This Tuesday, May 16, Gabriel Garzon-Montano is performing at The Crocodile in Belltown. Gabriel Garzon-Montano’s Jardin, released early this year, intricately melds together notes of soul, pop, hip-hop, and funk, ultimately creating a vibrant sound owned solely by him. Hailing originally from Brooklyn, Garzon-Montano’s interest in music was sparked in childhood by his mother, a musician in the Philip Glass Ensemble during the ‘90s. Though most commonly recognized as the creator of the sample featured in Drake’s Jungle (check out his original Six Eight), Garzon-Montano is so much more than that. Weaving together bright funk notes and unlikely time signatures, Garzon-Montano’s Jardin is a powerful collection of music that insights both introspection and pure dancing fun and will undoubtedly be a memorable experience live.
Last week’s battle of the bands brought four groups head-to-head for a chance to perform at Rainy Dawg Radio’s 14th annual Birthday Fest. Don, a future bounce group, came out on top and opened for Kero Kero Bonito on Tuesday.
The band includes lead vocalist Stefán Kubeja, bass player and vocalist Phinehas Nyang’Oro, drummer Bobby Jimmi, synth player Daniel Salka, and keyboardist Ori Levari. Stefán, Daniel, and Ori are all UW students.
I interviewed Don before the show on Tuesday about how they got started, how their jazz backgrounds influence their current work, and what’s next. Some responses have been shortened for clarity.
How did you get started?
Stefán: Originally it was just Daniel and me. We used to just play music together. Then we went through a big series of lineup changes until we met Phinehas. Phinehas stuck with us, and Phinehas introduced us to Bobby Jimmi, because they knew each other from playing in jams. We played a gig, and we felt like it worked, so we just stuck together. Ori was actually a replacement because Daniel couldn’t make Battle of the Bands, so we called him. And now he’s officially in the band. This is his second gig with us.
How did it feel to play your first show with Don at the Birthday Battle?
Ori: It was great. It was fun. I’ve always wanted to play this kind of music, and it’s cool to have that opportunity. I play a lot of jazz, which is fun in its own right, but hip-hop is pretty cool.
Stefán: Everyone has a jazz background except for me and Bobby Jimmi. So we take a lot of influence from the Seattle jazz scene.
What was it like switching from jazz to this style of music?
Ori: It’s cool to have jazz influences in my playing, at least for this group. I think it lends itself really well to having jazz influences. But I see them as being pretty similar, to be honest. It didn’t seem like a very big jump.
Phinehas: I’m from North Carolina, so I was already doing stuff like this in high school. I moved to France, so they weren’t doing this type of hip hop. I’m just happy to be in Seattle, where they’re giving me a little bit of what I used to do back home.
How did it feel to win Birthday Battle?
Stefán: It was cool. Everyone was sitting there, and we were all watching the numbers go up. Phinehas was like, ‘Yes!’ when we got a vote, and then when we got passed, he was like, ‘No!’ They ended up having people vote on the way out, so by the time we got informed that we won, it was just us and the people running the event. So we got to have our own little celebration. We’re psyched.
What are you looking forward to about tonight?
Stefán: I think there are a lot of people who saw us perform at the battle and are excited to see us tonight. I’m excited to have some fun and perform in front of the people who really like us.
Phinehas: I just want to be thankful for being able to play this music in front of an audience. I hope that I can give them something of satisfaction.
Bobby Jimmi: I get my energy from the crowd. If they’re dead, I’m going to be dead.
Ori: I’m just excited to play for a full house. It should have good energy.
How do you balance being a UW student and being in a band?
Stefán: People say it’s hard, but it’s not really that hard. I can speak for all of us when I say that, beyond school, what we do is music. We just make time for it. Maybe we don’t go to parties or we don’t chill with frats. Instead, we’re doing music. I don’t find it to be that difficult. I find it to be kind of natural. It’s like work and play.
What’s next for you guys?
Stefán: We’re in the studio right now, recording our debut, which is coming out June 1. We hope to do a West Coast tour come August. Beyond that, who knows. After this show, just having more fun, doing everything we can. Being grateful, being thankful. Sharing energy, receiving energy.
Raleigh (like ballet) Ritchie (like Lionel) took fans by surprise when he announced the release of his new EP last November. The EP, Mind the Gap, was released on December 16th, 2016 and it’s devastatingly good. Raleigh Ritchie (real name Jacob Anderson) is newer to the music scene, having only just released his debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy earlier last year. Yet, he’s not an entirely unfamiliar face, fans of Game of Thrones might recognize him as Grey Worm, the leader of the unsullied. This is where I discovered him, looked him up one day because I thought he was cute and google let me know he had a few songs floating around at the time (thanks google). Gave one of his singles, “Bloodsport ’15”, a listen and I was instantly in love. It was fate. I’ve been a fan ever since and I am personally so stoked about the recent release of Mind the Gap which is what we are here to talk about.
