CLOAKZ is a new band, founded by Zachary Ciancaglini and comprised of musicians who play in other bands. They released their debut EP, Semi-Autographic, in April and we’re premiering the first video from the album.
We caught up with Zachary to learn about the new project.
CLOAKZ? Who is that and what are you guys all about?
CLOAKZ is comprised of myself, Zachary Ciancaglini (guitar/vocals), Rusty Langley (guitar), Tony Aquillino (bass/vocals) and Jay Yachetta (drums).
As a brand new band, it’s hard to say what we are all about but I can definitely tell you that we are mainly just four dudes looking to have fun playing indie rock ‘n’ roll in Philly basements. Up until recently, CLOAKZ was solely a recording project but now with the recent EP release, video release and live band stirring, we are anxious to get out there and into your ears.
You guys all have other projects going, right? How is CLOAKZ different?
Yeah, we’re all musicians in other projects as well. I play in a NYC based band called Raccoon Fighter and the other guys play in multiple local Philly acts. In Raccoon Fighter, I am the drummer so CLOAKZ is certainly a big change for me personally but overall I think this band has more of a laid back vibe. Obviously, taking the band seriously but knowing that all our eggs aren’t in one basket so to speak. It seems to make things a little less tense, at least for me.
Raccoon Fighter still performs, right?
Oh yeah! We gig pretty frequently in NYC and surrounding areas. Last week, we did a festival in Montreal and we are getting ready for the Northside Festival in Brooklyn in a couple weeks. So yeah, I drive back and forth from Philly to NY a lot. It’s not that bad when traffic behaves.
What was the process behind Semi-Autographic?
This EP was a collaboration of songs I had written while working at a recording studio in Brooklyn in 2012. I made a demo album on my phone between recording sessions and it caught the ear of producer Alex Lipsen, who also was one of the studio owners. We linked back up towards the end of 2014 in Alex’s new studio and began working on the old demos along with some new material. The finished product was the Semi-Autographic EP.
It is the result of having something with mild potential sitting on a back-burner and then brought to life years later with the help of the right ears and gear.
What’s going on in this video?
Here, you basically have me trying to get to band practice and failing miserably, multiple times. After already being late, I seem to run into a bunch of problems and shady people along the way, stopping me from reaching my goal.
Without giving it all away let’s just say the day and night turns out to be way different then I had imagined. The idea for the video was a collaboration between myself and the fine gentlemen over at Young Heart Productions.
Where does CLOAKZ go from here?
The rest of 2016 is going to be really exciting for us. We are sculpting our live show and lineup and looking forward to getting on the Philly circuit. We’re also working on getting new material ready for another release later in the year, along with more music videos and all that good stuff. Stay tuned!
When Beach Slang played Union Transfer on Saturday, closing out their month-long tour, the night felt just as much like a welcoming home celebration as it did a family party, like the place where everyone wanted to be and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
The show opened with Richmond-based, alternative pop Positive No.
“Thank you for actually coming up front. That’s really nice,” lead singer Tracy Wilson said as the floor was slowly filling up and coming to life.
Sock-clad and full of punchy energy, Wilson alternated between singing into the mic and directly into the crowd, amplifying the band’s sounds.
Next up was Dyke Drama, the solo project of G.L.O.S.S.’s Sadie Switchblade, playing songs off Tender Resignation such as “Thelma & Louise,” “I’m Just Sayin,’” and the direct, catchy, and undeniably relatable “Crying In A Bathroom Stall.”
Switchblade jumped around and smoothly glided to match the sounds emanating out of her guitar. During the last song, members of the soon-to-perform Potty Mouth dashed onto the stage, showering Dyke Drama in an array of Silly String.
Bands playing the show flanked both sides of the stage, radiating support, positivity and sincerity. Throughout the set, members would fill the space between songs with heartfelt confessionals, talking about how their band and tour mates meant so much to them and how much they had impacted their lives.
Northampton’s Potty Mouth delivered their straightforward alt-rock sound with a cool edge and attitude, opening with the heavy and consuming sound of “The Bomb” off their self-titled EP released last August. They also performed “Truman Show” and “Cherry Picking.”
The alt-rock/punk shindy continued when the crowd broke out in unison to sing “Happy Birthday” to bassist Ally Einbinder—with balloons anchored in the background.
Shortly thereafter, Beach Slang took the stage and as if he even had to say it, lead singer and guitarist James Alex Snyder shouted, “We are Beach Slang and we are here to punch you right in the heart!”
