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Feature Story- Il Sogno Del Marinaio

I talked with legendary bassist Mike Watt of Il Sogno Del Marinaio for The Inlander. You can also read this story here.

Eager to Learn

Legendary bassist Mike Watt is still excited by everything music has to offer

By Azaria Podplesky

Though Mike Watt has been playing bass for more than 40 years, he still considers himself a student.

"There’s a danger about being around a little while. You think you know it all," he says from Los Angeles. "Nobody can ever know it all, no matter how long they live or what they’ve done."

Watt’s thirst for knowledge began as a founding member of the pioneering punk band the Minutemen. Since then, he’s gone on to create Dos, fIREHOSE, the Secondmen and the Missingmen, and has also played with the Stooges since 2003.

More recently, his educational endeavors led Watt to form Il Sogno Del Marinaio (Italian for “The Sailor’s Dream”), an experimental rock trio with Italian musicians Stefano Pilia on guitar and Andrea Belfi on drums.

"I’m getting into middle age, and I’ve found that it’s really important to keep learning," he reiterates. "A situation like [Il Sogno Del Marinaio] is totally up that alley."

Read more …

Filed under Mike Watt Il Sogno Del Marinaio The Minutemen The Inlander music writing feature writing music journalism freelance writing

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Feature Story- Rags & Ribbons

I wrote about an incredible Portland-based melodic rock trio called Rags & Ribbons for The Inlander. You can also read this article here.

Searching for Symmetry

For Portland’s Rags & Ribbons, it’s all about balance

By Azaria Podplesky

Portland melodic rock trio Rags & Ribbons takes a measured approach to everything it does.

From incorporating darker elements into its piano-heavy sound to finding the right people to add to its team, the band strives to find middle ground between heavy and light, emotion and business, excitement and intimidation.

Guitarist/vocalist Ben Weyerhaeuser, 29, formed Rags & Ribbons with pianist/vocalist Jon Hicks after they graduated from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. A mix of Sufjan Stevens and synth-pop marked the band’s early years, which Weyerhaeuser calls the “weird, figuring-out stage.”

"Jon really wasn’t too much into harder rock music at the time," Weyerhaeuser says. "And I was just trying to balance out whoever I was working with at that point."

The addition of drummer/vocalist Chris Neff, who has a background in hard rock, added a heavier aspect to R&R’s piano-driven music.

"We started writing and the three pieces came together to make the current sound," Weyerhaeuser says.

Read more …

Filed under Rags and Ribbons Rags & Ribbons Magnesium Dreams Portland music writing music journalism journalism freelance writing The Inlander Ben Weyerhaeuser Jon Hicks Chris Neff

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Quick Hit- 4,000 Holes 25th Anniversary Celebration

I wrote this brief to preview 4,000 Holes’ 25th Anniversary Celebration. You can also read this brief here.

Bob Gallagher never thought his record store, 4,000 Holes, would make it this far. Opened in 1989, the store was hit hard by slow music sales in the early aughts and was on the brink of closing. But with a resurgence in vinyl’s popularity over the past few years and older customers introducing their children to the store, 4,000 Holes is now better than ever. To celebrate, Gallagher is holding a 25th anniversary event with music from local alt-country act Cursive Wires and giveaways from labels like Sony and Sub Pop. “I think our future looks good, which, in the past, I wasn’t able to say,” Gallagher says. “It was pretty iffy, but I think we’re going to be around for a long time.” 4000 Holes, 1610 N. Monroe St., 325-1914. Sat., July 12, 11 a.m. -Azaria Podplesky

Filed under 4000 Holes 4000 Holes 25th Anniversary Celebration record store The Inlander journalism music journalism music writing freelance writing

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Feature Story- Cherry Glazerr

I wrote about a really fun garage-rock trio called Cherry Glazerr for The Inlander. You can also read this story here.

Nothing But A Number

Cherry Glazerr wants listeners to forget about their age and focus on the music

By Azaria Podplesky

With an average age of 19, the members of Los Angeles garage-rock trio Cherry Glazerr understand their youth is an interesting selling point. But that doesn’t mean they like it.

"I don’t like to be seen as teenager who’s making music," said drummer Hannah Uribe, who turns 17 on July 3. "I’d like to be seen as a musician who’s making music."

