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.
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.
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.
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.
This piece appears in the upcoming AdHoc Issue 23.
Since her early releases as E+E, Elysia Crampton has jammed together sounds from disparate genres and geographical locations to articulate an immersive method of cultural commentary and personal storytelling. Spots y Escupitajo, her latest LP, dismisses conventional musical form, juxtaposing several 10 to 20-second audio clips that she calls “spots” with flowing, song-length tours through a world of processed electronics, sound effects, vocal signatures, and, more specific to this release, the sound of a slowly moving piano. Compared to previous albums, this one is spare, in a way that can feel elegiac; indeed, a press release for the album notes that it honors Crampton’s deceased grandparents.
In the below interview, Crampton discusses how her personal history and certain conceptual frameworks team up to undergird her music. Her statements build on a variety of sources, weaving together such notions as “becoming-with,” attributed to the theorist Donna Haraway, and the stories and traditions of her people, the Aymara, an indigenous group from the Andean region. Elysia Crampton plays with Earthly and L’Rain at The Park Church Co-op in Brooklyn on Saturday 11/4.
AdHoc: Your work bespeaks a strong political point of view. What are some challenges you’ve faced as an artist interfacing with and through the digital world, where meaning is easily distorted and taken out of context?
Elysia Crampton: I’m always treading the irrational in an attempt to uncover the project—beyond value logic, beyond linear time and progress, often having to contradict myself in order to get to where I need to go. Beyond the rational lies a dark, generative ocean that exceeds any value judgment or ethical assignment we would confer upon it, though it’s something like an ethical demand that leads me there, toward that night.
I’m always treading the irrational in an attempt to uncover the project—beyond value logic, beyond linear time and progress, often having to contradict myself in order to get to where I need to go. Beyond the rational lies a dark, generative ocean that exceeds any value judgment or ethical assignment we would confer upon it, though it's something like an ethical demand that leads me there, toward that night.
The more I live—making mistakes, being messy, tasting and touching this life where the anti-colonial is continually given (as we are irreducible to coloniality)—the more I find it unnecessary to seek clarity or wholeness, or even what one would consider an individuated standpoint. An example would be a clear-cut political view, able to fit neatly into a packet of lessons. I'm learning that those desires are, in many ways, detrimental to the project. What is the project? I'm still learning that, as it is something felt out in a kind of synesthetic anguish and ecstasy not just my own—a demand, a queer desiring for the abolition of what has been called subjection, an end to imperialism and coloniality as things that prefigure such forms of capture. It’s a desiring born from the movement of becoming-with.
In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, The Hotelier frontman Christian Holden opens up about pursuing a career in music, interacting with fans, and his somewhat unpredictable songwriting process. This article appears in the upcoming AdHoc issue 23. The Hotelier will perform at Brooklyn Bazaar on 11/2 with Oso Oso, Alex Napping, and Common Holly.
@sinaivessel: should i do less music and more gambling
Christian: Deciding to do music full time may be enough of a gamble for anybody.
@emmathesadgirl: what are your thoughts re: fans sharing stories of how your music has helped them? does it ever get emotionally exhausting for you?
Good question. It’s an interesting dynamic. Yes, it can be emotionally exhausting. It can be frustrating for me to not be on the same level emotionally as the person I am talking to. Also, it can be confusing for people to be casual in that conversation. Like, some will act as if we are friends. But I appreciate the moments when I get to let someone be seen for how far they may have come by someone who had a small hand in helping them do that.
@sconeappthebeef: What motivates you the most when it comes to writing & how do you go about writing your music?
Motivation and I have a complex relationship. Mostly, the way I go about writing music is locking myself in my house and not coming out until I’ve made something. My ~process~ feels pretty outside my ability to really nail down. There are a couple different people that I am when I write a song. One has a wild imagination, one is a bratty music snob, and one feels like a procrastinating high school student.
Feel like you need #adhoclifeadvice? Keep an eye on @adhocfm on Twitter, where we’ll announce the next round of questions.
