Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Roadkill Ghost Choir

Made up of members Andrew Shepard (vocals, guitar), Zach Shepard (bass), Maxx Shepard (drums, vocals), Stephen Garza (guitar, vocals), and Kiffy Myers (pedal steel, banjo), Roadkill Ghost Choir is a folk rock band from DeLand, FL that has been performing since 2011.

Most of their recording work has occured at North Avenue Studios in Orange City, FL, although much of the recording for their upcoming album was done at Chase Park Transduction in Athens, Georgia. When they first started out as a band, touring was “incredibly expensive and very depressing,” but as their booking agent helped them cultivate ideas and make connections, the hard work involved became much more rewarding. Their new album In Tongues is scheduled to be released on August 19th and will consist of 10 songs with titles such as Lazarus You’ve Been Dreaming, Slow Knife and A Blow to the Head.  Influences include Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Gram Parsons. Other than their performance on the David Letterman Show in January, and an appearance on the cover of Orlando Weekly magazine in April, they consider that their greatest success is being able to tour the country and do what they love. While many unsigned bands in the Orlando area have never performed outside of Florida, Roadkill Ghost Choir has shows booked in, among other places, Colorado, Illinois and South Carolina from now until October. Check out their music and learn more about them by visiting the following websites.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A flashback to 2012: The Grizzly Atoms

Author’s note: In October 2012, a month before I began this blog, The Grizzly Atoms allowed me to accompany them to a gig in Melbourne. I took field notes and assured the band that I’d write about them. That was until I moved a few times and lost them. Somehow after all this time I discovered those exact field notes in a pile of old class assignments. So, finally, here it is.

Upon entering the residence of The Grizzly Atoms, even a stranger can tell that musicians live there. A front room void of furniture is littered with various musical equipment. There’s a  graffiti covered beer pong table and a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas poster is the kitchen area. As the band members wander the house doing their various chores, they communicate through curse littered banter. Lead singer Nik Sidella can be heard singing in the shower while a roommate [not in the band] plays a war-themed video game. Later on in the kitchen, Sidella drinks a mix of apple cider, lemon, honey and vinegar to prepare his voice for the night’s performance. Just as he tosses the lemon towards a garbage can on the other side of the room, drummer Nicholas Roe walks in just in time to get hit by the flying fruit. Everyone in the room started laughing.
“Goddamn you fuck!” Roe yells at Sidella.
“What’s the problem? You’re all lemony fresh now!” Sidella teases.
It took 2 vehicles to get everyone and everything to their gig at Debauchery, a bar in Melbourne. On the road, nature welcomed the band with an orange sunset framed by streaks of lightning. It was dark when we found the destination, surrounded by old houses and large oak trees covered in Spanish moss. The actual gig was very underwhelming because the band’s atomic energy did not seem to faze the people in attendance, who were old enough to be our parents but were dressed like they were at a Greek Life party. It was not a pretty sight. Near the end of the set, the manager complained to Sidella that he needed to turn the volume down a little. So in the way of rock n’ roll, Sidella turned the volume even louder during the last song. As the band packed up, bassist Terran Fernandez complained, “This place has no spirit. We were halfway through the set and I was already bored.”  Half the band went home and the rest of us went to the beach, where we lounged on an abandoned lifeguard station to stargaze at the cloudless night sky until 2am, when we had to return to the bar at closing time to collect the band’s earnings. 

Since then, the Grizzly Atoms have released an album, performed at a Planned Parenthood benefit concert, and most recently played an outdoor house party that was cut short by the cops. Isn’t it a shame that the neighbors didn’t appreciate the free rock music on a Saturday night? Check them out this weekend at the Lil Econ Festival taking place at the Maddox Ranch in Lakeland, FL. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Anonymous Music Festival

