For as long as I can recall, I have always felt a bit like an outsider. When I moved to Richmond in 2002 to attend VCU, I wasn’t entirely sold on the city. I was quickly impressed by the never-ending plethora of live music taking place on Grace Street at 929 or down in Shockoe at Alley Katz, but the connection never fully clicked. I even debated moving out of the Commonwealth by my junior year to find a place that felt more like home.
As one might say that luck would have it, my years spent beyond that first tumultuous acclimation period improved exponentially. I began to see this spirit brimming from this inspired local community of artists that weren’t simply writing songs, they were writing anthems to place a flag into their collective soil, as a means of declaring that this moment belonged to us. Whether it was a bohemian basement dwelling or the rotating names attributed to 929 West Grace St (Twisters, 929, Nanci Raygun, Strange Matter, etc), this idea of music being a greater entity that dictated how much we pursued our desires to feel truly alive was intoxicating.
I never knew where to fit in beyond as a consistent observer. My close friends attending art school in town began to introduce me to a number of local musicians. I was fortunate to attend a few classes with fellow English majors that, outside of their time reading eighteenth century romantic poetry, spent their evenings erupting into a cacophony of chaotic noise, which felt truly liberating. This is when I began to see the through-lines of our intersecting lives, and how much it all organically intertwined.
Having a natural adoration for compelling storytelling, my first avenue of participation began with wanting to tell the tales of these musicians. While feeling like no more than a modest student taking mental notes for my own creative pursuits, I wanted to do everything I could to build awareness for the wonderful music being created in this town. To me, there was nothing better than writing a multiple part series of conversations with bands like The Milkstains or sitting down to get to the heart of longstanding songwriters like James Menefee and David Shultz, each with a story more unique than the last. I always stepped away from these conversations thrilled to help someone discover a new favorite artist.
Years later, I got a ride from a close friend. The car radio was dialed to WRIR, and I heard a song by Prabir and the Substitutes. My first reaction was to wonder why this local band was on the radio. My friend explained that a new radio station had started in town, and it was all community based. They celebrated the culture and community in a manner that left me feeling excited. Within a month, I was volunteering for the station and doing anything I could to get a radio show.
This involved working late shifts that didn’t wrap up until 2am, staying up all night, and showing up at the station for a 6am training shift to prove I knew how to produce a radio program. The Commonwealth of Notions officially began broadcasting at 1am on Thursday mornings at some point after that. My audience was mostly service industry folks, and the shows were me declaring my adoration of this music scene by playing all of my favorite music from it.
The mission of the show was to constantly push myself to discover new music in Richmond, especially outside of my genre-based comfort zones, and provide a weekly argument that there was still exciting music happening in the city.
A sentiment that’s somewhat alarming often comes from the older generations. They refuse to let go of the glory days, their years spent in their own respective musical microcosms. They look at younger generations as not of equal merit, and use that thought as an excuse for gatekeeping. I experienced this myself in my early twenties, but as I got older, I refused to let it become a part of me.
I’ve always been open to meeting new folks working on music locally, and to receiving any and all feedback about how I could be doing better work. I know if I’m fortunate, I’ll be passing the torch along to a new generation of aspiring artists. I want them to feel welcome on the journey they have ahead.
Now I work an office job, play in a band, and sit around my apartment reading about the yesteryears of my musical upbringing. I still find myself compelled to do my weekly radio show, though, as a way to explore what Richmond music sounds like in the present. From the first night I was ever on the radio up until the most recent broadcast, I have believed that the musical contributions of Richmond are unlike anywhere else. They’re constantly shifting and changing, but that’s what keeps this city’s music scene truly exciting, and something worth marveling over.
As this list explores, there’s always a legacy of local music from bygone times to digest and celebrate. But the thing that keeps my eyes feeling a bit warm as I look ahead is the promise of even greater sounds that have yet to emerge from this town. That’s why I find myself still eager to learn and explore so many pertinent sounds from our community. –Shannon Cleary
The Richmond Music Catalog Part 3
Kenneka Cook, ‘My Universe’ Moonchild
2018 American Paradox
Kenneka Cook has always loved outer space. Growing up in Richmond, VA, she was obsessed with the moon, staring out her window at the night sky in awe of its mystery. The title track on Cook’s debut record Moonchild, set for a February 23rd release on American Paradox, is both a product of her intense connection with the cosmos, as well as a tribute to the embracing of celestial feminine energy. Musically, Cook bridges the gap between beat-driven sonics and melodic jazz in a brazenly colorful and tonally rich debut album.
Cook’s early training took place in her church choir and school chorus. Her tastes eventually shifted towards heavyweights like Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu, and The Cardigans, informing her confidently playful, harmony-heavy, atmospheric style. Initially she was making acapella songs with a microphone and laptop during the end of her college career out of necessity, describing her voice as “the only instrument I truly had access to” at the time.
She discovered the process of live looping through Reggie Watts, who sometimes uses looping techniques in the songs found in his comedy acts. She covered the jazz standard “Night and Day” using the technique and it turned out better than she ever could have hoped. From there, she began to fully explore creating music and on the new album, she welcomes a variety of live players into the fold to flush out and widen the unique sound she created on her own. — from Terror Bird
Kepone, ‘Knifethrower’ Skin
1995 Quarterstick Records
One of the last episodes I ever saw had a band called Kepone on doing an interview, and the video for their song ‘Knifethrower’, which I think I intrinsically understood even then was a stone-cold classic. I tried to order a copy of their album Skin for like, a year but no-one could seem to get hold of it. Then it popped up in Virgin. I fell in love with this album, and still love it. I guess you’d call it post-hardcore, or something like that?
I’m not so familiar with this whole area, never investigated it too much but this album really caught a hold. It’s so unusual and smart and weird. ‘Super Fucker’ is really thrilling. ‘Blue-Devil’ and ‘Thin Solution’ are both so tense and haunted. I reckon it’s a lost classic. The songs are fabulous, the guitars sound amazing and spiky, the vocals are beautiful and wild, and Ed Trask is an amazing drummer. Maybe the production overall is not quite there, but I think the slightly thinner, scratchy quality adds to the whole effect. It’s almost like a rural gospel-punk thing… Not quite gothic… more like a rotten old hut. I listened to this on the train back from Sheffield the other day and it struck me that I respond strongly to these sharp kind of guitar tones, abrasive styles, raspy strings. Maybe this record has been a bigger influence on me than I realised. I play it a lot for people and most of the time they’re just like, ‘huh? aye, it’s ok’, but what do they know?! — from The Quietus
Kid Is Qual, ‘Knights Of Ole’ Damn Son
2011 Self Release
When a band consists of two bass players and a drummer, you know to expect something a little different. Especially when the band is the new project from former Jack’s Mannequin bass player Jonathan Sullivan, and there isn’t one single element on the three piece’s new EP, ‘Damn Son,’ that is reminiscent of Sullivan‘s former employers.
