NEW MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL COMING TO WINCHESTER

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PHOTOS PROVIDED BY ARDY WUNDER

On September 17, 2016, Willow Grove Farm in Winchester, Va. will host the first Valley Fusion Festival. With a focus on bringing in both nationally recognized and locally touring artists, the festival strives to highlight the talent of the musicians and visual artists in the Shenandoah Valley, with the goal of creating a new space for artists to demonstrate their work in an accessible location.

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SICMAN OF VIRGINIA RELEASE DEBUT EP ON CASSETTE TAPES

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY BETA KLEIN AND E.B. HALL

For the past 12 years, friends and Virginia Beach residents Matt Holloman and Joe Welch have been creating songs together under the moniker SICMAN OF VIRGINIA. Described as “heavy mellow music for the common man,” their music combines influences ranging from funk to punk, as well as everything in between. With the addition of bassist Scott Griffin, the band has rounded out their sound, and have released their most recent album Mourning Sickness, which features some high-profile support. To learn about this album, as well as the details on the rerelease of their debut EP, we caught up with Holloman and Welch to get a cut of the cheese.

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THE FLAVOR PROJECT REMIX MUSICAL INGREDIENTS ON UPCOMING ALBUM, FRIJOLES NEGROS REFRIED

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY JASON BALL AND CRAIG ZIRPOLO

Food is not defined by the end product but rather by the ingredients it takes to make something special. With a dash of funk, a cup of hip-hop, a few teaspoons of neo-soul, and some Latin flair, THE FLAVOR PROJECT from Richmond, Va. have some fresh grooves cooking. Formed by bassist/vocalist Gabriel Santamaria, THE FLAVOR PROJECT released their debut album Frijoles Negros in 2014, and they have taken their multicultural recipe to new temperatures, performing at local music festivals with some of the top names in their genres.

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DESPITE BEING SCATTERED ACROSS MULTIPLE COLLEGES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, SCOTT’S RUN IS LIVING PROOF THAT SKA IS NOT DEAD, AND NEITHER ARE THEY

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY JON FLEMING

It’s been a while since boy bands have been part of popular culture, but the boys of SCOTT’S RUN are more than what you might expect from your run of the mill band. One of the few ska bands originating in Virginia, SCOTT’S run combines elements of punk, jazz, funk, pop, and even classical music. Their extensive line-up consists of lead vocalist Cameron Pulley, drummer/vocalist Alex Lichtenstein, guitarist Jeff Small, bassist Jonathan Ledesma, keyboardist Calvin Baxter, saxophonist Aaron Frederick , and trombone player Keith Kunze. Though the majority of the band are currently enrolled in college, they are still remaining active in the local — and international — music scene. We spoke with Lichtenstein, Baxter, and Frederick about their band’s self-titled sophomore EP, the ska scene, or lack thereof, in Virginia, and their new music which is still in the works.

I know that SCOTT’S RUN is a trail in the Great Falls area, but why did you decide to name your band that?

Alex: I guess the reason was that we kind of wanted to represent the area where we were influenced as musicians, and where we are from is important to us. We also thought it sounded cool (laughs).

Is it true that your band often participates in poetry slams?

Calvin: I will say no to that one, but we do like to engage our online following on Facebook a lot. They are so good to us, so we try to entertain them with sarcastic quips. But we do not, sadly…

To be honest, I only know of a few ska bands from Virginia, and a few others from the DC area. Why do you think ska is such a rare genre in this area?

Alex: I don’t know. It’s a fun genre to play. Having horns is such a cool thing when songwriting. It’s not something you see a lot in bands these days. It gives you a lot of flexibility to branch out into other styles [of music]. On our record, we do not only do stuff in the ska style, but we also have some dance-influenced jazz and some other weird stuff.

Aaron: I think our local scene is predominantly metal-focused, and I think that has a lot to do with how awesome their [school] band and orchestra program is. People get really into that playing in the orchestra and bands, so they get really proficient in classical music. Then all the guitar junkies that play other instruments realize they can get better at guitar, and metal music is the best outlet for being a well-trained classical guitar player.

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Are any of you classically trained in the instruments that you play?

Calvin: I played piano for 12 years, classically, and then a couple [years] of jazz.

Aaron: I’ve been playing saxophone classically for about 10 years and jazz as well.

Alex: I’m not trained at all (laughs).

Do you guys play mostly with punk bands or more mixed genre shows?

Calvin: I think we play with a huge variety. You can’t even narrow it down. We play Empire a lot, and it’s predominantly metal bands that play there. The stage is designed that way, but we’ve played with funk, other ska bands, electronic bands, spoken word people. Pretty much everything.

Aaron: We’ve also played with some folk players who brought their acoustic guitars and their hot ass girlfriends.

In February, you guys released a self-titled full-length record. How has the response been to the new songs?

Calvin: I think it’s been really good. We did a very good job spamming the Internet, and it’s gotten a lot of downloads. We can track our stats on Bandcamp, and it’s got some international appeal. We found out that some people in Russia were downloading it, which was kinda cool.

