It’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night in Fishtown and Gary Dann, in his solid gray T-shirt, geometric patterned shorts and flip-flops, is dressed for the beach.
But he’s not ready for a vacation just yet. Perched in his control room, Dann monitors an analog mixing console for a hard rock band in the midst of an explosive jam. The female vocalist unleashes a wail that drowns out her bandmates, prompting Dann to adjust the faders, while he bobs his head with the drums and occasionally tweaks a knob on the massive soundboard. Gradually, a pent up smile relieves the furrows of concentration on his forehead; he’s pleased with the sound.
Dann – an audio engineer, producer and musician – opened The Boom Room, a recording studio and rehearsal spot, in 2011. He’s building the space into a fully-equipped, multifaceted center for the arts, while diligently developing a diverse musical community within the white stucco building that sits across the street from Kung Fu Necktie.
“The location of the studio put me in the right spot at the right time,” Dann says. “Not only has The Boom Room grown but around me, the whole neighborhood has exploded. We have a really awesome family of R&B, hip-hop, rock, jazz, ’80s cover bands and everything in between.”
“We’re in between the high-end studio guys and the basement recording guys,” Dann explains. “It’s a really wide market.”
Dann is riding a wave of success in his niche and he’s sharing the love with his extended musical family. Because of the support he’s been shown not only in the last five years of having the studio, but also in the 10 years of being an engineer and drummer in the city before that, he wanted to do something to give back to the local music community.
So once a month, he brings in artists to use The Boom Room’s new live streaming video service for free. Called “The Free Jawn,” this gift gives artists an opportunity to shoot, record and stream their live performance with professional-grade video camcorders, microphones and lighting.
“If you don’t have a performance video, it’s hard to get in anywhere,” Dann says. “For most people, video production is just not accessible. I’m helping to uplift these artists who would not otherwise have a way to show the world what they’re doing.”
And since most people have the ability to stream video from their phones or laptops, people from anywhere in the world can watch these live performances.
Philly musicians are already feeling the love.
“Gary is extremely professional and meticulous when it comes to getting the sound, the camera angles and ambiance just right,” says JaE The Artist, a soul-infused rocker who recorded a free set in June. “Over 8,200 views later, it helped us book events in Charlotte, North Carolina, and two music festivals, one in Virginia and one in South Carolina.”
In a sense, The Free Jawn is an extension of The Boom Room’s overall philosophy: take good care of the family, provide a cost-effective space with the latest and greatest in music technology and the community will grow.
You get the feeling Dann is already looking for the next jawn to add to his repertoire.
The five guys in Pine Barons like to think that they’re like the “Terminator” movies—they’ve only gotten better with time. At least drummer Collin Smith uses that analogy.
Nestled in a small booth at Front Street Café in Kensington, a few blocks down from where guitarist/vocalist Keith Abrams, bassist Shane Hower and keyboardist Alex Beebe live, the guys reflect on their handful of years as a band and the new album they just finished recording at The Headroom Studio.
The yet-to-be-named album, produced by Kyle Pulley, was special. After all, Pulley’s younger brother Brad plays guitar in Pine Barons. The album also marks the beginning of the band members’ lives as full-time Philadelphians after moving here from the small Jersey towns of Shamong and Southampton about a year and a half ago.
“My older brother has lived here for a long time,” says Brad Pulley, 24, of West Philly. “So I guess I was always coming here to do stuff and see shows. I also go to school here. I always imagined myself coming here, though. It always made sense.”
“We moved here for music,” Abrams says. “We kind of, I felt like, established ourselves here.”
Now that they’re here, they can go see bands and build friendships with other bands whenever they want, not just the nights they trek up Route 70.
“It kind of allows us to feel like we’re more a part of it, at least for me,” Brad Pulley says. “I feel like I’m more a part of it. Before, I felt like somewhat of an outsider.”
“It feels like less of a night out and more like our neighborhood,” Beebe, 24, adds.
For Beebe, Abrams and Hower, they really did record right in their neighborhood at Headroom. And Brad Pulley obviously had a familiar face in his older brother behind the mixing board.