Bass driven is obviously an understatement, but the heavily distorted, dance, synth, indie pop, that the group produce, manages to use its leading bass guitars in interesting ways. Opening track Knights Of Ole sets the scene, with its driving, hi-hats-on-the-off-beat rhythm, pulsating bass tones and fuzzed out robot vocals which deliver lines like “I wanna meet you at the dance floor.” It is pretty safe to say that if you don’t like this track, the rest of the EP would be a waste of time. — from Kill Your Stereo
Labraford, ‘Up to Pizmo’ Fixed::Context
2001 Blast First/Kranky
If ever an album rewarded repeated listening, it’s this one. My first pass through fixed::context left me completely bored. As with E Luxo So, there just didn’t seem enough to the music to hold my interest. But each time I played it, fixed::context burrowed just a little deeper in my brain and I now hum the simple themes constantly, even when the record is nowhere in sight.
I may have been a bit slow on the uptake initially because fixed::context is an absurdly minimal proposition. The whole record is only 37 minutes long; there are only four tracks, and each has a handful of different sounds hitting only five or six different notes. I’m not being facetious here: it actually is easy to count all the elements in any given piece. The side-long “20” opens with some gurgling electrical pops that sound like the first Pole record. Then a gentle synthesizer drone comes in, then a reverbed electric guitar that slowly alternates between two chords, then there are a few glitches, then there’s a chord change, and a few minutes later some noise folds in as the piece fades out. All this happens one drip at a time over the course of 18 minutes. — from Pitchfork
Lamb Of God, ‘As The Palaces Burn’ As Palaces Burn
2003 Prosthetic Records
Simply put, Lamb of God rock for the sheer love of it. Money, fame, groupies, ego gratification — none of it seems to mean a damn thing to these Richmond’s boys, and they’ve been that way since they first came together under the family-friendly name Burn the Priest. “When we started up in ’94, it wasn’t that we realized that we were great musicians and should play music together,” Adler explains. “It was more like, ‘OK, we don’t know what we’re doing, but I can’t even go into a record store anymore and buy a metal album that I like. So let’s go make some noise ourselves. At least we’ll have the satisfaction of being able to listen to our own tapes.’ — from Revolver
Landmines, ‘First Chords’ Landmines
2008 Paper + Plastick Records
A little over a decade ago, Landmines were one of the best punk rock bands in Richmond, and I was a huge, huge fan. Their two LPs were full of furious rage, expertly coupled with indelible melodies and powerful lyrics about the important issues, both personal and political, that we all grapple with every day of our lives. A while after their excellent second LP, Commerce And Marx, was released in 2011, Landmines split up, and though there was a brief reformation in 2014, they haven’t taken the stage in something like four years now. The former members are all still making music in excellent bands like Sea Of Storms, Tied To A Bear, and Park Sparrows, but none of their current projects quite scratch that same itch the way Landmines always did. –from RVA Magazine, July 17, 2019
Landon Elliott, ‘Hurricane’ Domino
2019 American Paradox
From its opening moments, “Hurricane” shimmers with bittersweet nostalgia via echoing vocals, processed guitar tones, blanketing synths, and lyrics in which the past haunts the present: “Cut through the smoke like we cut through the dream / Backdraft memories, burnt out scenes.”
While retrospective in that sense, the song finds Elliott driving into new sonic territory, building outward from the soulful Americana to which he’s applied his powerful vocal gift in the past. In a recent phone interview, Elliott confirmed that variety is a defining characteristic of Domino. “There’s stuff in there that’s very bluesy. There’s stuff that’s very pop. There’s stuff that’s very singer-songwriter and folk. It’s calling on a lot of different eras, genres, and sounds, while still being true to who I am.”
In this case, Elliott set out to write a love song that felt especially real, one that reflected how the waters of true emotional depth can — and must — be stormy at times. “I wanted to write a love song, and not in the traditional sense.” — from The Auricular
Light The Fuse and Run, ‘There Are Spies Among Us’ All Your Base Belong To Us
2002 Self Released
When the album by Light the Fuse and Run came in, I was immediately drawn to it due to its album name, All Your Base Are Belong to Us, something taken from an old video game called Zero Wing. See, ZW was translated poorly, hence the broken English. This started an internet craze (something we covered almost two years ago) so yeah, I pulled the CD out because of that. Much to my surprise, this album is quite good. LTFAR is a great example of how the Richmond, VA scene is already bored of the indie(core) sound and just making thick rock. I grabbed Chris before a practice session… — from Modern Fix
Lil Ugly Mane, ‘Throw Dem Gunz’ Mista Thug Isolation
How does Travis Miller, a noise musician from Richmond, Virginia, not only make the transition to hip-hop but end up making one of the decade’s most defining underground rap albums? Five years later, on its fifth vinyl pressing through small Italian label Hundebiss, Lil Ugly Mane’s Mista Thug Isolation still commands a cult status. It is largely based off the slowed down, nearly psychedelic remixes of DJ Screw and the hazy horrorcore of early Three 6 Mafia, both sounds experiencing a renaissance at the time even when Houston and Memphis’ mainstream sounds were beginning to wane in popularity. One of his first guest appearances was on Spaceghostpurrp’s mixtape Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6 (1991), which was treading similar territory. Nothing comes from a vacuum, but *Isolation’*s brilliance is that despite its familiar influences, it sounds totally alien from anything before or after it, even in Lil Ugly Mane’s own catalog. — from Pitchfork
Lord By Fire, “Three Sisters Of The Wolves,” Lord By Fire EP
2009 Forcefield Records
From right here in Richmond, VA and formerly known as simply Sword (whose sole release was titled “Lord by Fire”), Lord by Fire‘s debut under their new name is this self-titled 7″ on Forcefield Records, so… as far as I know, this actually marks the band’s first recorded output since the summer of 2005!? With just two tracks in 10 minutes it’s over all too soon, but the band’s approach to dark, dingy, “doomy” rock/metal remains intact with the added bonus of an absolutely awesome recording that’s loaded with warm, natural tones and plenty of crisp breathing room that allows all of the subtle intricacies of the elements’ textures to shine through perfectly. Expect hoarse, strained shouts over an assortment of pounding midpaced power chords; choppy, chugging rhythms; sludgy, textured grooves; and occasional layers of searing feedback. It’s neither too rocked out nor too overly aggressive and in your face, and that balance works out quite nicely for the end result. Hopefully some more material is on the way sooner than later! —from Aversionline
Lucy Dacus, ‘I Dont Want To Be Funny Anymore’ No Burden
2015 Egghunt Records
As hard as it is for some people to admit it, Dacus has little sonic comparison points with most female musicians currently making waves. Really, it’s the uniqueness of these artists that truly links them and makes these somewhat baffling comparisons seem valid. Each approaches songwriting in a completely novel way, with unusually perceptive lyrics and engaging melodies; it’s that approach that binds them together, even if the final products are vastly different.