Alex: It’s been mostly positive reviews. I think people liked it. We’re still getting a couple downloads here and there based on the information through Bandcamp, but I think it did well.

Aaron: I personally wanted it to do better. This is all relative, but personally I have been dreaming slightly bigger. So I was slightly disappointed that nothing came out of it. Otherwise, I’m really happy with the music we played on it.

CLICK HER TO LISTEN TO SCOTT'S RUN

CLICK HER TO LISTEN TO SCOTT’S RUN

Which song is your favorite to play live off your new album?

Calvin: My favorite is “Don’t Feel Sorry for Me”. It’s got a lot of really interesting parts, and I enjoy listening to it while playing it. Sometimes live, our guitar player doesn’t really want to solo that hard so I kind of solo, but I love it because I’m an attention hog (laughs).

Since then, have you started writing any new music?

Alex: We recorded a couple songs over the summer. They are still in the process of being mixed, and we plan to have those out relatively soon. We recorded the drum track with Ken Barnum at Recording Arts in Fairfax, and a lot of the instrumentation at Palmer Studio. We’re still dealing with the logistics of how we want to release it.

Do you have any upcoming shows or festivals you are playing soon?

Calvin: Currently, no.

Alex: Since we are all at different colleges, it’s kind of hard to perform in the area.

Calvin: We keep getting emails from Indie on the Move and Reverbnation about gigs in our area, and we are currently picking and choosing which ones will work for us when we all get back from school, most of which will be over winter break.

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Where do each of you go to school?

Aaron: I was gonna say we all go to the University of Phoenix, but that’s probably not even funny (laughs). I go to Overland College; Calvin goes to Gettysburg College; Alex goes to NYU; Jonathan goes to University of Virginia; Jeff goes to JMU; Cameron goes to Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.; and Keith is currently on break, right?

Calvin: Yeah, he’s taking a year off.

What do you hope for your band to accomplish by the end of the year?

Calvin: I would like to release the EP. My goal is sometime over the winter, maybe after Christmas or maybe Valentine’s Day, which was around the time we released our last album. I want to release three or four songs there, and I want to record three or four more over winter/summer break. I just want to keep playing and play shows here and there. I’m more concerned about recording new material.

Aaron: I really want someone to find us and offer to pay us to play music like a label, or a booker or agent. I just want someone to be like, “I think you guys are really awesome, and I think people would pay money to see you guys.” That would be really cool.

Alex: I’d like to get some more Internet recognition and play through blogs. In the future, we plan to give it our all in upcoming recordings and whatnot, and perhaps stray from the strictly DIY path like we did with our first album. We want to try to make it a more collaborative effort between us and different parties.

For more updates on SCOTT’S RUN, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, Reverbnation, and Soundcloud, subscribe to their YouTube page, and check out their music on Bandcamp.

THE TRUE VIRGINIA GENTLEMEN, PEOPLE’S BLUES OF RICHMOND, CREATE A CARNIVAL-LIKE ATMOSPHERE WITH COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS BETWEEN THE BAND AND THE AUDIENCE

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY COVINGTON PORTRAITS, MATTHEW VOLKES, AND  GERMINATION PHOTOGRAPHY

VIDEO PROVIDED BY THE HOT BOX MEDIA

Inspired by a mutual love for good music and cheap whiskey, guitarist/vocalist Tim Beavers II and bassist/vocalist Matthew Volkes formed PEOPLE’S BLUES OF RICHMOND, which the band members self describes as “Heavy, psychedelic, loud, manic, emotion-driven rock n’ roll kinda stuff.” When the band hits the stage, you should already know, good times are ahead. Since they released their sophomore studio album, Good Time Suicide,  the band has been on a rigorous touring schedule, perfecting their current arsenal of tunes and even finding time to create new songs. I had the opportunity to catch up with Beavers and Volkes, as well as their new drummer Neko Williams while traveling on their current tour in the southeast, which has included dates in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. We  discussed their affinity for cheap alcohol, their carnival-like stage presence, as well as memories of past and present and those to come in the near future.

Being from Richmond, is Pabst Blue Ribbon your favorite beer or do you prefer something more original, like a craft beer?

Matthew: When we started this band, me and Tim were 19, and PBR at the time was our favorite beer. We were just drunk and drinking it a lot, but I would say that the band is more of a whiskey drinker. We’re not really too picky on whiskey. We’re more economical. We usually get some Kentucky Gentlemen or Virginia Gentlemen, or something cheap like that. Ya know, nothing bu the good stuff (laughs).

Your live performance has been described as “a carnival-like mayhem to [your] dark, blues-infused psychedelia,” but do you think that translates well to your recordings?

Yeah, I think the difference between our live show and the past album, especially, was we got a new drummer and we got rid of the keyboard player, which was all on mutual terms, but our goal is to emotionally connect with the audience as well as ourselves. We put everything we have into it, and it’s not just a hobby. It’s not just playing music to us. We drive eight to 12 hours to unpack and load-in for an hour, to sound check for 10 minutes, to play for 60 minutes, and unpack at 3:00 a.m., be the last ones out of the club for little pay because we love this so much. And we know that 60 minutes is important to us. So I think that when we put everything into the show you can see it in the audience when they start to interact with us, and we’re trying to think of new ways for the audience to join in the carnival-like atmosphere we’re trying to create. At Lockn’,  we laid down a white 20’x20′ canvas, and we had buckets of paint for people to dip their feet in and dance while we played. It was a collaborative effort with the fans and the band, and I think it brings people into it a little bit more. Everyone gets to be a part of it in their own way.

