An Interview with Little Comets

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I’m thrilled to give you all this post! Little Comets, an English indie-rock band that formed in 2008, have been one of my favorite bands since high school. I’m ecstatic to have interviewed lead singer, Rob Coles, for my blog.

Little Comets, made up of brothers Rob and Michael Coles, plus friends Matthew Hall, Matt Saxon, and Nathan Greene, released their debut album, In Search of Elusive Little Comets in 2011. The next year, the band released their second album, Life is Elsewhere, (my favorite!) under Dirty Hit records. If you’re unfamiliar with Dirty Hit, they’re an award-winning, British, independent label (and happen to be my favorite record label), whose artists include The 1975, Pale Waves, Wolf Alice, The Japanese House, and more. Little Comets were signed with Dirty Hit until 2017. They independently released their third album, Worhead, that same year.

Matty Healy of The 1975 mentioned his friendship with the guys in an 2013 interview.  Little Comets even helped produce some of The 1975’s early tracks.

“Little Comets took us out on the road when we were in our very embryonic stages of our old band and just let us open up for them. We started getting fans off the back of that…Then they helped us produce ‘Sex’ the song, and ‘You,'” -Matty Healy

I discovered Little Comets in 2013 when they performed a show at a small, intimate venue in Portland. I got tickets to the show out of curiosity, and after just a few minutes, I fell in love with the band’s unique sound. Echoey, driving drums, beachy guitar riffs and vivid lyrics that can be interpreted in a variety of ways…that’s Little Comets.

Little Comets started out by playing small college gigs, cafes, and other unusual venues in the UK. Since then, the guys have come a long way. Just this last year, the band teamed up with Catfish and the Bottlemen (another fave band of mine) for a sold-out arena tour. After that, the band spent the winter writing and working on new music in none other than singer Frank Sinatra’s former summer home in California! These days, album number five is in the works, and the guys are planning out their next tour–it will be the first time they’ve hit the road in two years.

A Perfect Playlist: Tell me a little bit about how Little Comets got started. Have you all been involved in music-related projects since you were young?

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Little Comets (Rob Coles): Mickey are I brothers, so we’ve been writing songs in the house since we were very little. Once we’d finished Uni, we decided to see if we could make a living out of being creative, musically, so we set about finding other musicians to form a band. That was the start of Little Comets with Mark (our original drummer), and Matt, our bassist.

APP: One of my favorite songs of yours is “Bridge Burn.” It’s a super special song for me and a few friends. Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind it?

RC: Ah thanks, that’s nice to hear! That’s a song I wrote in my bedroom while Mickey was mixing songs for our second album. I kind of wrote/recorded it roughly and had lots of lyrics almost immediately for it. The coast is pretty great for providing lyrical metaphors. Theme-wise, it’s just about two people who realize that their time is up. When Mickey heard the song, he really molded the landscape. Initially, it was just a B-side, but in hindsight, we probably should have put a little more faith in it, as it seems to be a pretty popular song.

APP: Your sound/genre has been described as “kitchen sink indie.” Do you agree with that?

RC: Haha, I don’t really mind–as long as people are polite and constructive, they can describe our sound how they like. I suppose that it could mean, in terms of subject matter, that we write about kitchen sink-related things, which was certainly true of album one. In a sonic sense, though, we do use a lot of percussive instruments which are also kitchenalia, so if the cap fits…

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APP: If you could invite one artist/band to be in the crowd at one of your shows, who would it be and why?

RC: We got really excited once at a gig in Oxford because somebody asked that Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) be put on the guest list. It spoilt the gig, though, because we spent the whole evening looking for Jonny Greenwood despite him not actually being there, and probably never having any intention of being there. So I would choose Jonny Greenwood because I haven’t said “Jonny Greenwood” enough in this answer.

APP: Your latest music video, “American Tuna,” is super creative and visually complex in how it was filmed. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience filming? How did you come up with the idea as it relates to the song?

