Starship Mantis @ James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy – 1.17.17

On Tuesday night, the dark and intimate James St. Speakeasy was transformed into an intergalactic dance hall as six funky aliens took the stage for the debut of a new Pittsburgh-based group, Starship Mantis. The set opened with ambient space noise as the group checked its bearings and adjusted to the new atmosphere.

After a moment, an intoxicating bass line growled through the mist. The audience rose from their seats and began to fill in around the stage to catch a glimpse of the group, moving almost uncontrollably to the subtle beat. With a fill from drummer Julz Powell, the band was in a full-fledged groove, led by the wonky sounds of bassist Beni Rossman’s envelope filtered Fender bass and the falsetto crooning of leadman Langston Kelly.

            As the group traversed through an hour of original music, it showcased the talents of six of the Pittsburgh music scene’s brightest stars. In addition to Rossman, Powell, and Kelly (who complimented his own vocals with velvety tenor saxophone lines), Ross Antonich employed a variety of textures on a number of auxiliary percussion instruments to back up Powell’s syncopated patterns.

Building upon the rock-solid rhythm section, Spence Greer’s Telecaster went from clean comping to wailing wah-infused psychedelia as it transported the group to new heights during his solos. Filling in for synth and keys man Patrick Whitehead was the inimitable guitarist Glenn Strother, who brought his unique brand of rhythmic comping and soulful solos into the mix.

In addition to a tight array of original tunes, the performance was well coordinated and clearly geared for entertainment, featuring coordinated dance moves, dramatic drum breakdowns and monologues from Kelly. The audience, full of members of the Pittsburgh music scene, walked away satisfied and wanting more.

Starship Mantis was making waves well before they touched down in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The interstellar funk group has been executing what appears to be a carefully planned social media campaign through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This effort attracted a considerable amount of attention well before the group's debut performance.

The brain child of bassist Beni Rossman, Starship Mantis first appeared on the social media radar in early December of 2016. Several days after the appearance of a Facebook page, the group released a music video of a live rehearsal in the James St. Speakeasy. Not only did the video display excellent audio and visual production, the musicians showcased a confident and entertaining stage presence. In just over a month, the video has gathered over 5,000 views.

The most important part of Starship Mantis’ social media success is the reputation of the members of the group. Rossman, Kelly, Powell, Geer, Antonich, and Whitehead have each earned respect as individuals from the music community in Pittsburgh for their musical proficiency and personality. Through synthesis of talent, Starship Mantis will transport the group of well-known musicians to stratospheric heights.

Interview: John O'Hallaron of Chalk Dinosaur

John O'Hallaron is Chalk Dinosaur. But on his upcoming album, Chalk Dinosaur and Friends, he's anything but alone. O'Hallaron rallied musicians from the Pittsburgh scene to contribute their unique perspectives to his latest project. What resulted was unexpected, exciting and a testament to the positive power of collaboration.

We talked to John about how he was able to wrangle so many musical talents from around the 'Burgh, the process of working with people he barely knew and the importance of bringing people together for the sake of art. 


Found Sound: How did you get the idea to bring everyone together for a record like this?

John O'Hallaron: I got the idea after playing this event over the summer called FarmJammaLamma, which was this small camping festival. It was pretty much all Pittsburgh bands and I saw a lot of great players and bands that I didn't know about before. So, all the players that really I admired and inspired me I tried to get in touch with to see if they would want to capture that feeling from the weekend and collaborate on some music. 

FS: You were successful in nailing down the people you wanted to work with?

JO: Yeah! Everybody I contacted, most of them I hadn't even met yet in person. I'd only seen them play. Everybody agreed without hesitation and were into the idea. The only one I couldn't get was a saxophone player from that weekend. She was interested, but she's been traveling the globe. I was hoping to get her on the album, but she seems to be very, very busy.

FS: What do you think other musicians find so excited about a collaborative project like this. 'Cause it's a lot to take on.

JO: Yeah. I think it's most exciting just to kind of see what the blending of your influences and styles, what that produces. 'Cause it's almost always something completely different than anything either individual would make on their own. 

FS: It was really interesting listening to Dhruvasaur, 'cause I can definitely hear Dhruva in it, but it sounds like one of your songs, too. It was a really good blend.

JO: Thank you! That was really cool, 'cause I didn't know that he played, you know, everything. I just knew he was a drummer. And then he came over and we just wrote the whole thing from scratch. That one was a fully collaborative co-write. That was really cool. He's playing the drums and he plays some guitar. We made the structure and the chord progressions and everything together. 

FS: Do you find any challenge in doing that?

JO: Yeah. It's definitely different for every different song. This one came together pretty fast, at least the bones of it. It doesn't always work out, but for all of the sessions I had for this album worked out great. They weren't all from the ground up. Some of them were more kind of featuring the player and they would have a couple of solos or stuff like that. But for three of the tracks, they were written, you know, we started with nothing and then made the whole thing.

FS: Who and what is on the album?

JO: There's eight tracks. A couple of them are more electronic-based. Then there's some that are more traditional band instrumentation. There's Lucas Bowman. He was the first guy I got together with and he's the keyboard player for the Commonheart, which is a band from Pittsburgh that I really like. Then I got together with Dhruva. Then the third person I got together with the Michael Berger who's the bass player for a band called the Clock Reads. And then I made two tracks with a drummer, whose name is Julz Powell. He plays in a few bands. Then there was one song with this guitar player named Jason Caliguri and he played in a band called Jimbo and the Soup Bones. It's kind of like a soul rock band. And then there's two tracks with this guy I met whose name is Jeremy Colbert and he plays this instrument called a TerraPan, which is kind of like an inside out steel drum that you play with your hands. It's really interesting. There's two tracks with him.

FS: Do you think there's anything unique about the Pittsburgh music community that made this project possible?

JO: Everybody that I got in touch with without hesitation agreed to get together and make something without any monetary incentive to do it. They're just into the idea and, I mean, that's pretty big. I'm not sure how that would be in other cities, but I think the Pittsburgh music scene, at least within the kind of world that I'm in, it seems like it's pretty small and a lot of people know and support each other a lot. It's really cool and all that came to light over the past year for me, being able to see that.

FS: Has anything happened over the last year that sparked that? Anything special?

JO: About that time, maybe a little before, is when I started to play shows again. I played a lot of shows, like, five years ago and then I stopped for a while and just started again recently with kind of a new approach. So, it's all pretty new to me. A lot of these people have been doing it for a long time, but I'm just coming to realize this now. And definitely the Farm Jam experience was a really good gathering of a lot of these active and talented musicians. I feel like the scene around the Rex Theater and the shows and the people involved with that are really doing a good job cultivating a good music community. 

FS: Do you think that this kind of collaborative, community art is important?

