The 9:30 Club Saves the Opening Act with Jonny Grave

Washington DC welcomed JJ Grey and the Mofro Band to the 9:30 Club on Thursday, March 7 for a night of blues driven, southern rock. JJ Grey and the Mofro Band are currently on their US tour with opener Southern Avenue, out of Tennessee. Unfortunately, the morning of the DC show, Southern Avenue became stranded on the road after their tour van’s transmission blew.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining however. This unfortunate incident created an opportunity for artists in the DMV to join the bill and open for JJ Grey and the Mofro Band at the 9:30 Club.

Jonny Grave, a singer, blues guitarist and songwriter of Washington DC, got the job the afternoon of the gig. Jonny was joined on stage by Ben Tufts, drummer of DC-based indie band Fuzzqueen and bassist, Ben Rikhoff.

Alchemical Records caught up with Jonny Grave after the show. Jonny told us that he got a call from Danny Schwartz around 1:30 to cancel his evening plans and get in touch immediately with All Good Presents. The gig was Jonny’s if he could put a band together in an hour. A few calls later and mission accomplished. Jonny told us, “The staff at 9:30 is a bunch of rare and fearless individuals who can take a dire situation like [this], and turn it into an amazing show. They’re top notch, and a joy to work with. I had a fantastic time, and can’t wait to come back.”

The crowd was undoubtedly impressed with the impromptu trio, who gave a steady rise to the energy level in the room to welcome the headliner.

JJ Grey and the Mofro did not disappoint. The Florida based band kept the crowd on their feet, the guitar picks flying and the organ and trumpets whaling. Alchemical Records would be remiss to not give a loud fist bump to Mofro trumpeter Dennis Marion of Baltimore, Md.

Kimberly Shires is a native of the DC Metropolitan area. Kimberly is a freelance writer, music degree holder, road bike warrior, songwriter, corporate ladder climber, and a Subaru driving nature enthusiast.

Interview with Alt-Rock Trio Copes

by M. L. Lanzillotta

I first encountered alt-rock trio Copes (Sebastian Pinto, Alec Pugliese, Vinnie Burke) at the Black Cat in 2017, when they were playing a benefit show for a homeless shelter. Afterward, I went home and listened to their album for days. I’ve been a fan ever since. It’s hard not to be. There’s something so simple – so familiar – about their music. Copes sounds like a rawer version of pop-punk bands many Gen Z’ers grew up with. The pleasantly vague lyrics can mean whatever the listener wants them to. This gives them a comforting universal feel. The tempo isn’t wildly fast or painfully slow, either. Same goes for the intensity. Their music inhabits a ‘Goldilocks Zone’. Also, there’s an aura of friendliness to Copes. Even the musicians themselves look like ordinary dudes. You know, the type of nonchalant guys you might meet at a record store, which only adds to their appeal.

