No words can describe Hembree’s comeback in the local music scene better than the title for its latest single, “New Oasis.”
The five musicians — Isaac Flynn, Jim Barnes, Garrett Childers, Matt Green and Zach Mehl — who originally performed under the name Quiet Corral have regrouped since the devastating blow of losing lead singer Jesse Roberts shortly after dropping their first full-length “Ancestors” in September last year.
It’s completely new territory for these men.
Hembree — the last name of a friend who continuously encouraged their return — is noticeably changed. At first listen of “New Oasis,” you hear a new poppy vocalist surrounded by folky harmonies, with smooth transitions into rock-out sections vibing loosely on their Americana days.
That unfamiliar voice is none other than guitarist Flynn, who’s played in bands since grade school, but never once as the lead singer.
“I wanted to sing out of desperation,” Flynn says. “I really wanted to play music, I knew that I could sing, but I just didn’t know what my style would be or if I had a style.”
Holed up in the studio, Flynn started making demos following Quiet Corral’s ending. Hesitant to share his songs, he sent a couple of tracks to drummer and sound engineer Jim Barnes, without revealing himself as the vocalist.
“He wrote me back and said, ‘Who’s singing? What is this?’” Flynn recalls. “I was like, ‘It’s me! Do you like it?’
“Jim ended up being really supportive and encouraging me to write more songs. I went from being really pessimistic about music to really optimistic over the course of two weeks,” he says laughing.
Musically, Flynn channels “shameless” top-40 songs, and pop icons like Prince, Michael Jackson and Daryl Hall and John Oates, and combines them with elements of Americana and roots rock.
As chief songwriter, Flynn thoughtfully documents the human experience as he describes the obstacles that have been thrown his way, including his mom’s battle with cancer in 2012-13.
“When someone that close to you goes through something that difficult, it just really rattled me,” he says. “She didn’t really let it defeat her and that made me realize how many things were important to me, and music became such a gift.”
Quiet Corral had a reputation for its tenacity, its youngest members leaving school for a life of touring for almost no money, and plenty to gain. The locals landed a spot in the 2012 Austin City Limits Festival, and gained attention from bloggers across the nation.
They knew what they wanted, and always went barreling toward it. All of their hard work was on its way to paying off if they were all willing to saddle down and put in the necessary time.
That’s when they discovered that level of investment wasn’t the plan the whole team had in mind.
“It looked like some sort of label situation was going to happen,” Flynn says. “Our manager called and said we’d have to do 150 tour dates next year, and the rest of us were like, 'This is everything we’ve ever wanted.' [Roberts] just had other priorities.”
“Truthfully I was devastated when he left because we had just put so much in it.”
Flynn wasn’t the only member feeling deflated by the news. He says it felt like they had used up their one real shot.
“We felt like we had failed but we didn’t actually fail,” Flynn says. “Everything was going perfectly and basically someone pulled the cord.”
But it was probably for the best, Flynn adds. The alt-country, Americana wave Quiet Corral had been riding (think the height of Mumford and Sons) was coming to an end, and he feels their following might have lost interest had they continued down that path.
Now they have a fresh start, taking their faithful fans in a new direction. And they still have the incredible influence and support of lyrical songwriter Roberts.
“He helped me grow into a better songwriter, a better musician and a better lyricist, so I really owe him a lot,” Flynn says.
Now Hembree is playing live for the first time at a free Plaza Art Fair concert at 7 p.m. Friday, and a six-song EP is scheduled to release in late November.
Expect more keyboards, electronics and vocal effects this time around, Flynn says.
“We were so serious about everything in Quiet Corral, and I want to take the music seriously, but I also just want to enjoy making music and having fun with my friends,” Flynn says. “Hopefully good things will come from trying to be as creative as possible.”
Vigil and Thieves
Vigil and Thieves is a local indie-alternative rock band made up of Sarah Storm, Steph Castor and Andrew Flaherty. The three-piece band will be releasing its first EP Thursday night, and then fleeing Lawrence for the band’s first-ever North American tour.