The band dove directly into the guitar-blaring, compelling fury and honesty of “Ride The Wild Haze” off The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us. The crowd filled in the blanks of “Noisy Heaven” when Snyder’s voice left the mic, emphasizing the anthemic line “Good love is not safe.”
The night saw a variety of covers such as Jawbreaker’s “Boxcar,” Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” and “Territorial Pissings” by Nirvana, with the members of Potty Mouth leading. Beach Slang also played a song that will be featured on their next record, to be released in September. They performed their songs dynamically and cohesively, with a full and tight sound, throwing even more life into each one. They were constantly waving to the crowd, calling out to friends and family members present, and inviting people they knew on stage.
As the night and tour was drawing to a close—though the crowd got to enjoy a few extra songs as Beach Slang played past the final call time—members continued to punctuate the set with genuine divulgence.
Drummer JP Flexner came up and addressed the crowd, “It’s the beginning of more fun stuff … Not the end of it.”
River City Extension, the raucous 8-piece indie rock band from Toms River, had a good run from the mid-00s until 2015. They toured extensively and shared the stage with some of the biggest indie rock acts of the era. Their music burst from the mind of founder/frontman Joe Michelini, backed by a horn player, a violinist and other very talented and passionate musicians.
But the band played their last show in November and several of the band members are now focusing on other projects.
Michelini has since moved to Philly and has been recording new music under the banner of American Trappist. On June 4th, he’ll perform the new material at Ortlieb’s.
We talked to him about his new music and life in Philadelphia. (Photo by Chris Loupos).
Where does the name American Trappist come from?
American Trappist worked for a few reasons. For the last couple of years I’ve fed myself a pretty steady diet of beer and Leonard Cohen.
When I think of Leonard Cohen, I think of a monastic approach to life and creativity, and it’s been healthy for me to adopt that approach in some ways. When I was in Belgium visiting the Trappist monasteries, something about their philosophy spoke to me. I felt peace. I knew I wanted my spirituality to be a part of what I was making, even if it had nothing to do with organized religion. I also wanted to make something new and distinctly American.
Coincidentally, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts just started brewing beer. That makes their beer the first and only certified Trappist beer to be brewed in the United States. I think they are making something new and distinctly American. Both of us, of course, are also trying to pay the bills.
The songwriting and recording processes must have been more difficult in an 8-piece band like River City Extension. How have things been different on your own?
Things have been different in so many ways. Songwriting and what it means to me has changed a lot.
I feel more aware of myself and how what I’m writing represents or intentionally skews whatever I’m going through. I pay more attention to details now and more time is spent on every song. I would say it’s easier to get an intentional result that I’m really happy with.
At the same time, it’s still very much about sitting down and being open to that supernatural visitation that whispers an album in your ear. I think the biggest difference is that I now sit down more often. As an adult, writing becomes something you must do deliberately. A significant amount of my time is spent trying to quiet my heart and mind to better prepare myself for the next work. I still bounce a lot of ideas off a creative council made up of friends, musicians, etc.
I have no interest in the music industry or entertainment politics. This is also the first record I engineered on my own. A few friends came by to fill various roles but I spent most of that time alone. It was easier to get into the headspace I needed to do vocals, I think. That saved time and ultimately it was easier to gain momentum in a session. The whole thing was very fluid.
How does the music compare?
Hard to say. It’s all very linear to me. I’m rarely thinking about the last thing that I made while I’m making something new. I think it can be poisonous to look back and say “that’s not me anymore.” That’s now how time works, anyway.
It’s also weird that anyone tries to follow themselves up. I think that happens naturally if you’re open to growth and art that you don’t understand. The music is definitely different, but it came out how I heard it in my head for the most part. Learning to close the gap between my mind and the finished product has been a good thing for me. The more songs you hear, the more tools you gather, the easier it can be to do that.
I’ll always be grateful for the natural intervention that goes on, but it’s nice to be aware of what you’re responsible for and what just happened on its own. This album was picked while it was ripe. I think that has something to do with it all. I didn’t sit on it for a long time.
The new music will be released in three parts? How so, and why?
I decided to put it out in three pieces for a few reasons.
First, there was a better chance of everyone hearing every song. Second, I wanted to draw out the release process and make the record an event that lasted the entire summer. It’s an experiment. Maybe people will pay less attention. I’m not sure. But to me it made sense.
The other thing is that I wrote a lot of different types of songs after River City. We probably could have tried to produce them all with a similar vibe, but it seemed like more fun to really augment the production the individual songs were suggesting. What piece of the record each song ended up on was based on the mood it implied, all things considered: production, lyrics, etc. I think the three pieces sound good front to back one after the other as well.
