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Quick Hit- The Neighbourhood

I wrote this Quick Hit for The Inlander to preview The Neighbourhood’s show in Spokane. You can also read this brief here.

Since forming in 2011, California-based urban-rock band the Neighbourhood has put a black-and-white stamp on everything it does. For one, the quintet wears monochromatic clothing on stage. Then there are the music videos for “Female Robbery,” “Sweater Weather” and “Afraid” from 2013’s I Love You., which play like old movies. Its performances on the Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live! were broadcast in black and white at the band’s request. The group has even named its upcoming release #000000 & #FFFFFF, the HTML codes for its preferred color scheme. With this aesthetic, the Neighbourhood has set the mood to match the hazy nature of its music, a mix of light and dark that’s both refreshingly modern and somewhat familiar. — Azaria Podplesky

Filed under The Neighbourhood I Love You. Sweater Weather 000000 & FFFFF Quick Hit The Inlander music writing music journalism freelance writing

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Best Of- Mariah McKay

I wrote a profile of a fantastic Spokanite named Mariah McKay for The Inlander’s “Best Of” issue. Readers voted Mariah “Best Twenty-something Making a Difference,” and she certainly lives up to the title. You can also read this feature here.

Best Twenty-something Making a Difference

Mariah McKay

It’s obvious that Mariah McKay loves her job. While talking about ongoing projects in Boots Bakery, across from where she works as the Eastern Washington program director/organizer for Washington Community Action Network, her eyes light up and she gesticulates as rapidly as she speaks.

The Spokane native has a lot to be excited about; after years of searching, she’s found her passion.

McKay attended Portland’s Reed College before moving home after graduation. She began working with KYRS Community Radio, blogging on the Spovangelist and helping to create organizations like Terrain and the Shrinking Violets Society. Through these activities, McKay became inspired by community members who were speaking up about issues affecting them.

A 2008 stint as a grant writer in Olympia inspired her even more.

"Seeing firsthand the impact of [the loss of program funding] on people here gave me the motivation to seek political solutions," McKay says. "Change does not come from within Olympia. … We have to solve our problems."

Since 2011, McKay has worked to solve the community’s problems with Washington CAN! The grassroots organization is currently working on several campaigns, including one to bring affordable health care to everyone, one for the dental access bill and another to reform the immigration system. Its newest campaign involves working to better define what community benefits are available to hospital patients.

McKay, who’s also an Inland Northwest Leadership PAC board member, says those problems are nothing compared to the challenge of convincing people that change is possible.

"In a society that’s really individually oriented … you’re working against economic and social barriers to create community, and help the community identify what’s holding it back and work to address those things by organizing."

McKay has a strong track record and a wish list she’d like community organizing to accomplish, including the repeal of the sit-lie ordinance and a “generational homing beacon” to motivate Spokanites who have moved to major cities to put their energy to use locally, a move that’s worked well for McKay.

"Committing to community organizing is this grounding experience," she says. "I just bought a house here, a lifelong dream. I get to do the work I love, in the city I love, with the lifestyle I love. I get to shop at the Main Market Co-op, and ride my bike all over the city, and have friendships that I have for years. It’s just great."

2nd PLACE: Karli Ingersoll; 3rd PLACE: Taylor Malone

Filed under Mariah McKay Best Twenty-something Making a Difference Best Of issue The Inlander Spokane Karli Ingersoll Taylor Malone feature writing freelance writing

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One Nation, Under AWOL

This is the story I wrote for The Inlander about AWOLNATION to coincide with their upcoming performance in Spokane. You can also read this post here.

One Nation, Under AWOL

By Azaria Podplesky

Taking a break was not on singer Aaron Bruno’s mind when his band, Under the Influence of Giants, went on indefinite hiatus in 2008. Holing up in the spare bedroom in his mother’s house and, at their invitation, the Red Bull Records studio, Bruno set out to create a sound he could call his own.