Vigil and Thieves' debut album, “[defective] book one,” is full of raw storytelling, described as expressing anything from hostility and heartbreak to equality and self-acceptance. Makes sense that they have a heavy emphasis on lyricism with Castor, a local poet and founder of the LFK Poetry Slam, in the band. They will be joined by Now Now Sleepyhead, Bruiser Queen, I am Nation and Blood Relative.
7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Granada, 1020 Massachusetts St., $8.
Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, is a singer-songwriter/producer from Georgia who makes dreamy bedroom synthpop, his latest record being last year’s “Paracosm,” which Greene has described as “daytime psychedelia.”
More organic than previous releases, Greene experiments with an eclectic range of textures, lying down a reggae beat in one song, just to introduce bird chirping, laughter audio and bongos in another. His earliest releases were categorized as chillwave, as he put out drowsy, dance-pop influenced tracks. In 2011, “Feel it All Around” became the theme song for TV show “Portlandia,” and is his biggest hit to date. Small Black will serve as the opener. 9:30 p.m. Friday at the Granada, 1020 Massachusetts St., $15.
Other events of note
Joyce Maynor: 10 p.m. Thursday, Jackpot Music Hall, 943 Massachusetts St., $4.
Mountain Sprout: 9 p.m. Friday, The Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire St., $9.
Red Kate: 10 p.m. Saturday, The Replay, 946 Massachusetts St., $3.
Whether you’re a fan of Tegan and Sara's early emo acoustics or recent synthesized electro-pop hits, you'll have a chance to experience both sides of the sisters' music as Liberty Hall recently announced that the Quin twins are coming to the venue on Oct. 1 on their “Let’s Make Things Physical” tour.
Canadian identical twin sisters Tegan and Sara made their biggest mainstream splash to date with last year’s “Heartthrob” — the hit single “Closer” was almost inescapable on the radio — introducing a new poppy EDM sound for the band. And if you’ve seen “The Lego Movie,” you’ve probably still got their catchy song “Everything is Awesome!” stuck in your head.
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of their commercial breakthrough album “So Jealous,” a moody new wave record that emo fans fell in love with and have yet to let go. Expect their set list to include a few gems from the 2004 record (please, oh please, let it be “Walking with the Ghost”).
Tickets for the Liberty Hall show go on sale at noon Saturday. Pick them up at the Liberty Hall box office or here.
Attention all Kawehi fans: I just got word that the one-woman band who stole our hearts and received national attention for her cover of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" will be playing Aug. 30 at The Bottleneck. Finally, a Lawrence appearance!
The expert loop pedal artist based in Lawrence also just released a new video for a track on her latest EP “Robot.” The artist tweeted out the video for “Anthem” this morning and made a point to warn viewers first: “If you don't like chicks who dance like a robot, my new vid is not for you yo.”
In the video, Kawehi sits at a table and places a box over her head for every new vocal sound she makes. Then she takes the box still containing the sound — and her head — and puts it on the table, layering the track with each new sound until it's just her singing along with her heads. “Anthem,” which was made using only vocals, is a song with a positive message about our potential, as human beings, to make a difference.
Get tickets for the Aug. 30 show here. Quick, before it sells out.
After a few months in the national spotlight, Lawrence one-woman band Kawehi is releasing her new EP “Robot Heart” on July 15. Best known for her innovative cover of “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana, this album is entirely written by Kawehi and recorded at her studio in town. Get a taste of her latest with new single “Anthem” here.
The concept behind “Robot Heart” comes from Kawehi’s sci-fi influences to make music from the perspective of a female robot who wants to experience joy and disappointment like a human being. Launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, Kawehi made 10 times more than the original goal, thanks to overnight stardom in response to her viral Nirvana cover, which received worldwide attention since becoming a staff pick on Vimeo and popping up everywhere including People Magazine, Spin, Huffington Post, Elle and Esquire.
