If you’ve seen quality free live music in Cambridge in the last decade, chances are – you have John Allen to thank. Whether it’s booking bands or playing in them, the Dorchester native has made affordable tunes in a supportive community the name of his game since he started going to the Middle East Nightclub when he was 18.
“When I found the Middle East, I just went crazy,” said Allen. “I wanted to go to every show. I thought it was the coolest place.”
Going to shows at the Middle East eventually turned into playing shows at the Middle East. Allen has been playing guitar and drums since he was a teenager.
“Everyone has that thing, right?” said Allen. “It’s how I like to be creative.”
Soon, Allen was spending most of his free time at the club where he started making musical and personal connections.
“I remember meeting one of my best friends, Esteban, in the hallway of the upstairs,” said Allen. “We had a common interest in music and really just connected instantly. He married Diana and I.”
Eventually, he got a job working the door at the venue, which evolved into bar backing at ZuZu, the sister club to the Middle East, when he was 25.
Allen took over the Monday night booking slot under the name Night of the Living Deadhead in 2008. His idea was simple – book bands that he liked and offer the experience free of charge.
“It made sense to make it free,” said Allen. “A lot of the smaller shows these days are $10. Now, with two people, me and Diana, that’s $20 plus appetizers and drinks and cabs and such. Things can add up quickly. Plus there’s a lot of foot traffic near ZuZu. When the music’s free and you’re walking by, I feel like you’re more likely to wander in, even if you’re not sure if you like it. If anything, it was going to be $5.”
One night, Allen was set to do sound and bar-back when the bartender didn’t show up. Allen volunteered to complete the shift.
“I basically hit it out of the park,” said Allen. “The room was packed and I handled it all myself. The rest if history, if I can quote my uncle Woody, ‘Life is 80 percent showing up’. No relation to Woody Allen.”
Allen booked and bartended for ZuZu Monday nights for close to five years. In this time, the weekly selection of free music and partying became a staple in the Cambridge music scene. Part of Allen’s self-assigned booking responsibilities at ZuZu became documenting and archiving the Monday night sets. Through the Facebook alter ego Edison Tesla, Allen photographed and advertised ZuZu Monday nights to a dedicated following, including photos from live performances and show posters.
Allen moved on from ZuZu in 2013 and handed the Monday night slot to Joe Marrett (Hallelujah the Hills, CreaturoS) who renamed it Rad Castle. Allen held a blowout last show before the hand off where he played in both bands on the bill.
Allen continued working around town as a bartender and playing shows. In 2015, he started booking the Thursday night slot at the Plough and Stars in Cambridge. Although the venues were different, Allen wanted to do the same thing at Plough that he had perfected at ZuZu – bring his favorite bands together for a free party.
“I call it Gear Shares because everything needs a name,” said Allen, laughing.
Allen’s strategy is simple – either pair bands together who know each other well or bands who have never met and give both groups each other’s contact information.
“I’ll usually ask if there’s a band they like partying with and they’ll usually have one they know or a band they’ve seen, but don’t actually know,” said Allen. “In a small room with no stage, you really only need one drum set, one pair of amps. I’ll give the bands all the contact information so they can talk before the show and figure out like, ‘Who’s bringing the bass amp?’ or ‘Who’s bringing the drums?’ Then, they get a chance to chat before the show so when everyone gets there, they already kind of know each other. I think it’s really cool to build that sense of community.”
The Plough is Allen’s main gig right now, aside from playing drums in a couple bands around town. If you’re interested in playing at the Plough, email Allen through Gear Shares.
It’s the middle of winter and Ben Potrykus, Andrew Sadoway and Elio DeLuca are running in between Medford’s the Soul Shop and Sadoway’s car in the snow. Light from the Shop’s open front door leaks out as the four turn on Sadoway’s Honda Fit, place a CD in the player and listen. When the song dies out, the three head back into the Shop and close the door.
This scene will repeat every couple of hours for a handful of days.
“We had a process for mixing,” said Potrykus. “We listened to it on the monitors, like great sounding monitors, and then listened to it on Elio’s little speakers which he calls ‘the truth’. Then we’d listen to it off the tape machine through this tiny speaker. Then we’d listen to it through headphones. If everything inside sounded good, we’d take it to Andy’s car and listen to it in the car stereo. That’s when we’d be like ‘Okay’ and sign off on it.Andy and I have the same car – it’s a Honda Fit – it’s pretty standard … you know, Honda sound system. We did this so we would be able to gauge how it would sound to people when they were listening in their cars.”
We had a process for mixing
Potrykus and Sadoway, alongside Luke Brandfon and Jenny Mudarri, are members of the band Bent Shapes. The group recorded and mixed a record at the Soul Shop this past winter with DeLuca (Titus Andronicus, Wilder Maker, Bellwire), the Shop’s engineer and co-owner. The album, set for release next year, is representative of a band soaked in talent, versed in the power of hard work and appreciative of the people, places and things that have brought them to where they stand as a group today.
Bent Shapes began under the name “Girlfriends“. Potrykus and Sadoway first met in high school, but didn’t start playing together until 2009 when Sadoway moved back to Boston after being away from the city for a period.
“I was like, ‘Oh I remember Ben from back in the day, let me see what he’s up to,'” said Sadoway.
The two, alongside third member Supriya Gunda, formed a band called “Girlfriends” in 2009. The trio released a couple 7 inches and an online single over the course of the next three years. Then, at the tail end of 2012, the group changed their name to Bent Shapes.
“I will generate really long lists of band names in the hope that even one of the poor choices will spawn something else or we can take one of the words or the sounds or something and come up with something else,” said Potrykus.
“I think Bent Shapes is one of the only things you put forward and I was like, ‘Oh I like that,'” said Sadoway. “I don’t think we even talked about what it meant – I think part of the reason that we choose it was because it didn’t really mean anything.”
I don’t think we even talked about what it meant – I think part of the reason that we choose it was because it didn’t really mean anything
Growing up, Potrykus and Sadoway were very much surrounded by music. Sadoway has been playing the drums for 19 years. Potrykus started guitar and singing in his early teens. Both grew up with records in the house and with musical family members. Potrykus even had a brief stint as the frontman for the indie rock band The Receiving End of Sirens.