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On August 6, 2013, you guys released your most recent studio album, Good Time… Suicide, and since then you have released a series of live recordings. Do you have any plans to record another studio album any time soon?

Matthew: As far as future studio work goes, we are hoping to have some cool stuff, but it takes a lot of time and money to make that happen. We’ve been perfecting the material that we have and writing a lot of new stuff. There is definitely plans in the future, but we are also trying to be patient and take the necessary steps to make it the best recordings we can. That way the people that buy the album are so happy with it and can really connect with it.

How has your current tour been going?

Tim: We started at home in Richmond, and then we headed down to Savannah, Ga. We’ve been to Savannah about 30 times now. We go down there every two or three months. It’s one of our favorite spots, and we have a lot of friends and fans there. After that, we went down to Miami, and that was only our second time in Miami. But it was way better than our first time. We had a bunch of people come out, and we had some friends that had recently moved down there. And they promoted for us. It was at a new venue in a better part of town with more regulars, so that went well. The next day, we played a festival at a brewery in Dunedin, Fla., and that was awesome too. This tour has been one of our best Florida runs. That same night, we played two 75-minute sets from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and then we drove over to Tampa, Fla. and played from 1:30 a.m. to  2:15 a.m. to a packed house for a music festival that was taking place at a couple different bars, kinda like a small scale South by Southwest thing where all the bars in town are hosting different bands.

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Since your band started in 2012, what is one of your fondest memories with the band?

Tim: I have to say that South by Southwest might have been one of my favorites. I know I have never seen that much music in one week before. We got to play eight shows, and there is a different band on at every bar every 45 minutes or so. If you didn’t like that band, go to the next bar (laughs).There’s no way to not find something you’re into there. Not only was it great for my love of music, it was awesome because as a musician, you want to be in places that people who love music go. So a lot of our shows were packed with people who were in town to see music. It’s not always the most advantageous thing to be playing in a vacation setting where you don’t have those regulars the next time you come, but in some ways it’s cool because all those people collect together in one time and place — Austin, Texas  — and then they all disperse all over the country, and they leave with your sticker, your koozie, and your song in their head.

Next weekend, your band will be performing at the annual Virginia Hops and Harvest Festival. What are you looking forward to most about that show?

Matthew: We haven’t gotten to play that stage yet, and the group that puts that on are some cool people. We just love playing  good shows. Me and Tim grew up in Chesterfield, which is just south of Richmond, and I can imagine a of families are gonna be coming out, nephews and nieces, which is cool. Most of the time my parents don’t wanna come see us at 11:00 at night (laughs), so it’s always good to have a show where the family can come out. And it’s a beer festival, so what more could you want? We are pretty lucky in Richmond with the craft breweries, and there are a lot more coming in. A lot of cities have different goods and exports that make them special, and beer could be one for Richmond.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Virginia music scene?

Neko: Everybody is real close. The bands that are in Richmond, everybody is fitting in with everybody. Everybody has got the same dream and coming out to support at every show. … It’s really coming along, and it’s really picking up. Richmond has always had good tunes, but I definitely think it’s on the map for sure a little bit more now.

Who are some of your favorite local bands or musicians?

Neko: I guess my dad’s band, THE RAGING POSSE and THE WIERDNESS ART ENSEMBLE. They’re old school. You gotta look them up. SHACK BAND and SOUTHERN BELLES too. The rest of you guys, you know who you are. Like I said, everybody is fitting in with everybody. We are all kickin’ it.

For more updates on PEOPLE’S BLUES OF RICHMOND, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and check out their music on Reverbnation and Bandcamp.

COLLABORATING WITH OVER 15 VIRGINIA MUSICIANS, 1UPYO CREATE A POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON THE VIRGINIA MUSIC SCENE, AND PLAN TO TURN MUSIC INTO A COMIC BOOK WITHIN THE NEXT YEAR

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY WILL MITCHELL

Richmond is home to a wide variety of musicians, from hardcore to hippy, but it is also home to “the first ever virtual time-travelling rock band,” known as 1UPYO. The forefathers of 1UPYO are the time travelling guitarist/singer Doc B. Wildman, the highly evolved Pleiadian bassist The Messenger, AM91, and the present-day earthborn drummer, Tripp Watson. The band has merged in our nation’s capital to create this innovative project to be a force for positive change on the Virginia music scene. We spoke with Wildman regarding his band’s interstellar concept and the rotating cast of characters involved, their plans to turn their debut album Bye Time into a comic book, and their live show experience.

The concept for your band is described as “the first ever virtual time-travelling rock band.” What was the inspiration for this unique idea?