“If people hated it, that’s great, and if people loved it, even better,” he says. “I had no expectations either way. I just wanted to see this vision through for once.”

That vision produced a five-song EP called Back From Earth, which Bruno released through Red Bull Records under the name AWOLNATION. Though the EP was well received, it wasn’t until he had a full body of work that Bruno thought about rounding up a few friends (including ex-Under the Influence of Giants guitarist Drew Stewart) and taking the show on the road.

The band’s debut album, 2011’s Megalithic Symphony, shows the lyrical and musical versatility of Bruno’s original vision.

“Some Sort of Creature” is a 27-second “journal entry” that Bruno recorded on his phone, a train-of-thought clip of him explaining a brief instance that, to this day, he has yet to fully understand.

Album closer “Knights of Shame,” on the other hand, is a 15-minute epic that blends a cappella, hip-hop, rock, and even ’80s pop. Bruno says he used this song to fulfill his dream of creating a long song that wasn’t boring or cluttered with guitar solos, and feels that “Knights of Shame” represents each element of the album, all on one track.

“I have yet to really meet someone that says they’re bored with the song,” he says. “If people listen to the song once all the way through ever, then I’ve done my job.”

Megalithic Symphony, especially the first single “Sail” (which Bruno calls a crazy accident), has opened a lot of doors for AWOLNATION. Their song “ThisKidsNotAlright” will be featured on the soundtrack for the Injustice: Gods Among Us videogame, and moviegoers will be able to hear the band’s “Some Kind of Joke” in Iron Man 3 next month.

Bruno, who calls Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s scoring of There Will Be Blood one of his favorite pieces of music from the past decade, says scoring a movie is a dream of his.

With all the opportunities they’re being presented, it’s hard to say exactly what the future holds for Bruno and AWOLNATION. But Bruno is sure that he’ll keep working on the band’s second album while they take on more projects that let them continue to grow.

“We’re just sort of riding the shit, if you will,” he says. “We’ll see where it takes us.” 

AWOLNATION with Blondfire and Mother Mother • Mon, April 15, at 7:30 pm • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague Ave. • $20 • All-ages • ticketweb.com • 244-3279

Filed under AWOLNATION Aaron Bruno Megalithic Symphony The Inlander feature writing music writing music writer freelance writing freelance writer

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Mavericks

I wrote an article for The Inlander about Listener to coincide with their upcoming show in Spokane. You can also read this article here.

Mavericks

By Azaria Podplesky

If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Many a band has taken this saying to heart, but perhaps none more so than Listener, a spoken word rock band.

In their early days as a duo, Christin Nelson and Dan Smith made their first album, 2007’s Return to Struggleville, by hand in their Arkansas living room. During their first three years of touring they screen printed all of the shirts they sold at their “souvenir table” after shows.

The band also has a penchant for house tours, as evidenced in multiple YouTube videos that show them playing intimate shows to a few dozen people crammed into a living room or basement.

In a sense, that’s where the band’s roots are. Nelson and Smith first met at a house show back in 2005.

Back when he lived in Las Vegas, Nelson hosted a house show for Smith — then a hip-hop artist who was looking to stray from performing with strictly hip-hop acts. After a post-show chat about music and tattoos, Nelson and Smith decided to join forces.

According to Nelson, the duo clicked right away. They recorded Return to Struggleville before they played a single show together, which helped them mesh even further as musicians.

Their first practice before heading out on tour lasted about an hour. During that time, Nelson says they didn’t make it through an entire song. After the third show of the tour, though, everything came together.

“That year was a bit rocky because we were still finding our way musically as a band, but we learned quite a bit from the experience,” Nelson says.

The band — now a trio — calls the music they make “talk music,” a term Smith originally coined because he didn’t know what genre to file his music in. Introducing the world to that genre is hard work, but good work, the band says on its Facebook. They leave their families for months on end to play shows night after night, sleep on floors and eat, mostly, unappetizing food.