RC: It was fun, but stressful. We had received an email telling us, despite our very polite request, that we explicitly couldn’t use the building. So the whole process was based around being very secretive. This definitely hampered the final product, as we couldn’t redo shots or control timing or lighting. Mickey was in a Paternoster lift in an 18-floor building with the camera. As the lift travels up, each floor is a different scene which tells the story of a relationship. Mickey was in that lift for about 6 solid hours while we chased him ’round the building, doing scenes in non-chronological order to avoid security cameras. We were happy with the final video, but I just wish that people could see the levels of effort and time that just three people were involved in executing. It looks pretty pro, and the DIYness doesn’t come through. I think that given the constraints, it’s amazing. But I’m biased.

APP: That’s mind-blowing. Writing music is super different from filming a visual interpretation of a song through a music video. Has that ever been a challenge for you as a band?

RC:  I think we’ve learned to separate the processes quite naturally. We also like learning new skills, so the challenge of making a video or a piece of artwork is an opportunity to do that. The only problem is time. We are three people, yet we have to record, write, and release the music on our own label, then promote it whilst making the videos and artwork. Because we are novices in many of these areas, it takes us longer to produce these assets. That often puts us behind, as artists at a commensurate level have teams of people and pools of financial resources that we don’t. It does make the task psychologically difficult at times as well, compounded by the fact that we are in a industry that gives credence to having a machine in tow. We often get overlooked and dismissed because we don’t have a manager, record label, publisher, art director, plugging team etc. I think this is where the real challenge lies for us.

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APP: You haven’t toured for two years, but you’re making plans to head back onto the road soon! Do you have a favorite/funny memory from being on tour in the past?

RC: Probably when Matt broke his foot in Texas. We spent the next five days telling him he was fine, but then talking privately about how he was really hamming it up. By the time we got to Missouri, he got an X-ray and found out he had a hairline fracture. We felt TERRIBLE! He completed the rest of the tour perched on a bar stool during the gigs, and he became my hero.

APP: Are there any songs you feel you’ve outgrown that now seem to stray from your current sound?

RC: Ah no, they are all our babies. They popped out for a reason and we can’t really turn them away even when they become slightly haggard/annoying. That would be bad song parenting!

 

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Rob!

Listen to Little Comets here:

 

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2018 Concert Recap

2018 was a great year for new records and live shows. Here’s a little recap of the concerts I attended in 2018!

George Ezra: 5/8/18, Roseland Theater

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetI saw UK artist George Ezra perform in a small, local venue in Portland long before the success of his breakout single, “Budapest” in 2014. His booming, distinctive voice stuck with me after the performance, and I instantly became a fan. I won tickets to this concert in May through a contest his label created. I participated in various “fan activities” like watching George’s music videos multiple times, tweeting about him, and sharing his social media pages. I earned “points” that translated into number of entries, and I was my city’s winner! The concert was amazing–George played a full set of songs from both his debut record, Wanted On a Voyage and sophomore album, Staying at Tamara’s. I was thrilled when George performed my most favorite song of his, “Song 6.” This is a bonus track that appears on the deluxe edition of Wanted On a Voyage. It was magic to watch George perform it. Purple and blue lights on stage swirled around him as he sang, his eyes closed the whole time. I MAY have gotten a little emotional… 😉

Lucy Dacus: 5/26/18, Bloodworks Live Studio

Lucy, an indie rock/alternative singer-songwriter from Virginia, captured her audience from the very first song, “Night Shift.” (From her latest album, Historian.) Instantly, it became my favorite track. It tells a story of raw heartbreak and the conflicting feelings partners feel amidst the aftermath of a breakup. Immediately, Lucy reminded me of a few other of my favorite artists, like Phoebe Bridgers (whom she has performed with) and Courtney Barnett. Like these artists, she also seems to follow the “talk-singing” style, which reminds me a lot of when people read poetry out loud. I had the opportunity to meet her after the show, and she was so kind! (I’m not going to include the meet and greet picture here though, I look awful lol.) If you ever get the chance to see Lucy live, definitely check her out!

