BY SOPHIE MUELLER
The energy in the crowd was electric. The excitement tangible, bouncing off of one another as we all awaited Sylvan Esso, a band that has left their mark with the release of their sophomore album, What Now.
In the anticipation of Sylvan Esso’s arrival onstage, there was a buzz in the audience as friends waved across the theater balcony to one another, creating a friendly and intimate atmosphere in a theater that sat about thirteen hundred people.
Once Sylvan Esso, a duo comprised of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, came onstage, the audience truly came to life. Meath appeared in a black sequined leotard and Sanborn a t-shirt and jeans. Claiming their individual space on stage as Meath stayed put on stage right and Sanborn on stage left, they built off of one another’s energy. At times the lighting would dim, emphasizing the silhouettes of the duo from opposite sides of the stage and played off of different rhythms, beats, and melodies in each song. At the conclusion of each track, the psychedelic lights would black out, leaving everyone in complete and utter darkness while also giving us some time to process the greatness on stage.
Amelia’s dance moves won the night as she threw in fist pumps and kicked the air each time the bass dropped. She controlled the crowd with her powerful and sharp voice that commanded one’s attention.
One of the standouts of the night was “PARAD(w/m)E.” As soon as the first beat started, everyone in the audience was moving and grooving with a purpose. “Die Young,” and “H.S.K.T.” initiated a massive dance revolution as heads banged, people clapped, and we all awkwardly danced and swayed. During “Coffee,” the repetition of the lyrics swelled as the song built momentum, leading to overwhelming sing along of the chorus. The band began their most well-known song “Hey Mami,” a-capella, causing the entire crowd to be on the edge of their seats with curiosity and anticipation. The performance ultimately lead to everyone in the venue singing the quip “sooner or later the dudes at bodegas will hold their lips and own their shit”, the signature lyric from the song. Sylvan Esso closed out the night with “Radio,” an anthem dedicated to all the haters and sell-outs in the music industry. Again, a major dance party commenced as lights flashed, music bounced off the walls and Sylvan Esso carried us all into euphoric happiness.
The real treat was when they came back onstage and performed a three song encore which included a beautiful rendition of “Slackjaw,” the first slow song of the night and ended up being one of my favorites of the night. Light synths and beats were utilized while their friend from the opening band, Collections of Colonies of Bees, played the guitar. The combination of sounds with Meath’s simple vocals allowed me to fully take in the beauty and complexity of the song and all the emotions it portrays as Meath sang “I got all the parts I wished for. I got everything I need. Sometimes I’m above water. But mostly I’m at sea.”
Nick Sanborn once said that “ideally a show is a collection of people who felt a certain way in the intimacy of their own home and they arrive at a venue packed with thousands of people and had this beautiful realization that all these other people know this feeling that was theirs and that is a beautiful thing to watch.” Sanborn’s quote feels especially pertinent for me, as I attended their concert solo; starting the night extremely self-conscious in regards to being a party of one. By the end of the night I was smiling, singing along to the words at the top of my lungs, and awkwardly dancing the night away with the friendly people sitting next to me. There was a communal spirit at this concert, and a solidarity in “feeling your feelings” as Amelia Meath said at the beginning of the night.
Sylvan Esso is an ingenuitive band that creates music and creates a mood that dissipates to everyone else. The vocals of Meath and the beats from Sanborn appear as an unlikely duo, but together, their creativity makes magic. It is easy to say that after that concert Sylvan Esso is here to stay, start a dance revolution, and maybe save the world.
BY SOPHIE MUELLER
Janelle Monae is a name you should know by now. It’s okay if you don’t because, unfortunately, not a lot of people do. Being a queer woman of color, Monae and her success story rarely get the spotlight. But one night at Summerfest, one of the most highly anticipated music festivals in the Midwest, Janelle Monae told her story through an hour and a half show filled with compassion, sadness, and living one’s truth.
Monae’s music goes beyond normality and reaches into the groundbreaking. Her songs focus on the very things that we avoid discussing because the areas where we are the most vulnerable: sexuality, love, race, and politics. It is an unspoken problem in the music industry that women of color rarely headline a major festival. This very problem is why Monae’s performance was so groundbreaking, as it highlighted all the broken parts of this crazy world and encouraged her audience to live their truth and live it boldly.