The fact that all the songs were written in the same two years makes it an album to me. It’s a snapshot in that way. Maybe the stylistic differences will be jarring at points, but that’s life. You adapt and it informs who you are. Sudden change has definitely been a theme in my life recently and it shows on this record.
How did you wind up in Philadelphia?
My mom grew up in Bucks County and my Dad went to Temple, so as kids we never spent much time in New York. It’s been a long time coming and the timing was right. I wanted to make work in a new space and be surrounded by music and artists I didn’t know. Toms River is just over an hour away. It’s a good platform for myself and my fiancé to debut new material. It’s big but it feels small. We like that.
There is a big community of musicians here. Does being in Philly influence your sound at all?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t know if the scene right now is directly influencing the music I’m making, but it influences the way I think about my music and about music in general. This record is definitely not what I would call the “Philly sound.” It’s nice to be part of a scene but I would never want “the sound” at any point in time to directly influence what I’m making. I’m not good enough at predicting trends anyway.
I think if there is a “sound” and it’s a new sound and it’s going to take more than one band to get that sound to the world, a scene can be a good thing. More often than not though, it’s one band getting popular and a bunch of other bands trying to catch a break by making something similar, and they’re willing to sacrifice their own identity to do that.
Everyone has unique work to offer. Telling someone else’s story from someone else’s perspective over your own story and perspective is a disservice to any scene and to art in general, in my opinion.
What’s been the best part about being here over the past few months?
I’ve met so many great people. It has forced me to understand things I didn’t want to understand or didn’t think I had to understand. Popping the bubble of the suburbs has been good for me.
What can we expect from the show at Ortlieb’s?
I’ll play all of the songs I’m going to release this summer. The arrangements will vary a bit from the record. It’ll be fun. Buy a ticket.
Text and images by Holli Stephens.
The rainy forecast may have kept Ardmore Music Hall’s Live From the Lot festival from being near their Main Line venue on Saturday but the jazz-inspired day of music made for an enormous party at the Electric Factory.
Philadelphia natives The Phonies set the tone for the day with their upbeat jams filled with various brass instrumentation. As more and more people wandered through the Electric Factory’s doors, it became more apparent why the Live From the Lot festival was so special. It brought people together of all ages and cultures to enjoy a common genre of funky, feel good beats.
Pimps of Joytime were next up on the lineup and had a sound as unique as their name. The Brooklyn based 5-piece had a great dynamic. Just when the sound seemed to be leaning towards a more bluesy vibe, a digeridoo-inspired sound erupted with a very techno bass line.
Next to hit the smaller Bowie stage was Charlie Hunter and has band. In the music world, Hunter is known for sporting a seven or eight string guitar, on which he can play both the baseline and the rhythm.
Foundation of Funk built off of the crowd’s already intense energy. A crew of legendary musicians with so much experience, the musicians were all smiles. Throughout the set, each band member played a very technical and difficult solo.
The crowd began to gather around Bowie stage once for Superhuman Happiness, who switched up the vibe to a more contemporary sound. The four-piece came out dressed in all white lab coats and, after a few songs, stripped them off to reveal a plethora of colorful outfits.
An army of The Revivalists fans began swarming the floor and sitting by the barricade, eager to see the 7-piece’s appearance. Frontman David Shaw’s tantalizing but pure voice and his larger-than-life appearance made the crowd go into a fury of hand waving and shouting, especially when the singer descended into the photo pit to shake various fans’ hands.
Clad in a black and white striped suit and top hat, Marco Benevento took a seat at the piano for an intimate set of upbeat hits. The New Jersey native kept the audience on their feet and in anticipation of what was to come.
Ten minutes before Benevento ended, members of Snarky Puppy could be seen ascending the Prince Stage to fine tune their instruments and a few even started playing along with some of Benevento’s tunes. Bandmates disappeared back into the shadows and from the darkness, a crew of instrumentalists, from violin players to trumpeters came back out. Frontman Michael League took his spot on the bass to close out the night with such a electrifying and funky sound that left the audience singing out various instrumental choruses.
On Sunday, the music went outside, with Snarky Puppy capping off day two, as well.
VOSS Album Release Show @ Underground Arts with Eddie Madrid, Mason, Kim Jong ILL, Bes Phrenz and Cain Kerner.
Text, video and images by Donte Kirby.
It was a showcase of all the musical talent and support in Voss’s inner circle, from Chris Vance, a rapper himself taking on the duties of master of ceremonies, to producer of Insatiable Ron Swerdon’s eccentric performance with his band Kim Jong ILL.