One aspect of being a teen in a band that’s not so easy to ignore, however, is high school. Uribe attends an arts school, but class and music don’t always go hand-in-hand. March’s South by Southwest music festival, for example, found Uribe struggling to complete assignments between shows.

Uribe says her parents understand that she wants to pursue music and education, and don’t push her towards one path.

"They want me to do my best in school and have fun with the band," Uribe says. "They know I’m serious about both things, so they’re totally supportive in both areas."

Cherry Glazerr, which takes its name from Chery Glaser, an anchor for Southern California NPR affiliate KCRW, formed when Uribe and singer/guitarist Clementine Creevy, 17, recorded demos for Creevy’s solo project, Clembutt.

After Creevy met bassist Sean Redman, 23, at a Musicians Institute program, the group began working on what would become 2013’s Papa Cremp. The trio was soon back in the studio, reworking Papa Cremp songs and writing new material for their full-length debut, January’s Haxel Princess.

"I had a lot of fun collaborating with Clem and Sean," Uribe says. "We were getting to know each other as a band and seeing what sounded right."

Album opener “Cry Baby” has a surf-pop vibe, while the title track and “White’s Not My Color This Evening” are fuzzy punk jams with riot grrrl attitude. “Trick or Treat Dancefloor” is dark dream-pop through and through.

There’s a refreshingly straightforward quality to Creevy’s lyrics. “Grilled Cheese” is about a sandwich; “White’s” is a rant against Aunt Flo. In “Bloody Bandaid,” Creevy tells a former crush, “I like the way you smell/And I wanna go to shows at The Smell with you.”

Currently on summer vacation, Uribe has one year of school left and is contemplating her future plans. She wants to keep playing music but hasn’t ruled out college.

"That decision is going to be tough when it comes around," Uribe says.

For someone so young, she’s got plenty of time to figure things out. ♦

Cherry Glazerr with Normal Babies and Joel Jerome • Wed, July 2, at 8 pm • $8/$10 day of • All-ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174

Filed under Cherry Glazerr Hannah Uribe Clementine Creevy Sean Redman Papa Cremp Haxel Princess The Inlander music writing music journalism journalism freelance writing Normal Babies Joel Jerome

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Quick Hit: Eternal Summers

I wrote about Eternal Summers for The Inlander to preview the band’s upcoming show in Spokane. You can also read this brief here.

Eternal Summers have mastered the art of the musical bait-and-switch. First, the Roanoke, Virginia-based trio draws listeners into their third album, March’s The Drop Beneath, with sun-soaked, distortion-friendly indie rock. Then lead vocalist/guitarist Nicole Yun’s dreamy voice breaks in with the lyric “Prove yourself if you want to die just 100 times a day” on album opener “100.” The rest of the album features the same unexpected blend of dark lyrics — especially the opening lines of lead single “Gouge” — with summery guitar riffs and a satisfying amount of fuzz. By the time the final notes of the alt-rock-tinged, album-closing title track come around, it’s clear that the surprising combination of light and dark is what makes The Drop Beneath so captivating.
— Azaria Podplesky

Filed under Eternal Summers The Drop Beneath The Inlander music writing concert preview music journalism freelance writing journalism

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Feature Story- Max Harnishfeger/Water Monster

I wrote about an awesome Spokane musician named Max Harnishfeger, aka Water Monster, for The Inlander. You can also read this article here.

Shape Shifter

Water Monster’s Max Harnishfeger is keeping his musical options open

By Azaria Podplesky

For as long as Max Harnishfeger has been playing music, he’s had a synthesizer by his side. As a teen, he would spend hours trying to figure out how Broken Social Scene made certain sounds on its self-titled third album, and he pulled inspiration from Prefuse 73’s “eye-opening” Preparations as an 18-year-old.

Now 23, Harnishfeger was looking for a new musical outlet after Cathedral Pearls, the local indie-rock quartet in which he programs the synth, sings and plays bass, took a break. Given his history with the genre, it was a natural choice for Harnishfeger to create an electronic solo project, which he calls Water Monster.

"I thought since I’m really into that kind of stuff and don’t feel like there’s a lot of people here in Spokane doing it, then I’d give it a shot," he says.

