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April 2015
Sandcastle
"Skull Cauldron
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Skull Cauldron, Sandcastle’s latest LP, is a sojourn into a dimly lit wilderness. Recorded as a quartet (with the group moving forward without Micah Edwards) at West Philly’s Sex Dungeon, these songs pull you ever deeper into the thick of it with their hauntingly infectious sense of urgency and balance.
 
Album opener, “Atlantis Trance,” percolates as the guitar, bass, and drums tightly co-exist in a relaxed yet spring-loaded groove that is reminiscent to classic Talking Heads, while the quick-paced, tongue-twisting vocals run through a hypnotic, mythical tale. Continuing in a similar vain, “Wolf With No Eyes” is led by a spiraling guitar riff, reinforced with acoustic strums and low end that conjures ups an atmosphere of danger, climbing into the chorus: “Think I’m obsessive compulsive/I think I’ll think myself to death/Need a therapist or an alchemist to toxify my mind I guess.” This subtle searching of mental anguish grabs a hold of the listener, cautiously traversing the exploratory musical terrain. Casually, one slips into “Datura” as Sam Kassel’s secretively whispered vocals gain a foothold amid an up-tempo guitar-percussion combo that runs forward in fits and then lays back before a guitar burst leads you through the finish line.
 
“Wonder Where She Goes” has that catchy, restrained guitar plucking that lays down the foundation of its composition. As Kassel contemplates, “Am I too late for the ghost train? Am I too dumb for another plane?” The song appears on the cusp of breaking loose, but then steps back for a moment, until finally the pressure boils over. “And I can’t find, I can’t find the way/the way she walks when she walks away…”
 
“Evergreen” is a multifaceted tune that initially rides its acoustic guitar riff as Kassel prophesizes, “If I were a knight, I would be the Green Knight, I would be the Green Knight, and you’d be my Green Lady,” before it lands in a full stable of smoldering instrumentation. Then, the song transitions into a higher gear, led by the quickened pace of the guitar running anxiously ahead, while being propelled forward by the bass before falling back to that almost blues-rock zone with the thudding bass invigorating the track into an open-field mad dash. “Pterodactyls” sits in the shadows, marinating in an ominous tone of preparation for battle. It’s a clear yet heart-racing endeavor as bright injections of acoustic guitar serve as glimpses of daybreak.
 
“Medicine Song” creates a stir with its immediate fresh out of the blocks surge, dashing ahead for an abbreviated sprint, tempering off and then throwing caution to the wind when the final stretch is in sight. “Souls” puts the understated spoken vocals to prime use, developing a ghostly creeping self-aware vibe as the instruments tightly pulse around the unrelenting bass. The song takes turns jolting forward while refueling with reflective cool-down breaks as the song deals with the distance game of a relationship. “Yeah, sometimes she goes far away/Sometimes I get in her face/Yeah, even though we’re jaded/I still wanna play the game.”
 
The final chapter of the record, the adventurously forest-wandering instrumental “Drink Deep of the Skull Cauldron,” quixotically bookends the album. It’s an intoxicating concoction as Sandcastle marches forward as a four-piece beyond the menacing tree line. - Michael Colavita 

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The Deli's SXSW Issue 2014 is online!

Read it digitally here.

P.S. 10k free copies of this issue hit the street of Austin during SXSW Music week!


Interview: (the) medicine theory

The Medicine Theory is an experimental rock music trio comprised of baritone guitarist Jeff Irvine, percussionist/vocalist Tyson Schroeder, and cellist Barbara Anndrea Arriaga-Delaney. The two-piece version, drums and guitar—formed in 2007—played a set at Harling's Upstairs a couple weeks ago and chatted with me afterward.
 
Schroeder and Irvine met in various performing and visual arts classes during high school and soon began playing in punk/metal bands. A few years later, the two were playing in KC speed metal/punk band Methods of Man (1994-1997). After a few years, Schroeder decided to take a break from music. Soon after, Irvine moved to Philadelphia then Washington DC to pursue his degree. By 2000, Schroeder moved to Cape Cod to focus on painting while working and living at the newly opened museum estate of artist and author Edward Gorey.
 
“At that time,” said Schroeder, “I was done playing in bands. I was going to play, but only if I was having fun with it like I did when I was 18.” Then he visited Irvine in DC and fun ensued. “It was pretty much, let’s drink absinthe and make noises and record them,” said Schroeder. Irvine recalls, “We did that… quietly,” with his girlfriend, now wife, asleep in the next room.
 
The two had fun, stayed up all night and a few months later met again in Cape Cod. They set up a mini recording studio in one of the estates, Barns (no absinthe this time, just volume), and set about recording “everything we could,” said Irvine. “It was pretty much the beginning of this band,” recalls Schroeder. And it became the template for how the two would write music.
 