With a combined total of over 30 years of musical experience under their belts, Bent Shapes hit the studio to record their first full-length record called “Feels Weird” on a label out of San Francisco called Father / Daughter Records. They recorded the album over the course of 18 months in Arlington at a studio called Mystic Steamship Co. The process was long and transformative.
“They (Mystic Steamship Co) were kind of going through a growth spurt with their studio at the time and we were also in transition,” said Sadoway. “We had just changed our band name, we were integrating new people into the band, so it was kind of this parallel growing in a lot of ways. We learned a lot about recording from that record, but it also took a really long time. It took us over a year to record it, mix it and everything.”
“Feels Weird’ was released in August 2013. The band promoted the record, played around town and began writing and prepping for their next record – all with a rotating cast of characters.
The current roundup – with Brandfon (Mini Dresses) on guitar and Mudarri (Feral Jenny) on bass and backing vocals was solidified in the fall of 2014.
When the time came to record a second record, Sadoway and Potrykus knew they wanted to do it differently. Both had heard about an analog studio in Medford called The Soul Shop and decided to book tracking time at the beginning of 2015.
“We didn’t have a ton of money going into it,” said Sadoway. “Because we had spent so much time on the first record, we kind of didn’t want to do that again. We wanted to just get in there and get down to business and crank it out in a couple of days.”
We wanted to just get in there and get down to business
The band took five days to record 10 tracks – including vocals, overdubbing and the inclusion of stringed instruments and horns – and four full weekends to mix all the tracks.
For the band, recording at the Shop with DeLuca helped set the vibe and feel for the tracks.
“I think just sort of immediately when we got there, we were made to feel very comfortable,” said Potrykus. “The control room sort of becomes your living room. We tried to stick to not having phones be super accessible at least during basic tracking. But you know, we were camped out there in a blizzard so it was nice that it was cozy so that you didn’t feel like you were getting cabin fever. Elio has one of those Chemex coffee makers so there was some really good coffee to be had. Medford’s a kind of doughnut mecca – which we didn’t realize at the time so there were a lot of pros to the space and the area that extends to the general feel about the Shop. I don’t want to quote the Olive Garden ‘When you’re here, you’re family’ type of thing, but you’ll be in the control room and like Patrick will stop by or somebody will stop by and talk about an amp for a second and it gives everyone a breather. Everybody meets everybody and it’s cool. You get the opportunity to show somebody else your stuff and that was really fun for us.”
I don’t want to quote the Olive Garden ‘When you’re here, you’re family’ type of thing, but you’ll be in the control room and like Patrick will stop by or somebody will stop by and talk about an amp for a second and it gives everyone a breather. Everybody meets everybody and it’s cool.
The band came in with basic tracks and worked with DeLuca to flush them out, including having him arrange string and horn sections for some of the songs. DeLuca is a classically trained pianist and a lifelong musician. He’s arranged strings for a number of records, most notably on the Titus Andronicus record The Monitor.
Aside from DeLuca’s contributions in the studio, Potrykus usually starts the song-writing process on his own.
“ I usually will play guitar until I come up with a riff,” said Potrykus. “I have to force myself to play guitar because I don’t particularly like sitting down and just playing guitar. So I’ll just sit down and play until I have something that sounds catchy to me and is interesting and then I’ll go into notebooks that I keep to just write down things that I think could be expanded upon – just like song themes or lyrics. I’ll pull something together as far as like the basic structure – usually it just starts out with a verse and I’ll alternate those a couple of times, get the lyrics down.”
From there, Potrykus brings what he has to the rest of the group for input and work shopping.
“I’m not sure what it is, maybe getting older and being around the scene longer, but I’ve found that songs and music benefit more when they’re looked at in a group setting,” said Potrykus. “So I’ll bring them in and we’ll go over them as a group and fine tune and what not.”
I’ve found that songs and music benefit more when they’re looked at in a group setting
For Potrykus and Sadoway, creating music in the studio is great, but it’s being able to play songs in front of an audience that’s their favorite part.
“I love playing live,” said Sadoway, who also has a side project called Andrew Saturday. “That’s why I continue to make music, is being able to play live.”
You can check out Bent Shapes live in Boston on Oct. 13 at O’Briens and in New York on Oct. 11 at the Cake Shop.
On Aug. 21, Bellwire, a 4-piece power pop band from Somerville, walked into Medford’s the Soul Shop with instruments and arrangements. Over the next four days, Guitarist/vocalist Tyler Burdwood, bassist Jack Holland, guitarist Michael Holland and drummer Matt Freake (Oaks Brine) tracked four new songs with help from engineer and producer Elio DeLuca (Titus Andronicus, Wilder Maker, Bent Shapes). This was Bellwire‘s third time recording at the Shop. The most recent trip was in May of this year where the band – with drummer Andy Fordyce – recorded four songs and a spoken poem, including the band’s newest single Time Out.
Bellwire and DeLuca spent Friday night deep in pre-production: sorting out arrangements and choosing the desired sounding amplifiers and instruments for each song. On Saturday, the band tracked all four songs live to 16-track tape. The band played all together, all at once in the Shop’s custom-built live room. On Sunday, background vocalists provided their ranges to “Grace Stay” and “Dreamin'” while legendary pedalsteel guitar player Jonnee Earthquake provided soothing sounds to all four tracks. Brothers Michael and Jack Holland also recorded bass and guitar overdubs and Burdwood laid down his lead vocals for all four tracks. The band returned on Monday afternoon to finish overdubs on all the tracks. Bellwire and DeLuca have plans to mix the tracks in mid-October once DeLuca returns from a national headlining tour with Titus Andronicus.
Over 600 photos were taken from Friday until Sunday; what you see here is just a snippet of the recording process. All photos were taken with an iPhone and processed with Snapseed. No filters were used on any of these photos, unlike in part one where each picture was processed and edited with VSCOcam. Close to 3gb of audio was taken over the course of the same time period using a Tascam mini recorder. Audio will be edited and released as an audio documentary later this month.
Each morning, drummer Matt Freake provided pour over coffee for everyone in the studio. However, sound and photos of the pour over process were only taken on Saturday morning.
The Soul Shop is a special place – not only because of its palatable sparkle and vibe, but its equipment as well. The Shop was founded and built in 2007 by DeLuca and co-owner Patrick Grenham. While DeLuca took on the engineering role, Grenham began designing and building gear to not only use at the Shop, but to sell as well. The results are control and live rooms packed with custom gear. Pieces of this gear are featured heavily throughout this essay.
