interview – majetic

– featured image courtesy of chris cox –

justin majetich shed his full band and the last letter of his surname in pursuit of his newest album.  club dread features a streamlined palette and a renewed ambition, becoming a vessel to explore the fractured intricacies of life through a dissonant, electronic lens.

after the acerbic, audio-visual one-two punch of “horseback” and “bloodbrunch,” majetic returns today with “tender ums,” the album’s reflective penultimate cut, its subterranean pulses and acoustic piano motif swirling together towards something bigger, more grandiose.  in its final moments, “tender ums” reaches that summit, all of its components coalescing into a perfect representation of majetic’s raw, soulful interior so often shrouded in stabs of angular synths.

we recently touched base with majetic via e-mail for an intimate glimpse inside the creation of club dread, its transcontinental roots, and the sequential significance of its third and newest single.  check out the transcript, along with the premiere of “tender ums,” below.

club dread is club adjacent.  is this a headspace you’ve occupied for some time or one you specifically found yourself in while writing the songs on this record?

when i moved to new york city in 2015, i suddenly had access to a whole range of underground parties — stuff i’d dreamt of in the midwest but that didn’t really exist for me there.  i’d caught traces of it from friends in detroit, but overall, it was totally new and exciting.  i moved to new york for a musical community i’d expected to find in the live venues, but i guess it was on the dance floor that i first felt a sense of belonging in this city.

so yes, for a while my headspace was club-adjacent – preoccupied with its magic, saturated with the music.  by the time i was writing club dread in 2017, i wasn’t going out as much, but i was absolutely referencing that headspace as i wrote.  i was dipping back into those experiences and re-imagining them for the album world.  i still catch a party now and then and have some really great friends who i met through that community.

both oakland and queens factor into your biography – disparate locations geographically, but perhaps ones with some things in common musically.  are you drawn more to the contrasts or the constants of these two cities?  how did working on the album far from where it was initially conceived affect its direction and outcome?

place heavily informs the work i make.  not only does it shape the album’s atmosphere but it is also personified in the work, almost as a character.  NYC was the place-character in my last record, LUV IN THE RUINS, and i wanted something different this time around.  i was spending a lot of time in oakland with my brother and sister, and naturally, it followed to set the record there.

there’s such a complex spirit to the bay area.  so much tension between the awe-inspiring natural beauty and the extreme human disparity, the promise of progress and the dystopian realities…  all the while, there’s this catastrophic fault-line brooding underfoot and the pacific chewing at the coast, violent and massive, an insatiable conduit of dread.  incorporating the bay as a setting seemed like a powerful way to illustrate both the ecstasy and grief the characters of club dread experience in and around a club stricken with tragedy.

that being said — and i realize i haven’t directly addressed your question — there are traces of NYC in the album.  a lot of the experiences i’m filtering into the record took place here, and it’s where i was living when i wrote most of the lyrics.  still, i don’t think being back in NYC for a bulk of the writing process hindered my ability to access my sense of the bay in any significant way.  i’d taken extensive notes, and honestly, i think place can sometimes be better comprehended from a distance.  or at least, better comprehended for the purpose of art-making – the finite, fallible substance of memory naturally lending a tint of mythology to the thing remembered.

as for the the contrasts and/or constants between oakland and NYC, i mostly think about the former.  to me, they’re sort of inverse of one another: one vast, one claustrophobic; one idealistic, one realistic; one circuitous, one direct.  these sort of things require a more nuanced explanation, but that’s the jist.  as for musical contrasts, i feel like there’s a lot more concern with coolness and cleverness in NYC versus a lot of play and theater in the bay.  but if i’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that any scene is mostly what you make of it.

much of your album is centered around an electronic soundscape, but “tender ums,” which we’re premiering today, counts an acoustic piano among its focal points.  can you speak to the genesis of this track and how it fits into club dread overall?

i was visiting my parents in ohio, where my dad pastors a church.  after service, everyone will head to the fellowship hall and catch up over snacks.  on this given sunday, i slipped back into the sanctuary to play the piano while i waited for my parents to wrap up. that’s where i wrote the theme that plays during the song’s first interlude and also lends shape to the vocal melody.  it felt like something you could loop endlessly.  it was soft and small but carried an emotional weight.  i’m actually just realizing it now, but this sanctuary setting in which the song began is preserved in the “airport chapel” of the song’s opening verse.

anyway, i tucked those four measures away for a few weeks, and then one day tried growing them into a song, along with a phrase i’d pulled from my notes: “the body wasn’t made for this sort of placelessness.”  thirty-six hours later, i had “tender ums,” which is a speed unheard of for me.  it just flowed with uncharacteristic ease.  it was the last song i wrote for club dread, and it felt like recompense for an otherwise meticulous process.

