Magic City Mix


Our annual look at the best new music in Birmingham. 

Liesa Cole – photographer

Tony Rodio – producer

Lindsay Garrett – makeup artist / photo stylist

Andi Rice – photo assistant

Daniel Ruiz – production assistant (Dead Fingers, Drew Price, Daniel Farris)

Mary Jane Clements Wahl – Hair Stylist (Dead Fingers)

 Katherine Dillard – Hair Stylist (Heavy Hearts)

 

Dead Fingers

Husband and wife duo Taylor and Kate Hollingsworth, alongside drummer Alan Rosser, make up this “folk/rock/indie/country/punk” band, which is named after a childhood playground game. Kate says that while it may seem to be an interesting dynamic, it works (even when she and Taylor brought their baby on tour with them). “Taylor and I are married, and a lot of people think that would cause problems; you know, living together and working together. But mostly we are both at our best when we are playing and touring,” she says. “Honestly, Rosser probably faces the biggest challenge; touring with a couple and their child probably isn’t the rock and roll touring situation he had initially envisioned. Sorry, Rossdawg.”

The group released their debut album, Dead Fingers, in 2012 and put out another, Big Black Dog, on July 15 of this year. They are heading back out on tour, which Kate says is sure to be a good time: “We like to have fun. We pretty much goof around all day, cracking jokes. Like, laughing till your stomach hurts, 12-year-old-style giggling. We take our music seriously, but certainly not ourselves.”

And that music? Well, playing it is the dream. “We all love what we do and just want people to enjoy the shows and come with us,” she says. “Whether we get rowdy or quiet or whatever, we just love taking that trip and getting on the same wave length as the audience.”

Visit deadfingers.com to find out more and follow them on Facebook.

 

The Heavy HeartsThe Heavy Hearts

Lead vocalist Lauren-Michael Sellers seems to capture the wholeness of life in her voice: heartbreak and beauty, longing and hope, fulfillment and fear—it’s all there in the songs of The Heavy Hearts. And that’s what they were going for: “Even though our songs tend to be about very sad and personal experiences, there is always hope and light at the end of it all,” the band explains. “We want to remind people that there is and always will be hope, even with our very human and often very heavy hearts to carry around.”

Sellers and band mates Zac Baldwin (background vocals, lead electric guitar, and harmonica) and Brian Hippensteel (percussion) describe their sound as a folk-rock mix with a southern yet soulful sound. Sellers and Baldwin met in the music program at Birmingham-Southern College and began performing together; in 2011, they became a romantic couple. They played as a duo until they invited Hippensteel to play alongside them and discovered the sound they’d always wanted.

Listen to their songs on reverbnation.com/heavyhearts and follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@TheHeavy_Hearts), and Instagram (@theheavyhearts).

 

Waxflight

Waxflight’s main man, Craig Ceravolo, is also its namesake. He created the name by employing what he calls the “Bon Jovi approach”: Cera means wax and volo means flight. And thus Waxflight was born. Alongside Ceravolo is Jonathan Hyatt, who plays bass; Joey Rudisell, who plays drums; and Lester Nuby, who plays guitar. “I think it is pretty great to have people you really like help you make music,” Ceravolo says. “There is nothing better. It sounds great because they are great.”

Ceravolo has been writing songs and playing music since he was 16 and has always loved it. He says major musical influences include The Cure and My Bloody Valentine (particularly the album Loveless, which he says made him decide “it couldn’t get any better than that”). “While everyone else was getting an early education from their parents of Dylan and the Beatles, I was listening to WZZK and Def Jam hip-hop,” he says. “I think I am the better for it.” Ceravolo describes Waxflight’s sound as “twilight music.”

Check it out for yourself—visit soundcloud.com/waxflight to hear their album, The Great Remainder, and find them on Facebook.

 

Sanyasi

A sanyasi is a monk who leaves the material world seeking spiritual enlightenment. It’s the nickname that Josh Vasa’s grandmother gave him many years ago, and perhaps he could say now that it’s music that takes him from one world to the other. “Music and art have the ability to provide so many benefits in so many different ways. For some, it’s a break from ‘the grind’ of life and responsibility. For some, it’s self-expression or emotional therapy. For others, it’s an art form, an avenue of creative expression. I stand in the category of enjoying music for ‘all of the above,’” Vasa says.