Performing the entirety of all the songs on her latest album, Dirty Computer, Monae had costume changes, back up dancers, and a percussive horns section as well as amazing graphics. For some artists these facets are added to a concert to distract from the lack of talent. For Monae, her band, dancers, and artistry took her performance to the next level. The crowd felt her energy, singing along at the top of their lungs to every song, as Monae turned the venue into an all out dance party for the ages. During her song “I Got the Juice” she brought up four lucky fans onstage to show off their dance moves during the main chorus. This genuine happiness and enthusiasm to spread the message that Dirty Computer conveys, made this performance the most anticipated of the festival season.
Janelle Monae’s voice held her audience in a trance for the entirety of the concert as she rapped and sang with a purpose, while showcasing her dance moves similar to that of her late mentor, Prince. Empowering songs, such as “Pynk”, caused the audience to go wild as Monae and her background dancers appeared in vagina shaped pants, that first debuted in her music video for the song, and making the video go viral. The guitar riff and lyrics in “Screwed” led to an insane sing-along and “Django Jane” entranced the entire venue as Monae rapped each lyric and rhyme with such a deep and intense purpose. My personal favorite song off of her album, “I Like That,” was also enjoyable to watch, as Monae and her backup dancers held a mini jam session on stage, dancing and singing along to the catchy backing vocals of the song. And who could forget the five minute show-stopping performance of “Tightrope” where Monae literally ended up on the ground because she was belting her heart out.
It is important to note that albums like Dirty Computer are few and far between and that artists like Janelle Monae are unparalleled. Monae creates music that allows you to willingly let down your guard and her songs compel you to listen without the need to respond but rather with the need to understand. Despite her music sounding typically upbeat, she still tells a story of confusion, loss, and hurt. With this juxtaposition Monae truly captures the complexity and chaos in life.
If you have not had the chance to hear her music or read her story, please do. Janelle Monae refuses to be ignored and commands attention in a way never been done before. She is truly one of the most influential artists of our time and has continuously pioneered for all artists of the modern age.
BY ANNIE BRYAN
Here lies a call to action. Get up early and complete rewarding tasks that bask in self forgiveness, universal gratitude, and planetary love. There is a ritual to caring for yourself, your home and your space. We each must find our own actions that branch to an intentionality beyond that of just a “task.” It takes a long time to find the things that make us happy and charge our lives with fullness, and that’s okay. Have a good journey.
At 8 in the morning on Wednesday, July 25th, Lisa Houdei of a gift to the St. Louis music scene, LéPonds, arrived to KSLU for a few hours of amplified wholesomeness. Walking to the studio, she marveled at an unidentifiable native floral plant which had made its home in a bit of grass along our commute. I thought about how many times I had passed the plant, and it’s reiterations across campus, and never questioned its name.
By this time in the morning, she had cared for her sixty house plants, handful of dogs and cats, several chickens, two ducklings, and her garden. Intent on fostering a total haven of sorts in the space behind her home, Lisa does away with any language synonymous to “yard.” On this she quotes her favorite Parisian decorator, saying “if you want a garden have a garden, if you want a yard have a yard.”
LéPonds’ sophomore album, I Was Dancing With My Dream Team, slowly made a home in some hearts as it released online on July 21st, 2018. Two years after her premiere album Heat, the cumulative sound of I Was Dancing With My Dream Team builds a family of femininity and playfulness as it grounds us in around the edges of life. From personal manifestos to quirky bits of fiction, the lyrics and the meaning behind how they sound paint a picture: what is it like to be a woman right now? What is a safe level to joke around? We can use her album to question how likely it is to, really, fall in love with a gentleman caller. We can use her album to dive into the confusion of existing right now and of trying to foster some love between the bits of what life is. Sometimes, the bits suck.
“Say you wanna fall in on the porch
He was gonna bite I was walking home
Gone for red”*
When things get heavy, it’s okay to back out. Knowing when to pack up and leave something behind, no matter how much pain there is, is epitomized in Red. Every way in which we connect with each other runs the risk of growing red- and we live it. It won’t be red forever.
We can learn to take things lightly. The red of something breaking and ending runs sour, but we can use the energy it has to lose ourselves in the imaginary for a little bit, to forgive sexual assault-intrigued men (more on this later), and to actually live a little bit.
The butterfly effect of caring for those around you is a basket of small decisions which build and brace for impact. Maybe each ritual isn’t a permanent decision, but it is one for our own longevity and health. Nothing lasts, but we can make what we have a lot denser with fostering personal and interspecies connection, grounding ourselves, and taking note of the little pieces of the planet around us.
In the end, maybe it’s not about what you fill your time with or what gives you the capital, both social and otherwise, to survive that is most important. Maybe it’s how we fill our little gaps between it all that matters the most for us. Maybe we find ourselves most true when we care for plants, ducklings, or creating a novel or a journal entry into lyrics. That bit is up to you.
