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Get all the latest music news and reviews in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Richmond, VA areas.Visit us daily and stay up-to-date on your favorite local and national acts.

Soft Punch - Above Water album art: A painting of a pond and two dogs embracing overlaying it, one wearing green pants.
DMV

Stay Afloat with Soft Punch — Above Water

Soft Punch, aka Rye Thomas, of Washington D.C. released his debut album, Above Water on September 15th, after years of working on it.
The album is a labor of love that Soft Punch, the stage name of Rye Thomas, has been working on for years since the diagnosis of his chronic illness. It takes you through the highs and lows, mourning the freedom lost, and celebrating the things that he is grateful for in his day to day life. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about his process of writing the album.

The titles of albums are the first thing that an artist sees. That, and the artist’s name. When I first heard the name ‘Soft Punch’, I was intrigued. It was gentle but intentional. “I don’t know if I had a specific ‘A-ha, Lightbulb’ moment, but I was interested in words that sound good together and have multiple meanings,” Thomas said. “It’s a gentle hit, and a nonalcoholic punch. It’s the image of something harsh and something soft is interesting to me. I think I lucked out.”

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Violet Silhouette pose for a press photo at a dining room table that has a knife in the middle.
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Zaii Valdes of Violet Silhouette Discusses Musical Heritage

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.

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A black and white image of Vakili Band, standing behind a light flare.
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Vakili Band Drops The Intrinsically Organic “Honey”

On September 8th, Vakili Band released their third album, Honey. The album is a raw look at human sensuality, and all the messiness that surrounds it. It’s a forceful 9-track album that leaves the listener thrumming with the energy of the band. I had the opportunity to sit with the front-woman of the band, Lily Vakili, to discuss the album with her. 
The album is filled with the nostalgic tropes of rock music that Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and Joan Jett planted into my childhood. There’s been a lot of newer music coming out that have these classic sounds to it. “I draw from a lot of different inspirations,” Vakili starts, “and sometimes it’s where the band is at. And this is where we got to for this album, this feeling we want to generate. We’re hitting on that drum, bass, guitar, and we’re, uh, we’re having a blast with it! So you know, I’m happy if that’s coming through, that’s great.” 

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Mustard Service pose around a urinal in a vintage bathroom for a press photo shoot.
DMV

Mustard Service On New Album: ‘Art Should Speak for Itself’

Mustard Service discuss their new album, Variety Pack, and upcoming DMV show.
It all began with an ambitious college dropout.

As a teenager, Marco Rivero, lead vocalist and guitarist of Miami-based zest pop five-piece Mustard Service, found himself on a journey of self-discovery, and initially, his quest led him down unfruitful and potentially destructive paths.

“When I was 18, I was kind of fucking up my life,” Rivero explained. “I hadn’t done my best in high school, didn’t care much for college, and I was doing too many drugs for an 18-year-old, so my parents decided to ship me off to another country not as a punishment, but as a way to try to give me new perspectives through  which I would hopefully find a purpose or path in my life that didn’t end in rehab or jail.”

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Ballyhoo! band members stand on a sandy beach with beach condos in the background.
DMV

Reggae Rock Band Ballyhoo! Tour with New Album, Shellshock

The highly anticipated 9th album by American reggae rock and punk band Ballyhoo! is officially out there! Shellshock, the 14-track LP, written and produced by the Aberdeen, Maryland-based band features a variety of impressive genre-complementary collaborators from around the world, including The Elovators, Hirie, Iya Terra, Tropidelic, Bumpin Uglies, and Kyle Smith.
This studio album release is accompanied by a number of thoughtful pieces of bonus content, always one of the ways Ballyhoo! goes above and beyond fan expectations. Ballyhoo!’s YouTube channel has begun rolling out live playthroughs of various tracks from the complete playthrough, beginning with some of the albums underdogs, “Prisoner,” “Insomniac,” and “Polarity.”

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Ayanna Gallant and Marsha Goodman-Wood of Marsha and the Positrons - Photo courtesy of Philip Muriel
DMV

Marsha Goodman-Wood — Singing about Science

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!’”

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Lauren Calve Shift press photo of 10 mirror reflection
DMV

Maryland’s Lauren Calve Embarks on First Co-Headlining Tour

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.) 

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Members of Alternative Rock band Everclear, wearing black while standing on a great concrete floor along a painted white wall.
DMV

New Live Album by Everclear — Tour Stop at Fillmore Sept. 13

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.

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NAYAS promotinal graphic with members of the band
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NAYAS Headlining Distrito Music Fest on Aug. 26

The headliner of this year’s Distrito Music Fest at Union Stage on Aug. 26 is NAYAS (”Nayas”), the iconic DMV band from the early 2000’s that are reuniting for DMF with plans of picking up where they left off! Alchemical caught up with Joey Carrasquillo, vocalist and percussionist for the band. 
NAYAS consists of Carrasquillo (backup vocals/percussions), Luis Torrealva (lead vocals/bass guitar), Soy Lopez (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Carlos Romero (backup vocals/lead guitar), Scott Schoem (keyboards), and Joey Rossetti (drums). Carrasquillo particularly joined the band in 2004. “We were consistently playing gigs probably from 2004 all the way to 2013 on a regular basis,” he says. “Bossa in Adams Morgan … We played there every single weekend and with bigger gigs, we headlined on so many other occasions and things of that nature.” He continues, “Between 2013 and 2019 we did gigs here and there, but it wasn’t frequent at all. But in 2019 we decided to do an official reunion gig, and we did that with a couple other bands.” After the reunion, he says they tried to come back, but then COVID came.

