New Beginnings; An Interview with Tele Novella

TeleNovellaFall2014The Austin-based band Tele Novella are the middle of their Midwest/East Coast tour, spanning from Oklahoma to New York and ending back home in Texas. On their stop in Dayton, Ohio, guitarist Natalie Gordon and bassist Jason Chronis are sitting behind their band’s merchandise table. The fold-out table is located between two doors in the back front section of the establishment that they just got done playing their set at, Blind Bob’s Bar. The band was in town as part of their Midwest/East Coast tour in support of this past June’s release of their EP, Cosmic Dial Tone.

Growing up in the heart of Sacramento, where the artistic vibe was mainly artistic DIY’ers in the music scene. One day as Gordon was flipping through the catalogs of vinyl at a local record store, she met drummer Lauren Hess. The two started to strike up a conversation about music, and it immediately took off. Gordon discovered during the meeting that Hess had recently purchased a drum kit, but she hasn’t played them yet. With Gordon already having experience playing guitar since high school, the twosome got together to jam, forming their band Agent Ribbons in 2006.

Agent Ribbon started touring up and down California, and also added another member to the group-violinist/cellist Naomi Cherie early 2009. The band’s dreamy, yet eerie guitar play from Gordon going along with the simplistic drumming started getting them noticed quickly. Fans couldn’t help but not stay away from the duo’s haunting mix of garage rock with pop melodies that were heavily influenced with The Velvet Underground and The Shaggs. The increased exposure help launch them into bigger shows and tours. They traveled on the West Coast, and even played some shows in Europe. Gordon and Hess would pay for Cherie’s plane ticket in order for her to play in the West Coast shows.

With the costs of tickets starting to add up, and the inability to move to California, Gordon and Hess made the decision to move out to Austin where Cherie lived in 2010.

Before the move Austin was in the plans for Gordon with her bandmate, Chronis and Simon were deeply involved with the local group Voxtrot. The band, led by Ramesh Srivastava, started rolling in the early 2000s when he was between studying in Scotland. Voxtrot’s European influence streaming in their indie pop-heavy melodies and charming lyrics. With the comparisons to The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, Voxtrot began to garner critical acclaim not only in town, but with national publications, and online sites.

After releasing their first EP in 2005, Raised By Wolves, Voxtrot toured vigorously all around the US and Europe, and released a couple of EPs and singles. In 2007, the release of the first LP Voxtrot would become the band’s first and only. Fans complained that the album didn’t live up to expectations. Others believed that the quality and sound of the album veered away from what the band was originally doing. Voxtrot overall wasn’t well received. Less than a year later, when the album failed, the band broke apart.

With Gordon and Hess packing up and moving to Austin, the move from Sacramento at the time seemed like it was the best option for the band, Gordon mentioned. However, a series of events proved to be disastrous for Agent Ribbons. Cherie decided to leave the group as soon as the duo arrived in town. The momentum that Agent Ribbons built with touring in California, which resulted in getting bigger shows and more exposure, was abruptly halted. “We had such a strong following in California, Oregon, and Washington. We could tour up and down the coast all year. We came here-people didn’t care, we couldn’t play the right shows, we started playing too much,” Gordon says.

At the end of October in 2012, Gordon and Hess, along with their tour maager, were leaving Memphis during their bands tour in support of the album Let Them Talk. Agent Ribbons were headed toward Dallas when a car ran a red light and collided with the band’s vehicle. While everyone escaped with non-life threatening injuries, the band’s van was totaled and Hess broke her wrist. The tour was already challenging due to issues with payouts of shows, and the accident was the final blow in what became a hostile relationship. Gordon and Hess no longer were seeing Agent Ribbons being what it once was. Everything that was once promising now became more a burden. After the accident, Agent Ribbons broke up. “It was slow, rough, downward spiral,” Gordon explained. “It felt that the band should have ended before we moved to Austin.”

With Agent Ribbons dissolving, Gordon needed to regroup and quickly was needing to quickly assemble a band for a booked showcase at South by Southwest Festival for the upcoming year. Gordon tried explaining to Agent Ribbons’ label of the unfortunate circumstances, with herself and Hess going separate ways. However, the label wouldn’t allow her to cancel. Gordon had to scramble to set up a band, so she enlisted Chronis, Simon, and singer Cari Palazzolo. The trio were already involved together with the local group Belaire, and volunteered to help Gordon out. Chronis has already been discussing working with Gordon on a project, titled Tele Novella.

The newly formed band Tele Novella was well-received, and the foursome continued to move forward. Tele Novella went to the studio to record their first EP Cosmic Dial Tone, which was released this past summer. The EP features Gordon’s alluring vocals that transcended when she was Agent Ribbons along with Chronis and Simon’s English rock inspiration with their work in Voxtrot. The blend of the two results in a breezy, psychedelic pop sound that is hypotonic and catchy. Since the release of Cosmic Dial Tone, another lineup has occurred. Palazzolo moved to Portland, which signaled the ending of Belaire, and the La Puerta’s inclusion into the group. Tele Novella released the single version of ‘Trouble in Paradise’ on vinyl with American Laundromat Records right on the tail of the Wes Anderson tribute compilation, to which they contributed a contagious version of ‘Stephanie Says’ by the Velvet Underground. The band is currently in the process of setting up to record the band’s first LP, which will be recorded in Austin.

Chronis locks his hands behind his jet black hair, and leans back into his chair. Gordon, wearing one of vintage dresses as she normally does, throws on a jacket and begins to rummage through some missed texts, emails on her phone. Moments later, you see Gordon engaging with two young girls who have approached the table, while Chronis looks on engaged into the conversation as well. As more attendees of the night’s festivities began to gather around the merch table to talk to Gordon and Chronis, keyboardist Sarah La Puerta strikes up her own conversation with someone, while drummer Matt Simon breaks down his drums.

For Gordon, the future with Tele Novella is bright and signifies new beginnings. “I feel so much more challenged, and I feel like it’s so much more interesting as a process for me. And I’m really on the beginning of it.”

Buffalo Soldiers: An Interview with Zachary Gabbard of Buffalo Killers

Buffalo KillersThe Cincinnati-based rockers Buffalo Killers have been busy since the beginning of this year.

