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Album review: Temp Tats - Ions

Temp Tats describe themselves as “somewhat spastic R&B.” I don’t think a better description of this sound could possibly be put into words. Their debut release, Ions, was released on December 14. In my own words, this album is confusing, poetic, psychedelic R&B. As soon as you get into the groove of any given track, it spins you around leaving you to wonder how you got there. You just sit and groove and try to find the root of the song you were just so into. WHOA. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
 
The opening track to Ions is “Laser Lites.” Luke Waye’s sweet and smooth spirals are our anchor as we swoon over Eric Schuman’s vocals. “In the most perfect worst way” is the lyric that takes us out of the track over Chris Paul’s psychedelic guitar. Chris nails this sound, not overpowering. It sucks you in and leaves you tipsy. This track, while very good and currently stuck in my head, is not indicative of Ions.
 
The most interesting track, in my humble fan’s opinion, is “Cinnamon Spices.” This track was recorded by the locally famed Jorge Arana. If there is a genre for this sound, he might be the king of it. The track opens gently: Joel Schuman tickles the keys, you prepare for some sweet R&B. Luke layers cymbals underneath. Chris drops out and gives Eric some space for his smooth stylings. Eric takes you away with one poetic, run-on, beatnik sentences that you completely agree with. About halfway through the track, closing the second verse, something happens that changes everything. Wait for it, “no. NO. NO. AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!” Eric lets out a metal wail. What? And that introduces the second half of this track that just turns into a guitar and keyboard explosion. It left me dazed, wobbly, and out of control.
 
My favorite track on Ions is “Slackjaw.” Let me be honest here, because it’s sexy and it makes me feel things. The fusion of every rule they break is so good. I’m exhausted listening to Luke. This track is nothing without his intensity. Joel’s keys seem to be placed just perfectly, they mellow out the magic chaos Luke and Chris are creating. The part that makes me feel things, Eric’s tenor and his lyrics on this track. His I-don’t-care, but-my-heart-is-broken, but “I am counting down the days until the next jailbreak” confidence. Gets me.
 
Fun Fact about Temp Tats: two of the members—Luke Waye and Eric Schuman—were the founding fathers of a little band called Ambulants. Self-described as grunge/jazz, they shared a few shows and a split 7” with the Jorge Arana Trio. That sound still resonates a bit, breaking rules and leaving me a little shaky, but in a much better way. Well done. I cannot wait to catch this party live. I’ll double up on my Ritalin dose when I get home.
 
 
--Jess Barrett
Haver of sweet dance moves and stealer of t-shirts.
 

Your next chance to see Temp Tats will be this Saturday at Davey’s Uptown. They’ll be playing with a host of other KC groups in support of Bernie Sanders. The BERNing Man KC rally starts at 4 pm, with $10 suggested donation going toward Sanders’ campaign fund. Facebook event page. 

A Q&A with Under The Big Oak Tree

Under the Big Oak Tree has all the makings of a solid bluegrass/folk collective, from dulcet vocal harmonies to mandolin flourishes and a foundational upright bass line. The trio’s latest album Local Honey—released early this year on Mudstomp Records—showcases these elements in a vibrant, lush sonic atmosphere. Find out more about the group in our Q&A with songwriter Simon Fink.
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
 
Simon Fink: Rustic melodies; warm, tremulous singing; lyrics that tilt toward the literary: Gillian Welch, Dolly Parton, and Leonard Cohen walk in to a bar—or onto a front porch, maybe... 
 
The Deli: Give me some background info on Under the Big Oak Tree.
 
Simon: About 4 years ago, I answered a Craigslist ad from a guitar player who wanted to start a bluegrass band for his daughter, who he said was learning to sing and and play guitar. From the sound of it, I pictured a guy with a 15-year-old daughter who wanted to be Taylor Swift. They turned out to be two of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever met (Kristin Hamilton and Rocky Cathcart, who moved to Texas). As I got to know Kristin’s approach to singing, her voice became a great inspiration for new songs and arrangements. We added Doug Ward on bass pretty much immediately, who fit right in to what we were doing and helped expand on it.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting? What is your songwriting process? Does one person write everything or is it collaborative? 
 