JO: Yeah, I think it's important. I think it's sometimes just hard to be in that circumstance where you can be creating with like-minded people. But it definitely makes for more unique and more interesting music. Plus, I think it's definitely important when artists work together and help raise each other up and inspire each other and grow the scene. 

FS: Is there anything in particular you want listeners to get from this project?

JO: I want people to get good feelings from this music. I hope this album will help shed some light on the talent that exists here in Pittsburgh. I just want people to enjoy it. 

 

John, via email, added, "I'm grateful for the cooperation and enthusiasm I received from all the artists involved with this album. I'd like to thank them for their time, effort, and willingness to contribute a piece of themselves to this project. I encourage any listeners to check out the players on this album and the music they make."

Chalk Dinosaur and Friends will be released on Jan. 25. Check back for a review of the full album and be sure to see John in action at the Rex Theater on Jan. 26.

 

2016 Top 10: Videographer Sam Suter

 Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

Sam Suter's usually on the other side of the site, recording and editing all of our video content and taking some of the stunning images of shows and musicians. But just because he's behind the camera doesn't mean he's not a part of the conversation. Sam has spent the year watching and listening and has come up with a Top 10 list that spans albums, songs, videos and visuals. 

1. Malibu - Anderson .Paak (album)

Anderson .Paak is funky, soulful and impossible to put in a box. I found myself coming back tho this album over and over throughout the year, and each time I would notice something new or pick out a new favorite song. 

2. Lemonade – Beyonce (visual album)

I mean, come on. What is there left to say about Lemonade?

3. Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino

Still very new, but I can tell by the fact that my neck is a little bit sore since it's come out that I'll be listening to this for a while. Not being the biggest fan of Donald Glover's previous albums, but really enjoying his show Atlanta, I wasn't sure what to expect with this album. I ended up being very pleasantly surprised.

4. Chance the Rapper's verse on Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam" (verse)

God damn, Chance can rap. The song all around is good, but Chance's verse is something special. I'm usually not one to try to learn the words to songs, but I had to listen and re-listen until I could rap along with Chance.

5. IV – BADBADNOTGOOD (album)

My favorite thing to drive to this year, and I did a lot of driving this year. 

6. Aida Victoria's Tiny Desk Concert (live video)

I had never heard of Aida Victoria before I happened upon her Tiny Desk Concert. She had a cool look, which initially got me to click on the video. As soon as I heard her first few strums, I knew I made a good choice. Her voice is unique, her songwriting is visceral and her guitar is an extension of herself.

7. Prima Donna – Vince Staples (visual album)

Man, Vince Staples is smart. The video for his Prima Donna EP is probably my favorite take on the visual album that I've seen. It looks great and incorporates the music in a totally unique way. It helps that the EP is one of the best projects of the year, too.

8. Family Dinner Vol. 2 – Snarky Puppy (album)

I wonder how many people are injured every year while reacting to Snarky Puppy. 

9. Blonde – Frank Ocean (album + "Nikes" video)

I'd been waiting for this ever since the first time I listened to Channel OrangeBlonde is not at all what I was expecting at that time, but it totally makes sense now. I first listened to it on a plane flying to Salt Lake City, and I'll just say I definitely recommend listening to Blonde while you're in the sky.

10. "Cash Machine" video – Big Baby D.R.A.M. (video)

If you're feeling down, this video is for you. If you're in a good mood and want to be in an even better mood, this video is for you. D.R.A.M.'s love song to money manages to be one of the sweetest and cutest songs I've heard in a long time. It's got me really tempted to buy a pink sweat suit and a tricycle.

2016 Top 10: Associate Editor & Writer Roger Romero

 Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

Roger Romero is a killer writer, editor and musician, lending his talents to Found Sound and East End Mile. Plus, he has a fantastic, eclectic taste in music that covers everything from jazz to pop and hip hop. Last year might be over, but its music endures. Read on for Roger's record recommendations and take the good parts of 2016 with you into the new year.

1. Emily's D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

This album is, to me, the pinnacle of musicianship. Esperanza Spalding single-handedly morphed my perspective on what it means to be a musician while simultaneously blowing my mind with her talent. The live performance of her album is her own unique vision of a musical; Spalding assumes the lead role and plays the crap out of a concert at the same time. It's an epic and visceral experience. 

2. Malibu – Anderson .Paak

Another artist whose talent knows no bounds. He's so cool. He's got serious chops as a performer (on drums), rapper, singer and producer. I respect this man so hard. I'm grooving to Malibu constantly. Listening to Anderson .Paak is just part of my day-to-day now.

3. Blonde – Frank Ocean

There are so few works that are as vulnerable as Frank's record this year. After waiting forever, this record didn't disappoint.

4. Purpose – Justin Beiber

This album was my guilty pleasure listening at first. Soon enough, though, I got over myself and realized that the production and songwriting for the record was on point and that I shouldn't feel ashamed for loving it.

5. A Seat at the Table – Solange

The second I heard this, I was fascinated by Solange as a singer, producer and a songwriter. I hadn't heard a single thing she'd created before, and then suddenly she was one of my favorite artists. 

6. In the Magic Hour – Aoife O'Donovan

I think her voice is literally made of angels. It's as close as a voice can get to perfection, in my eyes. Her songwriting is stronger than ever in this record. I find myself constantly going back to Aoife O'Donovan for the how emotionally relatable her sound is.

7. EROS – Omar Sosa & Paolo Freso

I found this recording through randomly reading jazz album reviews in Downbeat. It's free-flowing, unique, engaging and unremittingly beautiful

8. Art Science – Robert Glasper Experiment

I've been a huge fan of Robert Glasper for a long time, so I had huge expectations for this release. Every member of Glasper's band shines through this album. They have solidified their already distinctive sound and approach while adding personality to each track.

 9. 99.99% – Kaytranada

I had an idea who Kaytranada was, namely because I heard that he was working with BADBADNOTGOOD. Once I heard about his collaborators (Anderson .Paak among them), I gained an active interest and then realized that this dude makes dope music with dope musicians. 99.99% easily has some of the most polished and unique production out there.

10. Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper

What can I say about Chance's record that hasn't already been said? He has such a deliberate and infectious sense of purpose when he creates music. His voice is unique, his collab game is strong and the music is some of the best out there. 

Single Premier: Chalk Dinosaur ft. Dhruva Krishna – "Dhruvasaur"

 Album artwork by Pierce Marratto.

Album artwork by Pierce Marratto.

Music is about community, and there's no better representation of that than musical collaboration. Chalk Dinosaur has based its entire upcoming release, Chalk Dinosaur and Friends, on that concept and "Dhruvasaur," the record's second single, is a shining example of how successful collaboration can be. 

The aptly-named "Dhruvasaur" features East End Mile and Manic Soul drummer Dhruva Krishna on percussion and guitar. He and John O'Hallaron, the Pittsburgh native behind Chalk Dinosaur, met at FarmLammaJamma over the summer and wrote the song together from the first bar to the last, glistening chord. The song is an instant ear worm, but it's sneaky; you won't realize how embedded in your brain its catchy, subtle melody has become until you're unconsciously humming it in the shower. 