Dacus’ unique style of songwriting is best shown on “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.”. Recently released as a single, it’s beginning to gain momentum, with prominent coverage on The Fader and Stereogum. Its bold lyrical proclamations candidly showcase her inner desires and personal shortcomings within a hauntingly stunning melody. As open and vulnerable as the song is, there’s a commendable level of restraint, as her confidently composed voice keeps the pace of the song as terse as the lyrics themselves. It’s a powerhouse song for any musician, let alone someone barely out of their teens, and it’s in consideration not only for best Richmond song of 2015, but one of the premier songs of 2015 overall. —from RVA Magazine, December 28, 2015
Luggage, ‘2 UP 2 DOWN’ Sex, Drugs & Rap
2011 Gritty City Records
The 21st century brought with it many technological advances, including affordable consumer grade recording gear and exponential access to a global audience via the internet, all of which have led to sweeping changes within the hip-hop game. Luggage is among the names to emerge victorious from the chaos, and rightfully so. After almost three silent years, Kevin ‘Oxen’ Johnson and Ben ‘BenFM’ Bateman have returned with a seasoned sound and a hedonistic philosophy, quickly establishing themselves as the willing representatives for loud music, good times, and chemical consumption within the streets of RVA. Luggage is about to unleash both their most mature and most irresponsible record to date, appropriately titled Sex, Drugs and Rap. — from RVA Magazine, December 11, 2011
Mad Skillz, ‘The Nod Factor’ From Where???
1996 Atlantic Records
Today, I’m lettin’ you guys in on one of the most slept on albums I know – From Where??? by Mad Skillz. Why is one of the most slept on? Timing. Timing, because this album dropped the same day as 2Pac‘s All Eyez On Me and The Fugees‘ The Score. Maybe I’m going too far by saying how slept on this album is, because it did go platinum and has a sort of cult-following since physical copies of the album are so rare. But, judging by the sentence you just read, that should give you all the reason to go out and buy this album on iTunes or Amazon. What is really special about this album is that this guy Mad Skillz hails from Virginia, and delivers one of the best flows and craziest lyrics of his time; he kind of reminds me of Big L, but he does have his own sound.
Nowadays, Skillz is known for his year-end rap-ups which are also dope. The album also features some amazing early production from a young J Dilla, and also from Large Professor, Buckwild and The Beatnuts. If you guys haven’t given this album a listen, you should definitely take the time to check it out.— from Hip Hop Speakeasy
Manatree, ‘Animal Quietlies’ Manatree
2015 Egghunt Records
This Saturday looks to be the crowning glory for Manatree–and it’s been a long time coming. This quartet’s been together since they were in junior high, figuring out how to play their instruments alongside each other as they grew up and formed a musical identity. Along the way they shed an awkward and embarrassing band name (eventually arriving at another one that’s still silly as hell while being way more palatable), released several EPs, and stockpiled a treasure trove of their best songs. And this is where it all pays off.
Saturday night’s celebratory live performance marks the release of Manatree’s self-titled debut album, which will bring together several years’ worth of their best songs into one killer collection of catchy, complex alt-rock/power pop. It’s coming out on Egghunt Records, who’ve previously made their mark on the local scene with releases by White Laces and Red States (and have an upcoming release by The Diamond Center in the pipeline as well). If you’ve caught these still-quite-young dudes playing around town recently, you’ve surely come to know a lot of these songs in all their toe-tapping glory, and you’ll have another chance to get familiar with them Saturday night. If you don’t end up taking home a copy of the album when you leave the Broadberry that evening, well, I don’t know what might be wrong with you (unless you’re broke–I know ALL ABOUT that). –from RVA Magazine, July 22, 2015
Matthew E. White, ‘Rock N Roll Is Cold’ Fresh Blood
2015 Domino Recording Co.
Matthew E. White is a devoted Stevie Wonder disciple, and also a devoted do-it-yourselfer. Accordingly, the aesthetic for his Spacebomb record label and studio is “DIY” in the ‘70s auteur sense, not in the punk-rock sense. In interviews, the Richmond, Virginia-based jazz studies alum often name-checks the likes of Marvin Gaye and Randy Newman. “There’s not some punk-rock version of Stevie Wonder,” White told Grantland. “Stevie Wonder is deep music, on a lot of levels.”
White’s first album under his own name, 2012’s Big Inner, contemplated Big Ideas — love, death, God — in an opulent setting of analog-era soul and down-home psychedelia, brimming with horns and strings. Recent Spacebomb projects, including the radiant 2015 self-titled debut of former Jenny Lewis backing singer Natalie Prass, have followed suit. Fresh Blood, White’s sophomore album, mostly stays true to the house style, improving on Big Inner in some ways, falling short in others, but never less than fully engaged in the notion of music as a higher ground. — from Pitchfork
McKinley Dixon, ‘Make a Poet Black’ For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her
2021 Spacebomb Records
If there’s anything McKinley Dixon knows, it’s that his music isn’t for everyone. The Richmond, Virginia-based rapper is used to sharing parts of himself that cause curious banter at best and tension at worst. This includes Twitter takes that take the idea of race and genre-bending to task, musings on agriculture and sustainability, and namechecks late author Toni Morrison as the greatest rapper of all time. Today, he shares his debut studio album For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, a raging, pulsing project that blurs the lines between the personal and the political — albeit unintentionally. “I’ve always had this community of beautiful Black people around me and this album is an ode to them and what we go through,” he explained via phone. “People that look like my mama can be Black women, Black trans people, Black queer folks, my Mom is this very universal thing in that regard.” — from Fader
Mekong Xpress, ‘Common Knowledge’ Common Knowledge
2018 Egghunt Records
For a group of musicians who came together by accident, Mekong Xpress have kept fans coming back time and time again. Holding down a weekly residency at The Answer Brewpub since 2013, the lively, eclectic group has entertained crowds with their mix of vintage blues, R&B, and funk, and this month, we will finally get to hear what they’ve been working on these past few years with the release of their debut album, Common Knowledge.
