Thayer Sarrano is a multi-faceted artist. A visual artist, a classically trained musician, and a touring musician. Her music has a minimalist ethereal quality to it. She comes to Denver a month before the release of her 4th studio album, Wings Alleluia. The album was made in Athens, Georgia and is released by The Guildwater Group. It includes “Oh My Soul”, “These Arms”, “White Shores” and “Grace Goes On”
She is touring with Johnny Hickman. FEMMUSIC was honored to speak with her about the new album.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Wings Alleluia?
TS: This was the first time that I played most parts and made a lot more arrangements for male voices, etc. That was helpful to get the vision into the sound, but it also made a lot more room for self doubt. Also I like things pretty murky, but I wanted the lyrics to be clear because they are more positive. So that was always a dance with the mixes.
FEMMUSIIC: Wings Alleluia is your 4th studio album. What lessons have you learned from your other projects?
TS: Each record I feel like I get a little closer. I learn how to communicate better, from more engineering terms and less colors, to just knowing how to better achieve what I want. I feel lucky as a session player too to be able to see so many different styles of working and dynamics in the studio.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about your sketchbook? How does your visual art influences your music?
TS: Visual art helps me communicate the stuff I can’t say. It’s like a middle man for writing. I will have an experience or understanding from somewhere that I can paint or draw or whatever. Then at some point, I will find I am describing that image in my lyrics.
FEMMUSIC: You have a number of artists involved with the album. Tell me how the Athens music scene has influenced your music?
TS: I’m thankful for Athens because it’s a very inspiring, supportive, and “original” community. I’ve learned so much seeing bands, playing with a lot of bands there, and working at Camp Amped (teenage rock camp at Nuçi’s Space). People involved with the camp are my family, bandmates, engineers, etc. This record was fun because I got so many of the people I have sung harmony or accompanied in the past to sing with me.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
TS: Woah… I can remember so many defining moments. It’s impossible to pick one!
I remember the first time I heard Bob Dylan’s song “Isis”… I think I was 7 or 8. It was a new feeling for me at that time. I remember just thinking “yes.”
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
TS: I’ve been really lucky to work with only really good men in the studio and on tour who are secure and respectful. Every once in a while on tour, you come across somebody condescending or creepy, and you handle it case by case. Sometimes people just don’t know how to talk to people because they have their own issues, and so they can learn from you too.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
TS: Neil Young, because Neil Young… tour with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, make a record with Daniel Lanois .
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry
TS: I have been living and working through a difficult phase in the industry where the system devalues art and there are a lot more expectations for artists outside of making art now. I don’t know how to change that on the big level personally, but I do believe it will change. Music is bigger, and we will keep making the work that must be born, and that is so important that I can’t let the insanity get me down.
The Bellrays are bringing punk back to Denver with their Preachin’ the Gospel of Punk Tour. The Bellrays are Lisa Kekaula and Robert Vennum and they’ve been playing music for over 30 years. Their first self-titled album came out in 1990. This tour comes with their new album Punk Funk Rock Soul Vol 2. The album includes tracks “Black Lightning” and “Bad Reaction.” The band just released a new video:
This Riverside, California band mixes blues, punk, gospel into a vivid experience as all live music should be. The Atom Age and Hot Apostles are opening this show.
Cursive has been playing for 2 decades and continues to bring new original visceral music out. Their tour is based around their 8th studio album, Vitriola, released in 2018. The album reunites Tim Kasher, guitarist/singer Ted Stevens and bassist Matt Maginn with drummer Clint Schnase, Patrick Newbery on keys and Megan Siebe on cello. Cursive runs a course that borders hard rock and indie folk with screaming vocals mixed into arrangements that engage the senses. The album evokes anger at the world with songs “Free To Be or Not To Be You and Me”, “Under the Rainbow” and “Noble Soldier/Dystopian Lament.” Their single “Life Savings” calls Capitalism into question while the video shows greed in action
Vitriola was released in 2018 on Cursive’s own label 15 Passengers and is produced Mike Mogis. The band is on a headlining tour with Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz.
