Aspen String Trio hits the Central Stage

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Join us for a night of music and inspiration as we welcome the Aspen String Trio to the Central stage. These classically trained musicians regularly move audiences to their feet, garnering rave national and global reviews.

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‘Along for the ride’ – Q&A with Whiskey N’ Rye lead singer Philip Lindholm

Americana, blues, roots-rock; whatever you want to call it, Whiskey N’ Rye is it. This five-piece from Seattle knows how to put on a show. They recently released their sophomore album, “Sick Soul Summertime” to rave reviews and sizable fan-fare.

They’re headed to CWU this Friday, so we caught up with lead singer and songwriter Philip Lindholm to ask him about their influences as a band, what their journey to fame has looked like and why of all place, they chose CWU to perform.

Whiskey N Rye

When did the band start and what got you into making music?

The band started around 2013. I’ve been making music for a long time. I started when I was a student at Central from 2001 to 2003. I was always playing but I didn’t actually start songwriting untilI had a weird neighbor in the dorms that was always playing and writing music.

So you went to Central? What did you study?

I graduated with a double major, actually. One in philosophy and religious studies, and then an independent studies. You were able to craft your own degree and dialogue with an advisor. My advisor knew Hebrew and Aramaic. That was something that I wanted to study.

I was in Douglas honors college, I was kicked out. Got kicked out because I was doing homework for one class for another class.

What did you do right out of college?

It’s funny, after I graduated I went over seas for college. I went to oxford and spent a lot of time there over in Europe. It was there that I started to really develop as a songwriter and a producer. I’d been writing for a while and producing forever. I really started to form songs together that were much bigger than me. I was hearing music that was grand. I was writing music that required more music, more sounds and more pallets. I was working at the BBC at the time and I ended up quitting I moved back to Seattle to start a recording studio. It was really hard to write music over there and I was working full time. I took the money I saved up and threw it into a rehearsal studio.

Wait, you worked at BBC? Doing what?

At BBC, I was a documentary filmmaker. I was working film production for making documentaries.

As you’re probably aware, you took the stereotype for rock ‘n’ roll singer and threw it out the window.

Generally it sounds pretty odd to people. When you read the band bios, I really don’t bring it up.

How long have the five of you known each other?

We’re going on three years now, which sounds like a long time, but it’s been going so fast, we literally started our very first gig at the mix in Seattle. There were 30 people there, and the stage show, the sounds, was all very nascent. It wasn’t formed yet. We grew form that 30 person show to playing a big auditorium of a thousand person stadium in Reno. We’re playing for the Sounders here in a few weeks. It’s kind of exploding, we’re just along for the ride at this point.

The Sounders? That sounds like a huge show

We actually play the march to the match is what it’s called. There’s a big parade that goes through Seattle in Pioneer Square that goes to the field. We’re in discussions of actually playing inside the stadium for different events.

Is this you first serious band; what did you do before?

It’s the only band I’ve had. We’ve changed a couple faces here and there. This is the only band I’ve ever been in. a lot of guys have been in lots of different projects. This is my baby, this is the only one I got. I give it everything I got.

What’s it like being a southern-style rock group in Seattle?

Surprisingly enough, we’re amongst kind of a smaller group of bands that are doing similar sounds. As foreign as it might be to this region, there’s actually a lot of it going on. We’re not a movement like the EDM movement. We have no Decibel Festival, or that type of support. We have a lot of people yearning for actual instruments in their music. People who still love rock and roll, people who identify with where rock and roll has come from, but where rock and roll can go in a way that still resonates with those blues roots, Americana roots.

So explain roots-rock to me. What exactly does that mean?

We call ourself a roots rock band which means we incorporate Americana, folk, that sort of thing. Those are genres that rely heavily upon emotion and real instruments. Not having any other production elements in a song. One of the things we do is, we’ll lay everything down and then we’ll let it sit for a while. If I’m distracted by anything in the song, if there’s anything in the way, then it goes. There’s really sense of needing to be very discerning of what the song actually requires. There’s a lot of toys out there now, a lot of buttons to be pushed and strings to be pulled. When the guitar is soloing, we want you to know it, when the drums are pounding, we want you to feel it.

What sort of reaction have you seen from your album “Sick Soul Summertime”? Have you had an audience sing your lyrics back yet?

We were doing this show in Reno as part of a benefit for a local food bank. We thought we would show up and play our tails off. The there was singing our lyrics back to us. The record had done very well there in about a month previous to us showing up. When we showed up, it was incredible show. We ended up staying for an hour, hour and a half. It was pretty surreal for us. We find, when people hear the music they like it.

What is that moment like, as a songwriter, to hear an audience sing your lyrics back to you?

I think every songwriter, when they write a song, gets to a point in the process where they say, ‘Is this for me, or is it for the world?’ What drives that decision is what’s best for somebody. The clearest and most obvious is when you show up and somebody is singing that back to you. The song no longer belongs to me, it’s there’s now. They’ve made it there own, they’re kind of giving it back.