“It was a really cool, organic experience, I’ve never had anything creative happen like this,” said bassist/vocalist Todd Herrington. “We’re all in heavy touring bands so any second that we had that we could get together, we put a mark in the studio and recorded some stuff.”
According to Herrington, much of the album pulls from the 60s and 70s. The song “Games” has an Earth Wind and Fire vibe for all you old school music lovers. But “Common Knowledge” doesn’t stick to any one genre so there’s a little something in there for everybody, no matter what you get down to.
“There’s instrumental stuff, there’s different genres all over. There’s some jazz funk tunes, there’s some classic rock tunes, some R&B stuff,” he said. “There was no plan we would just write, the four of us would just get together and sit in a room and play off each other and however it sounded was fine.” –from RVA Magazine, September 20, 2018
Men’s Recovery Project, “Get Your Dick Out Of My Food,” Immense Ovary Reject
1996 Paralogy Records
Sam McPheeters, along with his band Born Against, moved from New York to Richmond in 1993. Born Against broke up almost immediately after arriving here, but Sam spent the next decade or so sending weird vibes through the Richmond scene as leader of Men’s Recovery Project, an experimental, frequently electronic, and never predictable collaboration with former Born Against bassist Neil Burke. MRP faded into obscurity around the beginning of this decade, and Sam moved to LA and formed the short-lived Wrangler Brutes before seeming to retire from music. He now devotes his energies towards art, and has done writing and editing work for Vice Magazine, among others. –from RVA Magazine, October 6, 2010
Michael Millions, ‘Blacksugar’ Hard To Be King
2017 Purple Republic Music Group
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 song called ‘Blacksugar’ 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.” –from RVA Magazine, February 16, 2018
Mikrowaves, ‘Our Time’ 20 Up 20 DOWN
2021 Self Release
“I met Kelli Strawbridge, a couple of times, I really liked the way he played drums and asked him to join Mikrowaves. I want to start a band. Mikrowaves is gonna be these songs and we have some new songs too. Toby will play tuba. I’ll play guitar, acoustic guitar, and that was, alright cool, that was awesome. Bob wants to be part of it. We need percussions, we got Coca. Might as well get saxophone, John Lily. And so that’s nice and I’m playing guitar. And we had a gig, Toby could’t make it, Toby hated playing tuba and so I was playing bass, and it was better, you know, I’m a natural bass player. So we got Toby to play trombone and Russel to play guitar. My neighbor Ken joined to play mandola.” — from RVA Magazine August 25th, 2021
Municipal Waste, ‘Sadistic Magician’ The Art Of Partying
2008 Earache Records
Vocalist Tony Foresta and guitarist Ryan Waste (née Ryan Joy) formed Municipal Waste in 2000 to play the kind of crossover thrash that stopped being cool around the time. M.O.D. literally jumped the shark on Surfin’ M.O.D. in 1988. Maybe Foresta and Waste sensed something the rest of us hadn’t, or maybe it was just dumb luck, but the band’s blitzing, irreverent and over-the-top take on the genre found some traction on their full-length debut Waste ’Em All (Six Weeks Records) in 2003. With the addition of a fresh rhythm section—drummer Dave Witte and bassist Phil “Land Phil” Hall—and a contract with Earache Records, the Waste took a big step forward with 2005’s Hazardous Mutation. Five years in, the shows were getting bigger, the tours were getting longer, the crowds were getting crazier and the band was having a blast.
It was with this momentum—and the explicit confirmation from metal fans on both sides of the Atlantic that they, too, were ready to turn those frowns upside down and thrash like it was 1985—that Municipal Waste approached The Art of Partying. From the note-perfect title to the unrelenting volley of now-classic blasts of punk fury and frantic metal riffing, this is the ultimate distillation of what made crossover so appealing in its ’80s nascence. Released on Ryan Waste’s 27th birthday in 2007, the band’s third album found a receptive audience around the globe with both old-school thrashers and younger bangers who weren’t even born when the first wave of crossover introduced metal to punk and vice versa. — from Decibel
Murphy’s Kids, ‘The Anti Corporate Beach Party’ The Anti Corporate Beach Party
2006 Self Released
It is the end of an era, y’all. The 2017 Skalidays will mark the final live appearance of Murphy’s Kids. This long-running ska band traces its origins back to the thick of the late 90s punk-ska revival, which brought us bands like Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, and Save Ferris. On the local level, a bunch of high school kids from the Southside started playing their own version of that sound back in 1999, and over the next 18 years, Murphy’s Kids honed and expanded their sound, outlasting the movement that birthed them and almost every other band that had been part of it to become godfathers of the pop-punk, ska, and reggae scenes in Central Virginia.
Earlier this year, they released their seventh album, a progressive concept album called Time Dilation that expanded into psychedelic territory through the use of ambient soundscapes and heady lyrical themes. It was still just as much of a danceable burst of fun as any of their previous work, though, so it would have been tough for anyone to predict that it would also become their swan song. However, only six months later, the band will leave the stage for the last time as part of the long-running holiday charity benefit they created over a decade ago. One thing’s for sure–they’re going out on top. –from RVA Magazine, December 20, 2017
My War, “I Don’t Make Trash I Burn It,” Legs Up/My War Split LP
2004 State of Mind Recordings
From Richmond, Virginia My War bring you their own abusive array of tracks. With crunching guitars, blast beat breakdowns and a voice that shreds through furious lyrical content; My War contributes an unstoppable set of songs, which are heavy and hypnotic. With many of Black Flag’s no nonsense mentalities such as intense live shows, powerfully insistent riffs, powerful lyrics, and an honest approach not often found in a scene that is increasingly commercial. –from Bandcamp
Natalie Prass, ‘Short Court Style’ The Future and the Past
2018 ATO Records
Three years ago, Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut album appeared like a treasure trove. Gilded and ornate, laden with both R&B swagger and baroque pop embellishments, the Richmond, Virginia singer-songwriter’s breakout effort made a compelling case for her maximalist songwriting. But a lot has happened since 2015, and these days, things are looking less shiny. Prass had already written her sophomore album when, in November 2016, election results compelled her to scrap it and start fresh. “Short Court Style” is the first single from her rewritten album, The Future and the Past, and it pulses with a new energy and directness. — from Pitchfork
Nickelus F, ‘Walls Of Jericho’ TRIFLIN
2016 Self Release
“I feel like I’m a special individual…I offer a lot in terms of art and culture,” he said. “But through the eyes of certain people, I could easily be a criminal, be a drug dealer, based on my outward appearance…”
This is one of the predominant themes in Triflin’, as demonstrated early on in the album’s intro, “Laced Weed.” The song begins with a recorded conversation between Nick and a police officer who has pulled him over in his neighborhood. The police officer tells him, “The area you live in is not such a good area down there. So, when people have violations, we stop them to make sure everything’s good.”