First, they helped kick off this year’s Dayton Music Festival 10th year anniversary with a special show featuring a church choir in the  Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton back in April.  They followed that with a coast to coast summer tour, which was in  support of the release of Heavy Reverie, which was released in May.  During their time on the road, the made their annual stop in  Austin, Texas and performed at South by Southwest “This past year was probably the wildest one,” bassist and vocalist Zachary  Gabbard says during our phone conversation.  “A lot more people, taking every band from everywhere, bunch of people think that  they are rock stars, and throw them into one city.   It was nuts.”

Whatever they will admit or not-Zachary, along with his brother and guitarist/vocalist Andy, and drummer Joseph Sealy-they are  fast approaching their own unique rock star status through their growing library of hook heavy, homegrown rock.  The music encompasses the rawness of blues and psychedelic basics.  Buffalo Killers play loud and unrestrained, free with a beauty and ease.  The trio recently added lap steel/guitarist Sven Kahn’s into the band this year.  The guys of the band knew Kahn’s for some time, with him filling in from time to time during shows, and playing in some during the recordings of their album, 3.

Music was always around when Zachary and Andy Gabbard were growing up in their home.  Along with hearing the classic records spin from Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and CSNY-their father would play some strung the guitar with friends, and co-workers after work.  When Zachary decided that he wanted to pick up playing on his own, he was given a bass because his father said that “guitar players are a dime a dozen.”  Andy started to play guitar at a young age as well, playing with a small Fender with a small neck.  Along with being taught by their father, Andy particularly would play along AC/DC records.

The Gabbard brothers formed their garage rock band Thee Shams in 1999, along with Sebaali, Max Bender, and Keith Fox.  Thee Shams released four albums on four record labels, and toured extensively.  The toll of the touring and recording took a toll on the band, and the band broke up in 2005.  “It became where we were obviously the three guys (Zachary, Andy, and Sebaali) that were committed to this project,” Gabbard explained.  “Us three were ready to go-that’s all we wanted to do.  So when it started to slow down, we just say let’s start over.”

The newly formed trio of Buffalo Killers quickly picked up where their previous band left off.  They started to gain followers everywhere they went, and even caught the eye of the folks over at Alive Records.  The record label received the five-song demo that Zachary sent out to several other labels.  It took less than a week for Alive to call the band to sign them.  The first album under the label helped Buffalo Killers obtain the opportunity to go play a string of shows with The Black Crowes in 2007.  When they returned from touring with The Black Crowes, the band went to work on their second album, Let It Ride, with Black Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach serving as producer.  With their time being under the Alive Records name, Buffalo Killers would go on to release three more albums: 3 (2011), Dig. Sow. Love. Grow. (2012), and the 2013 Record Store Day only release of Ohio Grass.

This past year, Buffalo Killers made the move over to Sun Pedal Records, and subdivision of Warner Bros.   The goal to move on from Alive wasn’t part of the plan because the band were happy being with them.  The people from Sun Pedal started showing up at the shows more.  Conversations began to become more and more frequent, to which the decision was made to make the move.  “Alive was super good to us,” Gabbard says.  “It just worked out.  They were into doing the record, and making it come out fast.  With them having distribution through Warner Bros., we all knew that the records could get out there more.  Alive were supportive, and helped us get the deal done with Sun Pedal.  It was good for everyone.”

While working on the direction and vision of producer Jim Wirt (Fiona Apple, Incubus),Heavy Reverie and their second release this year Fireball of Sulk have given Buffalo Killers a more cleaner sound while maintain their hard rocking ways and reducing the overdubs being used.  While both Gabbard brothers would rely on each other with the vocals, and self-produce most of the albums, working with Wirt also helped the band get out of their comfort zone.  “We were open to anything,” Gabbard says.  “Jim captured it well.”  The making of Fireball of Sulk was documented with a camera crew and photographers to release in relation with the record.  The filming included learning the songs to recording them, which allows their fans and others to take a peek into the process of making the album.

When it’s all said and done, 2014 will be remembered to being some kind of year for Buffalo Killers.  Under the Sun Pedal name, they have been getting more exposure, including being in a segment on Last Call with Carson Daly this summer when they on the West Coast.  “Ah man, that was a big deal for us,” Gabbard gleefully mentions.  “My kids think it’s the biggest thing in the world.”

The band also have a new place to practice, Zachary’s home in the country outside of Dayton and Cincinnati.  “We can get as loud as we want out there,” Gabbard says.

Something that bearded fellas of Buffalo Killers have no problem doing.

Art Jipson: Still Teaching Us After 10 Years Being On-Air

Art JipsonIt’s another Tuesday afternoon, and that means University of Dayton students, along with devoted followers, have their radio dials locked onto  the  college station WUDR 98.1/99.5 FM and Flyer Radio online.  Between the hours of 3-6pm in the WUDR Studios at ArtStreet on the University  of  Dayton, the animated and jovial voice of Art Jipson (aka his radio persona Dr. J) graces the airwaves as they spin music from local and  national  bands and artists.  Jipson wears multiple hats in his role with the university-Director of Criminal Justice Studies Program, professor,  coordinator  of the Self and Community in the 21st Century Learning and Living Community.

However-the show, titled “Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative”, offers much more than most imagine.  Ten years later, the show continues to be one of the premier staples that features music to the community.

The love for music began for Jipson when he was growing up in the western central part of Minnesota.  His folks were heavy into music from all corners.  Jipson’s father was a fan of country and Elvis, while his mom was a Californian who adored The Byrds, early Linda Ronstadt.  In his teens, he was listening to music what he called “terrible pop radio”, and was wanting more.  One day, Jipson’s wish came true.  “I am listening to the worst of the 70s music, and my cousin Steve introduces me to Kiss’ Alive, and I am changed.  Another cousin introduces me to Iggy and the Stooges.  It’s all gone from there,” he added.

Jipson began to dig deeper and deeper in different genres.  Jipson recalls collecting albums from Television, Patty Smith.  He talked about diving into punk rock, and getting in trouble in school because of it.  Due to where he was living at the time, Jipson says that he had to travel farther than most to catch live music.  “When I wanted to go see shows, I had to drive 3 and a half hours to get to Minneapolis.  I would drive 3 or 4 hours to see The Replacements, and wait in line.”  Jipson’s passion for music allowed him to discover more than he could ever imagine.

