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Go Shriek it on the Mountain PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Damion Huntoon   
Monday, 05 August 2013 14:20

Local folk-art group, Shriek Operator, grow from tragic troubadours to soundtrack scorers.


The creation of the majestic and macabre compositions of Alan Bajandas’ Shriek Operator all started with a bus ticket to Knoxville.

Living in New York City, Bajandas found himself in the throes of a disastrous relationship that, “Ended in prostitution and jail.” This coupled with nefarious actions of the editorial service that employed Bajandas as head proofreader - ripping him off of an estimated $3,750 – gave him little reason to stay.

“These events, in concert with the recession, which had just hit,” says Bajandas “made it impossible to live in New York any longer. I was on a brink. A friend bought me a bus ticket here. I never left. I never will.”

What he found in his adopted home of Knoxville was a community that supported his new musical endeavors and allowed him to grow as a musician.

“I had never even lived in a place that had availed musical expression before coming here,” says Bajandas. “Although I have been writing for 13 years, there wasn't enough tolerance or strength of community in other places to allow me to feel comfortable playing out.”

This sense, he feels, is exemplified in its music output.

Chris Knight Goes Deep PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jordan Knight   
Thursday, 18 July 2013 11:35

An Interview with Chris Knight

In my youth, in those final days between manhood and responsibility and the last tinges of chasing girls and frivolity (not that I have grown out of those completely, nor do I have any intention of doing so), my brother Michael and I listened to Chris Knight and Robert Earl Keen ‘til the cd’s skipped. Driving around in his Ford Explorer that always seemed to smell of coconut and cigarettes, we would go down to the river and chase the sun right out of the sky. To quote Chris, “All that seems like yesterday, and how the time slips away.” Those moments were definitive. They were bright and brilliant. They are the parts that flash like fireflies across the summer nights in my mind. Without Knight’s music, those memories would be somehow incomplete.


Knight has been wowing audiences for well over a decade, with several songs that have been played on the radio. Several artists have lined up to perform his masterpieces, including Randy Travis, Montgomery Gentry, Steve Earle and John Prine. In the industry, he is regaled as a fantastical wordsmith, and to his fans he is the warm embrace of sunlight on a cloudy day. Though his career is far from where it began, Knight is just getting started. Recently I caught up with him to discuss first guitars, writing techniques and maritime activities.


For a musician, many things hold unspeakable value. In hindsight, they are the things that formed your way of thinking, writing and playing. Your first guitar is like your first love, it will always carry a fond memory, but usually that is all. “That first guitar was one my brother brought home. He traded something for it. It was a Lyle guitar. The strings were pretty high off the fret, but I learned to play on that guitar,” Knight explained. “I don’t know what happened to it. Then my brother bought me a Martin Sigma after I had been playing for a while. I played that for several years and traded it to a friend of mine. The last time I saw it, it was on a front porch, out of case.”

Top 15 Albums of 2013 (So Far) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jack Evans   
Sunday, 23 June 2013 14:36

The year is almost halfway over (and I’ve listened to almost 100 albums released in 2013 already), so logically, it’s time for everyone with access to music to compile their lists of the year’s best releases thus far.

We’ve already seen great albums released in pretty much every genre imaginable, so narrowing it down to 15 isn’t easy. Nevertheless, these fifteen albums are essential listens for anyone who loves music or wants to catch up on the modern scene. (Note: To be eligible for this list, I had to have heard an album multiple times by June 11; so even though the year isn’t quite halfway over, some high-profile releases, like the new ones from Boards of Canada and Kanye West, weren’t quite eligible to make this list.)


15. Scale the Summit – The Migration

To this point in their careers, Scale the Summit has been a quintessential band for technical music nerds: playing music firmly rooted in progressive metal and shred, with two of the genre’s best guitarists and no vocalist to get in the way of their brilliant melodic leads, the band has drawn a devoted and growing fanbase, largely composed of fellow musicians and prog enthusiasts. Released at a vital time in their blossoming career, The Migration is Scale the Summit’s best album and one that could see the band draw a large amount of new fans from outside the current demographic. It’s also their most diverse and fully-fleshed-out album to date as well, and for the first time, they’ve put together a full album that rarely feels like a high-caliber jam session but rather sees the four musicians meshing fantastically as a band.


14. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Queens of the Stone Age is one of those few rock bands that has gained critical acclaim and mainstream success side-by-side. Why? It could be Josh Homme’s roots in highly influential stoner rockers Kyuss; it could be the revolving door lineup that’s included names like Dave Grohl, Mark Lanegan, and Nick Oliveri; or it could be the simple fact that they’ve never released a bad album. Though …Like Clockwork is their most star-studded release ever, that doesn’t detract from the undeniable QOTSA sound all over the record. Its eerie, grimy grooves recall those of the underrated Lullabies to Paralyze, but it has a fair share of almost-sunny straight-up rock tunes like “I Sat by the Ocean” and “My God is the Sun,” and while Homme’s lyrics are often depressive, personal, and even macabre, he sounds more energetic and just happy to be here, man, than he has since Songs for the Deaf.


13. Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It

Michigan’s Brave Bird specialize in bouncy, twinkly emo in the pure sense of the word. Their full-length debut is delightfully angsty, filled with hyperkinetic guitar lines and addictive hooks that would make any pop band jealous. Maybe You, No One Else Worth It is immediately likeable, partly as a result of its relatability: it’ll evoke nostalgia in anyone who grew up listening to pop-punk or indie rock, but it also provides a refreshing, accessible, and catchy blend of these genres and the emo from which Brave Bird springs. As a band in a genre whose bands and albums, even “classic” ones (say, American Football or Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit) have never received much mainstream attention whatsoever, don’t look for Brave Bird to make an overnight leap to stardom. Do, however, look out for Maybe You, No One Else Worth It to be one of 2013’s best underground releases.


12. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

There’s been a lot of talk about Daft Punk and their fourth album (and first in eight years) in the last few months, but nobody could rightfully accuse the French duo of being stagnant or unadventurous. There were the trailers on SNL and at Coachella, and there was that 10-minute loop of Ron Swanson dancing to what we’d later find out was a clip of “Get Lucky,” the feel-great hit of the summer for which they enlisted Pharrell Williams and legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers, just one of many bold collaborations on Random Access Memories. There were the helmets, of course, and the suits, and plenty of hype, to which the album (at least somewhat) lives up. Daft Punk’s voyage into new styles and live instrumentation takes on groovy synth-pop (“Instant Crush,” “Doin’ It Right”), ear-candy disco (“Get Lucky,” “Lose Yourself to Dance”), and genre-morphing odysseys (“Giorgio by Moroder”) with much success. That the album closes with “Contact,” the track most steeped in Daft Punk’s classic dance music, is significant: it’s something new, yes, but it’s Daft Punk, and, oh, the mothership has landed once and for all.

Interview with Jessi Darlin of Those Darlins PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jordan Knight   
Saturday, 08 June 2013 12:31

“If my 15 year old self could see me right now”

Growing up, I often had girls for best friends. Through them, I gained a constant, beautiful insight into all the things I found so mysterious. One now runs a church in Arkansas, one is a school counselor, and one is planning to open a hostel and cheese shop. The spectrum of things I have seen women become great at knows no bounds, and today I was privileged to speak to a woman who was born to be a rock and roll star. She’s cool and sexy, an extroverted introvert, and when she steps on stage, she oozes talent. Jessi Darin not only makes music, she makes rock and roll cool. Recently, we spoke with her about her life in music, the new album, and her newest art project.

Some people know they want to be doctors or lawyers or teachers and their parents root for them and they go on to lead happy lives. Jessi was encouraged to play, but pushed to avoid the family way of a musician’s life. “I couldn’t really help it. My whole family plays music and my whole life I was surround by it. A lot of people didn’t want me to play music. They wanted me to do something else because its kind of a curse in our family, but I eventually got sucked into it too. I couldn’t help it. As soon as I started playing guitar when I was nine, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”


Everyone has a different story of self discovery in music. Jessi’s was a hesitant beginning. “I remember when I was growing up, my family lived out in the country in Kentucky. My dad and uncles and friends would all get together and have a big party and everybody would play. It was cool because anybody who wanted to pay could come. People wrote songs and played traditionals. If you could play three chords, you could do whatever you wanted. I was always scared to death to play in front of anyone. I never joined in. I used to just sit their and listen to people. I got a lot of inspiration from that.”