The relaxed tempo of guitar sounds punctuated by tambourine and airy cymbal shots will make you long for hazy, lazy summer nights. Hear the single on SoundCloud now and keep your eyes peeled and ears open for Chalk Dinosaur and Friends, out Jan. 25.

 

2016 Top 10: Found Sound Founder Kyle Henson

 Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

Found Sound's founder, Kyle Henson, has a definitive taste and a passion for finding the latest, greatest songs out there. When we asked him to think of his Top 10 favorite songs of the past year, he had a list created in less than an hour. He's a man that knows what he likes. Here's what got Kyle excited in 2016.

1. "Radio" - Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso's most radio-friendly song to date is about being forced to make radio songs. Unconventional melodies and Nick Sanborn's expert mixing make this track a stand-out. Before the last chorus when the real drums come in = best drop I've ever heard.

2. "Packed Power" - Blind Pilot

Phenomenal lyrics in Blind Pilot's signature layered, complex and heartfelt style 

3. "No Matter Where We Go" - Whitney

All the good stuff about 1950s America with none of the bad stuff. Catchy, riffy, summery.

4. "Left Handed Kisses" - Andrew Bird ft. Fionna Apple

"Left Handed Kisses" is an eccentric duet about what it's like to be in your own head. 

5. "Oh Hold" - The XX

"On Hold" is influenced by Jamie's time away from the group. I love me a good Hall & Oates sample. 

6. "Astonished Man" - Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

This is an amazingly heartfelt track. Thao Nguyen is thinking about where her dad might be now. He left the family when she was very young and she hasn't seen him since. 

7. "Bad Decisions" - Two Door Cinema Club

Since when did Two Door Cinema Club pick up where Earth, Wind & Fire left off?

8. "White Flag" - Joseph

Everyone needs a good "fuck you" anthem. These three harmonious sisters have created the year's most vindictive masterpiece. 

9. "Swim" - Dan Croll

Is this song happy or sad? In this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is how to do pop in 2016.

10. "Watching the Waiting" - Wye Oak

This song somehow feels like it's a brand new style of contribution to a well-established genre from a well-established band.

BONUS! Best Video: "Friends" - Francis & the Lights ft. Bon Iver and Kanye West

Francis can dance. Justin Vernon can sing. They make a great song together. Oh look! Kanye!

BONUS! Best Album: 22, A Million - Bon Iver

While none of the songs on 22, A Million made the list, the album as a whole is a wonderful, cohesive return from Bon Iver that's surprisingly humble after years of anticipation.

 

 

Jam Session: Nordy's Jazz Jam

The pulse of a dance beat from a pop song trickles from unseen speakers and bounces softly off the wooden doors that line the walls of lounge. Students sit together at circular tables, working on group projects. Some gaze up at the sports program on a television above. A man snores in an armchair. The patrons seem oblivious to the activity occurring at the other end of the room, where we have been setting up drums, a piano, an upright bass and other instruments.

I stand at the microphone, poised to make an announcement, taking in the scene. A wave of indignation swells as I wonder why the students aren’t facing us, waiting with hopeful eyes for the session to begin. I take a deep breath and the feeling passes as I remind myself that it’s a Thursday evening at Nordy’s, in the basement of the student union and students are working diligently to free up their Friday and Saturday evenings.

As I make the informal announcement that the jam session is beginning, many of the patrons look up at me with surprise. I hear one of them murmur, "I didn’t know there was a band playing tonight!"

I introduce the host of the evening, Ryan Salisbury, an undergraduate guitar player at the University of Pittsburgh. Ryan has hand selected a short repertoire for the house band of myself on bass, Dan Leon on drums, and Alex Landis on piano that includes selections from his guitar heroes: George Benson and Grant Green.  On the first tune we take some time to gel, this being the first time the four of us have played together. On the second and third tune, the solos start to stretch out and the audience becomes more engaged. While playing, I look up occasionally to take inventory of observers. Familiar faces slip into the crowd, and I greet them with a nod while still walking bass lines.

After we play a good four songs, Ryan announces that the jam session has opened, and some of those familiar faces come to the stage. David Chen takes over for Landis on the piano, and on his request, we play a free form improvisation that goes on for several minutes. Kevin Lynch comes up on the drums next, and him and I do a duo version of a Snarky Puppy song.

The environment for this jam session is friendly and laid back. The patrons continue to work on their projects, watch TV or shoot pool, yet occasionally I can see them moving to the music. This reveals the function of the session less as a show for the public and more of a hangout for musicians.

The momentum of the night slows as I am left on stage with Dan; Ryan and Alex are hanging off stage with friends. Dan corrals them back on stage to play a few tunes to close out the night. In its yearlong existence, the Nordy’s Jazz Jam has attracted all sorts of activities to Nordy’s including a student swing dance group that broke out in full dance and implored us to play faster to fuel their twirling bodies. On this particular night its the normal draw of musicians to hang and a few passersby surprised to hear live music. When the night ends, there is no money to be exchanged, just gear to move, hands to shake, and dorm rooms and apartments to head back to.

 

For more information about Jazz Jams next semester, keep an eye out on Facebook!

Wreck Loose - Long Time Listener, First Time Caller

Wreck Loose’s single “Long Time Listener, First Time Caller” is a very strong start to the next phase of the already well-established quartet’s trajectory. The track is the first single off of the band’s forthcoming album, due out in early 2017.

The song is a piano-pop masterpiece, featuring lead singer and songwriter Max Somerville’s distinctive vocals and upbeat piano style. Guitarist Nathan Zoob’s masterful playing weaves in and out to add an essential layer of complexity to the track.

“Long Time Listener, First Time Caller” is undeniably influenced by the piano-pop of the ‘70s and 80s, but only borrows some of the best traits of the genre, like the unconventional song structure, while adding modern touches, like guitar layering and quirky lyricism. The song’s story, for instance, involves a pro wrestler, werewolf and the Statue of Liberty. Quirky.

Musically, the song traverses styles as comfortably as Somerville’s voice fits in his Elton genre. The intro and outro riffs ooze epic, arena-filling rock, and other parts of the song recall soft piano ballads. The entire track is bound together by a very tight rhythm section and Somerville’s dynamic vocals.

After the breakup of Backstabbing Good People, which featured The Commonheart’s Clinton Clegg and Somerville, Wreck Loose has emerged as a focused and cohesive mainstay of the Pittsburgh music scene. “Long Time Listener, First Time Caller” could be the band’s first step on a journey beyond Pittsburgh’s hills and rivers and into the national music scene.

Wreck Loose is celebrating the release of their single alongside Pittsburgh favorite the Big Bend on Saturday at Brillobox.

 

 

 

Album Review: Buffalo Rose - Red Wagon EP

 Photo by Sam Suter.

