They’ll be releasing Cursed into the world at Gallery 5 this Sunday night, and you can expect its release to be accompanied by a fiery set of catchy uptempo tunes to get you bouncing. And in addition to Talk Me Off’s celebratory headlining set, you’ll also get some great sounds from an additional trio of Richmond punk bands. These include the twangy, emotional sounds of Doll Baby, the long-running folk-punk talents of Pedals (On Our Pirate Ships… I’m still not sure if the name has officially been shortened or not), and newcomers Xed Out, who feature former members of Smoke Or Fire and The Bled, so you know they’ve got a lot to offer. Be there for this one and appreciate the latest evolution of a storied Richmond tradition.
“This record is the most honest I’ve ever been with myself and with the songs,” said Richmond songwriter Landon Elliott of his forthcoming album.
At 8 a.m. on a sunny weekday morning, local Richmond musician Landon Elliott walks into the small but quaint Cafe Nostra near Brookland Park. Based on their brief exchange, it’s clear that he and the barista know each other. Elliott has a friendly tone to his voice, and there’s a spark in his eyes as he sits down to discuss his new single “Hurricane,” which came out at the end of August. Its music video was released shortly after on September 4, with the Richmond-based recording label American Paradox Records.
“I’m excited to get the record out,” Elliott said. “I’m still processing it’s happening. It’s been a long time coming, and a long journey to make this happen. It has a lot of sonic differences than what I’ve done before, but I’m still staying true to my songwriting sensibilities. This record is the most honest I’ve ever been with myself and with the songs.”
The partnership between American Paradox Records and Landon Elliott began in December 2017, after owner Scott Lane saw Elliott play earlier that fall at an open mic night at Poe’s Pub.
Lane had just moved back to Richmond from Denver when he started his new label, he said, and was wrapping up a record production with Kenneka Cook when he decided to take Elliott on.
Elliott and Lane had already begun a friendship by that time, and deciding to work together seemed like a natural addition to their relationship.
“Scott has done a good job of pushing me,” Elliott said. “He’s the label, but also my producer. We co-produced this record together. What Scott was able to do was honor my vulnerability and my personality, and my voice as an artist, while also pushing the direction of things a little bit.”
“Hurricane” is the first single to be released for Elliott’s new record, Domino — and with a yet-to-be-announced release date, the album represents a period of transition and questioning of a lot of things in his life and his worldview.
As he hinted, the new “Hurricane” single does have a slightly different tone and sound than the Wildflowers EP he released in 2017, under the name Landon Elliott and The Goods. While the EP with The Goods had a stronger country/folk/Americana sound, which clearly had roots in artists like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Elliott said he was more inspired for the new album by the 1980s synth pop-rock sounds of Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Fleetwood Mac.
And it shows. The sound of “Hurricane” is multi-layered, and while you can still hear his original Americana sound, there are also layers of synth and a slightly-more refined and mainstream sound than his earlier EP. The pop sound almost hides the raw, honest lyrics about the difficulty of being honest in a healthy relationship… almost. There are plenty of references to ghosts of the past, and the destruction that they can leave in their wake like a hurricane, as the title suggests.
“This track is about relationships and its many forms,” Elliott said. “The struggles that go into making love work. Love is hard work, to really care about someone truly and know someone fully takes a lot of work.”
The music video for “Hurricane” also reflects the struggle Elliott believes can be present in maintaining honest and loving relationships. Departing from the usual music video conventions of its genre, this video presents two dancers in a choreographed and improvised struggle for dominance and equality, before they end their performance in unison. Elliott himself is present, and sandwiched between them as they mouth the final lyrics together.
“I had this vibe in my mind of an 80s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ aerobic style movement,” Elliott said. “I wanted to do a dance video. For my style of music, you don’t necessarily see a more dance-style music video.”
Lane liked his idea, and suggested doing something even more out-there, Elliott said.
“I suggested a total visual departure from his Americana genre,” Lane said.
Lane had seen a dance performance in New York City based on similar themes of the struggle between love and hate. The performance was by a dancer named Georgia Usborne with Brooklyn’s Gallim Dance Company. Lane reached out to her about the possibility of choreographing something similar for Elliott’s video, and she agreed.
“What Scott really connected to was the raw physicality paired with a space for emotional connections between dancers, and also that emotionality can draw the audience into a story without there actually being a story or narrative,” Usborne said. “So we used that as a starting point, having a man and a woman, and discussing the light and shade of the relationship that can be shown through big physical movements — and also less physical, highly charged moments.”
The shoot was done in New York City, where Elliott and Lane met personally with Usborne, the dancers and the music video director. While the two dancers, Kayla Farrish and Sebastian Abarbanell, had been able to rehearse the choreographed parts once before — and some of the material was already familiar to Farrish, as much of the performance was inspired by a previous one of hers — they hadn’t had a lot of prior experience working together.
To make the pressure even tougher, they only had five hours to shoot the entire video, including setup and take-down, Lane said.
