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:  http://www.dorsiefyffe.com/.

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:  http://www.reverbnation.com/mackmckenzie.

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: https://soundcloud.com/frogbellyandsymphony-1/patch-of-blue-new-album-preview.)

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

(Manray)
(Manray)

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

DipSpit
(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.”

The Mitchells: Coming Over To Visit Dayton

The MitchellsJoseph William Mitchell, Marc Aiello, Carlos Mitchell, Nick Mavridoglou-who make up the Cincinnati band The Mitchells-have been in their share of bands.  When the foursome joined together to make up the current group, they all  vowed that they wanted to make this special.  They grew tired and unhappy with making music that they weren’t happy  with it.  “You just always know where you missed…you were slow on the beat, you didn’t rushed it just to get it to a point  that worked.  At the end of the day, you have all these albums that you are genuinely are unhappy with,” guitarist and  lead singer for The Mitchells’ Joseph Mitchell says.  “As a musician, you start to think what I’m leaving behind a legacy.    You want something to be proud of.”

The Mitchells released their first EP in November 2012.  Earlier that year, the band formed when Joseph and Carlos  started developing the desire to expand their sound.  Playing around establishments like the classic Arnold’s in the  summer, Joseph and Carlos enlisted Mavridoglou and Aiello to join them.  Bird Feather was a fantastic introduction to  the music scene for The Mitchells -highlighting gorgeous violin and cello play, rich harmonies, soft vocals.  It was well-  received to the point that the organizers of the annual Bunbury Music Festival and the MidPoint Music Festival added  The Mitchells to the lineups in 2013, and the band had a successful Midwest tour.

When the band returned from their tour, there was some talk of rushing and getting another album out.  After some  discussion amongst the band, they all realized that by speeding up the process and getting something out, it wouldn’t be in the best interest for them.  They felt that by releasing it quickly, it wouldn’t be as satisfying.   “A lot of times you kind of want to record something to show people what you have.  We already had the EP out there.  We felt it would be better for the LP to really take our time with it,” Mitchell said.

The Mitchells went on to record the LP in Lebanon at All Nighter Studio, the album’s engineer’s Tommy Cappell and Aiello’s studios.  The Mitchells also wanted to release the LP on vinyl, so they spent a significant amount of time doing research on how to have the sound of it be spot-on and perfect.  Overall, the freshman LP took The Mitchells over a year to craft.  In the end, the band was pleased with how everything came together.  “I don’t know if it’s the right way, but for us it was worth it,” Mitchell says.

The Mitchells self-titled album is a beautiful, open piece of work that truly captures the spirit of alluring storytelling, alongThe Mitchells 2 with irresistible composition.  Throughout the album, a flawless weave between classical and indie rock comes alive in the album, and offers a little bit of everything.  “Driving In Cars”, the album’s opener, blends pop and roots rock seamlessly with singer/songwriter Caroline Kingsbury offering a softness to it.  The eight-plus minute dreamy “Absalom” slows everything down so effortlessly, and gets picked right back up with the rocker “Denmark”.  Guitarist virtuoso Noah Wotherspoon adds some grit to “Willie Mays”.

In the meantime, The Mitchells have plans on releasing a book next summer containing the lyrics to the album.  Mitchell explained that each song on the album has a specific little story that goes along with the lyrics.  They crafted the stories after putting the music together.  Once the book is released, the band plans to give it as a gift when someone buys an album.  This fall, The Mitchells also plan to release some work with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

To hear the self-titled album from The Mitchells, and even get a copy of it on the custom marbled vinyl they released it on, go to the band’s Bandcamp site: http://themitchells.bandcamp.com/album/the-mitchells.

 

Finding Some “Me Time”

Me TimeAndy Smith and I are sitting in one of the tiny, wooden booths at the independently owned Christopher’s Restaurant in  Kettering, Ohio.  The cozy restaurant is serving breakfast at the time the two of us agreed upon to meet up.  Dayton has  some of the greatest breakfast spots around.  One of the spots to hit is Christopher’s.  The restaurant, which has homey,  country-like setting and feel when you enter, caters to all lifestyles with their menu.  This morning-Smith and I will be  diving into some of the essential staples that make up the best breakfasts-eggs, home fries, and toast.  “You ever been  here before?,” Smith asked me as I sat down in the booth.

“Yeah.  Several times.  Love it here,” I answered.

“They have the best breakfast.  I’m so ready for it,” Smith says back to me with a confident and determined look on his  face.

Smith is about to embark on a trip up north for a small vacation in Michigan.  Traverse City to be exact.  Smith begins to go in detail on what the weeklong trip is going to be-hiking in the picturesque woodlands, tipping his feet in Lake Michigan, and maybe do some sightseeing in town.  The sparkle that is coming through his circular black frames, and lens on his glasses, along with the smirk of his face, tell the tale of an individual who is biting at the bit to go now.  It’s obvious by the way he divulges to me the serenity and peace he experiences when he is the forest.  The appreciation and self-discovery really become clear when Smith describes the feeling he gets when he is out of the terrain.  “It’s so cool.  I just go out and just clear the mind,” Smith says.  First things first, though, before his trip can begin.  He has to take care of a few errands before he heads up.

Smith started to play guitar when he was in school.  “I was obsessed with Motown, and Stax,” Smith explained.  “I couldn’t get enough of it. Still can’t. Del Shannon, Curtis Mayfield fronting The Impressions.  Love it.”  In 2010, Smith was at J-Alans and overheard the bartender complaining that a band canceled an upcoming show.  Smith interrupted the conversation and mentioned that he could fill in.  Smith rounded up some close friends, and Andrew & the Pretty Punchers debuted.  The band’s run in town was short-lived, though, in part to everyone’s lives going in different directions.