Alchemical Records: So… how did you guys meet?
Seb: Uh, you can go with that one (gestures to Alec)
Alec: well, we had been playing bands for, what, five-six years?
Seb: Longer than that.
Alec: Five or six years with all three of us. Uh, and then, before that it was me and a couple of other people – my friends Jimmy and Brandon – and we were looking for another guitarist, and they knew Sebastian. And Sebastian came over one day, and then he was in the band, and that was like…
Vinnie: that must’ve been 2006. Like, ten years ago. At least ten years ago.
Alec: You didn’t know Vinnie from, like school or anything?
Seb: No.
Alec: We did go to the same schools.
Vinnie: But we met at band practice.
Alec: I was a friend of a friend…
Seb: Who came to a show.
Alec: Who came to shows – wait, no, hold on…. Jesse lived in Laurel, so you guys were friends with Jesse – right? – and then I was friends with Jesse, so that’s how I met you guys, I came to a show.
Seb: Though you weren’t living in Laurel then, you met him in high school.
Alec: Yeah.
AR: So… how long have you been playing together as this group?
Alec: Uh, this group? Three years. Right?
Seb: Yeah. Three years.
Alec: Around three years now. Yeah.
AR: I know I saw you in 2017 at the Black Cat.
Alec: Yeah, we did play the Black Cat.
Alec & Seb: in 2017.
Seb: That’s sounds right.
AR: That concert inspired my second book, by the way. Er, so, how do you guys go about writing songs?
Vinnie: Usually, one of us brings in a lick. A short riff. Like, really short. And then, ah, we’ll play it for a little bit and expand on that, and kinda go from there. Sometimes Sebastian will come in with, uh, some, like, some words and a melody and some chords. So that’ll be more like a song kinda put together. And then we’ll just add stuff, take stuff out, and polish that up.
Alec: I mean, some songs are like written pretty quick. Or, like, somebody comes in with – Sebastian or Vinnie comes in with something, and they’re like I want this to be like this. Sometimes it’s just a riff and it takes a whole year of us playing the same riff over and over again, and building a song from that. So, a bunch of different ways, really. But that’s the gist.
AR: Do the lyrics mean anything? Or are they merely words?
Seb: I guess what I try to do is write things that kinda sound fun to say and that people can interpret different ways. I’m trying to be a little bit more straightforward nowadays but, for the last album, I was just thinking just right think “he means this!” but when somebody else reads it they think “no, they meant this!”. So, your personality interprets what the lyrics mean. So everybody interprets them differently. And what you say about them reveals something about yourself.
Vinnie: I do remember at the time when we did [the] recording and finalizing on vocals, we actually did go over all the lyrics and discuss like what they meant to all of us. But I’ll be honest, that was – what? – two-three years ago. So don’t remember. But we definitely did discuss it.
Alec: I just wanna say, like, we’ve got that whiteboard in the band room. And he’ll come in with lyrics and he’ll write them on the board. And we’ll look at them and we’ll be like, first off, we’re like “oh, I like that, I like that, I don’t like this.” But then we’re like, “what does it mean to you?” And one song could mean something to Sebastian but then mean something totally different to me and Vinnie. And I think that’s what’s cool about, mainly, lyrics in general. But, I mean, I know that when you write stuff it comes from inside. Y’know what I mean? It comes from somewhere. Even if you’re not trying to writes something with any over-exaggerated meaning, it could mean to me. It can mean something to me. I know that’s kinda complicated, though I think it’s the best answer we can give.
AR: Who got you guys into music?
Alec: Do you want to go one-by-one on that?
AR: Probably.
Alec: How ‘bout you, Sebastian.
Seb: Uh, my older brother played guitar. And I always thought he was kinda cool and then, y’know, heard rock bands and I was like “I gotta try that out”. I was, like, 12.
Alec: I mean, for me… I was always interested in music, from classic rock and stuff like that. Really, it was these guys and a couple other people that got me into, like, punk rock and ska music back in the day, in High school. We all kinda bonded over that and we still do. I’d really say that bands like Bomb Music Industry, Streetlight Manifesto, No Effects, Blink-182… like, literally, I’m listing off things probably everybody would list off. But for me that was a definitely a huge influence there. How about you?
Vinnie: Uh, I mean… I’ve always played music. My sister and my mom took piano lessons, so, ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to play piano. So, I started with piano lessons then I… like, started playing other instruments like guitar. Then I finally got a drum set and started playing with other people. Then I went to college for it and everything. And then… for, like, band influences? I’d say I’ve stuck towards really the punk, pop-punk, and pop-rock kinda stuff. Blink-182, Green Day, that kinda area.
Alec: But I would definitely say, like, now… personally, I mean, my music interests definitely changed. Like, Indie Stuff. Carseat Headrest and, I don’t know, a lot of stuff that’s out there. People who are currently releasing music.
AR: What was recording that first album, Never Better, like?
Alec: That’s a loaded question.
Seb:
Alec: Because, together the three of us, we’ve been through a lot of recording, like-
Vinnie: For other bands.
Alec: Our last band, Sweat Life, we – I mean, I did the least amount of stuff, probably-
Seb: I think she’s asking about this band.
Alec: Yeah, yeah. I’m saying, I mean, the albums we worked on in the past definitely made it a lot better.
Vinnie: The big thing on how this album was recorded was that I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I through-hiked the Appalachian trail while the recording was happening. So, before I left, I knew that we were going to work on this album and I’d be gone. So, before I left, we recorded all the drums for all of the songs. And then I left, and they went to a different – we call it, studio B-
Alec: My Mom’s house.
Seb, Alec, Vinnie:
Vinnie: Alec’s house. And they recorded all the guitar and the bass… and the vocals. And they sent me stuff. I remember walking to the top of a mountain so I could get service on my phone, so that I could download the Dropbox app – because I didn’t even have the app on my phone yet! – so I could download the app and download the songs, so I could listen to the songs and give them notes. Then, after I got back, we finished up with my backup vocals, harmonies, and… and we went back to mix and master with Mike Walls, right?
Alec: Yeah, Mike Walls.
Seb: From Infinite Pizza…
Seb and Alec: …and Queen Wolf.
Alec: Great bands. I was just gonna say that, like, definitely it was considered our first quote-unquote “album”, but I was just saying that, since we had so much experience working at home and doing this DIY recording, from all the other bands that we’ve done stuff with. Like, this was kind of… I think this album sounded pretty good. Like, from years and years of experience… of screwing up and not knowing what we’re doing with this home studio stuff. With this last album I was kinda like, “oh! We actually know what we’re doing… it sounds pretty good.”
Vinnie: They next one’s gonna be even better.
AR: You were the ones who made the music video on the Gameboy, right?
Alec: Yeah, yeah We were the ones who made a music video on a Gameboy camera.
AR: Why?
Alec, Seb, Vinnie:
Alec: Mainly because I wanted to. When I was in college I did a lot of, like, art projects and installations and like experimental video work with outdated technology. And I’ve always loved video games. When I was in college I was experimenting with actually making videos with a Gameboy Camera and I was just like, “aw, shit, this would be really cool for a music video”… and we wanted to make a music video… so I was like, “well, shit, we’re just gonna do it!”
Vinnie: We just started talking about it and then, uh, after we did a little bit of research – I think Alec did a lot more research – after we did a bit of research Alec was like, “nobody has done this before, nobody has used a Gameboy to shoot an entire music video.” So, for me, I was more interested in being the first people to do that. Like, that was a driving factor.
Alec: Personally it didn’t have anything to do with the song necessarily. I know a lot of people do music videos that have to do with the song… this was just one where it was us playing, we wanted to make it kinda trippy, y’know. If you wanna relate it to the song, like… [the song’s name is] Vertigo! There are parts of the song where it’s, like, pretty trippy. And that’s all done in the Gameboy camera. But, yeah, mainly ‘cause I wanted to do it. And recently a German newspaper came out with an article that included our video because it was talking about other music videos filmed on game consoles. So that was pretty cool.
AR: …and that’s all. Thank you, guys.

