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Music Portraits of Contemporary Fathers amalgamation

Musical Portraits of Contemporary Fathers

Contributing writer Charlie Maybee celebrates Fathers list of contemporary pop songs that commemorate the good and bad of fatherhood.
Father’s Day can be a sentimental or challenging day depending on individual perspective, but there is no doubt that dads have a significant influence over the way that many people move through the world, and how they express themselves through music. This year, I am deciding to move against the grain a bit and discuss some contemporary pop songs about fathers or fatherhood that run the gamut from positive to negative experiences, often landing somewhere in between.

I want to be clear from the get-go that this is not a ranked list of songs nor a definitive guide to portrayals of fatherhood in music. It is more a think-piece that explores a general theme found across a variety of songs and styles.

Without further ado, here are some songs that come up for me, and please feel free to listen along with our official playlist.

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Be Steadwell press photo

Be Steadwell: Steady as She Goes

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.

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Pretty Bitter embracing in creative photoshoot with colorful makeup and outfits

D.C.-Based Band Pretty Bitter: “Do You as Loudly as You Can”

D.C.-based alternative dream pop/rock band Pretty Bitter is one of the area’s multi-dimensional musical treasures. With three out of five members identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community, much of their lyrical content is heavily informed by topics surrounding life as a Queer person, so it was only fitting to catch up with these talented musicians – Miri Tyler (she/they), Mel Bleker (they/them), and Zack Be (he/him) – to discuss the band’s inspiring music and the importance of being a visible Queer person, not just during Pride Month.
Pretty Bitter was born in 2017 by Miri Tyler (bassist & songwriter) and Mel Bleker (vocalist & lyricist) after meeting on Tinder. When sharing creative ideas, a connection was formed as they realized their artistic visions were synced. Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Zack Be joined later down the line, as well as the other two members, guitarist Chris Smith and drummer Jason Hayes.

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Ski Queen performing live

Ski Queen: Born and Raised in the DMV

Alexandria natives Ena Sullivan and Julianne Lane founded their bubble grunge band Ski Queen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their music takes listeners on an honest emotional journey, but doesn’t take itself too seriously, either.

Lead singer and guitarist Julianne Lane started in music by taking piano lessons at the age of just four. Around 13, she started guitar, which led her to songwriting. Lane soon got involved at a local music school, Rock of Ages Music, where she met Ena Sullivan.

Drummer and backup vocalist Ena Sullivan started learning violin at eight years old. She began lessons in traditional hand drumming at an after-school program when she was 10, which sparked her love for percussion. She began kit drumming a few years later.

The pair was involved in a number of different bands over their high school years, but decided to start their own project during COVID, and thus, Ski Queen was born. The group began as a cover band, but as they found their own sound, they began to write their own songs as well.
Sullivan and Lane appreciate the musical history of the DMV.

“Being so close to DC, which was the birthplace to so many punk and go-go bands, has been a catalyst for my own love of music.”

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DMV-based artist and dancer Chipelo press photo

Chipelo: ‘I’m Very Prideful of Who I Am…Because as a Kid, I Wasn’t’

DMV-based Salvadoran-American artist and dancer Chipelo discusses his debut single, the importance of cultural representation, what inspires him to give back, and more.

For Salvadoran-American artist Chipelo, music is a lifestyle. The DMV-based musician, dancer, producer, and actor fuses his diverse talents into his art seamlessly to create a vibrant full-mind and body experience for new and existing audiences alike, and the Towson University senior is just getting started.

Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Chipelo to discuss his debut single, “SIN TI,” how he prepares physically for high-energy performances, the importance of cultural representation in his art, what inspires him to give back to the community as a mentor for youth in Baltimore, and his upcoming performance at TreeFort Fest in Rockville, Maryland on June 10.
Chipelo aka Benjamin Molina has been immersed in music since childhood. He has fond memories of being introduced to Spanish music and Salvadoran culture by his parents at home, and English and American culture in school, as a first-generation child.

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Chris Carter in deep thought at the studio

Meet Chris ‘Von Pimpenstein’ Carter, the Uber-Mixer

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.