Originally, I thought that having a centralized concept would enable us to develop a unified sound and give us a creative direction. I was kind of tired of the traditional music scene, which is kind of egotistical, and I wanted to produce something innovative and not confined to the “play in a bar and be cool” mentality. Society itself is becoming increasingly virtual with social media, and I feel like we are just taking that mentality a step further. In a small way, it’s kind of a social experiment. Primarily, it’s liberating to do something unique and centered around a mission or a purpose. I actually traveled from the future, so that’s kind of where we got the idea.

What would you say is the mission or purpose of your band?

The purpose we have is to collectively be a positive influence on the universe in general.

Where did you travel from in the future?

It’s kind of fuzzy in my brain because I don’t know if the human brain is made to endure that sort of experience, but I think, from what I remember, was around the year 4200.

Can you tell me about the characters each member plays in your band and how the fit into the story you are trying to tell?

There is myself, who represents Doc Wildman, who represents a time traveler, mad scientist kind of anarchist, guitarist, songwriter, producer. Then there is The Messenger, AM9I, who is from another dimension. He is a Pleiadian person, not really human. He represents a more evolved, human type of life form. Tripp Watson is who united us on this current timeline. The Messenger plays bass, and Tripp Watson does vocals.

There have been several bands that tell stories through songs, and even a few in recent years that have turned their music into graphic novels. Do you have any plans to do this as well?

We definitely do. We are in the process of working on a comic book that I guess could evolve into a graphic novel. we have been working with some artists locally who are doing the designs, and we are telling the story. So we do the storyboards and  the panels’ themes, and even do rough copies, and then we ship them off to our artist who does the original sketches.

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Do you have a timeline yet for when those will be released?

We are hoping by the end of the year to have the first issue, but that’s just a target date. It’s very exciting to think about being a multimedia project, having multiple outlets to be creative and bringing in a collective community of artists that all work in a centralized theme.

On your new album Bye Time, you have a wide variety of other Virginia musicians featured as well, including KELLER WILLIAMS, SCHIAVONNE MCGEE of FIGHTING GRAVITY, Pandemic of GRITTY CITY RECORDS, and several more. How did each artist get involved, and what role do they play in this project?

We work with a couple producers — Will Mitchell, who set up this interview, and Joe Talerovich, who produced the project, and they have been on the Richmond music scene for a long time. So they just know a lot of people. They have helped a facilitate the collaboration because we really wanted a collaborative project. KELLER WILLIAMS came about because the drummer that we worked with also plays with Keller, and he was in town. So we just got him to come down to the studio and hang out, which ended up being a collaborative session. Pandemic from GRITTY CITY RECORDS is friends with the drummer Tripp Watson, so Tripp connected that because I really wanted to have an MC on a couple songs, and we really digged what he was doing. Schiavone McGee is from FIGHTING GRAVITY. He was friends with the producer Joe, and we got him in. He had a lot to bring to the table, which was exciting. There were also a lot more — THOMAS COLEMAN, who is a great singer/acoustic guitarist. He plays competitively at the Richmond Folk Festival. His wife FRAN COLEMAN, who used to be in SOLID GOLD FISH BOWL, which was a fairly popular band in the ’90’s, contributed. I think we ended up with 15 total contributors.

What was the concept for Bye Time?

The concept itself is examining society’s general view of time and how it’s kind of paradoxical. We always crave to have free time, and when we do we waste it. We spend all of our lives working to make money. We told each character about the vibe, what the purpose was, and what the concept was, and we asked them to tell their story and what they thought about it.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO BYE TIME

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO BYE TIME

Are there any other Virginia bands or musicians you would be interested in collaborating with in the future?

We are pretty open to anything. It depends on what fits individual song, but there are so many great Virginia artists. I hard to pick just one. We are open to any and all collaborations, if it’s fitting the circumstance.

Since you are a virtual band, do you ever play shows?

We have done a couple shows locally, and a couple private shows. We performed as a three-piece with a lot of effects and computerized stuff going on.

If you have another person featured on the track, how is their music played live?

If it is a show that we are able to attend, then we will have them featured, and they will be part of the group on stage. We like to create a mob mentality on stage with lots  of people, even if some people  aren’t doing anything but just hanging out, and if they are not able to make the show, then we will fill the role.

Do you guys have any shows coming up anytime soon?

We’ve got a private CD release party sometime in October. We’re still working out the details for that. It’s gonna kind of be an underground party. Then, we are hoping to tour in the spring, but we’re still working out the kinks with management.

For more updates on 1UPYO, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and check out their music on Bandcamp and iTunes.

FORMED FROM “FUNK, PUNK, AND TREE TRUNKS”, LINA KEEPS IT DIY AND SUPPORTS GREATER COMMUNITY AMONGST BANDS IN THE VIRGINIA MUSIC SCENE

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY MARIA JOPLIN

When you combine groovy funk with raw, in-your-face punk, you get LINA’s unique blend of “punkadellic” music, which is guaranteed to make you want to mosh and dance simultaneously. This duo, which includes lead vocalist/guitarist Jesse Taylor and guitarist/drummer/vocalist Hunter Waddell, are currently putting the finishing touches on their debut EP. We were able to chat with Waddell and Taylor about their bands influences and how they got started, what they like to do when music isn’t an option, as well as what can be expected from their debut.