“We wanted to write like we did when we first started,” said Schroeder, “when we didn't know what the fuck we were doing… anything goes.” After so many years playing off of each other, Irvine mentioned, “There's a lot of instinct. Things just happen.” In late 2014 the two-piece became a trio thanks to cellist Arriaga-Delaney.
 
Schroeder’s percussion is deliberate and big. At times his style and sound somehow lean towards jazz-punk, all the while maintaining an unwavering weight and drive. His vocals expand and retract from the hushed tones of a madman mid-conversation to a shouting lunatic, depending on the story he's telling or the character being brought to life. Schroeder and Irvine are both visual artists as well as musicians, and this lends nicely to the characters and stories created in their songwriting. Barreling through, over and around all of this is Irvine’s sonic-laced baritone. At times jagged and driving, at others melodic, almost adrift, it is evident he knows how to simply let a song—a story, unfold. Irvine played bass for a long time before picking up guitar and this can be heard in the reserve with which he attacks songs, holding down steady rhythms and flourishes as well as succinct leads.
 
The advent of Austin-based cellist Arriaga-Delaney started as an experiment on a few songs in 2014. By March 2015 the band had played a few shows together and were set to play the MidCoast Takeover stage at SXSW. “She wanted to just do 2 or 3 songs, like she'd done previously,” says Irvine. Schroeder notes, “But we both really liked what she was bringing to the table.” Irvine let Arriaga-Delaney in on a secret. “We're going to do a full set with you.” The cellist agreed. “She showed to us that she really wanted to be a part of this.”
 
There were a few obstacles, though. Less than a week before the showcase, she had injured her hand and didn't know the whole set list. But she toughed it out. “Six days in a row,” says Irvine. Schroeder recalls 4- to 6-hour rehearsals.
 
Arriaga-Delaney is a busy cellist. She played in a band calle And The Furies Say, as well as Reverend Glasseye, a Boston-based band that transplanted to Austin, where she got hooked up with them.” According to Schroeder, “She tours around a lot playing solo things, playing with other people. She's definitely a free spirit—a gypsy lady.” Recently, she worked on a score for a film in real time. “She was out in the desert with them while they were filming it, just coming up with a soundtrack. They put her in the film but they were also recording her live.”
 
The effect of Arriaga-Delaney’s cello on The Medicine Theory’s sound is as subtle yet decisive. The arrangements haven't changed but have grown. The mood and tone of songs has shifted. The modicum of levity in Schroeder’s vocal attack has decreased with the infusion of the cello, while the stark melancholy has increased. “Covered Bridge” shifts from dark yet driven to stoic, moody, and downright estranged. The song “Timmy,” a twisted fun house take on a very dark subject matter, maintains a sense of levity. But as Irvine and Schroeder romp through the song, Arriaga-Delaney casually creates a sense of foreboding that wasn't there before. Like smoke slowly filling a room.
 
Putting a finger on the sound this trio is creating is maddening, impossible, and unnecessary. Comparisons to other groups don't quite fit. The sound is uniquely their own, and that is the intention.
 
--Chris Nielsen
 
 
The Medicine Theory plays at The Riot Room on Sunday, April 26, with Ides of Gemini, Sedlec Ossuary, and The Last Glacier. Facebook event page.
  

Pink Royal releases Taps this weekend

I had the privilege to catch up with one of my favorite local bands, Pink Royal. Guitarist and songwriter Steven LaCour, vocalist Dylan Guthrie, and drummer Alex Hartmann invited me out while they were mixing tracks for their upcoming debut record Taps. Bassist Nick Carswell and guitarist John Dorrell were unable to make it due to prior engagements.

LaCour has been working on his baby Pink Royal for some time and originally recorded everything himself. Now, with the collaborative writing efforts of the band and recording a debut full-length with producer/Hembree drummer James Barnes, the project can be fully realized.
 
It has taken some time but the core of the band has now been playing shows and writing together for about 2-and-a-half years. You can really feel the chemistry during live shows with the way it feels improvised and raw, yet incredibly intricate. To describe what these guys sound like is pretty hard to do. They draw comparisons from Minus the Bear and As Tall As Lions, but as Guthrie points out, they are creating something completely unique. This is mostly due to their different musical backgrounds. "What's interesting about our musical creation or our synergy, if you will, is what we listen to by ourselves is completely different. Where as I am soul—Gary Clark Jr. and Allen Stone—Steve came from a background of progressive math rock. The synergy of that, I think, gives us a very unique sound.” LaCour continued, “It really feels like we're creating something different that people haven't heard before.”
 
Just by listening to the mixes and the subtle tweaks to get it just right, you can tell this is a well crafted work by some seriously talented musicians. For all its intricacies, it’s very groovy and poppy, which is usually hard to get out of technical acts. “From Steve's musical background, we have elements of math but we’re more groovy than anything, which makes it more palatable than most math rock is,” explained Guthrie.
 