Dermot Kennedy: 5/27/18, Bloodworks Live Studio

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Dermot Kennedy, an R&B/alternative singer-songwriter from Dublin, Ireland, was the most unique artist I saw live in 2018. According to his online bio, “the young Dubliner draws inspiration from all the moments of brightness and darkness this world has to offer, crafting music that’s at once soaring and intimate, stripped-back and explosive. Stuttery hip-hop and R&B-influenced percussion underpins his weathered vocals as he combines organic and electronic elements into an arresting, emotional blend that calls to mind the adventurous arrangements of Bon Iver, and James Blake.” Dermot is a huge fan of Glen Hansard, another favorite of mine, who he ran into by chance on the streets of Dublin. A few months later, Glen invited Dermot to open for him on stage at a huge Christmas show! Dermot had a crazy strong stage presence when I saw him, and his voice really bounced off of the walls in the small studio. He mostly performed tracks from his 2017 EP, Doves and Ravens, plus  his most memorable song, “Young & Free.”

Death Cab For Cutie: 9/24/18, Hult Center

I’ve been listening to Death Cab since I was little, so when my friend offered me his extra concert ticket, of course I said yes! DCFC put on a great show, and engaged the crowd in between every song. It was so fun to hear some old classics in addition to new, like “Soul Meets Body,” which I’ve listened to forever, but also “Gold Rush,” from their latest record Thank You for Today.

 

 

Hozier: 10/20/18, Roseland Theater

Hozier played this Portland venue two nights in a row, and I caught the second show. My friend and I are both huge fans of Hozier, so naturally we lined up early and ended up being in the front row. (While waiting in line, we pressed our ears against the doors and could hear him soundchecking inside) It was insane–standing that close to Andrew (Hozier’s real name) and his band was a dream come true. He started off the show with his hit single, “Nina Cried Power,” which I wrote about in an earlier post. Hozier also graced us with what was an unreleased track at the time, “Movement.” Andrew was accompanied by his incredible band which is composed of some insanely talented musicians from all over the globe, including Kristen Rodgers (backing vocals, percussion, keyboard) and Suzanne Santo (fiddle, guitar, vocals) from Ohio. Suzanne first sang with Hozier as part of the alt-country-blues duo, Honey Honey, when they joined him to perform Work Song at a benefit concert in May 2017.

 

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Concerts I’m attending in 2019 (so far):

The 1975, 4/27/19: This will be my third time seeing my favorite band, and I’m ecstatic! I’m crossing my fingers that they play a mixture of new and old material, especially a few of my favorite songs, like “Robbers,” “Paris,” “If I Believe You,” and “Inside Your Mind.” Each time I’ve seen The 1975, they sweep me off my feet. I completely forget where I am, and I get lost in the music. Matty and the boys put on an incredible show, and they always come through with a stellar stage setup.

Bad Suns, 3/1/19: This will be my first time seeing Bad Suns live, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been listening to them for a few years now– they were the first record I was gifted when I received my first record player for Christmas a few years back.

 

See you in 2019, fellow music lovers!

(All photos, videos and gifs are mine.)

 

Now Playing: Winter 2018

Albums:

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The 1975: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

I’ve been looking forward to the release of this record for a few years now, and let me tell you, The 1975 did not disappoint. This record (“ABIIOR” for short) marks yet another new style/era for the band. (Each album seems to be a wildly different sound than the last.) There are quite a few ballads on this one, including the mesmerizing, jazzy tune about fear of commitment, “Mine,” and the haunting “Inside Your Mind.” (My personal favorite.)

IMG_1734Other incredible tracks include the Oasis-esque “I Always Wanna Die Sometimes,” and intense scream-along, “Love It If We Made It,” which centers around pretty much everything wrong with the world right now. The band has filmed 3-4 music videos to go along with selected tracks which were released as singles prior to the full album release on November 30, and my favorite by far was the video for “Sincerity Is Scary.” In addition, Matty has uploaded a few incredible acoustic performances of the new tracks, plus two of the band’s older songs, “Paris” and even “102,” from The 1975’s Drive Like I Do days. Track 1, simply titled “The 1975,” has been present on every record the band has released so far–they reinvent the song each time, tweaking the style and overall sound. (Left: The limited edition poster I received after attending a The 1975 Listening Party at my local record store!)