Start listening while you read: click HERE to go to Mind the Gap on soundcloud!
This EP is an organized clusterfuck of self-deprecation and heartbreak mixed with upbeat instrumental and fast paced lyrics, producing a fantastically odd dichotomy of feelings. The album has a sound that feels derived from R&B but somewhere along the lines it picked up heavy pop influences, with a light peppering of the occasional rap or spoken word. It’s not too much of a departure from his debut album (which I HIGHLY recommend you listen to), there’s a lot of similarities between the two pieces. Raleigh even said himself that he felt the EP was more of a bridge between his debut album and the next, rather than a totally independent piece. I won’t quote him on that because it was in a tweet from a few months back that I won’t even bother to search for. He tweets a lot. (One time, he favorited my tweet – but that’s a story for another time).
Something I love about the sound of this album is the deeper electronic feel with the background vocals. You’re a Man Now, Boy was very flowly and floaty in the background vocals – almost choir-like. Almost fantastical. Whereas Mind the Gap is mostly background vocals that are tuned bytes of Ritchie singing drawn out “ahs” or “ohs” (excuse my inability to quantify music). The subtle electronic qualities are pretty much thrown in your face in the first track off the album Motions, which begins with a brief audio of a Robot fight/break-up. We hear two Siri-esque voices argue about how they feel about each other, resulting in the end of their robot relationship. This persists through the song with brief one liners from either robot voice. It’s pretty rad, if I do say so myself.
Mind the Gap totals 5 songs: “Motions”, “Sicko”, “Liability”, “StraitJacket”, and “Unicron Love” (don’t ask me why its spelled like that – I have no idea). Each song is unique, but they all flow very well together. My favorite example of this is the transition between “Motions” and “Sicko”; “Motions” ends with the Male robot saying “I love you”, only to have the female reply “I know, but you are sick” – and then sicko immediately begins with “Maybe I’m just sick”. Hell yeah. Well, I mean, that’s pretty sad and heartbreaking lyrically, but 10/10 transition. Speaking of lyrics, Ritchie gives the listener a lot to think about as far as sanity and heartbreak go. “Motions” and “Unicron Love” both focus on two different sides of a relationship. Since we know that Motions isn’t the brightest view on love, we can probably guess how “Unicron Love” portrays it.
“Sicko”, “Liability”, and “StraitJacket” all focus more on an introspective view. “Sicko” plays off “Motions” and outlines the chaos of a mind trying to diagnose an internal sickness. There’s a lot of self-doubt and confusion present in the lyrics of this song, ending in the simple conclusion of “Maybe I’m just sick”. Liability is all about feeling bad for yourself. The musical composition of this song is diverse and beautiful, it ranges from flowy and floaty (both technical terms) to harsh and brittle (if that’s a word people use for describing music). The song feels like it’s been written out of a place of anger and defeat, it screams “why me?!”. I’m a sucker for this song, self-pity, now that’s something I can rock to. The song ends with a beautiful, whispered, “oh, fuck off” directly at his own thoughts.
Now, we arrive at “StraitJacket”, my favorite track off the album – this one is just an Ode to Mania, a sweet sweet embrace of the craziness that is our mind. It’s a fast paced, rollercoaster of a song, and there are no seatbelts. Every time you think you’ve reached the climax (not sexual) of the song, you find yourself surprised by even more faced paced energy. At the real, destructive, climax (might be a little sexual) of this song you can practically feel Ritchie screaming in your face. It also showcases one of the best things about Ritchie’s music; his sexy voice and crazy good spoken word influenced rap style. The song ends with a jarringly slow verse of spoken word that asks the listener if any of us (especially Ritchie) are sane; “Fight amongst the foot soldiers, but the war is in my mind”. Not only is the song super fucking cool, there’s a super fucking cool music video that accompanies it. Check it below, it really adds to the song and shows what Ritchie is trying to say with it (basically, that he’s just crazy).
This EP is phenomenal, and you bet I’ll be listening to it pretty much once a day. The title of the EP (Mind the Gap, if you somehow forgot) is really validated by the content of the songs. It’s about watching out for the mental leap in logic from sanity to insanity, it’s fitting for how much attention the tracks give to being not-so-sane. Raleigh Ritchie is an amazing and talented new artist that deserves a lot more attention than he gets. On the plus side, he’s so unknown that he’ll favorite/retweet your tweets if you tweet at him. But seriously, check him out, between the amazing album art, magically sexy vocals, and make-you-think lyrics there’s nothing not to love. Make sure to check out not only the Mind the Gap EP, but also his debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy! Thanks for reading, I’ll see you back here next week for the rediscovery of Sir Sly.
has its own distinct sound. Music helps capture the time and people of a
movement. It reveals who they are, what they believe in and expresses what’s on
Folk songs and
rock became platforms for anti-war sentiments during the Vietnam war, Hip-Hop
and rap were born from the inner cities of New York City highlighting social
issues over beats to get down to, punk and grunge were generations of young
teens resisting societal norms expressing their fears of a bleak future.
