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Track Premiere: “Sycamore” from Maitland.

May 25, 2017


Today, we’re premiering a new track from Philly’s own Maitland, the indie/folk/rock band led by brothers Josh and Alex Hines. “Sycamore” is as rocky, raw and natural as the song name suggests — a glimpse of what’s to come on the band’s new album, aptly titled Glimpse, out June 2nd.

Our Beth Ann Downey caught up with Josh about the inspiration for the track and what’s coming down the pipeline for Maitland.

This is one of the first tracks you’re releasing off your forthcoming album, Glimpse. Why is “Sycamore” one of the first songs you want fans to hear from this new record?

Along with many songs on Glimpse, “Sycamore” has evolved very drastically from the live duo recording that we previously released. We wanted to highlight the raw emotion of the song as a call to make changes in our lives. This song in particular serves also as a self-learning tool and reminder to keep looking beyond the monotony of daily life. Lyrically, we felt it was important to open a door to new perspectives with their first experience with Glimpse.

You describe “Sycamore” as “a song about seeking meaning in life while continuously running into walls and expectations.” How do you think the music and lyrics get this point across to the listener? 

The Sycamore tree is held as a sacred tree in many traditions. In this song, a man is sitting underneath this symbol of the Tree of Life, yet he’s wallowing away in self pity and doubt. It seems dark, but in reality it’s a song about hope. He’s sitting beneath “opportunity,” but he has created walls and mental concepts that blind him from seeing the beauty that is above, below, and all around him. “Sycamore” is the first half of this story, the part where the man can understand that he has a choice to live his life in a more fulfilling way, but he hasn’t taken the first steps.

What was the recording process for this track?

The whole album started with some live tracking at Spice House Sounds, which was a pretty amazing experience overall. We spent two 12-hour days in the studio, where I decided it was a good idea to sing with a fever and sore throat, resulting in months of recovery and some gnarly versions of the vocal tracks, one of which we used in the final version of “Sycamore.” We then headed to East Room Studios / The Headroom for more live tracking and plenty of experimentation. After over two years of refinement, we finally landed with an album that we are all happy with.

Glimpse is a project more than two years in the making. How excited are you guys to share it with the world?

We’ve been playing many of these songs as a full band for over two years, but they have never been heard in this way. Watching friends add their touch with strings, bass clarinet, harp, and other fun sounds offered a new perspective of these “old songs”. Each time someone tracked a new instrument, we had a hard time keeping it to ourselves. Thanks to much patience and dedication from Drew Taurisano and Asher Brooks, who worked with us on the album, we ended up with a collection of songs that we can’t wait to share.

What about living in Philadelphia and being a part of this music community has inspired this song, or this record? Are there any other artists, facets of daily life here, etc., that have helped Maitland get to where the band is today?

We’ve got a lot here. Although many of these songs were written back home in Williamsport, PA, we tapped a lot of local musical friends to join in the making of Glimpse. Asher Brooks of Tutlie spent a lot of the early months helping us record the tracks. Collin Dennen of Ellen Siberian Tiger and Mother Moses spent a day tracking upright bass. Evan, our guitarist and front man of Kenny 3, took a lot of creative liberties while recording guitar parts. Adam Shumski, our drummer and part of Vita and the Woolf, tirelessly perfected his parts and offered his spin on arrangements. There are many others, but in general, the friendly music scene alongside the Philly grit also played a part in how these songs evolved in the studio.

Look for a full story on the making of Glimpse in our forthcoming fall issue.

In the mean time, keep an eye out for the Glimpse pre-order, which will be available soon, and catch the band at their record release show at Johnny Brenda’s on June 9th with Former Belle and Dirty Dollhouse.

WIN FREE TICKETS! See Ab-Soul @ The Trocadero on Friday with Little Simz!

May 4, 2017


Black Hippy founder Ab-Soul brings his YMF Tour to The Trocadero on Friday and we’re giving away tickets. Little Simz, who released an Alice in Wonderland concept album in December, will open the show.

If you want a pair of tickets, email us at (put “Ab-Soul” 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.


Brian Walker: “Music is a Reflection of Reality.”