Photo by Sam Suter.

This time of year can be stressful. Between holidays, work deadlines, finals and family, sometimes it's hard to find the space to breathe and be by yourself. Buffalo Rose's newest EP, Red Wagon, out Nov. 19 provides the perfect soundtrack to life's few still moments. Slyly strummed acoustic guitars, lightly brushed drums and organic-sounding harmonies blend like cream in coffee to bring comfort to winter's cold, dark days.

That's not to say this is merely a winter record, however. The EP's four songs, all written by guitarist and singer Shane McLaughling, bear no spark of seasonality – only easily-relatable lyrics about finding and losing love, not knowing your place and seeking solace in friends and whiskey. At times the words can feel affectatious, but backed by such sincere vocals and deliberate melody, it's impossible not to be swept away. 

McLaughin's guitar is steady and strong, though it never overpowers the delicacy of the vocals on ballads like "Momma Have Mercy" and "Cigarettes and Whiskey." It's supported by understated percussion performed by Jules Coulson and embellished by Bryce Rabideau's mandolin.

The earthy, organic vocal harmonies are really what make Red Wagon standout. McLaughlin's unornamented singing is given depth by the addition of Lucy Clabby and Mariko Reid. The three sing superbly together, no one ever stealing another's thunder. Rather, the vocal lines merge form one solid, strong sound, like the branches of three trees wound together. This is felt most keenly on the EP's opening track, "I Can Get High."

The split between ballads and peppier tunes is 50/50, but even on the more upbeat tracks, the soft sounds, homogenous vocals and steady rhythms are comfortable enough to really sink into. It's a quick, effortless listen, which makes it ideal for digesting during a few moments alone. Find a comfortable chair, silence your phone and pour a hot drink (maybe with a little whiskey) and enjoy an early gift from Buffalo Rose.

 

Red Wagon is available on Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes. The first 100 copies of the EP come with a little something special. See Buffalo Rose tonight at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy!

 

Jam Sessions: The Squirrel Hill Sports Bar

At first glance, the Squirrel Hill Sports Bar fits the Pittsburgh dive stereotype perfectly. Pool balls click over the dull sound of a sportscaster. Hunched patrons clutch drinks as they gesture for the bartender's attention, nibble on popcorn and squash cigarette butts in ashtrays. Sunday nights are especially subdued, with the work week looming just hours away. Yet for the patrons who stick around long enough after an afternoon of football, the weekend rallies once more.

Around 9 p.m., a curious procession of various sized drums, bags and metal poles marches its way across the room. Carrying them is Jules Coulson, a Pittsburgh musician known for his work as a drummer, DJ and sound engineer. A pile of gear forms on an unassuming stage in the back of the bar. As Coulson begins to set up his drums, the bar owner, Barry White, emerges from the kitchen wearing a Steeler's cap to shake Coulson's hand.

The front door of the bar swings open again and Beni Rossman enters with his bass slung across his back like a backpack. Rossman is a staple in the local music scene. Chances are, if you have seen live music locally in the past several years, you've probably heard him holding down the low end.

Rossman joins Coulson on stage as they drag speakers, unwind cables and catch up on each other's recent gigs. The door swings open a third time and Shane McLaughlin arrives, hugging his Fender Blues Deluxe amp to his chest and smiling over the glasses that have fallen down his nose as he approaches the stage. Together, they are the "all-star" house band for the Sunday night jam sessions.

The trio begins to make noise, as snare hits, bass runs and guitar squawks randomly splatter the sonic palate of the bar. After the musicians have tuned up and are comfortable, they fall silent. As Coulson nods to the bartender, the announcer fades away and the TV above the stage is pulled up into the ceiling. The musicians make eye contact before launching into the first tune.

As the music revs up, the bar fills with positive sonic energy, emitting from the stage. Patrons laugh out loud and smack each other on the back. A steady flow of musicians begin to populate the bar, and friends who recognize each other embrace and shout over the wail of McLaughlin's guitar. 

After the house band plays a short set of groovy rock and funk tunes, fresh musicians are called up to the stage from a sign-up sheet. In some jam sessions, the musician being called up to the stage is under immediate scrutiny, but the environment at the Sports Bar takes a friendlier tone. As the musicians jam deep into the night, the on-stage antics become increasingly vibrant. The performers really stretch out and have fun.

Jam sessions originally stem from the jazz tradition, and the session at the Squirrel Hill Sports Bar is no exception. Chance combinations of musicians on stage create improvised arrangements of tunes in a fashion reminiscent of a jazz jam. This fertile environment creates truly unique moments of artistic expression. At the same time, the session also serves as a hangout for a community of friends and a motley cast of characters that include professional musicians, students, amateur pickers and live music enthusiasts.

For more information on the Squirrel Hill Sports Bar jam session, check out their Facebook group.

Jam Sessions: Tana Ethiopian Cuisine

Whether it's in a club over cocktails or in a dingy basement somewhere in the forgotten side streets of the city, musicians are meeting up throughout the week to network, collaborate, create, hang out and learn about each other. The place where this all comes together is the jam session.

Over the next several weeks, Found Sound will profile five jam sessions across Pittsburgh to provide an inside look at the wellspring of some of the groups and musicians who are regulars on the local scene. At these sessions, raw improvisation leads to remarkable moments, all for the fraction of the price of a concert ticket. 


Even on a warm summer night, the streets of East Liberty are vacant. The street lamps illuminate a quiet, residential neighborhood. But if you happen to be walking down Baum Boulevard around 9 o'clock on a Wednesday night, you might be able to pick up a faint, funky groove. Follow your ear to Tana, an Ethiopian restaurant nestled tightly in the commercial strip below the solemn towers of East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

As you enter the restaurant, soft wood accents and earth-colored walls meet your eyes while the warm, exotic smell of foreign spices greets your nostrils. At the top of the stairs, down the hallway, as you turn the corner of the bar, you are hit square in the face with a heavy funk stew being cooked up by four of the tightest cats in Pittsburgh. The sounds of popping strings and clanging cymbals are jaw-dropping.

The band is spread in the middle of the restaurant, tables sprawling out to the left or the right. After the initial shock wears off, it's easy to tell that this is something special. John C. Hall Jr. lays down an unquestionable groove on the bass as he nods along to the beat and chomps on chewing gum. Hall has been leading the jam for over 15 years – a Pittsburgh staple.

To his right it Max Leake, peering over his glasses as he comps on his keyboard. In the back is Chuck Anderson, his chin high and lower lip strong as his hands dance over the drums and cymbals. To the far left is Mark Lucas, body twisting around his guitar as he pulls notes soulfully out of thin air.

The jam becomes more intense as the tables begin to fill with regulars who are smiling, shaking hands, hugging and constantly moving to the music. It's hard to keep a smile from creeping into the corners of your mouth and your head from moving along to the beat. 