Simon: I write most of the songs, and Doug contributes too. A lot of my inspiration comes from thinking about the sound and dramatic potential of the group—the voices and instruments. For me it’s all about the meaningful interaction between words and music that, in turn, creates something greater—the alchemy of songwriting. Though I don’t purposely avoid it, I don’t generally write from autobiography. Lyrics, for me, are an heightened kind of language. A lot of my reference points are in (written) poetry, and you can see the names of certain poets who served as inspiration in some of the song titles on the new album.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
 
Simon: I think both of our albums are pretty darn good, and I’m proud of them. We still have a lot more to explore.
 
The Deli:Tell us about your newest album, Local Honey. What can listeners expect? What future plans do you have for getting your music out there? 
 
Simon: Expect a genuine singing voice embedded in sweet, rootsy acousticness. People tend to instantly recognize a kind of welcoming wholesomeness in our music. I hope they hear that, and I hope they hear some of the richer, more challenging layers to the songs and ideas as well.
 
We’re based in St. Joe, but we hope to get the word out and play more in KC and Lawrence.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Simon: I’m not a huge fan of that phrase because it makes it sound like one more grim duty (“Eat your vegetables.”), when, in fact, participating in music—especially “locally”—is essentially joyous and enlivening. There was a well-known ethno-musicologist in the ‘70s who found that worldwide and across cultures, people’s peak life experiences tended to have one thing in common: music. I’m always heartened by the people, especially non-musicians, who feel like they get something out of our shows and recordings.
 
I do worry that many people don’t seem have a place in their life to really listen anymore. When I read profiles of great contemporary thinkers and doers, their response to, “What are you listening to?” is so often a podcast or audio book. The status of music kind of peaked with the Romantics. In the 19th century, it was considered the greatest and most vital of all art forms. Now, music for its own sake (apart from film, TV, commercials, etc.) no longer seems to fit into our lives so well—and yet that’s exactly why it’s still so essential.
 
The music industry is a mess at the moment. But every community needs dedicated, local musicians. Individual fans can help by pitching in to ad hoc crowdfunding campaigns, etc., but it’s hard to imagine a local scene of quality and consequence really being sustained that way.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local musicians right now? Non-local?
 
Non-local: Matt Blake, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, Birds of Chicago (just heard at Folk Alliance)
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Simon: Opening for Bob Dylan. Accompanied by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. On a tour of great American National Parks. Sunrise and sunset shows. Staging by Julie Taymor. Cloud-scape by Vik Muniz. Free admission and snacks. And bourbon.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
Simon: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, Lou Reed: some of my favorite American songwriters.
 
The Deli: What other goals do you have for 2016 and beyond?
 
Simon: Record some live videos of the band; start a sponsored concert series; collaborate with local musicians on a project of new songs about St. Joe, MO; facilitate a collaboration between the KC folk and classical scenes; get an intern; get our music out to as many people as will listen and win you over as a UBOT fan. Yes, YOU, dear reader. 
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Simon: I have tried to write paradise
Do not move
Let the wind speak
that is paradise
-Ezra Pound
(mic drop…)
 
 
 
You’re in luck—Under the Big Oak Tree will be playing this weekend in Lawrence. Catch them at The Bottleneck on Saturday night with Kelly Hunt and Kansas City Hustle. Music starts at 9:00 pm. Facebook event page.
 
 
 

--Michelle Bacon 

Kansas City Best of 2015 Readers' Poll Results! Missouri Loves Company, Sara Morgan, and Yes You Are

The results for our 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year Readers' Poll are in! We'd like to thank everyone who voted in support of their favorite artists, and a hardy congrats to everyone who made the poll this year!
 
 
 
1. Our 2015 Readers’ Poll winner, Missouri Loves Company (pictured above) brings together six musicians who produce a larger-than-life amalgamation of sound. The band takes a slightly off-kilter approach to its music, accenting dark pop melodies with atypical rock instrumentation (viola, trombone, glockenspiel) and a variety of musical influences. Led by vocals from Margot Gibson—who can dazzle with the style of a twisted lounge singer or an impassioned rock ‘n roll growl—the group showcases jangly jazzy guitar work and blues-inspired grooves that have the potential for broad appeal.
 
 
 
2. In 2015, Sara Morgan won over the hearts of new fans with expressive songwriting inspired by classic country and imbued with a modern accessibility. Since moving back to Kansas City a little under 2 years ago, Morgan has excelled in incorporating a style all her own in her songwriting, and has teamed up with skilled musicians (including guitarist Carl Butler and drummer Duncan Burnett) to back her.
 
