Explain Exclusive: Upcoming Media Conglomerate Dylan Houghton Discusses Artist Management, Utilizing The Internet and Problematic Podcaster Adam22

By: Ali Shana

Dylan Houghton is a living example that with good intentions and some work ethic, anyone can beat their said ‘assigned’ fate. The 22 year old independent A&R, former manager, and effortlessly hilarious internet personality currently resides in L.A. Here, he continues to network and take steps towards his end goal career as a major label A&R, perhaps having his own imprint on a record label. However, this was not the path Houghton had chosen for himself initially.

I chose to interview Houghton because he solely introduced a new style of music to me and my peers through the internet. What some have pegged as ‘emo rap’ is still a relatively new phenomenon and is especially new to the midwest. This is not to be confused with simply emotional rap, which has been around for decades. This style of music, especially championed by Lil Peep but also Ok To Cry, smrtdeath and many others, is derived from a nostalgic feel of emo music. Bands like UnderOath, Three Days Grace and The Postal Service have all been sampled in this new wave of music. Lyrically, the content is more blatantly vulnerable, this time in a way that most millennials can connect with. The sadness portrayed by these artists had nothing to do with street struggles and more to do with heartbreak and unasked for depression.

More so, Houghton introduced the non-gender conforming artist smrtdeath, also known as Sethany. It was through his heavy promotion of the artist that I finally checked out his work. At the time, I was surprised to see a rap artist with long dyed hair and long painted fingernails. Even the tiles of smrtdeath’s songs, such as ‘let my broken heart take the wheel’, reminded me of the longer titles of bands like Taking Back Sunday and Fall Out Boy. A few years ago, I asked Houghton about this artist and discovered he was then managing him. We kept in contact over the years and I watched him influence several emo rappers musical success.

Houghton was originally born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a sizable family burdened by the stock market crash.  After taking four years of Japanese in high school, and studying abroad in Japan, Houghton studied the language for one year before having to drop out due to lack of funds. “Growing up, my dad was working 3 jobs. My mom was working 50 hours a week just to keep me and my siblings alive,” says Houghton. “I’m still paying off student loans for only a year worth of school.”

dylan sword.jpg

However, this experience sparked a bit of soul searching that made Houghton and admirable figure with an interesting life story - so much so that I asked to sit down with him and discuss that journey.

Over the last few years, Houghton has worked with artists such as smrtdeath, Lil Lotus, taxpurposes, and more. He describes his current role in music as “a supporting and independent A&R where I’m not working with labels and helping artists move their craft along.”

All the people Houghton has worked with are really his friends, which makes it easier to market their music. But the whole process of making these friendships usually starts with simply liking one’s music or their tweets - internet relationships are essential to his success. That and staying incredibly dedicated to these platforms. He’s had his twitter account since 2009, almost 10 years now. He had 100 followers just a year and half ago. Houghton constantly tweets funny thoughts and memes, some tweets going so viral they land a story in Vice News.

“With artists like smrtdeath, taxpurposes, Lil Lotus, and Macho Randy, I found them online,” says Houghton. “When I found smart death, he was was under 1,000 followers on every social media account. I found his video in my YouTube suggestions and I liked it - everyone starts out as a stranger at some point.”

Before working as a manager, Dylan worked with various blogs. The loveable media man claims it was around this time that his brand started gaining more exposure, people knew he could provide them with something.

When Houghton started managing, though, he had connections that were more than blogs and people wanted to work with him specifically. “I still get emails everyday with links to their music. Maybe a few years ago I’d gladly help out a stranger who took this approach,” says Houghton. “Now if someone wants consultation work done or advice, I charge for that.”

In the Q&A below, we discuss Houghton’s story and insight as a former manager, social media genius, and now independent A&R. Although these things are significant and come with stories of their own, there was a more serious reason I decided to interview Dylan Houghton.

Houghton’s job led him to a very famous, some have stated essential, podcaster and tastemaker in the underground hiphop scene, Adam22. The podcast ‘No Jumper’ got its massive following due to his niche market of underground rap and overall internet celebrity interviews. Adam also owns a successful BMX store and clothing brand called ‘ONSOMESHIT.’

Right around the time Adam was talking to Atlantic Records for an A&R position himself, a woman (and now several more women) came out with multiple allegations, ranging from rape, online harassment, and sex with a minor. It may seem like second nature to the average person to stop supporting this man and his efforts, but countless rappers and fans turn their heads. Houghton not only stopped supporting Adam, who he had developed a friendship with, he blatantly called him out to his thousands of followers. He could have remained silent and seriously benefitted from that connection, but Houghton’s priorities are in place. I have the utmost respect for his morals, which he regularly incorporates into his tweets.

Whether Houghton realizes it or not, he is an influencer. He was completely comfortable with being asked and quoted on this topic. That portion of the Q&A will conclude this feature. Again, Houghton is a living example that with good intentions and work ethic, anyone can beat their said “assigned” fate.

Who have you managed?