After about an hour, the house band steps down for a break. The energy in the bar changes like a wave as a burly, dreadlocked man with a Metallica shirt carrying a large drum and some buckets enters the space. His presence is electrifying, immediately calling attention to his larger-than-life appearance. Instrument cases are stashed in corners behind some of the people sitting at tables. Other musicians trickle in with cases of all different shapes and sizes. 

Hall returns to the microphone with the excitement of the night beginning to escalate. "Ok," he says," we're going to change things up now. We're in for a special treat. Elec, you here? Let's get you in on this one."

The dreadlocked man brings his drums over to the stage and sets up in front of Anderson's kit. With the rest of the band back on stage, Hall kicks them off into tune, a fast, funky groove. Elec Simon's face twists into a smile as he hammers out rhythms on his drums, flooring the entire restaurant with his showmanship and his technique.

When the tune is over, the musicians are met with thunderous applause, and Hall calls up a singer and a new guitar player. The group continues to morph with each continuing tune as drummers, bassists, guitar players, keyboard players, trumpet players and vocalists have their turn to jam alone. Some are old friends of the session who fit seamlessly into the house band. Others are young musicians, eager to make an impression on the older cats.

The smiles of fellow musicians and nodding heads of the audience are signs that the group is cooking. When things slow down, the musicians' faces turn blank and audience members start to talk, or get up to leave. By the end of the night, everybody is grooved out, people depart the bar smiling, hugging, laughing, singing and whistling the tunes of the night.


Tana Ethiopian Cuisine - 5929 Baum Blvd.
Wednesday Nights - 8:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Cover: None (Common courtesy is to buy a drink.)
Skill Level: Professional.

Album Review: Spacefish - Earth Jokes

Earth Jokes, the unconventional, self-produced sophomore album from Spacefish packs a hefty but wacky 10-track punch, utilizing a battery of weird sounds, effects and samples to create an experimental work grounded in simple rock n’ roll. The trio are releasing the album Saturday with a show at Delanie’s coffee.
 


The first track, “Welcome Back, Spacefish,” serves as a brief introduction, but really it sets the tone for the entire album with modulated synths, samples and other unsettling scratching and hissing noises from unknown sources not often found in modern music over a simple, but driving beat.

The album hits its stride in the third track, “Eating Horses,” which features several ambitious time changes that are masterfully executed, with clever drum parts and sound effects, creating a delightfully experimental but surprisingly coherent whole. “Creature,” another standout track, ends with samples from a public health announcement about mosquito-borne diseases.

Vocals throughout the album are often modulated, and the album makes heavy use of feedback guitar and lo-fi drums, giving the whole record a sort of Jack-White-meets-gothic-poetry vibe. Indeed, according to their EPK, the band describes their music, genre and movement as American Gothic, creating the feeling that, “something terrible is going on (no matter how good it might feel against your cheek.)”

This style of wit pervades the album and is evident throughout the band’s standout live show. Frontman Nate Dibert brings tons of infectious energy to the stage, managing to play all of his parts while rolling his eyes into the back of his head and maniacally bouncing around the stage.

The album is punctuated with the track “Enter: Ed Tangerine (Entry Log 55),” which is a quasi-hip-hop track that sports slowed-down vocals over music that would be as at home in a haunted house as it is on the Spacefish album.  

Earth Jokes toes the line between experimental and digestible in a masterful fashion. Although the album sports classic signs of experimentalism including, chopped up samples, modulated vocals, sounds with unclear origins and uncommon song structures, Spacefish clearly draws influences from mainstream music that forms the tracks they make, creating an album that’s as enjoyable as it is refreshing.

Spacefish is hosting their album release party on October 15th at Delanie’s Coffee.

Thrival Festival Review

Much like the city it’s trying to showcase, Pittsburgh’s Thrival Innovation & Music Festival has had a successful few years, scaling up from one stage in a bakery square parking lot, to a full-fledged regional music festival with top national talent. Much like Pittsburgh’s rise over the past few years, the festival’s ascent has been laden with speed bumps, but despite some logistical hitches, the fourth year of Thrival showed unmistakable promise for the future and was itself a very entertaining experience.

With each passing year, Thrival has grown tremendously in scope, necessitating new additions to the team behind the festival. This year, Thrival hired a PR firm to promote the event and worked with Great Area Productions to book this year’s acts. Both turned out to be great choices. This year’s installation of Thrival was the most visible the festival has ever been, with campus-specific promotion strategies a comprehensive social media presence and well-placed afterparties that brought a lot of the Pittsburgh music scene’s stakeholders together.

Grey Area Productions also put together a fantastic lineup, featuring the perfect mix of lower tier cards that outperform their draw, and headliners that live up to the hype. Early acts, Rubblebucket, Wild Child and Lettuce reliably put on shows that exceed their national renown and though day one’s headliners, CHVRCHES and The Chainsmokers have a bigger pull than day two’s collection of Rubblebucket, Metric and Thievery Corporation, all 5 acts put on shows worth writing home about. 

 Metric

Metric

From day one, notable acts included Pittsburgh native Daya, who received a warm hometown welcome and the legendary funk band Lettuce. On day two, Rubblebucket’s impressively outsized stage presence and orchestral instrumentation complimented Wild Child, who played earlier in the day and could be seen dancing along with the crowd to Rubblebucket’s set. 

 Rubblebucket

Rubblebucket

 Wild Child

Wild Child

Almost all of the artists, including both of day one’s headliners CHVRCHES and The Chainsmokers remarked on how beautiful the location at Carrie Furnaces was. Both of the festival’s stages were placed in the shadow of the massive blast furnace that once produced thousands of tons of molten iron ore per day. In addition to just looking really cool, the setting juxtaposed Pittsburgh’s new face against its heritage as an industrial town. 

 Carrie Furnaces

Carrie Furnaces

Logistically, Thrival still has a few kinks to work out. Notably, beverages could only be purchased with a token system. Each token cost $2 and had to be purchased in a line of its own. This created a system where, in order to get a beer, a festivalgoer had to wait in three lines, one to get a 21+ wristband, one to get drink tokens and then another to get a beer. This system necessitated a ton of waiting and dissuaded many from getting drinks. Additionally, the lack of free water, a rookie mistake for a music festival, posed a legitimate health hazard to many who were dehydrated and didn’t have time to wait in 2 hours of lines just to get water. Finally, the festival actually sold out of water on day one, augmenting the water shortage.

Day two’s cancellation of Ty Dolla $ign, an unfortunate event outside of the control of the festival, also posed some logistical concerns. The first few acts on day two were on the wrong stages, Hudson Mohawke and Rubblebucket were switched, and before Hudson Mohawke there was a 45 minute period where no acts were performing. While this logistical hitch is certainly not Thrival’s fault, there were certainly a few things the festival could’ve done to avoid the confusion and dead air that ensued. None of these changes were announced to the general public, and though the festival asked Wild Child to extend their set, the dead air put Rubblebucket and Hudson Mohawke on track for the regular set durations.

