Handmade Holiday Shopping Guide

2012 December 5th

Hopefully you haven’t already drained that holiday shopping fund you’ve built up over the past few weeks. We’ve got some of our favorite handmade artist’s online shops for you to browse as you wrap up your holiday shopping this year.

Larkspur Lane Jewelry & Taxidermy

I couldn’t help but start drooling as soon as I landed on this shop. Mixing taxidermy with jewelry, Detroit native Mickey Alice Kwapis has found herself a very interesting niche. Pictured above is a rat spine in a vial, or maybe you want a squirrel paw reaching out of a .45 caliber shell, or perhaps guinea pig teeth around your neck. Wearing pieces of dead animals might not be for everyone – fret not, beautiful jewelry without the furry component is also available. But if taxidermy is your thing, maybe you’ll be interested in the lessons she offers on her shop as well. Kwapis prefers to work with creatures who’ve passed from accidental or natural causes. Take a look around her shop and see what jumps out at you.

Maren Celest – Curios

Maren is one of my favorite Midwestern photographers. Her images possess an ethereal quality to them, evoking anywhere from playful childhood memories to mid-life doubt and curiosity. Available in her shop is a collection of some beautiful, limited-edition prints along with items she’s curating from Chicago’s Pilsen Vintage and Thrift.

Renee Kirchenwitz Design

Marquette artists Renee Kirchenwitz and Christopher Moore have been hard at work making their locally minded ornaments, floral light boxes and animal coasters. Their ornaments are my favorite – silhouettes of deer, Michigan, the Great Lakes, cats, and more. If you’re in Marquette their ornaments can be purchased at Garden Bouquet and Design, or you can place orders online. I believe they can do custom orders/shapes, so get in contact if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for.


“Dude. That’s cool” – exactly what I thought when I saw the above item. Custom stamped earrings with the longitudinal/latitudinal coordinates of your choice. The Sparklegarden shop is full of interesting and unique sterling and other vintage repurposed jewelry. Custom stamped metal guitar picks, read/write earrings, and a slew of recycled copper jewelry for our proudly Keweenaw readers.

Bullock Guitar Pickups

Perfect for the guitarist in your life who just doesn’t “need” anything anymore – Bullock Guitar Pickups offers handmade, handwound pickups for Single Coils, Humbuckers, and Jazz/Precision Bass. Not good enough? Shoot em an e-mail with what you want, he does fully custom work, too. Or maybe your vintage guitar pickups need a rewind – that’s covered. As a musician living in a one-bedroom apartment with all-to-much ‘stuff’, a guitar tune-up would be a wonderful gift that keeps on giving.

Frontier Ruckus, Eternity of Dimming, UP tour stop

2012 November 15th

Modern classics, these guys. Deep rooted in my introduction to the midwestern music scene the first time I saw Frontier Ruckus was in the fall of 2008 when they played in the Bridgehouse living room, a show remembered well by all who attended. Since then it’s become a tradition of mine to spin all of their albums in my van starting around mid October and not ending until a week after the first snowfall, just looking for excuses to drive across the Upper Peninsula. Which makes it unbelievably convenient that Frontier Ruckus is playing this Friday in Marquette at Jamrich Hall on Northern Michigan University’s campus. yessssssss. Music starts at 7pm. Come gimme a high-five if you spot me.

Also exciting news in the world of Frontier Ruckus is that their album The Orion Songbook has been remastered and repressed on vinyl, which can be pre-ordered over at Lower Peninsula Records’ webpage.

And look at this beautiful thing. Frontier Ruckus’ new album Eternity of Dimming comes out January 29, 2013 – one week after my birthday, everybody.

Fall Listening, Three Albums

2012 October 30th

Cemeteries – The Wilderness

Last October I posted a quick write-up of Cemeteries’ “Speaking Horrors”, which has (unfortunately) since been removed from the groups bandcamp. However, it’s been removed to make way for the bands debut record “The Wilderness” which contains made-over tracks from “Speaking Horrors” and new fresh dreamy pop jams that (almost) fully live up to my expectations.

The album kicks off with a beautiful re-worked version of Young Blood which made it’s debut on “Speaking Horrors”. The song is almost identical to the original version, just louder (or less quiet, rather) and prettier. Young Blood is a fitting introduction to Cemeteries’ sound. Lingering somewhere between upbeat and downtempo, filled with honey vocal swells, acoustic guitar strums and electronic ambience and most importantly – very chill. The rest of the album sways back and forth, luring you in deeper to the dreamy world of itself. “Summer Smoke”, and accompanying video, is probably my favorite track from the album.

