musical mondaze

Musical Mondaze

Miss Tess


Between shifting industry trends and evolving listening experiences, it’s becoming more difficult than ever for artists to reach an audience, even when global connectivity is only a tweet away. For Miss Tess, whose new album, The Moon Is An Ashtray, drops on February 7th, tempering expectations when releasing new music into the world is part of her recipe when cooking in the creative kitchen.

With the sheer amount of stuff out there I think it’s amazing even one person listens to my music or comes to see me live,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Miss Tess to discuss going analog, growth as an artist, and why it’s important to take a break from social media.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, The Moon Is An Ashtray, is set to be released in February. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world? Is it sometimes hard to let material go and relinquish control over it?
Miss Tess: Actually I can’t wait to get it out there. We started recording a year and a half ago, so it’s been a long time coming. I don’t feel like it’s ever hard to let the material out there. I’ve listened to it so much, it’s time to give other folks a turn.

TrunkSpace: With so much music already under your belt, has the experience of making it changed for you since you first started out? Are there still firsts for you as you go through the process of writing, recording and then supporting an album?
Miss Tess: Every time I go into the studio I learn something new, and I’m always trying to grow and do it better next time. This album was the first time we had ever recorded something completely analog to tape. You only have so much room for recordings on the tape reel, so it forces you to be very decisive in the studio about what takes to keep. Also the recordings were mixed on an analog board, which can be a little stressful. You have no instant recall (like in digital) so if you want to tweak something you have to create a whole new mix. Luckily our producer and engineer, Andrija Tokic, is a whiz with that stuff and made it seem fairly effortless. He even did an actual tape cut to remove a section of a song, then taped it back together. It’s magic to me that music can exist on a piece of tape.

TrunkSpace: As you listen to The Moon Is An Ashtray today and compare it against, say, When Tomorrow Comes, where do you hear the biggest differences in the artist that you were and the artist that you are now?
Miss Tess: I don’t often listen to my older recordings, but sometimes a song pops up. I mostly notice how I’ve grown as a vocalist and a guitarist, and have more composure in the studio. I started recording 15 years ago, so that’s a lot of time for styles and techniques to change and develop. I used to be way more jazz/folk, but now while some of that still lingers, I’ve broadened my scope into country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll to make it perhaps even more eclectic. I like to think my singing has matured and strengthened, and I’m pleased with the fact that I’ve recorded several guitar leads. When I listen back to those, that’s the moment where I’m like, “Hey, that was pretty good.”

TrunkSpace: There are some great layers to peel away on The Moon Is An Ashtray, particularly when it comes to individuals and collective perspectives/expectations. As an artist, how do you manage your own expectations when it comes to your music and how it will be perceived once you release it into the universe?
Miss Tess: I release every album with the lowest possible expectations. That way you are always pleasantly surprised when you get a good review, or someone tells you they enjoy it. You can’t control anything really, even with the best team behind you to help promote. The industry is constantly changing and there is a staggering amount of recordings being released every week. With the sheer amount of stuff out there I think it’s amazing even one person listens to my music or comes to see me live.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Miss Tess: I’m proud of the songwriting – these are good songs and fun to play. I’m also proud of our recording band mates, some of the best in Nashville. Our friend John Pahmer was the MVP doing most of the keyboard and piano stuff, and really helped bring these songs to life. Getting to record with stalwarts such as Dennis Crouch (T-Bone Burnett’s right hand bass playing man) and Jack Lawrence (from the Raconteurs) was a great experience, and I’m really happy with how the recordings came out.

TrunkSpace: Since the start of your career, you have released new music at a pretty steady clip. Do you consider yourself to be a prolific artist? What is the longest period of time you have spent away from music?
Miss Tess: I don’t consider myself to be prolific. I don’t write enough to earn that term. I don’t think I’ve ever really spent time away from music. It’s always there. I’ve probably gone about three weeks max between gigs, since I created my first band in Baltimore in 2003 or so.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Miss Tess: It’s easy to be hard on yourself with all the social media stats out there. It’s always been a bit of a popularity contest, and now we have concrete numbers with which to measure ourselves. On top of that everyone only posts their best side, so it can be misleading, distorting our realities and perceptions of how life should be. Also living in such a concentrated musical community as Nashville is, you see other people get really successful in what seems like a very short amount of time. It’s easy to compare yourself to this and think, “Why aren’t I doing better? I’ve worked my ass off for a very long time.” I have to imagine that whatever level a musician is at, they will still have doubts and disappointments.

To overcome these feelings I have to remind myself that I can only do my best, and make sure the art I’m creating is honest and that I am growing and expanding. I tell myself there are plenty of people who wish they could even get on stage and sing one song and I don’t take that ability for granted. Also, taking breaks from social media is important.

Part of the reason I keep doing this, is that I feel I haven’t reached my potential, and ultimately I am happiest having created something new. The challenge is always making art sustainable, and figuring out the business side of things can also be very discouraging, and the lifestyle of a touring musician requires a lot of sacrifices in terms of relationships, family, health and security.

TrunkSpace: Finish this sentence. “I wouldn’t be able to create music if I didn’t have…”
Miss Tess: A brain.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her musical journey has taken her thus far?
Miss Tess: Yes, she would be very surprised. I wasn’t one of those kids who was infatuated with being a performer or a rockstar, though I did enjoy the piano and I was always mystified by singing into a microphone and hearing my own voice amplified and recorded.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Miss Tess: I wouldn’t. I would be worried it would affect me too much in the current time.

The Moon Is An Ashtray is available February 7th.

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Musical Mondaze

Matt Megrue


With his first solo album, The Mourner’s Manual, set to drop in February, Matt Megrue is no longer blending into the background of a band. Now front and center with his name the only thing standing between the music and the audience, he knows that he can no longer stay camouflaged, but it’s an experience he is ready to grow from, both as an artist and as a person.

It’s not about commercial success or failure as much as it is continuing to grow, evolve and giving myself the space for creative mistakes and coincidences to shape what I am doing,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Megrue to discuss staying present, looking beyond those bottles of lightning, and why it’s important for people to spread the word (and music!) of their favorite artists.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, The Mourner’s Manual, is set to be released on February 7th. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world?
Megrue: It’s a weird mix of a lot of different emotions: excitement in that this creation is finally leaving your hands and making its way out into the world, anxiety around making sure everything is planned and you’re doing everything you can to support the lead-up to the release, hope that the songs might resonate with some people, as well as a degree of disconnection, in not putting too much into the inevitable highs and lows that come with releasing a new album.

TrunkSpace: Is there a different vibe with the build up in releasing this album as a solo artist as compared to when you were in projects like The Unusual Suspects and Loners Society? Is there more pressure involved when it’s your name and your name alone above the album title?
Megrue: Absolutely.

I was the primary songwriter in all of my other bands and, if I am being honest with myself, I think that was why I avoided putting records out under my own name for so long: if something were to “fail”, I could always hide behind a band name. Obviously, you don’t get that luxury when you put things out under your own name.