This post should be viewed as a photo essay documenting progress. When you hear a record, it was once pieces of the whole you’re consuming. These photos are aligned and included to show the building of a song – the decision making, the struggles, the successes, the passage of time and the layering of elements.
Saturday morning began with pour over coffee and breakfast sandwiches before the band began tracking.
Sunday was dedicated almost entirely to vocals (lead and background) and instrument overdubs, including pedal steel guitar performances on all four songs by Jonnee Earthquake
In close to a decade, Katie Von Schleicher has grown from never having even heard the Beatles to writing, producing, recording and playing every instrument on an 8-track EP set to be released this fall. This is her story.
by Amanda Beland
Katie Von Schleicher is a Brooklyn-based vocalist, pianist and musician.
Schleicher, of Pasadena, Maryland, didn’t grow up in a musical family: there weren’t records playing in the house and her parents didn’t put a particular emphasis on music in daily life. She did take piano and violin lessons briefly and sang in theater productions. When it came time to apply to colleges, however, Schleicher decided she wanted to go to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I wanted to go to Berklee because I liked some of the musicians who had gone there,” said Schleicher. “I didn’t listen to the Beatles or Neil Young or albums at all really until I got to college and I got there being like ‘I’m gonna be a songwriter and I’m gonna make pop music.'”
“A lot of the time I just listened to albums. I tried to learn what the hell was going on,” said Schleicher. “It was really late. I think a lot of people went to Berklee and were like, ‘I know what I wanna do’ and I was like, ‘I have a fantasy idea of what I wanna do.'”
I think a lot of people went to Berklee and were like ‘I know what I wanna do’ and I was like, ‘I have a fantasy idea of what I wanna do’
During the first week of her freshman year, Schleicher met Stephen Konrads, another freshman also from Maryland. The two clicked instantly. Konrads grew up in a musical family and played piano and sang from the time he was a child. He eventually joined a band and through him, Schleicher began expanding her social and musical circles.
“That’s when I realized I needed to be cooler and download lots of illegal music and hear Led Zeppelin for the first time,” said Schleicher.
That’s when I realized I needed to be cooler and download lots of illegal music and hear Led Zeppelin for the first time
Berklee introduced Schleicher to new people and possibilities, but it also made her start to question a lot of things, including herself. Schleicher said her inability to “fit in” with the Berklee style of education combined with a lack of solid mentorship made it difficult for her to find confidence in her songwriting and musical abilities.
“For the first time in my entire life, I was trying to be cool,” said Schleicher. “The music I was making was so trapped between Andrew Lloyd Webber and trying to be cool that it really fucking missed the mark. I made an EP by myself and just threw it away when I was done with it. I still haven’t heard it. I got to college wearing Abercrombie and being chunky with blonde hair and just really confused. I think I grew up a lot when I was in Sleepy Very Sleepy, which was after college.”
For the first time in my entire life, I was trying to be cool … I got to college wearing Abercrombie and being chunky with blonde hair and just really confused
Schleicher and Konrads remained close throughout college. Schleicher stayed in Boston after graduating in 2009. Konrads had a practice space at the old Starlab Studios building in Union Square and him and Schleicher would spend countless hours hanging out and trying to write songs there. A mutual friend suggested the two of them start a band. Konrads brought in bassist Wayne Whittaker and drummer Harrison Seiler, whom currently play with Konrads in his current project Eternals, and Sleepy Very Sleepy was formed.
Schleicher and Konrads continued to write songs together. Eventually the band recorded a full length EP “Unlimited Circulation”, which was recorded and mixed at the Soul Shop in Medford with help from engineer and friend Elio DeLuca.
For Schleicher, the pressure and insecurity she felt in college continued under the surface in the new project.
“We were trying to do intensely amazing things,” said Schleicher. “You know, you’re sitting in a practice room just throwing out ideas … the fabled Paul McCartney and John Lennon quote, ‘Let’s write a swimming pool,’ let’s make money – let’s do something insane – let’s make this the best song ever. And the mix of me and Steve was just like ‘Let’s give ourselves a migraine trying to write a song.’ I remember just sitting in Starlab all the time by myself just banging my head against the wall trying to write something amazing. It was so much pressure. I mean that sticks with me today – when it’s hard just to not like really amp it up before you try and work on something.”
‘Let’s write a swimming pool,’ let’s make money – let’s do something insane – let’s make this the best song ever
Boy Without God’s frontman Gabriel Birnbaum eventually asked Schleicher to come on tour with the band in 2011.
“Gabe’s stuff was totally different than what I was doing,” said Schleicher. “Up until that point, I hated – I mean it’s still tough – being this emotional songwriter. I felt like it made me a worst musician … that I wasn’t calculating, you know? And Gabe’s stuff was really both. It’s more fearless: he’s made songs where I’m just like “Really? You think that’s going to work out?” and he’s like “Yeah let’s do it.” So that kind of fearlessness made me feel a lot more open.”
That kind of fearlessness made me feel a lot more open
When Schleicher got back from the Boy Without God tour, she decided to move from Boston to New York.
“I think I wanted the experience. It seemed easier – like if I go to New York, I’ll be in a band already and then I’ll have some kind of identity. I didn’t want to live in NY, I didn’t like NY, but I was like ‘I guess I gotta try.'”
As soon as Schleicher moved to New York, she stopped writing music. She continued to play with Boy Without God, which would eventually be renamed as Wilder Maker, and bartended for rent money.
“It was a dark time,” said Schleicher. “I have this typewriter and I was carrying it out the window and climbing onto the roof and writing out there whenever it was warm enough to do so. I was writing lyrics … well I guess they became lyrics … but I was writing poetry that wasn’t super concrete emotional stuff… just because I needed an outlet. I was more inspired by a lot of things that I was reading and for the first time, I really felt open with words.”
I have this typewriter and I was carrying it out the window and climbing onto the roof and writing out there whenever it was warm enough to do so
After six months, Schleicher began writing and arranging what would become her first solo release.
“The six months off was the best thing I’ve done so far because after that, I wrote my solo record,” said Schleicher. “That was the only thing I ever felt like I could really stand behind as a musician. I’d say it’s the first thing I felt comfortable with – really late in the game – at age 26.”