Nick says he can’t even go get a beer down the road without being hassled.
Even the album’s cover makes a bold statement. In it, Nick blows smoke while standing in front of a wall papered with “gotcha magazines, which are predominately black and brown faces.”
“That cover was basically to depict every black man in America…but when you listen to it, I got a lot more to say,” F said. “To put me in front of that is kind of like stepping out of the preconceived notions and showing that [I] offer more. I also wanted it to be open for interpretation as well…” –from RVA Magazine September 24th, 2015
Nightcreature, “Mess Around,” Nightcreature
The convergence of glam, punk, and garage rock has landed in Richmond in the form of NIGHTCREATURE, a brash and memorable sextet capable of gritty guitars and sauntering vocals. NIGHTCREATURE’s musical fusion is best described as garage rock with a psychedelic and theatrical spin, almost like punk rock that aims to pierce and punctuate the glam vocals and glitter harmonies. Their EP is a four song tribute to this approach, with bursts of musical energy flying through a loosely structured rhythm that’s as intriguing as it is endearing. –from The Auricular
NO BS! Brass, ‘RVA All Day’ RVA All Day
2013 Self Release
The best place to meet up with No BS! Brass Band is on their home turf–Minimum Wage Studios, located deep in the heart of Richmond’s Oregon Hill neighborhood, only blocks from the James River. I dropped by on one of the first warm spring afternoons of 2013–expecting cooler weather, I had brought a jacket, but ended up leaving it in the car. On my way into the building, a trio of shirtless 10 year old boys trooped past me, on their way back from the river. Regardless of the fact that they’d never seen me before, they greeted me immediately, and one held up an empty plastic juice bottle with what looked like a bunch of leaves and sticks thrown into the bottom of it. “We caught a frog,” the boy with the bottle said, and after a mystified moment of trying to spot the captured amphibian, it startled me with a sudden jump. “I expected it to be green,” I said, by way of explaining the fact that I hadn’t immediately spotted the brown frog. “That’s a different type of frog,” they said, then continued on their way home. I laughed and walked through Minimum Wage’s front gate.
For No BS! to make their home here, in an area that manages to give the feel of a small country town even as its situated at the geographic center of the city, makes a lot of sense. They’ve built up a solid connection to the local community over their time as a band, and the title of their brand new fifth LP, RVA All Day, just makes that fact even clearer. Basing their ten-piece lineup entirely on horns and percussion enables No BS! Brass Band to set up and play anywhere there’s a space for them to stand and a crowd for them to play for, and as a result, they’ve played to a wider spectrum of local audiences than I’d imagine any other local band can lay claim to. From Sunday afternoon street festivals to late-night punk rock clubs, they’re at home anywhere people like music, dancing, and fun.
Founded by trombonist Reggie Pace and drummer Lance Koehler, No BS! Brass Band has brought together members from all sorts of different local music scenes. Pace probably has the highest profile independently of the group right now, what with his membership in the touring version of Grammy-winning indie act Bon Iver–during their performance on the Colbert Report, he could be seen rocking a No BS! t-shirt. He’s also a member of local funk band Glows In The Dark, and previously played in Fight The Big Bull along with Matthew E. White, who is becoming an indie star in his own right these days.
But Pace is not the only heavy hitter in the No BS! lineup. The other eight members of the group (Taylor Barnett, Ben Court, Stefan Demetriadis, David Hood, Bryan Hooten, John Hulley, Sam Koff, and Marcus Tenney) include members of The Ernies, Fighting Gravity, Bio Ritmo, and UTV Chamber, among others. Demetriadis teaches music at a variety of local schools, Tenney and Hulley each lead jazz ensembles of their own, and Koehler (to bring it full circle) owns Minimum Wage Studios, where he records bands of all different styles and genres. With all of these excellent, hard-working players coming together, it’s no surprise that No BS! Brass Band have carved out quite a niche for themselves in the local scene. The variety of influences and backgrounds that they bring together when creating their music doesn’t hurt either. While No BS! has a foundation in the traditional second line jazz groups of Koehler’s native New Orleans, they are so much more than just a jazz band. Funk, punk, hip hop, indie rock, and so many more genres are thrown into the mix, resulting in a sound that isn’t much like anything else you can hear in today’s music scene–locally, nationally, or otherwise. –from RVA Magazine, May 13, 2013
Noah-O, ‘I GOT IT’ The Leak
2010 Self Release
When I met Noah O nearly ten years ago, he appeared from a distance to have a chip on his shoulder. Based on his rough exterior, dressed in baggy colorful clothes, I assumed he was a common thug and labeled him unapproachable. Looking back, I am grateful the universe saw fit to reveal to me the error in my assumptions. I would have been denied the experience of interacting with one of the few genuine, honest, inspiring and talented people I have been blessed to know. Common thug he was not.
I remember wishing I had half the resilience he exhibited, and walked away from our interaction both inspired by him and ashamed by my initial assumptions. We shared several more experiences over the next few years, and I was fortunate to work with him on his first music video and a compilation album titled All Roads Lead To Richmond. Since those days, he’s come a long way, especially in light of the recent success of his “I Got It” video, which we discuss below.