When asked if the Pulley brothers butted heads, as brothers tend to do, Smith assures that they duked it out when they were little. Smith, 25, who spent his teenage years in South Philly but put down roots in South Jersey, tends to sit back in conversation, saving his words for a well-placed joke. It’s a lot like how his drumming is full of thoughtful fills that abruptly pop out of the steady foundation, adding to the overall depth of the songs.
“Brad knows I’m the boss,” Kyle Pulley, 32, says with a laugh. “I’m eight years older than him, so he knows his place.”
Jokes aside, the elder Pulley says his experience working with Pine Barons was nothing but positive.
“It was so much fun,” he says. “There would be days that I’d be doing long sessions with other bands or working on other stuff, and the days I got to do Pine Barons honestly felt like a day off. We weren’t too hard on ourselves. We tried to just make it fun. Most of the time it was cool just to hang out with my brother, you know?”
Keeping it loose and fun is a fitting approach to recording Pine Barons’ sound. It’s got the jaunty nature and melodic, riffy, ethereal jams of outdoor-festival-ready rock, but with a poetic and emotional nature that brings the typically soft-spoken Abrams’ voice to peaking highs.
Add to that just enough distortion and crash cymbal to make them right at home in a Philly basement show. It’s a cohesive unit of five friends who have not only practiced hard together for years, they practiced being friends for even longer.
“I would say that this record was a turning point,” Hower says. “We started to really learn more about working with each other. I think the point was always to make the songs really good, but I think it became more of that we would play things because they were fun sometimes. And with this record, it was like, OK, these parts are fun, but do they serve a purpose? Just learning to be more critical about our songwriting process.”
As both producer and older brother, Kyle Pulley has an insider’s view of the band’s growth.
“They started out as being, you know, someone’s first band, and now they’re really great,” he says. “They’ve always been musicians. Their musicianship has gotten better over the years, but I think their tastes and their songwriting and their aesthetic has just matured. They’re all good players. They can all play whatever. And I think, between the first record and the full-length we did together, they figured out a little bit of the less-is-more kind of thing, and just doing stuff that’s more tasteful.”
So now, after wrapping up their debut full-length (which is due out next year, and follows their 2013 self-titled EP), finalizing their five-man roster and putting a real-deal tour or two under their belts, the future looks promising for Pine Barons. And, with a metaphorical pat on the back from not only an older brother who is also a major player in the Philly music scene, they’re on their way to big things.
“I think they’re already on that journey on their own,” Kyle Pulley says. “I just kind of helped them along the way.”
It’s almost impossible to notice Girard Hall if you’re walking past it on the street, but hidden inside one of the many nondescript brick exteriors on Girard Avenue is this cavernous hub of creative energy.
Altrez isn’t sure how to fashion his title, as Girard Hall isn’t a place for official names, but he’s been in charge of operations there for a year and a half.
Girard Hall stands in the Philadelphia tradition of DIY venues but easily sets itself apart by its size alone. Rather than cramming folks into a dripping basement, Girard Hall welcomes visitors to a warehouse-sized space that’s ready to be transformed for any purpose.
Altrez takes the stairs from the street up to the second-floor space and walks into the high-ceilinged, cathedral-like interior. There’s a full stage set in front of a wall-length mirror. Disco balls hang down, remnants of a past life for the building, like the sliding garage door that leads to Altrez’s “office” and recording studio.
There’s plenty of room in which to play around, and it’s all open to interpretation.
Girard Hall has been home to everything from hip-hop shows, noise festivals, Afro-Caribbean dance parties and off-beat performance art.
“It’s a raw space and you can mold it into anything you want to,” says Altrez.
Altrez, now 25, was new to the DIY scene when he first moved to Philadelphia five years ago to study industrial design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. At the time, the warehouse space was run by a collective of Temple film students who had the intention of turning it into a collaborative studio, with shows and exhibitions happening there only occasionally. The building had been known as Girard Hall through its many past incarnations (Altrez says with a laugh that it was a porn studio at one point).
As Altrez began to spend more of his time in the space, the original collective slowly went different ways. Having fallen in love with Girard Hall and its potential, Altrez stayed and continued to expand its original vision, booking larger pop-up shows with artists like Philly darlings The Districts or off-kilter rapper Slug Christ.