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Asa Weeks performing live
DMV

Asa Weeks: ‘Do the Work to Make Your Dreams Happen’

Maryland-based rapper Asa Weeks is on a mission. With wisdom beyond his years, the rising talent journeys deep into the heart of his music in a conversation with Alchemical Records, sharing truths that will compel you to listen to his songs in a whole new light and leave you empowered in the process.

Learn about Asa Weeks’ early starts as a pastor’s kid, how a difficult season of mental health challenges propelled his music career forward, his unexpected encounter with a child that made him realize he is a role model, and the most important lesson he has learned about what it takes to be successful.
Music has been a constant for Asa Weeks. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, Weeks was surrounded by his family, many of whom performed with the University of Liberia Alumni Chorus, an ensemble whose music Weeks describes as “moving and gripping.”
It was there that Weeks first felt “goosebumps” and found himself “tear up” in direct response to music. “I realized that my relationship with God, the purest form of when I feel connected to the Source is when music is involved,” said Weeks.

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John Ford Coley plays an acoustic set live
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John Ford Coley Has Rock Stories—and Some Familiar Songs

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.”

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[Distrito Music Festival 2023 promotional flyer
DMV

Meet Three Artists Performing at Distrito Music Fest Aug. 26

Distrito Music Fest (DMF) is an event in the DMV area that “is the premier annual Hispanic American music festival in the nation’s capital, showcasing the best regional, national, and international acts in celebration of Hispanic heritage and cultural Diversity.” This year, it will be held at Union Stage on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Alchemical Records caught with three members of the festival’s highly anticipated lineup in this previous article, and wanted to catch up with three more as DMF Week approaches.
“Bongo District is one of the hardest working bands in the DMV, showcasing a fusion of sounds as reflected in their multinational lineup,” says Distrito founder Daniel Gomez. Pedro Alfaro is the group’s bass player and one of its singers who is from El Salvador and moved here in 2015. He has been a musician since he was about 13 years old. “I started looking for people that would play the music that I was playing,” he explains.

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Yellowcard band photo
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Yellowcard Teases New Music; Ocean Avenue 20th Anniversary

After over twenty years in the game, Yellowcard opened the Ocean Avenue 20th Anniversary Tour at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavillion to a sold-out crowd. Filled with millennials, many of which with young children who proudly sported their own band t-shirts, the crowd was very enthusiastic and energetic despite the 90-degree smoldering weather. Attendees loudly cheered throughout the show, singing their hearts out with their fellow “Elder Emos” who were more than happy to battle the heat and enjoy the music they grew up with.
The Ocean Avenue 20th Anniversary Tour has been many years in the making. Despite music trends coming and going, many people still hold true to the classics, keeping the names of iconic bands from the early 2000s alive through dedicated streaming and events like Emo Nite and acts like Warped Tour the Band. The tour symbolized the timelessness of songs like Ocean Avenue, still garnering a big enough audience to pack a venue like Pier Six Pavillion which holds up to 4,600 occupants.

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a band onstage at Distrito Music Fest 2022
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Distrito Music Fest Kicking Off at Union Stage Aug. 26

Distrito Music Fest (DMF) is a yearly event in the DMV area that “is the premier annual Hispanic American music festival in the nation’s capital, showcasing the best regional, national, and international acts in celebration of Hispanic heritage and cultural Diversity.” This year, it will be held at Union Stage on Saturday, Aug. 26.
“DMF has been around for three years and came out of necessity to offer a platform for Hispanic-American original music, which has slowly eroded over the last decade. DMF is also a philanthropic effort conceived by artists, for artists, and is all about providing exposure for this community in a dignified manner,” says founder/director Daniel Gomez.

Everyone from performers to attendees are excited to come together and celebrate the city’s musical diversity, as well as the multitude of cultures that make up Hispanic heritage and its music. “DMF has an open-application process, meaning anyone can apply so long as they meet our criteria which is; being Hispanic or of Hispanic heritage, and must have original material,” Gomez says.

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Children gathered in a circle reading, National Book Lovers Day graphic by National Day Calendar
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Book Lovers Day 2023: Musical Books as Impactful as Music

On this day, people are encouraged to unplug from technology and pick up a book, honoring this beloved skill that is an outlet of creativity for so many – both authors and their readers. Bibliophiles everywhere may take the day to visit their local library or catch up on their TBR (To Be Read) list. Although this holiday is technically unofficial and its origin is unknown, it is widely recognized, celebrating the joy literature can bring.
As an avid bookworm myself, books and music often go hand in hand, whether I am listening to a playlist while reading that matches the vibe, diving into an autobiography by one of my favorite artists or a biography about them, or reading fiction that is centered around music of some sort – and it’s also always fun when a musical reference pops up in a book that seems completely random. I thought about how Alchemical could celebrate Book Lovers Day together and I decided to ask some of our writers about books involving music of any genre that have influenced them in some way, and how its musical aspect enhances the reading experience.

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