But for me, lately, it has become more about redefining why I continue to create music. It’s not about commercial success or failure as much as it is continuing to grow, evolve and giving myself the space for creative mistakes and coincidences to shape what I am doing.

TrunkSpace: You started your The Mourner’s Manual journey in 2016. Because it has been a part of your life for a number of years now – and as excited as you are to have it finished – is there a part of you that feels like you have a bit of a creative void now that you have to fill, and if so, what are you filling it with?
Megrue: There definitely is a void once you wrap up a recording, and like most creative people I know, I also have a tendency to say, “Okay, on to the next thing.” without really taking the time to be present in what I just did. It is something that my drummer (Kyle Polk) pointed out to me, and I recently caught myself doing that. I was already moving on, writing for the next record, but have since taken a pause so that I could be present in the process of putting out this record and getting ready to tour it a bit.

TrunkSpace: In a message on your website, you wrote that the album is… “Loss. Love. Anger. Hope. Longing. Vulnerability. Spirit.” In a way, is releasing this album a bit like a therapy session because you’re sharing so much of who you are with those who choose to listen? Does that vulnerability on the album translate to vulnerability for you as an artist on the eve of its launch?
Megrue: It does, somewhat, but I think that’s where the disconnection I mentioned before comes in. For me, it’s not only about disconnecting from press, praise and negative critique, but also the material itself, to a certain degree.

The goal for this record was to leave it all in the studio and on tape, so to speak. The studio is the moment to dive into the raw emotion and vulnerability; but once that is over, I have to disconnect in order to perform certain songs over and over again. Otherwise, without that disconnect, I feel like I’m functioning but completely exposed.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down to listen to The Mourner’s Manual front to back, what would they learn about you both as an artist and as a person?
Megrue: That is a really difficult question to answer. I think I can answer it best by telling you what I learned about myself in those regards.

As an artist, I learned that maybe I am a little more capable than I wanted to believe. What I saw as “writer’s block” leading up to recording this album, was probably more me not allocating the time to really put in the work. I was waiting for the “lightning in a bottle” moments and kind of forgot the “10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration” rule. Once we got the gears going and got into the rhythm of doing the work, everything started falling into place.

As a person, I think I found a more empathetic lens with which to view the world than I have ever had before. I dug into some fairly heavy topics with this record, but I wanted to balance that with a sense of hope. Beautiful things can be birthed from darker moments if you allow yourself to be open to it. I hope people pick up on that.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Megrue: I’m just proud that I made a record that I am proud of. Granted, I have “new album fatigue” right now from listening to all of the various phases of mixing and mastering, but I am really proud of it as a representation of who I am and where I am at. Again, my hope is that some of that will resonate with people.

TrunkSpace: As an artist, can it be daunting looking out into the musical landscape and seeing how many artists are releasing new material at any given time? How do you cut through that noise and make a real connection to listeners in 2020?
Megrue: That’s a great question and, honestly, one that I wish I had a better answer for. I just try to be as honest as I can in how I write and release material. I believe people are yearning for authenticity more than ever before, and I just try to make music that is a true, authentic representation of who I am.

As far as cutting through the clutter, a lot of that onus is on the listener. If you love a band or an artist, tell your friends, tell the band, blow up social media. I know that I have found most of my favorite bands through the recommendation of a friend or someone whose tastes I really respect.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Megrue: Lyrics. Definitely lyrics. I put a lot of sweat into trying not to say the same things the same way, and it makes it really easy to get lost down a rabbit hole. It’s something that I still work on constantly to overcome, but having people around who you trust and won’t just tell you what you want to hear helps a lot! You can reach the right destination a lot faster that way.

TrunkSpace: Finish this sentence. “I wouldn’t be able to create music if I didn’t have…”
Megrue: “the goosebump moments.” If you’ve ever played music, you know what I’m talking about.

There were so many of those moments making this record where we would just drop a sample in or write a riff and things would fall into place around it. It was almost creepy at times.

Even playing live, you get those moments where everyone is so perfectly in sync that you almost want to play a wrong note just to make sure your amp is still working.

Those moments, and doing it with people you love and respect, is what it’s all about.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave him a glimpse of his future, would he be surprised by where his musical journey has taken him thus far?
Megrue: Probably. When I was 10 I was really deep into that 90’s country music. So, he would probably be quite confused at how he got from there to doing the kind of music that I do now.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Megrue: I don’t think I would. The fun lives in “the not knowing”. Again, for me I love creating the space to let the “mistakes” and “coincidences” happen and allowing that to lead where I go next.

The Mourner’s Manual drops February 7th.

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Wingman Wednesday

Bandits on the Run

Photo By: David Katzinger

Self-described misfits, the members of Bandits on the Run – Regina Strayhorn, Adrian Blake Enscoe and Sydney Shepherd – have found creative kinship as a trio. From busking in the New York City subways to traveling the world, they’re now bringing their three-part harmonies to the digital space with their new EP, Bandits Live at the Power Station, available now.

If you’re listening to the EP while waiting for the train, you may actually get a glimmer of what it’s like to encounter us alone one fall night on a deserted G train platform,” they said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “And that’s exactly what we want.”

We recently sat down with the band to discuss the energy of live invention, mutual understandings, and creating a shared moment with their listeners.

TrunkSpace: Your recent EP, Bandits Live at the Power Station, seems like the best possible way to enjoy the band, which is, in as live of a setting as possible. Does going into the studio require a different approach creatively to the music the group makes, because again, it seems like you’re all most at home on the stage?
Bandits: We are definitely most at home on the stage. The three of us are actors as well as musicians/writers, so performance comes naturally for us. When recording in studio as opposed to a live performance, it’s sort of like film acting vs. stage acting. Everything is under a microscope in the studio, every creak and breath is captured, which is delicious and exciting, but also challenges us to be more specific about what we are doing and the sounds we want to make. With something like the Power Station EP, we feel we found a bit of a middle ground. Because we are performing everything live, playing/singing together all at once, that energy of live creation is there, but captured in a very intentional way.

TrunkSpace: We read in a previous interview where you referred to yourselves as misfits by nature. Outside of finding a connection between yourselves as individuals, does music give you an outlet to channel that misfit energy through?
Bandits: Bandits is the primary outlet for our misfit-ness. We are so lucky to have found in each other a small family of creators who are hungry to make our true voices be heard. Everyone is used to being put in a box, but sometimes performers even moreso. There’s so much people assume about you based on the way you look or the energy they perceive from you, and we love inviting folks in for a closer look, encouraging them to dig deeper beneath the surface. We’re inspired by so many genres and so many of our collective and individual experiences, and we refuse to adhere to one sound. We have yet to find someone who can really nail us down into a genre, so we feel like we’re succeeding quite a bit in breaking down boundaries. We also understand each other’s voices to a point where we can really lift each other up and support each other, and celebrate our uniqueness not only as a band but as characters within the whole.