Vasa is the man behind Sanyasi the band, which put out its first album, titled Suitcase and Soulful and coproduced with Brad Lyons, in 2013. “My first Sanyasi album was a harsh and direct response to a lot of hardship I had experienced in my mid-20s and how I had survived the stormy weather,” Vasa explains. “Everything from grieving the loss of my father and relationships to moving several times and coming into a period of self-discovery. Of course, I know I’m not the only one to have experienced these things, but they hit me in a particularly profound and jarring way. I had so much personal transition happening in such a small period of time that I had nowhere to go but within. Suitcase and Soulful reflects that introverted response.”

Vasa is working again with Lyons and an ever-changing roster of other musicians to produce his second album, which he says will have rock-and-roll, Motown, and rock influences.

To hear Sanyasi’s music, visit sanyasi.bandcamp.com, and find him on Facebook.

 

Drew Price

Drew Price has had a revelation. Before he was Drew Price, he was Drew Price’s Bermuda Triangle. The idea was that the Bermuda Triangle moniker gave him permission to get lost in his music, which he did for awhile; he played R&B, rap, electronic, and Beach Boys-esque music. No song was like another, and no sound was expected. Recently, though, he’s been leaning into his music—he’s been finding it, you might say, instead of getting lost.

“I make a lot of different types of music and for different reasons at that. I find myself leaning toward shoegaze-esque sounds, while also lifting from bossa-nova tendencies, and I’m also very active as an electronic, sample-based dance music artist as well (under different monikers),’ Price says. “However, I’m currently trying to focus on straight-forward rock-and-roll. Others might comment that my music still exists in a sporadic fashion, but for me, I have really simplified the process. In a sense, I’m going for a ‘less is more’ approach.”

His first album under the stripped-down Drew Price is Hustle Strange, which was released in May of this year. “It’s multi-dimensional at times, but for me, it is very stripped down. Everything can be recreated live with a couple guitars and drums (as opposed to needing a sampler, keyboards, computers, etc.). It’s just hearty rock-and-roll stuff, you know?” he says.

Listen to Hustle Strange at drewprice.bandcamp.com.

 

DJ Supreme and ShaheedFShaheed & DJ Supreme

“We came together as a band because we felt we could do something very special as a unit,” the emcee-and-DJ duo say. “We had worked together on singles, and since the reception we got from those songs was awesome, we decided to make it official and just become a group.” And what a beautiful marriage it is. Their music—which they describe as “traditional boom bap hip-hop with some soul”—is bringing classic hip-hop to Birmingham.

They explain that in the early days of hip-hop, it was common to have an emcee and DJ group, but these days, not so much. Shaheed and DJ Supreme are happily reviving that tradition. They use the MPC drum machine, the Rhodes keyboard, and turntables to capture their beat, which they say is free of profanity. “[It’s] truth and facts over beats,” they explain. “Our music is centered around health, wealth, and knowledge of self, and we do this for man, woman, and child with knowledge, rhythm, and understanding.”

Hear their music at communicatingvessels.net/category/shaheed-and-dj-supreme, and look them up on Facebook.

 

Daniel Farris

Daniel Farris is a musician, but his major contributions to Birmingham’s music industry lie in his music production prowess. He’s been in the business since he was 20 years old and has spent some 30,000 hours in the recording studio. “It’s a place where I feel at home and effortlessly comfortable,” he says. “I think this makes me an ideal companion for musicians trying to navigate the complex and confusing experience of making a record…particularly when time and funds are limited. And they always are.”

He has worked with dozens of artists—both local names and national ones—and explains that the process of producing depends on the musician(s) in the studio. “Budget and time constraints are the most common limitations. The trick is to deliver as excellent a result as is possible based on those (and many other) limitations,” he says. “I like to assess an artist’s strengths and weaknesses and tailor the process to suit those. The process also varies based on how developed the songs and ideas are when I’m brought on board. Some artists have everything ready to go and just want me to document what they do. Others have rough ideas and depend heavily on me to help further develop these ideas, whether that be sonically, or with arrangements, or sometimes even with helping put the finishing touches on the songwriting. I’m equally comfortable with all of these scenarios.”