Grammy nominated artist Brandi Carlile announced this festival in the summer. It is inspired by Lilith Fair with all women headliners. Carlile has had a long tradition of going to Mexico for the winter. This time she has brought an impressive line-up:
Brandi Carlile – Nominated for 6 Grammy’s Carlile’s latest album is By the Way I Forgive You. She is a wonder and joy who is proving her dominance in the music world. http://bytheway.brandicarlile.com/
Maren Morris – Country artist Maren Morris is known for her album Hero. She has been a rising star who is quickly going beyond “rising.” https://www.marenmorris.com/
Indigo Girls – With 15 studio releases, and more live albums, separate projects and more…The Indigo Girls have a history of music and activism that has shaped the world. http://indigogirls.com/
Margo Price – Grammy Nominated as Best New Artist, Margo Price made a mark with her album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. She blew it out of the park with All American Made. http://margoprice.net/
As Lea Luna greets Denver, Colorado with her presence again, we are eager to see what she unleashes at her upcoming event at the Larimer Lounge, November 18, 2018. Luna has been an admit member of the EDM music scene since 2009, and gained a steady following. She has previously performed at venues like The Marque, Vegas, Beta Nightclub, Denver, and the Avaion, Las Vegas.
Her fierce, “bad-girl” composition is intriguing at best. Working beside Sleeping Giant Music, Lea Luna has intrigued her audience with bass-filled dance music that does just that… Makes you want to dance. A strict, not too be messed with attitude, and a progressive house sound is the lime and coconut duo of a Lea Luna performance.
The Denver Film Festival is 41 and bigger than ever. Film programs include CinemaQ, Women + Film, Focus on National Cinema: Hungary, Italian Showcase, Stain Brakhage Vision Award, Panels on journalism, and Denver’s soon to be art event Meow Wolf (there’s a documentary too). The Festival is filled with events from the Red Carpet to the smallest screen, and virtual reality. Here are some of our picks to see:
This Changes Everything – Tom Donahue & Geena Davis (Producer) bring together the biggest names in entertainment including Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Sandra Oh, Tiffany Haddish, Jessica Chastain, Cate Blanchett, and Reese Witherspoon to talk about gender discrimination and the solutions post #metoo – https://secure.denverfilm.org/tickets/film.aspx?id=30616&FID=102
Tancred came to our attention with the track “Queen of New York”
The video and the lyrics drew us in like a bee to honey. Nightstand is Tancred’s sophomore album and it has a musical maturity that stands out. Produced by Lewis Pesacov, the album had ups and downs before production. Jess Abbott, formerly of Now, Now, is the voice of Tancred. FEMMUSIC was honored to speak with her about the album. For info visit https://tancredmusic.com/
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Nightstand?
JA: Picking which songs to release as singles was so tricky because the album contains a few different themes, and I was concerned releasing certain singles might give the wrong impression of the album overall. Honestly sometimes I still lie awake at night wondering if we picked the right ones.
FEMMUSIC: I understand you had the songs chosen before going to the studio. How did you go about your song choice? What else did you do for pre-production?
JA: I spent about a year writing songs for this album and I went through so many revisions within in each song, and ultimately scrapped half the album and started over. I guess what ultimately decided the songs was the theme of vulnerability. It cut a lot of more aggressive songs I had written before settling on that theme. We had a few days of preproduction before we started tracking where in the studio we played through the songs and discussed them all.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about Lewis Pesacov. How did you meet? Why did you choose him to be producer for the album? How was he to work with?
JA: Lewis and I were set up to cowrite together but we hit it off so well that we decided to have him produce the whole thing. He felt so open to my creative direction and aesthetic ideas it made working together so easy. But he also challenged me where I needed to be challenged in the studio. It was a great balance.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about some of your backing musicians. I noticed the names Samira Winter & Jenny Owen Youngs. You’re doing more instrumentation with the album. How did you choose these artists? How was the studio experience?