ABIIOR touches on the consequences of technology in the modern age, lack of genuine connections between human beings, and the current political issues going on in our world. Long story short, I love almost every single track. The record has a variety of style and meaningful lyrics to fill your time dissecting, and listening to it all makes me even more excited to see them live next April. Also, reminder that the guys are planning to release another album early next year 😉

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Hozier: Nina Cried Power EP

This EP was released in October, and although it’s comprised of just four tracks, it’s jam-packed with some notable tunes. When asked about how this EP ties into the release of his sophomore album, Hozier says: “This collection of songs is an example of what I’ve been working on and is a small taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album.” The first track, “Nina Cried Power,” which features Mavis Staples, strays from Hozier’s usual style and is a rad protest song. Hozier says that the song as well as the accompanying music video highlights the work of Irish activists, and famous Civil Rights activist Nina Simone. Can’t wait to hear the rest of his new material!

Singles:

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Horace Bray: “How It Ends”

This single combines soulful vocals and jazz acoustic/electric guitar with a driving, heartbeat-like bass. Horace, who began playing drums at the young age of ten, is a singer-songwriter from L.A. who grew up in St. Louis. He credits his love for jazz to an after-school jazz program he attended in St. Louis, the UNT Jazz Singers he joined at the Unviersity of North Texas, the Four O’Clock Lab Band, and a few other groups. “How It Ends” is his latest single, released just last month. My favorite lyric is: “I saw your light and now it’s gone…is this how it ends…with a flicker of how it began?” Using light as a metaphor for love is a powerful image.

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Josh Gilligan: “Absent Mind”

This song has some serious Mac Demarco vibes going on–especially the intro and middle riff, which features a funky electric guitar and background synth. The song follows the story of two people who have previously been in a relationship (or perhaps never at all), yet one of them still believes they are a couple. Josh Gilligan is still a fairly new, up-and-coming artist from Nashville, TN. Surprisingly, he says he has been heavily influenced by artists like Paul Simon, Bread, America, Dawes, and The Real Efforts Of Real People–however, his music strays far from the style of these artists.

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Julianna Zachariou: “Subway Song”

This lovely, sleepy track snuck its way onto my Spotify Discover page last month, and it hasn’t left my head since. I find myself singing it at random times, and I’m even attempting to learn how to play it on my ukulele. It’s short, sweet and simple–Juliana paints a picture of an early morning subway ride in New York, where half-asleep passengers clutch the rails. They sway back and forth with the rhythm of the train, and it looks as if they are slow-dancing with one another. Julianna Zachariou is a indie singer-songwriter from Nashville, and her first full-length album, “Meanwhile,” made its debut last year.

The Power of Music In Film: An Interview with student filmmaker Anna Maestas

 

“Whenever I make videos, I rely heavily on the music I incorporate. I think the reason why people get so emotional over films is the combination of a visual and music component–without both, it just wouldn’t be the same.” -Anna Maestas

 

FullSizeRender-4By day, Anna Maestas is a sophomore at the University of Oregon studying journalism. By night, Anna directs and produces a series of moody, heartbreakingly beautiful short films. The first episode of her video series, “Would You Like to Leave a Message?,” premiered just last month.

The film, inspired by and centered around a real voicemail submitted by a friend of Anna’s, is as tragic as it is visually stunning. The accompanying track, Perfume Genius’ “Otherside” builds the film to an incredible climax, leaving the viewer with a sense of mutual longing and sympathy for the actors on screen. “Otherside” fits perfectly in terms of content and rhythm, complimenting the depth and complexity of the film itself. I chatted with Anna about her film, where she finds inspiration, and the ways in which music has largely contributed to her creative process. (Photo on right by Marissa Willke.)

A Perfect Playlist: What is your video series “Would You Like to Leave a Message?”, about, and how did you come up with the concept for it?