Originally I managed smrtdeath and Lil Lotus. My run was Lotus was brief, but it was a great time. I started managing Lotus November of 2017 and stopped February of 2018. During that time, his social media presence popped off from various things - we had just did the video for body bag, played Emo Night Festival in L.A. with Lil Aaron and smrtdeath, as well as the Nothing Nowhere tour. But unofficially, I’ve helped a lot of people reach their immediate goals, things more attainable in a month or two. Especially taxpurposes, one of my best friends throughout all this. I’ve helped him sell beats to others to a good degree. I feel producers are often underappreciated, and normally it’s hard to dish off beats to people.

I feel that!

Yeah, and when you have an ‘in’ with someone, it’s easier to get beats to that person. The first time I heard taxpurposes it was the song ‘CAVE’ by Kenny Hoopla. I loved the song and instrumental so much I immediately message him after and said I wanted to help him get bigger because you’re genuinely good. Right after that, we did a song called ‘let it bleed’, him and smrtdeath.

At this point that you were helping out taxpurposes, how long had you been managing smrtdeath?

This was four months after I started managing smrtdeath. Taxpurposes was also featured on smrtdeath’s EP ‘sethany.’ I also got him on a smrtdeath x Coldhart song and a smrthdeath x Slug Christ song. So all in all, independently, I’ve helped out a number of artists, some local some not.

A lot of the artists you’ve listed, and even artists I’ve seen you support on Twitter, are similar to you. They built their brand and utilized the web. Of course, with the internet, record labels don’t mean as much as they used to.

Right, and I have a love-hate relationship with labels. They’re useful for marketing...if you wanna break it down, labels are a bank. A loan. You’re not making any money off of them. It’s a loan you’re gonna have to pay back.

That’s crazy...but the advance?

The advance is what draws artist in. Unless you’re a charting, viral artists doing crazy numbers. But artists sign because they think they’re going to get a bunch of money - no. Your music has to repay advance, and if you don’t you’re just fucked.

So from your experience, what would you suggest to upcoming artists.

Stay independent as long as you can. Unless you get a fat check from a label where you don’t have to re-coop. Another thing to keep in mind is distribution. A lot of artists are making money these days through distribution deals with Empire.

And until them, anyone can utilize the internet.

Oh, absolutely! I’m a prime example of that, not even an artists, just a brand. I’ve made all the connections I have over the years purely off the internet. From time to time I’ve found myself starstruck. Getting flown to New York by 300 entertainment, Emo Night Festival, everyone I’ve worked with - these are all due to internet relationships. Internet relationships put me in L.A., because who the fuck comes to Wisconsin? Only person from here that’d be exciting to meet would be Sexual Jumanji, and even him I met through the internet.

What kind of music are you’re into?

That’s an interesting question, I’m actually all over the board. Let me pull up my Spotify right now - Moses, Oliver Francis, Oliver Tree, Blockboy JB, Soul Low, Lil B, Lil Pump - I’m all over the board! More recently I’ve been trying to get my bearings towards pop music because that’s what sells. I know that people like to think music is about the lyrics, it’s not. No matter what you think, music is about how it sounds, how it makes you feel.

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Right, if something sounds bad, it doesn’t matter how great it is lyrically.

Exactly, exactly. Look at ‘Gucci Gang’, it’s gotten 3 times more plays than ‘Tiny Dancer’ by Elton John. Half the song is him saying “Gucci Gang!” The song has more plays than Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ and ‘Tiny Dancer’ all put together. If you watch the video of Bighead breaking down how he made the ‘Gucci Gang’ beat, it’s simple. And I think that speaks volumes.

Alright, alright. All these artists you’ve worked with. The people you associate with make a certain style of music. How’d this whole thing start.

It’s funny, actually! I heard ‘Beamer Boy’ by Lil Peep and I was just so taken aback at how different it was to anything I’ve ever heard at that point. I saw him live February 2017, same time I met that asshole Adam22. And so I started looking for more music like that...I mean, what people call “rap” now, that’s subjective and rightfully so. In my opinion, people who create what is now called “emo rap”, they have bars but they aren’t rapping. It’s singing for the most part.

Yessir, melody and cadence.

Exactly. So I found Lil Peep, from there I heard It’s Ok To Cry. At the time I was writing for blogs doing 8-10 posts a day, so I was really looking for new music. Specifically, music like that, very experimental and new.

Is putting on new artists important to you?

Oh, extremely! I know the market right now is oversaturated with new artists, but they’re talented. And I feel good helping new artists prosper.

You’ve been to L.A. four times. I know one of those four times you met Adam22 of the No Jumper podcast. It’s evident that you and your friends, people like Lil Aaron, had a pretty good relationship with the guy. These allegations against Adam started coming about, recently, around the time Adam was looking to become an A&R himself. You chose to speak out against multiple times to your audience - a niche of people who listen to underground rap, who clearly know of No Jumper - and I admire that you’re willing to take that risk in a career based on networking.

Ethics are incredibly important to me, and Adam is a prime example. I ran into him completely by luck, really. I was at the ONSOMESHIT store in February of 2017, at the time I was writing for Daily Chiefers and Elevator. Elevator had just done some sort bio/introduction type video on who Adam is. He knew of both publications I was working with, and so I met him. Through that, I put him onto the artists I had been working with.

Right, I remember seeing the picture of you two at the time on Twitter.