She is currently on tour, scheduled through the end of August, but if any Lawrencians want to catch her live, they will have to venture out to the Aug. 19 Botanical Gardens show in Wichita. No Lawrence gig this time around.
“I’m half here all the time, always waiting to arrive.”
This opening line from Iska Dhaaf’s “Sleepwalkers” is both the underlying theme of their debut album, “Even the Sun Will Burn,” and a plausible explanation for the two disparate spirits coming together as a psych-punk duo.
Guitarist/vocalist Nathan Quiroga and drummer/keyboardist Benjamin Verdoes were both members of two buzzing Seattle bands when they decided to take a step back, and join forces taking their new act an entirely different direction.
A direction, they hoped, would help them discover “something more” to get rid of a “half here” feeling within.
“We were trying to discover something and understand ourselves,” Verdoes says. “It’s that existential crisis or human condition to want to understand yourself and view the world in a meaningful way.”
Verdoes, a member of rock quartet Mt. St. Helen Vietnam Band, says he was looking to learn how to make beats for electronic music, and reached out to the producer of other top band in the city, Mad Rad, the hip-hop electronic group where he’d find Quiroga. Quiroga had been looking to learn guitar to write songs from scratch. It was a perfect trade off of skills.
Verdoes also wanted another outlet for life hardships; he took legal guardianship of his 9-year-old brother, Marshall, at age 24. He ended up teaching Marshall drums to play in MSHVB (still active) by the age of 12.
“I raised my brother in that band,” Verdoes says. “It was very complicated and everything about it was difficult.”
Verdoes and Quiroga took a rigorous songwriting approach, working for two years before releasing “Even the Sun,” during which Quiroga learned to play play guitar and keys.
A mutual love for Sufi poetry, and obsessing over writing, they pore through every detail of the songwriting process. So much that the phrase “iska dhaaf” or “let it go” in Somali — a language Verdoes speaks fairly fluently — had been thrown out so many times in the early phases of the project. It eventually became the name of the band, at the suggestion of Verdoes’s Somali girlfriend.
“What it came to mean for us was that process of leaving something alone, or not wanting to do something just because a lot of people think that you’re great at it,” Verdoes says. “You make art because it helps you cope with your existence."
The album was an exploration of each of their individual identities, addressing questions of self to purpose, and connectivity to others.
“There’s this running theme about how we’re connected all the time but we seem like it’s very difficult to connect with other people,” Verdoes says. “Whether it’s through your phone or some other preoccupation, we tend to be around other people but not necessarily be with them.”
Through writing —e specially on this next album, Verdoes says — they both hope to discover what it really is that they’re searching for.
“Music is so valuable and so beautiful because it’s intangible,” he says. “You’re saying something and it’s like a poem. You get that feeling, like, ‘Oh that describes that thing well, I still don’t know exactly what it is, but I feel a lot closer to it.’”
While it’s true they are obsessive wordsmiths, their live show is an entirely different energy you have to be present at to understand.
“We hope people are bumping up against each other and having an experience,” Verdoes says. “There’s a part of the songs that you wouldn’t just get from just the record.
Check out the video for single "Everybody Knows" below, featuring friend and fellow Seattle musician Macklemore.
City and Colour (aka Dallas Green, former Alexisonfire guitarist ) added some new dates to his fall tour, and a Nov. 5 concert at Liberty Hall is one of the lucky six new stops he will be making.
The Canadian acoustic solo act is touring in support of his fourth solo album, 2013's “The Hurry and the Harm,” which debuted No. 1 in Canada. It was the first C&C record recorded outside of his home country, this time at Nashville's Blackbird Studios. Known for honest lyricism and peaceful melodic albums, this fourth full-length is an emotional journey through Green’s mind during the final days of Alexisonfire.