In 1988, Jipson received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Science from the University of Minnesota.  He also received his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Sociology, Criminology, and Social Theory from Bowling Green State University.  When he was at BGSU, Jipson was the last grad student to study with Ron Denisoff, who wrote the definitive autobiography on Waylon Jennings, which was published in the 80s.  Denisoff was among the first generation of sociologists who took music seriously as part of culture, not just musicology alone.

In 2001, Jipson arrived at the University of Dayton after teaching in Miami University for several years.  One of the goals he wanted to achieve when he arrived on campus was to connect to the city.  He started doing projects where his students would work with various schools and literacy programs in Dayton.  He created a pop culture class that is now in the Sociology department.  “We talk about the history of popular music,” Jipson says when describing what the class entails.  “I take them back to the 1910s, and work my way from turn of the century all the way up to the present.  It’s a fun class, and we all learn from each other.”

With only so much that Jipson could do within the class with the sociology of popular music and culture, he wanted to do more.  He envisioned what he could do to have his students understand more about the depth of music, and even more so that is being made in their backyard.  It was then that Jipson began his weekly radio show, which debuted in November 2004.

When you sit down with Jipson, you immediately see that his excitement that comes off on-air isn’t something that is produced or fake.  There is no possibility that it can be.  When you listen to him talk, you get just as excited about the topic you are discussing.  Jipson comes off as a real life John Keating from the movie Dead Poets Society.  You could only imagine the methods that Jipson uses to reach his students.  Encouraging them to seize life, and become enchanted with the city that they are living in.

The show has grown over the years.  During the early days, the show was called “School of Rock with Dr. J”.  Jipson centered the show with a focus on connections with music and bands.  He incorporated some musicology, sociology, and psychology.  After a couple of years, Jipson’s wife, Tracey (aka to listeners as Mrs. Dr. J), joined the show full-time after she was mostly calling in and suggest music.  The format also was modified.  The music that is played on the show started to shift towards  mostly local music around that year, with also playing music regionally and nationally, ranging from new to older songs.

Ten years have magically come and gone, and there are no plans for Art and Tracey to slow down.  They are hoping to eventually have the show more accessible after the original airing.  For now, they will continue to come to the airwaves every Tuesday, and provide all of their listeners with great music, CD reviews, upcoming show announcements, interviews, and so much more.  Lessons are being taught to all of us, indirectly.

There is not a doubt that we are all standing on our tables in unison, staring straight down at Art Jipson, Dayton’s own music professor.

One by one, we say to him, “O Captain, my Captain”.

Western Sky: Dorsie Fyffe Comes Full Circle

Dorsie_Courtyard2The story that is Dorsie Fyffe’s life has seen the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows.  Each page of his existence that has  been written is chock-full of experiences that have molded him into the person that he is today.

Fyffe will be releasing his new limited edition 7-inch single featuring the original song “Western Sky,” Dayton.  The single is a tour  de force of shimmery guitar, driving bassline and traditional country beat.  Another single being released this Saturday will also  contain a version of “Amazing Grace”, which was recorded live at the historic Ryman Theatre in Nashville.  Fyffe has more music  already recorded, and plans to release it as a vinyl series.  The next 7 inch will be released in July.  Each year, Fyffe plans to release  two limited edition 7 inch will include something special.

Fyffe was one of the faces of the burgeoning music scene in Dayton during the 90s.  He worked as a DJ and music director for the  influential WOXY-FM (“97X”) that was beloved in the area for their role in playing alternative and independent music.  Fyffe was  nominated by Billboard magazine for its “Music Director of the Year” award when working at the station.  At the time Fyffe was working at WOXY-FM, he also began singing in the local Dayton band Johnny Smoke.  The country-punk band saw some success, releasing three cassettes, a 2-song vinyl 45, and a well-reviewed full-length CD, Launcher.

In 1997, Fyffe decided that he needed to pack his bags and move out of the Dayton and move to Cincinnati.  He talk during our recent phone conversation that he needed to get out of the scene during that time.  At the time, Fyffe was living in Dayton with rockers Tim Taylor of Brainiac and Dave Doughman of Swearing at Motorists.  Taylor famously was killed early in May that year when he lost control of his new Mercedes and slammed into a fire hydrant.  The death of not only his roommate/dear friend, along with a female made Fyffe reevaluate some things.

“We lived at the rock house on Main, which was kinda party century for everyone,” Fyffe explained.  “It got to the point where I just wanted to get back to normal.”

Fyffe continued commuting up to Dayton when he was playing in Johnny Smoke.  In 2000, the final show of Johnny Smoke was held in Dayton, and Fyffe began moving around.  In twelve years, Fyffe moved to San Francisco, Seattle, and Kansas City in hopes to find musicians that would fit into his stripped down sound.  Each stop hold some significance to Fyffe.  When talked about living in San Francisco, Fyffe talked about working at Tower Records, and how beautiful the city was.  “Even a rainy day isn’t a bad day in San Francisco”, Fyffe says.  When living in Kansas City, Fyffe experienced some unfortunate events that eventually led him to reconsider even playing music.

Fyffe’s music was starting to generate some buzz not only around the Kansas City area, but in national publications like the bi-monthly magazine No Depression. Bloodshot Records artists and other alt-country music forums.  After releasing the 45 which included singles “Backseat” and “Open Relationship” in 2011, Fyffe and his band filled in for John Doe from the punk band X at a record store day event in Lawrence, Kansas.  While prepping for a 10-day East Coast tour with alt-country singer Lydia Loveless, a series of unfortunate events started to snowball downhill.

“When I get back from Kansas City with all of my stuff, and the drummer says that he couldn’t do the tour.  The bassist wasn’t returning any of my phone calls.  It’s five days before going on tour, and I have to make a decision,” Fyffe explains.  “Apparently we aren’t going on tour, I have $4000 sitting over, and call Lydia Loveless’ manager and explain that bassist isn’t calling me back.  I’m starting to sweat, and mentioned that maybe we should cancel the tour.”

The canceling of the tour led him to move to where he is now-Austin, Texas.  Fyffe took a hiatus from music, trying to even come to grips of what happened in Kansas City.  He saw his opportunity to further his music quickly burn out.  However, Fyffe won’t go down that quietly.  He decided to make his shows more of an event.  His trip to Dayton will be only the 20th show in twelve years.  However, Fyffe scuffs out the thought that he should have been playing more.  “

While he has enjoyed living in Austin, he will be moving Los Angeles in April.  “All of the moves have been basically directly or indirectly involved trying to make music,” Fyffe says.  The move will also allow him to be closer to a dear friend of his, ex-Dayton Daily News writer Sara Baker Farr.  The two met when Baker was writing about the final show of Johnny Smoke in Dayton.