Yea exactly, that happened while I was in his store, I’m in one of his blogs...I don’t like to talk about it much. I don’t want to be associated with that. I don’t care for anything he’s said or done in the last year and even before that. In my head, I knew everything he was saying was just wrong. At the time I wanted to further myself, having a relationship with him is very beneficial. But it’s not worth people thinking I’m a bad person.

I don’t want to use terms ‘allegations’ anymore. At this point, so many people have come forward and talked about things he had done. How can it still be an allegation? If you’ve got 30 people claiming you sexually assaulted them, or whatever the case may be, one of them has to be telling the truth.

It’s upsetting to watch fans of his show say these girls are “clout chasing” when they’ve made these allegations anonymously. How could this be a matter of clout?

I know, look, you gotta look out. Because you can’t give these people power. They’re gunna keep running with you if you don’t stop them. When we heard about this, me and even my friends working for No Jump, Kash and Sam, they quit. You can’t justify working with a known predator. Not only Adam22, but also Yung Goth, for example. He has hundreds of allegations against him. It’s important to put these people in check. It may not do anything to tarnish they’re reputation, but maybe they’ll change as people.

You’re really looking at the big picture of the situation, I respect that.

Well I’m not trying to take away anyone’s platform, I’m trying to stop them. Because...why would you? Why wouldn’t you want someone to stop raping others - even if you run with this guy or whatever - you wouldn’t let someone else get away with something like that, why would you make an exception for a stranger. I just want to make a statement now: I wholeheartedly do not rock with No Jumper. I did once, never again. If you are someone I know, and you rock with him, or any predator, or don’t like what I’m saying, unfollow me. I don’t care about a relationship with anyone who can’t be a decent human being.

Crisis Tha Don & Blvck Mitch - An Unorthodox Refreshing Collaboration

By Ali Shana

Chicago-based artists Crisis Tha Don and Blvck Mitch are stylistically quite different - Crisis tightrope walking a fine line between high pitch melodies and content-heavy verses, and Mitch effortlessly delivering cold flows over eerie, sedated instrumentals.

At the beginning of last year, I performed with them at the Public Garden. Both emcees left very distinct and opposing first impressions on me that night. Crisis organically got the crowd involved and at one point was spitting whole heartedly acapella. Mitch's set was pure animalistic energy. He brought that same energy to the crowd during my set, a complete stranger at this point, with his arm around my shoulder jumping around smiling like we grew up together.

The music slapped, the show was fun, but I had no idea how much respect I'd gain for the two over time.

 Crisis Tha Don

Crisis Tha Don

Crisis is 25 years old and unapologetically passionate about art - anyone's art. The artist uses his purple-light tinted studio to make music and interview other local artists, such as Frank Samuel, on his show 'The Basement.'

"My mission is to bring light to underground artists from the area that I truly believe in," says Crisis. "I want The Basement to be a domino effect for these talented individuals. I hope the people I have on the show achieve all their goals."

I find Crisis's genuine intentions for other people's success incredibly admirable and humbling considering how unique and special his own music is. In a world where anyone can make and market their own music, you have to take risks to stand out. Crisis's risk is his unique singing style, reminiscent of 2009 Kid Cudi and Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos signature high pitch range. This style can best be summarized by his project 'The Jasmine Flower', a love story dedicated to his girlfriend. 

 Jasmine Manzano 

Jasmine Manzano 

Blvck Mitch, also known as BlvckMitchThe$tainMan or simply $tain man, takes a much less heartwarming approach to his music - the rapper is ruthless. The 21-year old creative delivers hit after hit on his latest EP 'Free Though LSD//RIP'. My personal favorite is the heavy-hitting 'It Don't Make A Difference', followed by the autotune feel-good track 'Everything Is Okay'.

 Blvck Mitch

Blvck Mitch

The two forces compliment eachother on their new song 'Where To Go' and already have a duo project in the works. Although they've only known each for about a year, the two say their chemistry was organic from the moment they met. "I reached out to Mitch to be on The Basement, and we just clicked," says Crisis. "When we performed together it just felt natural. The songs themselves came about naturally."

The hazy, drug enthused 'Where To Go' is an absolute summer bop. Stream the track below and make Crisis Tha Don and Blvck Mitch a part of your nostalgic, carefree and bass thumping summer memories.

Explain Exclusive - An Interview w/ One More Final I Need You

Explain Exclusive -  An Interview w/ One More Final I Need You

In their brief time as a band, One More Final I Need You have existed to bridge a musical gap. Previously, Landon Deaton helmed the drum throne for the short-lived Heat Death. Taylor Campbell currently plays guitar in noise punkers Suffer Head. While they’ve cut their teeth within a more rock based scene, saxophone player Anthony D’Agostino has operated within the academic side, studying jazz and improv at UW Milwaukee. While travelling seemingly parallel roads, the trio independently developed similar visions. Their immediate bond has resulted in a fruitful handful of months as a band. One More Final I Need You plays at Acme Records on Thursday, June 21 at 8PM.   

Explain Exclusive: A Look Into The Young & Aggressive Emcee 187 Jaccboy

By: Ali Shana

Posting his debut track only 2 months ago, 17 year old Dallas rapper 187 Jaccboy is already gaining a relatively large buzz on the internet. Thanks to our last interview with Houston artist Lil Aaron JAPAN, I was able to interview Jaccboy and discuss his motives behind making music, influences and plans for the future. 