That was the only thing I ever felt like I can really stand behind as a musician. I’d say it’s the first thing I felt comfortable with
“Personally, I find it really hard to believe in anything and I can be such a devaluer of things,” said Schleicher. “The whole record concept was – when I was writing poems and when I decided I was trying to write lyrics – I took this bent of What if I had God in my life? What if i had belief in my life? What if I wrote songs to God? There’s a song called “You On My Mind” and one of the lyrics is Wouldn’t it be lonely without you on my mind? It all sounds like love songs, but all the songs are about God. It helped me have an angle and it made me feel like I could write warm, conversational songs. I wanted to make something that was simple to listen to; not hard, just enjoyable, like Tonight’s the Night by Neil Young. You just put that on, make some spaghetti and you’re good. Even if it’s deep, you can just listen to it, make some spaghetti and feel okay about everything.”
But you can just listen to it, make some spaghetti and feel okay about everything
Schleicher wrote and arranged eight tracks for the record. She headed into the Soul Shop in August 2012 with what she describes as “my favorite musicians” for three days of tracking and mixing.
“It was an exercise,” said Schleicher. “I took the songs in and taught them to everybody on the first day and we just recorded them all live in the room. The Soul Shop was the place to do it. Of course it helps to have someone like Elio when I can be kind of vulnerable about what I’m working on. I sent him the ideas of what I wanted to do, not the songs, and I was just like ‘Here’s what I’m thinking’ and he was like ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do this.’ As soon as I wrote that Elio email and got the response, I felt like ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do this’ I think also the immediacy of it was really nice – it was nice to not have this grandiose dream of what the record was going to be like. I just wanted it to be simple and defined and those parameters helped a lot.”
The Soul Shop was the place to do it. Of course it helps to have someone like Elio when I can be kind of vulnerable about what I’m working on. I sent him the ideas of what I wanted to do, not the songs, and I was just like ‘Here’s what I’m thinking’ and he was like ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do this.’ As soon as I wrote that Elio email and got the response I felt like ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do this’
The record originally had seven songs. Schleicher had an eighth track “Wilkes-Barre” which she wrote partially about how her grandparents met. She went into the Shop unsure if she even liked the song.
“I think that song is probably the best song I’ve ever written because it’s honest,” said Schleicher. “It’s a song I wrote on guitar with two chords and then went to the piano and was like ‘Can you make a song more complicated afterward?” I just came up with all the harmonies after the fact. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted it on the record and Elio was like ‘Are you kidding – this is the best song.” So, it’s funny how that works. That’s why you need Elio around because otherwise that song would just never exist.”
I think that song is probably the best song I’ve ever written because it’s honest
Before heading into the studio – Schleicher and Birnbaum had booked and planned a three month tour of the U.S. with Wilder Maker. Right after recording concluded – the two, current Wilder Maker drummer Sean Mullins and a former bassist set out in a van.
“The tour was pretty intense, it definitely improved my musicianship in terms of playing songs and shows – but I think the tour was less about music and more about what it’s like to try and play music. It was very humbling.”
The tour ended close to Christmas time. Schleicher went home for the holidays before heading back to Brooklyn in the new year. She continued bartending, began playing sporadic solo shows in the city, performing and recording regularly with Wilder Maker and working a couple days a week at the New York record label Ba Da Bing records.
Schleicher said recording at the label has helped her realize and learn a lot about music and the industry surrounding it.
“You know, people don’t respond to your emails,” said Schleicher. “Working there helped me to realize that it’s not personal and that it’s not predictable. It just takes focus and persistence.”
Sometime last year, Schleicher started renting a practice space and recording her entire writing sessions, some of which would last over 90 minutes long. Her hope was to find out what worked and what didn’t by listening to her music after the fact instead of analyzing in the moment.
“The new methodology allowed me to find songs that would have slipped out otherwise,” said Schleicher. “I’m finally listening to The Pixies, to The Breeders… I’m really catching up slowly to music, still learning. I knew I wanted to make heavier stuff. I wanted to make weirder stuff. So recording those sessions to tape made me realize that these writing sessions sounded good. The songs, when you play them the first time around, sound better when I’m making up lyrics – using dummy lyrics.”
The new methodology allowed me to find songs that would have slipped out otherwise
“When you’re writing something, you’re just singing absent-mindedly. Sometimes, those are the most honest lyrics,” said Schleicher. “I would completely forget them if I didn’t have these writing sessions recorded. So, I was driving in my car listening to my own songwriting sessions on a daily basis.”
Schleicher eventually picked eight tracks and decided to release a cassette EP. Once she had the lyrics, she arranged and recorded herself on a four track tape machine playing every instrument on the record – except on two songs where her boyfriend plays drums. She mixed the record partially with DeLuca at the Soul Shop and partially in New York at Spaceman Sound.
For Schleicher, the record sounds and feels completely different than her past work. Lyrically, it’s much simpler than what she’s used to and sound-wise, it’s heavier. Although she said she feels less enthused about the content of the record’s lyrics, she feels content with the sounds.
“Sometimes I find it really hard because I want to do something different,” said Schleicher. “What Steve does is very Steve and what Gabe does is very Gabe. I think in a lot of ways it’s a struggle to get close to what it is I’m trying to do; to read my own mind.”
I think in a lot of ways it’s a struggle to get close to what it is I’m trying to do; to read my own mind
Scheicher is currently working at Ba Da Bing, who will release her EP once it’s been mastered. Schleicher said the record’s been mixed since February of this year, but she’s been waiting to get it mastered and to release it.
“I’m just afraid, I think. it’s so unbecoming, but it’s just really honest,” said Schleicher. “I think I’m afraid of no one hearing it. I’m afraid of putting it out and not taking advantage of at least getting one blog to write about it. I’m afraid of putting it out and not booking a release show. I’m scared of booking shows. It’s very simple stuff, but it needs to happen … it will happen … it’s just waiting for this magical clarity of ‘Oh it’s a great time.'”