Noah wears many hats–he’s not just a rapper but an MC, a husband and a father, who has at times worked two jobs make ends meet. But on top of all the hats Noah O wears is that of a teacher. Some people might think his sound is not for them; I beg to differ. The positive messages, the inspiration, the wisdom, the passion for life, and the love for those he keeps close to his chest–those things are for everyone. We could all learn a lot from Noah O. –from RVA Magazine, September 19, 2011
Occultist, “Gamma Tomb,” Hell by Our Hands
Occultist started in 2009 in Jackson Ward, and have since been forced to acquire an actual practice space due to the fact that the neighbors found them “brutally loud.” Kerry Zylstra is the newest member of the band, having joined in 2010 when Will Towles, their original singer, left the group.
“I had seen Occultist play quite a few times and and loved their sound,” says Zylstra. “I was also friends with the other band members and it had been a long-term goal of mine to front a punk/metal band.” Zylstra’s dynamic stage presence and abrasive shrieks gained the band even more attention, and they began getting booked for more shows and bigger events. Although the presence of an attractive female frontperson seems like it might elicit some unsavory responses from small-minded fans, Zylstra says she hasn’t had to deal with too many jerks. “I do feel as though people focus on my gender quite a bit, but I haven’t encountered any major negativity,” she says. Although she has had to deal with the inevitable sexist comments at bigger shows where the crowd isn’t made up entirely of punks and locals, the good has far outweighed the bad.
The band has also undergone some stylistic changes in the past two years. What started as a straight-forward punk/metal powerhouse has evolved into a far more complex musical project, with the guitarists focusing a lot more on melody and strong riff-writing. “There has always been a focus on musicianship, although admittedly the songwriting has definitely gravitated more towards the visceral and primitive aspects of punk and metal that Kerry’s vocal approach lends perfectly to,” says Reed. The group usually combines to write songs, and then presents the material to Zylstra, who listens to them until lyrical inspiration strikes her. Her lyrics are often dark and dystopian, with lines like: “Deaf to our cries, revenge ensues/ The cost of convenience: humanity dies/ A tortured planet turns on itself/ We writhe in despair” (“Gamma Tomb”). While this is usual fodder for punk bands, it is a far cry from darkly happy GWAR tunes or Municipal Waste party anthems. –from RVA Magazine, October 12, 2012
OG iLLa, ‘2AM In Richmond’ Richmond Renegade
2020 Self Release
From the opening scene in his new video to the lyrics in his song, Richmond rapper OG ILLA declares which side of history he wants to be. Cutting the head off of American Confederate General Robert E Lee’s statue and showing graffiti that calls for the defunding of the local police department, the artist raps in front of a mural for African-Americans wrongfully killed at the hands of police officers. — from Grunge Cake
Ohbliv, ‘Nowhere and Everywhere’ Baker’s Dozen
2017 Fat Beats Records
For Ohbliv, seeing so many Richmond beatmakers find success through their craft is a long-held dream come true. “I tell all the young cats that this is what I’ve been waiting for,” he told Bandcamp. “We’ve finally become ambassadors for our city, finally we’re carrying our vibe elsewhere.”
But Ohbliv’s status as a spokesman for his city didn’t happen overnight. Long before he was held in high regard as an ambassador, the SP-404 sensei started out from the humblest of beginnings — making pause-tapes in his parent’s basement. “I had just started doing pause-tapes around 97, 98,” he tells me. “I’m a bit older than a lot of the current producers out here. I actually grew up in that time of pause-tapes. That was pretty much what you had to do to make beats if you didn’t have any other equipment.” — from Medium/Micro Chop
Ophelia, ‘Nowhere, No Way’ Ophelia
2010 Triple Stamp Records
Meanwhile, [Jonathan] Vassar has his hand in other musical projects. He and David Shultz, who is on the Triple Stamp label, formed Ophelia with accomplished musicians Grant Hunnicutt and Willis Thompson, recording an album released at the end of 2010. The sound, which resembles early Wilco, isn’t too far removed from the Speckled Bird, but Thompson’s percussion adds urgency. Lyrically, the songs are “stripped-down narratives,” less poetic than the Speckled Bird songs, Vassar notes. He and Shultz trade lead vocals and often harmonize together.
Recording took place at Shultz’s wife’s river house, in a tiny burg called Ophelia in Northumberland County. “We’d record, eat, play some games, record again and go to sleep,” Vassar says. — from Richmond Magazine
Oxen Johnson, ‘Bob Cousy,’ When Does A Story Become…Legend by Chadrach X
2010 Gritty City Records
Ran (Divine Profitz) and Oxen Johnson (Luggage) come together on “Bob Cousy” a selection from Chadrach: When Does A Story Become…Legend album. The record was released early this year and is intended to raise money in support of Chadrach (Divine Profitz) in his battle with cancer. It’s a twenty emcees/twenty three track collaborative effort that can be downloaded here for just under ten bones. — from RVA Magazine July 11, 2011
Palm Palm, ‘Cut The White‘ Palm Palm
2020 Self Released
“I’m gonna do this by myself!” Palm Palm’s frontman J. Roddy Walston sings, howls, and then shrieks. The lyric captures the spirit of the band and their live show, with everything from their stage setup to their attitude evoking images of loading up a van, hitting the road, and building a following night after night, city after city. However, don’t be confused by the DIY vibe, the band is professional in every sense of the word. From the songwriting to the musicianship, Palm Palm will have you dancing, moving, sweating, and singing along to every song. Their live show is an energetic and loud display of pounding and pulsing drums, guitars that run the gamut of technical to fuzzy, and Walston’s signature piano, which he famously plays more like drum. — from Muzic Notes
PCP Roadblock, “US Marine,” Sporting Goods World War III
It’s a funny thing about musicians — the most talented and original of them are often the type of people who live at the extremes of society. And for that reason, some of the best bands ever have also had some of the most chaotic, unhinged, and unpredictable live presences ever. In Richmond, if you love to see things get truly nuts when a band plays, there are several reliable local exponents of exactly that sort of mania. But in this day and age, none of them hold a candle to the departed torchbearers for true Richmond musical insanity: PCP Roadblock.
Back in the late 90s and early 00s, if you wanted to see a band that mixed a noisy, harsh, but always rockin’ sound with a wild performance that, as often as not, featured blood, piss, and/or nudity, you couldn’t do better than to catch PCP Roadblock live in Richmond. And it was kind of hard to do, because a lot of clubs wouldn’t let them play! Unfortunately, a few years after the new millennium began, they moved as a band to the San Francisco Bay area, disbanding a couple of years later. And we’ve never seen their like again. –from RVA Magazine, January 15, 2020
Pedals On Our Pirate Ships, ‘Sometimes You Have To’ Pedals on our Pirate Ships
2006 Self Released
The superbly-acronymed Pedals On Our Pirate Ships want you to know they’re reluctant to grow up, but they’re settling anyway. Eschewing the banjo and harmonica for a traditional punk setup plus synth, Pedals On Our Pirate Ships has landed in a place better suited to their vocal style than previous releases. They’ve also created their most energetic and interesting music yet, on an album easily matching any midlevel folk punk release this year.