 187 Jaccboy

187 Jaccboy

Like fellow 19 year old Texas rapper Japan, Jaccboy has only recently decided to start taking his music seriously. Jaccboy says he was free-styling for fun from a young age when his friends encouraged him to take it a step further. "I'm seeing people who can't even rap go at it," said Jaccboy. "And then I got people telling me I can rap. So I did - that's really why I started."

Unlike Japan, however, the four releases on Jaccboy's SoundCloud are much more aggressive, from lyrical content and delivery to the instrumental itself. This newer aggressive Texas sound is associated today by many with the viral rapper sensation Tay-K. Jaccboy personally doesn't feel his music sounds like Tay-K's, but respects the emcee. "Free Tay-K. He'll be home soon," said Jaccboy. 

Of the four energetic songs Jaccboy has out, his latest track 'OPP $H!T' featuring LOVESINS dropped less than a month ago and already has over 4,500 plays. His track 'Fade Away' also includes a feature by Lingo. Jaccboy says LOVESINS, Lingo and a few other individuals are apart of the 187 set.

LOVESINS, Lingo, and Japan are all confirmed features on Jaccboy's upcoming mixtape 'Rookie Of The Year'. The lyricist says this project will showcase him experimenting with some more melodic approaches, similar to those found in Japan's music. Jaccboy cites his influences as Soulja Boy, Chief Keef and Future, and says the way he raps is based on the beat's vibe.

"If someone I don't know is listening to my music, then I know it's good," said Jaccboy.

The Texas hip-hop scene has come a long way from DJ Screw, Slim Thug and 'slab' music. Make sure to pay attention the many new jacks of the South like 187 Jaccboy and his brothers. Stream the track 'OPP $H!T' featuring LOVESINS below.

Explain Exclusive: Lil Aaron Japan - From Houston to MKE, Lifestyle & Fashion

by: Ali Shana

Only picking up music 4 months ago, Lil Aaron Japan already has a three hits under his belt. His songs 'Digi Dash', 'Still Ballin' and his latest track 'Fashion' all showcase Japan's love for melodies over slapping 808s. Unlike most emcees, however, Japan releases his music on his brother Twan Harris's SoundCloud account.

 Lil Aaron Japan | Photo by Twan Harris

Lil Aaron Japan | Photo by Twan Harris

I spoke to the upcoming singer/rapper over the phone to see what all the buzz was about. To my surprise, Japan is only 19 years old and approaches his music in a very carefree manner. "I used to rap along to songs and freestyle in the car," said Japan. "So one day I figured why not and started recording."

When I asked the lyricist if he had any preferences about what beats he likes to sing over, he gave me an answer that helped me understand his carefree approach to music even further.

"Honestly, I don't know what kinda beats I like. I don't look for certain types of beats - its just a feeling. Only requirement is that I feel the instrumental."

Japan was born in Milwaukee and raised in Houston, where him and brother currently reside. Japan is currently working on a project and accompanying visuals. The artist cites his biggest influences as Future and Chief Keef. 

Outside of musical influences though, Japan says his homies - most of which make music themselves - are an influence on his lifestyle. Although this collective of artists Japan is apart of don't all make the same type of hip hop, they all seem to share this carefree lifestyle. The group contains individuals from both Milwaukee and Houston, including MKE's riQothemenace & MMG Haulin, and H-Town's Almighty Drell, NoLimitDino, 187 Jaccboy and B. Val.

Japan's presentation of his music, both visually and sonically, is yet another carefree facet of who he is. Tracks like 'Digi Dash' (sampling the guitar from Chingy's '1 call away') as well as his other two tracks includes coverart of the creative dressed in high end clothes. All three tracks feature fun, glossy and quite frankly druggy-like production.  

In conclusion, Japan's music is all about his carefree lifestyle and fashion. His music talks about getting high with his friends and looking fresh. It's safe to assume that looking fresh means a great deal to Japan because during our conversation, he described fashion as a form of self expression equivalent to self expression in music. 

The latest track 'Fashion' is bright, hazy and just in time for summer. Stream the track below and if you like what you here, be sure follow the artist on Twitter and Instagram for updates on his debut project & visuals to come.

Dogs in Ecstasy - Dreams and Gripes (album)

Dogs in Ecstasy - Dreams and Gripes (album)

Nothing is more noteworthy in the underground local music scene than the release of a new Dogs in Ecstasy record. The three-piece rock band bridges the gap between rock music and the modern world. Coupling this with the group’s stylings of pure melodic lead guitar, and synchronized rhythm section, Dogs in Ecstasy achieve what all rock bands should be seeking out to do - evoking humanism and emotion and crafting this into their songs.

PREMIERE-Tim Buchanan With Dusk...And On His Own

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By: Sahan Jayasuriya

Usually fronting the psychedelic country punk band Cherry Death, singer and guitarist Tim Buchanan has broken out on his own with an offering of gorgeously stripped down acoustic country tunes.