Despite the intense time pressure, they did it. Their team managed to film an entire music video, complete with some last-minute decisions, such as putting Elliott himself in the video.
In the end, the video presents itself as a nearly surreal and chaotic dance. The pair of dancers fight and work together throughout the routine, visualizing the struggle of making a relationship work as Elliott sings, nearly motionless on the floor. At times, Abarbanell is seen leading. At others, it is Farrish. Occasionally they work together, and oftentimes their movements seem to contradict each other. In the end, they appear to make their differences work out, coming to lie down on opposite sides of Elliott as the song comes to a close.
“This is the first music video I’ve worked where the musician was in the video,” Usborne said. “It was fabulous, I loved it. It was very focused, and we all cared a lot about it; there was real heart behind it. The track was super catchy, and it all came together well. It was a real pleasure, and I’d love to work with them again.”
After the release of the music video, a new single will be released in September. Right now Elliott is on tour with fellow Richmonder Deau Eyes, and the last few dates of the tour will find them pairing up with Josiah Johnson, formerly of The Head and the Heart.
Locally, Elliott will also be playing at The Broadberry on September 28 for the Shack Up festival, thrown each year by The Shack Band. This will be his first year playing at The Shack Up, Elliott said, and one of his first times playing solo on a platform that big.
“I love the Broadberry,” Elliott said. “They’re all really good friends of mine. I’m looking forward to hamming it up with them. There’s a lot of bands I love on the bill.”
Top Photo by Joey Wharton
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond
Best known for his work with Old Crow Medicine Show, Chance McCoy has plenty to offer on his own, and he’ll show it off in the river city tonight.
Tonight at the Richmond Music Hall, a virtuoso fiddler, guitarist, and banjo player will be diving into the local music scene with a performance featuring his latest album.
Chance McCoy is best known as a member of GRAMMY-winning Americana powerhouse Old Crow Medicine Show — but Wander Wide, his debut solo album, reveals a remarkable depth and versatility beyond anything we’ve heard from him yet.
Captivating in its cross between the traditional and the progressive, the record shows little regard for the conventional boundaries of genre and decade. It blends old-school bluegrass melodies with modern rock and roll arrangements, and rich, atmospheric production. McCoy based the album off of a live residency show he put on weekly at The Basement in Nashville, and the studio recordings here tap into the same exuberant energy he brought to the stage every night, with performances that unexpectedly twist and turn, sometimes transitioning from one tune to the next within the same track.
Ahead of his upcoming show at Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House downtown, I reached out to Chance for an interview and came to find out he had actually been staying in Richmond while working on a major motion picture.
He invited me over to his apartment, so I stopped by and had a nice talk with him and his bandmate, Jackie, about some of his past and recent work, including his upcoming album, Wander Wide. We talked about their time in Richmond and the various projects he’s been working on here, including his newest self-made music video (filmed right here in Richmond down at the Pipeline Rapids — see above). We also talked a bit about his time with Old Crow, his transition from old-time music to the varied sounds of his upcoming album, and where he plans to go moving forward.
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond
Summer is the perfect time for love songs — especially the ones about endless romances, which drift into brief flings, littered with sunburns that hurt like the burn of the inevitable break-up. The Regrettes, a California band, are looking to soothe that burn this summer with the release of their latest album, How Do You Love?
“We really wanted to show all sides of it, all the ugly parts and everything,” said lead singer Lydia Night. “There are parts that are romanticized because that’s a part of love, but the majority of it is just trying to show very honest approaches.”
The realities of love can be ugly, brash, and colorful in a million ways, and The Regrettes have done all they can to see the nitty-gritty feelings and experiences that love has to offer. How Do You Love? takes us on an amalgamated journey through the ups and downs of the relationships Night and the band have experienced. While these experiences and their portrayal aren’t linear, they all come together to form a rounded, all-encompassing story.
“It’s about finding bravery through [love],” said Night in a press release regarding their album. “Learning and accepting that, yes, you went through a shitty breakup, but that’s amazing — because all that means is next time you’re in a relationship, you know so much more about yourself and about what you want.”
The release of the album, set on August 9, comes in the midst of a North American tour that Richmond is lucky enough to be a stop on. The Regrettes will be hitting the River City for a huge rock-and-roll night this weekend, at Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House on Sunday, June 28th.
While touring hasn’t been the smoothest over the past year, the band is back in the game — and better than ever, ready to rock their fans and headline several months of shows. Earlier this year, in the process of a tour with West Coast friends SWMRS, Night encountered vocal issues that ended their time on tour.
“It’s really scary. All I can do is try my best, and I have a lot of people around me who have to put the pressure on it which sucks, but when your voice is your instrument there’s only so much you can do,” said Night. “There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s definitely not a fun thing to deal with or feel from others.”
Even in dealing with this obstacle, Night has come back with a powerful fire on her tongue, and the blunt feminist attitude she’s become famous for. The focus of the new album may not be fully political, like the content of their previous releases, but Night drives her woman-empowering passion into every song on this jammin’ record.