JA: Kevin Medina and Terrence Vitali recorded bass and drums on Nightstand and on my previous album, Out Of the Garden. Samira is a mutual friend of Lewis and I (I was also subletting her apartment while I was tracking Nightstand) and we thought it would be fun to have her do some vocals on the album. Her band Winter is incredible. Jenny and I had been friends for awhile and we’d collaborated around that time on some of her work, so while I was in LA in her neck of the woods I asked her to come sing on something of mine. I carried around a disposable camera the whole trip and I have some great photos of them singing in the studio. Working with friends is so fun.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
JA: I basically just pick up a guitar and lie around humming things until I find things I like. Or if I’m out in the world and an idea pops into my head I’ll write it out in a note on my phone or record a voice memo for later. Once I have the basic outline for a song done I’ll record each track in a demo and layer on programmed drums and bass and strings so I have an image of my vision for the song to take into the studio.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
JA: “Demon Rock” by Letters to Cleo shook my world. I’d already dreamed of playing music professionally almost my whole life but listening to that album (Demon Rock is track one) was the first time it felt like it was something I could make real. I connected to the guitar lines, the vocals, the lyrics. I remember lying down in bed and listening to it on repeat all night. I couldn’t sleep.
FEMMUSIIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
JA: Yeah, of course. But I think communicating calmly about things that make me uncomfortable and having some understanding for the context of the moment are tools that have helped me ensure I’m working in a comfortable environment. It took me awhile to not get so mad about it. It’s fair to be mad, shit sucks. But I think it’s detrimental to not leave room for some understanding in any situation.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
JA: I have been deathly into Chelsea Wolfe’s new album Hiss Spun since it came out. Her live show is so sick, her Audio Tree was sick, her tones are sick, her Instagram is sick. I dream of a CW collab or tour.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
JA: The cost of making records (recording, distribution, PR, management, booking) hasn’t gone down but record sales have, so it becomes incredibly difficult to be an artist making everything yet with little coming back financially to support it all. It’s like inflation isn’t accounted for. Making music isn’t about money, but music, like anything, takes time and work. You still gotta eat and pay rent. And then you have people who think it’s ethically wrong to want to profit off your art.. It becomes a snake eating its own tail. At my career peaks I was still scraping by. The infrastructure of the music industry is broken. Short answer: I wish there was enough left of the pie for artists, the people actually creating the music, to support themselves comfortably.
Your Smith transitions from her headlining tour to opening to Rhye, before she opens for the Violent Femmes for October and November. Your Smith recently released her debut, Bad Habit EP that included singles “The Spot” and “Bad Habit.” She is signed to Neon Gold Records, home to Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens. The EP features collaborations with Tommy English, Stint, Nick Davey and more. FEMMUSIC featured “The Spot” in June at:
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
September 5, 2018
Photos by David A. Barber
People flowed into Pepsi Center while Toronto based rock band Metric laid down their unique brand of music. Lead singer Emily Haines, wearing a gold jacket to match her microphone, brought the focus of attention appropriately upon herself. Metric was thoroughly entertaining for those waiting for the main act to begin.
The Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour 2018 delivered exactly what was expected of them. They played all the fan favorites and enough covers to keep everyone excited and entertained. The set was simple, yet very well utilized. A pair of giant screens slid in and out of site effortlessly while displaying videos or artwork or childhood photos depending on what worked best for each song. Additional smaller backdrops loaded with lights and video screens were rolled around almost magically. Combined, these screens and lights added up to provide additional entertainment when the band was less interesting or slid out of the way and went dark (or lit up in a new location) in appropriately dramatic fashion when called for.
But that’s all beside the point. The point for this band is simply Billy Corgin. While the rest of the band is amazingly talented, it’s all about Corgin. His music, his vision, his quirky, slightly odd. personality, Him. Even though he spent much of the show looking down at his guitar, he still managed to be the focus of attention and admiration from the crowd. So the crowd got their money’s worth, but it wasn’t sold out. They closed the arena’s top tier of seating in order to fill up the lower tiers. About halfway through the show Corgin let guitarist James Iha sing one. Then a few songs later launched into a cover of Bowie’s classic Space Oddity (Major Tom). After 3 plus hours of music the audience was satisfied. Smashing Pumpkins provides a point of focus and fond memories for people who were growing up in the 1990s. they will always have that and it’s cool that Corgin and his band can take them back down that road once in a while.