though it’s the penultimate track, i see “tender ums” as the album’s final chapter.  the actual closer, “club dread,” looks back over the record in a way, encompassing the events, characters, and themes – a spiritual conclusion.  but “tender ums” sees the speaker at the chronological end, as they make their departure from the bay (airplane imagery a bookend with similar imagery in the first lines of album-opener “chewing tabs”).

it’s perhaps the record’s most vulnerable moment, but still i find a quiet triumph in the song.  take the line, “waking to a kinder sadness….”  those who’ve experienced grief subside might relate to a moment when one first feels the heaviness shift.  it’s the tiniest movement but, nevertheless, a notion of a world beyond grief.  you understand that life can recover, even if you don’t understand how.  that’s the moment from which the song is sung, and i believe it’s a crucial expression of hope in an album frequently given to despair.

club dread arrives november 2nd via winspear.  take a listen to its third single, “tender ums,” out now on spotify and premiering below on the dimestore.

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premiere – ryan von gonten

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

a change of scenery can prove to be a powerful catalyst for inspiration.  after logging years of work alongside treasured artists like lomelda and molly burch, ryan von gonten departed texas on a coastal venture, arriving in oakland in time for the seeds of his solo debut to germinate.  truthlikeness is a fully-realized inaugural outing, its eight songs a synthesis of the loneliness that can transpire upon arrival in an unfamiliar place.

as a primer to von gonten’s forthcoming full-length, bear witness to “anthem.”  slow tremolo pulses are driven from their cavernous expanses by a soft but persistent keyboard line, blooming into a consonance of dream-pop and folk, the former twinkling in the latter’s gentle breeze.  von gonten’s instantly memorable falsetto is an enduring force throughout, commandeering the track with a hushed tenor that sounds like it was delivered crouched over a microphone in utter secrecy.  a compelling glimpse of things to come, “anthem” embodies its title in its own singular way, harnessing an inherent intimacy and doling out salient components for maximum effect.

truthlikeness arrives at the tail-end of summer via glasgow’s human noise records and features contributions from lomelda’s hannah read and andrew stevens, who also lends his percussive talents to the live rendition of hovvdy.  the album’s lead single, “anthem,” premieres today, right here on the dimestore.  listen in below.

astronauts, etc. – “shut my mouth”

– featured image courtesy of brendan nakahara –

anthony ferraro has undergone a subtle transformation in the three years since the release of mind out wandering, his first full-length as astronauts, etc.  while that album allowed the oakland singer-songwriter to filter his classically-trained piano chops through the prismatic lens of outwardly-sunny, falsetto-tinged pop structures, his subsequent work has been decidedly more cosmic.

“shut my mouth,” the third single off of ferraro’s forthcoming follow-up living in symbol, is the sonic antithesis of its predecessors: comparatively sparse, devoid of piano, and prominently featuring ferraro’s natural vocal register.  interstellar percolations quickly give way to a simple, descending guitar melody, fed through an aging tape machine and fleshing out the contours of ferraro’s lead vocal.  a prominent bass line augments a lyrical rumination on silence, sculpting “shut my mouth” as a muted exercise in the left-field psychedelia astronauts, etc. has gravitated towards under the watch of producer chaz bear.

living in symbol arrives july 27th via company records.  listen to “shut my mouth” below.

astronauts, etc. – “the border”

– featured image courtesy of brendan nakahara – 

it’s been about three years since anthony ferraro released the excellent astronauts, etc. album mind out wandering, a ten-track collection that paired the bay area musician’s penchant for sharp pop songwriting with psychedelic meanderings.  later this summer, ferraro will return with a follow-up full-length, living in symbol.

co-produced by toro y moi’s chaz bear, living in symbol appears to fully embrace those swirling polychromatic tendencies of its predecessor.  lead single “the border” is awash in eerie strings and soft acoustic guitar strums that ease into the syncopated bass and drum groove as ferraro’s sonorous lead vocal floats by.  it’s a careful and methodical track, one that hints at a further refinement of ferraro’s already-robust songwriting with a tinge of deepened introspection.

living in symbol arrives july 27th via bear’s company records.  watch the spaced-out music video for “the border” below.

hazel english – “i’m fine”

– featured image courtesy of julie juarez –

the weathered photo that adorns the cover of hazel english’s debut ep, never going home, is a perfect visual extension of her meticulously-crafted aural aesthetic.  last year’s trio of demos – produced in conjunction with fellow oakland resident jackson phillips, aka day wave – were warm, hazy exercises in restraint; after nearly a year away, english picks right back up where she left off with “i’m fine,” her first single of 2016.

nary a drum beat can be found on “i’m fine,” with bass lines and sequenced synthesizer arpeggios instead alternately filling the rhythm role.  this intimate, stripped-down structure is augmented by english’s lead vocal, doused in reverb and hoisted above a sturdy, guitar-driven foundation to deliver its ever-so-poignant message.