“We lost touch for a while, as I wound up moving to Chicago and then out to Los Angeles in 2006,” Farr said during an exchange of emails.  “Dorsie found me somehow and we reconnected. He started sending me some of the songs he’d been working on, and they were really good. His voice had gotten even stronger, and his songwriting was even better. The songs resonated. They had depth. They had soul. They were personal, but universal. They were an expression of where he was at, both as a songwriter and a man.”  Farr is currently working on a book that will feature Fyffe’s life.  “I asked Dorsie what he thought about the idea of a book. There was a pause — the kind that makes you wonder if you’ve lost your bloody mind and your grandiose scheme is going to crash and burn around you — and then he said that he’d love to do it,” Farr says.

The story that is Dorsie Fyffe’s life has seen the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows.  Each chapter that has been written is chalk full of experiences that have molded him into the person that he is today.  The moments that have led him up to this day have all played a part in the setting up the next one.  When talking to Farr about Fyffe, she summed up perfectly.

“Dorsie’s story is not only a personal history for him, nor is it just a glimpse into a time when Dayton was really on the precipice of something musically. It reaches beyond that, I think, and is about what it means to try and follow your dream despite almost ridiculous odds and one struggle after another. And to keep making these great songs during all of it? Well, there’s the hook – it’s a classic American country-rock story.”

On November 1st, Fyffe reunited with some friends that he hasn’t seen since that night in left Dayton.  He took the stage, and surely felt those feelings like he once had when he played in the local venues.  The release of the vinyl singles was in correlation with the holiday Dia de los Muertos, as he will be celebrating the life of friends that have passed, including Taylor.  As he blazed through his set, which included a Johnny Smoke song to close the set, the days of his music days haven’t sounded any better.  He danced around the stage as if it was his first all over again.

“I want to make my shows an event, because you really don’t see that much anymore,” Fyffe mentioned.

Fyffe returned home to start a new chapter of his life.  It’s only fitting that he decided that would be here in Dayton.  It’s where it all began.

It’s where it will begin…again.

To purchase the limited edition single, and to hear some of Dorsie Fyffe’s music, click on his website:

Country Strong: An Interview with Mack McKenzie

Mack McKenzie
(Photo courtesy: Jennifer Clarke)

Aaron McKenzie slowly inhales a drag off his cigarette on the front patio area at Toxic Brew Company on a chilly September evening  and exhales.  Wearing a simple black t-shirt and blue jeans, he quietly looks onward.  He watches the people walking around the  Oregon Express, heading to and from several of the establishments in the small area.  When he finishes his cigarette, we walk back  into the bar and take a seat.  It’s a quiet night in the brewery, but begins to pick up.  Sitting next to the stool is McKenzie’s guitar  inside a black, leather case.

Music has been present throughout McKenzie’s life.  On most Saturday nights, some of McKenzie’s family would all congregate over  to his grandparents’ home.  While sitting at the large table in the kitchen, a group of friends and his grandparents would play music  till the late hours of the night.

“They would bounce songs off one another as they sat there playing,” McKenzie says.  “There will be somebody playing fiddle.  There  will be somebody would be bass.  Like five or six guitars.”

At the age of twelve, McKenzie himself picked up the guitar after exploring classic rock-mainly Clapton.  “I got this resource with my  grandparents, so I grabbed my grandfather’s guitar and they showed me a few chords,” he explained.  On those Saturday evenings  with everyone being over, McKenzie would sit in and try to play with them.


Xenia, Ohio is where McKenzie first called home.  After his father passed at the age of eight, he lived with his mother till he reached his teens.  After some time residing with his grandparents, McKenzie moved in with some older guys when he was seventeen.  Living with the roommates that according to McKenzie were all about “hell raising and beer drinking”, he got pass high school barely.  It wasn’t due to his grades, he passed his courses with flying colors. His job which was third shift, along with attention span to actually go and spend the whole day there, almost got him.

“I was actually told by a guidance counselor that I was cheating the system, and that it wasn’t fair for other students,” McKenzie says.  “I said ‘It’s not my problem that I can show up two days a week and get enough grades to pass.’”     When high school was coming to a close, McKenzie needed to figure out what was going to be next.  McKenzie decided to follow a list of family members that included his grandfather (whom fought in the Korean War) and great-grandfather (World War I) and joined the United States Army.

From 2006-2010, McKenzie’s time in the Army included being stationed in Fort Campbell, working in the intelligence department and doing a tour in Afghanistan.  During his stint in Afghanistan, McKenzie explained about how depending on your situation and position, the adjustment to life was hard to grasp.  A simple thing like falling asleep at night, for example, loomed with uncertainty due to what was transpiring.

“We were on this base, and out of the blue you hear these sirens going off.  A mortar was coming in, and hit somebody’s wooden shacks.  In the beginning, you are deeply disturbed.  After a while, you get used to it,” McKenzie says.

Luckily for McKenzie, he was able to get out of his military duties four months early.  When he left the Army, he took a position that landed him in Qatar for a year.  McKenzie would take another position in Washington, D.C. that allowed him to travel.  He enjoyed experiencing seeing the sights and sounds of his voyages, including the opportunity of witnessing the international cricket tournament Asia Cup.  The fatigue of never being home eventually got to him, and he needed a change.

“The job I had down there (in Washington, D.C.), I was in a hotel over 120 days a year,” McKenzie says.  “I knew I wanted to end up back here.”  Before McKenzie, he bought a Martin guitar and started slowly writing songs.

“I told myself, ‘Alright-if I buy this thing, I got to start writing more.  I least got to it a shot.’” McKenzie says.  He wrote some music when he was in bands in his younger days.  McKenzie explained that now being older, he could appreciate music better, craft better material.  He began playing his music to friends at parties, and even started recording some.  When he moved back to the Dayton area-he continued to hone his songs.  Finally, when eating at Dublin Pub one night, he asked if they had an open mic night at the establishment.

