Text and images by Sydney Schaefer.
In support of Sunlit Youth, Local Natives set out on a world tour just a few short days after the album’s release. Kicking off in Tempe, AZ last month, this must-see tour made its way across the country throughout and finally made a stop in Philadelphia last week, when the band played to a packed Electric Factory crowd.
With opening support from Charlotte Day Wilson, it was a stacked bill indeed. Playing songs off of her debut release, CDW, Wilson extremely powerful singing voice radiated throughout the venue, hooking the crowd almost instantly. The warm, twinkling lights played a perfect part into the mood of Wilson’s set, which was flawless from beginning to end.
Upon finishing her set, the crowd waited eagerly for Local Natives to take the stage. The audience erupted instantly as soon as the LA boys made their appearance. Their set began with “Past Lives,” the second song off of Sunlit Youth, followed by “Wide Eyes,” a fan favorite, which is the first song off of the band’s debut release, Gorilla Manor, released back in 2010.
The past six years have been filled with nothing less than absolutely amazing music from these guys. Energy radiated from the crowd, which was clearly felt by the band, and vice versa, resulting in a non-stop energetic set from beginning to end.
When the band finished their set with “Who Knows, Who Cares,” another song off of Gorilla Manor, the crowd just wasn’t accepting the end of this amazing show. Once the band disappeared behind the curtains of the stage, the crowd grew louder still, not letting up until Local Natives came back for a few more songs. The band reappeared on stage to play a two song encore, consisting of “Sea of Years,” the last song on Sunlit Youth and “Sun Hands,” off Gorilla Manor.
You & I
Masters Dark Days
Fountain of Youth
Who Knows, Who Cares
Sea of Years
Over the last two decades, the DIY community of gear designers and builders has grown exponentially. This is due to the endless resources made available by the boom of the Internet, which have allowed many boutique manufacturers – like DiPinto Guitars – to eventually see their wares grace the stages of touring bands, or featured in magazines and sold in large retail outlets.
Philadelphia is home to several of these builders. The city’s music community and affordable space allows for anyone with an idea and the initiative to get started building and experimenting with their musical creations, whether they’re from pre-packaged kits or original designs
Walking up to the small brick building tucked behind the Piazza in Northern Liberties, you can hear the sax solo from Bowie’s “Young Americans” flowing through the walls. Inside, Fran Blanche has created her home base (and home) for designing and manufacturing guitar pedals as Frantone.
“The jukebox is a little loud,” she says, pointing to the vintage jukebox in the corner. “I like it loud. It goes a lot louder than that.”
Looking around the space, it’s pretty clear that she does, in fact like it loud, or at least likes a lot of sound. Shelves on every wall are covered with vintage radios, stereo equipment, speakers and amps. Two huge tables are covered in pieces of pedals, soldering equipment and general clutter. She quickly assures that there is, in fact, a bed in the small space that doubles as her living quarters.
Another shelf is lined with electronics manuals and textbooks. That shelf is probably the most representative of Blanche’s career of making pedals.
“I taught myself electronics while I was working retail,” Blanche says. “I spent a decade in retail management, pretty much right out of my teens.”
She moved from job to job in search of better hours and better pay, selling everything from shoes to videocassettes and framed pictures. Eventually, she ended up working for a rental business, which required her to repair different machines, like popcorn machines and chainsaws.
It was through her exposure to different jobs and affinity toward tinkering that Blanche landed where she is now. She took the time to immerse herself in the practice of creating guitar pedals by hand, despite having no formal background in electronics. She operated on her own interest and the things she’s learned over the years.
During those years, she went through ups and downs with Frantone. After stepping away in 2007, she brought the business back this year with the knowledge of the industry and how she can navigate it.
While Blanche is a veteran of the business with a down-to-earth (verging on pessimistic) outlook—she sees survival as the mark of success—others are just getting their toes wet in the gear-building world.