“What it is now is not what it was then,” Altrez explains.
Though it’s gained notoriety as a performance venue, Girard Hall has retained its identity as a creative studio. Six artists rent studio space, their respective laboratories tucked away in side rooms or at the top of the winding spiral staircase. A quick tour through the space will also find two makeshift recording studios, a homemade bookshelf and reading area, and a loft with one lonely drum kit that any artist passing through is welcome to knock around.
Jordan Smith, 28, uses Girard Hall to create ambient music scores under the moniker J. Galleo, but also books metal shows there.
“Everybody falls in love with the space as soon as they walk in,” Smith says.
Metal bands love the space for its acoustics, he explains. The massive room makes it so bands don’t even have to mic their drums. Even though shows he books at Girard Hall have ranged from a crowd of 100 to just the bands playing for one another, Smith says draw has never been a concern for the venue.
“The spot is here for creative people of any make,” he says. “You can’t exclude certain things because it makes less money.”
Sofiya Ballin felt similarly welcomed when she packed the place out with WUK, her Afro-Caribbean dance party. The 24-year-old resident of North Philadelphia had visited her parents’ native Trinidad for Carnival and wanted to bring that festive atmosphere back to Philly. Her partner in the event, Mathos Sokolo, knew just the place.
“[Girard Hall] had that homey, basement, in-the-cut vibe, but it could hold like 300 people,” says Ballin, a former JUMP staffer who now writes features for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
That charmingly grungy feel is partly just what you get when you keep six artists together in the same space, and partly because the space is undergoing some minor renovations. Buckets of drywall sit under the stage, and brooms lean against the speakers.
Altrez says he is constantly trying to elevate the space to its next level. On Halloween, however, the city shut down the building and wouldn’t even let the residents back into the premises. Altrez says that he has no idea what will happen next but that he is committed to making the venue operational again.
“It’s a big space but without people, it’s nothing,” Altrez says.
It’s no small task for Altrez and company to make the place a legal venue but for Altrez, the reasons for doing so are simple.
“I don’t like to see wasted potential,” he says.
Foxtrot & the Get Down hopped into an RV, drove 15-plus hours south while listening to Kanye West, Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, G. Love, Elliott Smith, Sublime, John Mayer, Stevie Ray Vaughn… and forged their own luck. A plucky bunch.
“You have to leave here,” says South Philadelphia vocalist Erica Ruiz, 30. “This is kind of a safety blanket.”
Colin Budny, 24, the band’s lead vocalist and primary songwriter attests that Foxtrot’s desire to hone their artistry by any means necessary led to them leaving, if only briefly, their beloved hometown.
Foxtrot is the inverse of the country boys (and gals) who leave home to make it in the big city.
As the bandmates tell it, they had to leave their big “blue collar” city for the not-so-country-super-hip-southern-industry-town that is Nashville, Tennessee.
When asked how they went from singing in coffee shops around West Chester and Philly to being signed to a Nashville label, they unanimously quip, “Drive!”
Since the beginning of the year, the Foxtrot crew have road tripped to Nashville seven or eight times. They’ve lost track.
“I’m totally OK with flying more,“ says bassist Ken Bianco, 25, of Havertown.
“I’m okay with the drive,” Ruiz adds.
But it was Budny, Foxtrot’s passionate visionary, who reached out to multiple labels and ultimately got their mixtape in the right hands. Tres Sasser, of American Echo Records outside of Nashville, took the bait.
Sasser and his business partner Robyn Davis listened to Sold to Soul, Foxtrot’s first EP, and were drawn to its rawness. As a producer in Nashville, Sasser says he is surrounded by over-produced alternative bands that he laments are auto-tuned to high heaven. He and Wright found Foxtrot refreshing.
Sasser ended up producing Foxtrot’s latest EP, Black Coffee, and the band’s upcoming full-length, Roots Too Deep.
Sasser implemented his expertise and polish but ultimately retained what he admires most about the band – a from-the-streets, honest sound.
“They’re Philly kids who love the blues and whose love gets filtered through Springsteen,” Sasser says with a chuckle.