Anna Maestas: When it comes to art, I usually start with an idea that I think about for a few months. I put it into words, and then I don’t actually complete the project until like a month or so later. For this film, I got the idea in February of last year. I was going through life, things were pretty normal, but I was feeling some strong feelings of longing for different people, as well as longing for home. I decided to channel those feelings into an art piece by using voicemails.

When you call someone, your initial hope, of course, is that the person on the other line will pick up. When they don’t, there’s that “limbo” state you enter where your emotions end up spilled out into a voicemail. Voicemails are an expression of a very tangible, genuine longing. I knew that I wanted to use real voicemails in the film because it falls under the category of my favorite kind of art, which is called “relational aesthetic.” This type of art occurs when the artist curates real-life relationships and experiences through pieces. This can be expressed through performance, video, photography etc. The artist brings people together through an artistic depiction of a relationship or particular situation.

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Whenever I do art, I like to use themes from real life. So for this film, I wanted to take something that is very real–which is why I asked people to send me voicemails they’ve received. The voicemail I used for this particular film was between a girl and her boyfriend at the time. It’s so real and powerful…and in a way, if you listen to it, he didn’t really say anything in particular. It was just him rambling and hoping she would pick up. That stuck with me, because that’s how I was feeling about some of the people in my life at the time. So I crafted my visual interpretation of the situation and filmed it with some friends.

APP: How many voicemails did you receive?

Anna: So many. One of the most amazing parts of this project was the fact that so many people were willing to share such intimate parts of their life with me. It was so special that I got to hear the voices of their moms, grandmas, friends etc.

APP: Who were the actors in the film?

Anna: I had originally planned to film it in Eugene, but I ended up filming in my hometown of Denver, CO. Over the summer, I got my friends Ben and Kylie together, and we ended up filming it over the course of just two days.

APP: You chose the song “Otherside” by Perfume Genius to be the background track for this film. It fits incredibly well. Did you choose the song beforehand, or decide to use it as you edited?

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Anna: Whenever I make videos, I rely heavily on the music I incorporate. I think the reason why people get so emotional over films is the combination of a visual and music component–without both, it just wouldn’t be the same. That’s why people react so strongly to films with an incredible soundtrack. Whenever I look for songs to include in my videos, I look for a build in the song, where things are happening and they suddenly lead up to a certain moment that makes you go “holy shit.” So I heard this song by Perfume Genius, and I loved the build and the way it made me feel when I listened to it. I had it in the back of my mind when I was filming the video, and I knew it had to be that song.

APP: Is there a movie that’s had an impact on you in part because it’s soundtrack?

Anna: Call Me By Your Name. That movie is such a true and honest representation of love. I associate Sufjan Stevens’ music (which is in the film) with Eugene, since I watched it for the first time there with a lot of people I love. The music in that film partnered with the incredible story line all falls together so well for me.

 

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Thanks, Anna!

Summer Spins

Summer is here again! I’m super excited to be interning with The Portland Radio Project during the next few months, a non-profit radio station in Portland committed to showcasing local artists and supporting small businesses. I’ll be doing graphic design and social media work for PRP, which I’m stoked about!

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to a lot of new music. Listen along below.

Albums

51xW1wRspzL._SS500Twin Shadow: Caer

I discovered this album by chance on Spotify, and I’m so glad I did! With a sound similar to artists like Flume and ODESZA, lead singer George Lewis Jr. has an intriguing voice. It is often complimented by quirky instruments like synthesizers.

You may recognize a few other voices on this record, such as band HAIM and singer-songwriter Rainsford. By far, my favorite track on the record is “Too Many Colors,” mostly because of the super cool intro. When you first listen to the song, it’s easy to mistake it for a children’s song or something straight out of Disney–a xylophone dominates the beginning of the track, which then leads into the first verse.

bridge_leon_goodthing_101bLeon Bridges: Good Thing

This record came out just last month, but I already know every lyric. 🙂 Before the release of this sophomore album, Leon teased us with a little taste of what was to come. He released his two singles, “Bad Bad News” and “The Bet Aint Worth The Hand” back in March. Surprisingly enough, I’d say that the rest of the record is pretty different from these two tracks, though! Through a healthy mix of blues, jazz and soul, Good Thing is a compilation of Leon’s stories: forgiving someone who broke his heart, his mother and her childhood (a continuation of the last record), and the moment he realized he may have found the girl of his dreams. Overall, I think this record is so beautiful–my favorite tracks are “Forgive You,” “Beyond,” and “Mrs.”