“It’s a real humbling thought to imagine a person working a job they might not enjoy to make money and pay to come see us for one moment of inspiration, hope, escape or any reason they have,” Nelson says. “We don’t do this to take from people — we do it to give as much as we possibly can, and then give a little more.”

This mission has produced three more independently released albums, not including Time Is A Machine, for which Nelson is currently in the studio finishing song rewrites. It only took the trio a week — of what Nelson calls a very specific process of chaos — to write the album, using bits of music and lyrics that didn’t make 2010’s Wooden Heart.

“We have come to a place where we will let a song tell us what it wants to be rather [than] try to force something into a box of what we perceive it should be,” Nelson says. “Usually I’ll have a music idea or song demo written and Dan will have his various writings and we will sit together and just see what happens and let things take shape from there.”

There is no concept to Time Is A Machine, though Nelson does note that some of the songs are tinged with western themes and that, lyrically, the DIY album is more uplifting and encouraging than some of their previous releases.

Though Listener is proud of their independent work ethic, Nelson says he and Smith don’t want to be grouped in with artists who use Kickstarter and similar websites to solicit donations from fans to fund projects. Nelson says these websites are for people who want to take the fast track.

“We’ve never asked people for money to do what we do,” he says. “If you are really committed, you will find a way. End of story.”

Nelson insists that Listener’s grassroots way of making music and touring will continue as long as the band exists, and that they’ll be practicing the same DIY principles they preach: taking their time, paying their dues and being patient with the music they create.

“People try to say we are a ‘big’ band and we’ve ‘made it,’” he says. “We still don’t know what that means but we know we have more albums to make and more work to get done.” 

Listener with A Quiet Place and Jake Jerome • Sat, Feb. 2 at 7 pm • The Hop! • 706 N. Monroe St. • $10 • All-ages • 328-5467

Filed under Listener Christin Nelson Dan Smith Kris Rochelle journalism music writing music journalism freelance writing freelance writer the inlander

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Blue Period- El Ten Eleven

This is the article I wrote for The Inlander about El Ten Eleven to coincide with their upcoming show in Spokane. You can also read this article here.

Blue Period

After years of success, El Ten Eleven was handed some life lessons and turned them into songs

By Azaria Podplesky

For a while there, things were going swimmingly for El Ten Eleven.

In fact, when The Inlander checked in with the post-rock band in 2010, guitarist and bassist Kristian Dunn said, “Things are going well for us and they keep getting better.”

At that time, they were. The instrumental duo’s fourth album, It’s Still Like a Secret, was about to be released, as was Urbanized, the final movie in Gary Hustwit’s “Design Trilogy,” rounded out by Helvetica and Objectified, all of which feature the music of El Ten Eleven.

So when we asked for a status update just last week, Dunn said with a laugh, “Oh, you know, the usual. We’ve been ruling the world, having people bow to our powers and bow down at our feet, so the same.”

He’s all jokes now, but both Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty experienced quite a few life-changing ups and downs since we last spoke — divorce, relocation and, in Dunn’s case, remarriage and having a child. But like any good band, El Ten Eleven put the changes, both good and bad, to good, creative use. They’re the inspiration behind the group’s fifth album, Transitions.

Recorded at Stage and Sound in Hollywood and Dunn’s Atwater Deluxe Rehearsal in Los Angeles, Transitions was originally intended to be one 40-minute song. After a lot of reworking, that idea became the 10-and-a-half minute title track.

The band also recorded, “Thanks Bill,” a song the band was playing on tour before they began recording Transitions. The song’s title is in reference to Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson and was inspired by Dunn’s wife’s sobriety.

“She got sober and is staying sober with the help of A.A. and it works really, really well for her,” he says. “If she wasn’t sober, we probably wouldn’t be together, my daughter probably wouldn’t exist so I thought that was worthy of some thanks.”

Though it only took Dunn and Fogarty three days to record Transitions, the tweaking process — as Dunn calls it — took a month, followed by many more months of trying to figure out the best time to release the record on the duo’s own Fake Record Label.

