Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Sweeney E. Schragg and bassist/vocalist Kristin Olson, Santa Cruz-based Jazz/Folk duo Winterlark unveils their new EP When I Saw You Stranded There on October 8th. Their union as a duo comes from a perfect storm of synergies, with Sweeney’s prior work as a creative writing instructor and Kristin’s experience working at a small business. Both members complement each other with the ingenuity and tenacity needed for chemistry as musicians. To shape Winterlark’s mishmash of folk, bossa nova, and soul, Kristin took note from her experiences listening to bluegrass, R&B, and pop with family and performing classical music from college, while Sweeney borrowed from his beginnings as a rock n roll guitarist and jazz composition student. The duo shares:
“The music on this album is two people bantering, laughing, ruminating, sparring, and liking each other,” Kristin says. Sweeney notes: “It has been a long time since I’ve written songs with anyone. It’s a dream to work with someone I respect both musically and poetically.” Kristin adds: “I laid down my bass years ago, but the timing in my life enabled me to get back into it. Winterlark has also encouraged me to become a songwriter which I’d never thought I would do.”
The EP provides a perfect soundtrack to easygoing settings, such as a scenic drive along a coastal road or a morning hike through a forest trail. The acoustic soundscape reinforces its cinematic nature as the duo performs with a playful and reassuring chemistry, drawing inspiration from their progression from friends into a couple. This is especially evident in the “Make a Mess With Me”, a flirtatious yet humorous track with the lyrics, “The 14th of June, “Sorry ’bout the screen door,”/Was the first thing she had to say./Off came the gloves, kind of like a prom dress./Guess it had been that kind of day”. Another highlight is “If I Could Put my Finger on Your Pulse”, showing yearning through Sweeney’s pondering on whether his heartbeat comes from his partner’s touch or his wooing. A particular standout is the politically charged closer “Rage (Privilege Comes Apart)”, a commentary on racial injustice with vocals delivered in an angrier tone and the lyrics “Never wanna watch another black or brown reduced to just a name”.
Sweeney: “Our EP, When I Saw You Stranded There, features songs about zany beginnings—in a La La Land style traffic jam, on a veranda where smokers laugh, through a broken screen door. Having come together in our own zany beginning, that’s where our fictional storytelling first took Kristin and me.”
Kristin: “This EP gives a glimpse into the dynamic of two really good friends, who kid each other, bounce ideas around, and skeptically consider the world. Sweeney and I spend time everyday throwing words and music back and forth. Whether the story that emerges is our reaction to persistent injustice, as in the song “Rage (Privilege Comes Apart),” or a complete, sassy fiction, as in the title track, it is this back and forth that gives each song its unique energy.”
Sweeney: “Producer Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Music recorded our uncluttered duo—upright bass, Lowden acoustic guitar, and vocals—in the Extended Sound Environment that she has developed, capturing the live in-studio performance of each song, unvarnished, tonally rich, quirks intact.”
When I Saw You Stranded There drops on all streaming platforms October 8th.
Brooklyn-based indie rock trio Anna Sun illustrates the euphoric and unforgettable feeling of finding true love with the video for their debut single “Mine.” The pastel-singed visuals follow vocalist and guitarist Sam Aneson’s endeavors to ensure her lover understands how confident she is in their relationship and how much they mean to her at the end of the day.
Accompanied by performances from bassist Andrew Shewaga and drummer Nikola Balać, the video encapsulates the dreamy, vibrant energy from the track while also adding a layer of lighthearted humor that helps it stand out from the crowd and any other productions as of late.
I started this song with the intention of writing a bubblegum love song, and it turned into this larger than life, kind of romanticization of codependency. I think there’s something overly optimistic about the style of this song that matches the lyrical content.
I spent so much of my life obsessing about being in a relationship. It was shoved down my throat in the media that I consumed growing up as a girl. Prince Charming and all that. It became exhausting, and it started distracting me from bettering myself. I realized my programming at some point in my twenties and made a distinct effort to not make romance my number one priority. This song came out of the concept in my head I was drugged with my whole life.
The speaker is making her current relationship out to be absolutely perfect, the missing puzzle piece to her life. “I can do anything now, since I’m with you! I’ve been waiting forever for someone like you, and now I have everything I could ever want!” There’s a part two to this song, and it’s a rude awakening.
I have always struggled with codependency, and I think this song was my attempt to take the piss out on myself. The idea that another person being your partner can make you invincible is not a very healthy concept, in my opinion. I mean, I don’t know about you, but the only way I’m going to stand in the rain and not get wet is with an umbrella, not because I have a boo.
Check out our exclusive premiere below, and then show the band some love over on Facebook!
Producer: Sam Aneson Co-Producers: Nikola Balać, Andrew Shewaga Director: Sam Aneson, Nick Snow, Stephanie LeBlanc DP: Nick Snow Stylist: Liana Mack Editor: Sam Aneson, Nick Snow
Harborcoat’s newest LP, “Joy Is Elusive”, debuts on October 1. The sextet, based in Lansing, Michigan, has created a set of songs that are lyrically thoughtful and musically varied. The band’s influences include R.E.M. (the name Harborcoat is from an R.E.M. song), The Smiths, and Billy Bragg and you can hear the impact of those artists on “Joy Is Elusive”.