To say the band is proud to hail from Richmond doesn’t quite capture it, but for Pedals its fellow bands’ fleeing the city makes an apt metaphor for growing pains on opening track “Livin’ the Dream.” There Pedals confronts one of the big lies of our youth: that a new city solves all problems. There is an essentialism to every Pedals track, that everyone lives with inescapable flaws. — from The Punk Site
Pelt, ‘Diglossia’ Reticence / Resistance
2021 Three Lobed Recordings
Over the past 30 years, Pelt has become known for their distinct blend of Americana, drone, improvisation, and psychedelic rock. When they first formed as a rock band in Richmond, Virginia in 1993, they quickly learned that they weren’t interested in tight forms and fully composed structures, rather, they found themselves jamming in order to see where the sound would take them. And as they played more, they began absorbing the variety of styles that appeared around them. They visited places like La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House, a sound and light installation in New York that explores how long-held tones and vibrant lights shift over time, and got into drone music’s immersive qualities. Over time, each band member has delved into genres such as free jazz, Indian classical, and Appalachian folk. — from Pitchfork
People’s Blues of Richmond, ‘Quit Or Die’ Quit Or Die
2016 Self Released
“We are a rock ‘n’ roll band,” Volkes says, while making last-minute preparations before he and his mates — singer-guitarist Tim Beavers and drummer Nekoro Williams — begin the latest leg of what seems to be a never-ending assault on the road. “We may have the blues, but we don’t play the blues. We call it circus rock.”
Combining thundering, ’70s rock radio riffs with a vicious crunch that’s like early White Stripes with a psychedelic spin, the People’s Blues of Richmond have been around for almost eight years. The band started when Volkes and Beavers, who had known each other since kindergarten, were living together after high school. A mutual friend had committed suicide and, while grieving, the pair began jamming together.
“We had a music room at our house, but we weren’t playing together,” Volkes says. “[Beavers] was doing folky, Bob Dylan-esque stuff and I was playing in an acoustic trio.” Something clicked, though, when they started playing and remembering their friend.
“I sat down on the drums, just to get some of that [sadness] out. We sat there and cried about it and we said, ‘Man, this feels good.'” — from Northweat Arkansas Democratic Gazette
Pete Curry, ‘Don’t Ask Me’ Advice on Love
2015 Crystal Pistol Records
When a pallet loaded with copies of his solo debut, “Advice on Love,” arrived at his house last year, Pete Curry was sitting in the dark. “I had missed the [electric] bill to pay for the records,” Curry says, laughing. “And couldn’t even listen to it.” A chill character easily identified from blocks away by his signature blown-out mane, Curry is one of Richmond’s best-kept musical secrets.
His album is full of lo-fi, woozy garage rock and shimmering surf guitar, pop melodies and the occasional outburst of trashy punk and teetering piano. Always melodic, when Curry sings he’s capable of breaking into falsetto croons and sometimes sounds like Mac Demarco circa 2012, minus the slacker vibe. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Curry grew up surrounded by music. His dad was a folk musician who played banjo as well as a local country deejay. Curry started playing guitar in the fourth or fifth grade. “My first instrument was a rubber band that I stretched around the knobs on my dresser,” he says. — from Style Weekly
It’s hard to remember Richmond before Photosynthesizers stepped on the scene. Although I’ve never seen them live, ever since I can remember, I’ve heard nothing but good things. When both musicians and average citizens begin to pass around praise for a band, you can’t help but acknowledge that they must be doing something right. It’s easy to assume that it’s just the music, but there has to be something more than that to have lasted over three years as a rap/rock cross-genre hybrid. I’m a firm believer in the idea that participation should come well before product, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Samsun (Vox), Barcodez (Vox), MiKemetic (Bass), J. Bryant (Guitar), Wade (Keys/Synth) & Dr. Data (Drums/programing) shared the same perception. More than music, Photosynthesizers are based on an idea – one of unity, class, honor, etc.. The problem with ideology is that you must make others believe to achieve wholeness. I agreed to interview Photosynthesizers to see if I could get to the bottom of their plan to make believers out of Richmond residents. — from RVA Magazine September 22, 2011
Pink Razors, ‘Do You Wanna Go To Maymont? (Coupleskate)’ Scene Suicide
2005 Robotic Empire
Scene Suicide is the Pink Razors’ debut on Robotic Empire Records. This energetic 8-song EP goes by fast, but is chock full of addictive melodies and catchy hooks. The album’s first song, “Fine Food,” sets the stage for what’s to come. The slower “Totally Nautical, Dude” features a great Dillinger Four-esque breakdown complete with “nothing fucking changes” sung loud and proud. Also, in true Richmond fashion, they’ve included their own tribute to their hometown with “Do You Wanna Go To Maymont?” Finally, the record ends with an acoustic singalong, “Burglarized!,” which sarcastically thanks an unknown intruder that broke into their house.
It’s unbelievable to me that bands like this will be dismissed simply because of the pop-punk label. Why does punk need 300 chords and tempo changes to satisfy us these days? Why can’t we just kick back and enjoy ourselves? It’s time to give pop-punk another shot. You have the likes of Blink-182, Sum 41, and all those other bands to blame for trying to ruin it, but you have the Pink Razors to thank for showing us how it should have been done all along. — from Punk News.org
Piranha Rama, ‘Oh No!’ Piranha Rama
2018 Self Released
It’s unbelievable to me that bands like this will be dismissed simply because of the pop-punk label. Why does punk need 300 chords and tempo changes to satisfy us these days? Why can’t we just kick back and enjoy ourselves? It’s time to give pop-punk
Piranha Rama is a musical amalgamation of spaghetti Westerns, lucid psychedelic rock and ’60s action-adventure romps. The group operates on the same killer wavelength that drew it together and that shows on its self-titled debut full-length.
At a musical crossroads, the founding members of Piranha Rama were all adjusting to either being bandless or searching for the next thing. Drummer Tim Falen insisted that bassist Chrissie Lozano start another band with him after the two ventured away from Lady God. Guitarist John Sizemore and keyboardist Ryan Jones had been in musical limbo since the temporary breaks of their respective projects, the Milkstains and Warren Hixson. A genuine affection for each other’s musical styles brought them into this fold.