The inaugural release on Appleton’s Crutch of Memory label (run by the owners of the studio of the same name), Tim Buchanan With Dusk... And On His Own is a bit misleading of a title, as the album features only one track with Appleton’s premier country-rock act serving as Buchanan’s backing band. Regardless, the album’s nine songs showcase Buchanan’s knack for writing well-crafted and highly memorable tunes. Presenting songs in a stripped down form can expose their flaws but also amplify their strengths, but the album manages to avoid the former while succeeding at the latter.
 

The solo material has a distinct, spur of the moment intimacy to it, capturing the sound of Buchanan’s voice and guitar echoing gorgeously throughout Studio B at Crutch of Memory Studios. “Maybe I” marks one of the album’s many instances of giving the listener the feeling as though they are in the room with Buchanan, observing the performance in person. “Believe Me” recalls the charm of J Mascis’ solo acoustic material, with Buchanan drifting in and out of a hushed and soothing falsetto. “Just Got Home” marks yet another one of the album’s more intimate moments, with Buchanan’s slightly out of tune guitar sounding more charming than anything else.


This isn’t to discredit the contributions of his backing band, however, which includes Tenement’s Amos Pitsch on bass, Julia Blair on piano and vocals, Colin Wilde (who also performs under the Black Thumb moniker) on drums, Tyler Ditter on lead guitar, and Ryley Crowe on pedal steel. The album’s opening track “Grinnin” features the members of Dusk greatly enhancing Buchanan’s already strong material. While a solo acoustic version of the song appears midway through the album, “Grinnin” finds Buchanan being accompanied by the Fox Valley’s finest, adding lush Byrdsian vocal arrangements, an understated rhythmic accompaniment and a delightfully sweet pedal steel to the track. Although far more fleshed out than anything else on the album, “Grinnin” also manages to transport the listener to Studio B of Crutch of Memory Studios, sounding like a group of well rehearsed musicians playing in a room together.

More than anything, though, Tim Buchanan With Dusk... And On His Own sounds like what it is; a man, a guitar, and a few microphones capturing simple but impassioned performances. This sort of intimacy is hard to feign or replicate, and while many have tried, there’s no switch that can make a record sound stripped down, and no plugin that can make a performance sound more authentic. If this is a sign of things to come, we have much to look forward courtesy of the Crutch of Memory folks, as well as Dusk and Buchanan. Stream the album below.
 

The Grace and The Fury - Angels Of Dirt And The Fearless Women of Moto Racing

  Angels of Dirt  is a brand new documentary from filmmaker Wendy Schneider. Started over ten years ago, the film looks at the culture of young women in moto racing.

Angels of Dirt is a brand new documentary from filmmaker Wendy Schneider. Started over ten years ago, the film looks at the culture of young women in moto racing.

By: Sahan Jayasuriya

We last heard from Wendy Schneider last year, when her excellent film “The Smart Studios Story” made its debut at the 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival. The film that took seven years to complete was finally finished, all was left was an intensive cycle of promotion, screenings and interviews. Following all this, one would expect any director to take a break and recharge. Schneider did the exact opposite, resuming work on a project she began ten years prior.

Schneider’s latest project, Angels of Dirt looks at the culture of young women who participate in flat track and motocross racing. When she began the project in 2006, Schneider simply had an interest and fascination with the culture and community of racers and decided to start filming.

 Photos courtesy of Wendy Schneider.

Photos courtesy of Wendy Schneider.

“I was following 2 schools of racing- motorcross and flat track” said Schneider. “Both were happening at the same small track on interstate 94 in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. I'd go out there and shoot and started developing relationships with some of the young racers, most specifically a (then 9-year old) girl named Charlotte Kainz from West Allis.”

After nearly three years of shooting, the project was put on hold for personal reasons. Additionally, Schneider was uncertain as to what she was trying to accomplish with the film.

“I had filmed for three years and then I stepped away from the project and started working on the Smart Studios doc, which was a very serious undertaking” continued Schneider. “It had a clear story focus. When I would think back on all the footage I had for Angels Of Dirt, I just wasn’t inspired.” 

What lead her to revisit the film was, unfortunately, great sadness. In the years when the film was put on hold, Kainz’s abilities only increased, with her eventually racing professionally on the AMA circuit. The future looked incredibly bright for this young athlete until her life was tragically cut short. While racing in Santa Rosa, California last September, Kainz succumbed to injuries she sustained when she crashed in the GNC 2 heat race. She was just 20 years old.

“The turning point for me was the loss of Charlotte” said Schneider. “This is someone who meant so much to me and meant so much to so many people. It was an instantaneous change in my spirit that I felt like I wanted to get back on the bike so to speak, if only to honor her”.

While the film is no doubt marked by the tragic loss of Kainz, the film isn’t entirely about loss. Filming and interviews have commenced since picking up the project again, and from the looks of it, Schneider aims to create something that is larger and more universal than its previous incarnation.

“This film is about life force, how you cherish somebody and how they become part of you” continued Schneider. “It’s a much more than just a film celebrating women who race motorcycles. This is about life and loss and all these broader ideas that are very relatable, even to people who have nothing at all to do with racing.”

SS070_AZ_Flat_Lst Wknd_9_15_07_Start Span Kimi HENDRIX_ cu on CHARLOTTE.png

Much like The Smart Studios Story, Angels of Dirt is being produced independently by Schneider's production company, Coney Island Studios, in Madison, WI.  Early development funding will be from private support and crowdfunding. Schneider's successful Kickstarter campaign allowed work to resume on Smart after four years. In the case of this new project, however, funding is going to be required much earlier.