Today we are in
the middle of yet another time of great change. A new movement born out of the
political and social climate is being created. It is my intent to share and
discuss some of the music that is being made and that is helping to define this
movement’s sound, the people’s sound.
The first song I
want to highlight is the cover of the folk classic “This Land is Your Land”. It’s
a simple, timeless tune that grade school kids learn when they talk about
inclusiveness. Woody Guthrie wrote the song 77 years ago on February 23rd in 1940
according to this NPR article. It was written in response to “God
Bless America” which was a jukebox favorite in the 40s. As a frequent
hitchhiker, Guthrie developed a unique view on what was going on in the country
and it differed from the America portrayed in “God Bless America” leading him
to write the tune.
musicians have covered this alternative national anthem but one of the latest
bands to do so I think does one of the best versions.Chicano Batmandebuted their cover of “This Land is Your Land” at
the end of January for a Johnnie Walker commercial. The Los Angeles band puts a
slightly psychedelic/rock spin on the classic tune. It’s got a synthesizer
going on giving it an element of funk and with a chorus in the background a
hint of soul. If you didn’t know what you were listening to you might have
thought it was a new hit on the Alternative charts.
Chicano Batman’s cover especially important is what it represents. A Latino
band from East L.A. takes a classic American folk tune and puts their own spin
on it. The lyrics are sung in English but they slip into Spanish by the end
singing “Esta tierra es para ti y para mi,” the famous line “this land is made
for you and me.” It’s as much of a statement of resistance as it is about hope.
When our head of
state has declared their intention of creating barriers for people wanting to
make a better life for themselves and their families, this song becomes
undeniably relevant. The members of Chicano Batman come from both L.A. and
countries in Latin America. Without their different backgrounds their sound
wouldn’t be the same. When cultures collide it results in better art, new
perspectives and new ideas.
Guthrie wrote “This
Land is Your Land” as he witnessed a side of America that was struggling during
the Great Depression, that didn’t have the blessing of God on their side. Today,
we aren’t going through a Great Depression but we are going through a time of
great division. “This Land is Your Land” sung by Chicano Batman reminds us with
the words of Guthrie that all people
of America that they belong too.
Chicano Batman’s new album Freedom is Free is out March 3rd. They play The Crocodile on Thursday the 23rd, tickets available here.
There was nothing like soul-infused Tuesday night when Jacob Banks hit the stage at Barboza.
Watching flashes his fans a stunning white smile, while shyly saying “Hi, I’m from
London,” we felt nothing but warmth for the soulful artist as he sang a cover
of Corinne Bailey Rae’s infamous “Put
Your Records On.”
Originally from Birmingham, England, the British
singer-songwriter first became active in 2012, when he was the first unsigned
act to ever appear on BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. Influenced by a multitude of soul,
R&B, and hip-hop, Banks first recorded his debut EP The Monologue, released in 2013, with his top hit “Worthy,” a popular
play on various stations. A tall, brooding man with a bright smile, Banks cites Jake Gosling, Bondax, and Knox Brown as some influences and reminds us of a combination of Benjamin
Clementine, Seal, and Jack Garratt.
Soft smooth vocals always seemingly complemented by melodic piano, Jacob Banks
is crossing genres often acoustic singer-songwriter ballads, like tracks “Homecoming”
and “Hostage” on his EP The Monologue.
Yet, the man has range, both vocally and emotionally, demonstrated in “Something
Beautiful,” also seen on his EP The
Monologue. On his newest EP The
Paradox, Banks delves more into
soul and R&B, experimenting with melodies in his vocal range, seen in “Home,”
and “All Mine.”
Playing fan favorites from his newer EP, Banks succeeded at demonstrating
a mix of softer vocals and instrumentals in Unknown,” while demonstrating a
hard, grittier audible aesthetic in “Sink or Swim.” Highlighting the soul aspects
of his set list, the British artist catalyzed a complete feeling of union and
communal love, as the audience swayed in unison to “Home,” a song similar in
feeling to any calmer Stevie Wonder
a nice complement to the upbeat and diverse sounding track “Monster.”
Finally ending his set with new single “Unholy War,” the
audience vibe completely shifted as we all came together and empathized together
with the emotion in Banks’ vocals as he glided on the stage and crooned chorus “Let
love lead you home, oh no/ Let redemption keep you warm.” And just as Banks climaxes
as he reaches as the height at the bridge taper off, the audience in parallel also
We stop, we sway, we close our eyes, and we dance as the
rest of the chorus plays out.
Jacob Banks has reached a new level of soul, and it’s dipping
into funk—and we’re sort of hoping he continue only to reach new heights with
his artistic creativity.