I’m just afraid, I think. It’s so unbecoming, but it’s just really honest
When I try to be quiet, to make my mind really quiet … and there’s this darkness, there always appears some thought about music
“I have made more attempts than anyone I know not to continue,” said Schleicher. “I have been extremely vulnerable the entire time. I think in a world where I can devalue every single aspect of what I’m doing or what other people are doing, somehow music is the thing that sticks around. When I try to be quiet, to make my mind really quiet, and there’s this darkness … there always appears some thought about music. It’s also the best drug; to play music is the best drug. Wilder Maker has saved my ass on a regular basis. I’m finally in a situation where I see what can develop over time: personal band chemistry, camaraderie, musical chemistry on stage. We’ve had times where crowds go wild and it’s just worth it; everything is worth it in that moment. For my own music, why I continue is that it’s just a thought that stays in my mind no matter how hard I try to push it out. And I think I’m becoming better at just doing this and not expecting money or not expecting anyone to listen.”
(All photos are courtesy and do not belong to spiralbound in any sense)
by Amanda Beland
Landlady is a music collective based in Brooklyn, New York. The group is currently on tour promoting their recently released EP titled “Heat”which features both originals and covers, including the below Sly Stone cover “If This Room Could Talk.”
Frontman Adam Schatz founded the group in 2010. Schatz, of Boston, was at New York University studying jazz performance. He was playing and booking shows around the city in various projects at Landlady’s birth.
“I just felt like I was getting better and so I wanted to put together a band that could match that,” said Schatz. “I was used to limitations. I was used to there always being someone involved who couldn’t do a certain thing or wouldn’t like doing a certain thing and I really wanted the freedom of possibility so that any arrangement idea, any dream of what any of us could or wanted to do, there would be a group of people who could do it and make it happen and sort of set the standard of quality.”
When the band began, it was relatively normal-sized – their first release in 2011 “Keeping To Yourself” had six people on the record, including Schatz, according to the band’s bandcamp page. Their second release in 2014, “Upright Behavior” is more reminiscent of what the band looks like today.
“Right now there’s sort of an 11 piece rotating cast,” said Schatz. “There’s definitely a core five, but I also know for every person in the band who can’t make a show – and I feel like it’s an important show for us to play – there’s someone that I know that can come and fill in and really be able to engage with the music. They’re all friends with me so there’s a connection that allows them to really get the bigger idea of what we’re trying to do.”
The result of this big band vibe is a big live performance – often times the stage is peppered with multiple horn, guitar and bass players, Schatz on piano or organ – nestled in front of a set of drums – sometimes, the band even hosts more than one drummer.
“How the audience perceives a live show is very important to me because I want it to feel unique and I want you to feel like you’re apart of it,” said Schatz.
For Schatz, the description of art rock is “flattering” – but he describes the project differently.
“I say it’s surprising – I say it’s personal rock music, I say it’s weird … it gets very small and then it gets very big,” said Schatz. “It just happens to be very good. Everyone’s so good. So if you look at any of us individually, you’re like ‘wow’ and then you see what we’re all doing together, you’re like ‘wooooow’. It just hits you in the right way.”
Schatz says he grew up around music.
“My parents both play music,” said Schatz. “They formed an electric country band together once all the kids left the house. They played in a western swing band when they were kids, like when they had just met in Boston. There was always a piano around and it was always important for us to learn – but it was never an oppressive family band vibe which I am very grateful for.”
While piano and saxophone are his main instruments – Schatz is always looking to add more musical knowledge into his songwriting.
“I joined Man Man two years ago and they sort of asked me to play a bunch of instruments that I couldn’t really play very well,” said Schatz. “That forced me to just get better at it – so like guitar, and bass. I played marimba and drum stuff too. It’s good. I’m okay at those things. Eventually I might perform on guitar on some things, but right now, Man Man was the only project I did that in. But – it’s fun for songwriting too just to get a different instrument in your hand and see what it feels like.”
Landlady plans to release their third full-length – featuring songs from Heat – in the near future (date unknown).Currently the band – in smaller form – is on tour in California with plans to play shows across the country throughout July – including Boston on July 22. To find out more information about the tour and to hear “Heat” – visit their Bandcamp, Facebook or follow their tour adventures on Instagram.
Bellwire is a four man pop band based in Boston. They recorded and mixed four songs and one poem at Medford’s the Soul Shop on May 1-3. The band choose to record this particular weekend because there was a full moon and folk rock singer Neil Young chooses to record only when there’s a full moon.
“He must be doing something right,” said guitarist Tyler Burdwood.
The band tracked all five songs on Saturday, recorded overdubs including percussion, organ and background vocals, on Sunday and mixed on Monday. The session with engineered by the Shop’s engineer Elio DeLuca, with help from custom, professionally tailored outboard gear and amplifiers by Patrick Grenham. Three of the songs are power pop songs songs while the fourth is a slower tune featuring Burdwood’s girlfriend Natalie Kovalcik as a background vocalist. The fifth song is a poem that Burdwood wrote this year backed up by the rest of band playing freestyle underneath it in a Doors-esque style. While the future of the tracks aren’t set in stone, the band expects the weekend’s bounty will become the first side of a full-length LP, which would be the band’s first full-length record.
Bellwire recorded a four song record last summer at the Soul Shop called Following the Plan. They are currently looking for a new drummer and are playing shows sporadically. Their next show is Tuesday, May 19 at TT and the Bears. This show will be their last performance with their current drummer Andy, who is the drummer featured on this session.
The band laying down their tune “Let It Shine” in the Soul Shop’s live room.
Engineer Elio DeLuca recording the band in the Soul Shop’s control room.
Guitarist Tyler Burdwood in between tracks.
Elio coaching brothers Michael (left) and Jack (right) Holland in between tracks.
The Soul Shop’s tape machine. The Shop is an all analog recording studio.
Elio talking with the band on Sunday before starting guitar overdubs.
Jack, Elio and Tyler figuring out background vocals for the tune “Time Out”.
Elio and Tyler completing a “percussion test” to see which tambourine to use.
Elio and the band listening back to background vocals on Sunday.
Michael and Elio figuring out an organ overdub section.
Elio in the middle of mixing the third of five songs on Monday night.
Five summers ago, Pete Schluter called his high school buddy Mike O’Brien and asked him to play bass in his band in Vermont.
The catch? O’Brien lived in Winchester, Mass. and didn’t actually know how to play bass.
“I was expecting him to be like, ‘Dude, that’d be cool, but I don’t know if I can, I have job blah blah’, but he was like ‘Cool, sure,'” said Schluter, laughing. “So he moved up in the summer of 2010 or 2009 – I can’t remember – and we ended up living in this apartment together – in the same room to save money – and we just boot camped it …he learned how to play bass that summer and we played a bunch of gigs in Burlington Vt.”