The festival did a fantastic job showcasing local music, including Pittsburgh’s Meeting of Important People and Bastard Bearded Irishmen who opened the festival on day one, and Chalk Dinosaur, Donora, Brooke Annibale and Balloon Ride Fantasy who opened day 2. Day two’s local show culminated with local favorite Beauty Slap’s excellent synthesis of electronic music and brass. Though these local acts were as talented as their touring counterparts, the overwhelming majority of the crowd only showed up to see the touring acts, reflecting a frustrating truism of Pittsburgh music where local talent outpaces audiences looking to support local music.

 beauty Slap

beauty Slap

Thrival has created a wonderful regional music festival that showcased wonderful local talent and brought very competitive national talent to a location that was very representative of Pittsburgh. Though the festival could’ve used some logistical help and audience buy-in, the festival showed unmistakable promise and a long-term commitment from a talented staff. In future years it seems that in addition to creating a top notch entertainment experience, it seems that Thrival must create the audience that wants to consume such an entertainment experience out of Pittsburgh’s largely disjointed music scene. Though next year’s festival has its work cut out for it, we’re thrilled to see something of this scale in Pittsburgh and we can’t wait to see next year’s installation of the very successful festival.

Thrival Festival Preview

This week marks Thrival Innovation & Music Festival’s fourth year in operation in Pittsburgh. Launched by the nonprofit startup incubator, Thrill Mill, Thrival now consists of a week-long innovation expo, complete with keynotes, exhibitions and tabling, as well as a two-day music festival. Though this year’s lineup features heavy hitters, CHVRCHES and The Chainsmokers, Thrival didn’t start out on such a grand scale, and like most events of this nature, has been growing organically for almost 10 years. 

Thrival_BG_2016.jpg

According to Bobby Zappala, founder and CEO of Thrill Mill, Thrival originally started in a Shadyside parking lot as The Baller Barbecue. The original idea was to get stakeholders in the Pittsburgh startup community together to network. The first Baller Barbecue was hosted in a Shadyside parking lot right next to the home of one of Thrill Mill’s board members. A few local bands played, fruitful connections were made and then everyone went home. 

The event was held once per year, and then the frequency was increased to 2 or 3 times a year. Each time, the event grew in scale. More bans played. Food and drinks were available by donation at first, but changed to be available for purchase later. Eventually, the entire event became a ticketed affair with proceeds supporting Thrill Mill’s incubator program. 

As the Baller Barbecue Expanded some others in Pittsburgh began to take notice. Foundations looking to increase Pittsburgh’s regional renown and spur economic growth approached Thrill Mill with the idea to make The Baller Barbecue a much larger event. Thrill Mill rebranded their event and Thrival was born.

The first Thrival focused heavily on innovation programming, bringing in speakers from the region and working with the startup community in Pittsburgh to celebrate how far the city had come in the last 10 years. Though innovation was the primary focus, music made a significant appearance, as Thrival brought Frightened Rabbit, RJD2, De La Soul and Formula412 to a single stage in Bakery Square. 

 Bobba Zappala

Bobba Zappala

 Dan Law

Dan Law

After the success of the first event, Thrill Mill hired Dan Law to be the executive director of Thrival. Dan was able to land some major sponsorships from PNC and others to expand the music lineup. The event added a second stage in Bakery Square and brought headliners Portugal. The Man and Moby as well as supporting acts, Phosphorescent, Misterwives, Raury and Mayer Hawthorne. 

Last year’s event brought a presenting sponsorship from UPMC Enterprises and a new location in Hazelwood. The lineup expansion continued, with the festival bringing Panic! At The Disco as well as Manchester Orchestra and former Wu Tang Clan members, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. The event marked a turning point for the music portion of Thrival, as the event began to function like a regional music festival rather than a large concert, drawing people from the surrounding area. 

This year, Thrival has booked its most ambitious lineup yet. With UPMC Enterprises’ continuing sponsorship the festival has been able to book acts that have topped lineups at other regional festivals and bring the event to Carrie Furnaces. It’ll be bigger than the attendees of the first Baller Barbecue could’ve ever imagined and help solidify Pittsburgh’s place as a successful rust belt revival story with the region’s premier entertainment experience.

Interview: Elyse Louise of Ladies Night

Saxophonist Elyse Louise noticed something missing from funk – ladies. That's where she saw an opportunity. The Pittsburgh native, who just returned state-side from a residency in Qatar, formed Ladies Night, a female-fronted funk band that fills the space Louise saw in the genre. Now her band is embarking on a mini tour, bringing the funk to Pittsburgh at James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Found Sound: Welcome back to the States! What were you up to in Qatar?

Elyse Louise: I was playing a residency at a hotel. I think I'm going to be going back to Doha pretty soon, actually. I kind of like it there. I like that I don't have to think about all of the regular-world things, so it's kind of like a music retreat for me. I just wake up and practice and go to the gig.

FS: How'd you get started in music?

EL: I started playing in middle school, and then I got serious about it in college when I was studying classical saxophone at Duquesne. And then I started studying jazz with Eric DeFade at CMU. I started playing cruise ships after college, and that was great. I just really wanted to make my own band, because all these cruise ships I played, I was the only girl in everything. And I wanted to promote women in music.

FS: How did you get hooked up with the other women in Ladies Night?

EL: It's an eight-piece band and we have three female horns. I just kind of looked online. I was trying to find the best people. And, you know, as far as the rhythm section, those are all guys that I worked with in Pittsburgh. But then the horns, I didn't know any girls that played trombone or trumpet, so I had to just kind of go online and see if anyone I knew knew somebody. I got connected with [trombone] Natalie Cressman, and she's awesome. And [trumpet] Lessie Vonner is also great. It was pretty lucky.

FS: How long has Ladies Night been playing together?

EL: I started the band in September. Almost a year now, and I'm just trying to grow it every time I book shows. At first it was like, get through a couple Pittsburgh shows. And now it's like, get through a couple small, mini tours. And then later I'm hoping to do larger tours. It's kind of a learning experience, you know?

FS: And how's it been going?

EL: Oh, it's been great! The shows in Pittsburgh were really successful. And this one coming up, as far as the Facebook event goes, it seems like it's going to be even bigger.

FS: What can your fans and newcomers to the band expect on your mini tour?

EL: We're actually starting in New York and going down to Pittsburgh and then over to Indiana, Pa. We're playing mostly originals and then some covers of some of my favorite artists, like Earth, Wind & Fire. We're covering a Curtis Mayfield tune and some Stevie Wonder. You've got to get Stevie Wonder in there. Classic.

FS: Any plans for Ladies Night to release an album?