The string of new dates were scheduled around upcoming C&C festival appearances at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas, and at Voodoo Experience.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. Buy them here or at the Liberty Hall box office.
With forthcoming album “They Want My Soul” out this August, Spoon recently announced a 14-city North American tour not long after the album hits the shelves, and Liberty Hall is hosting the Austin band Sept. 21.
The alt-rock outfit will be releasing its first record in four years, and back in full force after a three-year hiatus. It seems the 2010 “Transference” tour wore the five members out, and they had to take a step back from the project. Just enough time to put the best of Spoon in “They Want My Soul.” Check out the first single “Rent I Pay” below, which popped up last month along with a few other tracks from the new album.
After fronting Neva Dinova for more than 15 years, releasing five full-length albums and split an EP with Bright Eyes (“One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels”), and touring extensively, Jake Bellows moved from his hometown of Omaha, Neb., to Los Angeles with his girlfriend. Neva Dinova disbanded in 2008 without any announced reason — later Bellows said he moved to stop from “drinking [himself] into a hole” as it was too easy to get by with little money in Omaha — and it wasn’t until last year that Bellows came out with debut solo album, “New Ocean,” that Saddle Creek describes as "left turns into drunk-in-the-sun bossa nova, blue-eyed-soul ruptured by fuzz guitar.” Get ready for some genuine music from a musician who truly wants to connect with his audience. We’re lucky he’s even making it to Kansas, as his original touring car broke down in New Mexico. 10 p.m. Thursday at the Replay, 946 Massachusetts St., $3.
DJ Kimbarely Legal + DJ B-Stee
Local DJ Kimbarely Legal tells me this is one night you’re not going to miss because she’s teaming up with Kansas City’s talented DJ B-Stee. Originally from New Jersey and part of the Brick Bandits Crew, B-Stee has been catering to the dance floor for more then 10 years with mixes of hip-hop, house, reggae, dubstep, Baltimore club and moombahton. As a producer, his credits include tracks on Joe Budden's Mood Muzik 3 and Padded Room albums with his team The Klasix, as well as multiple club remixes and original tracks that top DJs such as DJ Benzi, Busy P, Scottie B, and the late DJ AM, will include as staples in their sets. 10 p.m. Friday at the Replay, 946 Massachusetts St., $3.
Neon Trees [KANSAS CITY PICK]
A free show in Power and Light? No reason not to head on over. Neon Trees first gained exposure in 2008 when they toured with The Killers. In 2011, Rolling Stone's website streamed the band's new song "Everybody Talks,” and that single later became featured in an advertisement for the 2012 Buick Verano. Their third and latest studio album, “Pop Psychology,” was released in April of this year, which is what the Utah-based band is delivering on their current tour. More than anything else, the Mormon lead singer Tyler Glenn is getting the most attention recently for coming out as gay. 8 p.m. Friday, KC Live Block (14th Street and Grand, powerandlight.com), free (21 and up)
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Touring in support of their third studio album “Phosphorescent Harvest,” Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s latest collection of music is being described as rootsy, soulful, yet spacey, all to form a new “kaleidoscope” sound. The blues rock band — Chris Robinson (lead vocals, guitar), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keys, vocals), George Sluppick (drums) and Mark Dutton (bass, vocals) — formed in 2011 by Black Crowes singer Robinson, putting his former band on indefinite hiatus, and trying what was at first an “experiment,” but became a serious band after booking an 118-show tour across North America later that year. Described by Robinson as a "farm-to-table psychedelic band,” the quintet is known to push the envelop with its genre-bending songwriting and tours of more than 200 shows a year. 8 p.m. Sunday at The Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire St., $15.