Moor Mother – Describing Moor Mother is a challenge. She is an activist, poet, singer songwriter, hip-hop artist, producer and more. She has a visceral tone to her music that challenges as much as it entertains. Her latest album is Crime Waves. https://www.facebook.com/MoorMother/
From the co-creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands comes Colorado’s next great concert experience. This 3 day festival includes names like Kendrick Lamar & Stevie Wonder. It has 5 stages (6 when you include the Bud Light Dive Bar), which include everything from national headliners to dj’s and dance music. There are events featuring culinary ambassadors at the Detour Denver, craft beers at Arts & Crafts, distillers, spirits and cocktails at The Flight School, and panels and a marketplace dealing with Colorado’s outdoor experience at The Backyard.
Bishop Briggs (Scissors Stage, Friday) – Bishop Briggs has exploded from her beginnings in 2015 to her debut album Church of Scars. Her latest single is “Baby.” https://bishopbriggs.com/
Cherry Glazerr (Scissors Stage, Saturday) – Clementine Creevy is out of control in this rock band. Apocalipstick is their latest album. http://cherry-glazerr.com/
Florence + the Machine (Rock Stage, Saturday) – From day one Florence Welch has been a dynamo. Her latest album is High As Hope. Florence controls the stage and the audience. Don’t miss this set. https://florenceandthemachine.net/
Jade Bird (Scissors Stage, Friday) – This London artist has been sweeping the US this year. In 2017 she released Something American. Her latest single is “Uh Huh.” http://www.jade-bird.com/
Kelela (Paper Stage, Sunday) – Kelela’s 2017 album Take Me Apart featured singles “LMK”, and “Blue Light.” She has been headlining shows since then. http://kelela.co/
Mavis Staples (Rock Stage, Sunday) – Mavis Staples is making more news now than ever before. Her latest album is If All I Was Was Black. Staples has been honored by the Kennedy Center and has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Staples has toured with Bob Dylan. She is a living legend and a force to be reckoned with. https://www.mavisstaples.com/
Snow Tha Product (Rock Stage, Saturday) – This California hip-hop artist has been headlining for years and has established herself. She released her full album in 2011, and an EP in 2016. She has been releasing mixtapes since. Her latest single is “Myself.” http://www.snowthaproduct.com/
St Vincent (Scissors Stage, Sunday) – Annie Clark is an extraordinary guitarist and singer-songwriter. She has worked with David Bryne and released 5 studio albums including Masseduction. Her singles include “New York”, and “Los Angeles.” http://ilovestvincent.com/
The Menstrual Cramps – This 4 piece punk band is in your face with their debut album We’re Not Ovaryacting. We first heard of them last year and are waiting for the world tour. https://www.facebook.com/TheMenstrualCramps/
Grace Savage – Grace Savage released Control Freak, a follow up to her popular Savage Grace EP.. She is one of the hottest new artists emerging today. See FEMMUSIC’s interview with her. https://gracesavageofficial.com/
Wolf Girl – This London 4 piece released a 7″ in 2017 featuring “Moody.” This pop band is prolific in releasing material steadily since 2014. http://www.wearewolfgirl.co.uk/
Ms. Mohammed – We previewed Ms Mohammed last year as part of the Matchwomen’s Festival – Ms Mohammed is another facet of Dana Jade. A reaction to the anti-Islamist Brexitreactionaries she strikes out with an anthem called “Alibi.” http://msmohammed.com/
This celebration of women in music features 2 stages and events from workshops on belly dancing and yoga to fire dancers and a kids village. Artists playing include Ayla Nereo, Nina Storey, Bonnie & Bridget from Elephant Revival, Qbala, Ley Line, Whippoorwill, Las Curanderas, and more. For info visit https://sisterwinds.com/
During the hiatus of country’s Sugarland, fans rightfully assumed the break meant the beginning of the inevitable breakup. However, the founding duo Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush have reunited to release new music and hit the road on a new tour to prove they are refreshed and better than ever.