Guy Juravich is possibly the polar opposite of Blanche. While Blanche is soft-spoken, humble and gives the impression that she’s content to spend her days tinkering in her workshop/home, Juravich has a bounce to his walk, a salesman’s projection to his voice and a lot to say.
Juravich invented the Spinbal, a device that allows drummers to spin their cymbals for extended periods of time. That creates longer sustain, allows kinetic cymbal designs, increases the lifespan of cymbals and makes drummers just look cool. After trying numerous ways to get the cymbals to spin, he had his “eureka” moment after a literal run-in with a skateboarder.
“I was walking home from Whole Foods here with my groceries,” he says. “This skater literally knocks me over. He was on the sidewalk. It literally spread my groceries everywhere, and I looked at him and I had this a-ha moment: The wheel was still spinning.”
After that, he realized that he could fit simple skateboard bearings into a 3-D printed bushing, a small metal tube to reduce friction of an axel, to allow cymbals to spin for a long time. Minutes, even.
He had this idea after playing in a touring burlesque show. One show in Texas, with a world-class lasso artist, particularly impacted his future of invention.
“Packed house, big night,” says Juravich, explaining how on that night, he would spin his cymbals every chance he got. And at the end of that night, as the band was being introduced and receiving the typical polite clapping, something different happened.
“This was a standing ovation,” he remembers. “It was like the end-of-a-movie slow clap. Jaws were down. Audience members were, like, screaming about my performance.”
So he got to thinking? What did he do differently at this show that he hadn’t done at previous shows? Was this just a good crowd?
“I spun my cymbals, like, aggressively, the whole time,” he realized. “Thanks to Dr. Lasso. Just a weird fuckin’ experience. So then I started doing it for the rest of the tour and the reaction was the same in every town.”
For Brian Hamilton, paving the path to building his own pedal company was rooted in more practical means: a lifelong journey of not finding the sounds he wanted from other manufacturers’ gear.
“I play keyboards, so right off the bat, I’ve been at a disadvantage for buying pedals, because most pedals are not made for keyboardists in general,” he says, sitting with one leg tucked up under the other, head-to-toe in black clothing contrasting against the bevy of colorful pedals lining a corner of the workspace in front of him.
The office for Hamilton’s company, smallsound/bigsound, is nestled in the third floor of a warehouse space in Olde Kensington – a spot Hamilton, well-known for his keyboard role in the band Cymbals Eat Guitars, has shared with his partner Gabrielle Silverlight, of ZOLA jewelry, since moving to Philadelphia seven years ago. Oscilloscopes, drills, soldering irons and several shelves of electronic parts wrap around the length of Hamilton’s desk and the shelf above it. On the floor nearby is a small guitar amp, another on top. He plans on opening a storefront in his home turf of Fishtown in the future.
“I was playing in a band in college, and I was super into Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine and bands that had a similar warbly aesthetic,” he says. “And I played mostly electro-mechanical keyboards like Rhodes and Wurlitzers, so I really wanted to get that out of those keyboards, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it [with other manufacturers’ pedals], so I thought that I would try to figure it out myself.”
It was at his time at Berklee College of Music that he started experimenting with electronics—first by circuit-bending following books by bending icon Reed Ghazala, and then by learning how to read schematics and understanding what components do what in a circuit until he felt confident experimenting with his own designs. The first design was the Team Awesome, a bass fuzz with a clean blend designed with the bassist of Hamilton’s first serious touring band, Bon Savants, in mind.
Soon, Hamilton’s products ended up on the pedal boards of nationally recognized artists like Bon Iver, Pretty Lights, Dinosaur Jr., AWOLNATION, The Tallest Man on Earth, Saosin, Modest Mouse, Brand New and Philly’s own Modern Baseball and Mumblr.
“I’ve noticed that I haven’t really burrowed my way into one particular genre or niche,” he says, referring to the variety of genres represented in his clientele. Considering his other job is as a touring musician, he’s happy to point out that the crossover between the two is more than just a practical sense.