Note: post written by guest writer Jon Walker

Let yourself go and become part of us all. We are family. Feel our energy…now put that into motion and dance! It wasn’t just the lyrics, the instruments, the beats, the crowd, you; it was that air that it all shared.
Passing through the door I turn left and see a wall of mirrors. At first I thought it was an extension of the room, but as I got closer I realized that I was still walking in the right direction: right to the center of the dance floor.
The performance that I had on my mind, the main reason for my need to be there, was of none-other-than Shaman Treez. But we’ll get to the meditation later, for now let’s discuss hiphop. Or whatever category the many bands want to be considered as, free as they be just like their music. In either case many people where shaking their hips and hopin too…or at least I would like to believe so because I was one of them. As for the tables NORML was to was to the right of the stage and a booth for cervical cancer was to the left of the stage. If you haven’t heard Florida, with the help of such organization like NORML, has reached over 1 million signatures and medical marijuana will now be on the ballot. I think the two booths should have got together and hugged. Stay healthy through happiness.
One band in particular sparked my interest before too long in the night. Maybe because I had seen him in a year before from his transition from T-blaze to TriniElevate, when at the time he was asking me what I thought about his new logo design. It’s nice to see people grow and keep on striving for goodness. He speaks for pure goodness, announcing his lyrics with a message. What first turned me on to Trini’s music was the fact that he speaks truth in his music. The system that we have created around us is the thing that is eating us alive. With a strong sense of life and a beat that makes you jump, there was no wonder why there were so many hands in the air giving props to Trini and each other. Of course after his performance I had to get the new album to hear just how far his music has come. After hugs and greeting, I waited for who I would listen to next.
Now remember when I said later…. Well that time has come so throw your hand up for Shaman Treez. Now close your eyes and take a deep breath. And if you are still reading this you obviously didn’t close your eyes or you are peeking. Now I want you to take 7 deep breaths with your eyes shut, and when you breath in take in the air from all the pores in your body, feel the energy coming into your bloodstream and breath out, through your whole body, the things that you do not need and the things that you want to give to the world. Relax your mind and for a brief moment, and forget about what you are reading right now.
…So how did that feel? Pretty great, right? Awesome, I knew it would. Thanks for that meditation, I needed it too. Shaman Treez showed us the continuous cycle of the “Medicine Wheel”, which just happens to the title of his insightful new E.P. “Wait wait…I need my staff” Shaman says, then a good friend Nehemiah walks through the crowd to hand it to Shaman, announcing “that’s better” with a huge grin. With a strong voice and closed eyes he led us into a deep philosophical meditation before singing his last song. This made the crowd sink into the clouds, think about life and how much fun we are having right now, and what we can do for ourselves and others to make it better. His music made the atmosphere of the venue clearer and livelier, as you could see with the smiles all around. Unfortunately, they cut his set short a little, I do not know if I should say that or not, but I mention this just to show you the huge impact that Shaman Treez had with his amount of time. I had to get a copy of his E.P. as Shaman Treez is like family and anything he does is beautiful to me. The dancing, grooving, throwing my hand up, and smiling to Shaman’s vibes made me love and appreciate his music and him as a person even more than I already did. After his performance we discussed his new music video, I loved it. The video was spray artists with the sounds of Shaman. He told me when someone asked him about why his face was not in the video he responded “because my face does not matter, I wanted to represent the counterculture and it is the meaning that I want to show with my art.” Making perfect sense, I gave him a heart hug and smiled peacefully.
The next big act American Jesus, the band members dressed in overalls, an astronaut suit, a well-dressed preacher, and of course Jesus. Now when someone asks me if I have found Jesus I can point and say “yeah, look he is right over there on stage!” Some southern-esk rock and roll with some electronics brought about by the astronaut. Getting people dancing, swinging, and doing the dosey doe with their easy to follow and upbeat tunes, bringing the crowd to a movier (if even a word) state. With Jesus smiling full robe and all, they passed out American flags in which I waved like a madman uncontrollably, finding myself waving this flag for the band moreso than my country, it was slightly funny but felt so right. That last part I think sums up the whole band. So after jumping up and down and moving my legs I hollered in approval as I waited for the next band.
I would like to say that I waited like some sort of mechanical type being, what do you call those, that’s right J say it real slowly a Meka Nism. Meet Meka, a deep melodic peaceful sinisterness but peaceful of a being, along with the whole band Meka Nism. Tying the night together from hip hop to metal Meka Nism brought the crowd to new heights. With her braided fabric enlaced dreadlocks and their fuck-all (but be awesome) attitudes they undoubtedly made headbangers out of all of us. For this performance there was no standing around, only metal. Having seen Meka Nism twice before and being overly satisfied with each performance, I knew that I was in for a treat. Recently watching their new music video with their beautiful cinematography and Meka’s uniquely sweet voice I was glad that I got a chance to see them live again. Already having their CD from previous performances, I asked them about a new one and was informed that they are in the works. They even said that there could be a collaboration with Shaman Treez, I can only hope. I am extremely excited to see how that turns out. Okay, now back to the circle. Rocking at the front of the stage, Michael Angelo, other friends and I jokingly and seriously have a moshpit of our own, but mostly it was jumping and headbanging our brains into sound. Still we jumped and raged and according to Meka Nism’s song we “Rise”, so rise we did fists and devil horns into the air for a badassitude of approval. From soft melodies to loud energetic screams Meka Nism shatters the night with its heavy metal instrumentals and crowd roaring abilities.