To make up for the time between the album’s February completion and its October release date, El Ten Eleven is finishing up three songs that will go on an EP to be released in early 2013.

While recording Transitions, Dunn got to fulfill his longtime dream of playing through a vintage Vox AC30 guitar amplifier. Aside from that, though, the recording process wasn’t too exciting, as Dunn compares recording studios to factories.

“You just kind of get in there and get to work and get it done, at least that’s been my experience,” he says. “The studio seems like it’s more, I don’t know, punching the clock. I mean, it’s a great clock to punch — don’t get me wrong.”

Dunn says that it’s not in the studio, but at their live shows, where he and Fogarty feel emotionally connected to the music.

After receiving a lot of love-it-or-hate-it responses from fans about the band’s third album, These Promises Are Being Videotaped, Dunn has been waiting to hear negative feedback about Transitions, but says that so far, many fans have told him and Fogarty that it’s their favorite El Ten Eleven album to date.

Even if Transitions received mixed reactions from fans, the duo would still be happy with the album.

“We make these records for ourselves, really,” Dunn says. “We want records that move us first and then if they also move other people, then that’s a bonus. So the fact that it’s doing well and people are into it, needless to say, it’s super big.” 

El Ten Eleven with Nude Pop and Miss Massive Snowflake • Thu, Jan. 17 at 8 pm • A Club • $7 • 21+ • 624-3629

Filed under El Ten Eleven Kristian Dunn The Inlander Transitions freelance writing freelance writer music writing music journalism Spokane

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Live and In Living Color: fun.

I wrote about fun.’s August show in Spokane for The Inlander’s “Year In Review” issue. You can also read this blurb, as well as the rest of The Inlander staff’s picks for the best shows of 2012, here.

FUN.
Knitting Factory | Aug. 26

Those of us who hadn’t had it up to here with fun. — after having “We Are Young” stuck in our heads for months — piled into the Knitting Factory to hear that and other earworms from their first two albums. The group performed with so much energy that, only a few songs into their set, lead singer Nate Ruess had to take off his bolo tie. I, on the other hand, was left pulling confetti out of my bag for days after the concert. (AZARIA PODPLESKY)

Filed under fun. We Are Young Some Nights Spokane The Inlander freelance writing Year In Review freelance writer music writing music writer

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Quick Hit: Animal Eyes

This quick hit appeared in the September 20-26 issue of The Inlander.

"Despite living with feet of snow outside their door for most of their lives, the Alaska-born, Portland-raised members of Animal Eyes make breezy, sway-to-the-melody music. And like any good Portland band, it’s got an indie rock side, too.

This quintet grew up 75 miles from the nearest town, and each member dreamt of the day they’d travel south. After realizing it was a shared dream, the band packed up, hit the road and left Alaska for Portland. As Animal Eyes, they’ve already made a mark in their new city with their debut album, Found In The Forest, and have set their sights on spreading that sound across the rest of the Northwest. Seeing as they’ve already conquered the Alaskan wilderness, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

— AZARIA PODPLESKY

Animal Eyes and Fanno Creek • Thu, Sept. 27 at 9 pm • Mootsy’s • $5 • 21+ • 838-1570

Filed under Animal Eyes The Inlander music journalism music writing freelance writer quick hit

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Quick Hit: The Used

This quick hit appeared in the September 20-26 issue of The Inlander.

"Orem, Utah is known for its famous dancers (a host of reality dance show competitors are from there), for being the hometown of Utah’s governor and as the place that bred Marie Osmond. And it’s also where The Used, an alternative rock band formed, in 2001 — a time when “emo” was just as much a buzzword as “hipster” is today. Despite the label, or maybe because of it, the band became a hit with both the Hot Topic-loving crowd and the cool kids of Generation MTV.

After countless hit singles and tours around the world, the quartet released its fifth studio album, Vulnerable, in March of this year. This release, the band’s first on Hopeless Records, continues with the poetic, hard-hitting lyrics that fans have related to for more than a decade now.