TrunkSpace: There are amazing three-part harmonies throughout your music that just seem to fit together in a way that transcends chance. Do you believe in creative love at first sight, and when you three first came together, was the creative connection – and the ability to blend them together seamlessly – apparent right away?
Bandits: In a word, yes. We do believe in creative love at first sight. Sydney and Regina began creating together many years before bandits – it started as a project where Regina would write a poem and Sydney would set it to music, and quickly escalated to both of them writing words and music seamlessly flowing one to the other. When Adrian and Sydney met years later – listen to “Love in the Underground” if you want the story of how – the energy was much the same, vibrant and symbiotic. When Regina moved to New York City and we tried our hand at singing all together, there was an undeniable and electric alchemy stronger than any of us had felt before. We were instantly a band. It was the weirdest thing. We’ve only grown stronger in our ability to collaborate and gel with each other. Even though our voices are so unique on their own, they somehow fit together in a way that defies logic. There are some recordings where we truly can’t tell each other’s voices apart, and we love it.

TrunkSpace: As a group, you seem to write from the perspective of outside storytellers… watchers of humanity. How have the journeys of others inspired you to turn their uniquely-taken paths into songs? Is it as simple as witnessing someone on the street and giving them a narrative?
Bandits: It’s so interesting that you say that, because many of our songs are actually deeply personal. Or if they’re told from an outside perspective, it’s usually an imaginary person we are infusing with our own stories and personalities. Sure, Regina’s never watched her cowboy lover ride off into the sunset like in “Cowboy on the Run,” Adrian’s never haunted the walls of a gal’s house like in “Funky Ghost,” and Sydney’s never turned her lover into a crow like in “Bonnie Jean,” but these stories are tales that are based, whether loosely or closely, on similar feelings and experiences, even if those experiences are daydreams.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about Bandits on the Run, both as artists and as individuals, in sitting down to listen to Bandits Live at the Power Station front to back?
Bandits: We’ve always been about synergy when we perform live, amongst ourselves and our audience, but also within whatever space we’re holding up. We actually began our journey busking on the NYC subways – always playing unplugged, and just soaking in the majestic acoustics of this space that most people think of as solely utilitarian. Our mission was to break up a mundane commute with a little spark of color and soul. When we snuck into the Power Station that night, we actually found ourselves in a familiar vibe to our late-night busking days… in this beautiful, cavernous acoustic environment with only ourselves and our instruments, there to make our own tiny mark on this space where the history is palpable. We played our hearts out to the room in what felt like an echo of our origins. If you’re listening to the EP while waiting for the train, you may actually get a glimmer of what it’s like to encounter us alone one fall night on a deserted G train platform. And that’s exactly what we want.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the EP?
Bandits: Honestly for us the best part of the whole thing is having a recording that sounds exactly like us playing live and unplugged. There’s always the temptation when you get in the studio to embellish, polish, and elaborate, but we’re really proud that at our core we’ve got a very full and detailed sound – which we can make completely organically and acoustically. This process taught us not to shy away from that. We were recording on some amazing analog equipment with a really incredible team (producer William Garrett and engineer Ian Kagey) which really set the scene for us to be at our most natural. It’s a 100 percent accurate recording of the moment, the room, and of the song in the room. Neil Young says that when he plays a song he is the song, and we want to use our songs to be present right next to you and share a moment with you, even through all the technology and 1s and 0s in between us. With this EP we found trust.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of being in a band, particularly this trio, that you can’t achieve in a solo capacity? Creatively, what keeps you writing and performing as a unit?
Bandits: It’s very difficult to three-part-harmonize as one person. We jest we jest! But really. It’s hard. Truly, we’ve made our own rules for Bandits. There are some tunes that are so heavily written by one person that they could almost be solo numbers, and some written by all of us in the room building something brick by brick all at the same time. When you’re writing by yourself you don’t have that option, you’re all on your own.

Another wonderful thing about writing together: accidents. Sydney may hear a melody a certain way in her head, then while singing it Adrian may play a different chord on the guitar that she never thought of but somehow makes the song blossom, Regina may change a few words in lyric offhandedly that turns out to hold the key to a song’s true meaning, the list goes on. And of course it isn’t always magic, we’ll experiment and fight and change things and work on a line a million times, but that process is a trial by fire that often ends up in a song exceeding what we thought we were capable of.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day where music is not a part of your day to day life or will it always be present in what you do, even if the method changes?
Bandits: Music will always be with us. No matter what. We can’t fathom a day where we won’t play music together. It’s part of our identities and our love for each other and the way we interact with each other and with the greater world around us. We truly don’t think that will ever change. We’ll always be open to experimentation and growth of course, but so far we’ve always been on similar wavelengths, and we’re really digging this ride together.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Bandits: Travel! Adventure! Serendipity! In the past few years, through equal parts gritty determination and dumb luck, we’ve been afforded the chance to travel beyond NYC, from the west coast to Western Europe. Every time we find ourselves in a new city, we’re given the chance to introduce ourselves with our music, playing in the street, at bars, in bookstores and coffee shops, outside of cathedrals, on boats, on beaches, on mountaintops and rooftops. We’ve encountered so many interesting people and experienced so many unique places, we could spend a whole night telling you only our favorite stories (and trust us, we will one day), but getting to explore the world this way is the real highlight of what we do.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Bandits: Oh, no. The great unknown is far too exciting and inspiring. We trust that wherever we’ll be in 10 years, it’ll be full of beauty and madness and creation and adventure in even greater capacities than we could ever imagine. How we get there will be the fun part.

Bandits Live at the Power Station is available now.

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Musical Mondaze

Kelly Hoppenjans

Photo By: Bridgette Aikens

Had it not been for an unfortunate rollerskating accident that left Kelly Hoppenjans with a broken arm, her latest album, OK, I Feel Better Now, may have been a different record when all was said and done.

I discovered that my health – physical, mental, and emotional – is crucial to my ability to make music, and that my goal isn’t to hit these deadlines I set for myself, but to reach people with my music, make them feel something,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

That connection she was hoping to build with audiences is apparent upon first listen to OK, I Feel Better Now, which was released on October 18.

We recently sat down with Hoppenjans to discuss owning who she is, exposing her negative self-talk, and why the Nashville scene continues to influence her songwriting.

TrunkSpace: Your debut album, OK, I Feel Better Now, is officially out into the world. Does being able to say “I have an album…” check off one of your creative bucket list items? Is this the dream or is it part of the dream?
Hoppenjans: It’s a big bucket list item! I’ve released a few singles and two EPs prior to this, but creating a full length album that was a cohesive work has been a major goal of mine. It’s the dream, but it’s only the beginning!

TrunkSpace: There’s a great genre blend on the album, and really, today it seems like musical labels are as meaningless as ever. That being said, when someone you meet asks, “What kind of music do you write?” what do you say? What is your definition of who Kelly Hoppenjans is as an artist?
Hoppenjans: I’d say, in terms of genre, that my music is a blend of riot grrrl rock and introspective singer-songwriter. But I agree that labels don’t mean a lot to me as an artist – I strive to make my music empowering, raw, innovative and true to me. Whatever that ends up being, that’s my genre.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about you as both an artist and a person in sitting down to listen to OK, I Feel Better Now, front to back?
Hoppenjans: They could learn that I’ve been on quite the journey to come into my own, as both an artist and a person! It’s taken me a long time fully own who I am, be comfortable with raising my voice and taking up space, and these songs were written at various stages through that journey.