“Some people know the band and they’re like, ‘Oh, I really like your band, that’s how I found out about your pedals,’” he says. “But then it’s really nice when the reverse happens … like you get a tour because someone knows about the pedals.”
With the buzz that’s been building around his company and his band over these years, it’s not surprising that when he opened pre-orders for Pretty Years, a limited-edition distortion pedal in honor of Cymbals Eat guitars’ upcoming album of the same name. The first batch sold out in two hours. The second batch followed suit.
But Hamilton doesn’t consider any of these events as defining moments in his career as a builder or musician.
“There’s so many ways of being successful and there’s little levels of success,” he muses.
He’s right. Hamilton is happy being able to split his time creating exotic pedals and touring with his band. For some, like Blanche, success is keeping the lights on so you can see what you’re constructing in your cozy little space.
“That’s what business is: pearls and crap,” Blanche says. “There are those fleeting moments of incredibleness, and then just periods of … shit, you know?”
One has to learn to take the good and the bad.
“And then every now and then you just have an awesome day,” Blanche continues, “and then weeks later you’re pulling teeth.”
For Juravich, it’s creating something that changes the way drummers think of creating sounds and protecting their equipment.
“The success isn’t how you corner the market,” Juravich says. “It’s how do you change the market? Change the market. This is why I feel like it’s a success.”
WIN FREE TICKETS: See the TJ Kong Halloween Murdershow 2016 with Straw Hats, Laser Background and More @ Underground Arts.
Underground Arts has a pretty killer lineup full of Philly talent on Saturday and we’re giving away tickets to the show. See TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb, Straw Hats, Laser Background as The Zombies, Grubby Little Hands and Ceramic Animal all in costume!
If you want a pair of tickets, email us freeJUMPstuff@gmail.com (put “KONG” in the subject line and your full name in the content box). If you don’t want to take a chance, you can purchase tickets online here.
UltraMantis Black, still a key figure in Philadelphia’s Chikara wrestling scene more than a year after his retirement, has spent much of 2016 possessed by a demon. He’s sat ringside, cackling, as his hexed brothers bring him fresh soldiers for the accursed beyond.
His commitment to character means that UltraMantis hasn’t broken all year – the once friendly legend, usually happy to sign a picture for you during intermission, has only appeared in Chikara as a knight in satan’s service.
Tonight, he’ll temporarily shrug off that storyline and create hardcore thunder at Kung Fu Necktie with his band, also called UltraMantis Black, because sometimes, things are more important than a wrestling persona. Sometimes you have to fight the Earth War.
Whether wrestling or fronting a punk band, UltraMantis is a diehard vegan and animal rights activist. His recent EP They Make Plans to Poison Us, comes in a cardboard sleeve, wrapped in a PETA magazine. And that EP is four tracks of music that can and is accurately tagged both “ecodefense” and “powerviolence” (a strain of grindcore that focuses on being fast and explosive while working through complicated time signatures).
In advance of tonight‘s performance, Alex Rudolph interviewed UltraMantis to ask about the differences in performing on a concert stage and in the ring, his influences and where a vegan space bug can find a good cup of green tea.
As a wrestler, you’ve always talked about veganism and protecting the Earth, and there aren’t many wrestlers who do that. Punk, hardcore especially, is all about expressing those types of sentiments. Can you speak to the differences between talking politics in Chikara and talking politics in a hardcore band?
I think that in wrestling, not as many fans have been exposed to those kinds of issues before. In hardcore, especially in the era I came up in, it was almost a given that a band would have some sort of message. But you don’t go to a wrestling show and expect to find animal rights literature at the merch table.
I think it can be very eye opening to someone who has never considered these type of issues before. In hardcore, you are speaking to audiences that are generally already familiar with these issues. The casual wrestling fan may not be and it can be very eye opening to them. If someone grabs a pamphlet and it causes them to reconsider their eating habits and it prompts them to start to make more compassionate choices I consider that a small victory.