“I came back the next night, and it was probably the worst performance of my life,” McKenzie jokingly said.  “But I kept at it, and kept at it.  It was really a confidence building thing.  It’s a different vulnerability in getting up there and singing your songs.”


Mack McKenzie 2
(Photo courtesy: Jennifer Clarke)

Going under the moniker Mack McKenzie, the recording of his debut album, is now complete.  Drawing inspiration from his favorite country singer, Sturgill Simpson and musicians from the days of old, McKenzie went in the studio with a goal in mind.  He wanted to record an album that went back to the roots of when country music was heavily influenced with bluegrass and folk.  Expect the blend of soft ballads, acoustic guitar, steel guitar, drums, and keyboards to be present in the album.  McKenzie hopes to change people views on how his music is totally opposite from the mainstream country music that is made today.

“When it comes down to it, Garth Brooks was the turn of country music changing,” explains McKenzie.  “Before him, you had guys like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.  They wrote some of the best songs-so simply written, but they convey so much.  Garth Brooks comes, and takes it from a regular concert from to an extravagant show.  It was an experience.  So, after that, it became more about the look and more about the show than it did about the music.”

Nights like tonight, telling stories like the one with his attempt to play along with his family over a few beers, are a rarity these days for McKenzie.  Being in the middle of the hustle and bustle that city life offers isn’t too appealing to him like it once was.  McKenzie’s budding musical career does allow him to come to town.  As he refers to himself as a “homebody”, McKenzie doesn’t come out much.  He just prefers quiet evenings staying in his home, which is located in the country a little north from the outskirts of Dayton.

“Volume has turned way down,” he says.

As McKenzie slowly finishes drinking one of the brews that are glistening inside the clear glasses at Toxic, there is a calm, even-tempered look casted upon his face.  He has plans on walking over to Ned Peppers as soon as we are done, and performing at the open mic night.  He knows that it’s a long road ahead.

At least he will have plenty of material to write about.

To hear some of Mack McKenzie’s music, go to his Reverbnation site:

Slaying The Dragon; An Interview With Tommy and Liz Hanley of Frogbelly and Symphony

Frogbelly (1)Frogbelly and Symphony performances are a marvel to witness. The unexpected moments that are incorporated in their live shows are what keeps the band fresh and exciting when seeing them live. During most of their shows, they will incorporate the audience. Guitarist of the band Ben Trott relived a moment during one impromptu show that involved having the crowd walk outside of the bookstore the band was playing at and sing in unison a Beatles song.

Take another example-a past show that was performed at in the lower east of Manhattan, New York. In the crowd, local actors and actresses, along with people who intensely involved within the art community hanging around, making up most of the audience. As Frogbelly and Symphony begun prepping for the set, they saw some of the actors that they knew and asked them to come backstage. The band and the actors crafted up a story within a few minutes centering on a dragon that is needed to be slain. Whatever individual that brings down the dragon will be rewarded with having the honor of taking vocalist/keyboardist/violinist Liz Hanley’s hand in marriage.

As the set rolls on, the band announces to the crowd of spectators that they are the mayor of an imaginary city, and the large monster that processed serpentine or reptilian traits was needing to be killed. They then explained the reward for accomplishing the heroic act. Immediately, the actors started to set the story in motion.

“One guy was playing the dragon, and the other guys beating the shit out of him to the extent that the bouncer came in and thought it was real,” vocalist and bassist Tommy Hanley explained. “It was a little bit of a mayhem. Maybe a little bit over the top, but it did create a good moment.”

Frogbelly and Symphony have been bringing these types of theatrical rock show memories to audiences around the United States and the UK since their inception in 2011.

“We are inspired on our travels by something specific, and we think that we need to weave it in. Sometimes we spontaneously show up at a venue, and feel something on the spot,” Liz mentioned.

After Tommy Hanley met Liz (both are now married) in Hamburg, Germany when their bands were playing in the same bill one night, the duo wanted to start making music together.

“Our first show was in Berlin, and then we played some shows with some friends in England,” Liz says. “We scrambled to come up with a name…so we came up with the name Frogbelly and Symphony almost as a joke. And we just kept it.”

In the autumn of 2011, Liz and Tommy went to a folk session at a bar called “Trippets.” At the session, they met the bands guitarist Ben Trott. Trott has studied classical and jazz guitar in Sheffield, United Kingdom area and is an integral member of the traditional folk music scene in the UK. The threesome began exchanging music ideas, and soon started developing a strong connection musically.

After the trio started to write and compose music collectively, they packed up and traveled to New York City to work with producer Martin Bisi. Hanley first met Bisi several years ago through Philipp Caspar Frederick, and old friend/bandmate from a previous band also who fills in on drums, guitar, keys, and vocals for various shows. Frederick randomly ran into Bisi in first trip to New York one night. When Hanley was in town, Frederick introduced Hanley to Bisi. Once Frogbelly and Symphony started to pick up momentum, they sent Bisi a rough demo and inquired if he would be interested in the band-which he was immediately onboard.

Frogbelly and Symphony’s The Eye is a heart-pounding EP, which features progressive rock sound that echoes in folk landscapes. Beautifully arranged pop melodies, repetitive chants trickle throughout this gorgeously produced, experimental sounding disc. “Amour Fou”, the disc’s opener, starts with the clacking of the band’s regular drummer Ray Rizzo joining Hanley’s haunting bass line followed up by an intense explosion of alternative rock, and Liz Hanley’s erupting vocals. Brooding, echoing vocals make up the spacey “Sugar Castles.” Lyrically-the band influences on the intellectual works from John Clare, and Joseph Heller. The Eye was recorded in the Bisi’s infamous BC studio in Brooklyn, which has seen bands like Sonic Youth, Swans, Dresden Dolls pass by.

“He is the master of ceremony,” Tommy Henley gushingly says when talking about Bisi. “He really captures that energy…he is very skilled to catch the vibe of the band inside the studio.”

Liz Henley added, “He knows that room so well. He knows every inch of it. He knows where the sound bounces off, what amp works better in each corner, where the drums are brought off the best.”

Currently, the band have material already recorded to make it a full-length, which hopefully be released early 2015. A tour around the US and UK is also in the works. This means expect more improvised moments that will have the audience come into being part of the show.