Lisa holds an energy that grounds us. Taking notice and appreciation in the tiny gifts of the world, giving back to the world, and being gentle and hopeful along the way. We will all be okay.
Maybe the takeaway from I Was Dancing With My Dream Team is to care for something to care for yourself. Maybe the takeaway is to turn the “this is water” of it all into something lighter. To take the red of something and to recognize how it won’t last forever, as nothing ever ever does. Maybe we give to ourselves when we pay homage to our local humans in the form of love, and it’s physical manifestation, art. I hope this finds you in a good spot. Go water a plant.
*Interpreted wrong, but that's all okay.
by annie bryan
On June 28, 2018, KSLU ally Brenna Sullivan and I interviewed Bad Bad Hat’s Kerry Alexander before their headlining set at the Monocle. As it stormed outside the day of their show, Bad Bad Hats musicians Chris Hoge and Connor Davidson sipped PBR and lounged at the bar as fans filtered in and around them. Kerry Alexander, lead singer and guitarist for the group, wore the same grey t-shirt she wore during their opening set for Coast Modern at the Firebird in February.
Sitting in the plush bay window-adorned corner, I leaned over a coffee table and prayed to the witch goddess above to ensure my phone picked up the notes of Kerry’s casual, prophetic vernacular. With an inflection to battle all else and a sense of humor quintessential to midwestern self-deprecation, Kerry’s message runs clear: turbulence is inescapable. After this conversation, the group resurfaced to an STL stage for the first time in several months after a phenomenal opening set by optimistic, empathetic, and friendly Detroit-founded Shortly.
As their third album, Lightning Round, preps to drop, released singles prelude a sound both vivacious and cumulative of their previous compendium. With singles “Talk With Your Hands” and “Write it on Your Heart,” the artists grabs entre from odes to surf rock like Hazel English, DIIV, and Lush by Snail Mail.
Through their lexicon, Bad Bad Hats has found their thematic loop. With silk-lathered lyrical and indie-pop instrumental sounds a tribute to rock, their discography repeats itself in ways that only become more self-aware as new albums churn out. Lead singer and writer Kerry Alexander’s lyrics metamorphosize an energy of the loss of love before it happens, during its presence, and after it’s been cut.
In a corner on a rainy Thursday night, we discussed loops.
“Spare me your love
Cause maybe you’re a stranger to me too.”
Write It On Your Heart
The threads of this life tangle in painful and manic ways. Somehow, through it all, the strands manage to coagulate a shape we can see only when zoomed out. The knots that rule our lives are loops- tragic ties both disheartening and mundane to detangle and impossible to prevent. Every so often, we have a new knot to untangle, a new end of something. As ritualistic as sunset and painful as truth, end end of a period of your life is knotted, dusted, and chaotic. There is nothing on this world that is capable of evading it’s demise. We can never escape death- a painful thread for Kerry.
Post-show and pre-third album release, perhaps the most quintessential of all of the work of Bad Bad Hats is Spin, the ultimate track from Psychic Reader.
“Now and then I have to stop and count to ten
These thoughts fill me like a dryer, and just spin, and spin, and spin
And I’m afraid to die, but I ignore the reasons why
I cannot wash away this feeling”
The lyrics of Spin weave a thread of the thought patterns of our greatest fears, or the thoughts that consume is. Spin is about our fear of dying, and the innate fear in all of us of it. In our conversation, Kerry mentions her fear of being forgotten, within itself another death. “I do feel like there is something with art and putting yourself into something physical and tangible for other people is something for other people to hold on to, like immortality,” Kerry said, equating her art to a personal tombstone.
Feedback loops, as aforementioned, girth the lyrics of Bad Bad Hats. The feedback loop of what could happen, what will happen, and what we do to create the loops we hate.
“So cut the act and let’s get on with it
'Cause I could, I could run
And be this sad with anyone
Don’t ask where this is coming from”
-Talk With Your Hands
In a corner on a Thursday night, Kerry and I talked about death and chaos a bit more than I intended to. Through it all, turbulence reigns as the thread of the loop of the ride.
What does a pattern feel like? Can you see the cycles from the inside? Does acting against your own just enforce the process again? Do you think the waves into action? We fear and we stress, we act against the stress and create it accidentally. We disengage with something and find it in a separate corner of our lives. We make mistakes, we challenge ourselves, and we live.
