Pocket Vinyl

The Boxelders

 

We first played with the Boxelders back in 2011 (I think) in a small bar in Baltimore called Sidebar.  It was a Monday show, and they were the local band, who was kind enough to bring out quite a few friends who were very respectful towards us while we played.  In fact, while we were playing, the 3 members of the Boxelders themselves were right up front, giving us their full attention.  I remember noticing this and instantly liking them a whole lot.  Bands are not always so generous with their time at shows, especially if they invited a bunch of friends to it.

But then they played, and I liked it very much.  We hung out afterwards and I gave them a PV album.  They didn't have any physical copies of their EP "Crow/Dandelion", but they said they'd send me a digital copy.  A few days later, they followed through and sent me this: 

 

I had no idea that this EP would be the record I would listen to the most in 2012.  But it was.  And I still love it today.  It is probably in my top 5 EP's of all time.  Something about it speaks to me and releases comforting feelings in me.  I hope it can do the same to you.  I could go on about how great the Boxelders are as people, but I'll just let their music do that for me.

They have been working on a follow up for years, but as of right now, this is their only release.  It's free on bandcamp, and I VERY STRONGLY encourage you to click this link and go download it.  

 

 

The Canyon Rays

 

So of all the PV Recommends groups I've written about so far, they are people I know.  I don't really know the Canyon Rays folks.  A couple years ago, we got an email asking if we wanted to play a gig with them in New Haven, CT.  We said yes to the show, and played with them to a small-ish crowd late on a Saturday night.  They were on tour all the way from L.A. doing an east coast run.  We didn't talk too much before the show, but afterwards we were able to talk to the members and I awkwardly told them how much I liked their performance and they awkwardly told me "thanks".  Then one of them handed me a download code for their only album "West Coast Babes".  I didn't think much of it.  We spoke about this or that for another few minutes before we parted ways.  The next day, I downloaded the album.

It has become one of my favorite albums of 2014, if not my #1.  Take a listen:

 

 

This album is the perfect summer day.  Though I don't think it sounds the same, it gives me the same feeling of summer that I get when I listen to the Beach Boys.  They just have perfectly encapsulated that feeling and expressed it through music wonderfully.  This album always puts a big smile on my face from the opening chords.  I'm not even that much into other music like this.  A lot of those "California bands" who have blown up blogs in the past decade haven't really hit me the same way as this.  I honestly don't even know how to describe WHY I connect with this album, I just do.  

While I certainly love the kind of music we make in Pocket Vinyl, I would LOVE to make an album as sunny, pop-y, and positive as this one.  I have no idea if that's even in me, but there will always be some part of me that is jealous of this kind of bright sound.  And from one artist to another, I mean that as a huge compliment.

As an album, it's sequencing is just about perfect.  And the song "Teenage Dream" would be a national hit if it was given national press.

 

I've tried to reach out to play more shows with them since then, but have heard little back.  Their website is now down, and they haven't posted anything on their facebook page since April 10 2015.  I'm a bit afraid that they won't put out anything more, so I recommend you get this album as soon as you can before it eventually goes down and gets lost to time.  I know I'm going to be listening to this still for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Gaffer Project

 

I met Jordan from the Gaffer Project by chance of simply sending him an email.  In our first year of touring, we had a show in Blacksburg, VA at the She-Sha Hookah Lounge and I was looking for a local opener to help with the crowd.  Jordan was one of several bands I messaged, yet the only one that got back to me.  He was from Roanoke and wasn't exactly sure if he could bring many folks, but I was just happy to find a (sort of) local, so I told him to play anyway if he wanted.  He came, and near instantly we got along great.  Just from human to human, we connected.  Then he played his show, and I was impressed.  Hadn't seen anything like it.

 

 

Listen to that.  He has a way of speaking/singing/rapping that is rare amongst music.  The closest touchstone is the band mewithoutYou, but even Jordan has put his own spin on the style.  He played the show without pedals or traditional instruments.  Just a computer, a mic, and a computer keyboard that had nearly all but 4 buttons pulled off of it.  He used this as a "pedal" which he would stomp on as he sang/spoke/rapped/jumped around.  Depending on which key his foot would slam on, the music would change.  Even as one man, his sound and aesthetic took up the whole stage.  He was also, in his heart, clearly a poet.  Lyrically, the Gaffer Project shines very bright.