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Wammie Awards hosts, Allison Seymour and Darren Hayes

DMV Celebrates Local Musicians at 2023 Wammie Awards

This year’s Wammies night was a night to bring the DMV music community together to celebrate its achievements: “DC is the beneficiary of world-class music creatives who enrich and inspire millions of people around the world! The Wammie Awards is The MusicianShip’s 35-year-old awards show aimed at recognizing DC, MD, and VA area artists & musicians for their artistic works and community impact across our region.” Fifty-one awards were given throughout the night, honoring the area’s music educators, artists, musicians, and more. WUSA 9’s Emmy award-winning anchor Allison Seymour and Darren Hayes hosted the event. Excitement buzzed from the red carpet to the award hall. 
The night was themed “The Hitmakers Ball”, celebrating the DMV region’s rich music legacy and its culture-shaping influence on style, fashion, and community. It began with a pre-event reception with music by DJ 24/7. The awards show with music by DJ D-REX featured a variety of live performances, including performances by the iconic Go-Go band EU fronted by Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliot, Grammy-nominated MuMu Fresh, The Howard University S.H.O.W.T.I.M.E. Marching Band, Rayshun LaMarr from NBC’s The Voice…

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DMV-based singer-songwriter Melissa Quinn Fox press photo

D.C. by Way of Pittsburgh—with the Occasional Nashville Stop

DMV-based singer-songwriter Melissa Quinn Fox discusses her 2023 Wammie wins, new music, and more.
Singer-songwriter Melissa Quinn Fox scored quite a whammy this spring. In April, the artist took home three prestigious Wammie Awards at a ceremony held in Washington. One of those recognitions was best song for her composition “Dear Self Doubt.”

“I’m a four-time winner, which is pretty awesome,” Quinn Fox said, noting that she previously won a best song Wammie for her earlier composition “Back There.” “It really means a lot to be recognized as a songwriter for all the hard work I’ve put in—especially in this area.”

Indeed, Quinn Fox has put in the time and the work. A native of Pittsburgh, she spent several years after college traveling as a performer, appearing in shows domestically and overseas.  Missing the family, she returned to the Iron City and played in various bands while refining her own voice as a songwriter. An old friend convinced her to head down to the Outer Banks to play summer acoustic shows while supplementing her music by working in the restaurant industry. 

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Betty Who, headliner of Kinetic Presents Pride Month event

Zach Renovátes, Kinetic Presents: In the Name of Love For All

As a producer bringing some major events to Capital Pride this year, Zach Renovátes admits that he was keen to get Betty Who on the lineup. After having seen several of her live performances already, Renovátes knew the Australian would make a fine marquee addition to the “Kinetic Presents Candyland” event at Echostage June 10.

Fortunately, she was both available and interested.

“Something that I personally saw was that [Betty Who] is one of the most pro-LGBT singer-songwriters I’ve ever ever seen perform live,” Renovátes said, adding that the D.C. audiences at her concerts come largely from within the gay community. “So she absolutely knows that we as queer people make up a huge percentage of her fan base.”
The June 10 event is the main draw of a weekend of collaborations between Kinetic Presents and the Capital Pride Alliance in celebration of D.C. Pride 2023. Other big names who will play at various venues around the District include DJs Abel and Cindel, Dan Slater, as well as Jerac and Paulo Fragoso. It’ll be a pride-filled musical weekend indeed, with Echostage, Sax, Bunker and Bliss Nightclub hosting the pulsing sounds of revelry. And there’s also the big parade on June 10.

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Zola Simone in a blue suit in front of a blue background

Indie-Pop Artist Zola Simone: “Pride Means…Existing.”

Unapologetic singer-songwriter Zola Simone, 20, is dedicated to her passion of storytelling while staying true to her identity, navigating the world and its challenges through the lens of music. Read more to learn about Simone, who identifies as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and what Pride means to her not only this month, but every day.
Zola Simone would describe her music as a “consistently inconsistent, diverse and versatile” blend of indie pop and R&B – “Queer pop with an edge to it,” she says. Her honest lyrics reflect her vulnerability, as well as individuality, while still touching the hearts of many with their relatability. Since releasing her first single “Real to You” at thirteen years old, Simone has released ten singles, two EPs, and one album titled Now You See Me, which has surpassed well over one million streams. That album opens with her song “Easy”, which was featured in the series finale of the acclaimed Netflix original series, Atypical. “Easy” won Song of the Year at the 2021 Boston Music Awards, where Simone, nominated in four categories including Pop Artist of the Year and Album of the Year, also took home the prize for New Artist of the Year.