April 27, 2017


Today, we’re premiering the new video from A Day Without Love, the longtime project from Brian Walker and his crew. It’s the first single from their 2016 album, Solace.

Next month, they’ll set out for a tour with Izzy Heltai that will take them through the Midwest and down South.

We caught up with Brian to talk about the video, his music and life in a social media world.

Dude. What’s up with the video? It’s is dark.

The video is intentionally dark. It is the last of the three videos I wanted to do for Solace and with Bob Sweeney so I guess I wanted to go out with a bang.

Solace is a record about hope. I wrote it from a perspective of my own personal experiences with finding peace. The video is a social commentary and criticism on new age McCarthyism. Joseph McCarthy’s practices were to judge people as communists with whatever biased information we have. McCarthyism itself is about making accusations and judgement about people with minimal evidence or understanding.

Today, we judge people based on comments on the Internet, which may or may not be real, lacks substance and are used as a forms of witch-hunting isolation and denial. Instead of calling in to problems on a face-to-face basis to resolve issues in our community, people have resorted to calling out and and isolating problems, which I think is toxic and enabling to  perpetrators of various incidents.

As a member of a music community and a human, I feel that we have lost the amount of empathy, discernment and open mindedness to make decisions. I wanted to create this scene to demonstrate events that people in my life have gone through based on poor discussion the internet and current events.

Is this based upon a true story?

The video is not based on a true story, but more of a scenario of experiences I have witnessed/observed.

I think if I were to make this video based on real life, the video maybe would have been darker.

I wanted the video to be a metaphor for biased behavior. Think about it, people won’t order food unless they read yelp reviews. People might not go to a neighborhood because of Fear is established based on biases and alternative facts written on the internet. That bias turns to discrimination and whether we like it or not we all become bigots of our own technological devices.

I have had family members suffer through this bias to the point it almost lead them to being shot to death. My 17-year old cousin was shot 25 times last year because of a misinterpreted tweet. Events like this are why I am so against call out witch hunt culture, I think its time we really start to call in and discuss things in person instead of pointing the finger and isolating. It could cost someones life and it almost cost my cousins life. I wanted to address that point in the video.

The video is not just about my cousin but more of a culmination of experiences where people give each other the short hand of the stick because of a lack of clear communication on the Internet.

The big message is I think we need to really determine our judgement of people with real life experiences and instead of holding our problems in and writing them on the Internet. Why don’t we confront the people we have problems with in person? Why don’t we bring back community by talking to people when something bad is done or said? Why can’t we show accountability for our problems instead of hiding behind a screen and asking for strangers support only to harm someone we don’t really know?

I hope more artists write songs about the problems they post, retweet and share on the Internet and call in to the problems instead of isolating and enabling those problems by calling them out and abandoning them only so that the problems continue to exist.

You’re an emotional guy, right? And you are pretty revealing on social media. Is that a form of therapy for you? Finding other lost souls and whatnot? Making connections virtually?

Yes, I am an emotional guy but I still think there is a lot I hold back and do not say on the Internet mostly because I am either afraid or feel that it is not time for me to write or share about.

I am vocal on the Internet because I think we should be as social as we would be in person, if that makes sense? Our Internet selves and our personal selves should be transparent. I don’t think they should play two different characters.

Granted, I can not afford therapy (despite Obamacare). I don’t consider what I share on the Internet as a form of therapy. I think it’s me telling the story of who I am as a musician.

I never wanted A Day Without Love to be about finding lost souls, but more about sharing my experiences of struggle, hope and strength and my depressive episodes are apart of it. One day I hope to stop A Day Without Love (we are still many albums far from that) but for the sake of being comfortable and happy with myself.

The connections I make virtually are usually transactional (shows, press,booking) and then lead to a face-to-face conversation, which then leads to a more personal experience which of course varies person to person.

Does it backfire sometimes?

Oh, yes. I definitely think I have had experienced backfire in the past. Sometimes I even think people don’t believe I am depressed or let alone have problems.

The reality is I have many problems, and I am not as vocal as one may think on the Internet about those problems. So, I share the problems through my music. I am 98 percent jokes on twitter and people have tweeted back that I am judgmental or really have no right to an opinion. Sometimes people get racy or try to dismiss my experiences on other platforms, but I ignore them.

