Soul Pop Fusion
Desperate Spirits // Hop Hop Records – February 14, 2017
As an album, Personal Fables is one of the richest collection of eight songs to come out of Lexington in several years. This meticulous orchestration and arranging is made that much more impressive after realizing it was written and performed almost singularly by Trevor Tremaine – minus trumpet and saxophone, everything you hear here is his doing. The songs here are so densely-packed that they become fresher on each repeated listen, propelling them forward with constant momentum as they roll into the next of a seemingly endless supply of ideas.
The album opens with the manic “Personal Best,” which rolls the bassline, drums, guitar, and vocal riffs into one smooth hook – the track yields toward the final third of the song, setting up a great guitar solo through its end. “Life and a Day” has maybe the catchiest and most accessible chorus of the album, yet the song still manages to break the mold with its contrasting bridge (plus, I love the line “I am an idling time machine, and I’m going nowhere slow” that sets it up). On the first few listens, “The One and Only,” didn’t stick out to me a lot, but the tight rhythm and arrangement in the chorus eventually reveals itself as delightfully smooth and well-done. “Incompetence” is perhaps the track the benefitted the most from multiple listens. The lyrics carry the story from start to finish, and the lush instrumentation throughout the track make it one of the most immaculate, enjoyable listens of the album.
“Getting It” is punchy, clever, and self-referential – it pushes and pulls throughout the track, forcing you to listen closely (in which case you’ll hear little treats like “smoking squares outside the Speedway,” a quick line which has rolled around my head all week). The album reaches its most experimental point on “Beyond Cliche'” which walks the harmony all over the map, stretches an angular melody over top of it (while managing to make it fit naturally on top of the unusual progression), and packs in another quick, sharp spoken-word bridge. “You Have Lived” may be the album’s peak – as the penultimate track, it is arranged as a ballad, with only vocals and a shimmering organ. The lyrics here are just as sharp as on the rest of Personal Fables (and, at times, they even lean into the same tongue-in-cheek territory that many of the other songs inhabit), ruminating on the line “a life of no regrets is the only kind worth living.” Tremaine sings through a lifetime of missed opportunities, and by the time the song nears its finish, it swells into a gorgeously multi-tracked chorus of “you have lived” that carries through to the end. Closing the album is the quick “The Worst Thing that Could Happen,” which brings things full-circle into the same exciting territory of the album’s opener.
This album is thoroughly enjoyable – it manages to be smart, inventive, and wordy, while remaining catchy and fun. Its singular point of creative origin becomes more apparent upon each repeated listen, and Trevor never favors density of ideas over the ability of these ideas to work in harmony with one another – they’re simply arranged in a way that works. Personal Fables is a must-hear album, and is unlike anything else I’ve heard from Lexington.
Tracks I Liked: Personal Best!, Life and a Day!, Incompetence!!, Beyond Cliche’!, You Have Lived!!!
Ben Southworth – February 5, 2017 – Kenwick Place
IPB: Tell me a little bit about yourselves. Who are you, and how do you all know each other?
JC: We are all lexington natives, we met through school. Grant Curless (guitarist) and Wils Quinn (drummer) met in middle school. Wils met Shawn Reynolds (bassist) in high school. Grant and Wils began jamming in middle school and built up a strong musical relationship. However it lacked a nice low end and so Wils enlisted friend Shawn Reynolds.
What makes three guys your age want to play in a blues rock band?
We are all really moved by the blues and soul music. We love the culture and the history around the blues. As for the rock portion we believe that my just be a part of our interpretation of the blues. We just naturally rough it up a bit, make it a bit tougher.
What was your all’s process like for writing and recording your EP?
The interesting thing about the EP is that we were really just recording our rehearsals, as we continued to save our money to go into a real studio. We decided our “basement recordings” sounded good enough, and it allowed us to self-fund and self-produce our own record which was a great experience.
Where do you get your inspiration for lyrics in your songs? (I would imagine that none of you have actually spent a ‘night in jail’ – please forgive me if I’m assuming wrong).
You are correct none of us have spent a night in jail. However that song is based off a true story that happened in one of the band members life that is re told in the first person. Songs like those are really inspired by old blues songs which usually revolve around dark topics such as: Adultery, revenge, intoxication, voodoo and whatever else we can squeeze in there to make us seem tough. Its all a part of the game, Johnny Cash never shot a man in Reno but builds a strong image and makes for a good song.
Why did you choose the Howlin’ Wolf tune to cover? What do you like about that song particularly?
We are really big fans of Howlin’ Wolf and his music, he was one of our bigger inspirations. We were messing around with playing Smokestack Lightning as well as Spoonful. We chose Smokestack Lightning just because we felt like it was more accessible to being “rocked up” it was easier to add our own twist to it.
Do you feel like being young helps or hurts your all’s case for being a band – do some people not take you seriously, are people especially interested in you all because of your age, or does it seem to make much difference at all?
Being teenagers can both be our best friend and our worst enemy at times. We get a lot more attention because we are young. This is great, we love any attention we get, its also nice because we have more time to build ourselves up as a band before the real world hits us and we have to go to college or get jobs. However being young also comes with its disadvantages, we are a little tired of being referred to as a teen band. Yes, we are all teens, but we want our music to speak for its self, we want to just be a band, our ages should have nothing to do with it. It can also be tough to get gigs at real bars because of the age difference.
What has been your all’s favorite experience as a band thus far? Your strangest?
Recently we have had some shows where we could pull in some large crowds of peers. The last one we played we were able to get the whole crowd dancing and even a few dancing on the stage. During that show there was a lot of great energy, so Grant decided to jump out into the crowd during his solo. He jumped off the stage and landed wrong and ended up dislocating his knee cap. He finished the last two songs on the ground, having a audience member holding the mic for him. That may have been the best and worst experience we have had as of yet.
