A few months ago, AdHoc shared Honey Harper’s debut single, “Pharaoh.” The track—a slow-burn country tune that was ten years in the making—kicks off his debut EP, Universal Country, out now on Arbutus Records. Harper, aka London-based William Fussell, has a knack for carving out a wistful, nostalgic space within his lyrics and melodies. On the mournful “Secret,” Fussell seems like he’s one drawn-out syllable away from breaking into tears, singing, “How long must I belong to this?” The country-western “SOFR” chugs along with the help of a soft drumbeat and weeping pedal steel; one imagines the song wafting from a jukebox in a low-lit bar, everyone staring into their half-empty glasses. The songs draw the best out of the genre Harper chooses to constrain himself in: an art both immediate and indelible in its vivid evocations of longing.
Life is complicated, and so are the Downtown Boys. Like the roses that adorn the cover of their latest album, Cost of Living, their genre-exploding punk sound embraces beauty and crudeness, softness and thorniness. On stage, frontwoman Victoria Ruiz seethes about capitalist exploitation and white supremacy while speaking vulnerably about her experiences as a woman of color—sometimes all in one breath.
The Providence four-piece’s thunderous new album bolsters these revolutionary messages with a new sonic clarity, one that sets blistering guitar riffage and Ruiz’s condemnations of the Trump administration front and center. Ahead of their upcoming show on November 17 at Brooklyn Bazaar, Ruiz spoke to AdHoc about the gendered and racialized labor of resistance, as well as the challenges of inhabiting a musical space that commingles English and Spanish language lyrics, punk and Mexican tejano music.
AdHoc: Downtown Boys is getting quite a bit of press around the new album. How has all the attention altered your approach to recording and releasing music?
For a lot of us, this was our first rock band like this. So after six years, we’re gonna be a little bit more refined. We wanted to break away from being typed solely as a punk band; we have always felt like we’re part of many genres, and not fully part of any genre. We also think about [creating] a sound that opens the accessibility to the music.
We’ve always been influenced by Sun Ra Arkestra, a lot of Tejano music, and Mexican music—a sort of elegant chaos. And I think we seek people who are looking for that elegant chaos—and a message, and a space that you can’t quickly define [using] labels that you already know.
Clearly, we’re in it because we believe in the people who believe in us and are part of a bigger community and collective power. We’re committed to proclaiming our messages of protest and crystallizing our dissent. Still, I think our growing platform has both motivated and challenged our message and what we believe in. When the message gets too set in stone, we try to transform it and find a new dimension [within] it.
Local Brooklyn by way of Connecticut indie-rockers Furnsss released a self-titled tape today, their first major release since Silent Gold in 2015. Lead by songwriter, guitar player, and singer Brendan Dyer, the band has crafted six well-composed indie rock highlights. Songs like “Roll With It” and “Drag” are loud and sweeping, with crunchy guitar riffs that sound like something out of early Pavement. Other tracks feature rhythms that nod to contemporaries such as Hoops, Swings, or Mac Demarco. Speaking with AdHoc about the new release, Brendan casts a wide net of influences, including Michael Jackson’s Bad, which he says inspired the swinging rhythm on “Divine.” Overall, Brendan has constructed a great rock tape, one as concise and focused as it is compelling.
AdHoc Issue 23 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link.
What does a piece of music say about the person who made it? In AdHoc Issue 23, we hear from artists who build their art upon a framework of personal as well as cultural experience. Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys discusses the uphill battle she faces as "a brown, thick, femme frontperson," especially in terms of the expectations placed upon her by audiences and journalists. Still, she notes, these pressures have "made me want to stand closer to the fire and be in this band even more, because I know that there are a lot of people in the world dealing with this experience."
Elsewhere in the issue, Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles writes about the importance of all-ages venues in his personal and artistic development, and electronic musician Elysia Crampton talks about how the stories and traditions of the Aymara people have helped shaped her recordings. As with Ruiz, their work is grounded in unique personal experiences, relayed with an honesty and specificity that encourages listeners to contemplate their own experiences in similar ways.
AdHoc Issue 23's contributors:
Patrick Stickles is the singer-songwriter-guitarist of Titus Andronicus. He wrote about all-ages venues for this issue.