Leon will be on tour this summer! See if he’s coming to your city here.

the-search-for-everything-b-iext48856379John Mayer: The Search For Everything

John released his newest single, “New Light,” just last month, and paired it with a HILARIOUS music video. He hired a low-budget Bar Mitzvah video company to produce it. As a result, the video features John singing in front of a variety of incredibly cheesy backdrops matched with wacky transitions. Through out the video, John dances awkwardly in  a pair of dad-esque, purple striped pants and a torn sweatshirt. If you’re in need of a good laugh, watch the video here.

The Search For Everything was released not long before this single. The record follows John’s traditional style of ballads and bops, my favorites being “Still Feel Like Your Man,” “Emoji Of a Wave,” and “In The Blood.” This is one of those albums that anyone who’s ever been in a relationship (and experienced its end) can relate to–you can cry to this record, belt to it, or dance, depending on the song. That’s one of John Mayer’s many talents–he produces a a versatile style of tunes that can fit any mood.

Singles

the-1975-give-yourself-a-try-1527789760-640x640The 1975: “Give Yourself A Try”

On Friday June 1, The 1975’s much-anticipated new single,”Give Yourself A Try” was released. During my 10 am lecture that morning, I snuck out my earbuds and tuned into the premiere on Capital FM, London’s most popular radio station. Obviously, I loved the track immediately. It strays pretty far from the band’s usual style–with repetitive, biting electric guitar laying down the foundation of the song.

“Give Yourself a Try” describes Matty Healy’s (lead singer) experience of “getting spiritually enlightened at 29,” dealing with a drug addiction over the past few years: “And you’ll make a lot of money, and it’s funny, ’cause you’ll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs,” and subtle views on politics: “I found a grey hair in one of my zoots…like context in a modern debate, I just took it out.”

De0tQzKU8AAmJQdDespite what many fans thought, The 1975’s new record didn’t drop on June 1. 😦 Instead, the band released this new single and announced the beginning of a new “era” of music for the band, known as the “Music For Cars” era. The new album, set to release in October 2018, will be titled “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.”

Naturally, being the super-fan I am, I threw a The 1975-themed party with my friends to ring in the new era! I covered my apartment with pink, black and white themed decorations, as well as provided The 1975-themed games and snacks (pink Starbursts, pink glowing balloons, pink Goldfish crackers, black and white napkins and silverware, The 1975 album-themed cupcakes, and a game of Pin-The-Tat-On-The-Matty.)

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Betty Who: “All Things” (From Queer Eye)

This is my go-to feel-good song for the summer. This single is a cover of the opening theme for my favorite show on Netflix right now, Queer Eye, a reboot of the Bravo series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It features the new Fab Five: Antoni Porowski, food and wine expert; Tan France, fashion expert (my favorite!); Karamo Brown, culture expert; Bobby Berk, design expert and Jonathan Van Ness, grooming expert. In each episode, The Fab Five give straight guys across the country much-needed life, fashion, and home advice/makeovers. Queer Eye is incredibly touching, hilarious, and the Fab Five are beyond lovable. This song, covered by pop singer Betty Who, features Betty’s killer vocals, and the music video for it is EPIC, featuring all five guys!

a3462444518_10Florist: “Vacation”

I’m not entirely sure what it is I love so much about this song, but I’ve had it on repeat the past few days. “Vacation” is a combination of warm, childhood memories and the everyday thoughts of a girl going through life the best way she can. Through out the track, lead singer Emily Sprague sings about reminding herself of the good things in her life in the midst of finding herself. My favorite lyric is: “I don’t know how to be what I wanted to be when I was 5.” Everyone can relate to this line, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say there are times when it feels like we’re simply coasting through life, unsure of what to do next. It’s easy to start wondering what the five-year-old version of yourself would think of who you are now, and whether or not they’d be happy with the things you’ve accomplished. Songs like “Vacation” are really important, because it reminds us that we aren’t alone in thinking these things. It urges us to examine the moments that have shaped us, and remember that every day we continue to grow and change. Another lyric I love is: “And at least I know that my mom is breathing when we talk on the phone. And at least I know that my house won’t burn down, down to the ground. Or maybe it will.”