Band founder and primary songwriter Matthew Carlson explains:
A record titled ‘Joy Is Elusive’ is almost certainly going to be about depression, anxiety and a lifelong struggle with mental illness. That much is true, but there’s more. I think for so many of us, we deny ourselves true joy, or are too afraid to go out and find it. I know that is certainly true in my own experience. The people and the stories in this record are living lives of survival, not a full life. They’re eking out these threadbare existences of shabby surroundings, little hope and the occasional diversion from their struggles. Those diversions most often come by way of self medication or desperate choices with dire consequences. The lyrical content of the album is buoyed by joyous and dense musical foundations. These songs embrace the ethos of what Tom Waits once called, “Beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” These songs are like short stories with chords. The band name is pulled from an early R.E.M. gem, and the music brims with nods to our heroes. The songs recall the crunchy power pop and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub; the introspection and melodic storytelling of Billy Bragg; and sprinkled in are moments of 80’s esque Brit-Pop or working-class anthems. These influences, however, do not define the record, but they are merely a strand of DNA in Harborcoat’s collective musical helix.
Just before we began recording the record, my Dad died very suddenly. It seemed very likely, I was not going to be in a spot logistically or emotionally to go through with the sessions. My family, and friends all stepped up and convinced me what a tremendous relief it might be to spend a week recording with friends at the family cabin. It was the best possible diversion. I maintain that you can hear our collective grief between the notes of the record, but maybe I just can’t remove myself from it. The loss of my Dad, the uncertainty of the pandemic and the collective anxieties that come will all of that certainly informed the process and the finished product. It feels now like a tribute to ho him that we were able to create something beautiful from all of that darkness.
Two particular track favorites of mine are ‘Help Me Out Somehow’ and ‘Hear Me, I’m Courageous’. Both have spirited, Indie rock melodies with poignant lyrics. Following the release of “Joy Is Elusive”, Harborcoat heads out on an eight city tour to finish up 2021.
Do you thrive with routine, or with a life that throws new situations at you left and right? How do you think you would fare on the road, having every day be a new adventure? On one hand, it could be an incredible and mind-blowing existence. On the other, having stability can really be a must for mental health.
Musicians don’t often have the luxury of choosing, since touring is such an integral part of the business. While artists cope with the pitfalls of van life, touring can be an eye-opening experience. Madeline Hawthorne’s new track “Strange Familiar” examines the concept in a way that is almost thrilling. Her angelic vocals float across stirring guitar chords, humanizing a life that is strange, yet also familiar.
“Strange Familiar” for me is about struggling to find normalcy in a world where everyday is new and different. It’s about trying to find a place where I can thrive everyday without routine; routine like waking up at the same time, waking up in the same place, going to bed at a normal hour…those aren’t routines afforded to most touring musicians, especially when you’re just getting started. And yet we all have to find a way to be in it and enjoy it; even in the dark crevices of 4ams, 10 hour days on the road, empty shows and long stretches of time away from home.
I remember closing my eyes when I wrote the first line of this song and put myself back in the tour van with the band. The van (affectionately known as Loretta) was my normal life. Getting to Loretta after a show and being with the band felt like being with family. So I just tried to paint a picture of what I’d see everyday, getting into the driver’s seat and taking off for the next town. The rest of the song fell into place pretty easily after the first few lines. I know many of us are struggling to find normalcy everyday, regardless of whether or not we go to bed at the same time or wake up in the same place. This is a song that encompases that feeling for me and I love the groove we came up with in the studio. Hope you enjoy!
The release is technically out tomorrow, but we’ve got your exclusive first listen.
If you’ve been looking for a new track with light as a feather vocals cascading over stunning – yet simplistic – guitar and piano, then Emily Frembgen‘s bittersweet new “He Held Onto Me” will be just up your alley. Truly a blues song at its core, Emily has recognized its topic as something highly relatable.
“He Held Onto Me” is obviously about some kind of relationship ending. I remember writing it really quickly as I was rushing out the door, it was a feeling that I urgently needed to express. I’m real proud of this one & Hugh Pool and Brian Mitchell’s evocative instrumental touches are so perfect here. I’d say it’s a good way to close a breakup album, wouldn’t you?
A song that almost relies on the silence between the notes for impact, “He Held Onto Me” is a sweet whisper of a song that will bring back feelings from loves past, if you choose to let it. Experience it for the first time below!
Broken Stars is the latest EP from Jake Benjamin. With Broken Stars, he has created a set of five songs that move effortlessly from one to the next. Benjamin very intentionally has taken us on a journey through not only his mind, but the mind of Vincent Van Gogh. The project “…was inspired by reading the Letters of Vincent van Gogh, a collection of correspondences from Van Gogh to his brother, Theo.”
The first single off the EP is “Hemingway” and it sets the table for all that follows. Benjamin has utilized jazz influences in each song, some more heavily than others – “Hemingway” is one of those. It also has some lyrics that really spoke to me: “You should enjoy, what you don’t understand/I have lost all sense of control/I am on the surface of a life I’ve never known.”
My personal favorite of the five songs is “Heartfelt”. Musically, there are nods to Steely Dan in the arrangements – lush and full of horns. Jake Benjamin’s voice is a perfect accompaniment to his music.
Broken Stars is part of a larger project that is in the pipeline – an LP of the same name. After the release of this EP, we are very excited to see what will be on the LP of Broken Stars. Expands Benjamin:
This EP is a small serving of what the LP version of Broken Stars will be in March 2022. These songs were definitely the earlier writings on the record, they were the gateway into me finding the overall theme of mentality and space. They venture through different atmospheres of mind, artists, and cities. I really consider this collection to be a step further out of my comfort zone lyrically and harmonically.
The recording process of creating these tracks was probably the most ambiguous one I could ever have imagined. I recruited many musicians of many different instruments to play; I got to work with a string quartet, a horn trio, and include artists who brought beauty to these songs. Some of the arranging developed at the studio before Pascal would hit record while other arrangements I had fleshed weeks before the sessions took place. The pandemic really made this into a collecting pieces of the tracks over the course of a year.