Hartman said, “Palatable is the term I always use, because we want the songs first and foremost to appeal to everybody.”

The vulnerability of lyrics and sheer sexiness of the groove gives Pink Royal something truly special, and I personally can't wait till the world can hear it. The guys recently released the single “Give Me Something Real,” a very nice teaser until the record drops.
 
--Chris Mowry
 
 
Pink Royal will be releasing Taps tonight at The Granada in Lawrence, with special guests Sharp 9, Toy Cartel, and Spencer Mackenzie Brown. It’s a free, all-ages show presented by KJHK 90.7 FM and starts at 8 p.m. If you want to catch them in KC, you can see them at Middle of the Map Fest on Saturday, April 25, at The Riot Room at 3 p.m. for I Heart Local Music’s day party. Facebook event page.
 
 

 


The Deli's SXSW 2015 Issue is out digitally!

Ladies and Gents,

The SXSW 2015 issue of The Deli can be now read online here. 10k copies of this baby will flood the streets of Austin during SXSW Music Week.

It will be a busy time for us as usual, with the madness of the Stompbox Exhibit in full swing, joined this year by a sister expo called Synth Space!

So yeah... if you are attracted to nerds, come and see us at the SXSW Music Gear Expo inside the Austin Convention Center from March 19 to March 21 (11am-6pm)!

We'll also have a small live showcase, here are the details:

THE DELI'S SXSW 2015 SHOWCASE

FACEBOOK EVENT
WHEN: Friday 03.20, 4pm
WHERE: FLatstock Stage (Austin Convention Center)

4.00 Prinze George (DC Area)
4.45 Lazyeyes (Brooklyn, NY)
5.30 Roger Sellers (Austin)

See y'all in Austin!

The Deli's Staff


Folk Alliance 2015 conference celebrates music from around the world

(Photo above of Betse and Clarke)
 
The sentimental thank you Facebook posts have all gone out. The Instagram pictures have all gotten their double tap hearts of approval. The videos of various raucous late night room parties have been shared. The hangovers have (mostly) subsided. Over the next 12 months, the hazy “remember that time at Folk Alliance when…” stories will joyously be told and retold. As most of us return to the wicked monotony of the work week, we must finally accept that the 2015 Folk Alliance International conference is over.
 
Simply put, it was an unparalleled celebration of music over the course of 6 days. For those who did not attend or are not familiar with the conference, it’s like a musical version of Disney Land AND Disney World combined into two hotels with a 4-minute skywalk in between. There was something going on most days in excess of 20 hours. You could rise early to partake in group yoga and meditation before spending the morning in seminars, classes, or the open exhibit hall. Catch a showcase or speaker in the afternoon. Head down to the lobby where a jam with musicians from 4 different continents has spontaneously busted out. As evening hits, the official showcases begin in the ballrooms. As night rolls in, one could argue the real fun begins as damn near every room on floors 5, 6, and 7 of the Westin hosts a showcase put on by organizations across the world. Partake in the various libations flowing freely throughout and wander in and out of rooms listening to hundreds of performers until the wee hours of the morn. Make a plethora of new friends from Australia, Canada, Japan, France, etc. Maybe catch a few zzz’s and then wake up and do it all over again. It is truly unbelievable the sheer amount of activity crammed into a relatively small amount of time and space. Therefore, it would be impossible to offer a full recap, but there were things that stuck out from the sensory overload. Here are some of the highlights.
 
Official KC Showcases/Local Representation
 
 
Wednesday night saw a slew of official showcases played solely by local artists. These musicians did a fine job representing the strength and variety in our music scene. Driving down to the conference, I was treated to Ruddy Swain being live broadcasted on KKFI 90.1 FM from their showcase. A stripped down version of The Latenight Callers (pictured above) offered a sultry set of noir pop tunes. Dollar Fox emerged from a somewhat lengthy hiatus with a slimmed down lineup and new musical focus towards pure rock ‘n roll.  Some of the rooms featured “in the round”-style setups with 4 artists trading performances for hour-long blocks (memorable acts included Amy Farrand, Vi Tran, Cheri Woods, Jen Harris, Ben Byard, amongst many others). The Hardship Letters closed down their room with a fantastic set of emotional rock songs.
 
Upstairs, the KC Music Collective Tower Room showcases (put together by some of the fine folks from Midwest Music Foundation, Money Wolf Music, and others deeply involved in the Kansas City arts scene) further showed that our little slice of “flyover” country is not to be ignored. Some comments coming later on specific highlights from these rooms.
 
