12AM // August Hotel

I recently spoke with the majority of up and coming Chicago band, August Hotel, about their beginnings, influences, new music, and future plans. Besides bonding over our common love of Catfish and the Bottlemen, and how technology (*cough cough* Skype) sucks sometimes, we focused on the release of their latest single “12AM.” With this release, and subsequent international press, they’ve made it clear that they are here to not only stay, but to win.

August Hotel is made up of Cale Singleton (Bass/Vocals), Ryan Lammers (Guitar/vocals), Dean Sinclair (Drums),Craig Schwartz Jr (Keyboard/Vocals), and Joe Padilla (Vocals). The five piece, indie synth-pop band all went to high school together, save for one. Each member of the band has his own unique taste in music ranging from Country, to Classic Rock, to Metal, to Indie/Alt. The name stems from two random words picked out of The Great Gatsby, written by Minnesota’s own F.Scott Fitzgerald.

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Despite the praise August Hotel has received for previous releases, “12AM” has definitely raised the bar, bringing them to a whole other professional level. Guitarist Ryan Lammers began writing the song late one night, and set it aside after showing it to Dean and being told it needed some work. Lammers picked it back up when asked to do a soundtrack for a friend’s mini-series,  and made it a real August Hotel song with the help of the rest of the band after the first version from the mini-series.

“We changed the song a lot, but I think really for the better. It made that song what I wanted it to be all along. [. . .] As far as inspiration goes, I think I was really just drawing on my own experiences of staying up too late…so…um, I guess the message is ‘ get more sleep’. *laughs* Or not, because I also wrote most of it at one in the morning!”

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A bit of a drastic change in sound from their first single on Spotify, “What About Now”, The band went into “12AM” wanting to use more electronic elements. The song builds into a crash that seamlessly blends the alternative rock of yesterday, with modern-day electronic influences such as The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club, LANY, and St. Lucia.

August Hotel’s first headlining show a few months ago in Evanston, IL showed them great support, and has given them the itch to book more concerts for October. The guys plan on releasing the next single sometime in late fall 2016, and finishing the EP shortly after to hopefully release it sometime in January of 2017. In the meantime, you can listen to “12AM” on Spotify, Soundcloud, and follow the band on Facebook or Twitter!

 

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Signs of Light // The Head and The Heart

My relationship with Seattle band, The Head and The Heart, began way back with the release of their self-titled debut album six years ago. I was in the eighth grade the first time I heard “Lost in My Mind” and from that point on, I was sold. It wasn’t until sophomore year in high school that I met another person who listened to them (hey, Becca). The following year, 2013, THATH released their second album. I didn’t think anything could have been better than their first, but Let’s Be Still was. I fell deeper in love with them, and was thrilled with a sense of accomplishment that my dad finally liked one of the bands I liked first.

The year after that, a couple friends and I went to the first year of Festival Palomino just to see THATH (s/o to Annie and Marah). There was a bad storm that day, and festival officials made us clear the grounds right before THATH were to come out. We waited under the giant pavilion for what seemed like forever, but was probably only 30 minutes or so. When they announced that we could go back to the grounds by the stages, the crowd broke into a stampede. I don’t think I’ve ever ran so fast in my life, but the real hero of this story is Annie who is literally a gazelle, and beat both Marah and me to the stage, securing us spots incredibly close.

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I can’t for the life of me find any of my photos from this show besides this phone pic lol.

Their set was beyond magical; the sun had come out and was setting right as they began. After seeing them live, like I do with most every other show I go to, I listened to exclusively THATH for a few weeks straight. I relived the show in my head as often as possible, I never wanted to forget it.

Maybe it’s my history with the band, maybe it’s my bias towards indie music, or maybe it’s because they signed with a major label, but all in all, I am highly disappointed with The Head and The Heart’s new album. Signs of Light was released today, and me being me, I already had my tickets for their show at Northrup Auditorium in October. Something cool they did was that you got a physical copy of the new album with your ticket to one of their shows.

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My copy arrived in the mail today and I was excited and wary. I have been keeping up with their singles released on Spotify, but the first listen to “All We Ever Knew” and I had a bad feeling. I new they had signed to Warner Bros Records, but I believed in them to stay true to their sound. Boy, was I sadly mistaken.