— AZARIA PODPLESKY

The Used with Hell or Highwater and Stars in Stereo • Tue, Sept. 25 at 8 pm • Knitting Factory • $26 • All-ages • 244-3279

Filed under The Used The Inlander quick hit music journalism music writing freelance writer

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"Fall Arts" Preview

I wrote the following briefs for The Inlander’s “Fall Arts” issue! You can check out the full preview here.

60 Works | Sept. 14-Oct. 6
Visual Arts

This is exactly what it sounds like: 60 works from Oklahoma-born artist Del Gish, who currently calls Medical Lake home. Through the exhibition, the viewer is taken around the world to far-away countries like Russia, India and Rwanda, thanks to Gish’s incredibly lifelike sketches, still life compositions and paintings. Gish sees inspiration anywhere and in just about anyone, including rickshaw drivers, African bazaars, children, sidewalk barbers and his own father. Gish, who received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Idaho, stresses the importance of painting what one sees and certainly practices what he preaches. (AP) The Art Spirit Gallery, Free, 11 am-6 pm

Gift of the Artist | Sept. 14-Dec. 14
Visual Arts

As they say, “It’s better to give than to receive,” and several artists are taking that saying to heart by donating their work to Gonzaga University as part of an exhibition called “Gift of the Artist.” From paintings, prints and photographs, to drawings, ceramics and sculptures, the exhibition will have something for most art lovers. Visitors will be able to see Brad Brown’s used and reused artwork “Look Stains (2290-2292);” screen-printing and metallic sequins from Michelle Forsyth, a WSU associate professor of art; sculptures, paintings and prints from Maxine Martell; a paper stencil from Kathleen Adkison; and much more. (AP) Jundt Gallery, Free, 10 am-4 pm

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis | Oct. 16
Music

OK, Macklemore is just too cool for school. For one, he can rock a second-hand fur coat while riding a two-sizes-too-small blue scooter like nobody’s business. And that’s just in the video for his single “Thrift Shop,” the first from his upcoming album The Heist. He’s also a Bumbershoot alum, playing three times in the last five years, and played Sasquatch in 2011. The Seattle-born rapper — real name: Ben Haggerty — and producer Ryan Lewis have been steadily gaining attention over the last few years, especially with the July release of their single “Same Love,” which supports gay marriage. Fingers crossed he brings the fur coat and scooter on tour with him. (AP) Knitting Factory, $20-$23, 8 pm

The Pumpkin Ball | Oct. 20
Benefit

This is essentially trick-or-treating for adults. Now in its ninth year, the Ball invites you to dress up in formal attire and try to get the best loot possible during the high-end live and silent auctions. There will also be dancing, a live band and, of course, a pumpkin carving contest. With 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, the Pumpkin Ball is a chance for you to make a difference and have fun, all without having to raid your kids’ candy bags. (AP) Spokane Convention Center, $150 for individuals, $1,200 for a group table, $2,000 for a corporate table, 5:30 pm

Allen Stone | Oct. 26
Music

This Chewelah-born soul singer has been garnering more and more attention over the last few years, thanks to his smooth, R&B-tinged vocals. In the last year alone, Allen Stone has completed a European tour and released his self-titled sophomore album, which hit No. 2 on the R&B/soul iTunes chart and No. 9 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. He’s also performed on just about every late night talk show there is, including Conan and Late Show with David Letterman. He’s set to embark on another cross-country and European tour soon so I’d catch him while you can. (AP) Knitting Factory, $12.50-$13, 8 pm

Trans-Siberian Orchestra | Nov. 23
Music

When producer and composer Paul O’Neill created Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1993, his goal was to push the boundaries of progressive metal music. Inadvertently, he also made holiday music cool again. Over the years, the band has released quite a few rock operas, including its Christmas trilogy (Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic and The Lost Christmas Eve) which will be performed in its entirety. Combining multiple vocalists with a string section, light shows, video screens, special effects and pyrotechnics synchronized to music, TSO has created a show that truly rings in the holiday spirit, one headbang at a time. (AP) Spokane Arena, $30.50-$60.50, 8 pm