I don’t intend to create controversy. I only intend to share it.

I think many artists are scared to write about their own controversy musically but I think it’s a dissservice to your music. Music is a reflection of reality and to write only about one topic (unless the project is themed around one topic) kinda dismisses the point of who you are as a person.

I know I can’t please everyone and I know there are people who don’t like me. But guess what? I don’t like them either and no one said that I had to be everyone’s best friend, especially if the people critiquing me are in fact bigots or people with their own problems.


Are you excited for the tour? 

I am more excited for this tour than any other tour I have done. Izzy Heltai is my label mate and I am excited to have a tour manager.

Izzy is a super talented dude from Massachusetts who I think really will sooth and touch a lot of people. Many of my other tours have either been alone or with people I barely know. Others have been with great friends for short periods of time.

I think this will be the first tour where I don’t feel like an outsider and the people I am with will be on the same page.

Also, I am stoked to try different foods in America and share my story with other people with different backgrounds.

What’s up next for you and the band?

I am currently writing a lofi record that breaks all rules of recording. I am not using a metronome, the mixing is minimal and I am going ot master the record myself.

I know it is risky, but it is on purpose.

The record is called Diary. I wanted to use the elements of bedroom pop but write the record as an extension to Solace and create a commentary/critique on myself and things I experience in my life.  I also wanted to write about the good in my life, because diaries are a reflection of good and bad experiences. The record has spoken word, audio samples from my experiences in Philadelphia, unused samples from my grandpa and delves further into discrimination in America.

I also recently got a manager named Josh Wolfberg who has been really cool and he’s been helping me get goals accomplished. I am also working on losing a lot of weight. I lost about 50 pounds so far and I want to lose another 40 and write a record about body positivity. I want to make a mixtape with various producers (big and small depending on my budget) from Philly. One day I hope to tour more often too, and it seems I am on that path.

To say the least, I am staying productive and I could not be more happier with or without roadblocks.

Danny Black: Music to Accompany the Listener on Their Adventures.

April 25, 2017



Ever had one of those days when you felt like exploring, maybe roaming through the woods or walking around town? If you need a soundtrack for your excursion, we have the music for you.

In February, Good Old War’s Dan Schwartz released his solo, instrumental guitar-only debut album, Adventure Soundtrack, under the moniker of Danny Black. The music has the poignancy of Good Old War’s sound without the harmonies that gets crowds singing along. 

He’ll take the stage at Bourbon & Branch next week, on Wednesday, May 3, so we spoke with the artist about his latest project.

The lyrics, vocals and harmonies of Good Old War are so amazing. Why go full instrumental in this new project?

I really appreciate that! It’s something we work really hard on in the band.

I think the main reason was to find a way to find my voice without having to be compared to the band in any way. I also felt like I had something to say in the instrumental realm. I really enjoy listening to film scores and I wanted to make my own version of that.

Plus, I truly love guitar and guitar music and I wanted a space to stretch out in a way that isn’t possible in the normal song format.


How has the reception been at shows? Do people scream out for “Coney Island” or other Good Old War songs?

Not at all. In fact the reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I don’t feel like people are leaving dissatisfied.

I’m working as hard as I can to give the audience a well rounded experience that fully stimulates their senses where they can let go of the idea that I’m in another band. That said, I’m proud of what Good Old War has accomplished  – and continues to accomplish, so I’m not worried about people saying they want to hear other songs I wrote with my best friends. I won’t be playing them though.



How do you like being alone on stage? 

I’m beginning to come around to it. It’s brand new to me. I’ve been in bands my entire life.

The show includes some multimedia to take a little bit of the focus off of me but it’s the music that’s filling the room. With music like this, it’s about sound and texture and not my stage presence per se, although I have been known to crack a joke or two.

What’s going on with Good Old War these days?

We just finished recording some of the best music we’ve ever made and that will be coming out this year. Tim is back in the band fully now. We’re playing at the NFL draft and we’ll be touring a lot in upcoming months.



What else are you working on these days? A follow up Danny Black project? 