There is a lot of connection to be found in Bad Bad Hats. From indie-pop and surf-rock instrumentals to sickening lyrics that knit each of our problems together, we can all find ourselves in Bad Bad Hats. If you’ve experienced internal or external chaos, felt loss, or created something that couldn’t last, there is something for you in their discography.
Notice your loops. Thanks for listening.
BAD BAD HATS
Next STL SHOW: www.facebook.com/events/215335849293567/
(turn your phone sideways)
Edited by Brendan Eckert
By CALEIGH HORAN
On a sweltering Sunday afternoon in early July, KSLU General Manager Caleigh Horan embarked on her first interview in a series she has deemed Caleigh's Corner. Her first guests in this thrilling saga were The Slaps and Manwolves, two Chicago-based bands that played RKDE on Sunday, July 8th. The St. Louis stop was an early part of a three-week "Southern Hospitality" tour that extends through July 22nd.
Click Here TO LISTEN VIA SOUNDCLOUD
There was much diversity to be found among the groups; The Slaps are heavy in beach-rock guitar while Manwolves incorporate elements of hip-hop into their serving of indie (DON'T call it Ska, though). Fresh off of 6 hour car ride down the always thrilling I-55, the boys were giddy and random, allowing the conversation to transverse from their Wisconsin farming experiences to their latest favorite memes. With wit and sarcasm and charm, these band members filled the KSLU studio with laughs through the entirety of their visit.
Keep an eye out for some exciting new projects post-tour!
KSLU: Saint Louis University College Radio
general manager firstname.lastname@example.org
BY MANISHA WOHLFORD
Levels of familiarity with drug culture may vary widely among the general public of American society, but whether or not one has personal experience with drug usage, many recognize the role that drugs play in American popular culture, particularly within the music realm. Lysergic Acid Dyethylamide has many names -- Lucy, Acid, LSD -- but regardless of the terminology employed; the hallucinogenic drug has become notably intertwined with the music sphere. LSD belongs to a class of drugs called hallucinogens, mind-altering substances which cause people to experience hallucinations and dissociative effects. A deeper understanding of the development of acid and its effects on users helps illuminate its impact on the music of many artists. Albert Hofmann, a researcher with the Swiss chemical company Sandoz, developed LSD in 1938, and soon after became a symbol for counterculture of the 1960s (“LSD”). LSD ignites a sense of introspective existentialism that drove the cutting-edge sounds found in the popular music scenes of both the 1960s and the 2000s. LSD has served as a catalyst for some musicians, the effects of acid experienced by these artists inspired many admired sounds, as can be seen through individual songs and testimonials of The Beatles which influenced modern artists like A$AP Rocky.
The benefits from experimenting with psychedelics is evident with The Beatles. This English band invaded the American music scene in 1964. Members of the band credit experimentation with psychedelics for much of their later inspiration and success. The invasion of the wholesome boy band from Liverpool brought lighthearted pop rock tunes such as the chart topping “Eight Days a Week”. The Beatles experimentation with recreational drugs began three years before their "American Invasion” (Gilmore). The members of the band used stimulants simply for staying awake and fighting to stay relevant in the highly competitive music industry. The Beatles regarded their musical career with sedulous care and were willing to use any means in the pursuit of improving their sound. In 1964, the band members began to dabble with other drugs, such as marijuana, which was introduced to them by Bob Dylan (Gilmore). The Beatles did not intentionally experiment with LSD. Two of the members, George Harrison and John Lennon, ingested the drug unknowingly at a dinner party in 1965. The host, a dentist friend of theirs, slipped the drug into Harrison’s and Lennon’s after party coffee. Although frightened by the unexpected acid trip, the hallucinogenic qualities of LSD began to encapsulate their beings and the men were permanently moved by their experience. In a sense the Beatles did not find LSD, LSD found them.
After this experience, they were open with the idea of experimenting with more than just their life choices, but also their sound. According to George Harrison, all of the Beatles experimenting with psychedelics was necessary for the group to continue through the '60s.
"John and I had decided that Paul and Ringo had to have acid, because we couldn't relate to them any more. Not just on the one level - we couldn't relate to them on any level because acid had changed us so much. It was such a mammoth experience that it was unexplainable: it was something that had to be experienced because you could spend the rest of your life trying to explain what it made you feel and think." (Gilmore)
In the album that was released the following year, Revolver, the band’s usage of LSD is especially evident in the song "Eleanor Rigby ” where the change with their sound is clear.