EL: I need to be in the country for long enough to do that. I definitely need to do that soon. I was hoping to get it done by the end of this year, but if I go back to Doha, I guess it'll have to be in January. I guess the official answer is: hopefully soon.

FS: Excited for the mini tour in the meantime?

EL: Oh yeah. Super excited. I just rehearsed the horn section last night and it was really efficient and tight and great. It's going to be awesome.

 

The Ladies Night show at James Street starts at 8 p.m. on Sept. 17, so don't miss your chance to check out the women of funk on their mini tour! 

Album Preview: I Had A Wonderful Time - Eastend Mile

 'I Had A Wonderful Time' will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, Tidal, and bandcamp on Sept. 10.

'I Had A Wonderful Time' will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, Tidal, and bandcamp on Sept. 10.

Eastend Mile works hard, that much is clear. The four-piece jazz fusion outfit has been chipping away at their second album, I Had a Wonderful Time, since November of 2015, all the while playing gigs, holding down jobs, earning degrees and honing their craft. But plenty of bands, no matter how hard-working, fall victim to the sophomore slump - a second effort that takes more risks, tries new sounds, shakes things up, but ultimately falls flat. 

That hard work, in conjunction with a new rhythm section, new tricks and a city full of collaborators, kept Eastend Mile from falling victim to that second-album flop and pushed the group into fresh and exciting musical territory.

Defining fusion is always tricky, but I Had a Wonderful Time only mystifies the moniker more. The foursome have their fingers in so many genres it's impossible to ascribe them to just one.

"Blood Moon," the album's first single, feels very much like jazz, geometric and driving. Percussionist Dhruva Krishna propels his bandmates through the song, relentlessly dispensing the beat as he explores every inch of his kit. Saxophonist Roger Romero leads the listener through a melody reminiscent of Pittsburgh's city streets, winding and gritty with blind corners and steep descents, some unexpected, but all gratifying. 

But "Blood Moon" is just one of 12 tracks on the album, and thus just one of 12 distinctly different sounds Eastend Mile has created. "15 Seconds to Move" is immersive and intricate. "First Things First," lush and layered. And "Dirty Pools" would sound right at home with Seatbelts on the "Cowboy Bebop" soundtrack. 

"Overdrive" highlights Christoffer Thygesen's solid, stoic bass style in an improvised call and response with Romero. Keyboardist Caleb Lombardi slips in and out between them with Samba-style piano licks. 

Lombardi's keyboards find their home along side Mariko Reid's sweet vocals on "Twisted," a beautiful, soulful love song, threaded with strings and rich harmonies that serves as a reminder that it truly takes a village. "The album is almost a Pittsburgh album, with the amount of Pittsburgh art that's on it," Thygesen told Found Sound.

I Had a Wonderful Time is full of collaborators that enliven the album and provide even more sonic diversity. Guitarist Shane McLaughlin shreds in his solo on "Jungle Cat." Local hip hop artist Yury provides vocals for "Re:Questlove" and Rich Robbins raps over pure jazz on "I'm the Realest." Even Lombardi's tattoo artist had a hand in the single artwork, according to Thygesen. 

A host of collaborators, a glut of genres and a surplus of styles can make it hard to pin down exactly what Eastend Mile set out to sound like on their second LP, but the musical mélange leaves even more to love. Album three may bring a stronger sense of self to the band, but until then, listeners can enjoy a little bit of everything. 

Eastend Mile is debuting I Had a Wonderful Time at they album release party presented by Found Sound on Satruday, Sept. 10 in the newly-reopened James Street Ballroom. 

Editorial Note: Eastend Mile's Dhruva Krishna and Roger Romero are both part of the Found Sound team, but were not influential in the impartiality of this preview. That said, we're really proud of their kickass contribution to Pittsburgh music.

 

Interview: Christoffer "Tiggy" Thygesen of Eastend Mile

 Image courtesy of YouTube.

Image courtesy of YouTube.

Yes. I mean, art is always something that I feel you can keep on perfecting.  I feel like no artist will ever tell you their product is perfect. And I'm not about to tell you that it is, 'cause it's not. But I'm very proud of what we've produced. It's definitely the biggest creative endeavor I've done to date in my life. We recorded them in November, so it's been almost a year since this endeavor started. Even longer if you consider the phase of writing the songs. I definitely means a lot to me. Not just because of the developments and the feedback we've gotten, like this moon thing or people telling us it's good. It means a lot to me sentimentally and emotionally. 

Christoffer "Tiggy" Thygesen is having a big year. He's wrapping up his math degree at Carnegie Mellon University after a summer internship at Square, he was sent to Shanghai to compete at an international Hearthstone video game competition and his band, Eastend Mile, is releasing its new album, I Had A Wonderful Time, next week with a release show at James Street Ballroom. 

Tiggy, fresh off of a flight from his home in California, talked us through the excitement of releasing a new album, fighting his way through bad piano lessons and games of League of Legends and how it feels to have your music sent to the moon.

How long have you been playing the bass?

I've been playing bass guitar since seventh grade, but I picked up the upright bass in the fourth grade for the school orchestra. I can't remember why I picked the bass, but it was the unique, big one, so I like to think that's why. I was classical trained on the piano starting in first to fifth grade or so. But I hated my teacher. In fact, I wanted to quit for the longest time because I wasn't having any fun with my lessons and my mom said if I scored well on the standardized music theory tests that they offer, I could quit. And I got a stupid high score, so she had to let me quit. Otherwise I would throw a fit.

So, how did you get interested in jazz?

They had jazz band programs at my schools in middle school and high school, so I played in all of those in, like, sixth through twelfth grade. We would get to play songs that sometimes I could really have cared less about, but there were some of them that really stuck with me. I really liked covering Weather Report particularly. I think we did this in seventh grade. We covered "Birdland" by Weather Report. That was pretty big for me. This is going to sound pretty cliche,  but I did enjoy playing "Girl From Ipanema." That's a good song, but I guess that song's kind of everywhere. Maybe less so the Weather Report one, unless you're into jazz. I feel like I got exposed to a lot of things, whether I wanted to or not. Or at least my ear got exposed at an early age, which is good, because I definitely appreciate that stuff a lot more now. And my appreciation has only gone up in the time I've been playing.

Jazz bass is its own beast.

Yes. I also took lessons. I'm not sure they were really jazz lessons, but we had some lesson where it was specifically about jazz-related or blues things. I had bass guitar lessons with this vocal and guitar teacher. He was the brother of my old bass teacher - it's very complicated. But he ended up facilitating my rock band that I had in high school to record out demo tracks. He had a home studio, which was really cool He's definitely the reason I got excited about music again. I played in a bunch of ragtag bands through his programs and his lessons with other kids I knew that took his lessons. He had rock camps every summer... I would always get to meet cool instrumentalists through his program. 

You were in a rock band in high school?