As for me, being covered in sweat and good feelings, my night was complete. I take away with be the beauty, the peace, the message, and the love. I hope all of you enjoyed this night as much as I did and thank you for taking your time to read and care. And if I call you the sun, you know what to do…keep shining. J

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

That Sax Player

If you are a frequent visitor to music venues in Central Florida, chances are you’ve probably seen Christian Ryan perform. A full-time musician, he is an active performer of 10 different bands and plays about 4 shows per week. Ryan first picked up the alto saxophone in the 6th grade at Tuskawilla Middle School. During his junior year of high school, he first heard the Dave Bruckbeck Quartet and gravitated towards jazz music for the first time in his life, which eventually inspired a desire to perform. He plays full sets and tours with Ancient Sun (Funk/Blues/Rock), Buster Keaton (Jazz/Funk/Hip-Hop/Groove), Control This (Ska/Rocksteady/Reggae) , Evan Taylor Jones (Soul), Holey Miss Moley (Funk/Dub/Rock), I-Resolution (Dancehall/Dub/Reggae), Petey & the Ravens (Blues/Rock Fusion), Liquid Spiral (Blues Rock/Fusion), N-Fusion (Latin/Reggae) and the Savi Fernandez Band (Reggae/Funk). Due to its uncertainty of success, many families dismiss the idea of pursuing music or any art, but Ryan’s family was supportive from day one. “Having a parent who owns a bar certainly helped me out in the beginning.” His mother, Rosemarie Ryan, has owned the Red Lion Pub since the late 1980’s. “I have been playing there on a regular basis since I started playing at local venues in 2010, and it’s where I was able to get a lot of performance experience under my belt and grow. Until that point, the whole 'band thing' was new to me because he had only performed in school functions.”
At the end of high school, Ryan auditioned to Berklee School of Music in Boston, his dream school. Despite being accepted into Berklee, he attended Valencia College instead because Berklee did not offer financial aid. During his time at Valencia, he evolved from a classically trained kid to an in-demand and versatile saxophonist.  “During that time, I was able to learn a tremendous amount not only about music but about myself. I played in more groups and sessions then I could have ever imagined.” After earning an Associate’s degree at the end of 2012, Ryan pursued music full-time instead of continuing education. “I did that for a solid year, playing an average of 4 shows a week with various groups all around the state from festivals and sold out venues, to dive bars and fields in the middle of nowhere.” At a certain point, he thought about where he wanted to go from there and recalled his old dream of attending Berklee. He auditioned a second time, and was given a scholarship that covered 100% of his tuition. Unfortunately, upon moving to Boston, he quickly realized that his dream school was not what he thought it would be.
“I went in wanting to be the worst musician in the room, to be surrounded by people who were on the same level in their passion for music and to be taken to the next level. While I was by no means the best musician there, I wound up being placed with musicians who weren't any better than the ones I was playing with back home. The classes I was in weren't really that challenging. They went over a lot of material I already knew, and I wasn't learning too much that was applicable to being a working musician. I spent more time on my computer sequencing and writing lead sheets than I did with my saxophone!”
Unable to connect with his classmates or his professors, he realized he had a lot more real-world experience than most of his classmates and decided that it was time to leave.

Many current music students are unsure of how to create a career outside of the classroom. Ryan agrees that the best place to start is to check out your local music scene. “Learn who the top notch groups and musicians are and why they are successful. Learn where the popular venues are at, what events are going on and who's putting these events together. Ditch the club scene and see what Orlando really has to offer.” It is equally important to take advantage of every opportunity you possibly can to perform gigs, since that’s where your real world experience is developed. “That experience will teach you more than what you'll learn in a classroom. Obviously, if you work hard and practice well, opportunities will begin to take shape. It's a slow process, but it goes a long way. You also need to really try and figure out what your goals are. Are you are full-time performer? A solo artist or a band musician? All these things become clearer the more experience you gain. Not everyone is cut out for the same thing. The harsh reality is, not everyone is cut out to be a musician.”  The last piece of advice he provided is to stop caring what others think of you or what others think you should do. “At the end of the day there is only you. Your parents don't write your music, your teachers aren't booking your shows, and 90% of your audience doesn't know a thing about music. There are many who wish to help, but there are also those who wish to limit your potential or try to mold you a certain way. Find your voice and be yourself.” Ryan was recently involved Evan Taylor Jones' "Song From An Old Soul" album released in November 2013. Holey Miss Moley and Buster Keaton are making plans to record full albums in the coming months. In the near future, Ryan plans to narrow his musical options to groups who are more active and fit his musical preferences. “I have a bold plan for something completely unique that will attempt to bring the different groups of the Orlando music scene together and hopefully propel new aspirations for what is truly possible. I can't go into more detail at this time, but I am VERY excited to get the ball rolling. Expect a lot of action from yours truly this year.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Where are they now?