Their self titled and Let’s Be Still, both released on Sub Pop, had such an honest, indie folk sound. They were unapologetically themselves, and you could hear it in their music and lyrics, and could definitely see it on stage. Signs of Light has them turning towards a much more radio-friendly pop sound. THATH have had airplay before, I’m not denying that some of their music wasn’t radio friendly, but the extent was nowhere near Signs of Light.

The vast majority of the album is unnecessarily over-produced which takes away from the honesty and heart in the music. Right off the bat, first single from the album, “All We Ever Knew” was obviously catered to a more commercial pop audience. Tracks like “City of Angels” and “False Alarm” have a broader, guitar rock sound that is way left field for them, it sounds like a different band altogether.

I do really enjoy “Oh My Dear” it sounds a little bit more like what they used to put out, albeit a bit darker, but still beautiful nonetheless. And I do love that it flows seamlessly into the next song, “I Don’t Mind,” which isn’t terrible, but still not like the past.

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I hate to sound so bitter and crotchety, because I do believe that as an artist, you can’t continue doing the same things forever, there has to be room for change and growth. I honestly just feel let down more than anything. I understand and accept the direction in which they’ve decided to go and I wish them the best of luck, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. I mean and who knows, maybe after more listening to Signs of Light will grow on me like Mumford and Son’s Wilder Mind, but right now I’m upset.

It’s just hard to see a band that you love, that has been with you for so long, go downhill like this. Until you experience it for yourself, you won’t understand this deep disappointment. And I know a ton of people will disagree with me, and Signs of Light will be successful, and I’m glad for that, they deserve it. Though I, on the other hand, will be left over here with the other few heavy-hearted, asking “What happened to The Head and The Heart?” and “Will they ever come back?”

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New EP from Beach Bunny, Pool Party, is a real party

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about Beach Bunny unless, of course, you follow my twitter account. I met* the wonderfully chill, hippie-grrrl, musical genius behind Beach Bunny, Lili, this past winter when she reached out to me about her then-new EP Animalism. I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve really tried my best to sprinkle Beach Bunny where ever I go because I believe in her so much. Which leads me to the spreading of the latest Beach Bunny news: the new EP Pool Party is out now, even on Spotify this time!!!

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Lili and I had a little chat over the phone regarding the new stuff recently and she says that her mindset while writing Pool Party, released August 23rd, shifted a bit from when she wrote Animalism. With her first EP, it was specific, channeled greatly by emotions she was experiencing at that point in time, whereas with the newest release, being able to step back became important.

From the first track off Pool Party, “July”, we hear a heavier shoegaze, DIY, surf-rock than she previously had put out, thanks to her new electric guitar. Lili says it has been quite the learning experience trying to figure out the amps and set-up, especially when it came to the recording process, once again in her parents’ bedroom. The electric definitely gives her a bit more edge on Pool Party compared to Animalism, a sound closer to what she’s been looking to create. “Yo, I’m not trying to be a folk artist.” 

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Nearly all the songs on Pool Party have those classic Beach Bunny tempo changes we heard on her debut EP. Jumping to the last track “Ghost”,  we hear this fluctuation heavily throughout the song, bringing the listener on a bit of an emotional roller coaster when paired with the lyrics; listen closely.”Deja Vu”, my personal favorite, has a bridge that reminds me slightly of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but when those Ooo’s pick up it’s totally her own and so so gorgeous.

Lili said she favored the first three tracks off Pool Party the most and “Deja Vu” has been her favorite to perform live. The Chicago DIY scene has been a huge help in getting Beach Bunny out there as an artist, as well as being a great way to have fun. “Home shows are absolute bangers!” Shout out to the local bands she’s been playing with and who she mentions being incredibly helpful lately: Tuesday Moons (recently broke up), Home Burial, and Oceans and Oceans.

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With lots of upcoming plans including shows, new merch, music videos, and more press, all set just for this fall season, I’m sure we’ll all see and hear much more from Beach Bunny. While I’m here crossing my fingers for an MN show next summer when she plans to do a little mini-tour of sorts, be sure to go follow her on Spotify so we can get this girl verified! Also follow her on Facebook and Twitter because she’s still the funniest!

*actually we’ve never met in person because of her being in Chicago and me being mostly in FL, and now in MN. We’ll met one day I’m sure!