 
 
3. Yes You Are has amassed a steady, loyal fan base by creating authoritative, preeminent pop music with a stage show that matches in intensity and vigor. The band is deliberate in its approach, merging infectious dance pop with meaningful spiritual undertones. In 2015, the band had the opportunity to astound audiences across the country by supporting Neon Trees on the first half of their summer tour.
 
 
 
4. Modern Day Fitzgerald describe themselves as “gentlemen who perform music with proper etiquette.” On the trio’s upcoming EP Gorgeous Killing, this sophisticated pop sound breaks through, with a hip-hop flair. Songwriter/frontman Mica-Elgin Vi pours emotion and charm into the band’s personality, with a jazzy rhythmic foundation from Zach Tyler and Steven Callahan. The EP will be released this Friday night at The Buffalo Room.
 
 
 
Again, congrats to everyone who was included! Our nominees went out of their way to promote the poll, and they certainly deserve your attention.
 
If you want to take a look at the results organized by genre, check them out here:
POPPOST ROCKPUNK/METALROOTSROCK
 
Thanks to everyone who shared and voted. Keep an eye out for the winner of our overall poll, compiled by the winners of this Readers’ Poll and votes from local music experts.
 

--The Deli KC Staff 

Victor and Penny Harness "Electricity"

(Photos by Chandra Ramey)
 
The Kansas City Jazz Duo Creates a New Spin From Classic Chemistry
 
Can music based on vintage tastes and ideals create something new? According to Victor & Penny, something as simple as a hook, a dress, or the right recording engineer creates a viable chance. When they planned to bring a specific genre of music into the Kansas City mainstream, they made sure it was based in craft, personality, and style. Against all odds it works and chances are, you'll love it.
 
You have most likely seen or heard their brand of ragtime jazz around town at several venues as diverse as recordBar, Hotel Phillips, Kauffman Center, and The Green Lady Lounge. Sometimes they play as a duo, sometimes they incorporate a full outfit known as The Loose Change Orchestra with trombone, upright bass, and clarinet.
 
Who are Victor & Penny?
In a word, they are “unique.” They create songs out of a time that harbors authentic musicianship and charm, yet the act telegraphs progressive idealism through virtuosity, fashion and playfulness. They find a joyous sound out of some of the darkest musical standards of the classic jazz age, as if blowing soap bubbles through a flophouse opium pipe. But it's not all fun and games. The duo creates music based in an era of serious songwriting skills. Watching them create tunes on stage prompts you to applaud time and time again before the song comes to a close because it's something made with love, humor, and blood.
 
“The way we present ourselves is vital to the way the audience perceives us,” says singer and ukulele player Penny (known locally as Erin McGrane). “We want to show respect for our audience by looking sharp. That also helps to set the stage and mood for our show.”
 
Victor (known around Kansas City as Jeff Freling) continues the thought. “The music and the presentation go hand-in-hand. As we continue to refine and expand our stage presence, we present a more sophisticated show.”
 
Sophisticated is a good description for this musical favorite about town. When you walk into a Victor & Penny showcase, the duo ushers you through classic jazz standards with the energy and vigor of a revival-era tent pastor, as they are unabashed converts to the art form. It's based in an honest love for the intricacies of the style.
 
“We offer the audience more than just a concert,” McGrane says. “We offer stories and a chance to get to know us as people, which is another way to connect to the audience and enrich the experience.“
 
Which is true: they're 100-percent show business, but their connection is real and based in the classic ideals of traveling theater. They parry corny jokes, natural chemistry, and undeniable musicianship out of quick scenarios in clubs, media appearances, and even impromptu videos in their car. Their semi-formal attire contrasts with the easygoing attitude on stage as they sway and jump between old standards and new treasures.
 
So it begs the question; in a town so focused on indie rock and stylized blues, how would they make an impact by focusing on early jazz standards? It's all about the lure of the common experience. McGrane says, ”In college, I got into 1930s vocal music from groups like the Boswell Sisters and the Mills Brothers. Jeff was listening to a lot of early guitarists like Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian when we reconnected, and we found a common pool of tunes that we loved.”
 
 
Recording Electricity
Victor & Penny recorded a new album titled Electricity in August of 2015 and the finished product will soon be available here. They made the journey to Nashville's Sputnik Sound to create it with producer Mitch Dane, who made his cake working up alt-country gold with acts as varied as Woody Pines and Jack White. Even though the producer's tastes were outside Victor & Penny's specific genre, the moment they met with Mitch, they knew it was a special match due to his musical taste for the eclectic side of early Americana and his impressive collection of classic recording gear in his inspiring studio.
 