Order the CD & vinyl

Gratiot Lake Road – Stamp Sand Shores

The product of married couple Emaleigh and Ben Jensen, Gratiot Lake Road has been gracing the Keweenaw with their sweet sounds for a few years now. I can recall their first shows in the Bridgehouse living room, and how, like a lullaby, their music washed a calm feeling over me. I’ll admit, at first I held them as little more than another folk duo writing songs about where they lived. I’ll also admit I was horribly wrong.

The Keweenaw is truly a magical world. There’s an atmosphere present that I’ve yet to find anywhere else, and Gratiot Lake Road captures that in their album “Stamp Sand Shores.” Songs like Freda and Dollar Bay carry with them history, sorrow and bite. All twelve tracks are filled with the warm tones of a winter fire. They’ll be going on a short tour at the beginning of November, so if you’re in Kalamazoo, South Bend, East Lansing, or Milwaukee, head over to their bandcamp and check the dates as you’re purchasing their album.

Birdfingers – Birdfingers II

Birdfingers is the project of Bennett Young, Kalamazoo singer/songwriter and member of the Double Phelix collective. If you made it to a Go Rounds Orchestra show this summer you certainly saw him, heard him and were impressed. Birdfingers isn’t what you think you want to hear, but you do. You want to hear it.

Young puts together psychedelic country/americana songs that are raw and refined. They feel worn and warm, old and new. Young’s voice is arguably his strongest feature. The first time I heard him sing was one of those jaw-dropping-stop-what-you’re-doing moments. His timid demeanor only amplifies the wondrous effect he has when he gets on stage and lets spill the deep, resonating waves from his chest. Birdfingers is the sound of suffering and the sound of hope.

And finally, honorable shout-out to Timber Timbre, my all-time favorite autumn/Halloween creep band.

Submit, “Give In” Review

2012 October 23rd

by Dillon Geshel

Submit is a relatively new band hailing from Lake Orion, Michigan. Having only played a handful of shows since their forming in May, it’s pretty cool to see them put out a four song release this early in the game. If you haven’t seen these guys yet, or heard of them for that matter, these four songs are a worthy introduction. Bustling with violent, crust induced blast beats in a mirrored, sludge filled coma of doom, these songs are as crushing in sound as they are dire in verse. Even the title itself, Give In, a sort of synonym of the band’s name, reminds us of the glum inside.

Each song reads like the charred page of a burnt bible. In “Maladjusted,” it seems there’s no inherent savior in faith, the narrator’s former devotion now a scar of perceived ignorance. The last track on the EP, “Shrapnel”, is rife with a similar loss-of, but this time within the context of a loved ones abrupt passing and the narrator’s posterior depression. Any hopeful poise or out reach for help is long since lost in these songs, their bleak musings representative of the complete absence of a shining light.

My favorite of these songs, and maybe the one that captures best the spectrum of crust punk, hardcore, and sludge that we find scattered throughout, is “Bridge Burner”. The song opens loud and fast, begging for the stomp of a two-step before slowing to a dragging rendition of the same riff. And then, again, the song all but stops while it foils into its final sixty seconds, a slow motion stampede of hopeless curse… You are branded with a crooked cross. You have no hope. Bridge burner.

You can stream and download Give In for free from Submit’s Bandcamp page. Like ‘em on Facebook to keep up to date on shows and when exactly you’ll be able to pick up Give In on cassette. Right now they’re hoping that’ll be in about a month or so.

Pioneer Parade, “Big Outside” album review

2012 October 22nd

by August Smith

The last time we checked in with Pioneer Parade, I was favorably reviewing their three-song Motion Men EP in 2011. That EP was the band’s first release, and, though I enjoyed the release, it’s hard to say anything concrete until we get a debut album. This is where we find ourselves now: the UP indie-rock trio of Matt Langlais, Alex Arseneau, and Al Lynch are back in our crosshairs with the release of their debut album, Big Outside (via Kerosene Machine Records).

Pioneer Parade has no qualms about the kind of music they want to make- they make indie rock, a term about as empty as it is essential to American DIY music culture. Slight aside here, but I have no idea what the hell “indie rock” actually “means”; it is simultaneously used to describe any underground band with an electric guitar, any post-2000s rock band, and even the decidedly-not-“indie” rock bands like Muse or Arcade Fire (and that’s ignoring the massive complications that arise when trying to use the term “indie”). So what is it? Rock without the bombast? Rock twenty-somethings can feel good about liking by severing the association with “classic rock”? I don’t know. Genre distinctions are a tricky gambit.