“The first phase is getting to where I can start editing the film” said Schneider. “A lot of the community is the same, but who I’m interviewing is to be determined.  Financing is so important, but what is really challenging is to harness people’s energy around the film."

While the film is still in its production stages, Schneider’s decision to revisit the project has found her doing so with a newfound sense of enthusiasm and determination.

“Harnessing any power associated with young females is important to me” said Schneider. “Anything that exercises a fearlessness and a sense of self determination, or encourages females to live their dreams on their terms, any outlet associated with that is important to me at this point, more so than it was even six months ago.”

With the help of crowdfunding participantsAngels of Dirt will come to life in the same way that The Smart Studios Story did, with a similar sentiment of honoring the legacy of a person (or place) that was so incredibly important so many people.

“Charlotte was so admired and respected; just adored. To see somebody as quiet and kind as she was blossom into this fearless and fierce pro racer was really extraordinary to see. It still is. Its painting a picture of a young girl becoming a racer and to find the essence of what racing means to people-why young girls in particular are choosing this sport.”

Angels of Dirt is currently in production. To support the project, please visit www.angelsofdirt.com With just six days left to donate to the film's crowd funding campaign, every donation counts. Visit the film's Indiegogo page here

Explain Exclusive - An interview with Kait Eldridge of Big Eyes

 photo: Don Giovanni Records

photo: Don Giovanni Records

From Replacements and Big Star tribute shows to songs about the king of power pop, it’s no secret that Milwaukee has a strong affinity for the waning genre. Brooklyn power poppers Big Eyes has unsurprisingly accumulated a sizable Milwaukee following with their classic rock ‘n’ roll-inspired punk tunes. This Sunday, they’ll be back in town for a show at High Dive with fellow rockers Joust and Milwaukee’s own Bad Wig.

In 2016, Big Eyes released their third LP “Stake My Claim” on Don Giovanni alongside Appleton’s very own Tenement and the rest of the label’s ever-expanding roster. Kait Eldridge has been Big Eyes’ frontwoman and sole consistent member since her project’s inception in 2009. We talked with Eldridge about her influences, extensive touring history and still experiencing sexism in punk.

Explain: Do you think being on a record label as prolific as Don Giovanni has changed Big Eyes’ prospects in any way?

Kait Eldridge: Don Giovanni definitely expanded a ton in the time between our first and third LPs. They were putting out a ton of bands with members who weren't just all cis males by that point. Our politics lined up well, and it seemed like it'd be a great fit for us to come back. Don Giovanni seems to cast a wide net with their audience, and I think it's the right place for us to be right now!

Do you think the political content of your music has changed since 2016’s “Stake My Claim”?

I tend to keep my lyrics fairly vague because I’m a private person. I also like to make it harder for people who are trying to figure out if a song is about them (laughs). It makes my lyrics easier for people to relate to. I love to see what people think certain songs are about. Sometimes they hit the nail on the head, and sometimes they’re WAY off.

Do you predict a lyrical shift on your next LP?

Yeah - The older I get, I do find myself getting a bit more specific. The overall tone of my lyrics has always been pretty angry and depressed, so I’m sure the awful bullshit that’s been going on lately will just completely add to that.

Big Eyes was recently mentioned in a New York Times podcast about how women are dominating contemporary rock music. How does it feel to be celebrated in that way, especially as a woman fronting a band of all men?

We’re a “male backed” band! (laughs) I have played in bands with other women over the years, so I think it’s really just a coincidence that I’ve been the only woman to ever be in Big Eyes. I felt honored to be included in that podcast.

Even though recent punk ethics preach acceptance and tolerance, do you still experience sexism? Do you ever feel like you’re treated differently because you’re a woman?

Yes, of course. Sexism is still VERY real and something I have to deal with pretty often. It’s obviously a bit better at DIY spots, but if we are playing a regular club in a smaller city, it’s pretty much inevitable. I’m also small (five feet tall) and look young for my age – I’m 29 and ALWAYS get carded – so a lot of times when we first arrive to a venue, I’m the only one who gets asked what I play, I’m talked down to, I’m asked to see my ID but nobody else is, etc. It happens much more frequently than you’d expect. If a man sends an email it comes off as “direct” or “to the point”, but a woman could send that same friggin’ email and it’d come off as “bossy” or “demanding”. We have a male booking agent now, so at least I get to deal with the internet bullshit less (laughs).

What challenges have you faced being the only consistent Big Eyes member?

I’m in charge of all the boring, behind-the-scenes kind of stuff. I’m grateful to all of who have been able to hop on board for a bit, and I don’t expect people to stick around forever. When you get down to it, it’s obviously “my” project. People want to work on their music, have other obligations, etc. It can get frustrating and redundant teaching new people the older songs, but we just keep it fresh by always working on new material and working on covers.

After touring regularly for nearly seven years, do you have any advice for musicians who are thinking about becoming a “full-time” touring band?