According to your Facebook page, your sound is described as “punkadellic” with lots of influences from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Can you tell me how your band got started and why you chose to mix such a wide range of music?

Jesse: The band started a year ago. We met each other through our friend Ross and tried to start another band, but then Hunter and I branched off to do our own thing. Hunter comes from funkadellic and bands like the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, LED ZEPPELIN, and THE DOORS. I listen to more punk and hardcore music. So we thought it would be cool to combine the two and be funky but with punk.

What were some of the punk bands that inspired that side of your sound?

Hunter: We really liked THE STOOGES, SEX PISTOLS, and early RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS. Their first studio album was straight up punk rock.

What is the meaning behind your band name?

Jesse: We used to be called COMMUNIQUE, but another band with the same name threatened us with a lawsuit. We got the meaning of our current name when we used to practice at our friend Mikey’s house. His sister had a baby named Melina, who went by Lina for short, and she would come up to us and dance to our music when we were jammin’, so we named it after her.

You guys seem like you love to explore—from abandoned buildings to climbing mountains and trees. Who is more adventurous between the two of you?

Jesse: We were bored one Friday night, and I found an abandoned insane asylum five hours away in Staunton, VA, and I was like, “Let’s Go!” So I guess I would say me (laughs).

Hunter: I was just hoping to see some ghost activity.

Jesse: It was a huge abandoned building like four or five stories tall, and while we were there, some other kids from JMU showed up. We were worried at first that it was some homeless guy that might stab us.

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Have you considered taking on any more members, or do you prefer playing as a duo?

Hunter: At first, we started out as just the two of us, and then we found another member named Justin, who would switch off with me on drums and guitar, but we kicked him about because we didn’t like the musical direction he wanted to take the band. We have been looking for a bassist, and it’s really hard to find a drummer. We have had a few people jam with us, and either they sucked, or they didn’t have their own gear to play with, or they didn’t vibe with us very well.

I really like your song “Nothing More”. Can you tell me what it’s about?

Jesse: I wrote “Nothing More” a long time ago, probably two years ago, when I was dealing with a break up with a girl that was basically the worst person in the world. It’s basically about how I felt like a different person with a weight on my back due to the stress that she caused me, but it’s also about this other side of Jesse that is a better person and who kicks ass (laughs).

Hunter: It was the first song that we made together, and we formed our band around that song.

Are there any songs in particular you are excited for people to hear?

Jesse: I am definitely excited for people to hear “Slave”. It’s by far my favorite song on the record. We will have some mixing and mastering to do but it’s almost done.

Who is mastering your album?

Hunter: We have been doing it all ourselves. I have some pretty good condenser mics and a mixing board, and we run it all through Garage Band.

Jesse: We try to keep it DIY. We tried to record with a producer, but he wanted to make us sound like every other pop band on the radio and we didn’t like it.

Hunter: Plus, doing it on our own has given us more time to make the songs better.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO MUSIC FROM LINA

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO MUSIC FROM LINA

What are your thoughts on the current state of the music scene in Virginia?

Jesse: I think it’s getting really awesome. The Virginia Beach scene is starting to stick together more, and bands are helping each other out. The person making our shirts is Rusty from TRUSTFALL, and the guys from PISSGHETTI are really awesome. Vincent helped us get on one of their shows recently.

Have you set a release date for your debut record?

Hunter: It’s definitely gonna be later this month.

Jesse: June 23rd at midnight.

For more updates on LINA, be sure to “like” their Facebook page and listen to their music on Bandcamp.

GOLDRUSH, BLACK GIRLS, AND NO BS! BRASS HEADLINE RAUCOUS OPENING NIGHT AT RICHMOND’S NEWEST MUSIC VENUE, THE BROADBERRY

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ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY MIKE SCHOEFFEL

At 12:07 a.m. on April 18, the NO BS! BRASS BAND prompted the 400 or so folks in attendance at The Broadberry’s opening night to raise their drinks and usher in a new era in Richmond’s music scene.

“Raise your glasses high, folks,” said drummer Lance Koehler. “We’re going to wish The Broadberry a happy birthday. She’s zero-years-old today.”

With that, NO BS! BRASS’ nine-horn attack launched into an extended version of “Happy Birthday”. Though The Broadberry’s soft opening had taken place two days prior, this was its true grand opening; the night the new mid-sized venue officially put itself on the Richmond music map. A quick glance at the high-powered lineup confirmed the importance of the occasion: local favorites GOLDRUSH and BLACK GIRLS were set to play the first two slots, while heavyweights NO BS! BRASS BAND were slated to bring a booty-shaking coda to the evening’s festivities.

The opening of The Broadberry was a collaborative effort between Rand Burgess, who is also the owner of The Camel, Lucas Fritz, who is the events manager at The Camel, and Matt McDonald, who is the owner of Joe’s Inn. The 350-ticket venue is located on West Broad Street in The Fan. The black-paneled building that formerly housed Nu Nightclub is located directly across the street from the Science Museum of Virginia. It’s also within walking distance of several outstanding foodie destinations, including Emilio’s and The Pig and the Pearl.