“I like to say a Black Keys bluesy-ness with a Springsteen kind of an energy,” Budny agrees, defining their sound as a mix of a lot of American music. “We’re red, white and blue. We love America. America is so lucky to have so many different cool forms of music. And to take that and mash it all together is just the way it’s worked. We didn’t choose to do this. We did what we love.”
“It sort of found itself,” adds guitarist Eric Berk, 24, from Northeast Philly.
Soulful Americana would best describe Black Coffee and its continuation, Roots Too Deep.
Both records chronicle the time period when the band had to journey to progress as artists. The EP and LP are about leaving Philly because you know you have to leave, realizing how much you miss it and coming home.
Frontman Budny resides in Manayunk but is from Northeast Philly, which certainly helped foster his “everyday man” charm.
“Obviously, he’s in love with Philadelphia,” says Sasser of Budny. “He is a Philly boy top to bottom. He kind of exudes that. He’s infectious when you talk to him.”
Sasser believes Foxtrot boasts a rare quality in the industry and that is what ultimately makes the band a special find. Foxtrot doesn’t try to be anything other than what they are.
That’s a sentiment the bandmates share.
“We’ll stay true to our Philly collective ideals,” Berk says. “But going to Nashville taught us there’s time to use the knife.”
“We’re all just so laid back,” Ruiz chimes in. “We’re not cool.”
“Well, I’ve always considered myself a male Patti La Belle,” Budny says with a smirk. “I wake up every day and I think that.”
Jokes aside, Budny doesn’t want Foxtrot to be the band flipping hair out of their face and wearing Wayfarers indoors, but rather the regular dudes buying concertgoers shots at the bar, just trying to hang out.
“And then we SLAY,” he says with a laugh.
A slayage that reverberates from Philly to Nashville and beyond.
“We get hounded constantly to move to Nashville but we’d rather drive the 15 hours when we need to…” says Budny.
“And be able to come back to Philly,” Berk adds.
After beloved pop punk band Chumped disbanded earlier this year, singer Anika Pyle moved to Philly, where she had a lot of friends, including Augusta Koch of Cayetana. Our Sydney Schaefer listened as the two met up at Chapterhouse Cafe and talked about songwriting and life in Philly.
Augusta: So, you’ve had a lot of changes in your life recently, Anika, from parting ways with Chumped to starting Katie Ellen, making the move from New York to Philly. What about Philly attracts you as an artist?
Anika: I moved to Philly for many reasons but one of them was the robust community of creatives who live here, like you and so many friends that I’ve met playing music, a bunch of people I haven’t met but that I admire. I think it’s just one of the best towns to be in if you make any kind of indie, emo, punk, DIY music.
I wanted to devote more time to making art and getting better at doing that,.So, I thought it would be a really good move to surround myself with people who are doing the same. I think when you belong to a community, you can do all that cool stuff – support each other, be inspired by each other, learn from each other. Hopefully, that will help me want to keep going and do better.
Augusta: Totally. It’s affordable too.
Anika: Yeah, that’s the other thing. New York’s a tough place to be if you’re a creative who doesn’t work in a money-making creative industry. It’s really hard. It’s cool because it’s nice to have access to a bunch of people who you work with, or publications. It’s a nice place to get exposure. But it’s so expensive. It’s also that I was so stressed all the time, constantly stressed trying to make my rent, constantly stressed trying to devote myself to a bunch of different projects that didn’t allow me to experience joy but just helped me avoid the pain of reality. So, it’s like, I don’t wanna be working seven days a week and commuting two hours a day and hoping to find time to write when I get home or write poetry on my shift break.
So that’s nice. That’s a big stress reliever. Philly’s just a more manageable city. It’s nice. I can think more. And hopefully apply that thought to making music.
Augusta: You recently released a split with the legendary Mikey Erg, who plays in the Philly band Warriors and, like, 18 other bands. You released it under your own name for the first time and you recorded all the songs using your iPhone. How did it feel to share such an intimate, raw product?