When comparing the changes of the art on the Beatles for Sale album (1964) and Revolver (1966) there are no subtleties. When looking at the album art for Beatles for Sale; the four faces of Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon are looking right at you. The album art for Beatles for Sale is a color picture of the four band members outside, this is just a basic picture of the band. They are outside and wearing black coats showing how they are just like any other human that is not beyond wearing a coat in cold weather. This expresses how the band was about the simple sound of pop rock; the album art made them more commonplace.
The album art of Revolver is surreal and strange accompanied by the stark use of black and white. Revolver’s large, stylized illustrations of the each of the band member’s faces are accompanied by smaller real photographs from their tours. The stylized illustration of their faces showcase how LSD has aided in the transcending from their successful ,albeit, unimaginative past; the past that is represented by the real photographic pictures of them on the album art. Proof their creativity was expanded by the use of LSD.
The lyrical style changes between these two albums are evident in “Eight Days a Week” from Beatles for Sale and “Eleanor Rigby ” from Revolver. “Eight Days a Week” starts with an upbeat guitar riff. The song is unblurred with the straight forward lyrics:
Ooh I need your love babe
Guess you know it's true.
Hope you need my love babe,
Just like I need you.
Hold me, love me, hold me, love me.
Ain't got nothin' but love babe.
It is a song written about one’s adoration for their lover and there is not a lot of room for misinterpretation. The song relies heavily on repetition showcasing a lack of depth and highlighting simplicity.
The song “Eleanor Rigby” features a variety of string instruments ranging from violas to the cello and included a complete absence of the previously relied upon guitar that the band was well known for. The song’s hauntingly hypnotic harmonies, lead to feelings of a dream like state; which strongly mirror the mental state of an LSD trip. The opening stanza is :
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for
These lyrics introduces themes of loneliness and eventually death alone which were themes not seen previously or touched upon in their previous work -- the Beatles were no longer making light hearted love songs. “Eleanor Rigby” portrays more creativity and depth while dealing with a topic of that is the antithesis to “Eight Days a Week”. LSD opened them up to the realities of a more nuanced world through their gained introspective existentialism.
According to many accounts, during the time the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was in recording sessions, Lennon was using LSD so frequently he began experiencing symptoms of ego-death (Gilmore). Ego death is a side effect of prolonged exposure to LSD that results in the idea that one has lost the subjective self-identity (Nour). This effect was ever present, evident in the fact that Lennon felt he was disappearing within the band and himself, as well as, proclaiming he was Jesus Christ returned back to Earth (Gilmore). Although Lennon experienced the negative aspects of LSD it was the price he was willing to pay for the unimaginable success their music post drugs achieved. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band even contains their ultimate tribute to their love of LSD in the song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." The title of this song abbreviates to LSD; thus proving that they believed acid played a pivotal role in their success and creativity. The Beatles went from being a poppy boy-band to enlightened pioneers reinventing the popular music scene with drugs aiding the alteration of their sound.
The impact The Beatles made on the music industry resonates with musicians such as A$AP Rocky, a rapper that claims that psychedelic drugs play a role in his creativity (Macbain). His song “L$D” proclaims his admiration for LSD and in the lyrics explores the profound effects the drug. Not only does he share a love for the psychedelic drug but he also has a public admiration for The Beatles. In an interview with Evening Standard Magazine he said, “It is so inspirational to go against the grain. The Beatles were at the top of their game doing all that pop shit. And then they do some leftfield shit -- and it worked. Those guys are geniuses”(Macbain). He took this countering behavior and applied to his own philosophy on making music “ I’d be confused if I tried to fit in. I’m an innovator (Macbain).” A$AP Rocky further validates the influence The Beatles have on him by his use of the more modern sounds of synthesized instrumentation in “L$D” that mimics the hypnotic harmonies exhibited in the song “Eleanor Rigby”.
LSD has served as a catalyst for some musicians, the effects of acid experienced by these artists inspired many admired sounds, as can be seen through individual songs and testimonials of The Beatles which influenced modern artists like A$AP Rocky. LSD changed the way The Beatles perceived and interacted with their musical realm. The Beatles innovated their sound and the lyrical themes they used in their music by using LSD. Without this psychedelic would The Beatles have ended their career as a group of boys bopping around about their next love affair? Lacking the movements made by the Beatles permanently altering the music industry of their time, there would be no lasting effects causing changes into the modern era. LSD has accelerated the growth and development of many artists allowing them to reach towards their own achievements. This lasting impression is looked upon with the reverence as A$AP Rocky has learned from their philosophy and use of LSD as he has applied it to his life. LSD has informed these musicians’ world view. Without this psychedelic substance, the pivotal changes would not have occurred and modern music as we know it would be a significantly more shallow affair.