TrunkSpace: Could this album have existed, say, even five years ago, or is the you represented on the 10 tracks an ever-changing Kelly who would not have been present in herself – creatively and personally – five years ago?
Hoppenjans: This album couldn’t have existed even two years ago! I’ve always been a type A, perfectionist, goal-oriented person who puts a lot of pressure on herself – I had a timeline for this album and how I wanted it to unfold. And then I broke my arm rollerskating and had to push everything back, and through that I had this perspective shift. I discovered that my health – physical, mental, and emotional – is crucial to my ability to make music, and that my goal isn’t to hit these deadlines I set for myself, but to reach people with my music, make them feel something. As long as I’m doing that, there’s no need to put pressure on myself to stick to deadlines I’ve set myself.

TrunkSpace: In writing the songs for the album, did you pull any punches when it came to how much of yourself you put into them from storytelling standpoint? Did anything in the lyrics leave you feeling exposed and wondering how an audience would interpret what you were trying to say?
Hoppenjans: “Band-Aid Girl” is the song that I felt most vulnerable sharing, because it’s a window into some of my most negative self-talk. I always assume things that happen in my life are my fault, even when they’re definitely not, and berate myself in my head for making those “mistakes.” So every time I sing the line, “and if you burn me, it’s a little bit my fault for thinking I could touch a glowing ember” I’m right back in that space where I’m feeling that shame, and I’ve always wondered how audiences feel about that line.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Hoppenjans: I’m easily the most proud of “Band-Aid Girl.” It’s the song where I feel the most immediate connection with audiences when I sing it, where I know I’m tapping in to something universal. It’s likely because of the vulnerability I was talking about earlier, and I’m gearing my songwriting towards accepting no less than that level of vulnerability.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and did that manifest during the creation and recording of this album?
Hoppenjans: I think I struggle most with how to represent empowerment when I don’t always feel powerful. I knew I wanted to write songs that make people feel seen and encourage them to be their best, confident, powerful selves, but empowerment is more than just kick-ass anthems. It’s a complex, daily effort, and I resisted the nuance and the vulnerability of it at first. Finding strength in that has been really revelatory to me.

TrunkSpace: You’re based in Nashville. Does the creative energy in that city inspire you to be a better artist? With so many songwriters around you at any given time, does it force you to continuously up your game?
Hoppenjans: How could it not! I’m so inspired by the artists around me. I don’t necessarily think of it as upping my game, and I’m loath to compare myself to other artists, tempting as it is. The way I see it, no one else can tell my story as well as I can, and when I see other artists telling their own stories well, I soak it up and learn from it, and I’m inspired to tell my own story in a new, different way.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her musical journey has taken her thus far?
Hoppenjans: My 10-year-old self had just gotten her first guitar for Christmas and was attempting to teach herself “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” so I’d say she’d be pretty shocked! If I could go back, I’d tell her to listen to some Hole, Bikini Kill, and PJ Harvey, and to stop caring whether other people had even heard of their music or not.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Hoppenjans: Ooh, that’s tough. Not to get too sci-fi, but couldn’t I potentially mess with my own future by knowing what happens, like in Back to the Future II? How horrible would it be to know what your future could have been and miss out on it because you knew it was going to happen! I’ll stick with not knowing.

OK, I Feel Better Now is available now.

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Musical Mondaze

Samantha Fish

Photo By: Kaelan Barowsky

Artist: Samantha Fish

Latest Album: Kill Or Be Kind

Label: Rounder Records

TrunkSpace: “Kill Or Be Kind” dropped on September 20. As you gear up to release new music into the world – and ultimately relinquish control over it – how do you prepare? Is it easy to let the universe have the art you have created or can it be difficult to say goodbye to it?
Fish: Once I finish an album and it’s out, it’s not really mine anymore. I honestly welcome it. It’s something you work so hard on, it’s nice to let the world receive it. Once it’s out, I can start being creative, and the process begins again. The live show is a good way to adjust things and expand upon the music. If you ever feel restless about how a song turned out, the stage is the place to work it out.

TrunkSpace: This is your sixth solo album. As you look back, is each one a bit like a chapter of your life, and if so, what does “Kill Or Be Kind” say about your current chapter?
Fish: This album signifies change in my life. Saying goodbye but also new beginnings. I feel that even on some of the more melancholy songs, there is this sense of empowerment and change.

TrunkSpace: No one knows your music better than you do. With that said, where do you hear the biggest differences between the songs present on your debut and where you are today as a songwriter with “Kill Or Be Kind?”
Fish: I feel like I’m more confident today. I’m a little braver. I’m not scared to write about difficult topics, where I think early on, I played it somewhat safe. When you allow yourself to lose the filter, you can become a better artist.

TrunkSpace: If someone unfamiliar with your music sat down and listened to “Kill Or Be Kind” front to back, what would they learn about you as an artist and person?
Fish: What a loaded question! I’m not sure. Maybe that I have a terrible love life. (Laughter) That’s the cool thing about being a songwriter, you live in it, but you also get to be a story teller. I do sing from my heart, so all I care about is that they feel it. Back to the first question, once it’s out in the world, it ceases to be about me. It’s about the listener and what it means to them.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Fish: That I am the sole guitarist on the album! Believe it or not, that’s never happened. By design, I wanted the opportunity to showcase that. I’m proud of the production, I feel like there is a lot of nuance and subtle instrumentation that makes these songs stick in your head.

TrunkSpace: What would 12-year-old Samantha think of your musical journey thus far? Would she be surprised by the path you have taken?
Fish: Twelve-year-old Samantha was going to be a vet, movie star and an astronaut all before 30. Honestly, I’d probably be surprised. I was a really shy kid. The idea of performing in front of crowds would have scared the hell out of me. I found my sense of self in music. I found my personality and confidence.

TrunkSpace: We love great lyrics… the kind that stick with us well after the song comes to end. What’s a favorite lyric of yours that you have written and why?
Fish: I really like the lyrics in “Dream Girl” right now. I wrote this song with Jim McCormick. The hook is:

If I could give up, a happy ever after, I’d be gone. If you could live up, to the dreams that I’ve been having, I’d hold on.

It’s melancholy, but weirdly hopeful. I love juxtaposition in art, it’s so prevalent in all life and matters of the heart. We’re all constantly at some type of crossroads, and that lyric touches on that.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist, and, have you gotten less self-critical over your work as you have gotten deeper into your career?
Fish: I think the first time you hear your voice on tape, it’s jarring. I’ve worked really hard on my singing over the years. If you don’t like something, you can change it. I’ve become less frustrated because I can do more now, but I’m still pretty critical of my performances. I strive for the best, so if I feel like I could or should have done better, I work at it.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take you to discover your voice as a songwriter, and do you think that creative point of view is constantly evolving?
Fish: Absolutely. It’s always evolving and changing. Life changes you naturally, so your perspective will change and become more mature. I started writing at 19, and thank God I don’t still think the same way I did back then.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Fish: I’d love to say, hell yes, who wouldn’t? I really like knowing where I’m going. But what if you weren’t there in the future? That would really freak me out.