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A picture of Batalá Washington DC's drums and sticks

All-Women Afro-Brazilian Ensemble Batalá Washington DC Has Rhythm and Purpose

“We like for our audience to be empowered by the beats of the drums and the energy transmitted by the women in the group”

Batalá Washington DC discuss their impact, favorite songs to perform, and how being a part of the DMV creative scene influences the collective’s approach.
Within an industry that is historically dominated by men, all-women Afro-Brazilian percussion ensemble Batalá Washington DC is here to show us what they are made of. Launched in 2007 as the newest branch of the Batalá band and the first-ever in the United States, Batalá Washington, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, brings its powerful, invigorating sounds to the nation’s capital and across the globe as a means of empowering women to be change agents in their respective communities.

Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Marly Perez, board president and musical conductor of Batalá Washington DC, to discuss the collective’s impact over the years,

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Chris Perry and Colin McGuire of Could Be Better Meh podcast performing live

Things Can Always Be Better

These Maryland musicians-turned-podcasters will give your music a boost—if you’ll let them

Colin McGuire and Chris Perry discuss their podcast, Could Be Better Meh, their take on the industry, and a fan from the other side of the world.When Colin McGuire and Chris Perry are keenly aware that the business of music is difficult. Both young men are musicians in their own right, having played in various bands and running into one another socially rather often. They now host a podcast called “Could Be Better Meh,” in which they feature many bands and upcoming musicians from around our area—perhaps as a way to pay it forward by providing a platform for others seeking their big break.

The pair bases “Could Be Better Meh” in Frederick, Maryland. Recent episodes have featured players from such local talent as Feed the Scene, Suburban Avenger, and Roy Ghim. McGuire and Perry recently spoke with Alchemical Records about their podcast, their take on the industry, and a fan from the other side of the world. Our discussion has been edited and condensed.

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Dave Mallen in the Control Room of Innovation Station Music - Courtesy of the Artist

Dave Mallen of Innovation Station Music: ‘I Didn’t Get Into This Line of Work to Just Set Up Mics and Hit Record’

Three-time WAMMIE Award winning producer Dave Mallen has contributed to some of the best music of the DMV, as evidenced by the 200 plus artists whose careers Innovation Station Music, his one-stop-shop studio, has advanced. Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Mallen to discuss his early starts, the circumstances that led him to transition from a full-time career in IT consulting to music production, how being a Highly Sensitive Person allows him to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for clients, and what Mallen considers his “why” beyond the music. Take us back to the beginning. Where did you get your starts in music?

DAVE: From age 2, I’m told I was always running to the piano at my grandmother’s house. My grandmother was a trained opera singer and pianist and was probably my first inspiration for becoming a musician. She would always tell me to “play with feeling”, and to this day, I try to inject as much emotion into the music I play and produce.

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The Atlantis logo - "Where Music Begins"

Foo Fighters Kick Off Grand Opening of “D.C.’s Oldest New Venue,” The Atlantis, May 30

“Before the original 9:30 Club opened its doors on May 30, 1980, it was briefly home to another venue: The Atlantis. Now, The Atlantis is back.”

I.M.P. is honoring 9:30’s original live music space by recreating the small venue (450-capacity) with a star-studded starting lineup that is made up of artists that want to celebrate this moment in music history, many who have played the Club in its early days. It seems too good to be true!

Foo Fighters will play its inaugural show on May 30 (the anniversary of the 9:30 Club’s opening), and the city is buzzing with excitement. Fans from near and far don’t want to miss this chance to see their favorite artists in such an intimate setting.

June consists of shows such as the Rainbow Kitten Surprise, the Pixies, Marc Roberge (O.A.R.), and Darius Rucker. July will bring artists such as the Barenaked Ladies, The Head and the Heart, The Magnetic Fields, Third Eye Blind, and Portugal. The Man to the District. August highlights include Drive-By Truckers and Joan Jett, while September will bring artists like Bartees Strange, Tove Lo, Billy Idol, Bastille, and Maggie Rogers. There will be something for everyone!

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Holly Montgomery Headshot

Artists from the DMV and Beyond Reflect on Motherhood

Mothers and mother figures in our lives make an indelible impression. For many of us, these powerful women embody strength, resilience, and unconditional love – while creating a better world in the process.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Alchemical Records connected with artists from across the DMV and beyond who balance double duty in their responsibility as mothers and creatives with grace. Learn the one word the artists use to describe motherhood, how their music has been influenced by their parenting role, advice to their younger self, and what a perfect Mother’s Day looks like – well, at least as perfect as can be.

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