I feel like these questions are important to note, though, because Pioneer Parade is clearly working within this cultural framework. Their sound is undoubtedly indie rock: their songs unfurl slowly and with purpose, there is a focus on lyricism over catchiness, the ubiquitous electric is more a piece of the artwork rather than the centerpiece, etc. There is little to surprise your ears here, but then again, Big Outside isn’t trying to surprise you. Pioneer Parade may be playing to your expectations, but they do it well. And so instead, the album must stand on its songwriting legs.

And on these legs, Big Outside is sure-footed. Matt Langlais has already proven himself a capable songwriter on his solo release, and many of the songs here support that. “God’s Country” is still as resonant with me as when I first heard it on their EP, especially the line “The police, they got nothin’ to do/ oh, they’re watching me/ and they’re watching you too”. Simple, yes, but evocative for any small-towner, especially when coupled with the world-weary whine that is Matt’s voice. Drummer Al Lynch spends a decent amount of time behind the mic on this album, too, his more conventional voice a good contrast to Matt’s reedy tones.

When the band plays to their strengths, the results are excellent. “Ultraviolet” has both vocalists trading verses, a great vocal melody hook, Arseneau’s smoky guitar wrestling with the plodding rhythm, and seven minutes that never seem to drag. “Tall Grass” is another album highlight, again featuring both vocalists and a good control of the song’s internal tensions. When a song’s first lyrics command, “Write this down/ write this down/ write this down”, you can’t help but listen to whatever comes next. The album does have occasional missteps: the chorus on “Vacation” smacks of cliché, “The Sheets” kind of drags at moments, and the album could handle some more variation (instrumentally and thematically).

But the good outweighs the bad, and Big Outside has me excited about that finicky “indie rock” term in a way that I haven’t felt in a while. Here Pioneer Parade prove themselves and maybe exceed your expectations; now give them a chance and Pioneer Parade might transcend them.

Physical copies of the album are forthcoming from Kerosene Machine Records. In the meantime you can stream and digitally download Pioneer Parade’s debut full-length on their bandcamp.

Traitor, “Shadowheart” Review

2012 October 15th

article by Dillon Geshel

If you’re a fan of Traitor, you’ve probably been anxiously awaiting this EP for awhile now. Back in June, they posted the first single off the record to their bandcamp page in anticipation for its late November release on Wolvesblood Records. The song, a grueling two and a half minute narrative of self-immolation titled Lanterns, is a perfect front for the album. Around every transitional corner of Lanterns, front man Nick Holland manages to match the aphotic riffs with his own blend of vocal and lyrical dismay. A couple weeks ago I heard the entire album for the first time. I wasn’t sure how they’d manage to attain and echo the terrifying consummation of Lanterns. But they did.

Traitor’s Shadowheart does in five songs what you might expect a full length to achieve in twelve. Although short in length, the finished product seems somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Which is in part, I think, accomplished through a diverse quality of musicianship. There is nothing banal or contrived in terms of the structure of these songs. Each one stands alone with a teeming affection for a branch of metal and hardcore, resulting in a unique composite of the two. I can’t think of a more fitting blend of black metal and traditional 2000′s era hardcore. I don’t think I even thought it possible until I heard this. Imagine the emotional reflectiveness of American Nightmare’s lyricism, melodies, and accompanying power chords, paired with the cultish dread of a black metal band — The final product of which is better than my hype can make it sound.

The release opens up with the song Heart of Gnarled Roots, an explosive leap into what I’d say is the most hardcore influenced song on the record. As catchy as it is fast, I still find myself mouthing the lyrics from the songs vehement bridge before breaking into a silence only punctuated by Holland’s screaming, Untwist this heart of gnarled roots, a proclamation hard to forget under circumstance of the music that backs it.

Holland makes horror films, so it should come as no surprise that his lyrical ability evokes a certain presence of terror. Lanterns and Starless, the clear singles off the album, both seem to build around a narrative structure that compliment Holland’s expansive, dread filled vocal range. The intensive capacity of his high’s and low’s could just as well be the voice of three people pushing their individual abilities to the max, and yet it’s only him. Still, underneath it all are stories demanding of our attention. In a promotional video made for the album back in April, we see Holland in a studio saying, “No. It doesn’t matter if people can’t understand what I’m saying… It gives them a reason to read the lyrics.” And perhaps the rewarding quality of the lyrics is reason enough, too. I know it was for me.