Getting ready for this tour has truly taken over my life, but adding Good Old War recording an album and rehearsals for shows with them has gotten me incredibly busy.

I was able to write and record a song with one of my favorite musicians, Eric Bazilian, which we gave out for free on Record Store Day, and I’ve got a couple of other little projects in the works.

Definitely hoping to put together another Danny Black album as soon as possible though!

Man About a Horse: “The Sky’s the Limit for This Band.”

April 24, 2017


The bluegrass crew from Man About a Horse took a non-traditional route to financing their debut album: they asked people to pre-order the album via Bandcamp.

It seems to have worked. The album drops on Friday. The bandmates will celebrate with a performance that night at Milkboy.

We spoke with guitarist Matt Royles about the band, their music and their ambitions.

Who are you guys and where did you come from?

Circa 2013, Matt Thomas and I were neighbors near 3rd and Fairmount, but it took a mutual friend setting us up on a man date to get us really talking about music.

We were pretty shocked to discover we both had a dream of playing in a bluegrass brand.

We met Dan (Whitener) at one of our shows at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn after he responded to our banjo ad on Craigslist. I saw Liz (Carlson) shred fiddle with the Wallace Brothers Band at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and we met Nate (Lanzino) at a jam circle in Baltimore.

In a lot of ways, these chance encounters really typify the bluegrass world. It’s a big community of people who just love this kind of music. We’re lucky to have found some of the best out there to be in this band.

Bluegrass? In Philadelphia? What’s up with that?


But I think a lot of folks might be surprised to learn just how much bluegrass there is in Philadelphia. For starters, there are a bunch of long-running monthly and weekly jams in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Fiume in West Philly has been doing Thursday bluegrass nights forever, and the Sunday bluegrass brunch at Heritage in Northern Liberties has been getting pretty popular more recently.

And Philly’s got so many great music venues that we tend to see a lot of excellent touring acts in the bluegrass and related genres coming through town. I keep a calendar of shows on a site called Philly Bluegrass (fitting, I know.) I’m usually amazed at just how much high-quality music there is to list.


You “grassed up” Hall & Oates on the new album. Wait, does that mean there was a subtle bluegrass legacy here already?

We’ve played Daryl Hall’s music club up in the Hudson Valley a few times. For a Philly band, I think having a Hall & Oates cover in your set is pretty much mandatory if you’re going to play at Daryl’s House.

We really liked the sound of acoustic instruments on “Lady Rain,” which is a deep cut from Abandoned Luncheonette. Now, if you go back a bit farther than the 1970s – I’m talking more like the 1770s – Philadelphia played a huge role in the history of bluegrass music. This city was the main arrival point for Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 18th century, and the trailhead for something called the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road that took those immigrants down through Appalachia, where bluegrass was born.

There is actually a movement toward this country-style music in Philly. Is that a reflection of the direction of the country? Or do you just dig banjos and stuff?

Great question. I think when you see things like Sturgill Simpson winning major awards, Rolling Stone opening a Nashville office, and banjo and pedal steel guitar popping up on what seems like every other popular music song, you start to think there might be a trend.

I suspect that what’s happening in Philadelphia is a microcosm of a larger trend nationally towards American roots music.

Whatever’s causing it, I think we’re benefitting here in Philly. We’ve got a bunch of bands that could hold their own with any Nashville players.

But to answer your question more directly, yeah, we dig banjos.


What are the ambitions of band making “newgrass Americana” up north? What would be a success for you all?

In the very short term, we want to get this record on some national airplay and sales charts. I’d say we’re pretty close to making the Billboard chart, based on pre-sales as of this moment. Hopefully that will make a few folks in Nashville say, ‘Who the heck are these guys?’

Longer term, we think if we keep writing great songs, delivering a mind-blowingly fun live show experience, and maybe catch a few breaks along the way. Then the sky’s the limit for this band.

If you look at touring acts like Greensky Bluegrass and The Infamous Stringdusters, I think that’s where we’d like to be 3 to 5 years down the road.

Biffy Clyro @ The TLA with O’Brother.