What spurred the decision to come back to Central?

We’ve only been working with college booker for six months now. I told him that we’d really like to go back to central. I still have friends there, still have professors there, I would love to go back. My drummer is 16-years-old. We really love that college vibe. We feel like, the music is a whole lot of fun and when you play colleges, we find that people are jumping along with us. We love the college market. I personally have an affinity for Central.

It’s a cliché question, but, what sort of bands have influenced you guys?

Each of the guys would answer that a bit differently. From a song writer place, John Lennon has mapped it for me. My keyboard and drummer are big McCartney fans. My keyboardist for example, grew up in Italy, if you ask him about his music influence, he’ll say something completely different.

As I grow older, the Seattle sound makes a lot more impact now then it did then. There was a lot of noise back then, and now, especially with streaming, I can be a lot more selective of what I want to listen to. I find myself returning to those sounds that came from the 1990’s.

You recently got a great producer. What’s it been like working with him?

We do believe in allowing a certain amount of chaos on stage, and in the studio. We did mix with Jack Endino. This is a guy that refuses to work on a click track. Most of the recording studios, 99 percent play everything to a click track. Jack Endino comes along and says, ‘Look all my favorite records in rock history, there’s emotion in the music.’ While we don really sound like a lot of those sounds, we certainly appreciate the earnestness and the artistry, and that’s really what a recording does. It captures a band in a moment.

What’s your favorite venue to play at?

We do love colleges, there’s just an energy there you’re not going to find elsewhere. We also like to go into the dirtiest dive bars in towns. We’ve played some prim and proper venues where people are seated in booths and they’re just kind of watching while they’re eating their salmon. We enjoy that, but it’s a very different set. For colleges – depending on the event – we like to turn it up a bit and have some fun. If we were left to our own devices, and we could play anywhere, we would find a really dirty club and play on.

College Radio Day: Round Two

If you were here last year, you probably heard of the College Radio Day Parade – a loving ode to College Radio Day created by 88.1 The ‘Burg featuring a parade and live music at the El Mira in Downtown Ellensburg. Well now, it’s time for year two. And with experience comes expertise, so this year, The ‘Burg is pulling out all the stops and making the College Radio Day celebration bigger, better and Ayron Jones-er.

If you didn’t know, Ayron Jones and The Way is a heavy rock trio that literally drips with pure talent. The energy, sound and emotion that these three guys can create will have you swearing that there’s at least nine people on stage. Their music sounds like a mixture between the heavy vocals of Seven Mary Three, with the masterful guitar work of Jimmy Hendrix and the technical drumming prowess of Dream Theatre or Avenged Sevenfold with the late Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan.

I can’t oversell how much talent Ayron Jones and The Way has. It’s not possible. They were here last year, and while only about 30 students showed up to check out their FREE show (okay, it was the Friday before Mother’s Day, but still) they were treated to one of the best live shows Ellensburg has ever seen. Yeah, I know Macklemore was here before he took off, and I’m aware we had Phillips Phillips but honestly, I would put Ayron Jones up there with some of the greats of rock ‘n’ roll.

Look at this video. He’s playing the guitar with a drum stick. WITH A DRUM STICK.

At this year’s College Radio Day celebration, make sure to check out Ayron Jones and The Way. They’ll be the guys on stage rocking your socks off. And remember to support your College Radio State of the Year, 88.1 The ‘Burg. Ayron Jones and The Way starts at 9:15 p.m. on the stage behind Iron Horse Brewery.

For more information, check out the calendar listing here.

HAWAI – We’re talking about the band, not the state

If you haven’t heard of HAWAI (pronounced huh-way), I don’t blame you. They’re still new; it takes time to find an audience, and they’re still working on their yet-to-be-named, debut EP. However, if you’re in Ellensburg Friday, Sept 30, and you’re not planning on seeing them for FREE at 8 p.m. in the SURC Pit, then shame on you.

These guys are the real deal and I would be shocked if they aren’t famous by the time 2017 rolls around. Their singles, “Fault” and “In My Head” – which they recently released on Soundcloud and Youtube – are radio ready and sound as if they were produced on equipment worth millions of dollars. Well, they weren’t. Though, recently they’ve collaborated with Lars Staffers who produced for Cold War Kids and The Mars Volta – and with his expertise – HAWAI has been able to create some of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard.

I recently had a chance to catch up with lead singer and song writer Jake Pappas who spoke on behalf of his bandmates, Casey Lagos, Jared Slaybaugh, Matt Gillen and Jesse Dorman who all make up the five-piece southern California alternative rock band, HAWAI.

Jake Pappas is second from the right, in the white shirt.

First question I have to ask: where did the name HAWAI come from?