Holland also has this way of presenting his work in a rushed and spoken ascent, making for a stark contrast between his shouts and accompanying screams. These spoken sections ask us to listen a little closer, maybe for the build and climax of some cursed tale. In Lanterns, towards the end of the song, we’re left with this pulsing sort of rift that’s edging towards a breakdown. The words spoken, growing louder and more surging with every second, eventually discharge into the final thirty seconds of the song — an arduous and crawling breakdown where we learn for certain of the narrator’s self-immolation. The lyrical craft of these songs, their guided delivery, and the unfamiliar mix of thrash induced metal make these five songs among my favorite of the year, and they’ll be out just in time to add to your best-of list before the years end.

Traitor’s releasing the EP at a show on November 30th with a slew of other great midwest bands at The Bearcave in Detroit. There’s no cover charge, so if you’re in the area, make sure to check out the show and pick up the album. In the mean time, you can stream two tracks off the EP from Traitor’s bandcamp page.

Three Albums That I Should Have Reviewed Months Ago

2012 October 10th

by August Smith

I have no excuse for not blogging for the entire month of September. Okay, my laptop broke. But that was only like two weeks ago. Also, I’m an idiot who is lazy.

I know, who cares, you didn’t come here for excuses, you came here to hear about Midwestern music. So below, check out three albums from 2012 that we stupidly neglected, that need more attention, and that you need to check out.

Lightning Love, Blonde Album

One of the bigger Michigan releases that we missed over the past few months was Ypsilanti indie-pop trio Lightning Love’s second album, the bluntly titled Blonde Album. Lightning Love’s first album, 2009’s November Birthday, was the work of a band becoming confident in their specific sound: simple, childlike melodies (insanely catchy melodies; beware the infectious “Friends”) with Leah Diehl’s unique voice front and center, her lyrics threading in darker themes about growing up and resisting growing up in one’s twenties. On Blonde Album, we find Lightning Love completely owning this sound, amping up the instrumentation while still keeping it simplistic, deliberate, and uncluttered. Leah Diehl’s vocals are as sweetly grating as ever, and on Blonde Album, we see her voice becoming a kind of character: a tongue-in-cheek lovesick burnout, hating where she is in life but not wanting to be anywhere else; Diehl’s voice and lyrical work is highlighted best by the surprisingly haunting piano ballad “I’ll Never Love No One Else”. Lightning Love clearly know the pitfalls of making such a hook-laden pop record, and wisely keep the album short; only two of the ten songs break the three-minute mark, and each one worms their way into your brain and never overstays their welcome. Blonde Album is out now via Quite Scientific records, and you can listen to and order the album HERE. And the band did a wonderful Daytrotter session very recently, so peep it.

John Davey, In a Whelming Tide

John Davey is a very inspiring person. I’ve only met him once- at Boiling Pot Festival- but his serious work ethic, Midwestern charm, and passion for music were all immediately apparent to me. And I’m delighted to say that his magnetic personality also comes through on his debut album. Recorded in West Lafayette, In a Whelming Tide is the sound of a singer-songwriter knowing exactly what he wants his album to sound like; a lyrically surprising folk-rock record, rife with tales of young love and tailor-made for star gazing in autumn. Instrumentally and vocally, the album reminds me a lot of Timothy Monger’s most recent release, The New Britton Sound: horns, accordions, keys, glockenspiels, etc., flavoring acoustic-guitar driven folk-rock, with John’s bright, starry-eyed voice unfolding his captivating stories on each track. You can listen to and order the album here, and follow Davey’s frequently entertaining tour diary here.

Phantasmagoria, Currents

Hailing from Detroit, it feels like Phantasmagoria quite suddenly materialized out of some nether-void in 2011 and started dropping really great and engaging music. Their debut LP Currents was released via Five Three Dial Tone Records in July, and, like much of today’s cutting-edge genre-combinations, it straddles the line between introspective psychedelia and strobe-light-ready dance-pop. And for the most part, the balance is successful: “Portals”’ sickly synths and tribal heartbeat are kept submissive by Lianna Vanicelli’s soaring pop-diva vocals, and on the title-track, the duo effectively manipulates echo and reverb to create what sounds like a neon-bright, swirling whirlpool of complementing melodies. But when it doesn’t work- like on “Habitats”- the contradictory sounds strain under the weight of the vocals, and the songs occasionally devolve into a mess of trap-snare hits and watery samples. Still, the band has already put out an EP since the Currents release, so it doesn’t seem like Phantasmagoria is going to stand still any time soon. Check the album and the new EP on the band’s bandcamp here.

Shudders Interview

2012 October 8th

Interview by Dillon Geshel

Shudders is probably one of my favorite Michigan bands right now. You don’t hear much hardcore/punk with an aesthetic that’s knee deep in Minor Threat era punk rock, and that aspect of the band had me really taken with the EP they put out at the beginning of the year. So I interviewed them, and Dylan (vocals) and Scott (guitar) sent some responses my way. It’s also worth mentioning that they’ll be hitting the stage this week to open for Propagandhi and Comeback kid, so if you’re in Detroit Wednesday night, don’t miss it!