Accept things that come your way, and never stop listening to music that means something to you.

Now Playing: Winter 2017

I’ve been listening to a lot of chilling (pun intended–it’s cold as heck outside) tunes lately, and I wanted to share a few of them with you. Enjoy, and please tweet me any suggestions you have!

Wolf_Alice_-_Visions_of_a_LifeWolf Alice: Visions Of a Life

I initially discovered this record when I saw Wolf Alice live for the first time in Portland a few months ago. I was immediately intrigued by lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s chilling voice–Courtney Barnett meets Dolores O’Riordan. My favorite tracks from the record are “Don’t Delete The Kisses” and “Planet Hunter.” I’ve been annoying my roommates by playing these two earworms over and over. Both tracks are drastically different from each other. One is a longing, soft ballad and the other is a loud, poem-esque sing-along that is guaranteed to get suck in your head. This album is fairly new–it was just released in September.

 

Kodaline: I Wouldn’t Be EP

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I’ve been obsessed with this EP, lately. Although it came out in October, I didn’t hear about it’s release until one of the tracks popped up on my Spotify recommended. And thank goodness it did, because I’ve had the track, “I Wouldn’t Be” on repeat, since. This little ditty is sung in the style of an Irish ballad–complete with bagpipes and bone-chilling harmonies. (Seriously, you’ve gotta listen to it.) The rest of the EP is fabulous as well. My other favorite is “The Riddle.” Truly some of Kodaline’s best work.

 

James McAlister, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens & Nico Muhly: Planetarium

Planetarium-web-1497014950Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much Stranger Things, complete with it’s excellent 80’s soundtrack. Or maybe because of my friends’ recent re-interest in The Police and Corey Heart…but for some reason, I am SO into synthesizers right now…and 80’s/ambient music in general. Which is why Planetarium has become a favorite of mine. The electric guitar solos, spacey riffs, unique tones, and  feedback included on each track makes the whole album quite an experience to listen to. My favorite tune by far on the record is “Mercury.” Check it out–each song is named after a planet.

 

Swimming Tapes: Soft Sea Blue EP

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The perfect study soundtrack. Chill, honeyed vocals paired with lush guitar tones. My favorite track off this EP, which was released in September, is “Allison.” Swimming Tapes, an up-and-coming U.K. band has only released two EPs and a few singles so far, and I’m super excited to hear what they do next!

 

 

 

Happy Holidays, music-lovers around the world. 🙂

An Interview With Haley Johnsen

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Haley Johnsen

28-year-old singer-songwriter Haley Johnsen is a risk-taker. From landing herself a spot in the top 24 of American Idol Season 11, releasing her debut EP Through the Blue in 2015, and playing The Troubadour stage in Los Angeles, Haley refuses to let fear inhibit her success. Haley “is a one-of-a-kind voice with gusto and soul, and mesmerizing presence. One of the Pacific Northwest’s most individual up-and-coming acts,” according to her website. She has toured with Texas-based band The Wind and the Wave, Seattle-based band Gabriel Wolfchild and the Northern Light, Season 8 Winner of The Voice, Sawyer Fredericks, and is good friends with famed American Idol winner, Phillip Phillips.

Despite all of her amazing success over the years, Haley hasn’t always felt as confident in herself as she is today. Haley’s struggle with inner doubt and self-reflection helped her develop into the strong, kick-ass Indie-folk singer we know and love today.

A Perfect Playlist: Tell me a little bit about how you got started. How long have you been singing?

