Zaii Valdes of Violet Silhouette discusses new album and proud roots in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The sound of Violet Silhouette is unlike anything else you’re likely to hear. Their music blends rock and electronic with dance—with a great deal of mystery tossed in for good measure. But however it’s classified, their sound is rather unique.
Singer/guitarist/drummer Zaii Valdes is joined in the group by Dan Potvin and Justin Gianoutsos. The group’s latest EP, “FEVERBLUE,” drops October 20. In anticipation of the latest release, Valdes spoke with Alchemical Records about the new record and, in honor of his Cuban extraction, Hispanic Heritage Month—which kicks off September 15.
How did you first get involved in music?
Being of Cuban heritage, music and dance were very much a part of [my] cultural and familial experience. Not to mention, there was a spiritual aspect to it—trance states and such that could be achieved from rhythm and beat.
Marsha Goodman-Wood, a cognitive neuroscientist turned musician, gives a deep look inside her newest album, Energetic, released Sept. 1. Marsha Goodman-Wood started out as an academic, studying cognitive neuroscience and psychology. She was deep into graduate studies when she realized that her one true calling, music, demanded her full attention.
“The day I submitted my master’s thesis I bought a guitar,” she said. “I had already written a few songs and was jamming with a few people. I wanted to accompany myself, so I decided I wanted to play.
“I do songs about science and how the world works,” Goodman-Wood said. She smiled and chuckled amiably, adding: “One of my friends listening to the new record was like, ‘I love how nerdy you are!’”
Let no one say government workers are dull. Case in point: Meet the DMV’s own Lauren Calve, who works for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by day while spending her nights performing original music for capital-area audiences. Calve described this Diana-Wonder Woman divide as her “hybrid work life.”
“I call my job my ‘patron job’ because I work from home full time—I have for almost eight years,” Calve said of being well ahead of the curve in terms of remote employment. “I could have never foreseen how much this job has allowed me to continue music, which you wouldn’t think [given] it’s not a creative job.”
Calve’s single “Shift” dropped in May, followed by “Everything at the Same Time” July 7. “Shift” is a dynamic piece of music in the best tradition of the singer-songwriters—and perhaps reminiscent of Dar Williams and Shawn Colvin. Meanwhile, “Everything at the Same Time” and the more recent single “Subtle Alchemy” bear more of the country stamp—unsurprising given Calve’s significant time in Nashville. (More on that later.)
If even Art Alexakis, Everclear’s frontman, has creditors on his mind, it’s probably OK for us mere mortals to be so preoccupied.
“I gotta pay the bills, bro. I’m not independently wealthy. I’m not getting checks and [then] going to play golf,” Alexakis said via phone from his home in Pasadena, California. “Who knows where I’ll be in five to 10 years. I might be in a wheelchair, so I’ve gotta strike while the iron’s hot.”
From that metaphorical forge, Alexakis has crafted a new album with his band, “Everclear Live at the Whisky A Go Go,” recorded at the iconic Sunset Strip juke joint, and which bows September 8. Everclear is also hitting the road in honor of the 30th anniversary of their major label debut, 1993’s “World of Noise.” Their 32-date tour brings them to the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, September 13, for the first time—and where they will share the bill with the Ataris.
However, sometimes the musician wishes it was easier to get home after a faraway gig.
John Ford Coley sits down with contributing writer Eric Althoff to discuss what audiences can expect at his Aug. 29 Rams Head On Stage show.
People took stock of their lives during the pandemic—including their romantic relationships. The musician John Ford Coley, a self-described disciple of alternative medicine, was warned by his wife that if he went out to the grocery store and Starbucks during those early months of the pandemic, she would refuse him reentry into the home.
Perhaps, given that Coley’s nickname for his soon-to-be-ex-wife was “Panic,” the marriage wasn’t going to last anyway.
“I packed a bag, and I’ve been gone ever since,” said Coley, who left their shared house in favor of his Nashville condo. “So it cost me my marriage. It [also] cost a lot of time not being able to go out on the road. I’m a hugger and I missed that during covid.
“But I’m a belligerent individual,” the singer summed up his outlook—not just on disease but on pretty much anything he’s told. “When somebody says the sky is blue, I’m going to look it up.”
Texas bluesman Clay Melton performs at Stages Music Arts in Cockeysville, Maryland on July 23.
Clay Melton hails from a long line of Texas bluesmen. ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan were both on his radar growing up, and he also grooved to the strains of Buddy Guy. But it was a sonic encounter with Jimi Hendrix’s take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” that inspired Melton to chase the rock dream.