You guys must be super jacked to open for Comeback Kid and Propagandhi. Have either of those bands played an important role in shaping the music you play today?

Dylan: Yes, we are incredibly excited to be playing with both those bands, and I would most definitely say that they have at some point had an inflience on what we are doing. For me personally, I was initially introduced to punk bands through bands like the Misfits and Black Flag. Once I came to find out about more modern bands, I was immediately attracted to bands like Bad Religion and Propagandhi. Not only was there so much going on with their music to enjoy audibly, but both bands touted a message of rebellion that is still just as attractive to me now as it was seven or eight years ago. At the age of twelve, our brains are still pretty malleable and we tend to take on the opinions of our parents, literature or music. Bands like Propagandhi really helped me to develop a political stance that I’ve been fine-tuning now for the better part of a decade. I believe that Propagandhi is also one of Sam’s favorite bands of all time, so I can only imagine how excited he is to be opening that show up. Honestly, if we as a band had to sit down and pick a collective top ten of our favorite bands, they would most likely end up on that list. As for Comeback Kid, they were one of my first experiences with modern hardcore. When I was younger, I was listening to stuff like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Gang Green, and early Agnostic Front, and I always just refereed to them as being punk bands. It wasn’t for quite some time when I found out about the hardcore label and attached it to them. Right around the time I started going to shows, which was at the age of fifteen, bands like Have Heart and Modern Life Is War were pretty big, so I was really attracted to the more melodic side of hardcore, and I would include Comeback Kid as a part of that. In fact, for the first hardcore band I was in, we listed Comeback Kid and Kid Dynamite in our influences on Myspace. Although we never sounded even remotely close to either of those bands, we were definitely influenced by them and strove to sound like them. I know that geeking out about playing with certain bands is probably looked down upon in punk, but it’s hard not to get that way when you’re playing with people who you listened to growing up.

Can you tell us a little about how Shudders came together?

Scott: Shudders basically started four years ago when Sam and I started talking about doing a band together again. We were doing a punk band together when we were nineteen, but both left that band. After a few failed attempts at doing another band together, we both went on to other things and Sam eventually ended up signing for Attack of the… I kept writing during that time and Sam wanted to play drums again, so I asked if he would want to start another band. Attack of the… was wrapping up around then so this eventually became more full time. Attack’s bassist Dave and I had been working on some songs together at the same time so I asked if he would want to do this band with me and Sam. It was basically an excuse for friends to hang out and on occasion we would write a song or two. After a couple of years, we realized we were just piling up songs and should probably get someone to sing. Dylan answered a post on Michigan Hardcore and we were really impressed with how aggressive and passionate he was when he sang, plus it turned out he is a huge nerd, so he fit in well when we would stop in the middle of practice and start talking about comic books and video games. That is pretty much it.

You guys played your first show just over a year ago, right? What’s the experience been like for you; being in a Detroit punk band right now?

Scott: Yeah, our first show was the Goddamn reunion show a little over a year ago. At that time, we were just psyched to finally show people what we had been working on in my basement for the last few years. We had a pretty positive response and it pushed us to pick up the pace. From the Detroit aspect of it for me, it’s been great. I grew up in Iowa listening to a lot of bands from Detroit. I never thought in a million years I would get to contribute, no matter how little, to such a rich history of not just punk music, but music in general. There seems to be an unending amount of creativity here and it inspires me every day. Every scene and city has its ups and downs though, but we try to take the downs with a grain of salt and not let ourselves feel unappreciated or get jaded by the negativity that tends to build up from the competitiveness in hardcore/punk.