Nettles and Bush became Sugarland since 2004 and saw immediate attention with hit singles like “Baby Girl,” “Stuck Like Glue,” and “Little Miss.” They performed to thousands of sold-out arenas and traveled the world, and as traveled acquired Country music star status. Then, they decided to take a pause. 2012 marked the beginning what would eventually become a five-year hiatus as the two focused on pursuing individual life and career goals. Now, the duo’s 2018 Bigger album release and supporting tour has brought them back together to remind fans that they are still just as amazing.
Sugarland swung through Denver’s Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre June 21 as they performed under a starry sky at the beautiful outdoor venue. Backed by their powerhouse band, Sugarland played a fun and well-choreographed set of past favorites and current songs from the latest album, Bigger. The venue, which accommodates roughly 17,000 guests, can be difficult to fill and easy to lose an audience’s attention in. Yet, the pros can turn the space into an intimate evening with long-loved friends and a dance party that goes into all hours of the night. Sugarland proved to be those pros.
Excited fans jumped from their seats and sang along to the modern country-rock as Nettles vocals resonated into the summer air. Costumed in a circus-themed ring-leader ensemble, Nettles owned the stage as she sauntered, stomped and high-kicked her way through the energetic set. Bush, the counterpoint dynamic force to be reckoned with, oozed his cool Southern charm while taking the lead on guitar solos and occasional vocals. Chemistry exuded from all over the stage, and if there was any fear that time off would generate a rusty return, all eyes and ears were put to rest.
To simply classify Sugarland as an American country duo is a downright gross oversimplification of the band. While country music may act as a foundational root, and the solo work of Nettles and Bush leans towards a heavy twang, the evolution and growth of their 2018 record prove this band is taking even bigger strides towards pushing boundaries. Their latest single, “Babe,” is a collaboration with Taylor Swift which has the band jumping head first into the world of pop-rock superstar with great ease.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Jenny Lewis
by Alex Teitz
2016 has been a busy year for Jenny Lewis. In February she announced the formation of her record label, Love’s Way Records. In March she began touring with NAF. In August she will be touring solo. In September she starts touring with The Watson Twins in honor of the 10th Anniversary of Rabbit Fur Coat.
What is NAF? NAF is Nice as Fuck. It is a 3 piece band with Lewis on keyboard, and vocal effects ,Tennessee Thomas on drums, and Erika Forster on bass. Thomas is formerly of the band The Like. Forster is known as being one of three parts of Aur Revoire Simone. In a departure from her other projects, Lewis does not play guitar in NAF.
Tonight’s show was both intimate and crowded. It was held at the DBG stage which is sunken in and surrounded on 4 sides by grass. This area is filled in by the crowds who bring wine, picnics and an appreciation of music. The VIP area faces the stage. NAF were preceded by the theme song to Jemm and the Holograms. They came on stage and immediately began singing. A couple of songs in Jenny introduced Tennessee. Tennessee then introduced “Cookielips.” “Cookielips” is a song not found on the NAF album and is about getting the crumbs in a relationship. The rest of the show consisted of all the songs from the album including “Higher”,” Angel”, and the single “Doors.” Lewis moved around the stage and even lay down for a moment during Higher. She was smiling the entire set.
The set ended upbeat. NAF did “Guns” with Lewis trying to get the audience to sing along to the chorus of “I Don’t Want To Be Afraid/ Put Away Your Guns.” It is an apt statement for today. NAF ended with the NAF theme which is a great excuse to swear onstage but also has a strong women’s theme. NAF has a dream pop feel and is dominated by Lewis vocals that have always stood out. For info visit https://www.facebook.com/NAFtheband/