Did the experience live up to expectations? According to Freling, yes. After speaking with Dane, they immediately hit it off and the day-to-day labors allowed the trio to create something truly special.
 
“Working in Nashville was a great experience and we had the opportunity to partner with a producer to help us rearrange some older tunes and bring a fresh perspective to our music,” Freling says.
 
How did Victor & Penny begin?
According to them, it all came together in Chicago.
 
“Jeff and I met during college years when our rock bands played together in the local KC scene,” says McGrane.
 
Freling adds, “We reconnected in Chicago a few years ago. Erin was working up there as a commercial actress and I had been playing strings on stage with Blue Man Group for many years. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 15 years.”
 
 
Playing the Circuit
This kind of authentic atmosphere means the world to this turn-of-the-century jazz duo because they rely on a certain balance of classic and contemporary to create their singular stage presence. They work hard to create a personable and accessible feel that draws both new and schooled fans of jazz history into their realm.
 
“The tunes that we’re drawn to are endlessly fun to sing and to improvise over musically,” says McGrane. “For example, the melody on ‘Lazy River’ by Hoagy Carmichael is instantly recognizable and much trickier to sing and play than it sounds. It’s just beautiful. ”
 
Freling finishes the thought. “We love to do what we call sonic archaeology and dig for lesser-known songs from the early part of the last century. Our original material combines all of our personal influences to create a modern sound with a vintage vibe.”
 
So yes, it's true. A partnership born from a shared love of musical history proves something new can come from it all. The unique voice Victor & Penny creates gives music lovers in Kansas City an opportunity to participate in a true love of the artform. Experience their brand of musical joy at the Folk Alliance International Conference from Wednesday through Sunday. Check out their schedule here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
--Andrew Schiller
Andrew Schiller has been playing music and writing features for a couple of decades. To earn gear and beer money, sometimes he wakes up and travels to an office of some sort inhabited by your garden-variety marketing types.
 

 

Words of Love Gives Back to the Local Music Community

On Saturday, a collection of Kansas City acts will take the stage at Coda for the first Words of Love benefit concert for Midwest Music Foundation. The show was organized by Joelle St. Pierre, who volunteers for the nonprofit music organization. Read our Q&A with her and find out more about the show.
 
The Deli: Give us a brief overview of what Words of Love is all about.
 
Joelle St. Pierre: Words of Love is a collection of artists that include Wyatt West with Tom Hall, Bryan Hicks, AJ Young, Amanda Fish, Nicki Scruggs, Eems, Sean McDonnell, Thomas Freight Train Walker, Max Berry, and more for a musical tribute to the many faces of love. The musicians will play in different groupings as a full band and as duets, smaller ensembles, etc.
 
The Deli: How did this show come about?
 
St. Pierre: The concept began almost a year ago when Matthew Stevens donated to the KKFI band auction for Wyatt West to play an event and had always wanted this to be a benefit for MMF. Matthew has received funds from MMF to cover rent for a local musician who was injured. I began as coordinator and contacted Wyatt, who put together the musicians, theme, date, venue, and logo. Wyatt is a top-notch singer songwriter with 2 new CDs out in 2015 and is associated with the musicians that have volunteered their time for our fundraiser.
 
The Deli: How did you get involved with MMF and volunteering in the music community?
 
St. Pierre: I began 3 years ago after a dear friend turned me on to Diana Ennis's KKFI Tasty Brew show and have volunteered for all fundraisers at the studio and many in our local area. My MMF volunteering began with Crossroads Music Fest and I can't get enough!
 
The Deli: What kind of influence do you think MMF has on musicians and the local music community?
 
St. Pierre: MMF brings together a collection of local musicians to support one another, which is vital for the continued success of musicians as well as local venues and MidCoast Takeover. This particular fundraiser began with a music fan who wanted to recognize MMF for their efforts to help him and the musician. The impact of MMF is widely felt, as it takes very little to become homeless and destitute when injured or ill. MMF creates a feeling of relief, a shelter from the storm and perhaps, even greater, a recognition of the importance of live and recorded music and the venues in which the music is made.
 
The Words of Love show begins at 9:00 pm with a suggested donation of $10. Facebook event page. If you’d like to get involved with Midwest Music Foundation, visit midwestmusicfound.org.
 

--Michelle Bacon 

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