Note to reader: attempts were made to contact every artist that I've written about since the OIMB's first article was published on November 8th, 2012. Below you will find info on the artists who have responded to my inquiries thus far. 

Bellows will be releasing several new songs in the upcoming months. Song titles include the window, small wonders and finders keepers. They have no more shows scheduled for 2013 but will start booking again in January. 

Montgomery Drive will soon be in the process of recording new material, although it is unconfirmed if songs will be released individually or as an album. In April 2014, he will be traveling to Japan for several tour dates with fellow artists Jeff Carey and Warm&Comfy in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Saitama. 

Swallow is currently on an indefinite hiatus from touring, as singer/guitarist Quinn Landes pursues a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling.

Shout London has released a new album titled Rememories, which features 11 songs and is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.com.  

The Plush Monsters have been working on completing a full length album. Although reported to be very close to finishing tracking, the album remains untitled and no release date has been set. They continue to perform on a regular basis, and their first music video is currently in the works as well.

XoVos has started a new EDM project. Titled Bassholez, it is being produced with the help of long time friend crusher, who resides in Argentina. As it is XoVos' goal to go viral online, he has no plans to perform any local shows for the time being. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shaman Treez, in his own words

Note: This article is presented with minimal editing for grammatical error and consistency.Credit for the writing goes to Shaman Treez. Opinions shared are those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the opinions of  The Orlando Independent Music Blog.
I have always written poetry since elementary school. My cousin and his group of friends, who were a lot older than me, were always smoking herb and freestyling (which is a form of improv spontaneous rapping). My cousin eventually got into producing and recording. He also introduced me to cannabis when I was 13, which led me to start writing my own rhymes out of boredom in school and life. I loved hanging out with the older cats, so I felt that this was a way to really be in the circle. Everyone noticed that I had talent, so my cousin decided to produce and record for me, resulting in my first song at age 15. After I graduated high school, I got more into film and let go of the dream of making it big as a rapper. However, Hip Hop came back heavy in my life with a spiritual awakening I had in 2008, where I experienced what mystics call the ego death. I had true self-realization as a divine immortal being. My expanded consciousness allowed me to understood Hip Hop in its true context. This is what led me to start writing, recording and eventually performing. Through the lens of my higher self, I came to accept that my mission in life was to communicate truth and wisdom through the channel of spoken word. Soon thereafter I met another rapper, Bagz, and together we formed the group Bagz and Treez.
It is helpful to understand how Hip Hop turned into such a powerful force in the world's community. With Hip Hop's evolution, we see an awakening of consciousness. Hip Hop allowed for true freedom of self expression; you were allowed to say anything you wanted as long as it was on beat. With this we saw the subject matters and lyrical content get more complex. Grand Master Flash's the message was the first real Hip Hop song that featured social commentary on the harsh reality of urban street life. It was a song that exposed the conditions of the city, versus glorifying it as we see now. Then we saw MC's like Rakim, Krs One, Queen Latifah who not only entertained but educated the public, especially the youth, on what was going on. This evolution ascended with the godbody philosophy spreading from Harlem to all the Burroughs. The godbody philosophy touches on the esoteric teachings of self. Rappers like AZ, Nas, and Wu Tang Clan amongst others were now speaking about metaphysical and occult subjects that not only raised the intelligence level of the listener but initiated them into the higher centers of their consciousness. There was also the activism element with rappers like Public Enemy, who openly pointed a finger at the system and challenged the status quo of the American cultural image. MCs now had the reach and power to influence the masses as Hip Hop was being embraced by the international community. This was seen as a major threat to the political and commercial interests that want to keep the general populace apathetic and inactive. There then became a trend where the commercial music industry started to shift its focus and financial support away from Hip Hop artists who were challenging the status quo and instead putting their focus on rappers who spoke more about superficial things like ‘shake that ass, check out my ride, my chain is bigger than yours’ etc. The highly refined Hip Hop culture turned into a fast food commodity, where the ignorant rappers are viewed as the most marketable, and any intelligent self aware artist would be put in the back burner. The lyrical content was dumbed down and simplified all for sake of suppressing truly engaging Hip Hop, which is at the core of the culture.
Hip Hop culture is a very diverse and rich, featuring all the elements one would find in any other culture. Hip Hop has its own fashion style, visual art style, myths, rituals, dances, and history. Hip Hop's essence at heart is about self expression on all levels whether vocally, visually, physically, or mentally. Hip Hop is a mentality that is founded on the rebels urge to define him or herself at all costs even if their identity goes against the accepted social norms and customs. So Hip Hop is about self realization in an unconventional way as self realization, like what Buddha taught. It is not about accepting what is taught but questioning everything one has been taught through deep introspection and this means going within oneself.
My current goal is to live 100 percent off of my music and art and to eventually be in the position to tour the world. I am also an activist for Marijuana Legalization, at least for medicinal use, in my home state of Florida. I also see myself doing films in the future as I feel that the film industry is getting watered down, which is a shame. Film in my opinion is the ultimate art form, as it encompasses all other art forms into one. In the years to come I see myself creating music and films as well as healing people with my shamanic knowledge. Everything has a cure just like every equation has a solution.
I will be performing on November 9th at an International Sticker show called Stick Em' Up in Orlando. I am also lecturing as a guest speaker through NORML at the University of Central Florida on November 13. I’m currently working on an EP called Medicine Man, which will be an introduction to the album I drop in 2014. I have a bunch of other projects in the works, but you will just have to keep your eye out for those.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Jonnie Morgan Band