Anika: It felt a lot less scary than sharing other things, I don’t know why. I just made a bunch of music that was, like, in a studio, more produced, than anything I made before. It was really nice to just be like, “OK, well, I just wrote this song. I just recorded it. And I sent it to only one person on the planet.” Then, to capture that moment of vulnerability or complete nakedness, and then just send it straight to vinyl, it felt a little scary because there’s always the concern that people might not get the point, which is to share something. Like, get back to the very root of songwriting, which is about the song.
I did have a little bit of fear, being like, “OK. This is the first thing I release under my own name. What if everyone thinks that I just put voice memos out, and that I can’t sing as well as I can into a fancy microphone, and maybe that I didn’t put a lot of thought into it?”
But, A). I’m trying not to care what people think because it’s not really about them and B). I think it’s important to send a message that if you want to write a song, or you want to to make something, you can do it. And it doesn’t take thousands of dollars and a bunch of equipment. If you want to write a song, you can write a song without even having an instrument.
Augusta: It’s easy now too with computers and phones. I did that the other day and I posted it on my Facebook and XPN reposted it. But it was just a cover because I was bored. And then I was like, “Damn. This is on the Internet now.”
Anika: Yeah, it’s crazy!
Augusta: I think that’s empowering for people because recording is expensive.
Anika: Yeah, and I think we’ve seen that shift. It’s hard for people to think back to the “golden age” of rock ’n’ roll. Think of, like, Fleetwood Mac making a studio record. It cost like $200,000. Or a band like Nirvana, an idolized grunge-punk band, that makes a record in a really expensive studio and puts it out on a really prestigious label and there wasn’t a lot of distribution. Before the Internet, before GarageBand, before your smartphone, how did you record music? Like an 8-track?
And now I think that’s opened up this crazy world of possibilities for so many different kinds of music. That’s why there’s so much more obviously electronic music then there has been before. But it’s pretty amazing. There’s less of a barrier to entry, which also means that there’s a lot more content that you have to sift through to find something that you connect to.
Augusta: What I’ve interpreted from a lot of your newer work is a feeling of craving truly intimate relationships with others and yourself. How do you feel like your music has changed since leaving Chumped?
Anika: I think these songs, the songs that I’ve written since Chumped disbanded, are a lot more candid. They’re more thoughtful. Not because I didn’t think about the songs I was writing in Chumped, but that was the first time I had written music since…
I’ve been writing songs since I was 5 but I’d never written them with the intention to record them or release them or put them out. So, I’ve gotten a lot better at songwriting. More honest. I think I have a fresh start and a little bit of a fresh perspective in the new project, so it’s nice to let my guard down and allow myself to say some things that I didn’t feel as comfortable saying or talking about in my first project. I think they’re a lot more politically motivated and a lot more feminine. They’re softer, even though they’re still rockin.’
Augusta: A lot of your songs incorporate a lot of strong, feminist ideals, both directly and indirectly. What does feminism mean to you and how does it affect you as an artist?
Anika: I think feminism fundamentally is about equality. The equality of the sexes. I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersections of feminist and queer theory because my experience is very specific. I’m saying something like, “Feminism is about equality of the sexes,” and then in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, your sex is not always cut and dry.” There’s a lot more of a spectrum to both sexualities and, as we have learned and are learning, it is becoming more of a mainstream conversation.
Feminism is about understanding that women are marginalized and have been marginalized because we live in a patriarchy. That means that most positions of power, in all areas of life, are held by men. We strive to break down that barrier, to get increased visibility and opportunity for women to participate in every aspect of society. That’s what feminism means to me.
I think that directly influences my songwriting because, to increase visibility and opportunity, you have to tell people’s stories. You have to make people aware of the experience of marginalization or the experience of oppression.
I’m a woman experiencing things like sexual objectification and discrimination in the workplace, economic discrimination, a constant fear of being assaulted or abused or violated. Those are realities of living in a patriarchal society. A lot of people, when they say, “Well, sexism is dead. Feminism doesn’t mean anything anymore. You have all the rights that you need. You have all the economic, social and political rights that you need. Yeah, you might make 70 cents on the dollar but that’s just because women aren’t good at being CEOs.” Those are people’s real-life responses. We’re seeing this so violently in our political landscape right now. It’s disgusting.