The grand plan for The Broadberry as put forth by Burgess, Fritz, and McDonald is to host well-known regional and national acts that draw too large a crowd for The Camel, yet lack the following to fill a spacious venue like The National, which has a maximum capacity of 1500 people. The Broadberry, then, satisfies what many Richmond natives perceive as a gaping hole in the local music scene.

Equal parts class and practicality, the venue—with its curiosity-arousing black exterior and its comfortably modern interior—seems destined to become one of Richmond’s most frequented live music destinations. It’s cozy, roomy, and hip. The open floor plan and mile-high ceiling invoke a welcomed sense of spaciousness. The mutedlighting is seductive and meditative. The stage is located close enough to the bar for patrons sipping on brews to feel involved with the music, yet distant enough for them to carry on conversations sans shouting. There’s a generous craft beer selection, and the menu features distinctive choices like candied bacon, waffle cheese fries, and Havarti croquets.

As Drew Gillihan, who is the lead singer of BLACK GIRLS, insightfully pointed out, “Richmond finally has a venue-slash-bar and not the other way around.” That statement is truer perhaps than Gillihan realized: The Broadberry, in fact, will only be opened when events are taking place.

GOLDRUSH kicked off the night’s festivities, bringing their heavy-hitting blend of indie/classical/delta blues to a fully-lit stage that flashed green, red, and blue. After their second song, stand-up bassist Matt Gold downed a shot out of a plastic cup. It was, by all accounts, the first alcoholic beverage consumed on-stage at the Broadberry—a milestone quickly noted by lead singer/guitarist Prabir Mehta. Gold proceeded to saw away at his instrument for the remainder of the set, making the thing growl while thick veins protruded from his neck and a devilish smile crept across his bony face.

“Fuck yeah,” he screamed to Mehta at one point.

Matt Gold, stand-up bass player for GOLDRUSH, lets the music take him away during his band’s opening set.

Matt Gold, stand-up bass player for GOLDRUSH, lets the music take him away during his band’s opening set.

Mehta fed off of Gold’s energy, plowing through heavy riff after heavy riff. Violinist Treesa Gold screeched away in the corner and Gregg Brooks abused the drums in front of a giant white banner that read: “THE BROADBERRY.” It was a high-energy selection of songs, an apt primer for the acts that would follow.

“Here’s to the Broadberry,” Mehta said before launching into the final song. “One more reason to bring us together for drinking and hooking up.”

Mehta chucked his sunburst Epiphone guitar down on the stage at the conclusion of the set. The resulting feedback acted as a prelude for the appearance of the six sassiest white males in today’s local music scene: BLACK GIRLS.

If there was ever any wonder whya group of six white guys would name their rock band BLACK GIRLS (apart from the obvious irony), the tension was resolved the moment the group took the stage. These well-dressed, articulate white dudes have the collective soul of a Motown R&B singer and the swagger of a brash young ebony chick.The sassiest of them all is undoubtedly lead singer Drew Gillihan, who was in top-form on this evening. He played the part of a vocal chameleon—one moment making love to the microphone with a sweet falsetto, the next moment shoving the thing in his mouth and howling like a hellcat. Bassist Jeff Knight was nearly Gillihan’s dramatic equal, occasionally joining the lead singer at the front of the stage and letting his inner “black girl” illuminate his Caucasian exterior. The atmosphere was opaque with sass and soul as BLACK GIRLS grooved their way through a set of psychedelic southern soul tunes, which is a genre the band has dubbed “snuff rock.”

“Who’s drinking wine tonight?” Gillihan asked mischievously, swilling some red stuff around in a clear plastic cup. “Anyone?”

“Only you, dude,” responded one his band members. “Only you.”

Drew Gillihan, lead singer of BLACK GIRLS, croons into the microphone while grasping a cup of near-finished red wine.

Drew Gillihan, lead singer of BLACK GIRLS, croons into the microphone while grasping a cup of near-finished red wine.

The highlight of the set came during the final song, when guitarist Fletcher Babb hopped into the audience to give his mother a bear hug, all while nary missing a note on his guitar. After the song concluded, a sweat-soaked Gillihan bade the receptive crowd farewell.

“No BS! is comin’ up, and if you’re not wet and ready for ‘em, we’re not gonna be too happy,” he joked.

The arrival of the NO BS! BRASS BAND was preceded by the arrangement of nine microphone stands across the front of the stage. When the varied group of instrumentalists—some dressed in business attire, others in street wear, etc. and so forth—began their set, the artificial fog had reached a near-toxic level. “Whoever’s in control of releasing the fog could you, um, not do that anymore?” joked Koehler. But the minor inconvenience didn’t stop “Richmond’s Favorite Band,” as they’re often referred to, from burning down the house.

“Trumpets!” shouted Koehler like a general commanding his troops from a stead behind the drum set. Right on cue, his band mates raised their instruments and issued the first bellowing notes that struck the crowd with the force of a rolling avalanche. They played a collection of fan favorites, including “Runaround” and “RVA All Day” while sweat dripped from Koehler’s beard and saliva flew from Brian Hooten’s trombone.