“i’m fine” will appear on never going home, which is due out october 7th via house anxiety/marathon artists.  take a listen below.

perhapsy – “all my soul swallowed”

derek barber odell hussey
photo courtesy of odell hussey

derek barber’s latest single as perhapsy, “all my soul swallowed,” has reverberated throughout this month here at the dimestore.  barber recently teamed with director madeline kenney to make a music video for the track; in the clip, a technicolor-clad barber emerges from a lean-to in search of an adequate power supply deep in a west coast forest.  the video becomes even more eccentric as the song progresses, with a strange ever-present bust and a rather volatile mug of liquid juxtaposing the aurally melancholic vibe.

“all my soul swallowed” is culled from perhapsy’s forthcoming album, me tie-doughty walker, out march 3rd.  check out the music video below.

perhapsy – “all my soul swallowed”

derek barber odell hussey.jpeg
photo courtesy of odell hussey

derek barber puts in notable work as the guitarist for a handful of bay area bands including astronauts, etc., a hands-down dimestore favorite of 2015.  as perhapsy, barber also carves out a distinct path for his own solo work, engineering a jazz background and a seemingly-insatiable appetite for new textures to forge a brand of more experimental pop.  his sophomore full-length, me tie dough-ty walker, is out march 3rd, and today barber has shared the album’s lead-off single, “all my soul swallowed,” a slightly melancholic affair appropriately enveloped by a wall of guitars.  take a listen below.

listen to a new song from day wave

day wave 2
photo courtesy of the artist

jackson phillips will release more music as day wave in the form of a 7″ single, out november 6th via a united kingdom upstart boutique called house arrest recs.  last month he shared the synth-happy a-side “come home now,” which pairs nicely with “you are who you are.”  the b-side is mellow in contrast, shifting the timbral focus back to the guitar with a sonorous opening riff that navigates the lower realm of phillips’ telecaster.  as we’ve come to expect from day wave material, the chorus on “you are who you are” is instantly memorable, with a deft vocal melody floating through the breeze.  take a listen.

listen to a new song from hazel english

hazel english 1
photo courtesy of brandon c. long

if the production on hazel english’s new single sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because it probably is.  jackson phillips, the creative force behind day wave, teams with his fellow oakland resident for “fix,” a warm slice of nostalgia that fits perfectly into the earliest days of autumn.  the song blends english’s bleary vocals with phillips’ signature combination of single-note guitar lines and simple drum programming well, but “fix” really comes into its own towards the end, as it slows to a half-time feel to allow english’s cries of “i want to feel alive” to take on a more melancholic quality.  take a listen below.

astronauts, etc. – mind out wandering

mind out wandering cover
out september 18th via hit city u.s.a.

the debut full-length from oakland-based outfit astronauts, etc. pairs well with coffee.  not a specific roast, necessarily; more so with the routine of brewing it.  the opening third of mind out wandering begins rather placid and resolute, relying on organic textures and steady tempos that feel like analogues to slowly becoming alert and absorbing surroundings in the early morning.

push on to the middle chunk of the album for the brew cycle itself and initial ingestion; the psychedelic one-two punch of “eye to eye” and “shake it loose” is akin to a full-frontal caffeine assault.  by the time the woozy guitar-keyboard tandem melody in album closer “upward swing” hits, the coffee’s warmth and aroma have permeated through the consumer’s body, and all that’s left are the dregs at the bottom of the cup, swirling in time at thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute.

a less circumstantial analogy finds mind out wandering mirroring anthony ferraro’s maturation and confidence as a songwriter.  the album moves logically and purposefully from the comforting confines of his native acoustic piano to full-band textures and outward into the realm of psychedelia.

whether or not these songs are presented chronologically is ultimately inconsequential, however; the comparative sparsity and methodical build of the album’s opening numbers is precisely why “shake it loose” feels so explosive, and why a return to that initial structure on deep cut “control” yields a new, enjoyable set of nuances.

astronauts, etc. thrives on a strong formula that’s equal parts melody and nostalgia.  ferraro’s lead vocal often warbles high above the mix, weaving in and out of instrumental motifs and often supplementing their potency, but the moments when he retreats from the stratosphere are adventurous as well, lock-stepping with his bandmates to create absurdly tight harmonies.  the swirling electric piano pads and bell tones throughout “see you” are indicative of the band’s dreams of yesteryear, though they feel like less of an appropriated celebration and more of a necessary extension of ferraro’s identity as a singer-songwriter.

mind out wandering is one of those albums that gets filed in the “very good” category next to “lazy mornings” and “warm feels.”  go listen to it.