Kill Or Be Kind” is available now on Rounder Records.

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Musical Mondaze

John Calvin Abney

Photo By: Rambo

Curious Box Of Wayward Songs” would make a great title for a future John Calvin Abney record even if it doesn’t accurately describe the way the singer/songwriter makes art. Meticulous in not only the way he creates music but also in how he delivers it and packages the individual songs together, the multi-instrumentalist has crafted a delicious 10-course meal for the soul with his latest album, “Safe Passage.”

Perfectly positioned so that each song takes you on a continuously looping journey, the new album is a front-to-back artistic assemblage that is a callback to classic albums that Abney himself has worn out on the turntable such as Bob Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks.” And while there were some 20 other songs that ultimately didn’t make the record and instead ended up in his curious box of wayward songs, the Norman, Oklahoma native is never sorry to see them go.

Sometimes, I’ll write a song and no one will ever, ever hear it, no damn person in the world, but then maybe six months later, a year later, two years later, I’ll hear that song and it’ll push me in the direction of writing a new song, he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Abney to discuss evolving with his music, the short-attention span culture, and our lost connection to physical media.

TrunkSpace: “Safe Passage” is the kind of album that you can put on and just let roll. It takes you out of your day and delivers you to a completely different place.
Abney: Oh, that is just the best news, man. That’s what I try to aim for.

TrunkSpace: How do you deal with taking something that you’ve spent so much time, energy, and have so much personal stake in, and then release it into the world where you have to relinquish control?
Abney: That is the funniest question because I remember hearing it the first time I ever made a record. I released a bunch of EPs when I was younger that, I hope will never ever see the light of day again, but one of the very first things I heard about studio work is that you never really finish a record. You abandon it, and you just honestly have to give up – give up what the album was to you and what it is to you – in order to evolve with it. In order to move on with it. In order to allow people to graph to it – to you. They graph their own experiences onto what your creation is or however you channeled the songs or album.

TrunkSpace: And then as listeners, you graph your own memories to those songs as well. They become a part of your life.
Abney: Exactly, and the more you try to force, push and pull, and try to keep the album under your own thumb – trying to keep the album under your roof – the less that people can find themselves in whatever you’re putting forth.

TrunkSpace: Your last album “Coyote” was released in 2018. That’s not a lot of time between albums, but for you, what was the creative time in-between the two like?
Abney: “Coyote” came to me in a different way than “Safe Passage” did. I wrote “Coyote” nearly, I’d say, 75 percent of that record was written in hotel rooms, or in a van. A lot of “Safe Passage” was written on long walks and on visits to family. I probably wrote 30 songs for “Safe Passage,” but “Coyote” just feels like a totally different beast to me. “Coyote” came to me pretty damn fast. It took me longer to get “Safe Passage” together. We went into the studio for one session, and recorded about 13 songs, and when I was done, all I could think to myself was, “You know what? This isn’t done.” I felt an incompleteness to what I wanted to convey, or encapsulate, within the piece of work which hadn’t been achieved yet. I went back into the studio about a month later and, during the month period leading up to that, I wrote “Kind Days,” “Soft Rain After All,” “Typeface In Bold” and four other songs, and that’s when it felt done. I finished that session, and I knew we had the songs.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned writing about 30 songs for “Safe Passage.” Will those songs that didn’t make the record live on or as an artist, can you walk away from a song and leave it behind?
Abney: I have walked away from many songs. It’s like anything. It’s a place or a person, or a routine in your life that sometimes something happens, or there’s a place or a person that maybe you don’t understand at the time that you can’t fully grasp. It helps you move in a direction towards maybe a new song, or a new place or a new direction, or a new person or a new event in your life that’s going to keep you moving forward. Sometimes, I’ll write a song and no one will ever, ever hear it, no damn person in the world, but then maybe six months later, a year later, two years later, I’ll hear that song and it’ll push me in the direction of writing a new song.

Or it will stay hidden in the trunk of oddities. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: But there’s got to be something kind of cool about that. In a world where so many people are sampling and tasting content in smaller doses…
Abney: It’s driving me crazy, man.

TrunkSpace: No one sits down and enjoys an album in how it was supposed to be made, so that process of picking what’s right and leaving behind what’s not is a lost art form.
Abney: Without a doubt. Without a doubt, and it’s already driving me crazy. It’s something that I vehemently despise, the fact that no one can sit down and listen to a record all the way through anymore.

TrunkSpace: Which is why it’s great to see vinyl continuing its renaissance because, those who are listing to a record in that format are listing to THE RECORD, and that’s what we felt “Safe Passage” was made for – a front-to-back experience.
Abney: See, that’s it. That’s it, and that is the art form that I want to preserve. “Coyote” was the exact same way. I felt “Coyote” was the same way for me, in that you could sit down and listen to “Coyote” and finish it, and it would start over again, and you wouldn’t even know it started over again.

TrunkSpace: That has happened for us with “Safe Passage,” and it’s a seamless transition. It’s almost as if it was made to come back around again, the way the first and last songs bookend the collection as a whole.
Abney: There’s a true art to that, man. There’s an art to the sequence. There’s an art to the arrangement. When you listen to “Maybe Happy,” and it starts over again, there’s little things that most people don’t know like, “Maybe Happy” and “I Just Want to Feel Good” are in the same key. All of a sudden it resolves at the end of “Maybe Happy” and if you’ve got repeat on, or your vinyl kicks, you know you have to flip your record. “I Just Want to Feel Good” just sounds like a continuation and vice versa. You listen to the center and to “Backwards Spring,” it ends on a big E major chord, and then all of a sudden you flip your record, and “Honest Liar” kicks in with the drum machine, and all of a sudden the song has an E chord too. It’s musical, but it’s also emotional. There’s feelings in it that link.

It’s a journey, man. If you could get all your friends to just sit down and listen to an album all the way through, it’s a success. If you can get a group of people to sit down, and have a beverage or without talking, or you’re just being able to comment on any record. “Blood On The Tracks” is one of my favorite records of all time, and I can listen to that record front to back every single day on my life, because it really is front to back. It encapsulates that part of Dylan’s life. All the classics. “Harvest” by Neil Young. I mean, that is front to back! You’re like, “Fuck, man!” Those are all records that you really can just get through. I really especially like that new The War on Drugs record, “Deeper Understanding.” That record… Oh my God! It’s like you get all the good feelings of Dylan and all of the while, beautiful sounds and crazy explorative stuff, but at the core of it all, it’s this emotion that carries through that entire record, and you can listen to it front to back, and by the end of it, it’s one single unit. It could be 30 songs, but it’s one single thing.