(To hear a sneak peak of what’s in store for the new album, listen to “Patch Of Blue” here:

Found The Sound: An Interview With Andrew Henderson Of G. Green

G GreenSacramento-based group G. Green’s front man Andrew Henderson started recording music on his own during his senior year while living in Utah. When he moved to Sacramento after high school, he began catching some of the local acts at night. During the day, Henderson wrote and recorded what he loosely described was “noisy, blown-out indie rock”. His music started to get some spins on a local college radio station, catching the eye of folks within the music scene. When he got asked to perform in one of the local shows in the fall of 2009, he had developed an idea.

“I got asked to play, and I was thinking that I should get a band together and do something cool,” Henderson said. “It just like ‘Let’s just see what happens.’”

He recruited drummer Liz Liles, guitarists Michael Feerick and Rod Meyer. Henderson lightheartedly added when talking about assembling the band, “They were my closest friends, and they can play music. So I forced them to be in the band.”

The show was well received by all who attended. Afterwards, G. Green was asked to continue playing around town at other venues. Everyone was onboard with idea, and they continued to play up to eight to ten shows a month. They also went decided to go into the studio and recorded their debut Crap Culture.

Crap Culture features a towering range of distorted sound and unrestraint aftermath blaring through the speakers. The album is highlighted with the screeching vocals of Henderson. Thrashing around him are the fuzzed out chords being churned out from Feerick and Meyer, along with the aggressive drum play coming from Liles. Crap Culture heavily features lo-fi, wildly careening noise-punk from the uninhibited rockers.

However, Crap Culture’s release was delayed over a year. The group desperately tried to pitch it around to see if anyone would be interested in releasing it, and heard nothing in return. Finally, Henderson and crew turned to one of their friends, Mark Kaiser. Kaiser was formally in the hometown punk quartet Mayyors, which had a zealous following that included Henderson and Liles when they were younger. Liles was even in the Mayyors for a short period of time. Now, Kaiser currently runs his own indie label-Mt. St. Mtn.

This past August, G. Green released their latest album, Area Codes. Guitarist Mike Morales and bassist Simi Sohota joined Henderson and Liles a little over three years ago when Feerick and Meyer decided to leave the band. With the understanding that the group wasn’t really locked in and as the release of Crap Culture approached, Henderson and Liles were wanting to become more serious with G. Green. They looked for others that would be on the same page as them. Morales and Sohota were down for the challenge, and started touring with Henderson and Liles.

Area Codes, also released by Mt. St. Mtn, features a more focused, better seasoned band than what’s heard on the first album. Produced by Chris Woodhouse (also formally from Mayyors), the band’s newest opus also highlights a more unified bunch. In Area Codes, Henderson and the rest of the group collaborated on the lyrics. You also get some of the original howling vocals Henderson is famous, but they’re now time tested. G. Green still pushes the boundaries with their punk angst and lawful unruliness as they dive into the topics of bad sex, drugs, heartbreak, and the overall frustrations of life.

“For what I can recall with the recording of Crap Culture, it was pretty haphazard. I had all these songs that I written, and we knew how they went. But, we couldn’t put it into words what we wanted it to sound like,” Henderson explains when asked what he thinks the differences are between albums. “With the new album, we took the time with this set of songs to hone them and find the sound.”

The opportunity of working with Woodhouse was sought after before Area Codes, according to Henderson.

“We knew we had the best material, and we wanted to make a good document of that. What Woodhouse is the best at doing is capturing what you sound like live, and very well” Henderson said. “That’s what we do best. We played these all of these songs a million times on the road, and it seemed like the best idea to have Woodhouse document that.”

As the band continues to get ready for more touring, and prepping for another album (hopefully being released next year), Henderson mentions the band’s 2012 release of Crap Culture has become a distant memory.

“I haven’t listened to it in the past two to three years,” Henderson revealed. “We haven’t played anything from that album in the last two, three years.”

Daytonpoolza!: Dayton Music Fest 10 Years Strong


Dayton Music Fest organizers Don Thrasher and Kyle Melton take a seat with me in the patio area at South Park Tavern.  While we  are sitting at our table, an influx of people come and go throughout the duration of the early evening.  It’s mostly due to the  establishment’s half off priced pizza promotion that they are running that evening.  For some others, they have chosen to stick  around and settle in the covered patio.  Those same individuals are also taking full advantage of the fall weather and the terrific  selection of craft beers that are waiting on tap.

Since the end of May, the duo listened to 60-100 demos of submitted music from bands that wanted a chance to be selected.  Now  the final preparations are underway.  The duo are in the middle of a press junket, including a couple of radio spots and our  meeting.  Melton and Thrasher have also been preparing for their set in the music event with their band, Smug Brothers and  currently run the indie label Gas Daddy Go.  While sipping on a beer, Thrasher and Melton talk about some of the acts that will be  taking the stage.

“Have you had the chance of checking out Manray yet?  Definitely check them out,” Thrasher mentions.  “Also don’t miss out on catching Dead Rider.  They love playing here in Dayton, so we are thrilled to have them coming and playing in town.”

Dayton’s music scene has seen some bands get included in the national spotlight.  You have Kelley and Kim Deal’s alternative rock band The Breeders see their hometown success sky rocket in the 90s to become indie legends.  You have the recently split lo-fi rockers Guided By Voices, led by the one and only Robert Pollard, blaze through with their endless releases of new material.  You also can’t forget the past local bands Enon, Swearing At Motorists, and Brainiac who left their imprint on the music scene in Dayton.  With the widespread talent circling around the area, it would be difficult to not have an event like Dayton Music Fest.  It’s a celebration of the melting pot that is the music that surrounds the city.

In 2004, Dan Clayton, Andy Ingram, and Shawn Johnson felt that the national scene wasn’t giving the Dayton area the appreciation that it once did.  Johnson and Clayton threw out the idea that Dayton needed a showcase the burgeoning music scene.  The duo quickly went to work on setting up the bands and locations for the shows to be at.  They then recruited Ingram to create the posters and flyers.  No one knew exactly how it was going to turn out, but they felt that it was needed to be done.

Now it’s 10th year, the Dayton Music Fest has become one of the highly anticipated and heavily attended events in the area DMF 2014each fall.  Individuals from all corners of life will be able to seize an opportunity to come out and partake in the celebrated music scene.  Festival goers will fully consume all of the special, unforgettable performances, along with some surprises.

As soon as the final band finishes up their set Saturday night (Motel Beds at Blind Bob’s), both Melton and Thrasher will be no longer curate the event.