Aubrey Nolan is a Queens-based illustrator, cartoonist, and host of the monthly reading series for cartoonists, Panels to the People. She made this issue's illustrations.
Frankie Broyles is in the band Omni. He is a musician/designer from Atlanta, GA, and designed the cover for this issue.
Look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
Relatives are a New York and Providence-based folk-rock band whose slow-burn melodies and roundabout lyrics are equal parts playful, bookish, and melancholy. The duo—Katie Vogel and Ian Davis—started writing together in 2007, and their close kinship is evident in the strength of their songwriting.
Their new album, Weighed Down Fortune, is filled with songs that are spare in instrumentation yet feel lush and full. “Hope Springs” rides a bouncing beat and jumpy melody in service of puzzling, circuitous lyrics like “surely someday we’ll find that after all it was intended as such.” Perhaps the funkiest and most immediate song on the album, “Typee,” counters its danceable beat with cryptic lines like, “It’s an apocryphal world—we can’t keep scratching our noses but never stop the itching as such.”
Another track, “The Ambiguities” reminds me of Mount Eerie and Julie Dorion’s excellent 2008 collaboration Lost Wisdom, both in its intimate vocal harmonies and in the simultaneous sorrow and hope embedded in its lyrics. Davis says he drew inspiration for the song in “Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, a novel by Herman Melville about wealth, loss, sex, death, and angst." Melville’s novel and Weighed Down Fortune are alike in more ways than one: Both are oblique and evasive works that touch on romance, philosophy, writing, and family dynamics; but, in the end, a simple strength and beauty shines through.
Fairbanks, Alaska looks lovely on Google images. Snow-dusted mountains billow out of the green earth—nature’s answer to the mighty skyscrapers that, 4,256 miles away, give or take, line Manhattan’s horizon.
The former city is where Emily Yacina recorded her newest album, Heart Sky, this summer while on break from The New School, where she is studying environmental science. The latter is where she and I meet to talk about it.
“I was working for a non-profit in Fairbanks that does environmental activism work, so, in terms of visuals, I was just surrounded by nature and obsessed with that when I was there,” Yacina said. “I miss that when I’m here and felt like I was just able to be in nature and really reflect on everything that had happened the past year.”
Emily never offers an exegesis of what that everything is, because she doesn’t need to.
“It’s a really intimate album,” she says of Heart Sky. “I definitely put a lot out there. Usually, in the past, I’d keep things pretty vague in terms of lyrics or my songwriting, but I felt so safe writing the songs that they definitely feel more personal—all of the songs are of course personal, but these ones feel more literal.”
On “Vision,” she sings, “All the pieces/ of the past year/ are so sharp and clear.” Previously, Yacina would dole out clues on her albums, but this one feels like the first one where say lays every piece of the puzzle on the table.
Heart Sky’s opening line—“Wanted to find out where it went wrong”—is ultimately its raison d'être. Over the record’s 11 tracks, Yacina addresses her former partner and attempts to pinpoint the elusive moment when the relationship came undone. On penultimate track "Clue," Yacina sings, "Something you said/ struck me like a clue," her hazy, layered vocals belying the hurt. Poring over the past might not illuminate the present, but Yacina’s music rewards the listener with the knowledge that anguish, while mostly ugly, can be turned into a thing of beauty.
“I just hope that people can use [the songs] to apply to their own lives and whatever that means for them,” Yacina said.
What follows is an edited transcript of a recording that picked up both Emily’s words and an entire Björk album that played in the coffee shop as we spoke, shortly after Heart Sky’s release. Emily plays with Soccer Mommy and Yohuna at Baby's All Right on 11/14.
Shame are a wild five-piece rock band from South London. With their biting lyrics, crunchy guitars, and hard-as-knuckles songwriting, they kick up quite the storm. Songs like "Concrete" are anthems full of intense emotion, paranoia, anger, and absurdity. Other songs, such as "Theresa May," are quieter, purposeful jabs at the Prime Minister and Tories in England. Known for their high-energy shows, Shame will be playing in New York for the first this Friday, November 10 at Baby's All Right, with support from Honey and Language. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with frontman Charlie Steen. They will
AdHoc: "Shame" is quite a name. You guys often seem pretty self-assured in your music and performance, so where does the name come from?