The album encourages those in the highs and lows of relationships to love themselves first, to be open and strong in who they are — and with who they love — and to straight up “feel your feelings, fool” (a reference to their memorably-titled first album).
“It’s impossible to build strong relationships when you don’t love yourself. Self-love into loving others is extremely important in my eyes, and should be in everyone’s,” said Night. “[In break-ups] I think there’s a lot of pressure on just getting out of it, and going out to go live it up like a single person… but if you want to sit and cry for a second, and then go and have fun, take your time. Everyone is different.”
As the tour continues, Night looks forward to going back to the drawing board for new songs, already composing despite the fact that their second album isn’t even out yet. The Regrettes are as hard-working as they come, and to their fans’ advantage, there will be no shortage of new material in the years to come.
Come join The Regrettes at Richmond Music Hall, located downtown at 619 E. Main St, for a kick-ass night of strengthening, heart-mending, power-pop punk music this Sunday starting at 7 PM. Advance tickets are $15, and can be found online — so grab some.
Top Photo: Claire Marie Vogel
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond
Richmond rap artist Michael Millions released his third studio album, “Hard to be King”, this January. His latest work, a follow up to his 2015 album “Beautiful”, reflects his hometown and draws on local talent and sounds, marrying the sounds of jazz and psychedelic rap to his classic style.
“One thing that most people need to know is, I designed this album for Richmond,” Millions said. “[T]he sounds we chose to use, the samples we used, and the instruments we chose to swap out. It’s really derived from the music that was created here.”
He credits the familiar sound with building instant local appeal. “I think people from here identify with it immediately. I don’t know if it’s just the sound or I’m telling stories, or maybe I’m speaking from the blue collar perspective of being hardworking and being from a city that [isn’t really],” he said.
Millions sampled from another Richmond-native, D’Angelo, and said he even got a note praising the album after its release.
“We actually used two samples on the album. The record called, ‘Black Sugar’ that features Nickelus F is a D’Angelo sample, and ‘Water’ is a D’angelo sample. And we also got clearance on using his vocals,” he said. “He reached out to me after the album came out, and pretty much said the album was really good and gave me a good blessing on the album.”
The sound and the creative process for “Hard to be King” represent an evolution from “Beautiful”, following Millions own transformation.
“When I started to want to be an emcee, I wanted to be an emcee. And as time progressed, I wanted to be a rapper. And now I’m more of an artist. There’s layers to this,” he said. “Then there’s another layer, where a songwriter, the rapper becomes a poet, and he’s more meticulous about the words he’s saying, the music has more intent. It’s more musical. It’s more about, we know you can rap, we know you can put words together, but can you make people feel when they’re done listening to your records. That’s another layer. That’s artistry, I think, and I think this album is me in 100% purest art form.”
In a city with a thriving battle rap scene, Millions is keenly interested in doing a live hip hop album, and structured many of his songs to work for live performance.
“People identify with live instrumentation. That’s what Richmond identifies with. The problem is, we create these albums as rappers that we can’t transfer to, play live because they have these different sounds,” he said. “I play with live instruments and it’s always a struggle to, not a struggle but you can’t play the record exact because they’re different sounds. If you go back to the basics of just sounds, then when we play a show with live instrumentation then it sounds like the record. And I wanted that type of consistency in my sound. I wanted it to be live, I wanted it to be for real.”
In addition to a live album, he’s also planning to create music for skating video, and hopes to work with some of the performers he admires the most.
“I’d rather just talk to Black Thought about music than to get music with him, but Nas I’d want [to do] the record,” he said. “Nas, I really respect him as a poet. There are not many rap poets, and I want to be listed as one of them.”
Millions has worked and travelled all over the country. Although he’s been elsewhere, something keeps bringing him back to the River City.
“I honestly like Richmond. We’ve been mad places, and maybe it’s because I’m from here. I lived in Norfolk for a period of time. There’s something about Richmond. Richmond is sweet,” he said.
Part of the appeal is his sense that Richmond is just about to make it on the national stage.
“I think it’s that thing of being in a place that hasn’t been discovered yet. Richmond is actually really cool, compared to a lot of cities in the country, but it’s just under the cusp of you either know about it or you don’t. People aren’t leaving because they know it’s cool here,” he said.
“Everyone’s doing something cool, especially when you’re in the creative space, you find out everything that’s going on.”
“Hard to be King” is a multi-layered album, with a complex progression of sounds, voices, and themes. Millions hoped that fans would take away one final message from the work.
“I think I want people to really listen to this album and understand that your life is okay. If the sun came up, if you walked to the bathroom this morning and didn’t have any aches and pains, you’re alright,” he said. “Smile more, and be blessed and be happy about the small moments we have.”
“Hard to be King” is available for purchase at Bandcamp and streaming on SoundCloud.
Richmond get ready to rejoice.
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