Voss performed his album from front to back with two sets filled with guest performances. Someone standing next to you in the crowd one minute could just as easily be on the stage performing the next.
Every artist, from opening act Cain Kerner to Eddie Madrid, with his breakneck flow, brought something unique to the show. Both Eddie Madrid and Cain Kerner delivered sets that were high energy and drew a lot of movement from the crowd. Kerner frequently addressed the crowd and started a clap or wave to get them involved. Eddie Madrid vibed with his DJ and let that energy infect the crowd until they couldn’t help but move.
All the disparate sounds of the night culminated in a set by Voss.
Artists like the hip hop alt rock genre blend of Mason (last minute replacement of Mazon), the R&B trap stylings of Bes Phrenz and the electronic experimental hip hop fusion that is Kim Jong ILL made sense at the same show together after Voss performed. During his performance, you could see how each artist influenced one another. The genre bending Voss takes pride in translates into a show that weaves eclectic musical fabrics into a dynamic tapestry.
Voss’s last announcement, for those who missed out, was that this may be his last show in Philly or the East Coast for a while. He didn’t say where he was going but with the clues he left it’s not too hard to guess.
Text and images by McCall Cox.
The Japanese House kicked off the outdoor show. The electronic, alternative sound of The Japanese House is the work of Amber Bain, who is responsible for vocals, keyboard and guitar on stage. She was joined by Freddy Sheed on drums and Will Bishop on keyboard and bass.
Bain thanked the audience many times for their enthusiasm and support as the crowd cheered between each song. She also acknowledged the unseasonably cold temperature commanding the outdoor stage.
“We’re going to play this song and you guys can just go wild to warm up,” Bain told the audience before performing “Letter By The Water.”
The Japanese House performed other songs such as “Clean,” “Still,” “Cool Blue” and “Sugar Pill.”
Wolf Alice took the stage shortly after The Japanese House. Wolf Alice, a four piece alt-rock band from London, is comprised of Ellie Rowsell on vocals and guitar, Theo Ellis on bass, Joff Oddie on guitar and Joel Amey on drums.
Rowsell and Ellis took turns interacting with the audience to introduce the band as well as thank the audience.
Wolf Alice performed an eight-song set, including “Giant Peach,” “Bros” and “Moaning Lisa Smile.”
The slow introduction of thick smoke, along with the gradual dimming lights and a conversely growing monotone hum, announced The 1975. The alternative pop band opened their set with their song “Love Me,” accompanied by bright pink lights and cheers from the audience. The band directly followed with the song, “UGH!,” both tracks off of the band’s recently released album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It.
The 1975, of Manchester, England, features Matthew Healy on vocals and guitar, Ross MacDonald on bass guitar and keyboard, Adam Hann on guitar and George Daniel on drums. However, due to an injury sustained to Daniel’s shoulder, Freddy Sheed of The Japanese House accompanied the band on the drums. John Waugh also performs alongside The 1975 on the saxophone.
As the band began their next song, “Heart Out,” Healy unexpectedly pulled the track to a grinding halt.
“Stop, stop,” Healy said. “Everyone in the middle: take two steps back and stay there. We don’t need people breaking their legs. You need to take care of each other. If somebody falls, pick them up and give them a kiss.”
The 1975 then resumed the song and followed it with an older track, “So Far (It’s Alright).”
“Ladies and gentlemen, how are you feeling?” Healy addressed the crowd. “This is amazing. We’ve never played a show this big in this part of the country. We’ve played some—for us—very classic shows here.”
Healy later made his common request for the audience members to put away their phones for one song in order to fully enjoy the experience of the live performance.
“I want us all to be in the moment,” Healy said. “People in general aren’t in the moment anymore. It bums me out. So, for five minutes, it’s going to be us and you and no phones.”
The band began the song “Me.”
The 1975 performed the hit single “Girls” from their first album before leaving the stage. Prompted by the cheers from the audience, the band returned to the stage to play a four song encore.
The band began the encore set with “If I Believe You,” which Healy prefaced by saying, “This song is about Jesus.”
The 1975 also performed their hit, “Chocolate,” and then “The Sound.”
“Let’s warm up, let’s get moving around,” Healy said, trying to warm the audience from the cold. “Ladies and gentlemen, every time we come to this city, it gets bigger and better.”
As they ended the set, Healy mentioned that The 1975 will tour America again in the fall.
“Until then,” Healy said, drifting off into the band’s final song, “Sex.” “Philadelphia, we’ll see you very soon. Goodnight!”