Charlie Steen: The name "Shame" is something of a gift we recieved from our technical advisor and saviour, Lenin, our drummer Forbes' dad. After sitting at our practice space—The Queens Head in Brixton—for weeks, churning out the worst band names imaginable, "Shame" was the only one we didn't quite hate and eventually learned to accept.
How did you guys end up playing together?
I think we all started playing together more out of pure boredom than anything else. The group's ties run deep, as we all went to various schools together through our childhood and teens, and it just came to be that one day we decided to play music.
Let’s talk about “Concrete,” your new song and video. It’s a pretty paranoid song. What was on your mind while writing it?
Lyrically, the song is about someone in a trapped relationship. We all know someone in this situation or have been in this situation ourselves, [and] I wanted to speculate on the emotional and psychological damage this might cause to the person involved.
The young LA/Boston fourpiece Model/Actriz have previously aligned themselves with No Wave. While their noisy instrumentals do at times resemble that bygone punk era, the industrial-tinged sounds featured across their recent No EP flirt far more with actual dance music. 4/4 high-hats and martial-paced floor tom rolls provide the foundation as frontman Cole Haden’s guttural vocal runs take lead, shifting between gruff sing-speak and blood-curdling screams on a dime. Plus, if you can find some space in the pit, they make their disaffection pretty easy to dance to.
Michael Rault is a singer-songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta whose music is heavily indebted to the psych-pop of the '60s and '70s. His new single, “Sleep With Me,” showcases his penchant for the sun-splashed melodies and woozy guitar licks that dominated late-20th century counterculture and its descendants (The Olivia Tremor Control, Tame Impala, et al.). As the song bounces toward its end, Rault introduces a string section—first a rumbling cello, then a light and airy violin—that elevates the sound into the perfect encapsulation of a summer day. The music video, too, combines grainy film stock and DIY collage techniques to form a fitting homage to the nostalgic, washed-out colors of the era. You can catch Micahel Rault tonight at Alphaville with BOYTOY and Baby Jay.
Adhoc: There’s a lot of '60s and '70s-style psych and pop in your sound. What draws you to that kind of music?
Michael Rault: Well, I'm a guitar player and I was raised by a family of musicians who came up playing in bands throughout the '60s and ;70s. So, just by the nature of my background and the instrument I was originally drawn to as a young kid, I was naturally predisposed to the sounds of the '60s and '70s. Being a guitar player in 2017 almost immediately marks you as a retro artist, it seems. I'm also a fan of live music, the and live feel, and I tend to spend more time playing instruments than I do messing around with my computer software, just because I enjoy it more as a way to pass the time. So, I think that the methods I'm attracted to and have become well-versed in automatically put me into a similar space to where artists from the '60s and '70s were coming from. As far as the psychedelic element goes, I think I am interested in surrealism and fantasy in a lot of different forms, so it comes out in my music in different ways.
Are there any influences/musicians you’re listening to that would surprise fans?
Maybe? I'm not too sure what would be surprising, but I listen to a lot of different music. I was really deep into Alice Coltrane's Universal Concioussness album for large parts of this past year. I also have been obsessed with the first four 10cc albums lately. I suppose I generally am drawing inspiration from the roots and offshoots of early 20th century American music, but I'm not as constrained by particular decades or genres as people might think.
Hot Releases, the North Carolina based label run by Ryan Martin just came upon its 9th anniversary of operation. To celebrate they have released a new eclectic batch of albums that speak to the spectrum of sounds curated by Martin throughout the last 9 years. One of these releases, AF Hyperlink comes from the mind of Alex Chesney, whose work in Ashrae Fax and Faster Detail culminates as Gam Spun. Both a revival of Chesney's alias from the early 2000s and a journey into new sonic terrain, Gam Spun is a testament to Chesney's inventiveness and songwriting ability. AF Hyperlink is a collection of 10 vibrantly warped shoegaze instrumentals full of decadent synths, ecstatic guitar tones, and vigorous percussion. Providing a lush perspective within the realms of dream pop and shoegaze, Gam Spun carves a unique headspace to crawl inside. These heart-pounding compositions evoke feelings of both a fantastic futurism and a hazy nostalgia, blending together within their own space-time.