Fill your Valentine’s Day void with indie pop: “Valentine” // August Hotel

Don’t have a sweet heart this year? Don’t want a sweet heart this year? In either situation, seeing those who have sweethearts being overly affectionate in public on Valentine’s Day is super annoying; after walking across campus this morning, I seriously considered starting a campaign to make hand-holding illegal on Valentine’s Day next year.

That said, the internet and streaming sites seem to be spilling over with anti-Valentine playlists (223 public playlists on spotify searchable under the name “anti valentines”). So where do you start?! How about with a brand new tune fittingly titled “Valentine” from Chicago band August Hotel.

“Valentine” brings that signature jangly twinkle of 2010-2013 indie pop heroes full force – I’m talking about literally anything by TDCC and Passion Pit, and both Foster The People’s and Walk The Moon’s first albums; the original indie kids know. That first “woo!” in the beginning is like being transported into a “fun-time-with-friends” montage in a coming of age movie.

While the lyrics are admittedly kind of heartbreak-ish, something in the optimistic sonic elements of the song and the snide delivery of the lyrics, makes this a really fun “hey remember that time you hurt me? Well I’m fine and honestly you missed out.” “Valentine” is the first single off their second EP to be released this summer, so if you like it there is more on it’s way!

The ease and dance-ability of “Valentine” made me feel like I was 15 again, and hopefully it’ll spark some dancing in you too because once you go in all the way, there’s honestly no escaping your teenage indie-pop days.

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Shoegaze revivalists, Sleepwalk, hit the ground running with debut LP, Shimmer

I spoke with Ryan (guitar and lead vocals) and Steve (drums) of the Chicago band Sleepwalk last weekend and we chatted about their brand new album, Shimmer. The 90’s, dream-pop, soft grunge rockers put in a lot of work on their latest release that definitely shows in the final product.

Sleepwalk first started 3 years ago with the intent of becoming a black metal band, but when Steve lent Ryan a CD by the band Nothing, things changed. They are greatly influenced by famous alternative bands of the 90’s namely The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and The Stone Roses. These guys put together a sound that melds all these influences together creating one luxurious blanket of dreamy songs you just want to wrap up in and float around a room to like the lil ghost-baby you are.

 

After opening for a Ringo Deathstarr show, the concept of a full album came pretty spontaneously with the main focus being the shoegaze sound and high quality recording and production. As for song writing, about half of the quintet came up with the skeletons of the songs, while the entire band got together to work them out full and finally. Shimmer features a few of their older songs, including the title track and “Lucidity Slips”, that they pulled out of their backlog and reworked to fit with the sound of the album.

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Shimmer brings a lighter feel compared to their debut EP, Heaven’s Gate, which came out in February of 2016. The change in sound wasn’t a preconceived concept by any means, but it was warmly welcomed. Heaven’s Gate had a bit of a darker, edgier vibe reminiscent of Title Fight, but you can hear the hints of those whimsical, whisper-vocals, and “layers of swirling guitar” that became much more prominent on Shimmer.

“Shadow” is definitely my favorite song off the LP, finishing the album off with a beautiful build that reminds me a bit of if Beach House and This Will Destroy You decided to make a dreamy, bedroom-pop baby. The blisteringly loud noise of everything mixed with those calm vocals make for the most beautiful, floaty, drone-y song, and I just love it.

Nearly all five members of Sleepwalk have played in other local, Chicago bands previously which helped them in navigating the DIY music scene there as Sleepwalk became a real thing. They say that DIY spots come and go, especially now in the wake of the Oakland warehouse fire, but that some of their favorites venues (DIY and otherwise) to play have been The Empty Bottle, Schubas, and Beat Kitchen.

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As for the future, they tell me that more music will eventually be a thing, obviously, but that right now they’re just trying to get the word out about Sleepwalk and Shimmer. They’d also like to get physical copies of Shimmer available for fans, because right now you can only download a digital copy on BandCamp (name your price!).

You can catch Sleepwalk at their next show on January 7th at Cole’s in Chicago, and find them on Facebook. “Follow us on Facebook to keep the scene alive!”

 

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!

 

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!

Beach Bunny

Lili Trifilio is the girl who recorded her debut EP in her parents’ bedroom under the moniker Beach Bunny. At the young age of 19, the Chicago native is currently balancing a budding music career as a singer/songwriter while taking classes full time at DePaul University. Being a fellow Hippo Campus fan, attributing the inspiration for her EP to them, a Midwesterner, and absolutely hilarious on social media, she and I hit it off immediately.
Lili began taking guitar lessons as a preteen, and continued through junior high when she got into indie/alt. music; “someone showed me Foster the People and I was like ‘Wow this is different’ [. . .] I think once you start [listening to indie/alt music], there’s no going back!” She kept at it, continued practicing, self-teaching, and writing songs through high school when she realized that, “there’s some passion here.” It was then that Lili decided this very well could be something she wanted to pursue professionally.
She had plans to record an EP set for the summer of 2016, but when she went home for winter break (which happened to be 6 weeks long, the title of the EP’s hit!) she found herself with much free time and decided that she was going to do it right then. Lili did everything herself, from recording and producing, to the cover art. “There’s this spot in my parents room that has nice acoustics, and I just shut every door in the house and told everyone not to make any noise!”
Beach Bunny’s first EP Animalism was released December 16th 2015 with four tracks all with this very uniquely light and airy sound, fitting for the name Beach Bunny, which she says was given to her by a friend. The songs are all very much relatable love songs with crisp clear vocals, and attention grabbing tempo changes. The first track on Animalism, 6 Weeks starts out sounding like the very meaning of the word “pretty”, but then slows in the bridge and demands your awareness with goose bump-inducing vocals that rise with intensity, then settles and rests into the sweetness of the calm that was before the storm in the beginning of the song.

Lili has big hopes as Beach Bunny, and she sees herself writing more, maybe a bit more abstractly, but writing nonetheless. At the moment, you’ll find her playing a bunch of local shows in Chicago and at basement shows with other local artists. But she’s a dedicated attendee; her ultimate goal right now is playing Lollapalooza sometime in the future. And again, you really should follow her on social media cause she’s real funny, I swear.