What plans do you all have for the future of Johnny Conqueroo?
Recently we have been fortunate to work with several people interested in helping us take the band to the next level. Meanwhile we keep writing, recording and rehearsing for upcoming shows and our next EP.
What music are each of you listening to the most right now?
We are listening to all types of music right now. We have been listening to the classic blues as usual: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, BB King, RL Burnside and Son House. We recently have been influenced by more heavy or psychedelic acts such as: Early Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Reignwolf, Ty Segall, tonstartssbandht, King Gizard and The Lizard Wizard.
Thanks to Johnny Conqueroo for taking the time for this interview – if you’re interested in seeing them perform soon, you can see them at the following times and places:
Ben Southworth – October 13th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Self-Released – October 9th, 2015
DeBraun Thomas is an important guy when it comes to the Lexington music scene. He’s produced the Crunkadelic Funk Show since 2009 (at WRFL from 2009 to 2013, and at WUKY from 2013 to present) and does segment at WUKY called ‘Local Music Mondays’ highlighting a different member in Lexington music each week. DeBraun has been a part of different bands throughout the last several years (Relic Delic and Soul Funkin Dangerous), but recently he’s been playing around town under his own name. His first album, All My Colors Are Blind, is a collection of ten tracks that channel influences of funk, soul, rhythm & blues, and rock – the themes of the songs range from more serious explorations of things like love, longing, diversity and racial acceptance to lighter subject matters like being ‘Broke in Denver.’
All My Colors Are Blind is not only a collection of good songs, though – it listens well as an album, too. DeBraun shows an affinity for grooving, up-tempo blues in tracks like “Bedroom Stranger” and the aforementioned “Broke in Denver,” but these are broken up well with slower and more contemplative songs throughout. “Bourbon Tears” is a lead-guitar-heavy slow-burner, “Take Me to Olympus” is simply DeBraun singing with an acoustic guitar – the two tracks are back to back, and offer an intimate centerpiece to the record. The album is a great production the whole way through, and DeBraun thanks a long list of people for their help in making it that way – over ten skilled musicians, the talents of Shangri-La Productions, and a lengthy list of supporters and contributors (former WRFLian, Daniel Morgan did some great work with the album art and design, too). All My Colors Are Blind is a satisfying result from someone who has put in more than their fair share of work and support within Lexington’s music scene, and absolutely something to be enjoyed and appreciated.
You might be able pick up a physical copy of All My Colors Are Blind at CD Central and Morris Book Shop for a few more days, and the album is available for download online at these places (to name a few): iTunes | Amazon | Google Play
You can catch Debraun this Saturday at Cosmic Charlie’s for the release party for All My Colors Are Blind – RSVP and let him know you’ll be there.
Tracks I Liked: All My Colors Are Blind, Coming Back, Bourbon Tears!, Broke in Denver!, Zuberi
Ben Southworth – October 10th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Midnight Soul Pop
Self-Released – October 7th, 2015
Lexington-native, Matt Duncan, has delivered on the second installment of his ‘first and third Wednesday’ free music release. “Night Job” opens with an arpeggiated chord on piano and some whispered refrains of the song’s title accompanied by strings. When the song kicks into gear, it picks up a bit with some funky bass and drums, but retains the cool, breezy, driving-with-the-windows-down-in-the-dark atmosphere that a song called “Night Job” ought to have. The song is made out to ‘all the strange rock and rollers’ (according to his description on Bandcamp) – the pre-chorus is a comforting “no matter what goes wrong, you always know that you can still belong at your… night job.” What’s more, the production is pretty spotless here (I’m curious where he’s been recording since moving to NYC), and I’m happy to report that he’s found some good horns for a nice bit of texture laid in with the chorus. The track heads to a string-heavy bridge // break, picks up some more texture, and closes with nearly a minute of the chorus repeating “night job” and the very same arpeggiated piano chord that it began with.
It seems like Matt is only further perfecting the art of catchy, smooth, and pleasant three-and-a-half-minute pop songs, and that he’s slowly picking up more and more mature chord progressions and instrumental arranging. The song is free to download on his Bandcamp page, and you can stream it below – look for another song of his on or around October 21st.
Ben Southworth – October 7th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Funky Soul Pop
Self-Released – September 16th, 2015
Current New Yorker by way of Lexington, Matt Duncan, announced last Wednesday that he’d be putting out a free track twice per month – each first and third Wednesday at least “until he runs out of ideas or time, or the world ends.” The first of these tracks is the first new music I’ve heard of his since his widely-beloved LP from 2013, Soft Times, and it sounds and feels a lot like the Matt Duncan you may have heard before. It opens boldly with a few fairly bright chords before stepping into the first verse – “if I let it all go, what would there be left for you and me.” If there’s anything that I miss from this track, it might be due to the lack of horns, but it’s made up for with some really nice harmonized vocals that almost imitate horns at different points in the song. The electronic piano sound (maybe it’s an organ of some kind?) adds a nice texture and groove, and sits prominently in the arrangement. The opening chords are reprised in the bridge, allowing for some nice interjection of guitar before spilling back into another chorus – the chorus is simple on this track, but it’s a good one that got stuck in my head. The track as a whole is great, and while it certainly fits the feeling of music that Matt has released before, it seems to be a slight shift into an even more soul-flavored genre.
Best of all? Duncan has the music on his Bandcamp, and it’s free to download (as the single’s art might suggest) – you can stream it from the player below, or download it here. If Matt sticks to this whole ‘first and third Wednesday’ thing, you should be expecting another new track on or around October 7th.
Ben Southworth – September 24th, 2015 – Kenwick Place