The Sonic Dawn, The Radio Dept., David Allen, Porridge Radio, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Jason Isbell, Choir Boy, The Katawicks, Yalecollegegraduate, Jetty Bones, The National, Loose Tooth, True Lies, Wussy, Kyleen Downes, The Corner Laughers, The Story Changes, Hello June and more!

Check out the live stream from Yuppie at Encore Studios on May 27th at 8pm!

a0025564858_16We are also playing a brand new song that we are very excited to share with all of you music lovers!

Painting Pictures‘ is the latest and newest music from Dayton singer-songwriter, guitar player and all around amazing voice Amber Hargett that came out today! A real gift to have new music from her! Such a great song! She is joining a fine case of local musicians who are live streaming on May 30th to raise funds for Ohio restaurant workers!

R-1790873-1306445379.jpegIn addition to all of that musical goodness, we have two songs from The Connells — one song to celebrate the 22 years since the release for their album ‘Still Life’ and another rare live song ‘Rusted Fields’!

The ‘Still Life’ album was the last to include the original lineup of this legendary band! And the word is that the band has finished recording a new record that is headed our way soon, tentatively titled ‘Steadman’s Wake.’ Count us among the excited for this new music!

So give the playlist a listen. Dr. J will be posting videos on the Facebook page for YTAA beginning at 3pm because that is show time for YTAA! Please stay safe and be well!

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