Farris says that while definitely creative, his role tends to lean more toward the scientific than the artistic. He is constantly identifying problems and coming up with solutions, which he calls “a lot of boring technical stuff.” But the little details—from the vocalist’s headphone volume to microphone placement—is what makes the music, and Farris, excellent. And excellent music is the ultimate goal, no matter what it takes to get there. “Imagine hearing one song 100 times in a row. Sounds like torture, right? Enough to drive any sane person to the brink of madness,” he says. “But imagine that you get to make small changes and improvements each time you hear that song, and slowly, it gets better and better until it’s excellent. This process is transformative and hugely rewarding.”

You can check out Daniel Farris on his website, danielfarris.com, and hear his work as a musician at soundcloud.com/danielfarris.

 

Dorean Lives

It’s been said that rock music is perhaps the greatest invention of all time. The members of Dorean Lives might agree: They describe their music as “ridiculously huge, operatic rock and roll.” The five of them—Logan Freeman, vocals and guitar; Payten Lowery, guitar; Micah Rector, guitar; Will Stewart, bass; and Jeff Leng, drums—say that playing in the band is another adventure on a long list of them. “We’re just five friends who love what we do, hoping other people will too,” Freeman says. “In Boston we threw an impromptu Christmas party to film a music video, unbeknownst to the partygoers. The fact that we set up and played on the fly surprised the lot, but we loved it. Everyone had a great time.”

You can feel that spirit in their sound, though it is admittedly less carefree at times. They say that the point of their music is to share the truth: “The music itself seems dark, but it’s honest. Take out what you think you know about the music and just take it for what it is: honesty. We’re not here to sing about getting drunk on the river or hating parents or whatever. We are storytellers who just happen to love loud music.” In fact, the band was initially a side project that allowed Freeman to deal with some emotionally turbulent personal events—the name, Dorean Lives, is a tribute to someone Freeman lost. “Dorean Lives represents the idea that despite the inevitability of losing people we care about, love from those we’ve lost will continuously affect those who knew them, ensuring that those who are gone never truly leave,” Freeman explains.

Find Dorean Lives on Facebook to follow their music.

 

Jasper Coal

If you’re not Irish, Jasper Coal will make you wish you were. The band, founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 2004, makes music that mixes punk rock with traditional Celtic sounds; it’s a sound that invades your bones, convincing them to move with the music. “Our music just grabs you and forces you to move about, have fun, and talk to people you don’t know and just allows you to be free,” says Miguel Martinez, who plays the drums.

Jasper Coal, named after a song that pays homage to Walker County coal miners (including band member Matt Parrish’s grandfather), has six members: Martinez (drums, percussion); Parrish (lead vocals, whistle); Ryan Morrison (bagpipes, whistle, vocals); Kevin Nicholson (fiddle, vocals); Jeremy Burns (bass guitar, banjo, vocals); and Ian Hoppe (guitar, vocals). “It’s amazing to find six guys who are geeky enough to embrace this ancient genre but cool enough to turn it into something that people of all demographics can get on board with,” Burns says.

Jasper Coal has released three full-length albums, including their most recent, Drowning the Shamrock (available on iTunes); listen to samples on their website, jaspercoal.com.

 

Magic City Mix 2014 Playlist

  1. Ny-Lon
  2. Must Be The Chemicals
  3. The Boy From Iris Glen
  4. Sunday
  5. Right Now
  6. Reality (Not Fantasy)
  7. Places
  8. Anyhow
  9. Step It Out Mary
  10. Johnnie Cope
  11. Punky Flood and Wire
  12. If All
  13. Shiver Breathe Repeat
  14. A Cold Fire From The One I Loved
  15. Twisted
  16. Big Black Dog


2 Responses to “Magic City Mix”

  1. Jeff Huemmer says:

    These tunes are refreshing. Love them all. Where can I get them?

    • B-Metro says:

      Hi Jeff–thanks for the positive feedback! Some of the artists are available on iTunes, and for the ones that are not, we recommend you get in touch with their band manager for more information.

Leave a Reply