Taking the plunge is always frightening, but often rewarding. Putting fear on the shelf and jumping in with both feet can be the first steps turning good into great. “My grandpa taught me how to play. He gave guitar lessons for a living and I started taking lessons from him. He had a recital every few months with all his students. That was my first time playing. Those were not very crazy, like Away in a Manger. I was afraid of playing guitar in front of people and I was completely terrified of singing in front of people. My close family are the only people I would sing in front of.  I figured if I was ever going to do this, I just had to do it. My Grandfather asked me to play a show with him, a banquet, and I said yes. I did three covers, a Hank Williams song and two Carter Family songs. I was shaking the whole time. A lot of my family came, and the funny part was, the actual people at the banquet were at the other end of this big, long room and they weren’t paying attention at all. After I did it once, I was still scared, but it broke something out inside of me. My grandfather had a stroke a week later and he couldn’t play the guitar anymore, so it was my first show and his last show. When I was 15, I went t a southern girls rock and roll camp here in Tennessee and it’s actually how I met the rest of the band. In the camp, I wanted to sing, but I was still to shy. That year at camp, we put together a band, but the girl who sang the year before wasn’t there, so as the beginning of the week they all said who’s going to be singer and we said we would figure it out by the end of the week. At the end of the week, I had to sing. I’m still shy, but I figured out how to be way more outgoing. I figure that was the scariest thing I had ever done, so now I just go for it.”

There is a new album in the works with a tentative second week of October release. This interview marks the last day in the studio. “The first two albums, all of of us wrote what we could and then tried to put it together as best we could. (As to the new album) The first thing is that we worked our asses off on this one. I feel like were working hard, but more methodically. This is the first one we have ever made at home, so we have access to a studio and actually I am at the studio right now. We spent over a year writing and we have been off since November. We wrote thirty songs and then picked from those songs. We have spent almost two months in the studio and have made sure that there is nothing that slips by us and that everything is just the way we want it.”



Not to be limited by one form of art, Jessi has released several sets of drawings on Etsy ( titled Hunting For Heroes. “It’s a series of prints of drawings I did awhile back the I have been wanting to release. They are screen printed in series of four. One series is Gunslingers, which is kind of a bunch of outlaws from the wild west era. Not just a bunch of outlaws, but a kind of rowdy crew. The second series I released is called Gangsters. It’s kind of hard to explain because there is more to the series that is going to come out. At this point it seems like this is all bad guys. I was reading about these guys and their lives. Especially in the South, they are heroes to a lot of people. At the same time, some get glorified. Reading about how they are just nasty and murdered people, but at the same time are considered geniuses because they thought outside the law, it’s kind of a counter culture. I was intrigued by their pictures. I only drew them because I liked their faces, but once I drew them I saw how they looked just like such a regular group of guys. They could be any of these guys I see that hang around town. It just makes them so human. These huge figures you see all your life and they’re just a guy who lived and died. What are heroes? The were independent, strong, rebellious people. They were bad and they did their own thing. They robbed from the rich people who were running the country. You could look at them and say they were evil. The whole thing is bout the duality of man. Everybody’s got a little bit of good and evil. It’s all about perspective.”

The Spring is a short tour, but with three stops with The Gentlemen of the Road tour, including Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, Fun., and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, it promises to be an exciting one. “It’s their (Mumford and Sons) festival, that they put on in smaller towns. It is cool that they bring people out to towns that wouldn’t get much music and it’s really cool they asked us to play. They are already all sold out, so it is going to be a really fun time.”

This life in music has a funny way of dragging us, albeit willingly, around to all the places we never knew and never thought possible. To quote Russell Hammond in Almost Famous, “This is the circus, everybody is trying not to go home.” For Jessi and Those Darlins, the ride has been wild, and is just getting going. True to the both her humble nature and the call of the open road, Jessi reminisces “Me and Nikki have often uttered the statement, ‘If my 15 year old self could see me right now...’ ”

Catch Those Darlins on Saturday June 8th at NV as part of the Knoxville Film and Music Festival.

An Interview with Erica Driscoll of Blondfire PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jordan Knight   
Sunday, 23 June 2013 16:43

The best part about it, is that every day is an adventure.

Success came quickly and with a boom. Like a phoenix, reborn with a new name and ready to rock, Blondfire quickly established themselves as a tour de force. With a little help from KROQ and some other likeminded stations, they were propelled to # 1 on the iTunes alternative chart. The critics were in love and the fans were flocking and the media was in a frenzy.  From Seventeen to Rolling Stone, the hype was all the best for this youngish band from Michigan. Recently we caught up with front woman, Erica Driscoll, about life on constant tour, practical jokes gone right, and the future as shesees it.

Growing up, a life in music seemed all too natural for Erica. “My mom introduced us to music when we were really young. I feel like it was a progression. I always loved to sing. It was just natural for me. I feel like once I got into music like The Smiths, I wanted to write songs. You know, some kids were good at sports, some kids were good at gymnastics. I was playing violin or piano. It just felt like a natural thing.”

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