Augusta: Oh, you mean Trump?
Anika: Yes, Trump. Even the experience of, like, watching Hillary Clinton, whether you like her or not, it is amazing and so inspiring to see her as a presidential candidate. That means so much for so many people. That is the most intense kind of visibility that you can gain as a woman.
And so, when I write a song, my experience is coming from the feminine. I’m a woman and therefore everything I write, in some way, is from the standpoint of feminism. But, as I’m writing more and more, I think specifically speaking about my experience in all these different realms of society. My experience as a woman has driven a lot of my songwriting recently because it’s important to tell your story. That way people understand your struggle. When people understand your struggle, they may or may not get behind it, but at least they’ve heard where you’re coming from.
Augusta: You’re always very open with your fans and me, your friend. You talk about the importance of self-care and growth often. Have you always been that way? Was there anything that gave you the strength to share your vulnerability so freely?
Anika: I’ve always been a vulnerable person. I’ve always been an emotional, candid, open person. I think that being compassionate, empathetic and willing to share are qualities that I’ve always really admired in myself.
It has taken a really long time to say something like that, but I think vulnerability is like the first pillar of being able to trust someone.
I’m in the period of my life when I’m trying to learn to balance my own vulnerability. You can get hurt if you have a lack of boundaries and you can also do a lot of things that you don’t want to do. But, that said, I think you can’t truly connect with someone unless you’re willing to open yourself to them. That’s where I find the most joy in this life, being able to share something that’s intimate, personal. I can trust in someone. I think that’s where you make the most strides in personal growth, allowing yourself to learn from other people, allowing yourself to share with other people, and seeing where that takes you.
I guess I’ve really always been that way but definitely, dealing with hardships and constant change, personally has required a lot of opening up. Although I’m an emotionally open person, I’m also a person who keeps a lot of things I’m afraid to share. I’ve had a bad habit in the past of withholding feelings and withholding emotions that I’m afraid will hurt other people’s feelings. So, I haven’t been able to be as honest because I’m protecting somebody else.
Augusta: Do you think it has to do with moving around so much? Maybe moving to Philly and all the stuff that’s changed, that’s given you the strength to be more honest? I’ve seen that change in you, even playing on your own now or playing in your new band. It’s different than I feel like you used to be.
Anika: I think the loss of significant relationships in your life, to people and places and partnerships, a band or a project, that forces you to reset. Change is almost always difficult but you can either take it positively or negatively. I’m a person who doesn’t always deal well with change but I’ve accepted this place in my life. I used it as an opportunity to make a lot of improvements in myself, and to find strength in vulnerability, even if that is a scary place to be.
Augusta: If you could tour with any band – living or dead, besides Cayetana, who would it be and why?
Anika: I would love to tour with Dolly Parton. It depends what you want out of the experience. I would definitely go on tour with Whitney Houston, just to hear Whitney Houston sing every night. I just want to tour with a strong, talented, woman. I want to learn from people. I just want to feel the energy.
Augusta: Since we’re here at this lovely coffee shop and you love coffee so much, I put down here that you’re a coffee connoisseur. I had to Google how to spell connoisseur. It’s French and I am not. If you were a coffee drink, what would you be and why? This is hard.
Anika: Black coffee. Straight up, hot, black coffee. The working people’s beverage. I just like it, You can do anything with it. It’s a blank slate.
Text by John N. McGuire.
Greg Attonito isn’t too stoked about the way things are right now.
“In my opinion, our society, from top to bottom, is in bad shape,” says Attonito, vocalist of lighthearted Jersey punk veterans The Bouncing Souls. “People are struggling to just survive and we’re supposed to be the most powerful nation in the world. It’s just completely wrong.”
Attonito is in Cleveland, waiting for his bandmates to arrive for the first show of the The Bouncing Souls’ fall tour, which includes a stop at Union Transfer on Saturday.
It’s shortly after the presidential election and it’s clear that the results are still fresh on the frontman’s mind. For Attonito, Donald Trump’s victory proves that the current state of the American political climate is worse than he thought.
“With the whole situation with Trump being elected, it’s gone from a level of being frustrating and difficult into absurdity,” Attonito says.