By the time the boys christened The Broadberry with a “Happy Birthday” salute, the venue was already beginning to feel like the newest home-away-from-home for Richmond’s music lovers.

Members of the NO BS! BRASS BAND raise their glasses high to christen the opening of The Broadberry.

Members of the NO BS! BRASS BAND raise their glasses high to christen the opening of The Broadberry.

“A place like this has been a long time coming,” said Hooten before diving into “RVA All Day,” the final song of the set. “I hope we will be playing here for years and years, and I hope ya’ll will grow old with us.”

For more updates on The Broadberry, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow their Twitter, and visit their website. You can visit the venue at 2729 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23220.

THE FUZZ BAND SUPPORTS LOCAL MUSIC AND ARTS THROUGH “FUZZY WEDNESDAYS” AND ENCOURAGES MORE COLLABORATION BETWEEN MUSIC GENRES IN HAMPTON ROADS

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY CHESBAY 360, JOE FITZ MEDIA, MITCH KIRSNER

If you have ever been to a “Fuzzy Wednesdays” open mic, then you probably have already heard of THE FUZZ BAND; however, if you have not yet been fortunate enough to have your eardrums flooded with their infectious fusion of jazz, rock, R&B, pop, hip-hop, and everything in between, you are in luck. The players, which initially met at Hampton University, include Duane Smith, Jason Jenifer, Michon David, Kabana Blaq, Nakia Madry, Tavis Simmons, and more, and they have staked their claim as one of the most entertaining groups from the 757 and beyond. I was fortunate enough to speak with Smith about his bands beginnings with Fuzzy Wednesdays, their passion for the local music scene, as well what they have coming up in the next few months.

Congratulations on winning Veer Magazine’s award for Best R&B Group of 2013. Have you been nominated for the award before?

Thank you! We won it last year too. This year we were also nominated for Best Live Performer and Best Open Mic, but we didn’t do so good in those categories. There was some very steep competition.

For those who are not familiar with your band, please tell us how your band was formed at Hampton University?

What put the band together was Fuzzy Wednesdays, which is the longest running open mic in Virginia, and it has been going on for the last 16 years. When it started out, our instrumentalists would play between different groups, but that’s how we found each other. I used to play bass, but then switched to trumpet. We would learn five new songs each week and perform them, and that went on for four years [before we officially started the band]. We all bonded really well.

I know that your band was originally the house band for “Fuzzy Wednesdays”, but how has that changed over the years?

It started as a Hampton University thing, but since then it has expanded all over the Hampton Roads area to pretty much every city except Suffolk. Some people got inspired and did their own thing, and it became the place to go to find new talent. Currently, we are looking for a new spot with more couches and chairs and stage. The place we had before was very tight, and we want to have more space so we can bring other signed and independent artists down for showcases. Right now that is on the backburner because we want to stack our chips up and do it right, but we are still rehearsing for the shows we have coming up like the First Fridays Granby Street Party on April 4th.

Yeah I heard about that! What can your audience expect from that performance?

Initially we will do originals, but we plan on combining soul and rock. We just want people to have a good time. It’s really hard to put us in one box. We love to play a fusion of good music, and later that night we will also be playing at Baxter’s in Norfolk, which will be more of a party crowd, so we will play more upbeat, party music. We are very versatile like that.

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Who are some of the other artists or groups that came out of Fuzzy Wednesdays and did their own thing?

A few that come to mind are MYRA SMITH, SY SMITH–who is now a backup singer on American Idol–and ROMONTA & FRIENDS.

I think it’s awesome how supportive your band is of local musicians and artists. Has that always been a mission of your band?

For sure! I’m originally from Brooklyn, and up there the younger generation learned about music from the older cats, but when I moved here I noted that the community is very cliquey and the old cats weren’t very welcoming to younger crowds. That’s why with Fuzzy Wednesdays we wanted to give a safe, open space for any art form to perform. On any given night, the audience will range from 18 to 65-year-olds.

Wow, that’s a pretty huge age gap. I’ve also noticed there isn’t much crossing of genres at local shows in Virginia. Is your band open to playing with bands of other genres?

Absolutely! We met THE UNABOMBERS at the Veer Awards, and we are trying to get a show with them. It’s important for us to expose people to different genres, and we also want to broaden our audience as much as we can. We will play with anyone—reggae, rock, you name it. We are also trying to coordinate shows with THE HUNTS, which is a folk band, and REVERY for their album release show.

In your biography it says that your band has survived the ‘curse’ that tears bands apart. What did you mean by that exactly?

Egos usually, and people wanting to do things differently. We are more of a family than a band. We just want to keep the music going. Six of the original members are still with the band, and we are still going strong.

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How many members are in your band?

Too many (laughs). Currently we have nine, and on occasion we like to play with DJ A1 and do battles with DJ BEE. He will play a song, and we will play it back. Or sometimes, we will lay down the beat and we will play over it. We’ve done that for all sorts of covers, and it’s always a lot of fun.