 
 
It’s an odd thing to wander into a random hotel room around midnight and hear a group that describes itself as “a real dance-along turbo-Nordic-folk band which brings back the energy, purity, and sincerity of Estonian folk music.” Featuring a 12-string guitar, a cajon, a jaw harp and more sing-songy group vocals than you can shake a kepp at (thank you Google Translate), this trio was delightfully entertaining, also working the crowded room between each song with gusto.
 
 
 
 
(Photo by Tyler Bentson Jennings)
 
Another “I wonder what is going on in this room …” discovery, this duo from Los Angeles (real names Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso) served up an impactful set of smartly written acoustic pop songs. The real draw here is the sensational natural blend of their vocals. Some voices just seem made for each other with the ability to weave into a singular force of vocal performance. Ferris and Caruso have found their respective vocal soulmates, the kind of perfect harmonies that send a gripping shiver down the backbone of the listener.
 
 
 
 
I caught a few minutes of their set on Wednesday night, but it was the performance on Friday that really stuck out. A little less “official,” a little more raucous, a little better sound, and a little more just all-around fun, the band took us through vast points of their catalog with the jangly precision that we’ve come to expect from the country rock sextet. Vocalists Jimmy Fitzner and Lauren Krum are another example of two voices that join forces so damn well as one. Krum also exhibits such exuberance on stage, bobbing and weaving to the groove with a warm childlike cackle that just makes you grin.
 
 
 
 
This was my first Carswell and Hope show, surprising since they are based in Lawrence and it is musically right in my wheelhouse. Songwriter and lead vocalist Nick Carswell clearly knows how to write intelligent, poignant pop songs. Dreamy and textured in all the right ways, the band behind him (especially keyboardist Austin Keys) provided the perfect complement of additional instrumentation without getting in the way of the raw beauty of the material. It ends up sounding something akin to the more recent mature work of Nada Surf or the poppier moments of the Sigur Ros catalogue. Safe to say, I will be checking them out much more moving forward.
 
 
 
 
(Photo by Michael Byars)
 
Another local artist I am kicking myself for not being more familiar with before this event, Arsenia played a very entertaining set of tunes, both while strumming a harp and a cappella. He has such an impressive appearance and performance, like folk vaudeville with a voice that is just unbelievably strong.
 
 
 
 
In an event with this sheer amount of activity, there is a good chance no two reviews will read the same. Everyone will see a different batch of performances. Everyone will look for their favorite attributes. That is the inherent beauty of an event of this magnitude.
 
That said, The HillBenders should and will end up on most Best of FAI2015 lists. It’s the age old story of bluegrass band does Tommy by the Who (my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, if you could not tell). Not selections from Tommy. The whole damn thing. Beginning to end.
 
Now, I will admit that I don’t have an avid knowledge of Tommy. I have heard the record a few times, but I would never describe it as important to me; it’s not even my favorite The Who album. The HillBenders are already fantastic in their own right, but the treatment the Springfield quintet gave Tommy was inspirational and transcendent. The musicality was there, the harmonies were brilliant, the stage presence was vigorous. They took an album featuring arguably one of the most powerful percussionists in rock ‘n roll history and blew the cover off it with no percussion whatsoever.
 
If I saw anything at the conference that I would label as “about to break,” it would be this.  
 
 
The Cody Wyoming Show
 
 
God love this man, I won’t soon forget his late night showcase in one of the KC Music Collective rooms. If ever a public event was suited to one individual, it would be Folk Alliance 2015 for Cody Wyoming. It was far from a perfect performance, but more importantly it was a perfect example of the power and purpose of our community as Wyoming invited several random musicians in the room to join his set minutes before he started. This sentiment was shown time and time again throughout the event, but it was his showcase that sticks out in that regard.
 
 
The Dollar Fox Room Party Collective
 
 
(Photo by Michael Byars)
 
Rivaling the aforementioned Wyoming for the “Who is Folk Alliance Conference 2015 best suited for?” award, what I will call the Dollar Fox Room Party Collective rolled through the various private showcase floors like bearded ball lightning, leaving a trail of empty whiskey bottles, knocked over furniture, and amazed faces in their wake. It’s hard to encapsulate (or remember) who all was involved at what points. Mostly consisting of members of various Money Wolf Music artists, it’s probably a shorter list of who wasn’t involved in the horde (hell, even I sat in with them for a set late Saturday night). In an event where it is very easy to be forgotten as “just another dude playing an acoustic guitar and singing sad songs,” this group took great care to make sure their show was special, brash and, above all else, damn entertaining. Whiskey, oh whiskey indeed…
 
 
I really could write for days about everything I saw, but those are just a few that stuck out. I am sure there were countless other wonderful performances I missed. Folk Alliance 2015 was an amazing event to experience, both as a performer and member of the media. My overall suggestion: do whatever you have to do to attend next year (and any other year you can).
 
The countdown begins. Only 357 shopping days until Folk Alliance 2016.
 
--Zach Hodson
 

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings begins production. He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects. 


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