“There’s a lot of secretly shy people working together and throwing it all out there,” Lozano says. “I want to keep doing that. It’s like a party.” — from Style Weekly
Prabir & The Substitutes, ‘Everybody’s Got Somebody’ Prabir & The Substitutes
2008 Self Released
With no label to fund them, no global audience to fuel them, and — according to the album’s most explicit track — no die-hard groupies to, erm, befriend them, Prabir & the Substitutes are one of America’s numerous under-the-radar bands working on a shoestring budget. The story line is familiar to anyone who’s dreamed of the rock & roll lifestyle while playing music in a converted garage, but there’s something different here. The Substitutes‘ records are gritty, their instruments crunchy, their harmonies trebly, and while those are telltale signs of an under-financed band, they also work to the group’s advantage. Share focuses on a vintage brand of rock & roll, one that would’ve found a nice home among British teenagers in the early ’60s. Capturing that sound on analog tape gives it some sort of validity, and the fact that the Substitutes can sing — and we mean sing, in the same way that the Hollies and the Zombies could really, really sing — only adds to the effect. It’s often hard to hear all of the band’s three- and four-part harmonies, but they’re still there, populating the mix alongside Hammond riffs and quick blasts from two guitars. — from All Music
Prabir Trio, ‘Light Up In The Name of Love’ Haanji
2020 Self Released
A high-energy polymath, Prabir Mehta has done marketing for a host of local nonprofits, is the board chair and prime champion for the Galley5 community art space, and most famously, fronted a series of bands culminating with Prabir Trio, his eponymous four-member group (“The band name is Prabir Trio, it happens to have four members. I’m not trying to live by the shackles of literalism any longer. You can quote me on that,” he says).
Their brand-new album “Haanji” – literally “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” – embraces Mehta’s identity as in-outsider with a song cycle of bright melodies, sharp-edged lyrics and sonic echoes of his subcontinental origin. Online he describes it as “about my immigrant life, leaving India, landing here, discovering Mohawks, rock n roll, learning about this nation’s history and trying to belong.” — from Style Weekly
Radio B, ‘Can’t Swim So I Walk On Water’ Jesus Never Wore A Suit LP
2018 Interstreet Recordings
Within the burgeoning hip-hop scene, Radio B is putting in work. Last year, the talented rapper released the concept album, “Jesus Never Wore a Suit.” He’s also behind the Virginia rap battle league, the Southpaw Battle Coalition, as well as RVA Lyricist Lounge, which has evolved into RVA Rap Elite, a variety showcase for local artists. And he’s guest lectured on hip-hop at Virginia Union University.
Radio B is spending a lot of time lately on RVA Rap Elite, which started at Strange Matter last year before moving to the Gold Room for the first three months of 2019, and more recently, Champion Brewing Co. It will be held there April 25 and May 30, before moving to the last Saturdays of each month through October. He says it’s transitioning to an all-ages, free event.
Style spoke with one of the city’s lyrical heavyweights to hear his thoughts about the current state of Richmond hip-hop and the shape of things to come. — from Style Weekly
Reppa Ton, ‘Magic Treehouse‘ A Flower In The Pot
2020 Gritty City Records
It’s been five years since we last caught up with RVA’s very own Reppa Ton, and a lot has changed since the last time we spoke with the Gritty City Records rapper. New singles, new videos, and even a new EP released on April 3rd, entitled A Flower In The Pot. Reppa Ton produced half of the album’s eight tracks himself; other producers include Determinate Inc. & Jazz Jhsn, D’Artizt, Bushi Vibes, and Ant The Symbol, with features from Skinny Hendrixx, Dirty Bleus, and Alisha Music.
Reppa Ton describes the inspiration behind the new album as a compilation of sporadic thoughts. Recording in the comfort of his home, he worked with whatever feelings that came to his head. He hadn’t necessarily planned for the songs to come together as one project, but after Gritty City reached out to see if he still wanted to release an album through the label, he pulled together a collection of recent recordings.
“It started off with five songs, but I could hear a story in it, a central theme,” said Reppa Ton. “I decided to add three more songs to fill the gap and paint this full picture.” — from RVA Magazine May 13th, 2020
River City High, ‘Left Behind‘ Won’t Turn Down
2001 Doghouse Records
River City High is a Hard Rock / Punk Rock band from Richmond, Virginia, USA. Like many Richmond punk bands, they incorporate other influences into their music, specifically classic rock. They formed out of the bands Fun Size and Inquisition, the latter also including members who would form Strike Anywhere and Ann Beretta. They released their début EP in 2000 on Big Wheel Recreation, and quickly signed to Doghouse Records thereafter. For the next three years the group toured the United States, playing over 200 shows a year. — from Get Song BPM
Robbin Thompson Band, ‘Sweet Virginia Breeze,‘ Two B’s Please
1980 Ovation Records
Robert W. “Robbin” Thompson had a talent for making connections. He adroitly connected tones, rhythms and words to write songs that pleased loyal audiences in saloons and concert halls. Other songs the tunesmith penned were heard in movies and commercials. Born in Boston on June 16, 1949, the singer and songwriter died at home in Richmond on Oct. 9 .
When he was 7, Thompson moved with his family moved to Melbourne, Florida. In 1966 he launched his career as a recording artist in a Miami studio with “Baby,” a 45 single he co-wrote as a member of the Tasmanians. In 1969 he began studying advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University. Thompson’s facility for collaboration had him fronting Bruce Springsteen’s band, Steel Mill, for a year in the early 1970s. The Boss was among an impressive list of artists that Thompson shared stages with.
In Richmond, after his stint on the road with Springsteen, Thompson’s connection with an advertising professor he studied under, Quigg Lawrence, opened the door into the ad biz. Thompson’s first jingle was for a blue jeans retailer, Pants at a Price. In 1990, with Carlos Chafin, he co-founded In Your Ear, a studio that creates and records music for commercials and films.
His 1978 collaboration with fellow songwriter Steve Bassett yielded “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which has been designated Virginia’s official popular state song. “He loved to collaborate,” guitarist Velpo Robertson says. “He was very generous, always happy to share credit.” Having played music together since 1977, Robertson recalls Thompson’s “great, absurd sense of humor. He was a lot of fun to hang around with on the road or at home.” –from Style Weekly