I tend to pack light and just make sure to do laundry once a week so we all aren’t taking up the entire van with multiple bags – and our dirty laundry doesn’t get a chance to ferment for all that long! Remember to wash your sleeping bag! Make sure to get some alone time, and don’t go too hard every night or you’ll wear yourself out really fast. Label your phone charger so your bandmates don’t snag yours!

You guys are from New York, where of course many other “up and coming” rock bands are from, too. Who are your favorite NYC bands to play shows with?

There are so many bands here, so we try to switch it up as much as possible, to be honest. But, we like to play with our friends, of course. Shellshag are always a blast! A few of our other friends have a new band called Midnight Calls. We recently played with a new band called Fealty, who are a really cool punk band.

Who do you consider your biggest influences both musically and lyrically?

My biggest overall musical influences have got to be The Ramones, Chip Trick and Thin Lizzy. My biggest lyrical influences are Paul Westerberg, Dee Dee Ramone, Nick Lowe and Joan Jett. In the past couple of years, my biggest influences both musically and lyrically have been Squeeze, XTC and Blue Oyster Cult.

Is Big Eyes named after the Cheap Trick song? I’m sure you get this question a lot.

Yep! I actually made a whole list of all my favorite Cheap Trick songs and thought that “Big Eyes” sounded like the best band name.

If you had to give someone music recommendations, what would you suggest? What have you listened to over the last few days?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Badfinger and Gene Clark the last few days. The seasons changing always gets me in a sappy mood. Lately, I’ve been pushing Queen’s “The Game” and XTC’s “Black Sea” on my friends.

Soul Low Make Existentialism Fun on "Cheer Up"



It’s easy to understand why Soul Low has quickly become one of Milwaukee’s most cherished bands. Since their first full-length release just four years ago, the band has actively cultivated an impressive discography – three LPs, two EPs, one live album, and a handful of singles along the way. Their energetic live shows consistently draw eager young audiences who know the songs as well as the band themselves. Their fans dance and enjoy themselves, providing a refreshing alternative to other Milwaukee rock shows that can at times be pretty daunting.

On the surface, Soul Low’s music is fun, straightforward, easily accessible pop rock. It could fit in well blaring over the speakers at an American Eagle or playing during the credits of an irreverent MTV reality show. It sounds fine whether or not you choose to pay attention to it.

Soul Low, however, makes music worthy of your attention, containing plenty of elements that set them apart from their less memorable contemporaries. Take singer Jake Balistreri’s signature nasally croon, for example. It’s one of those polarizing voices you’ll either love or hate, not much unlike Billy Corgan or Violent Femmes’ Gordan Gano. Not surprisingly, Soul Low is often compared to the latter.

Cheer Up, the band’s third full-length release, is easily Soul Low’s most focused work to date. While it can be very easy for rock bands to fall into a trap of blandness, Soul Low’s newest effort boasts a diverse tracklist that explores a wide array of styles and emotions.

The first few tracks on Cheer Up are the album’s lightest and brightest. “Bad Set of Moods” is the opening track, a catchy, dance-a-long reminiscent of Soul Low’s legacy as a party band. Don’t let the irresistible, feel-good power-pop fool you, though – it’s merely a glimmer of hope in an album that’s largely full of anguish.

The bright lights start to dim during “Could Be Nothing”. Though the track still bears the skeleton of a pop song, the dark lyrics reflect on existentialism and death. Soul Low has an admirable ability to drown their sorrows underneath an ocean full of hooks, almost to distract from the misery. “I am a man who knows he’s nothin’ / Trying to get through but sometimes it’s hard to / I wanna stick my head in the oven” Balistreri sings with an audible level of emotion. The track is intensely earnest – it feels like confiding in a close friend.  

The album’s standout track “Sad Boy Freestyle”  is very much on brand for Soul Low. The song is equal parts goofy and grim, and the band’s collective songwriting abilities are showcased with a slow and steady buildup that leads to a cathartic finish. Keeping with darker lyrical themes, the album also has a track dedicated to infamous serial killer and Milwaukee resident Jeffrey Dahmer. This is no ode to a murderer, though – the track is written from the perspective of an anxiety-ridden child whose fear of Dahmer consumes his innocent thoughts.

“Do you wanna die? So do I,” asks Balistreri in the album’s closer “Cheer Up”. The bleakness comes to a halt when he comforts listeners, reminding them that “everything is fine”. The track is a climactic ending to an album filled with many emotional highs and lows. Soul Low possesses a millennial nihilism that is often imitated, but very rarely duplicated. Their dark sense of humor lightens some of the album’s heavier lyrical themes, turning songs about death into an engaging listening experience.

The album’s transition from joyfulness to darkness indicates the band has seriously refined their craft as artists with consistently excellent and musicianship and songwriting skills. The constant references to the final track throughout the album gives Cheer Up a puzzle-like complexity; the payoff comes once the pieces are all fit together.

Cheer Up could easily be an album that defines the sound of Milwaukee music in 2017. It’s dreary,  but still a good time. Milwaukee knows how to make light of a shitty situation, and Soul Low sure as hell does, too.

Jay Som's Melina Duterte on self care, songwriting and sudden success

 Melina Duterte aka Jay Som. Photo by Marc Fong.

Melina Duterte aka Jay Som. Photo by Marc Fong.