April 21, 2017

BiffyClyron03Text and images by Brendan Menapace.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hits a guitar as hard as Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. He really hammers it. It’s always the same motion: his knees bend and he slams his fist into his strings with the full-body follow-through of someone looking to win a fight and win it quickly. It’s that stadium-ready presence and power that the Scottish three-piece has mastered throughout their career, which includes continually packing stadiums and festival grounds all over Europe (including Wembley Stadium, and the Reading and Leeds festivals) on a regular basis.

But last week, on a Friday in Philadelphia, they played to a few hundred people at the TLA on South Street. A lot of fans in the U.K. would pay a lot to see that.

Just because the venue was smaller didn’t mean the band was abandoning any of its pageantry. Sure, there were no pyrotechnics or any of that but they still provided a bit of pageantry. They started the show (after a set from Atlanta’s O’Bother) by staring emotionless at the crowd under stroble lights and an overture—shirtless, of course, as is their tradition—until suddenly breaking into “Wolves of Winter,” the first track off their seventh and latest album, Ellipsis.

The differences between their usual stadium sets and a venue that doesn’t even fit 1,000 people are obvious. The mix is a little different (but they still played louder than most bands I’ve seen there), and they can’t play as many songs as they might overseas.

That said, their set list spanned most of their career, dating back to 2007’s Puzzle, which they say started their more stadium-ready era. They didn’t play anything from the first trilogy of albums, which was a bit more out-there, with wackier riffs and more confusing time signatures but we can hopefully chalk that up to time constraints and the need to market the new material stateside.

One of the most critically successful songs in the band’s history, “Many of Horror” from 2009’s Only Revolutions, was pretty much a guarantee for the evening. You expect Bruce to play “Born to Run,” after all. But some Biffy purists will say it’s when the band “sold out.” It didn’t help that a contestant on “The X Factor” in the U.K. performed the song and released it as a single.

Once Neil hinted at the first few notes of “Many of Horror,” one brave voice piped up from the middle of the crowd: “Worst Biffy song!”

Neil, by this point covered in sweat with his long hair dangling in his face, stopped playing.

Biffy Clyro cut their teeth in Glasgow, and have since played all over the world. They’ve heard much worse, for sure. But, as a band full of guys who cut their teeth in Glasgow, you can’t expect them to always just let it slide when some dickhead who’s had a few too many Yuenglings wants to assert his musical snobbiness. So they didn’t.

“What’s that?” Neil says. “You wanna fuckin’ come up here and say that big man?”

He wasn’t actually trying to start a fight, but he made it very obvious that this was his show. The “big” man, obviously, did not go up and say anything. Instead, like all trolls on the Internet or in person, hid in the comfort of semi-anonymity. So Neil advises him to “let everyone else fuckin’ enjoy the song.”

Once the huge, sing-along chorus hit, Neil shouted, “Everybody sing at that fuckin’ guy!” and wandered to the front of the stage, where he did just that, fixing his gaze to where the man was standing. He did this for every chorus, with a few hundred others helping him out.

The set ended, the crowd chanted “Mon the Biff,” as they do all over the world to cheer and encourage an encore, and the band came back on, finishing with “Stingin’ Belle,” a pounding song where Neil once again gets to wreak havoc on his strings and wear the finish off of one of his Fender Strats.

As the band shouted their thank-yous and goodbyes, Neil once again drew attention to his new enemy in the audience.

“Thank you so much, Philadelphia [pronounced Phil-eh-dayl-phieh in his thick Scottish accent], every single one of you. Except that fuckin’ guy.”

And then, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, he said they’ll be back in September. For a band whose U.S. appearances are few and far between, that’s an interesting note. Later, on the band’s Instagram, they posted a picture of the crowd, as they did every night this tour. But what they didn’t do for every other city was say, “We’ll be back,” much less give a date for it that hasn’t been formally announced yet.

Did we just get the first hint at the Made In America lineup? That’s where my money is, at least.

BalletX: A New Version of “The Last Glass.”

April 21, 2017


BalletX co-founder and choreographer Matthew Neenan has revived his 2010 work, “The Last Glass” and is bringing the new version to the Wilma Theater next week as part of the company’s annual Spring Series performances which begin next week.