Currently, your band has recorded four studio albums. Have you been working any new material for your fifth?

We are in the studio now actually. We have been doing more corporate and club gigs to make as much money as we can for this next record. In the past, we came up short, and weren’t able to finish all the mixes exactly like we wanted them to be. With this record, we are trying to represent where we are now as a band, and we are trying to put everything into it. It has been six years since our last release! We also intend to do a live album with all of our songs. We want to reach out to our fans to pick a 10-song dream set, and if we like one, we will do it. If there’s more than one we like, maybe we will do more.

With spring and summer coming up, do you have any plans to tour or are there any festivals you are looking forward to playing?

May 30th we are trying to lock something in for DC. We are trying to get an opening spot for THE ROOTS picnic in Philly that same weekend. We are also hoping to get Essence Fest. We may have to create our own tour. It’s so hard to go out with a nine-piece band, but I would be down for it. We still need to plan out our summers since we are all older. We would also really like to do another tour with the USO. One of our greatest experiences on tour was when we went to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It was the most dangerous, but they treated us very well and we had a lot of fun.

For more updates on THE FUZZ BAND, be sure to visit their website, follow them on Twitter, “like” their Facebook page, and check out their music on iTunes.

JESSE CHONG: “THE HARDEST WORKING MUSICIAN IN VIRGINIA BEACH”

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY JESSE CHONG

Known across Hampton Roads as one of the hardest working musicians of the area, JESSE CHONG has been captivating audiences all over Virginia and beyond over the past 10 years. In his hometown of Virginia Beach, Chong plays local bars, venues, and festivals relentlessly all over the area not just to make a living but because his biggest passion is to share his talent with others. His music combines elements of reggae, pop-rock, Americana, blues, and funk so you never know what to expect with this talented artist.

How did you get started performing in the Hampton Roads music scene?

I started when I was 15 playing in punk rock and ska bands.  We played at house parties, surf/skate events, and even oceanfront bars like Peabody’s and the old Chicho’s.  At the time, I had no idea that it would become a legitimate profession.  Actually, I’m still not sure if it’s legitimate, but it is my profession.  

What are some of your influences as a guitarist and songwriter?

NIRVANA was the band that started it all for me.  Since then, I’ve been interested in all styles of music from Americana to Zydeco and can say I genuinely enjoy them all.  As a guitarist I gravitate to guys in the jam scene and prog-rock, though I certainly haven’t attained that level of virtuosity.  There are so many songwriters that I love, but I think PAUL SIMON is a genius, as well as JERRY GARCIA and ROBERT HUNTER.  A modern guy that I have the utmost respect for is DAVE MATTHEWS, who has been mind bogglingly prolific considering his touring schedule.     

How would you describe your unique, signature sound?

This question has been the bane of my professional existence and causes most people to scratch their heads.  I have songs that are reggae, pop-rock, Americana, blues, and funk.  I think of myself as a bag of trail mix. Some people aren’t gonna like the raisins, some may just pick out the M&M’s, but those who are open minded enough will be able to eat the different flavors and appreciate how they complement each other.  Mmmm I’m hungry (laughs).   

Over the years you have earned the unofficial title of Hampton Roads’ hardest working musician, as well as various other well-deserved awards. Is music your full-time job?

Music and the business surrounding it are on my mind from the moment I wake to when I’m drifting off to sleep.  Most people can leave work at the office, but when your office is in your head, it can be maddening.  The gig is only one small aspect of what I do. The art of making a living with music is a multifaceted challenge that is deserving of the title “occupation”.  And yes, it is my full-time job.   

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Have you been working on any new material recently?

I’m continuously working on new material and one of my goals is to transition from a gigging artist back to a full-time songwriter.  Writing excites me more than performing at this point, and I hope to release an album within the year. 

What is your favorite song to perform, and why?

I can never perform a song the same way twice and the improvisational nature of what I do means that my favorite song of the night is always different.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions, but sometimes a song becomes a living thing.  When performing a song is an emotional instead of a rote experience- that is my favorite song.   

Is there anyone in particular that you look up to for guidance as a musician?

One man who has paved the path for a guy like me is LEWIS MCGEHEE.  When it comes to longevity and integrity, he still shines.  He’s been doing this as long as I’ve been alive; he’s raised a beautiful family, and he’s still rocking to this day!

What are some of your favorite local venues to perform at?

Two of my favorite places to play are places I’ve been playing the longest, which are Murphy’s Pub and LunaSea (both at the Oceanfront).  Playing these places is like playing in my living room and has given me the opportunity to develop myself and my material in a very comfortable setting.  Most importantly, these places treat me like family, and that is something I cherish above all else. 

Who do you think are some of the most underrated solo musicians or bands in Virginia that more people need to hear?

My two favorite solo artists of Hampton Roads at the moment are EASY D of JACKMOVE and SETH STAINBACK.  These guys are the real thing. They are both brilliant writers and performers and have their own unique voices.  They are also friends of mine and are going to owe me big time (laughs)!

For more updates on Jesse Chong and his upcoming performances, visit his website and be sure to “like” his Facebook page.