Yes. Well. Ok. I had a rock band. I joined forces with my vocalist and my guitarist and my drummer for an AP Lit presentation on Invisible Man, the book. I wasn't even in the class. They just needed to do a presentation and I was like, "Sure, I'll play bass!" I think we played "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" [by Cake, but the lyrics were about Invisible Man somehow. I haven't even read the book, so I don't even know what the funny parts are, but I got to play the fun bass line. We decide, you know, we've got to do Battle of the Bands. But we suck. So we ended up linking up with this other guitarist that we were all friends with who could shred way harder than any of us. We got fourth place. It was out of probably around, I'd say over 10 acts. I don't remember how many there were. I remember being disappointed. Our guitarist got a concussion the fay before and he ended up sitting down in the middle of the performance. We prepared this whole medley of Beck songs that we never played. 

Do you write music too?

Yes. I mean, in my rock band I helped with the writing process, and I still help with the writing process in Eastend Mile, actually. I would usually say that - this is for most cases - that [pianist] Caleb [Lombardi] or [saxophonist] Roger [Romero] comes with just some basic idea of their part. And we just figure it out from there. People just start throwing in stuff and layering stuff. We see what sticks, but people usually figure out their own parts. People rarely tell each other what to play and it just somehow gets to where it gets and sounds cohesive, which is pretty, pretty amazing. Usually, the story is that one guy's got the idea and he kind of tells everybody else what his vision is, but that's not really the case [in Eastend Mile]. At most, someone is only running 40 percent of the show at any given time.

How long have you guys been playing together?

We've been playing together since the end of last January, beginning of last February. So, I guess it's been a little over a year and a half. Caleb and Rog had the group before [percussionist] Dhruva [Krishna] and I joined. They recorded an eight-track album, but then the bassist had to go to the Navy. The drummer moved half way across the country and they just went M.I.A. Incommunicado. Caleb and Roger were all, "We're not going to just let this die." They wanted to play in the band and they revived it by bringing us on. So now we reinterpret basically all of the tracks off the old album in our new style and we tack on all of this other stuff that we've done since them. At this point, honestly in terms of what we actually like the play and do, the new stuff vastly outweighs what we had beforehand. We've made a lot of progress in this year and a half.

Tell us a bit about the new album.

It's called I Had a Wonderful Time, which is actually a quote of yours truly. I'm not sure I can really delve into the origins of this too much, 'caue we'd rather have it shrouded in mystery. It's just some night of mischievous deeds ended up with me saying that at the end of the night. Let's just leave it at that. We recorded the tracks in November, when we did all the tracking, essentially. We edited just, like, pretty sparingly in post compared the amount of sounds we brought. We recorded in the studio in four days. We recorded in the Carnegie Mellon studio, an that's actually how we got linked up with this Moon Arts thing. The single, "Blood Moon," is going to the moon.

CMU Robotics is doing the Lunar X prize and there's this Moon Arts project that is kind of going along with it. It's like a capsule of arts from Pittsburgh. It's going with this rover to the moon to put these arts on the moon for artistic reasons. Like token of humanity, or whatever. And the guy who runs the CMU studios, Riccardo Shulz, unilaterally submitted our single, because he was there when we recorded it. And I remember him saying that he liked it, but didn't really think too much of it. I just took it as a compliment and left it at that. But then he notified us a couple months later that he had sent it off to this project to get approved, and then we heard a couple weeks later that it was approved. And so, this means, I guess, the wave forms are being engraved in titanium concentric spirals on this little capsule and being fired to the moon.

You're going to the moon! That's amazing!

That's what I think. I think it's the craziest thing that's ever happened. The way I like to phrase it, is that in the likely case of nuclear armageddon, our music outlives that of Beyonce. Yeah, I'm pretty happy about that. 

The excitement I had from that was, like, doubled down, because the weekend we heard that that was approved, I qualified for this video game tournament. I played in a Hearthstone tournament. It's a virtual card game developed by Blizzard, who's the maker of World of Warcraft, Starcraft Diablo, those games. And yeah, there was this China vs. U.S. collegiate tournament and me and two of my buddies that I played with during the semester, we got seeded into this tournament. We took first place in the qualifier. So we got flown, all expenses paid, to Shanghai, China. It was amazing. We ended up losing in the quarter finals. That was the first round of play once we got there, but we got pretty unlucky, I think it's safe to say.

I've played on the Carnegie Mellon League of Legends team every year I've been a student and we've always been, I think, safe to say the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the Eastern Quadrant of North America, but we just choke in the playoffs and never really make it past the quarter finals. Which is kind of a bummer. Those prize pools are pretty big and I could use some money to actually put my money where my mouth is for all this time I've wasted getting good at video games.

So, are there any bassists you admire?

Plenty, actually. I just say Hiatus Kaiyote at Outside Lands and I have never seen a tighter rhythm section in my life. Lettuce - I saw them at Outside Lands. If I could go back in time, I would be saying Roger Waters or John Paul Jones, but they're not really innovating right now. I would say in terms of bassists right now, it would be Mike League of Snarky Puppy. He's the mastermind of that whole shindig and I think it's some of the most next-level jazz fusion stuff I've ever heard. 

I'm definitely glad I picked bass as an interment. I feel like it's the unholy marriage of drums and guitar. You can be either one and both at the same time. You have control over the groove and the rhythm, the feel and the low end. And you can be really percussive. But you can also be really melodic and harmonic and play really interesting stuff. I'm really of the opinion that with music, less is more. And I definitely think that the bass is a very good instrument for someone with that kind of perspective. For me, when it comes to writing music and expressing myself musically, it's not really about trying to show off what I can say. It's really about telling a story. 

What's a song on the new record that you felt like you really nailed that on? Or one you like playing?

I'm not really sure this is demonstrative of that point, but I like playing "Overdrive," which is the penultimate track on the album. The process of writing the song was really fun. That song came together in a very organic way that kind of amazes me. It started out with myself and Caleb, jamming in Kresge, which is an auditorium in the CMU fine arts building. He was on the piano and I had my bass with a little practice amp and he started playing this six-chord progression. I ended up playing along to the roots of it and we decided that was a good starting point. We decided we needed some other bit that could mash up with that, and I guess I came up with the B section of the song. We met up with the other guys at the net practice and while we were writing, Dhruva came up with the awesome drum beat that he plays on that song and Roger came out with some pretty sweet licks. It just started coming together.

Are you happy with the new record?

Yes. I mean, all art is always something that I feel you can keep on perfecting. I feel like no artist will ever tell you their product is perfect. And I'm not about to tell you it is, 'cause its not. But I'm very proud of what we've produced. It definitely means a lot to me. Not just because of the developments and the feedback we've gotten, like this moon thing or people telling us it's good. It means a lot to me sentimentally.

Hear Eastend Mile's new album at their Album Release Party on Sept. 10 at the James Street Ballroom and keep an eye out for Found Sound's review. For now, check out the video for their single "Blood Moon."