TrunkSpace: And a lot of that has sort of been lost. We’re in a singles culture right now, and while those singles might work individually, you could put them all on a Greatest Hits album and they just wouldn’t feel like they belong together.
Abney: Exactly, and that’s another thing. The whole Spotify… the paradigm shift into just streaming. I don’t think physical media is going to die, but I feel like we’re going to lose interest in what physical media once stood for, and that was a book that you can’t tear one chapter out of, and immediately get the full flavor of the book. I can’t open my copy of “A Moveable Feast,” and then rip out the final chapter and say, “I get this book.” Oh gosh, my brain is just mush.

TrunkSpace: And with music, yes, you don’t need a physical product to hear it, but sometimes you need to hold the album to feel it… to cement yourself in that moment of listening to it.
Abney: Oh, without a doubt, and that’s the kind of stuff that sticks with you. If you have a playlist, or a song on Spotify, amazing, but that one song is among a bunch of other, real great songs, but everything seems so disparate. It seems scattered. It seems like you can’t fully understand the emotion of a whole body of work by taking one song. Spotify is a great discovery tool, but to have an album, to look at the photos and watch the cover get beat up and then slide in the warping vinyl… or a CD, or a tape… it’s the little things that make that one piece of art. It just grows with you, man.

TrunkSpace: Is this why you chose to self-produce “Safe Passage,” to put this kind of care into the exploration of the songs beyond the songs themselves?
Abney: Yes. With my past three full lengths, I’ve produced all three. John Moreland has been a friend of mine for a long time, and when I was doing my first LP, which is going to stay out of print, but we did it in 2014 or 2013 at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco. We were all just younger then, so we could make 24 hour drives in one day, and John Moreland and I, and my buddy Kyle, we all just drove to San Francisco. We all just packed up our trucks, and just drove to San Francisco and made a record, and John helped me produce it because I didn’t have a lot of experience doing anything outside of my bedroom tape machine. At that point in my life, I had worked on probably 20 records, but I didn’t have enough experience producing a record. Now I’ve been in a situation where I’ve worked with so many producers, and so many artists on so many records, that I’ve developed my own way of going about working on the arrangements of songs, and the placement of songs, and the way a song should or shouldn’t breathe, where it should be.

TrunkSpace: Does songwriter John ever butt heads with producer John in terms of what you want creatively and what you want technically?
Abney: Oh hell yeah. I’ve been in the studio before, and I’ve been arranging the tune – I like to do full band live recording – and I’ll be sitting there and I’ll look at the lyrics sheet and I will just cross out an entire verse that I love right off the page and say, “All right, you guys after the second verse, we’re going to do a chorus, and then instead of a third verse, we’re just going to do half a solo, and then we’re going to go right into a double chorus.” And that verse will disappear into my books, and maybe I’ll use it for something else, if there’s an emotion or a feeling that I want to convey in another song or in a piece of prose or something, and I’ll save that for later in my curious box of wayward songs.

Safe Passage” is available now on Black Mesa Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Dudley Taft


Artist: Dudley Taft

Latest Album: Simple Life

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

TrunkSpace: What would first-time listeners learn about you in sitting down and going through your latest album, “Simple Life,” front to back?
Taft: I think they would probably find me to be a rocker that has a lot of blues influence. I‘ve sort of straddled the blues/rock line to the point where all the blues guys are like, “Well, you’re way too rock,” and hardcore rockers are like, “Well, that’s too bluesy for me.” So I’m right in that zone right in there. And I think it’s probably apparent, although this is definitely more of a rock record.

TrunkSpace: “Simple Life” is your sixth full-length solo album. Has the process changed for you at all in terms of bringing songs to life?
Taft: Oh, I think my songwriting has evolved a little bit, but it’s not that much different. I don’t really set out with a purpose, like, “I want to write a song about death or sex.” It just sort of ends up that way. I record ideas on my iPhone, so if I have just a little idea, I might be driving and it might sound like (mimics a beat). I just try to capture all these little ideas. They’re like little plants and then I water them. I play them and I see them grow a little bit and I’m like, “Well, this is kind of cool. And what kind of vibe is this?” I try to follow the vibe for each song, maybe more than I did at the beginning.

TrunkSpace: Because you were still finding yourself as an artist in those days?
Taft: At the beginning, it was like, “Well, I definitely like to rock, but I want to be a part of this blues world” because I was a guitar player. In the late 2000s, the late night rock ‘n’ roll scene was kind of dead, at least in Seattle. It used to be when I first started playing there in 1990, there would be two or three bands and the place would be absolutely fucking packed. People were going and this was even before Alice in Chains blew up, Pearl Jam, and all that shit. And then, you know, flash forward to 2006 and we’re playing some venue and there’s seven bands and there’s like 50 people there. It was like, “Well, this fucking sucks. So either I’m going to do bluegrass, which I can’t, country… eh, or blues.” So I wrote a few things that I thought were sort of my take on blues, and I guess in a way I still will come up with some rifts but – that was a very longwinded way of saying it has changed a bit. My records are less blues now and more just what I’m doing.

TrunkSpace: As you’re out in the clubs now, do you see rock coming back? Is the scene doing better today than what you were seeing in 2006?
Taft: Oh man, that is hard to say. I think it’s interesting because… here’s an example. I subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine, and I think they were kind of on the skids in the past few years, and then there was somebody else invested and the Jann Wenner guy is executive editor or whatever the fuck, but you look at that and it’s like they’re trying to keep some of the guys like me who have been reading Rolling Stone since we were teenagers. The British invasion heroes and Southern rock heroes and grunge heroes, whatever you want to call them, versus new artists like Billie Eilish, which I’ve only known about through my daughters. But there is some in there. It’s just hard to tell.

Last night I went and saw a really cool band called Bishop Gunn and they opened for the Stones for a few shows. That’s an example to me of younger guys – and I’m going to guess that they’re 28 to 33 or something – playing rock with a blues influence and sort of something for my age group. I’m sort of right in the middle of baby boomers and whatever they call them, generation Xs, but it’s like, “Who is left?” Foo Fighters? Who got through the system before streaming destroyed the record labels? Those are the bands that are still touring now.

TrunkSpace: And in many ways, those bands have had to diversify. Maroon 5 isn’t just a band anymore, they’re a brand that drifts into different areas of media.
Taft: Sure. And you have to do that because the pipelines no longer exist – the old pipelines. I think it makes it harder. I’m excited by guys like Gary Clark Jr. and I like The Raconteur’s new album, The Black Keys. They’re very interesting to me, but I don’t know that I can really tell, at least in the US, that it’s a different ballgame, which is probably why I go play Europe more than any of the US.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned dropping song ideas onto your iPhone as they pop up. Are you someone who can shut off your creative brain or is it always on?
Taft: Well, it’s interesting because my brain is very much a songwriter’s brain. I work on my songs and I finish them and then it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got a tour coming up too. I don’t want to play those songs.” (Laughter) I want to write some new ones.

I don’t listen to a lot of music. I’m kind of always working on something.