Schluter and O’Brien’s odd couple summer became the makings for what is now known as the Boston-based rock trio The Sun Lions. The band has cycled through a couple of names and hosted a handful of former members since that summer, but their attitudes and approach to music and songwriting has stayed fairly consistent.
The band’s current lineup includes Schluter on guitar and vocals, O’Brien on bass and vocals, and Jeff Walsh on drums. The guys just released their second full-length LP digitally on Monday, recorded a live 5-song EP and currently have plans to play a series of shows throughout New England.
Schluter and O’Brien started playing together in high school with mutual friends under the name Carlson.
“In high school (in Winchester), we were called Carlson because there was a woman who would sleep in her garage all the time,” said Schluter. “The door was open and she was just asleep in there all the time – people didn’t know if she was alive or dead and we were always curious about her – so Mike and John, our old friend … didn’t you guys pretend to be newspaper people?”
“We pretended we were from the local newspaper,” said O’Brien.
“Just so they could find out her name,” said Schluter.
“We couldn’t think of a name for the band and we decided that we’re going to name it whatever that woman’s name was,” said O’Brien.
The band played under the name Carlson until the guys went to college. Schluter and the other band member John went to school in Vermont and continued to play as Carlson without Mike – who went to college in Massachusetts.
Schluter and John played together throughout college. At some point, they were in need of a bass player.
“We were looking for someone who could sing and maybe write some songs,” said Schluter. “We didn’t care if he’s like a bass virtuoso or anything. So I thought, ‘Well fuck, Mike could probably learn how to play the bass’ and so I just called him up out of the blue and I was like ‘Hey dude – this is kind of random, but would you want to move up to Vermont and play the bass in my band?'”
The guys played together that summer in Vermont before moving back home to Winchester in the fall. They continued to play shows as a group around town, including a notorious show at the Tavern at the End of the World where the band was so loud, they were knocking glasses off the walls of the bar.
A couple months after moving back, John decided to move back to Vermont and Schluter and O’Brien took a break from music.
“We basically didn’t play music for a little while – we sort of got to working and just doing random shit,” said Schluter. “After awhile though, we got the itch again.”
Schluter, O’Brien, Schluter’s brother and their drummer at the time started playing together as The Images which Schluter describes as a “Chuck Berry cover band”. The trio recorded a bunch of covers at the Soul Shop in Medford in 2011 (which they released discretely in 2012) and started playing a bunch of shows throughout Boston.
“I thought it was great – especially after having taken a break – getting back and doing Chuck Berry stuff … it’s like that’s the roots of rock and roll,” said Schluter. “Playing that stuff was great for the band’s tightness and feel – It really helped us gel a lot better as a band.”
The band’s drummer at that time moved to New York after the record was recorded leaving the band looking for his replacement. O’Brien worked with Walsh in 2011. Both men were friends for a long time before they found out each other played music.
“He was like ‘Dude you play in a band? Let me check you guys out!’ – so he came to a show,” said O’Brien.
“I thought they were good and I was like – ‘I want to be in their band,'” said Walsh.
In this same time frame, Schluter’s brother – the band’s second guitarist – also moved away. The trio decided to not only stick is out as a trio, but to also make a name change.
“We realized that Google searching ‘The Images’ is impossible – like when you type in ‘The Images Boston’ – it’s just like pictures of Boston – so we thought it was kind of impeding our progress of anyone ever finding us online,” said Schluter. “So we were trying to come up with a name and we ended up brainstorming names for like a month.”
The name ‘The Sun Lions’ is the name of O’Brien’s former band. Walsh saw O’Brien wearing his former band’s shirt, liked the name and suggested they use it.
“To be fair, when you Google ‘The Sun Lions’ you get pictures of lions sunbathing, which is far better than before,” said Walsh. “Plus it fits better with the vibe of the band.”
When the guys changed their name, they were also transitioning into writing and performing all original songs instead of focusing on covers. Schluter and O’Brien had written original tunes as Carlson in high school and at the beginning of college. The two men, with other musicians from Winchester – also had a summer music group called the Wooden Nickels. The group played together during the summers when everyone was off from college and even recorded a few demos. So making the transition from covers to original songs really wasn’t that far of a stretch.
These days, the band is writing, recording and releasing all original songs.
“Writing for us is very collaborative, but it’s also individual,” said Schluter. “Mike and I write the songs and most of the time it’s not like we’re sitting in a room together sitting head to head. We sort of write songs on our own and then bring it to each other and get feedback. A lot of the time, I’ll be the one with my scissors out to edit things like ‘That part’s a little long maybe we cut half that verse and then like that will make the chorus pop more’ and Mike’s usually the one being like ‘Let’s let this part ride out.’ Once we kind of work it out, we’ll bring it to Jeff and just sort of arrange it like a band.”
“For me, writing songs is basically like I’ll just grab my guitar and start strumming and then sometimes nothing comes out and sometimes something does and it’s usually like the chord changes and then a melody pops into my head and then I’ll go,” said Schluter. “The best songs are always like everybody says – the ones that just sort of come out in one sitting – where you write the songs almost as fast as the song gets played, you know? That’s only happened a handful of times, but when it does I feel like those are the songs that flow the best. For me, the lyrics always come last, I think it’s similar with Mike. Then I get a line in my head and it might not end up being a line that I end up using, it just sort of informs where the song is going to go lyrically and just build off that. For me, it’s always like chords and melody come together and lyrics afterwards.”
In addition, the band recently finished up recording and mixing their second full-length record (first original full-length) – Whatever’s on Your Mind – at Sonelab in Easthampton, Mass. According to Schluter, the band tracked and mixed the entire record for the course of six days. They released this 10-track record on Monday with a name your price pricetag.
According to Schluter, when it comes to digital music, the band’s philosophy is more about people than money.
“Our philosophy as far as that’s concerned is that people can pay whatever they want for digital stuff – like if you want a recording that’s digital you can find it – if people want to chip in money, that’s cool, but really what I’d rather they do is if they downloaded our record and they like it – send us an email, say what’s up, come talk to us at a show, come to a show, you know?” said Schluter. “I’d much rather make a personal connection than have someone be like, ‘Oh I’ll give this band $5 for their record online.’ If we’re like ‘You have to pay $7 for our album online,’ it’s going to be tough because it just sort of creates a barrier – connections are a lot more important.”
