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Artist of the Month
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August 2015
HMPH!
"Headrush
"
mp3
Simply stated, the music of HMPH! could be described with a term like math rock or experimental jazz fusion. But these terms, while accurate, don’t paint a complete picture of the sounds created by guitarist Ryan Lee Toms and drummer Jonathan Thatch. “Just when you think you got the groove, we switch it up, add a few beats, or throw in a chord from another key,” says Thatch, whose mastery over the drum kit is jaw-dropping. And while rhythmically complex, progressive compositions have become a cornerstone of the math rock genre, HMPH! additionally incorporates elements of jazz, ambient rock, alternative, and metal.
 
On Friday, the duo will be releasing its debut album Headrush (Haymaker Records), a 36-minute instrumental effort that showcases HMPH!’s dedication to push the envelope while keeping its music interesting. Nine of the 10 songs clock in under 5 minutes, keeping a fresh, brisk momentum for the entirety of the album. The listener has a chance to delve in to each song, but is pulled out before it becomes indulgent or formulaic.
 
Many of the songs start with a basic guitar riff that is bent and twisted in multiple directions, meandering from its original shape but always returning to it. From a polite jazz lick to a climactic rising arpeggio, Toms designs unpredictable, jagged noises with his guitar. “The harder it is for us to wrap our head around a riff, the more fun it is to write and the more enjoyable it is to dissect as a listener.” His combination of intriguing guitar sounds with Thatch’s intricate drum work shows that they’re very much up to the challenge. “Sometimes it starts with a complicated polyrhythmic drum part from Jonathan and I’ll create a progression to that. Other times, I’ll zone out and write arpeggios while thinking of decrepit medieval castles that kind of remind me of all the video games I played as a kid. Then I bring them to Jonathan.”
 

At the same time, Thatch is creating his own variegated sounds with just a five-piece drum kit. He often provides a countermelody to Toms’ guitar, building upon dynamic layers with odd meters, polyrhythms, subtle dynamic shifts, and rhythmic intensity. “One quality we strive for is to keep people guessing,” he says. This even includes retooling songs on the spot. “Our songs tend to keep evolving over time. We might be playing a song live and try something new, and we like the new sound so we keep playing it that way. Sometimes we don't even talk about it; we just both know how it goes now.” 

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Artists on Trial: Red Velvet Crush

Artists on Trial: Red Velvet Crush

 
If you seek hooky, strong rock anthems, look no further than KC’s own Red Velvet Crush. Fronted by veteran vocalist Jillian Riscoe, the young band has already received recognition around town (Riscoe won female vocalist of the year and the group won best acoustic performance of the year in the 2013 Project Backstage Midwest Rock Awards). Now, the five-piece group is getting ready to debut its EP Smoke & Mirrors. We talk with Riscoe and guitarist Daniel Mendala about the album and what they have coming down the line.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music. What is it?

Red Velvet Crush: Pop/rock with hints of punk, dance, electronic and hard rock mixed with what we do.
 
The Deli: Tell us about your upcoming EP Smoke & Mirrors. What can we expect?
 
RVC: Chapters of what we've been writing over the last year while putting the band together. We (Riscoe and Mendala) wrote and recorded the whole EP at yellowDOGstudios in Austin, TX with producer Dave Percefull and studio drummer Josh Center. Smoke and Mirrors is the just the first of what's to come.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?

RVC: Creating genuine support and networks of music loving people. Going out to shows and supporting bands that are working to get to the next level.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now?

RVC: Nick Marshall and the Evalyn Awake crew, Beautiful Bodies, Rocker Lips, Jonathan Theobald, just to name a few.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite not-so-local musicians right now?
 
RVC: Jillian: In This Moment, Deftones, Lana del Rey.
Daniel: Eskimo Callboy, Young Guns, Our Lady Peace.
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?

RVC: Jillian: Christina Aguilera.
Daniel: Our Lady Peace.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
RVC: Jillian: Christina Aguilera, Axl Rose, Steven Tyler, Katy Perry.
Daniel: Axl Rose, Raine Maida, Duff McKagan and Lisa Loeb.

The Deli: All right, give us the rundown. Where all on this big crazy web can you be found?
 
 
The Deli: What other goals does Red Velvet Crush have for this year?
 
RVC: To promote Smoke and Mirrors, finish building our stage show, tour in the fall, and step back in the studio at the end of the year. Plus, Daniel and I are doing a lot of writing for Red Velvet Crush and for other artists.

The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?

RVC: Dreams to realities.
 
Red Velvet Crush is:
Jillian Riscoe – vocals, guitar, keys
Daniel Mendala – guitar
Kelsey Cook – drums/percussion
Josh Colburn – keys, synth, guitar
Bill Wald – bass
 
 
Make sure you hit up the release of Smoke & Mirrors this Saturday, June 15, at Czar. Doors at 5:30, show at 6:00. Red Velvet Crush will be playing with I Am Nation, Fight The Quiet (Nashville), The Amends (Colorado), and Root & Stem. Presale tickets are $5 for general admission and $10 at the door. You can also order a $15 presale ticket, which comes with a limited edition autographed copy of the new EP and a vinyl sticker. Order tickets here. Facebook event page.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
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