Attonito affirms that things have “taken a turn for the worst” since February 2016, when The Bouncing Souls recorded their tenth studio album, Simplicity, at Lakehouse Recording Studios in the band’s beloved Asbury Park. A recurring theme on the LP, which dropped over the summer, is The Bouncing Souls’ discontent with the beliefs and ideas championed by people like Trump. On the upbeat and sarcastic “Hey Aliens,” Attonito offers extraterrestrials “livestock organs and artisanal beer” in exchange for Earth’s rescue from the super-rich. Attonito says he suspects the president elect will do nothing to address the disproportionate balance of wealth in the U.S. and that Trump will work to ensure that billionaires remain at the forefront of making American policy decisions.
“They are going be the ones that are in control while everyone else is suffering,” Attonito says.
“Everyone else” includes women, Muslims, Latinos and every other group of people Trump has made frequent derogatory comments about. For Attonito, the fact that (nearly) half of voters consider Trump’s behavior and policy suggestions acceptable is a step backward for American society.
“[Trump] embodies in a person a lot of the things that are wrong with our world, like not being responsible for yourself in your words and your actions,” Attonito says. “It’s not even about politics. It’s about common decency.”
Attonito says he had hoped, even expected, that the American people would rise above Trump’s rhetoric rather than succumb to it, though he admits that he’s not entirely surprised.
“It’s that anger, that frustration that’s been brewing inside of people,” Attonito sighs. “I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they would at least be like, ‘Well we can’t go that direction even though we are very frustrated.’”
On one of Simplicity’s most climactic tracks, the anthemic “Writing on the Wall,” Attonito belts his resistance to social injustice over guitarist Pete Steinkopf’s trusty chords and Bryan Kienlen’s ever-unrelenting bass.
“I thought there was enough writing on the wall / It’s not so hard to see the truth of it all,” Attonito sings. “The last bits of our integrity are getting squeezed out / Replaced with fear and doubt, like we’ve lost control.”
Longtime listeners might notice an energy that pulsates through Simplicity, reminiscent of seminal Bouncing Souls albums How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2001) and Anchors Aweigh (2003). Attonito credits the familiar vibe, at least partially, to producer John Seymour, who worked on all three records. Seymour used his technical chops and hands-off approach to capture the heartfelt blend that The Souls pull off so well—one of optimism and reflection, goofiness and rage.
“The best producers, they don’t force themselves into the situation. The best kind, I think, make the right choices and say the right things to help you do your thing,” Attonito explains. “It’s like, ‘I’m trying to make you guys make your record the best record that you want to make.’ That’s a tricky thing. It’s not easy to be that person and [Seymour is] really good at it.”
While The Souls tapped reserves for the production side of Simplicity, the band also has a new dynamic—drummer George Rebelo, best known for his work with Hot Water Music. Rebelo joined The Bouncing Souls in 2013 after the departure of Michael McDermott, who was in the band for about half of their nearly 30 year career.
“[Rebelo] was the undeniable new energy that was just involved in every moment of the process,” Attonito says. “He’s got a different approach. He’s got a different playing style. So that’s reacting and it’s bouncing off the three of us in a different way.”
As The Bouncing Souls prepare for Trump’s America, Attonito holds onto a perspective that’s as grim as it is hopeful: maybe society needs to hit rock bottom to pave the way for a better future.
“I’m trying to see it in a positive sense,” Attonito says. “[Trump] may be this bad catalyst, but hopefully it leads to some sort of change where people have to wake up.”
June Divided burst onto the scene a few years ago, joining the Warped Tour soon after forming and getting exposure on MTVu and other major outlets. But then they slowed down and for more than a year, the bandmates worked on a new project.
Last night at Union Transfer, June Divided celebrated the release of their new EP, Body Wars, in front a room full of family, friends and longtime fans.
Teenagers from the music school where frontwoman Melissa Menago teaches lined the front row. Colleagues of drummer Keith Gill, who works as a plumber when he’s not making music, snuck up to the stage to snap pics as the show began. And shouts to bass player Lenny Sasso and guitarist Chris Kissel were sprinkled in between songs.