L.A. Witch are a three-piece group of rockers from the City of Angels. Their rollicking sound blends together a myriad of influences–garage rock, harsh punk, and the surf-rock of their hometown. The band–singer and guitarist Sade Sanchez, bassist Irita Pai, and drummer Ellie English–recently released their debut self-titled album after three years of touring. The album’s nine songs showcase the band’s compact and tight groove: “Brian” could play on the soundtrack of a mirage-hazy western, and “Baby In Blue Jeans” sounds like the Supremes after one too many drinks. The songs, fleeting as they may be (the album clocks in at just over 30 minutes), are all climax, rushing headlong into a cathartic and devilish end. AdHoc recently chatted with Sade and Irita ahead of their show on 11/3 at Saint Vitus with Camera and Ghost King.
AdHoc: You've been together for about 5 years. How did the band start originally? Where did the name come from?
Irita: Our friend Tony added us to a show he was doing at Little Joy and needed a name for the flyer. We originally wanted just Witch but the name was taken.
Sade: We were a four piece originally. I was introduced to Irita through a mutual friend and we started the band. We lost our first drummer to New York. I knew Ellie from a two-piece band we had in high school and I asked her to fill in on some shows, then she just kinda became part of the band.
Are there any L.A. groups that had an influence on the sound of L.A. Witch?
Irita: The Gun Club, X, Screamers, Love.
Sade: The Gun Club was a huge one for us when we first started. L.A. has so much music history which helped a lot. A lot of great rock and roll has come from L.A., along with garage and surf, and I guess you can say we’re a blend of all that. We’re lucky to have been in the middle of a cool music scene when we started.
Danny L Harle is an experimental pop musician intimately connected with the London-born PC Music label. As a producer, he crosses international borders, collaborating with artists from Asia, Europe and the US and creating a unifying, global pop sound in the process. His latest EP, 1UL, showcases his production skillset and inclinations: maximalist, sugar-sweet melodies with expressively pitched and edited vocals. Danny spoke to AdHoc about his music and his vision for the future of pop ahead of his Halloween show at Brooklyn Bazaar on Friday, October 27.
AdHoc: What are your thoughts on how PC Music has grown over the past four years, and where do you see it going?
Danny L Harle: There are always a lot of big exciting projects in the works, and that’s how we always operate. For me, the goal has always been to make music which is accessible, but is also deeply experimental in its heart and is an expression of things that I love. For example, releasing the Carly Rae Jepsen track is one of the pinnacles of what I’m setting out to achieve: it has its heart in the sort of trance music I love, and the kind of clarity of expression that I love. It’s just very exciting dealing with the pop industry, because there’s an open-endedness to everything.
There are various TV/film/game ideas that are always in the works. I’ve always loved kids’ TV, and I’ve always been into the fact that you can be completely experimental and kids basically don’t know what’s going on, especially under the age of three. I’m really into that, and I’m really into storylines of TV shows in that world—like the illogic of them [laughs]. That’s the kind of level that I’m at in terms of following narratives. I get it when there’s a funny monster that runs really far away then back to the front of the screen—like, very simple ideas. I’m into extremes of simplicity and I think kids are on that level as well. And really funny stuff, like the sort of thing that kids would find funny so it has to be really clear.
A long-range goal is sort of to infiltrate the world of pop music and push it over the brink of insanity. I like when pop delves into the realm of fantasy–I feel that pop music, and culture in general, points toward either reality or fantasy, and I really like that as an idea. I’d say pop at the moment is a reflection of post-EDM culture, which is like, “We’re done with the electronic stuff, let’s get real, with real sounds and with real people singing about real things,” but it’s a pendulum that swings from side to side, because of course this “real”-sounding music is just as fake as the EDM.
Ultimately, my heart lies in the more honestly fake-sounding music. I’ve been writing some Japanese pop music that’s coming out soon, and their aesthetics have been in that world for a long time. They can have a pop star like Hatsune Miku do a sold-out live show, and no one bats an eyelid. Whereas if she does a show in the UK, it’s presented as a more of an art [thing]. In Japan it’s just a live show from a pop star, even though she’s completely fake. I like that kind of pushing against reality, and it would be fun to push things more in that direction, both working with artists and with major label stuff as well.