Dylan: Actually being involved in the hardcore/punk scene is a thrilling thing. No one has been anything less than extremely kind to us, regardless of where or how we played. I’ve met so many great people since doing this band and I hope that they stay in my life when or if Shudders ever ends. There are a lot of people who work hard to really keep the gears turning, and I’d say that’s really motivating for us. Andrew Truss and this guy named Dave run a website called detroitpunk.org which lists upcoming shows and has information for nearly every local band on it. They’re either friends or acquaintances of mine on Facebook and I always see them promoting shows that they had no hand in booking, so it’s not as if they’re affected by the turnout. They just care that much. Andrew also books a lot of shows that primarily happen at the Refuge Skate Shop in Dearborn. Eric Scobie does shows at the Genesis Church in Royal Oak when he can. Maxxwell Lange is constantly having shows at his house in Detroit, dubbed the Halfway House. Nate Cieslak and others in Detroit run the Bearcave, which is their garage where they have bands play at. I know that I’m missing a lot of people who also do things to help out, but I would really describe each of these people as selfless. They have no motivation for doing what they do other than to help out bands and making sure that everyone has a good time. However, like Scott said, punk in Detroit is not without its flaws. I’m not able to attend as many shows as i would like to due to not owning a car anymore, but i wish that some of these shows were attended by more people. You’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a local show or a show with a lesser-known touring band that has more than twenty people at it, regardless of how awesome those locals or that touring band may be or how well promoted the show was. When I hear that a great band like Sacred Love only played to five people the last time they were here, it bums me out. When I see some of the talent that exists on a local level get overlooked by a majority of people, it bums me out even more. There’s absolutely no reason why the Detroit area can’t be the go-to example for what a great music scene looks like. Can you imagine how fun it would be if every local show got some of the reactions that bigger touring bands get when they come through here? With all of these people putting on shows and access to a wide variety of venues, we’ve already got the hard stuff taken care of. With a little more input from the rest of the community, I feel we could have something perfect.

The first time I heard you guys was when I found your debut EP on the Lost Time Records bandcamp page. I love how there’s this classic Minor Threat sound, but it seems layered with the addition of a youth crew sort of attitude. It gives the EP a really aged sound, like it’s straight out of the late 80′s. What bands do you guys look to for influence? What are some of your favorite records right now?

Scott: Almost each person in this band represents a different facet of hardcore or punk, and that includes ideologies, not just music. I think what works for us in not trying to blend a bunch of different sounds and concepts but emphasizing the ones that we have the most in common. I think for us that is where the 80′s vibe comes from. Everyone in this band loves fast and aggressive music and we just kind of roll with that. New album wise, I’m down with the Deep Sleep and Night Birds.

Dylan: I agree with you that the EP/Demo definitely has a raw feel to it, and I think a lot of that has to do with how we recorded it. Sam recorded the entire thing himself and all recording happened exclusively in basements, mainly because we had nowhere else to record. I think this only helped the songs because they probably wouldn’t have sounded as good had we gone the route of paying someone to record us and getting a more polished sound. As far as influences go, we’re pretty open with who we’re influenced by. In some songs, you can hear it plain as day. Minor Threat is definitely a huge one. We sometimes refer to one song during practice as “Scott Your Idols” because Scott wrote it and it sounds like something that Kill Your Idols would have wrote. Dangers is a more modern one and I think that can he heard in some of our mid-song tempo changes. We’re also pretty into Black Sabbath. As a vocalist, I’m incredibly influenced by Dan Yemin of Paint It Black, Kid Dynamite, and Lifetime fame. To me, he represents the perfect punk vocalist and I admire everything from his lyrics to his delivery. For all of the influences we have in common though, we have just as many that are different from the others’. We all bring a different flavor to the table and that has been working well for us so far. I recently just moved out of the house I grew up in and I’m now living with a friend in Lansing. I’m incredibly bored when I’m not caught up in work or school, so I’ve somehow been listening to even more music than I was at home. Some records that i’ve been digging a lot these past few weeks are Talking Songs For Walking by Lungfish, Rotten Thing To Say by Burning Love, Propagandhi’s Failed States, Converge’s All We Love We Leave Behind and Nada! by Death in June. I’ve also been really into the stuff that Young And In The Way and Give have been doing lately. I haven’t heard the new Night Birds stuff yet, but they’re also a band favorite and I;m going to have to check it out soon.

Is there a place we can pick up physical copies of the EP? Other Merch?

Dylan: The EP is only available on cassette as far as physical copies go. Copies can be acquired by either getting one through Lost Time Records or through us. We’d be more than willing to mail some out to interested parties, but we don’t really have a lot left. I’m sure Mike at Lost Time Records has more than we do at this point. I believe that Great Reversals’ band distro that they bring with them to shows has a couple copies as well. As far as merch goes, that can only be acquired through us and we haven’t gotten to the point where something like a Big Cartel is necessary. We recently just made our first shirt and the shows happening this week are the first time they’ll be available. They ended up looking better than I could have ever hoped and the design was a concept that I came up with myself.

From listening to your first EP and following you guys online, it seems like Shudders gives off a pretty positive vibe. Do you think that’s accurate? How important is that to you in terms of how you guys identify and represent yourself as a band?