copes.bandcamp.com

Exclusive Stone Driver Interview

If you are a fan of music, like we are fans of music here at Alchemical, then you will truly appreciate Washington DC area rock band Stone Driver for all the same reasons we do. Their songs are a reflection of their combined personalities and they wear their influences on their sleeves for everyone to see (or hear). Their songwriting appears to originate with the spark of a single idea which then develops naturally through a place of honesty, originality, and creativity, while at the same time giving the listener just what you expect. As a song plays you begin to hear the track itself open up to you in a way that you almost knew would happen, hoped would happen, has to happen.

 

Voted #1 Original DC band in Washington City Paper “Best Of” 2018, Stone Driver doesn’t stand on ceremony. They celebrate one little victory at a time with humility, acknowledging that their victories are laced with experiences they would rather not repeat. The band keeps moving forward, setting the bar a little higher for themselves each time they play live, and each time they release new music. The goals the band sets is not just to play bigger stages or sell more albums either. Their objectives are tied into providing opportunities for other musicians within their network with contributions like providing local bands with audio or video recording of those bands performance after a show. They seek higher purpose by allowing their musical pursuits to positively impact some charitable organization or meaningful community cause such as Per Scholas, Lever Fund, Rolling Thunder, and the Joe Strummer Foundation.

So, even though Stone Driver has experience sharing a stage with Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Good Charlotte, Everclear and Bush, they continue to stand on their own merit and accomplishments. It’s no wonder that they were one of the bands selected by DC Music Rocks to feature the very first DC Music Rocks Festival (2017) alongside The Split Seconds, Throwing Plates, Hayley Fahey Music, and Thaylobleu at the prestigious 9:30 Club.

Anthony Barksdale of IndieNationBlog.com says “Stone Driver’s production is second to none”, and rightly so. Their secret weapon is their recording and dissection of all their practices, which provides the opportunity to not only hone their talents from a performance standpoint, but also allows their ideas for songs to be reviewed and built on at subsequent songwriting sessions. The band’s latest album, “Chasing Demons”, released in May of 2018,  was recorded entirely in Stone Driver Studios and then mixed by Grammy award winning audio engineer John Seymour (Santana, Alice in Chains, U2).

When we caught up with them for this exclusive interview, they were collaborating for new song ideas, and preparing for their upcoming March 9th show at Dangerously Delicious Pies in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington DC, which has been awarded Best Pie by Washington City Paper 10 years running. So if you are a fan of delicious music accompanied by delicious pies, and you live in or are willing to travel to the DC area, you are in for a real treat (all puns intended)!

See Stone Driver perform live

at Dangerously Delicious Pies with Betamax & Not My Vice.

Listen to the entire, un-edited interview on our Soundcloud

And be sure to Follow us on Soundcloud for more exclusive audio content!

Daniel Warren Hill is a songwriter, producer, and performer. He currently rocks guitar and vocals for Alt/Rock band YellowTieGuy, Produces, sings and mixes live video for Data Recovery Project, and lends his talents to Beach Boys Tribute Band “Back To The Beach”. When not performing, Daniel is actively engaged in family activities with his wife, two children, roommate,and dog. Daniel enjoys exploring other creative and business pursuits, spending time in nature, and is currently addicted to Star Trek Timelines.