San Francisco black metal band Deafheaven began as a two-piece with George Clarke and Kerry McCoy who recorded and self-released a demo album together, later finding three new members to join the outfit. Their latest album “Sunbather” was widely praised in 2013 when it was released, and is noted for being similar but superior to the band's first album, “Roads to Judah.” It’s as if they found a way to produce the sounds dreamed up in their heads, Pitchfork said. Transitioning through the album from brightness to darkness, the progressive-rock hits show that these guys know their punk, metal and hardcore. Lead singer George Clarke describes the evolution as less melancholic and less centered around black metal and more about lush pop-rock melodies. 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Granada, 1020 Massachusetts St., $15
“I know I’m up here and you see Lauryn Hill, and you came to see Lauryn Hill, but this is the first time y’all meeting me... And as I grow, you’re going to meet me a little bit more.” - Lauryn Hill, "MTV Unplugged," 2001.
Thirteen years later and currently on tour, we are still meeting Lauryn Hill, like it or not.
Strutting onto the Uptown Theatre stage at 9:38 p.m. in a shiny black floor-length skirt and menacing high heels (like the diva she has come to be known for), Ms. Hill continued to sing the cover of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel” she had started from backstage to open the show. The sold-out venue of 1,600 erupted in ear-splitting screams of adoration and worship.
Assigning seats was a quaint idea, but one that proved ineffective as most people pushed their way to the front of the room to get as close to the stage as possible, having waited for this moment since Hill took the industry by a storm with first and only studio album, 1998's “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”
If you’re a committed, devoted and true Lauryn Hill fan, you knew to come to the show without any expectations. She could have started three hours late, and it wouldn’t have been uncharacteristic. She could have spent the majority of the night delivering lengthy, poetic lessons, only sprinkling the audience with a few songs.
One thing was for certain: she wouldn’t be the Lauryn Hill you thought you knew.
Transitioning into an upbeat reggae-style version of “Killing Me Softly,” Hill commanded attention waving her arms frantically at her backing band like a conductor. It became clear early on, not even they knew where she’d take the night.
Many people were less than pleased with such an unorthodox reinvention of her classic “Miseducation” songs; “Final Hour” was taken at least three times faster than the normal tempo, and while her rapid-fire rapping was seemingly effortless, it was almost indiscernible. Many of her songs followed suit, jam-heavy renditions taking several bars before sounding familiar. She would sing “Killing Me Softly” closer to the original later in the night.
Others were overwhelmed with love for Hill’s presence, shouting out praises for her artistry after each electrifying finish. Lengthening her relationship anthem “Ex-Factor” by at least double, and turning into a funk-rock number, Hill acknowledged she was singing it for all the ladies; the final words, “cry for me, die for me, give to me, live for me” repeated so many times at various speeds as if to exhaust the intense emotion from the lyrics.
Hill left the stage with the band playing atmospheric sounds and a celestial scene lit on the screen behind them, only to came back a few moments later to sit on a stool and deliver an abbreviated acoustic Unplugged set.
Authenticity at the heart of these tracks, “Oh Jerusalem” was a spiritual experience for both the crowd and Hill, who ended the song choked up by her own words. Her deep, soulful and perfectly raspy voice cutting through the space rang true of the Hill in her glory days, leaving empty air begging to be filled with her unmatched genuine vocals.
Hill engaged the crowd by bringing back Fugees hits, taking control once again as she conducted the audience to jump up and down as she spit the verses of the classic “Fu-Gee-La.”
Covering all of her bases, she pulled out a couple more Marley covers, and ended the night solidly with Grammy-winning 1998 solo classic “Doo Wop (That Thing),” sending those who stayed faithful (some people left) to Ms. Hill throughout night into the final singalong hysteria. She saved the best for last.
Soul Rebel (Bob Marley cover)
Killing Me Softly with His Song
Everything is Everything
Adam Lives in Theory
Just like the Water
Turn Your Lights Down Low (Bob Marley cover)
I Only Have Eyes For You/Zealots (medley)
How Many Mics
Ready or Not
Killing Me Softly
Jamming (Bob Marley cover)
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley cover)
Doo Wop (That Thing)