Dayglow’s 2012 The E.N.D. | Nov. 30
Music

What’s cooler than dancing to electronic music while watching a light show and being splattered with paint? Apparently nothing, because Dayglow’s paint parties have been going strong since 2006. Partygoers (sorry kids, you have to be at least 18) are encouraged to wear white for Dayglow’s 2012 show, “The E.N.D.,” which stands for, “Electronic Never Dies.” As Dayglow DJ David Solano plays all of your electronic favorites, LED screens create colorful visual effects while paint cannons make like a sick unicorn and spew colored paint on both attendees and performers, who will be interacting with partygoers from the stage and in the crowd. Hey, don’t knock it ‘til you try it. (AP) Spokane Arena, $30-$70, 8 pm

Small Artworks Invitational | Dec. 7-31
Visual Arts

What do you get for the art-lover who has everything? Miniature art, of course. Now in its 14th year, the Small Artworks Invitational presents scaled-down woodwork, paintings, sculptures and more from some of the area’s biggest artists. Featured artists include George Carlson, who will again be showing his horse sculptures and Allen and Mary Dee Dodge and their colorful wooden sculptures. Renowned painter Peter Cox will also show his work. Steve Gibbs, the owner of Art Spirit, says that the exhibition is geared for the holidays and gift-giving. He also enjoys being able to show work from newer artists. “It’s interesting with artists who normally work on a large scale, to see their work on a small scale,” he says. (AP) The Art Spirit Gallery, Free, Tues.-Sat.-11 am-6 pm

Floater | Dec. 7
Music

A staple of the Portland music scene for years, and seeing as next year is its 20th anniversary, this alternative rock band shows no sign of stopping. Forming in the early ‘90s after Peter Cornett answered a “musician wanted” ad placed by Robert Wynia, it only took one drunk guitarist and a ruined show for David Amador to step in and complete the lineup. The trio has released eight studio albums — most recently Wake, in 2010— which they self-financed. While Floater’s music doesn’t get the most radio play, the band’s die-hard fans and the trio’s passion for performing have kept the show on the road. (AP) Knitting Factory, $13-$15, 8 pm

Traditions of Christmas Musical Performance | Dec. 14-29
Theater

Finally, someone has taken all of the Christmas traditions worth celebrating and put them in one place! Traditions of Christmas features all of your Yuletide favorites including Rockette-like tap dancers, dancing elves, snowmen and Christmas trees, a Coca-Cola drinking Santa Claus, toy soldiers, wooden blocks and Raggedy Ann dolls, USO scenes, gospel singers and a Nativity scene, complete with live camels and sheep. Of course, they’ll be singing your favorite Christmas songs too. The show doesn’t start for another few months but one of the nine performances is already sold out, so get your tickets sooner rather than later. (AP) The Kroc Center, $15-$32, 3 pm and 7 pm

Spokane Symphony Holiday Pops | Dec. 15-16
Music

For a decade now, the Spokane Symphony has helped ring in the holiday season. This year, part three in its six-part SuperPops series finds the symphony, with conductor Morihiko Nakahara, performing traditional carols and holiday favorites alongside the big man himself. Yes, you read that right. Santa Claus will be on hand to add some extra oomph to the Spokane Symphony performance. To make this event even more special, family packages are available for the Sunday show so your entire family can enjoy the event together. (AP) Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, $25, Dec. 15 at 8 pm, Dec. 16 at 2 pm

Filed under 60 Works Allen Stone Dayglow Del Gish Floater Gift of the Artist Gonzaga University Macklemore Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Ryan Lewis Small Artworks Invitational The E.N.D. The Inlander The Pumpkin Ball Trans-Siberian Orchestra art writing freelance writing journalism paint party Traditions of Christmas Musical Performance Spokane Symphony Spokane Symphony Holiday Pops