We racked our brains for a while trying to come up with a band name. Everything in the entire world is already taken. Not only is it already taken, it’s taken by three different bands. We had a lot of things we were considering. We actually had a list of what we wanted the band name to encompass, and HAWAI checked off on every part of it. We wanted people to hear something with the name. We went through every process: combining two words together and see how that works or taking stuff from childhood and see how that connects. We thought it would be cool to have a statement, and have a name that hasn’t been taken yet. You think about something when you hear about that state and it’s normally good things. It’s kind of what we felt our music was; it’s good vibes. We wanted and we always will want our music to take people places. The plan is at some point, when people talk about HAWAI, for them to think, ‘Are you talking about the band or the state?’

You five had a previous band called J.Thoven. Why did you guys decide to start over and what’s different this time around?

This particular project is not like a start over at all, it’s more so a continued thing we’ve always known. It’s a different sound. It’s basically like a new chapter of what we’ve always done together. It’s been great, this time around the song writing has been really different. We’ve actually focused on structure; following the rules of songwriting if you must. Playing live has been a lot more fun, you can engage people a lot better. Our past projects, we never did any of that. We had 10 songs in one. We’ve just kind of straightened out a little bit more.

I noticed you guys have brought in Lars Staffer to produce your EP. What’s that been like?

We signed a publishing deal and they hooked us up with a couple of different producers and we immediately meshed with Lars Staffers. He did the last Cold War Kids record, did the last Matt and Kim record. He’s done a couple of The Mars Volta records. His catalog is getting better and it’s already awesome. We met with him and immediately clicked. He caught our vibe right away and it felt just immediate. Working with him was a huge success in terms of understanding the process. Ever since working with him, we feel an ease when we go to write songs. It doesn’t have to be crazy difficult.

While playing at these different venues, have you had the moment of ‘Oh wow, these people are singing my lyrics right now’?

We’ve got an under the radar thing a little bit. We’ve reached out to blogs and attempted to get our music online as much as possible. Right now is where we’re in the stage of playing out more. So, the locations that we’re playing at, there’s not really anybody that is familiar with us yet. We play our home town in Orange County, but even then, playing our home town is kind of different because you get a lot of your friends. So far this tour has been rad. The kids seem to really really enjoy what we’re doing.

What does playing live mean to you guys?

We all love music so much and it’s what we spend the majority of our day thinking about. And we’re super critical too about what we do and what music is about. So much goes into that, and when you get to play live, you let all of that out. It’s an outlet for us and it feels really good to play a show and feel the energy of the crowd and feel the energy of each other. The live show is like the payoff of that.

You mentioned the songwriting process has changed. Is this from maturing as musicians?

We kind of have a new structure of songwriting that’s just worked the best for us. I will come up with a melody and our lead guitarist has been really into recording over the past few years and has gotten really good at it. We’ll start with a drum beat to say what kind of vibe we want the song to have. We learned from our producer that the drum beat is the vibe of it. Do you want to do something that’s upbeat, a ballad? It’s all structured off the beat. From there, we add a melody of what I think of. Then we layer on top of all of that. We’ve figured out all of that best. Everything is building off of what makes the song best which is the melody. All of the other stuff is secondary really.

How did you meet the other four members in the band?

The drummer and bassist of the band, I had played music with prior to starting community college. While there was when I started writing for the first time. When I was in college, I started writing lyrics and singing. I shared with them the first song I had written. We started playing music again and it led to something that we never expected to do. I fell in love with something I never thought I would pursue.

Don’t miss the chance to catch something truly special when HAWAI visits CWU this Friday at 8 p.m. in the SURC Pit.

Spring concert is almost here, so have a rap to spread some cheer

Wait, who’s coming to CWU on Friday, May 15? Sol? Grynch? Nacho Picasso?

These aren’t the names of nursery rhymes. In fact, they spin rhymes of their own, all of the time. I’m not the one to tell you what to think in your mind, but in fact, this concert coming up is one of a kind.


 

Sol is mainlining and he may have to keep up his timing if he’s going to show other artists he’s the one who’s shining. He’s straight out of the University of Washington and if you’re watching him make sure to pay attention because he’s the real deal, son.


 

Grynch loves his Volvo and he’s not afraid to show it, he makes raps featuring Macklemore, they both know how to flow it. He tours regularly in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s his first time in Ellensburg, let’s show him our best.


 

Nacho Picasso_dungeon beach-2

What can I say about Nacho Picasso that hasn’t already been said? He was born in San Francisco, but Seattle is where he lays his bed. Described by the Seattle Times as an “anti hero,” this well-known artist is known for his humor.


 

Whew.

That was really hard. I almost gave up a few times and while I’m not proud of every line, at east I tried. If it wasn’t clear, Seattle rappers Sol, Grynch and Nacho Picasso are coming to Ellensburg for a spring concert unlike any other.

It’s a big deal as each one of them has a robust career full of amazing moments. Each artist is known for their distinct sound and it’s rare to get all three talents under one roof at the same time. The SURC Ballroom is the place to be Friday, May 15 at 8 p.m.

Ticketing information and details can be found here. The show is 18 and over, so make sure to bring a valid I.D.