“We were at practice Sunday night, and afterwards we looked at each other and said, “You done after this one?”.  We shook our head in agreement,” Thrasher explains when the decision was made to call it a day.

Besides increasing the visibility by scheduling some of the selected bands and artists to perform at The Midwest Outdoor Experience, which is one of the largest festivals in the Midwest.  This past April, Melton and Thrasher had a kickoff event for the Dayton Music Fest with a special concert-the Buffalo Killers performed with a backing choir at the Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton, 20 W. First Street.  You can get the DMF mobile app, where you can rank and follow the bands with Q&A posts.

The duo has handpicked local band’s Speaking Suns bassist Conor Stratton to take over the reins.  “We think that he is going to be great,” Thrasher says.  “He manages the band, and runs his record label (Great Guys Records).  He’s already been calling some people and is getting a team together.”  As for Melton and Thrasher?  They will continue to play in Smug Brothers and prep some upcoming releases with Gas Daddy Go.

While it will be tough for Melton and Thrasher to no longer coordinating the yearly festival, they have no regrets on ending their run.

“We wanted to give someone else a chance to do it, and make it even better,” Melton says.  “We did some great things to make the festival better.  Five years is a great run.”

A run that deserves a toast while sitting in the patio at South Park Tavern.

Meg Renee: Troy’s Music “Dream”er

Meg ReneeThis past May, Meg Renee released her first album, Dream Awake.  While sitting inside the Winan’s Chocolates and Coffee located  in the heart of downtown Troy, Ohio, I asked singer/songwriter Meg Renee a simple question.  A question that I thought would be  probably be one of the easiest to answer for her.  A question that most musicians get immediately.  I questioned her on when she  realized that she wanted to go into music.

Her response?

“I honestly don’t know,” Renee replied with a giggle.

That’s it.  Nothing more.

At a time when people that when teenagers, like Renee, are slowly turning the corner on maybe knowing what they want to do, she  was already ahead of the curve.

Renee claims that there was no “a-ha” moment when she discovered she wanted to be in music.  She maintains didn’t she have the switch flipped to the opposite end, and have the light bulb flicker on that’s above all of our heads.

She just simply couldn’t tell me as we sat there in that small coffee shop.

Regardless of what she says on what knowing when the opportunity struck her, Renee started to show signs that a career in music was inevitable early in her life.  At the age of six, Renee and her friend would hang out the house and sing Brittany Spears songs, and talk about maybe one day forming an all-girl band.  They would write songs that they would hope to one day be able to play in front of an audience.  Renee would also write and create stories with stickers that incorporated with them, along with poetry on the side.

It was at age nine when Renee started learning how to play the guitar.  Renee’s father, who also was a musician years ago when he would perform in a country band, began instructing her and then she followed it up by taking lessons at Sound City Music in town.  After a while, Renee wanted to separate herself away from other musician’s songs and try to work on some of her own.  “I wanted to try to teach myself a little bit.  I felt like I got a lot of skills from it (taking lessons) and it was time to make myself practice on my own stuff,” Renee said.

During one of her music classes when she was in the sixth grade, the teacher requested that each of the students write down a musical goal for themselves to obtain that year.  Renee’s goal was to fill a notebook that she brought to class full of songs that she wrote.  It was then that she fully understood that her aspiration to become a musician was more than just a silly fantasy.  It was going to become her life.  Her purpose.

Maybe there was the “a-ha” moment after all, I sheepishly said to myself.

Renee’s first gig was at the age of thirteen when she opened for a band that was slated to play at the recreational center in town.  The organizer of the show was impressed with Renee, and helped her get into some other events.  She sang in the local church that she attended, and was in some talent shows.  She has also participated in Miami County Fair, Troy Strawberry Festival, Rohs Café in Cincinnati, 2nd Street Market in Dayton, Courthouse Square in Dayton, Miami Vallley Music Festival, Holiday at Home Show, Brandeberry Winery among others.

In the beginning of January, Renee went into the studio to record Dream Awake in Popside Recording, located in Troy.  Being recommended to go and record, Renee worked with engineer/producer, and guitarist for Hawthorne Heights Micah Carli.  “I was very nervous going in,” Renee says when describing the first day of recording.  “You are taking your songs and that’s your baby, and they said, “Let us help you with it.””  Along with Renee singing and playing rhythm guitar, Cali recruited some others to help record the other instruments while he played on lead guitar.

The album begins with the terrific, country-influenced “Calloused Wings”, and is followed by the jazzy “Chase Me Through The Streets”.  Much like the playful song “Crazy”, Dream Awake captures the softness of Renee’s vocals, following her influences of Brandi Carlisle and Regina Spektor.

After high school, Renee mentioned that she would like to move to Nashville.  She has her eyes focused on attending Belmont University, though she is still looking at some other schools.  She visited the campus last summer, and soon started to adore the city of Nashville-where the school is located.  She became fond of the possibilities of advancing her music career there.  “I love the music there,” Renee explains with a twinkle in her eye the minute she begins talking about the city.  Also as an added bonus-there is a songwriting major there.

With her focus squaring straight up on being a better singer/songwriter, there are times when Renee misses out on being a typical teenager.  Most of her weekends consist of gigs, while sometimes the occasional dance is not going to be attended.  However, the music comes first for her.  Renee is hopefully that when she arrives in Nashville, and gets settled-she would like to set up a band.

First things first, though-Renee’s high school football team has a home game that she is going to.  “I am going to be painting faces and hang out with my friends.”  Across from the coffee shop where we sat at, The Fries Band are setting up on the stage as part of The Summer Music Concert Series.  The Fries Band play of popular and obscure cover songs from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. They blend their complex vocal harmonies driven by acoustic guitars with keyboards, bass, and drums to re-create very distinctive musical arrangements of bands like Crosby Stills Nash & Young, America, The Beatles, Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, etc.  Renee takes a peak to see the band setting up outside the window.

You just know that she would love to be the one setting up to be playing.

Dip Spit: Return of the Fist

(Photo By: Jennifer Clarke)

The crowd begins to form once again around the main stage during this year’s ninth Dayton Sideshow at the Yellow Cab Building, located on 4th Street this past May.  It was the second and last day of the yearly art event, and already those who have been in attendance have observed some of the unlimited talent of the artists that reside in the Dayton community.  Throughout the weekend, over 40 bands and artists will have performed on the three stages. It was getting  later in the evening when the individuals of the hybrid collection of punk/rap Dip Spit made their way towards the  platform.