Why do underground wrestlers have better music taste than other athletes? As a big baseball fan, I’ve been conditioned to wince whenever a new player walks out because I know I’m seconds away from hearing butt rock. I don’t think anybody in 2016 is listening to Shaq or John Cena rap albums with a straight face.
Independent wrestlers tend to fall outside the norm. To succeed in this business, you not only have to be an athlete but you also have to be creative. A lot of that creativity comes from having more diverse tastes in things such as music, art, etc.
Your mask/identity is clearly based on Kamen Rider but did The Locust’s embrace of similar imagery influence your initial decision at all?
Would UltraMantis Black, the band or the person, make any kind of music outside of powerviolence? I know your music taste is pretty eclectic but is powerviolence a natural extension of UltraMantis Black? It’s maybe an obvious question and I wouldn’t expect you to pick up a guitar and sound like Jonathan Richman but I’m curious.
The type of music we play best suits the message we are trying to put forth. Our sound may evolve into something different but the music will always be aggressive and urgent. It fits what we are trying to say.
Is it difficult assembling a band this muscular? Melt-Banana are sort of the U2 of your genre, whereas most bands that play fast, heavy music in weird time signatures regularly cycle through members. There’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to the Dillinger Escape Plan‘s past players, for example.
The band I put together is made up of individuals that I have known for many years and can trust. We all share similar beliefs and stand behind what we are saying. The band is a solid unit and the lineup that we have now will most likely stay the way it is for the foreseeable future.
What are three punk albums, 7″s, performances, whatever that people would be surprised to know influence the way you approach your music?
A big influence for me, especially lyrically, are a lot of the politically charged bands of the mid 90s. Bands like Chokehold, Born Against and the Ebullition records bands. Of course, the the animal rights message of many of the vegan bands of that time also influenced me greatly.
Musically, the band draws some of its sound from the more dissonant sounding bands like Groundwork, Rorschach and Resurrection.
Your wrestling persona is pretty jovial, while your music is dead serious. Is there any room for camp in hardcore?
Only Crucial Youth.
What’s the best way to contribute to winning the Earth War?
Through personal change. Going vegan is one of the most important things and individual can do to help save this planet. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of water consumption, deforestation and pollution. It is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than the transportation industry. It is contributing to pretty much every environmental ill that is currently destroying out planet. Not to mention the incredible cruelty and torture and suffering the animals must face.
What’s the best green tea you’ve ever had?
Thanks for the interview. Support your local scene. Go vegan.
The scene at the last Beat Street Jam at Silk City was… inviting. Considering the shitload of talent overflowing from within and scattered outside of the venue, that may feel counterintuitive. But alas it was a super chill and welcoming vibe that permeated the monthly jam session hosted by Killiam Shakespeare.
Killiam is a band of instrumentalists founded by producer and drummer Steve Mckie (pictured above with Lady Alma) and keys player/producer Corey Bernhard. The two met touring together as part of Bilal’s band. Between the two of them, they’ve toured with artists including John Legend, Jazmine Sullivan, Common, Joss Stone, Charlie Puth and a host of others. Their recent project Killiam Season 1 is a compelling compilation of soulful music, each track scratched together by Philly legend DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Bernhard was living in Brooklyn and would often travel down to West Philly to hang in Mckie’s studio where they further bonded and worked on music together. His frequent visits led to the band’s formation almost one year ago.
“We were working on a whole bunch of music before we even really started Killiam Shakespeare,” said Bernhard. “About, like, a year ago, we ended up feeling like we had to put all this music out so we started a band and production team and were able to kind of bring the songs to life with Killiam.”
Beat Street is a community extension of the feeling both Bernhard and Mckie felt as touring musicians for other artists. They were artists brimming with original music, but no outlet to share them.