Although the original piece has toured the country, this is the first time Neenan’s ten dancers have switched roles to bring a new fresh energy to the work. During a recent rehearsal, “The Last Glass” unraveled through mystery, connection and spontaneity in a series of solos and duets that investigated a spectrum of emotions.

Our Meghan McFerran spoke with Neenan and some of the performers about the production.

What influenced you to bring back The Last Glass?

Matthew Neenan, co-founder and choreographer: It hasn’t been done in Philly in a while, but we have done it in Vail every summer.

Originally, this was not supposed to be on this program. I had been thinking for the past year that a lot of them have been doing the same role for years now. Chloe (Felesina) was doing the last girl who is left. She originated that role, so she had been doing it for seven years. We had always talked about (changing roles)  but you need time to do that, and luckily we had the time.

The dancers had been watching it so much that I don’t think it was that hard for them to swap roles. They could help each other. And they’re all so talented, I know they’re not capable of just doing one role. Some of them have done a couple roles already.

I want to keep it fresh and let people discover something else in the piece rather than what they have already been doing all these years.

What new layers/qualities of the work do you hope to bring out the second time around?

Neenan: I had seen the piece done in Boston in the fall and I hadn’t been working on it. It had lost some of it’s spontaneity. It can’t look too choreographed, especially all the duets because it’s all about a conversation with each other.

I have been telling them to just have a conversation and make sure it doesn’t look like you’re just doing what the choreography is. It should be like you just made it up on the spot.

With a lot of my work, it always looks better with that intent. Spontaneity is really important in this piece. In the finale I told them, “If your arms are a little different, it’s okay because it’s more about the exuberance and staying together. But we don’t all have to be the same.”

All of their characters are really individualized and I think the swapping has helped for sure.

What do you value most throughout your creative process?

Neenan: I think having that candid conversation with the dancer is really important. These dancers work with so many choreographers, so I think it’s already instilled in them to be open. It’s about trust. I work with many different companies, but it’s always so great coming back to them because the trust is already there. We can build something that might be a little risky or strange or whatever, but we can always take it a step further because of this trust.

What does The Last Glass mean to you? How does it make you feel?

Richard Villaverde, dancer (4.5 years): It’s such a special piece to me because it helped me learn how to portray a character and an emotion.

It helped me figure out how to translate messages of a certain tone in dance. I think that’s hard to relate to someone with not only movement but with your emotion… pouring your real-life emotions into a piece is really hard, finding when I have actually been truly angry and expressing that, or when I have been sad and expressing that.

I think that’s the hardest part with dance. You can kick your leg up and point your foot but what’s the intention behind all of those things? This piece helped me to become a better artist and fine tune all of the little details.

Can you explain Neenan’s creative process, especially resetting the piece as opposed to creating it for the first time?

VillaverdeWorking with Matt is always such a pleasure because he knows how to express an emotion through his body and with his face, and he shows you that through his gestures. He is so expressive so it’s really nice to then take on what he just gave you and make it your own because you see it right in front of you.

He also goes with what you’re feeling and he is so easily expressive. He says, “I want more ‘ahhh,’” (opens his arms slowly, like a yawn) and he shows you.

A lot of choreographers tell you to do things but they don’t show you and then its more up to you to figure it out, and then you have self-doubt, so it’s really nice to have someone explain exactly what they want and make it so clear. It’s a pleasure.


What does The Last Glass mean to you?

Gary Jeter II, dancer (3 years): “The Last Glass” means something different than it used to because I’m doing a different part. As a new character, I get to play something that I don’t usually get to play, which is yearning for the girl and obsessed with the girl but she does not really want me in the same respect. So, I have to figure out to interact with her when she brushes me off or how I should keep pursing her.

This happy gaze is a good new challenge.

How do you continue to make the movement new and fresh?

JeterI think you have to be willing to make a change in terms of trying new things even if it’s not what the choreography is. There’s really only so much you can do until you start to change what the movement was before.

You have to embrace the fact that there’s going to be a good criticism point where we’ll have a coaching session and say, “Well, maybe you can do this here. Maybe we can do that there.”

But the fact that you are thinking about it and not just going on autopilot is a good thing.


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