Dip Spit, who is made by members Dip Spit, DJ Dumptruck (both of their real names have been asked to be kept secret),  and Greg Schultz on congas, frantically begin to set up on the stage with their instruments, and also begin setting up what  appeared to be a projection screen.  This will be one of their biggest shows to date, and all eyes will be on them for the next 40 minutes.  Pressure is on as they have one shot.  Artists and bands that have performed in previous Sideshow’s have gone on and experience a little bump in booked shows and increased exposure in town.  To be asked to perform at Sideshow is truly an honor to many.

For Dip Spit-their moment is now.

The set begins with the projector behind the group displaying grainy, chopped clips of video, and the trio erupts into their set.  Those who are being witnesses of the group are watching Dip shouting out the lyrics with bravado and swagger, while Dumptruck shouts himself hoarse into the megaphone.  Schultz is behind the duo slapping the tops of the congas, moving feverishly side to side.  Towards the end of the set, the band’s presence started to immediately took the crowd by storm, and the talk started to build.  The show was a hardcore, hyper display of old school rap influence and bizarre video montages.  The crowd loved every minute of it.


Before the set at Sideshow, before the beginnings of the duo taking their first steps into the world of music-Dip and Dumptruck first met during English classes while they attended Wright State University.  They bonded with one another over Dip’s love for poetry and Dumptruck’s passion for obscure music.  After college, Dip moved to Chicago to further pursue his love for poetry.  He would show up to poetry slams that were set up throughout the city, and constantly be in awe over some of the work that was being done.  He even threw some of his work out there at the slams, mixing in his fondness for rap.  Dip would immerse himself into the underground scene, along with groups like Run DMC and Beastie Boys.

For Dumptruck, his days after college included hanging around-stringing together a succession of jobs, and producing music that wouldn’t ever make it out to the masses-just for him and his enjoyment.  At one point, Dumptruck taught some improv with a group at the Ohio Renaissance Festival.  When he was teaching at the festival, Dumptruck incorporated a musical component with his class.

When the group lost one of its members, Dumptruck heard that Dip had returned back to the Dayton area.  The hustle of the big city, and trying to progress his career in the poetry world didn’t really appeal to Dip like it once did when he was younger.  Dumptruck got a hold of Dip and asked if he would fill in the spot of the group.  The new look Renaissance set cut an album in their time together, to which Dumptruck explained that will never be released.  However, it did start to get the two friends to start really thinking about establishing something.  Dumptruck began sending Dip beats that he would put together, and Dip would start adding lyrics to them.  At first, the partnership was primarily just to give each other a good laugh.  “I would go to my car during breaks, and leave voicemails of these ridiculous lyrics,” Dumptruck told me when I first met him back in last October.  Dip added, “He also sent me these beats that were incredible.  I just sat there at times trying to think on how I could add lyrics to them.”

(Photo By: Jennifer Clarke)
(Photo By: Jennifer Clarke)

Privately, the twosome really didn’t foresee where they would  bereleasing any of their work.  They just made music for their own amusement and joy. It would be another four years before they decided to go public.  The duo mentioned back in October of last year that it was in part due to having some nervousness and a little trepidation of releasing their music.  However, the twosome really started to recognize that they had something and it wouldn’t hurt to slowly creep into the outside and play the music live.  They began performing at the now non-operational RnR Playdate.  The duo proudly attest that it was that weekly open mic where they became comfortable playing live in front of an audience.  The event also gave them confidence and a place where they could experiment and perfect their music.  They handed out bootlegs of some of their music before officially releasing Fight Music for Boot & Fist last October.  The album release of Fight Music for Boot & Fist boosted the duo’s presence within the musical landscape around the area.  Soon artists and bands began contacting Dip Spit-wanting to work with them.  Dip Spit and Dumptruck’s collection of outrageous, profanity-laced, sexual innuendo-filled songs became classic to those who have listened to the album.  A small cult-following started to build with fans of the band’s “potty rap”.

The time honing their stage presence at RnR Playdate led Dip Spit to meet Schultz and include him into the band.  After exploring playing the trumpet in high school to obtaining a drum kit when he graduated, Schultz settled down and joined some of his friend’s alt-punk group titled Unsung playing the bongos and congas.  Two years later, Schultz jumped over to join the band Oxymoronatron, and performed with them for 10 years.  Calling it “sitting in the corner of my bedroom for about eight or nine years”-Schultz responded to a post on Facebook from musician Jay Madewell.  “Jay wrote ‘I need a conga player for a thing that we are doing on Thursdays at One Eyed Jacks called Thank God It’s Thursday’,” Schultz explained.  “We knew each other from booking in town throughout the years, so I jumped in.  Been full-time ever since.”


(Photo By:  Jennifer Clarke)
(Photo By: Jennifer Clarke)

A couple of months have passed since that blistering set was performed at Dayton Sideshow.  The set was well received by those who were witness, and are now success slowly build.  In September, Dip Spit will be part of a split album with local punk band Duderus that will be released.  The concept of the split album came about when Dustie Pitstick, who is front man for Duderus, asked the band to perform in front of his shop ReCreate Music in the Oregon District during Record Store Day.  “We were running up and down the street.  Greg has his congas out there, jumping all around.  We had bystanders hanging out of the windows singing with Dumptruck.  It was awesome,” Dip Spit recalls.  Pitstick and the trio of Dip Spit after that appearance began getting the split album put together.

The trio are huddled together, coordinating the final details on their upcoming music video shoot that was planned in the next few days.  The details were beginning to start to take shape as what the band was going to be doing.  Dumptruck brings out a piece of paper that contains notes and possible concepts on what they should do with the video.

Never did the trio of Dip Spit ever envision getting to this point with their music-playing live shows, recording music with other musicians and bands, and having people enjoy their music.  The past couple of years have simply been a whirlwind for Dip Spit.  “This thing is way bigger than it was ever planned to be,” Dumptruck says.  “I think all three of us, especially before Greg joined the band, thought that this was a flash in the pan, funny, open mic-type presentation.  All of this is silly and awesome.”  Dip Spit added, “I am just glad that it is where it is.”


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