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An Interview with Matt Wertz PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jordan Knight   
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 20:16

Matt Wertz is coming! (not to the sounds of terror and cars being smashed into bits,...calm down). You may not know his name yet, but wait, we will get to that. Let’s start with who is Matt? Today, in order to talk to me, Matt has been driving for over a half an hour to get to a place where cell phones work. He is cheerful and smiling (you know how you can sometimes hear that over the phone line?), and contagiously witty. Matt is mysterious (researching him was an adventure unto itself), but soon you will be singing his songs and remembering them as the ones that captured the intimate moments as Autumn closes in. His new album, Heatwave, is set to be released August 27, 2013 and is full of sweetly sung, danceable, melodies that you will find yourself singing absentmindedly over and over again. Matt is, to put it simply, one of those guys that you root for, to win, at everything, and this is his year to win.

When I caught up with Matt, he was in North Carolina volunteering at a camp and playing music and lending an all around hand for the month of July/. “It's a nice break from the grind. I have to drive thirty minutes to get to a phone signal. There is wifi, so I'm not totally off the grid. (Laughing) The funny thing is, I live in the heart of Nashville and my neighborhood doesn’t have regular coverage.”

The call to play is timeless. For many music is simply enjoyed as a spectator sport, but for some, the pull to play is a lifetime calling. “It's really a family thing. My mom is a southern baptist pastor's kid. They grew up singing all the time. My grandmother played piano and my mom ended up learning guitar. I've got three younger sisters and we are a singing family. Something as mundane as hearing my mother singing around the house had an effect on me. In those crucial years when you are coming into yourself and discovering stuff that was speaking to me, I really connected with bands like Counting Crows and Pearl Jam and eventually REM and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Something about that music and what they were communicating connected with me and I started writing my own songs. I realized that was the way for me to do the same thing with four other people. Once I could hear that, I couldn't get enough of that.”

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Todd Steed & Owen Davis - "Songs on a Stick" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Alec Cunningham   
Monday, 05 August 2013 14:27

 

“Songs On A Stick,” an album consisting of nine songs that are all centered around China in one way or another, comes to you from fellow musicians and friends Todd Steed and Owen Davis. This release marks the first time Steed and Davis have ever come together for an album collaboration.

The album profiles the duo's journey while visiting Beijing, China, where they both have summer teaching positions at Tsinghua University. The album title itself acts as a play on words derived from the Chinese tradition of meat on a stick.

Although the songs might not all be about China, they were all written during the time frame when they resided in the country. Keeping with the Beijing theme and overall quirkiness of the album, Steed even sent a Yuan in the mail along with his album to be reviewed.

Steed, of course, is known around town for his various musical ventures, including his work in the group Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere, and as the host of the Knoxville-based TV show Studio 865, among other things.

Davis, on the other hand, might be a slightly more unfamiliar name to Knoxville scene-sters. Although he has held many musical roles over the years, he is best known for the time he spent acting as the front man of West Virginia 80's rock band, Gene Pool.

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An Interview with Octopus Project PDF Print E-mail
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Written by John Flannagan   
Sunday, 28 July 2013 11:20

Octopus Project still reinventing themselves

Knoxville’s favorite Austin based band returns to Pilot Light with new tunes in August.



 

Bands that generate a proverbial smile on ones face during a casual listening sesh are far and few in between. Enter Octopus Project, who has made a living at doing so for over thirteen years now. Using an array of strange sounds along with instrument experimentation, Octopus Project is constantly reinventing themselves along the way with each new release. The story of how Austin’s favorite experimental pop band garnered so much attention is an interesting one to say the least. A fan unbeknownst to them, submitted the band for a “win a spot to play Coachella” contest. They won and an underground rising star within the indie music ranks was born.

The gang is back with their 5th proper full length album titled “Fever Forms” out on 4AD records and has launched a tour in support which will see them stopping in their favorite scruffy little town, Knoxville on August 10th. Fever Forms is an ambitious effort that sees the band creating more songs with lyrical content, something that has absent in past records. Also, Fever Forms is a more complete album that can be listened to from beginning to end with many ebb and flows along the way. In short, this is more than a party pop album that many have come to recognize Octopus Project for, but rather a more mature effort with dense sound layers with new and interesting sounds to boot. We caught up with Octopus Project in between shows to wax poetic on the recording process for “Fever Forms”, why the love affair with Knoxville, and what new sounds have they been experimenting with.

 

Blank:  How did the recording process go this time around? How long did it take, can you give us some details?

OP: We did most of the recording on our own at home - The recording/mixing/mastering/mixing again/mastering again process (which was how we did this one, as it turns out) took a little over a year I think?  Our previous album was sort of a document of a show we'd done, so the songs were all written when we started, but in this case most of it was written during the recording process...except for "Sharpteeth" and "Mmkit", which have been around since before the last album but didn't seem to fit until this one.

 

Blank:  More lyrics / vocals this time around than in past efforts, was this conscious effort or just happen?

OP: It just happened in the course of looking for new sounds to try out.  I think the piece-by-piece recording approach influenced that - since we were working on incomplete songs in a pretty open-ended recording situation we'd try a lot of different ideas with each tune...sometimes vocals just seemed like the right fit for the song.

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Runnin' a Little Bit Hot Tonight with Big Bad Oven PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Damion Huntoon   
Monday, 05 August 2013 14:01

 

It’s an early summer day and the members of Big Bad Oven, pedal steel and vocalist Josh Wright, alto saxophonist Josh Wolitzky and drummer and vocalist Will “Fist” Johnson, are relaxing at the Pilot Light.

The trio is drinking beers, Wolitsky is tending bar, and making comments on Johnson’s attire; a yellow-striped Tennessee Valley Bike uniform along with matching black lycra riding shorts. (“Trying to keep it tight,” hahaha).

With the loose, calm way they interact it’s not surprising these men all live in the same house, a musical compound on Abilene Place in Knoxville. It rests across from an industrial wasteland of the Parkridge, they coin their stretch “Poor Ridge,” neighborhood and is the band’s practice space, recording studio and all around playhouse complete with a BMX bike/putt-putt course and, until recently, a dining room filled with a two foot tall stage committed to house shows.

Anyone who’s witnessed Big Bad Oven in action can attest to the raucous commotion they create. It’s not unusual to have beer cans littering the floor, hip and shoulder shake dancing and sweaty crowds laughing at banter between Wright and Johnson. It’s not surprising since the two have been friends and musical collaborators just shy of 20 years.

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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.

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