TrunkSpace: Which must be one of the areas where technology benefits artists, because who knows how many great songs were lost to the universe before there were devices in all of our pockets to record ideas onto.
Taft: No doubt. I remember seeing some interview with Stevie Wonder – it was a long time ago – and he had one of those micro cassette machines and he just kept it with him all the time. He has an idea, kaboom, play and record and off you go. And I never really thought about it that way. Before the iPhone, when I would write a song, it would be something where I’d sit down and play on the guitar and I’d kind of remember it and come back to it and then kind of keep it going. But I didn’t record it in any way. I mean, I would goof around – I had one of those four track cassette decks – but if you were out and about and you got an idea…

The worst one is jogging.

So I’m out running and I got this fucking great idea and it’s like, “Oh my God, you’ve got to hang on to it until you get home.” A lot of times I would remember what it looked like to play on the guitar, but I would forget the rhythms. So, thank God for the iPhone. When it’s time to work on demos for the new album, I just pull up iTunes with all my voice messages and I just start going through them. I go, “Oh fuck, that’s cool. Let’s learn a drum beat that’ll kind of work with that.” And I just throw a loop up and then just kind of start going that way. It’s cool, and sometimes it will be like, “Whoa, what the fuck was that? That was me?” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: A gem comes back to you. Something kind of cool about that.
Taft: Yeah. Or you know, just some random idea I thought of while I was getting dressed in my closet or something. And Hendrix said it, “I don’t really create anything. I just catch it from the sky.” I think that’s where all the coolest songs come from is letting your mind relax and just letting it be creative.

Catch Taft’s latest creation from the sky, “Simple Life,” available now.

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Musical Mondaze


Photo By: Matilda @ Wolfpack Creative

Having worked behind the scenes of the music industry promoting other artists, Ayisha Jaffer, the crux of Skux, has a unique perspective on bringing music to the masses, though she admits that there’s no magical equation in capturing the ears of listeners.

It’s always kind of a guess and check, hit or miss, but I actually have fun with that side, trying new things, trying things differently, and seeing how people react,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

The new Skux EP “Kudis” is available now.

We recently sat down with Jaffer to discuss party punk, chart topping in New Zealand, and why you need to love what you do to keep doing it.

TrunkSpace: As an artist – a creative person – and you gear up to release something into the world, how do you prepare yourself for sending your art out into the world and relinquishing control over it?
Jaffer: How do you prepare yourself for that as far as just letting the world have it? I guess, you kind of can’t. It’s kind of just up to the people if they like it or not. I like it and I’m proud of what I put out, so for me, I’m just excited that other people can hear it. Hopefully they can hear it and have fun with it, because for me, it’s just a fun EP. I think a lot of people take themselves to seriously, so hopefully it lets people relax, chill and have fun, which is why I call it party punk, because I want it to just be enjoyable. I’m just having a good time, and I hope everybody else can feel that and have a good time with what I have.

But yeah, there’s nothing to prepare you, and usually on the day of release, I go out of service somewhere so I don’t see what happens, and just kind of focus on something else and come back. And then, it’s cool to see the reactions people have to what’s out there.

TrunkSpace: That’s got to be a healthy approach to take in the digital age because you aren’t refreshing to see the reactions. You can put some space between yourself and the release and then come back and get a lay of the land.
Jaffer: Absolutely. There’s no normal formula anymore for putting stuff out, and there’s so much stuff out there that it takes a while for people to discover it sometimes. And sometimes they don’t, because there’s so much. So, I honestly think people choose what they like, and I think that’s awesome. Spotify… it’s not curated as much as it used to be, and so, I think that’s pretty cool in itself, so if people hear it and they like it, great.

I used to have a professor, a long time ago, tell us about… because I worked in music on the other side, as a manager… and he was like, “Yeah, okay, so what? You have 20 likes on Facebook.” This is when that was normal. (Laughter) He was like, “Think about that. You have 20 people who have listened to your music, who like your music, who are influenced by your music, who are fans of your music.” And that’s a lot of people, if you think about it. So to think I have 900, or 1000, or more, that’s just crazy. So I think that’s a pretty cool way to look at it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being on the other side of the music for a while. Do you think that has given you a unique perspective in how you gear up to a release and put music out into the world?
Jaffer: Yeah, for sure. I’m totally conditioned to the way that I put out music, but every artist that I’ve ever worked with, and every project I’ve ever worked on, we always tried to do something different because we knew there was no formula from the beginning, even when there was a formula. And the music industry is always evolving and changing by the day. That’s why I liked working in it because it kept my days different.

So yes, because I’m aware of some of the different, new things happening and things people have tried, and no, because like I said, it’s always evolving and changing. It’s always kind of a guess and check, hit or miss, but I actually have fun with that side, trying new things, trying things differently, and seeing how people react. I actually never intended Skux, the project, to be a serious project. It was always just a fun project. And because it’s punk – at least I know from the industry perspective, punk is not a very sellable music, normally. For me, it’s just a passion. I love punk, and I miss it in the scene. I miss hearing it as much as I used to. It seems to be having a little bit of an emergence, but I was really surprised that it (Skux) did take off as well as it did, especially in New Zealand. One of the two singles I put out was number one for several weeks on radio, and that was nuts to me, because I was like, “What?”

TrunkSpace: And that’s what’s so great about the journey of art, you never really know where it will go when all is said and done. People take from it what they want, and in this case, we’d imagine you’d have never dreamed of having a number one single in New Zealand.
Jaffer: No way. My friends were like, “We’ll pitch it to radio or something.” And I was like, “That’s cool, whatever.” They were like, “Do you want to focus on one track?” and I said, “I don’t care. Give everybody both tracks. I don’t care.” And then, it was number one, and I was like, “That’s stupid. What!?” (Laughter) So you really can’t… you can plan to a point, but you can’t.

My way of planning with this, for the EP, was I just planned the way that I like with old school releases, which was having a concept. I loved a concept when I was younger, so I just kind of did it how I selfishly wanted it to go. If people like it, great, and if not, that’s fine too. I just wanted to selfishly put out a concept EP. And I wanted it to be ridiculous.

TrunkSpace: You never intended Skux to be a serious project, so, now that it has taken on a life of its own, do you feel like that takes the pressure off and allows you to just keep having fun with it?
Jaffer: I’m stoked that it is. Because in my goals with music, anyway, it’s just to tour and be able to do that because that’s my favorite thing to do from the industry side as well. So if that can happen, that’s awesome. And, yeah, it does take some pressure off, but you still get… it’s funny, because I never really felt the…

I hear from artists, on the vulnerable side, be like, “Oh my God, why isn’t it doing well? Why isn’t anyone liking it? Oh my God.” And I kind of get that, in a sense, because once you hit something, you’re like, “Oh, why am I not number one all the time forever?” Because that’s the ridiculous thing for artists to think, but I totally get where they’re coming from because it’s vulnerable. You made this thing. This is your art. This is you putting out your real self, theoretically, or at least your real fun self, or whatever your alter ego is. So I get that. But it does take some pressure off that I’m happy with it because I think that if you’re not happy with it, then, of course, it makes it harder if you’re doubting yourself about your music, and you’re not sure if it’s good, and you care about what other people think. I think punk is inherently… we don’t care. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. That would be against the punk ethos, so for me, it’s just like, “I enjoy it. You enjoy it? Cool, let’s all have fun together.” That’s kind of how I view it.