These connections are a huge part of why the men continue playing music. Another part is just pure love for songwriting.
“This is all I know,” said O’Brien. “Just living in some sort of artistic vein is important to me, and it’s also cathartic for me and I feel like it balances me out.”
“At this point, it’s not about the money, it’s not about fame, it’s just about, you just kind of wake up and you feel like you have to do it,” said Schluter. “With music, it’s not easy to make a living…its just like the real world – the one percent like the Katy Perry’s and the John Mayer’s of the world – they’re the ones getting all the money and stuff and everyone else is sort of undervalued I guess. People do it because they love it and you meet a lot of really awesome people that are also doing it because they love it – whether it’s music or other things. You meet the coolest people that way, you know? And obviously for the chicks.. just kidding, we usually just get gear nerds.”
Victoria Valente is a painter living in Everett, Massachusetts. She started painting and making art in her teens. She went to the University of New Hampshire as an undeclared freshman with hopes to major in music. After a year of taking music classes, Valente left UNH and took a year off from school to work and figure out exactly what she wanted to do next.
She was accepted and began attending the University of Massachusetts at Lowell where she majored in painting. She graduated with her BFA in 2012.
She currently works as a manager at Blick Art Materials near Fenway Park and continues to paint on her own whenever possible.
The last major show Valente completed was in 2013 when she designed and painted a piano for the Boston Street Art project “Play Me – I’m Yours” which gave local artists pianos and allowed them to remake them in their vision. Valente’s piano was – and still is – at the Ben and Jerry’s on Newbury Street.
Valente said her current line of work centers around the evolution of words and ideas. When she thinks of a word or phrase that strikes her, she’ll paint them on a canvas. Then, she uses the mood, vibe, feeling behind the letters she’s painted to determine what colors and design she uses for the rest of the canvas. Sometimes, Valente aims to cover and disguise the words – sometimes she let’s them come through in various ways on the canvas.
Valente’s inspiration changes constantly – from factory farming for her senior thesis to dental work to specific clothing styles and outfits to even dried fruit. She says her motivation to continue painting stays the same.
“I feel like it’s a lot of pressure to fulfill the title of ‘artist’ said Valente. “When people ask if I’m an artist or say I’m an artist, I’m like ‘yeah, kind of, I guess I am, sure’. I just feel like it’s a huge title with a lot of expectations … I paint because I love it – it’s how my brain works. I try not to force anything, but when I get into a zone, I go with it as much as possible.”
Valente currently doesn’t have a website – (she’s working on it) – but she’s working on paintings and applications for a couple upcoming shows and projects in the Boston-area this summer.
Jeremy Gustin was walking in Brooklyn in 2012 when he had an idea.
“I can recall vividly walking through Bushwick listening to John Fahey on headphones when I had a light bulb moment and heard a concept, or a way of interpretation in my head,” said Gustin. “I called Will (Graefe) immediately and we set up at time to meet and play.”
Gustin’s musical spark would eventually evolve into what is now known as Star Rover, a two piece band out of Brooklyn, New York. Gustin, who plays drums and sings, and his band mate/friend Will Graefe, who plays guitar and also sings, released their first full-length LP – Western Winds Bitter Christians – in 2013 and are currently working in the studio on their sophomore release. Combine this with a packed solid tour schedule and Star Rover may just be the closest they’re ever been to taking over the world – or the Northeast, at least.
“The writing process is as close to true co-writing as I’ve ever come,” said Graefe.
Gustin and Graefe both started playing instruments and listening to music at a young age.
“My whole family is involved in classical music and I grew up very immersed in that world,” said Gustin. “I was playing oboe and English horn in orchestras from a young age through high school.”
Gustin said he discovered drums in high school and began improvising with them – a technique and set of skills he said was very different than the structured classical world he was used to playing in. By the end of high school, Gustin said he settled on drums as his main instrument and began pursuing them seriously, including studying drums in Ghana for three months. Gustin, of Boston, eventually uprooted his passion and moved to New York in 2008.
Graefe, also of Boston, got into music through a completely different route.
“My mom used to play Puff the Magic Dragon on guitar when I was a kid, but that was the extent of music performance in our house,” said Graefe. “That being said, I have vivid memories of my parents playing me “Break on Through” by The Doors, “Lola” by the Kinks, and “Voodoo Chile (slight return)” on the turntable and they left quite an impression.”
Graefe and Gustin met in New York through mutual friends. Graefe played a couple shows with Gustin’s former band The Rex Complex and the two had gotten together to play as a pair on a couple of occasions. They both shared a love for improvisation, but it wasn’t until Gustin’s light bulb moment in 2012, however, that the two formally started working together.
“He called me and said he was imagining music in which we played in a melodic finger picking style, but with eschewing bar lines,” said Graefe. “Based on what we’d done before, to me that meant trying to play lyrically and loosely, but also hitting hard and grooving and maintaining a raw sound as well. Getting our first group of songs together was a process unlike any other I’d experienced. We rehearsed for about a year before our first show and each song took many hours to put together. In some ways, it was the first time that I’d dealt with arrangement detail so specifically.”
“We basically worked on deconstructing John Fahey music for almost a year.. slowly defining our sound…we’ve since departed from Fahey and are writing our own music and the sound keeps moving, but that was the seed,” said Gustin.
With a collaboration officially formed, Gustin and Graefe began working on a first batch of songs that would eventually evolve into their first record. Although both men had a solid musical foundation, including both solo work and session time with other artists, finding ways to combine their individual sounds into a singular sound and style for Star Rover was and is a welcomed challenge.
“It’s tons and tons of trial and error, and embracing and exploiting the limitations of being a duo,” said Graefe. “Jeremy doesn’t play or write for guitar, so one challenging aspect for me is translating Jeremy’s melodic and harmonic ideas into guitar parts that can exist on their own. It has occasionally forced me to do things that I didn’t think I could, as well as come up with parts I never would’ve thought of on my own.”
The music that emerges is something that both Gustin and Graefe hesitate to put a title on.
“This is a tough question, not just because its difficult to answer but because i don’t want to answer it,” said Gustin. “I kinda feel that it’s for other people to say where we fit. Once I have a clear idea of what we are then I’m in that box. So – I pretty intentionally try not to think about it; but I have a feeling it keeps changing.”