“I remember hearing that when I was kid, and it just blew my mind,” Melton, who is originally from Louisiana but now resides in Houston, reflected on that formative experience. “I got a guitar when I was about 11 [and that] sent me [to] older styles [including] lots of New Orleans funk and jazz.”
But it’s that Texas blues that’s called his name as an aspirant. With Melton on lead guitar and vocals—backed by Zach Grindle on drums and Zack Cox on bass—he will be coming to our area for a gig at Stages Arts Music in Cockeysville, Maryland, on July 23.
“It will be a genuine rock show,” Melton said of performing with his three-piece ensemble. “We all come from cutting our teeth in the live clubs, so there’s a lot of roots and blues influence, but at our core we’re a rock n’ roll band.
“We’re loud, we’re energetic. It’s a party.”
Oh, those wacky headlines that invariably begin: “Florida Man…” And fill in the rest.
Selwyn Birchwood, a native of the Sunshine State, has set this unfortunate, longtime punchline to the blues in “Florida Man.” Indeed, his recent song features such lyrics as “Florida Man is drunk and shoots guns at hurricanes. Florida Man is high on bath salts and eats your face.”
There are headlines—and footage—to back up all of these anecdotes, which Birchwood includes in his music video for the song.
“I thought it was an interesting idea for a song. And I saw it as kind of a challenge to see if I could actually make the lyrics reflect those actual stories,” Birchwood said from the road in between tour stops. “The whole idea was [there was this] mythical creature, that could be down there, that has many forms in many headlines.”
Indeed, Birchwood combed the internet for the outlandish news stories, which he also shares in the video. Choose your favorite: “Florida couple ‘trapped’ in unlocked closet for two days”; “Bath salts blamed for face-eating attack”; “Florida man tells deputies he drank at stop signs, signals only.”
John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting discusses performing an original song for Ukraine in front of the wreckage of Mriya and the band’s upcoming show at the Anthem with Barenaked Ladies with contributing writer Eric Althoff.
John Ondrasik would just as soon chat sports. In fact, even his stage name, Five for Fighting, comes from the world of hockey. When his face pops up on a Zoom screen, behind the singer-songwriter in his Los Angeles-area home resides not just his piano but jerseys of Pat Tillman and Luc Robitaille—the latter given to Ondrasik following the Kings vs. Ducks hockey game played at Dodger Stadium on a decidedly un-snowy California day in January of 2017.
“Not to rub it in, but I was at the final game when the Kings beat the Devils,” Ondrasik smirked of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. (I am from New Jersey.) When I shared that I am also a USC alum, Ondrasik, who attended cross-town rival UCLA, waxed about the dynasty of his alma mater’s basketball program under legendary coach John Wooden. Our conversation then turned naturally to both of our schools decamping from the Pac-12 in 2024 to join the Big 10.
D.C.-based musician-filmmaker Be Steadwell discusses her journey as a Black queer creative and how she has stayed the course.
Like a great many artists, Be Steadwell has faced down that nagging ghost of self-doubt. For Steadwell, however, the voice that likes to decree “you are not good enough” is actually much more a societal product premised on an inherent history of racism and systemic inequality.
“Imposter syndrome, I think, is really sexism, white supremacy, homophobia in your body manifesting,” she said. “There are systems that tell us we’re not supposed to be in places. We’re not supposed to play instruments.
“All of that feels intentional; it’s not some [innocuous] thing that just happens to us.”
As a Black queer musician and filmmaker, Steadwell knows this issue well, which is why she has worked so hard to dull its sting by pressing on—and telling that naysaying gremlin that she is not only deserving but thriving.
As a teenager, Steadwell joined the jazz band at D.C.’s Field School. The band leader was flabbergasted at her audition when she sang a standard called “Solitude,” made famous when performed by, among others, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.
West Coast record producer and sound mixer Chris ‘Von Pimpenstein’ Carter now calls D.C. home
Award-winning record producer and sound mixer Chris ‘Von Pimpenstein’ Carter discusses his journey from the West Coast to D.C.
Before you reflexively defend our city and its music scene, at least hear out Chris Carter, an audio mixer and record engineer who moved to the capital region—but isn’t quite on the bandwagon that D.C. is a music mecca. Carter, who earlier lived in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, claims that he isn’t “down on the D.C. area” and its soundscape; rather, it’s simply not the main business keeping the capital city going.
“This is a government industry area. Los Angeles is [based on] entertainment. Nashville is the center of all songwriting,” Carter said. “By going to Los Angeles and wanting to get into the federal government, it’s not going to work out super great.”
Carter wishes to reiterate that he isn’t hating on Washington but being realistic. Audio engineers tend to gravitate to the coasts, Atlanta, Austin, and the aforementioned country music capital of Nashville.