Dylan: We’re really glad that you noticed that. If someone were to take a glance at some of our lyrics, they would most likely notice that some of it focuses on the darker aspects of life. I don’t believe any of our songs to be negative at all. If any themes can be applied to the songs on the first release, they would be becoming fed up and moving past something or holding on to a piece of hope in a hopeless situation. At their core, they’re protest songs. It may be hard to take those things away from the songs when they’re being listened to simply because they sound so abrasive. I write my lyrics in a way where they aren’t completely buried under metaphor and I like to think that I leave it pretty clear what I’m talking about, but perhaps I’m wrong. All in all, I’m glad that we seem to be giving off that vibe. I think that most people who know us would say that we’re all kind and humble people and I really hope that Shudders would only be seen by others as an extension of those traits. It wouldn’t make sense to us to try and be something that we’re not.

You mentioned the Propgandhi show probably being the biggest and most attended you’ll ever play — and expressed a certain amount of satisfaction in that. Do you have a vision for the band outside of Michigan? Other aspirations?

Dylan: This is a nice question. I’m speaking for myself here, but I think that it’s safe to say that we all share the same sentiments concerning this band on almost every level. I never expected numerous people to inquire about when we would be making shirts, nor did I think that we would be contacted by a label to release our first piece of musical output. I certainly didn’t think that we would be opening up a show for some of our favorite bands who also are some of the most popular in their respective genres. We aren’t doing this band to achieve any amount of success in the conventional sense. Because of this, we’ve been incredibly surprised by all of these things happening, and they’ve been awesome to experience. I think that we’re just very happy to see that some number of people, and it doesn’t matter how small that number is, seem to take a genuine interest in what we do. We don’t really play a style of hardcore that is too popular today, so we didn’t really expect to see that either. As far as plans extending beyond the scope of our state, due to where we all currently are in life, it’d be incredibly hard to tour. I’m a twenty year old college student who pays his own rent and bills and I can’t ever afford to take class off. Sam and Scott are both twenty-nine or thirty and they can’t afford to take what would be a tour-length amount of tie off from work for similar reasons. This kind of ties into what I was saying earlier about how we never planned on any sort of success because we’re really not at the place right now where we would be able to follow up on it even if it found us. We’ve talked about doing weekend tours a few times with a couple different bands, but if one ever comes into fruition, it won’t be until well into 2013. That would most likely just be in the midwest, and I’d love to hit up Chicago since it’s my favorite city that I’ve been to so far. However, we were told by Joe Hardcore from Philadelphia, the same guy who does This is Hardcore every year, that he would love to have us out at some point. That was a really cool thing to hear, and I feel like playing there would definitely be a show to remember since they have a lot of enjoyable bands playing over there right now. What would be really interesting to me is a michigan tour since since I haven’t been to cities like Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo let alone the Upper Peninsula in my entire life. The only other goal that we really have right now is to put out a seven inch, we’re all really into records and to hold one of our own in our hands would be proof to us that we did something pretty great. Once we get to that point, anything we do afterwards will just be venturing blindly into the unknown.

It’s been almost a year since you guys put out your EP on Lost Time Records. Anything else in the works right now?

Dylan: We’ve been planning on doing another EP ever since we finished the last one. We were planning to start recording in August with Jake Hicks, formerly of Lazarus Taxa and now of Hollow Earth, but we chose to postpone that because we kept writing songs that we felt should be included in whatever our next efforts end up being. In addition to the five songs on the demp/EP, we have completely written somewhere between ten and twelve new songs. However, some of those have fallen to the wayside and probably won’t see the light of day until our super rare limited-to-ten unreleased tracks and b-sides release a few years down the road. Ideally, I’d say that we’ll end up recording eight to ten songs and possibly a couple of covers to include as hidden tracks or just extra stuff for a few splits that have been talked about. We’d really like to get the next EP out on a seven inch, so we’ll most likely be handling all aspects of that when the time comes. Our plans for recording have also been more recently affected by out loss of a permanent bass player, so once these next couple of shows are out of the way, we’ll be focusing on finding another like-minded individual who would like to play with us.

Anything you wish we’d asked?

Dylan: Nope, but thank you so much for the interview. This is another thing I never expected to happen and it’s going to be pretty surreal reading this on the internet when it’s posted. It was a very cool experience. I don’t really have any posse to shout out to, so instead, I’m just going to suggest that any readers looking for new music check out the following groups: Great Reversals. Not Okay, Traitor, Hollow Earth, Under Anchor, The Oily Menace, Retribution, Reconnect, and Old Soul. These are all great bands who choose to make their home in this great state. I just know that there’s going to be someone that I will most likely later realize I should have mentioned and curse myself upon remembering, so my apologies in advance.


You can find Shutters on Facebook here. Stream their EP at the Lost Time Records bandcamp page. And if you’re in Detroit, don’t miss their show on Wednesday!