Recently, his wife Rachel has joined him on stage with nothing more than a sharpie, transparent paper, and an overhead projector.  While he performs in front of the projector, she creates a picture over him, which is then put in a frame and auctioned off at the end of the show.  Obviously this concept is attractive to Elizabeth and myself, and has only improved the already great show that the Gaffer Project gives.  

Though only one album out, Jordan is working on a new one for later this year, which I get to play piano on a song or two.  A very honoring experience to be sure.  Jordan usually heads out on tour once or twice a year and has gone all over the US before, so keep an eye on the Gaffer Project if it's coming near you.  I promise you it'll be a memorable experience.

Gaffer Project Bandcamp

Gaffer Project Facebook

 

Fable Cry

 

 

Elizabeth and I first played a show with Fable Cry in Johnson City, TN at the Acoustic Coffeehouse.  We had hung out with Zach and Kirstie (they were just a duo at the time) beforehand a bit, played our show, and then waited for them to play.  Both Zach and Kirstie struck me as very grounded people and easy to speak with.  We were happy to be playing with a band we got along with.

Then they started playing.  Zach seemed to turn into some crazed-out carnival director while Kirstie made sounds and faces I didn't think she was capable of.  They were weird, to be sure, but also completely engaging.  They swapped instruments with every song, from drums to guitar to violin to vocals to whatever they could get their hands on.  They had character, and were incredibly expressive for only playing to roughly 15 people in a not-so-crowded room.  I was impressed.

Throughout the last few years, Fable Cry has changed quite a bit.  Kirstie has decided to pursue other artistic routes leaving Zach to reimagine the band into a full on scampy rock parade.  Now boasting 4 members, Fable Cry is now a full on experience to behold.  I've never really been into what can be described as "gypsy" music, but they are just so good at writing melodies under all that stomping and roaring.  Plus, being one who writes songs about death a bit, many of Fable Cry's songs are stories involving hangings, murders, witches, vengeful ex-lovers, and zombie animals...but in all the most fun of ways!  It's dark music, but not DARK music, if that makes sense.  Sort of like how Halloween is all about death and ghosts but it's not SCARY, you know what I mean?

Plus, their creativity goes far beyond just their music.  They spend a very long time creating amazing videos.  Here's a favorite of mine: 

 

Fantastic, right?  I recommend you head over to their website and get into this band.  Or check out their facebook page.  Or their bandcamp.  They are a fantastic band worth your time.

 

Leroy Townes

 

We play with tons of fantastic bands, and I wanted to start this column as a way of doing our part to spread the word about all the small yet amazing bands out there.  First up: Leroy Townes. 

While you read, I recommend you listen to their stuff on their website right here.  You can't go wrong with any album.

 

I went to high school with main songwriter Beave Sorenson (AKA Leroy Townes).  As long as I've heard his music, I've been a fan, dating back to at least 2001.  He released a small run of a album back then that to this day remains one of the main soundtracks to that part of my life.  Plus, the song "35 Years" from our album "Death Anxiety" is a cover of a song that appeared on a very early release by Beave and Josh Walters (another starting member of Leroy Townes).  

 

We all grew up in Allegany County in New York state, which is mostly farms and small towns.  Leroy Townes' music speaks to that inside of me.  Even the newer songs feel like a taste of where we grew up.  That's much more likely my own association with it rather than Beave's intention, but either way, it's speaks to me about small town life, close friends, young love, and frustrations with religion.

 

Much of the music is steeped in country tradition, though.  I honestly can't tell you how many of the songs are from Beave's perspective and how many are characters.  I've always assumed a healthy slice of both.  Either way, he's always sung and written with a confidence that I was incredibly jealous of when I first started writing.  I remember one time in particular when I left some very crappy lyrics for a song I wrote called "I Want To Be A Girl" at the time on a piano at school.  I saw him eye them over once, and then looked over at me and told me he thought they were good.  He may have been sarcastic thinking back on it, but at the time I didn't take it as such, and I found it a great encouragement as a young songwriter.  In the last decade, I've stolen music and lyrics from him several times (most notably the line "We laughed because it hurt" in the PV song Protagonist).  Though our styles of music are very different, he had a huge influence on my songwriting.  

 

Leroy Townes does not play too often outside of western NY state (they're located in Buffalo, NY), but if you're in that area, I highly recommend heading to a show.  Beave and his entire band has always been one of the best kept secrets of the state.

 

Leroy's Facebook 

Leroy on iTunes

Leroy on Spotify