Soon after Andrew & the Pretty Punchers, Smith began playing drums for Dear Fawn and was the lead vocalist for King Elk.  Both bands saw some critical success in the local scene, and also saw people becoming faithful followers.  Both bands gave Smith a sense of fun and enjoyment, but in time it started to take a toll.  “It just wasn’t fun after a while,” Smith explained.  “I was drinking a lot and it was becoming a problem.”

With the out of control behavior, and the band just running its course-King Elk decided to take some time off.  “I still love those guys.  Always will,” Smith says.  “They are simply the best.  I just think that we ran our course, and we needed to just shut it down for a little bit.”  On top of that-Smith left Dear Fawn because the band wanted to go a different direction.

With King Elk on hiatus, and his  departure from Dear Fawn, Smith needed to start something.  He was continuing to write songs at a steady pace, and he wanted to put them on tape as quickly as possible.  “That’s how I work,” Smith says.  Smith started doing some recordings with local musician, and previous band mate from King Elk and Dear Fawn, Kyle Melton at his studio.

Me Time2At the beginning of the recordings, Smith started to notice that he wanted to add some others to join him and see how the vibe and sound would go.  He recruited drummer Elliot Ward, former Andrew & the Pretty Punchers Josh Wickersham, and Melton to play on the project.  With the foursome confirmed, they went back to Melton’s studio and started to flesh out some songs that Smith written.  The project became Smith’s newest band-Me Time.

This past May, Me Time released an EP with his new band, titled Vol. 1.  The five song EP (which can be ordered on http://gasdaddygo.bandcamp.com/) is a lo-fi indie rock beauty that blends Smith’s charming vocals, along with his admiration and infatuation with rich 50s rock and 60s pop.  Kent Montgomery (from The New Old Fashioned) sang harmonies, and Derl Robbins (from Motel Beds) mixed and mastered the EP.  Tyler Bellinger (from Smith’s previous band King Elk) played some organ and piano on the EP.  The finished product is soft and warm, while generating catchy hooks throughout-which is exactly what Smith intends to aim for with his music.  “All I want to do is just write catchy songs,” Smith playfully says.  “Who doesn’t love catchy songs?”

Our waitress delivers our meals to us, and immediately the aromas and flavors are jumping off the plate.  The eggs perfectly cooked flawlessly (over-easy).  The home fries have a flawless golden-brown exterior.  The bread that came with the dishes we ordered are toasted to perfection.  Smith opens up his folded napkin that caressed the silverware.  “Looks good, right?,” Smith asked me, with that confident look on his face again.

I couldn’t help but agree with him.

Have Mercy!; An Interview with Mark Kramer of Tender Mercy

TMSince age 15, Mark Kramer (aka Tender Mercy) has been playing in bands. First in Dayton, Ohio and now Louisville, Kentucky.

“Getting to hang out with friends, play loud music and get into bars years before we were legally allowed was always an adventure,” Kramer explained.

He played some sports when was growing up, but it never really flourished and grabbed his attention. Playing music did. Kramer said that he discovered it was the perfect outlet.

“To be able to sit down and alter your mood one way or the other by playing a few notes or chords is still pretty incredible to me,” he added.

The idea of just playing with just vocals and a guitar came to Kramer when he was in high school. With his musical taste in the punk/hardcore scene, a single album changed Kramer’s attention. He purchased an album from Dischord Records, a compilation of songs titled State of the Union. On the album, one of the songs that was included was Red Emma’s “Candle.”

“It really blew me away. I had been listening to punk/hardcore for so long then this song came along all quiet and minimalist and really turned my head around,” Kramer explained.

Immediately after hearing “Candle,” Kramer began to refocus and envision how he would play music going further. However, the execution of this plan was very difficult for Kramer. He was comfortable with playing in the background with other band members in previous groups. He knew eventually that the time would come when he needed to do it alone.

“It was safe to just be the bass player that I was and hide behind the drums and guitars of the punk/hardcore bands I was playing in. Even after I started Tender Mercy I had to have a piano accompany me. Not only because I thought it sounded great but it’s easier having just one other person up there with you. But, I knew in the back of my mind that I would eventually have to go it alone at some point.”

For Mark Kramer, the goal is simple-the make music in the most minimal way possible.

“I think the natural inclination is to fill space with as many bells and whistles as possible,” explained Kramer. “I understand it but I don’t feel the need follow that. I want the music to be as close to the bone as possible.”

Kramer’s new EP, released in February, As Someone Else You Embrace The Moment In Us, features five astounding songs that are a true representation of his vision and the direction that he would like to go with his music. Peaceful. Quiet. The simplicity of the EP offers listeners a breathtaking, tranquil experience. Kramer’s vocals are lasting and serene. The hissing of the tape in each song of As Someone Else You Embrace The Moment In Us only intensifies the simplicity of the production.

Kramer has also released As Someone Else You Embrace The Moment In Us in a limited release of 100 with hand screened covers, which can be ordered on Tender Mercy’s Bandcamp site www.tendermercy.bandcamp.com.

When Kramer is playing live to an audience, it’s an exhilarating experience for him.

“Being alone on stage for me personally is like being completely exposed in every way. Being hyper-aware of everything going on and at the same time (with the right sound person) feeling like your within your own mind.”

In the meantime, Kramer is in the process of recording a five-song cassette and some songs for a compilations under the Tender Mercy moniker, which are all slated for release in the fall.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 776 other followers