Noting a recent increase in the popularity of electronic music — from EDM to more avant-garde music — due to the accessibility of software, Harnishfeger says his decision to create Water Monster wasn’t based on a trend, but on his goal to challenge himself as a songwriter. But he doesn’t want electronic music to define the project, noting that he sees Water Monster as a shape-shifting entity that can bounce from one genre to the next as inspiration calls.

To date, Water Monster has released several songs. The multi-textured “Rest,” for example, begins with a pulsing drumbeat that is soon layered with both the high and low ends of Harnishfeger’s vocal range, synthesizer and what sounds like marimba notes.

When time allows, he, his wife Carrie, and Scott Ingersoll, brother of Cathedral Pearls bandmate Caleb, both of whom join Harnishfeger onstage, work on an EP centered on the feeling of madness lack of sleep can cause. Harnishfeger experienced that after jet lag from a trip to Germany kept him awake for three days.

"I want to create more of an atmospheric environment with the music as opposed to just making songs that are going to make people dance," he says.

Harnishfeger says Water Monster allows him the freedom to build up and tear down a song as many times as necessary, even after it’s been played live, until it’s just right.

"Who knows? Maybe the next one will be a complete rock record," Harnishfeger says with a laugh. "I want to take it an album at a time. I want to be able to have an endpoint to a certain sound of the album, and then be able to move on and change from there." ♦

Halftone featuring Water Monster, BIAS, Blackwater Prophet, Mirror Mirror, H. Hershler • Fri, May 2, at 7 pm • $5 • All-ages • Luxe Ballroom • 1017 W. First • tinyurl.com/halftoneart

Filed under Max Harnishfeger Water Monster electronic music The Inlander music writing music journalism freelance writing feature writing Cathedral Pearls

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Feature Story- Manchester Orchestra

I interviewed Chris Freeman of Manchester Orchestra for The Inlander to preview the band’s upcoming show in Spokane. You can also read this feature here.

Transition Period

How alt-rock quintet Manchester Orchestra finally found its loud voice

By Azaria Podplesky

Sometimes in order to move forward, you need to revisit the past.

For alt-rock quintet Manchester Orchestra, that meant buying a house tucked between homes with big families and minivans in the suburbs of Alpharetta, Ga. — the same place a majority of the band had lived in early in its career.

After soundproofing the home studio and moving in gear accumulated over the years, the band was almost ready to record its fourth album independently.

The only thing missing was a strong sense of where to go musically. For a band with both straightforward indie-rock albums (2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child and 2009’s Mean Everything to Nothing) and a string-heavy concept album (2011’s Simple Math) under its belt, the sky really was the limit.

As keyboardist/backing vocalist Chris Freeman tells it, the band bounced from one genre to the next in the early stages of the recording process.

"There was a pretty general consensus between all of us that the rock genre is lacking right now, with electronic music becoming more popular and hip-hop and the folky-acoustic thing that’s happening in alternative music," Freeman says. "We decided that we could do something different."

The band decided to create the record it felt was missing from rock ‘n’ roll — one that was brutal, in-your-face and, perhaps most important, loud.

That album, Cope, released April 1, is unrelentingly heavy from beginning to end. There are ever-so-slightly-softer moments bookended by lead single “Top Notch” and the album-closing title track, which features the thematic lyric, “And I hope if there is one thing I let go/It is the way that we cope,” but for the most part, the five-piece doesn’t stop to let listeners catch their breath.

For Freeman, Cope reflects the mid-to-late-20s period of adulthood when things like marriage and having a family seem more real. Now that he’s on the other side of the recording process, he feels more prepared to take on this new chapter in life.

"We’ve definitely grown through that record, and that definitely begins to reflect in your personal life," he says. "I feel a little bit older, a little more grown-up because of that record."

Likewise, Cope represents Manchester Orchestra at a new stage in its career. Having begun this journey independently, the band has since signed with Loma Vista Recordings. This is also its first record with bassist Andy Prince.

After a period full of transitions, Manchester Orchestra is ready for whatever comes next. And it’s going to be as loud as it wants. ♦

Manchester Orchestra with Balance and Composure, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band • Mon, April 28, at 7:30 pm • $16.50 • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com • (866) 468-7623

Filed under Manchester Orchestra Chris Freeman Cope The Inlander music writing freelance writing music journalism

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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 Feature Story- 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