Step into Firestone Live and take a deep breath. Notice anything different from the other venues you’ve frequented in Orlando? Fresh air. For once, you won’t be leaving the concert smelling like an ashtray. But for a place with a name like Firestone, the air conditioning is intense, so be sure to bring a jacket. When you need a break from the cold, there’s a patio outside where the bands and various artists set up their merchandise stands. The Jonnie Morgan Band appeared to have the most merchandise of everyone there, displaying a range of items from t-shirts, bumper stickers and even mouse pads. “We take what we do very seriously,” Morgan says. “We are a professional band and try to improve our performance every time we play.” They also believe in the importance of good marketing, including a focus on social media, where they have a Twitter and a Tumblr as well as an official band website.
According to their website, The Jonnie Morgan band is the drink that will be in your hand if you put Paul Simon, Chicago and the Dave Matthews Band in a blender. Formed in 2009 with original members Jonnie Morgan (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Jeremy Adams (bass), they released their first EP in 2011 and now have 7 members total including Bruno Ufret on drums, Matthew Mill on trumpet, trombonist Corey Paul and Saxophonist Jose Rojas. If you take a quick look at JMB’s upcoming tour dates, you’ll notice that just about every show is at a World of Beers location, and there’s a story behind that. Adams and Morgan played gigs at the University Blvd. location when they started out and, through some extensive networking, were able to get in touch with a person from the company who was a fan of their music, a fan who booked them for 19 different shows in various states including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. The Dungeon Martini Lounge was another place that helped them get started, and where their longest running pre-show tradition originated. Although the lounge no longer exists, Adams and Morgan still take a shot of Jack Daniels before every show just as they did 4 years ago.
Their first full length album of 13 songs was recorded at Stark Lake and Morris Sound and is currently in Post-Production. Generally, Morgan will come up with a melody and lyrics that convey an emotion or experience people can relate to. For Adams, music theory is seen as a tool box with tools like the Pentatonic scale, used by most of the top 40 pop hits in the last few decades. “It sounded exotic to most pre 20th century musicians, but at this point it’s so engrained in our musical beings that it’s nearly impossible to avoid.” During their set, which lasted a little more than an hour, Morgan made sure to address the crowd with a contagious enthusiasm. “We’ve made an oath as a band,” he declared. “that if we walk off stage and we’re not drenched and exhausted, we haven’t given you enough!” The band would like to thank their families for their continued support through the years and for rarely missing a show. “ Believe it or not, this isn’t the easiest job in the world, but hearing the cheers at our shows make it all worthwhile.”
For more information about the Jonnie Morgan Band, visit the following sites:
Twitter: @jonniemorgan                                                                                                         Tumblr:  http://jmbmusic.tumblr.com                                                                                             Official Website: jonniemorganband.com