By: Dan Agacki

Jay Som is the moniker of Oakland's Melina Duterte. Her music career started on a whim, with nine demo tracks posted to Bandcamp. The songs quickly gained traction and were eventually re-released by Polyvinyl Records. The demos, reissued as Turn Into, were a home recorded batch of shoegaze indebted rockers. Her follow up, the newly released Everybody Works, shows a leap in songwriting as well as recording without losing the unbridled charm of her demos. In an 18 month span, Duterte has gained quite a buzz and experienced an unexpected whirlwind of success. Through all of these happenings, she has managed to stay grounded and cling tightly to her humility.

With Turn Into and Everybody Works you recorded and played entirely on your own. I know people who can play numerous instruments, but having the mindset to do that and record it as well seems so ridiculous.

It kind of is pretty ridiculous when you think about it, but it's all just practice really.

I can't really think of women who've done that in the past. There's probably someone obvious I'm overlooking.

There are a couple out there. I know there's Grouper who does that. I love Grouper. She does all of her stuff. Also – I forgot her name, she's a DJ but she also produces and mixes her own shit, and it's really good. I think it's insane how small the number of female producers are out there. Hopefully it starts picking it up.

Do you write your songs on guitar?

Usually I start out with an idea, record it on my voice memos and come back to it, get a scratch guitar and then just build from there.

Do you ever start writing songs on other instruments first?

I tried doing that with piano but I'm not a very good piano player, so I usually just stick to the guitar or bass usually. Whatever's easier, you know?

I guess I kind of assumed you didn't try to write songs on trumpet.

Oh no [laughs]. That's too crazy.

Are there any instruments that you want to learn?

Definitely the violin. I tried learning that. My Uncle gave me a violin as a present from Australia. He gave me one of those Dummy books, like Violin For Dummies. I tried to do that but I was really bad so I just gave up. I don't know, maybe something crazy like the bagpipes would be chill.

Were all the songs for the new album written after the previous album?

There weren't any leftovers. I started doing demos after Turn Into was released on Bandcamp, and that was back in March before I started getting managed or before I even signed to a label. I kind of sat with those demos for a couple months. After I came back from tour [with Mitski and Japanese Breakfast] and moved into a new place, I took half of those demos and then wrote new ones on the spot while I was recording. So it was a really crazy process.

It sounds like an outpouring of creative process.

Oh yeah, that's why coffee exists.

How was your approach to writing this album different to writing the songs on Turn Into?

I took a more traditional approach. I think I was a lot more focused, more serious about what I was doing, but also trying not to be too serious. Kind of just wanted to stick to my roots of the way I write songs and arrange them. Since it was such a short and stressful period, I didn't really have time to reflect on what I've made, so I'm still figuring out what it means to me I guess. It's a weird feeling.

Was there anything you were trying to achieve or improve upon while working on this album?

I think I spent a lot more time trying to make everything sound more organic. I did a lot of one take recordings where I just wanted to play the entire thing through. I didn't do a lot of punching in. So there are a lot of mistakes on the record that I really wanted to keep in. I'm not a super big perfectionist when it comes to that. I think that was a pretty intentional thing I wanted in the record.

Mistakes give personality to the recordings.

Yeah, yeah.

Were there things you wrote that ended up getting thrown away because they didn't seem to fit?

“(BedHead)” was the song that went through the most changes. It originally had drums and bass. It sounded way more aggressive than it does now. I kept experimenting with it and nothing positive came out. I wasn't really feeling it and I kept throwing the song away. But I eventually came back to it and I finally found the right sound that I wanted for that song.

That was one of the songs I had written down as one of the outliers. That and “One More Time, Please.”

Oh yeah. “One More Time, Please” was written very fast. I think that was one of the last songs and I rushed it because I got too excited about what I was doing and I got scared I would lose all the ideas. I preformed them and recorded it super fast. I kind of regret doing that because I wanted to spend more love on it, but I like the way it turned out, I guess.

Have you had a moment where you thought “This could be something, this could be a career”?

I think I had that recently, like last year. After I went on those tours it really solidified that sort of thought because it was more like a trial run. Like, I'm getting opportunities. This is cool, I got signed, but can I do it? Up to now, I realize that it's very possible. And it's a very weird thought too, because I feel so young but I feel old at the same time.

Preferring to do things solo helps a lot because then you don't have to worry about money as much.

You don't have to deal with other people's feelings and their shit versus you, you kind of have to trust yourself. And it's also kind of nice. It's kind of like a form of self care, trusting yourself, which is one of the most important things. I feel like I've just started to get a grip on that.

Is this your first headlining tour?

It's like a co-headlining tour, for our Courtneys tour. Yeah, basically it is.

What are your future plans?

I think I'd like to just continue for now, like this year, do the full touring experience. Just do that for a while and think about what's going to happen with the next record. That's the thing, I don't know, everything keeps happening so fast that I sometimes don't have time to think about what I want to do because it's already happening. I just want to take it how it comes and see what's up.

All of a sudden one week I saw you were on Pitchfork: Rising and a week later your record got Best New Music.

Yeah, I don't get it. It's great, but it's also like what? [laughs]

Jay Som will be appearing at the Cactus Club on 3/23 alongside The Courtneys and Dogs in Ecstasy.