“Beat Street Jam is basically that platform where we open up… we invite people from all over the world, all over the states,” said Mckie. “It’s a 3-song set and jam. We jam and the format is basically vibing and connecting together on stage and projecting the energy out to the crowd. You know, walk away hearing some very cool stuff as if you were in the studio creating with us.”
A collaborative air electrifies the room. At one point during Killiam’s set in September, the master of ceremonies for the evening, singer Aaron Camper, began improvising to their music. Reesa Renee, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter, jumped onto the stage and began riffing off of him, engaging him in an impromptu duet that that the crowd ate up.
Lady Alma, the heart of Philly’s soul and of King Britt fame, could be spotted by the bar. She came to show love to her friends and fellow peers.
“I am here to support Killiam and watch them rock,” she said.“And my home girl Reesa Renee from the DMV!”
John Legend’s touring music director, Man Man, was seen coolly chatting with peers. Ambient Philly rapper André Altrez was off to the side, nodding his head in deep appreciation of the musicians on stage.
Running into tastemakers happily blending in with everyone else is to be expected.
“You’ll see Jazmine Sullivan in the crowd just getting a drink,” said Mckie. “You’ll see James Poyser hanging out with us. All of these people are my friends. They’re amazing friends. And they’re coming out to help support and put on for Philadelphia. The city. The music.”
CJ Branch & Mario Crew were featured last month. They’re touring musicians and grateful to Killiam for allowing them the channel to showcase their own original work. They’ve toured with the likes of Kindred the Family Soul, Chance the Rapper, Jazmine Sullivan, Nico & Vinz, Fabolous and the cast of Empire.
Rock Pop Soul band Johnny Popcorn performed after traveling from New York’s Hot 97 radio station earlier that day. Hezekiah, the band’s lead singer along with Jani Coral, has a similar background to the other musicians. He’s written and produced for Bilal and formed Johnny Popcorn as a means to come to his own as an independent artist.
All in all, it was a dope night of fellowship and most of all, amazing music.
Join Killiam and their peers for the one year anniversary session October 25th at Silk City.
Esperanza Spalding has been performing for more than 25 years, since she was a 5-year-old violinist with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She’s since traveled around the world and shared the stage (and recording studio) with some of the biggest names in music.
In 2011, she topped Drake, Mumford & Sons, Florence + The Machine and Justin Beiber to be named the Best New Artist by the Grammy Awards. She won three more Grammys in recent years.
On Tuesday, she brings her formidable talents to the TLA and we’re giving away tickets to the show.
To win a pair of tickets, email us freeJUMPstuff@gmail.com (put “ESPERANZA” in the subject line and your full name in the content box).
If you don’t want to take a chance, you can purchase tickets online here.
It’s always a thrill to see legendary acts, even when they show up on stage looking like the suburban, middle-aged parents that they are.
Pioneering California punk band and progenitors of pop punk (for better or worse) Descendents took to the stage at the Electric Factory yesterday, celebrating the release of their first new album – Hypercaffium Spazzinate – in 12 years . They launched right into the music and immediately, the whole floor area began swaying and moshing.
Frontman Milo Auckerman took a moment between songs to say, “I have this nightmare of waking up on November 9, I get my cup of coffee and I pull out my newspaper and I’m like, ‘Oh my god. Everything sucks!'”
It was a great night of pent up teen angst and societal defiance, you know, everything punk is supposed to be about. The crowd loved it, demanding two encores. For a moment, it seemed like a third might come as well, though sadly, it did not.
Canadian punks Fucked Up were a blast just before Descendents. Lead singer Mr. Damian spent most of the band’s set in the crowd, screaming in fans’ faces as they screamed his lyrics right back at him.
Night Birds opened the night. They had talent, for sure, but their performance was way overshadowed by Mr. Damian’s antics and the amazing drumming by Descendents’ Bill Stevenson. That man inspired countless drummers over the past 40 years and he still pounds the drums like he’s the skinny teen he once was.