TrunkSpace: Well, and, as an artist, if you’re working on something that you’re not enjoying, and then, like you said, going out on the road to support it for eight months to a year or more, that’s a miserable year if you’re not in love with what you’re doing.
Jaffer: Oh yeah. I’ve seen it too. It’s the worst. So you’ve got to like it. And you got to not care what other people think. Essentially, I think, the best music is music that is part of your experience, or your outlet, or something you just really enjoy. And if it’s not, and you made if for someone else, and they don’t like it, or whatever, or you just made it for someone else – you made it for only someone else, I should say – because a lot of it is, of course, for the people. They’re relatable, they can go through what you’re going through or whatever, or you’re trying to say a political statement, or you’re trying to just have fun. But if you made it only for someone else, then you’re going to be miserable no matter what, I think.

“Kudis” is available now.

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Musical Mondaze

Exclusive Premiere: Dirty Mae’s Brown Water


TrunkSpace Exclusive Premiere
Dirty Mae’s “Brown Water”

“’Brown Water’ is a song written by the three of us in reaction to the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. The chorus, ‘I told you not to drink that water’ is a play on Pandora’s box. The water is the box. Our curiosity and innovation of dangerous technologies is quenching and comfortable, but eventually makes us sick. 

“Water is our most essential resource. That’s why we chose it for our imagery. We wanted water to be a symbol for something that is most essential to humans. What’s also essential to humans is our desire to defy nature for our own comfort. This essence of humanity is captured through the imagery of brown contaminated water. Water is so essential to humanity but what’s also essential, is contaminating it. Water is a double edge sword. 

‘Brown Water’ has a hopeful funky hook at the beginning with a jazzy sax intro but shifts to a more melancholy place when the verses start. We did this because the content of lyrics are more serious. The lyrics are about what the earth would tell us if it could talk now. The instrumentation and melody at the beginning give you a nostalgic feeling as if the earth misses how things used to be. Then the chorus hits and has a stronger more powerful feeling, less melancholic and more angry. The song builds and builds until it hits a climax with Ben [Curtis’s] screaming vocals and distorted guitar. There’s a pause and then an arpeggiating piano that starts a whole new build through the chorus. Each time through the chorus we add a new vocal harmony until we hit another climax. One can imagine thunder and waves. Then to end it, we go back the funky more uplifting intro because we like happy endings and like to imagine there’s still a chance to take care of this planet.” – Robbie Frost of Dirty Mae

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Musical Mondaze

Dry Cleaning


Press release embellishment or not, Dry Cleaning’s karaoke moment still played a hand in their inception as a band, though most of the credit belongs to the mutual excitement the group of “best friends” get from writing and creating together.

Certainly I’ve learned a lot from working with these people, the way they are so thoughtful and sensitive and definitely the way they make a positive atmosphere to work in – that’s really inspiring to me,” states founding member Tom Dowse in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Dowse to discuss the future of future recordings, their creative ruthlessness, and opening up a line of communication with the listener.

TrunkSpace: From what we’re told, Dry Cleaning owes much of its existence to karaoke. Can you walk us through how a chance get-together with microphones ultimately lead to where you are today, with a new EP out in the world?
Dowse: Well, that’s a bit of a press release embellishment. Nick (Buxton), Lewis (Maynard) and I were doing karaoke for mine and Nick’s girlfriends and we did Minerva. It was just a lol but we said we should do a band after. To be honest, we had already talked about making music together before for a while, in various iterations.

TrunkSpace: The band wrote and recorded the songs on “Sweet Princess” before ever playing a live show. Because of that, do you feel like these songs are better suited for the studio or did they transfer to the stage seamlessly?
Dowse: The main goal of the band was to be a good live band so they were written with playing them live at the front of all our minds so, yes, was seamless.

TrunkSpace: These songs have been with Dry Cleaning for a while now. Do you feel like, creatively, the band has already moved on from them? Is the songwriting different today than it was when these tracks were being given life?
Dowse: I suppose we do, yes, but still enjoy playing them live a lot. We’ve got a new recording already done and have started writing even more new stuff so mixing those songs with new ones gives them new life. I think the songwriting process is the same, fundamentally. The only differences are that we are looking to throw different things into the mix and see what comes out the other side.

TrunkSpace: There’s an interesting description in the band’s bio that we found fascinating. “Anything unnecessary was to be left behind.” As you ventured on your path creating what you describe as “simple music,” did it require reminding along the way to not get lost in the process and tinker too much? Is it possible for an artist to tweak a piece of work so much that the original energy that created it is wiped from the final result?
Dowse: Yes, I think there has always been an emphasis on minimalism and making sure nothing superfluous is added. It’s a process of refinement that comes about naturally from playing songs a lot at practice, record them, listen to them at work, play them again, etc. I’m sure it’s very easy to lose the original energy of a thing by tinkering, absolutely, it happens all the time. We’re quite ruthless and don’t worry about that when it happens, just move on and come back to it later.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular feeling you get – a vibe – when you finish a song and you know that it is as perfect as you could make it?
Dowse: I wouldn’t say we ever strive for perfection and are only really looking for that excitement from each other when we know we’re onto something. It’s a sort of group instinct and we trust it.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about the band in sitting down to listen to “Sweet Princess” as a whole? What does it say about Dry Cleaning right now in 2019?
Dowse: That’s a tricky question, I wouldn’t say we’re trying to teach anything. If anything I hope it says that this is music that is pleasurable to listen to that rewards repeated listens, something you feel you can invest in as a listener and you can be part of. The line of communication between us and the listener is as direct as we can make it.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Dowse: Creating something with my best friends and seeing them be as excited by it as I am.

Photo By: Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of being in a band, and Dry Cleaning in particular, that you can’t achieve as a solo artist. Does the creativity of the rest of the group inspire your own creativity?
Dowse: Being in Dry Cleaning has become a really important part of our lives, there is something going on every day at the moment and so we are sharing this moment together, that’s so nice! When you’re solo, I would say that you get everything you’re own way, which is great if you have a strong vision of what you want but you are rarely as surprised as often as you are in a band. Someone will chuck something in or comment on something you’re doing and it’ll really push you further than you might have alone. Both are equally valid ways of working. Certainly I’ve learned a lot from working with these people, the way they are so thoughtful and sensitive and definitely the way they make a positive atmosphere to work in – that’s really inspiring to me!

TrunkSpace: Which would you prefer… writing one album that the world adores, or writer a career’s worth that a select group of people connect with?
Dowse: There is that phrase, “If you can’t please the many, delight the few!” I don’t know if I could make the choice to be honest. You have to just make what’s in you to make, when you get that group vibe that it’s right and make the best creative decisions you can at that moment. How the world responds to it is out of your hands and I’d happily accept both those outcomes.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why
Dowse: No, I wouldn’t. I’ve seen and read too much science fiction to dabble with the dangers inherent in time travel.

Sweet Princess” is available now on It’s OK.

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