Slaves To The Pavement Releases Debut Album

2012 September 30th

by Dillon Geshel

It’s been nearly seven months since we spoke with Ypsilanti’s melodic punk group Slaves To The Pavement, and they’ve been nothing short of busy. Between playing local shows, weekend tours, and slaving away at day jobs, they’ve also wrapped up the album they’ve been working on. In A Perfect World, the band’s debut full-length, is streaming now in its entirety on their Bandcamp page. We spoke briefly with the band about the release of the album and the nearly two year process of completing it.

“October 12th is the official release date for the album, though we might have an album release show in Ypsilanti on the 10th,” Says Rian Staber, the bands lead guitar player. The album will be available for digital album for four or five dollars, and you’ll be able to pick up physical copies at shows for ten bucks.

In A Perfect World contains all that’s right with punk rock in just ten songs — each one layered with its own particular blend of melody, sprinting punk beats, and front man Rob Cunningham’s diverse vocal range; spanning from sing alongs to convulsing, antagonizing shouts. I find myself specifically drawn to Late Night Gun Fight With Jimmy Fallon, a song toward the end of the album that is constantly brimming with melodic vocals layered beneath throat heavy shouts, and always demanding some facet of attention; most notably here, maybe, a war of any kind not worth fighting for.

“This album is basically compiled of songs that we’ve just been writing since we started the band. With each new song, it kind of marks a growing process for us as a band, as musicians, and as people,” says Staber.

The ten songs that make up the album not only vary in their musical diversity, but also in lyrical content. Front man Rob Cunningham’s writing covers topics as close to home as relationships between friends and as foreign as reflections on war.

“None of these songs really sound the same in the sense that we kind of dabble around in other genres and song structures,” Staber told me. “Lyrically, we touch base on everything from internal conflicts, politics, heartaches, and conflicts with other people. That’s basically how we always write. It’s a self healing process, I think. Usually whatever’s bothering me or Rob, we’ll write about it.”

The band has been working on the album on and off for about two years now, so it’s a pretty big deal for them to be able to see it through to its release. If its October 12th release date seems too far off for your anxious ears to wait, check out our exclusive download of the album’s single Grow On, available right here at Mostly Midwest! Make sure to follow them on Facebook, too.

“If you’re a fan of 90′s style melodic skate punk, you should really give this a solid listening to. I also like to think that there’s a little something for everyone in here and that people can definitely relate to these songs,” Staber told me in closing. “If you’ve ever had heartache, hated the government, fought with friends and family, been super depressed, or felt really inspired to be something greater than what you are, you’ll be able to relate to this album. So everyone should give it a try!”

Strawberry Heritage Video Session

2012 September 20th

Man, I always love hanging out with John Hanson. We first met a couple years ago when he came up to the U.P. with his former band Photographers (aptly named as both him and female half Maren are excellent photographers) and stayed at the Bridgehouse for a few days. In fact, the first Bridgehouse Session (and really my first video session ever) was with them. John came and visited again a few months later and recorded two EPs in our basement. He’s been a huge inspiration for me in both my musical and photographic endeavors.

Strawberry Heritage has been Hanson’s latest project – catchy acoustic pop tunes with honey vocals and heartfelt lyrics. I’d heard endless rave reviews from friends downstate but had yet to see them live until they came up to Farm Block Fest this past August. Their mid-afternoon set lifted me out of my first night hangover and had me boosting hard. Joined by Sam Cook-Parrott (of Radiator Hospital fame) on drums and vocals and Anthony Riskey on vocals, Hanson never fails to find the perfect musicians to lend themselves to his unique sound.

Hanson is part of an ever-increasingly rare breed. One that grabs hold of inspiration at every chance they get, never stopping or slowing down for distractions. John stayed with me for a few days after Farm Block Festival. We visited Lake Superior, ate pizza, drank beers, and made some videos, all the while he was taking pictures and seeking to learn. John focuses heavily on film photography. Every time I see him he’s towing along some new medium format or range finder camera, and it never takes him long to gain a masterful control of his new tools. Take a look at some of John’s shots -

Unfortunately John’s Farm Block bandmates couldn’t stay for the video session we did (although Lansing, MI folk trio Gifts or Creatures stayed with us as well and we have a video session with them coming soon). Nevertheless, Strawberry Heritage holds it’s own as both a solo performance or group endeavor.

And don’t forget to take a listen to, and then buy, the new Strawberry Heritage album. The album is a beautifully recorded and performed representation of John’s new sound. Lush acoustic soundscapes filled with beautiful harmonies swirl from track to track. Guaranteed to brighten your day.

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