Haley Johnsen: I would say the first official age I began singing was around 3 years old when I first watched The Little Mermaid. Throughout my youth, you might have found me singing in a closet so no one in my house could hear me. I was painfully shy and didn’t want anyone to know I could sing. As I got older and warmed up to the idea, I began singing in my college A Capella group and Chamber Choir, and from that point on, I continued to develop my voice as a professional singer-songwriter.

ppAPP: You were a contestant on American Idol and ended up making it to the top 24! That’s amazing. Tell me a little bit about that experience and how it shaped you as an artist.

HJ: Being on American Idol was a game changer for me. I was so terrified each time I made it through an audition, but the adrenaline was enough to make me realize that I was in it to win it. I had to overcome a lot of inner doubt and I worked as hard as I possibly could to prepare for each performance. Being on the show was one of the most fun, terrifying, and life-changing times in my life. It made me realize how much singing and music means to me, and I began to realize I have a responsibility to myself and the rest of the world to do something with the voice I was given. (Right: Haley and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.)

Click here to watch a bit of Haley’s American Idol journey!

APP: Who are your influences?

HJ: Brandi Carlile, Bonnie Raitt, Florence and the Machine, Eva Cassidy, Grace Potter, Aretha Franklin…I could name so many more! These are the women who inspired me to sing with power and grace. 

APP: What’s the story behind one of your most popular tunes, “Feel The Water?” 

HJ: “Feel the Water” first came to me during a guitar lesson with my bandmate. I created the chord progression and structure of the song, but it took me almost 3 months to put words to the tune. When I finally did, it’s almost as if it wrote itself. It was as if a voice in my head was telling me to believe in myself, so that’s what I wrote about. I expressed how it feels to be afraid to do something, and how much I had been struggling with being confident in myself. I had been feeling numb, and this song helped pull me out of that. I think now this song could be for others to reflect on what might be going on inside themselves, and what areas they are longing to be more courageous in.

APP: Where do you find inspiration to write music? Do you have a particular place you like to go, or any type of method that helps you think creatively?

HJ: I used to rent this little Airbnb Cabin in Hood River for a weekend at a time. I would go there by myself and just write for hour and hours and demo out my songs. I definitely need to be alone when I first begin to brainstorm ideas for a song.

APP: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

HJ: I always warm up my voice for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes if I really need to pump myself up, I’ll do a few pushups to get the blood flowin’. I always take a moment to breathe, close my eyes, and check in with myself. I give myself a little pep talk and say “Hey, you’re awesome. You got this.” I think centering myself before going on stage always helps me stay grounded during the performance.

    

APP: What has been your favorite venue to perform in?

HJ: My favorite venue I’ve played so far was The Troubadour in Los Angeles. Artists like Elton John and Joni Mitchel got their start in the music industry by playing there, and it was just such an honor to stand where so many other legends had performed.

APP: What do you hope fans will derive from your music?

HJ: I hope that my music speaks to those who need to hear it. A lot of my music is just me working through something, telling myself I just need to take the risk and believe. So many people don’t pursue their passions because they don’t think they can do it or it feels too unfamiliar and scary. I believe that tapping into your creative self, no mater how “successful” you are in it, is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. I want to inspire that.

APP: If you could perform a duet with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

HJ: I would perform a song with Florence and the Machine. She just seems like such a fun and sweet person to be around, but she is also such a force of nature on stage. She’s not afraid to wail. Singing a powerful ballad or something with her would be a dream.

APP: “When You Lit The Sky” is your latest record, as it just came out this August. (Love it, by the way.) Is there a particular track on that album that is close to your heart?

My last track “Carry On.” This song came to me 3 days after the Pulse Night Club Shooting. I was feeling very distraught and just wanted to write something that was comforting to me. I strived to convey the idea and possibility that we are all stronger together when we show empathy. I want everyone to know that they are not alone, and that we need to show our love and compassion for one another now more than ever. 

 

Follow Haley:

Spotify

Website

Instagram

All photos are courtesy of Haley’s website/social media.