“I’m not sure if we fit into any genre, but I’m the wrong person to ask,” said Graefe. “I try to focus on the nuts and bolts of the music and avoid obvious stylistic reference points. I do love the idea of being connected to much older music and seizing upon the idiosyncrasies of that music, though. Also, the music has evolved a lot in the last few years.”
Gustin and Graefe are currently in the studio working on their second record, as well as touring and collaborating with other musicians and projects.
“We’re making a new record which I’m super excited about,” said Gustin. “We’re playing shows and rehearsing a lot of new songs. We collaborated with songwriter Jesse Harris on a record (released Feb. 10, 2015) and we’ve been touring internationally for that. We also made record with Petra Haden that we’re doing some gigs for too. Collaboration has become an important part of what Star Rover does.”
Gustin said along with Star Rover, he’s working on various other projects and artists including Delicate Steve, Albert Hammond Jr. and Jesse Harris (mentioned above), although “there’s a long list of bands and songwriters that I love to play with,” he said.
No matter what projects Gustin and Graefe are working on, though, their motivations behind continuing to make music stay the same.
“It’s an amazing thing to try to shape an idea and end up with something you never expected,” said Graefe. “it’s very mysterious, but also a lot of work and craft and care. I try to respect it and take it very seriously. I’ve had times in my life where it feels so difficult to come up with stuff that I heard someone’s new song and was just completely stunned- not just by the music…. I couldn’t believe that anyone can combine music elements to write one song, let alone a great one. But then you just keep chipping away at it and sometimes things are more fluid.”
“I really have known that its what I’m going to do for as long as i can remember,” said Gustin. “Not even almost a decision or question – it’s what I am. My motivation is love. It’s a job to stay inspired. There’s a lot of distraction with social media and lots of horrible ugly things in the world. So I try to seek out things that inspire me all the time. Not just in music, but all around me.”
Lucia Perluck is the one woman band behind Lucia Pearl Jewelry, a Brooklyn-based freelance jewelry business.
Although the company is a fairly new venture, Perluck’s been designing and building jewelry for close to a decade.
Perluck started designing and crafting jewelry in high school. She took a class in metalsmithing at the Rhode Island School of Design, but didn’t particularly care for it. When it came down to choosing her senior year capstone project, however, she decided to give the medium another chance.
“We had to do this thing in high school called ‘senior project’ where we decided on something we wanted to learn that we didn’t already know how to do,” said Perluck. “We had to find a mentor and basically intern or apprentice with them, and then do a presentation in the end that showed that it was worthwhile and we were ready to enter the real world. If you failed, you didn’t get to graduate.”
Perluck had learned the basics of jewelry making at RISD, but her senior year apprenticeship rounded out her skills. She presented a small line of jewelry, including a couple necklaces, bracelets and earrings, for her final project.
“I graduated!” said Perluck. “It worked!”
Perluck attended Temple University after high school and graduated in 2010. Originally, she said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to major in jewelry making, so she applied to colleges with jewelry programs. She dabbled in other majors and departments including anthropology and journalism, before settling officially into the small jewelry program at Temple.
“A typical jeweler’s education consists of what we call ‘bench practices’ which are techniques used at the bench,” said Perluck. “A jeweler’s bench or desk is designed very specifically for things they would need to do. There’s a bench pin which is a piece of wood sticking out in the middle that you saw on, drill on, etc. For example, the first things I learned in that metalsmithing class at RISD was sawing through metal, fold-forming hollow shapes, soldering pieces together, stuff like that. Once you know the basics, then there are a million other possibilities. There are lots of machinery and specialized tools for doing almost anything.”
At Temple, Perluck also got the opportunity to dabble in other mediums for jewelry making.
“My education was probably half that stuff (traditional jewelry making) and then half CAD because it’s the hip, new thing that everybody’s doing,” said Perluck. “It takes out all the fun, dirty and natural stuff that goes along with making things and puts you behind a computer. It’s actually a really cool tool, but totally different from making something by hand and maybe sometimes it is faster. It’s helped me a lot since moving to NYC.”
Perluck moved to New York City almost immediately after graduating. She made jewelry for a period under someone else’s aesthetic, but quickly changed gears and began designing and freelancing under the name “Lucia Pearl Jewelry”.
Perluck describes her style as minimalistic.
“I like to keep things simple most of the time because I like the focus to be on the jewelry’s function and versatility,” said Perluck.
Perluck is constantly looking for new opportunities to be creative and learn new skills – including starting to design “tech jewelry” to be used with computers and phones.
“It’s a big trend that’s taking off I guess … jewelry that you connect to your phone via bluetooth and you can set it to notify you by lighting up when you get a call,” said Perluck.
On a more traditional trajectory, Perluck completed a jewelry residency last fall in Morocco.
“I got to work with an engraver in Fes, Morocco and he’s been using traditional techniques of engraving by hand for like 30 plus years,” said Perluck. “He taught me techniques and we created some work together while we were there. But, he really wanted to continue the partnership after I left, so we’ve been talking on Facebook… I send him drawings and he prints them and engraves them on metal. I just mailed him a sheet of silver a couple weeks ago and then he sends it back and I make stuff out of it. It’s funny cause he doesn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak Arabic, so the Google translate conversations are all jarbled.”
Perluck’s favorite piece and style of jewelry were actually inspired and made while she was in Morocco.
“My favorites are the fibula sweater clips,” said Perluck. “I like that piece because you don’t see a lot of sweater clips these days, and they’re really handy, I think. Also, its a design that was inspired by my trip to Morocco. Fibulas are really common in northern Africa in a traditional sense – women used to wear these huge fibulas that pinned their clothes together. You’ll see them in every book about Berber culture and in all the museums in Morocco.”
Perluck says she draws inspiration from many things including her family.
My grandma was a dress maker and I still have some clothes that she made,” said Perluck. “They have her tag inside and it says ‘Mayan Originals by Gertrude Perluck‘. She used to go to Guatemala and buy fabrics and make really beautiful tailored things out of them. I kind of modeled my logo after her tag. She’s a big influence and I guess it kind of runs in my blood. Plus – making jewelry is a good way to express myself and my ideas.”
Perluck designs and sells her jewelry through her website and Facebook page. She also attends and sells pieces are various markets and events throughout NYC – more information on those can be found on her Facebook. All pieces are sketched, designed and built by her in her Brooklyn-based studio.