Exclusive Podcast: Katie Scullin talks about her latest release, ‘Pieces’ and more…

dream awake still

Katie Scullin is a talented singer/songwriter who’s been performing around the Madison area for over a decade. She’s played countless bars and cafes throughout Wisconsin as well as a number of large festivals such as Summerfest. She’s been a part of several bands over the years, including Rivalry, a band named for her relationship with her brother and bandmate, D.J. Scullin. She’s also played with Star Persons, an electronic/hip hop group similar to The Black Eyed Peas, and currently, The Katie Scullin Band, which she jokingly calls a “revolving door band” because the members tend to come and go.

Her accolades include being nominated for and winning multiple Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAS) for her role as front woman in Star Persons, as well as “Best Alternative Artist” in 2011. She was also crowned Best Singer/Songwriter by 105.5 Triple M’s Project M Competition and Best Local Musician in the Jefferson County Daily Poll for the release of her EP “She Smiled,” in 2013.

Katie recently released an album titled, Pieces, a blend of tracks written over the last couple years that deal with personal growth, sudden life changes and deep introspection, possibly even a little frustration. She writes from the heart, making it easy to be drawn into her world: one filled with rocky roads and arduous climbs opposite still lakes and silent, snow-covered forests. Her music is a way to escape the distractions of everyday life and the disquiet of unwelcome thoughts, not only for herself, but for her audience as well. Her song titled, “Whitney,” is evidence of her desire to relate to any kindred spirits out there who share her points of view.

In this in-depth interview with Katie, we talk about her latest music video “Dream Awake,” and the story behind it. We also get her thoughts on Pieces as a whole and learn about her writing process. What’s more, she tells us about her Kickstarter campaign that raised a whopping $21,000 from supporters! She also explains her struggle as an independent artist and the challenges she has faced while raising a family and trying to make a decent living from music.

Listen to the podcast here:

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

J: How is your son (Mason) doing?

K: He’s awesome! Very good! He’s going to turn six in a couple weeks!

J: Six already?!

K: I know! He’s a lot of fun. He loves playing the drums which is very, very cool. He’s getting into singing. His dad likes metal, so for a while there he thought that singing was screaming. I’m trying to wean him down a little bit and be like, “Oh, but you also have to be good at singing like this too.”

J: I’m sure he’s you heard you sing plenty of times though right?

K: Oh yeah. Sometimes he tells me to stop singing.

*we chuckle*

J: I think the last time I saw him you were living in Stoughton.   

K: Uh-huh

J: He was just a little baby.

K: Oh was that at Joe Ramos’ (a mutual friend of ours)?

J: Yeah. He’s grown! I saw the clips in your video “Dream Awake,” from when you first had him.

K: Oh yeah.

J: That was really cool.

K: Thank you.            

J: So, tell us about “Dream Awake.” What’s your take on the song?

K: When I started writing it I was living in the basement of a couple’s home, and they lived up on a hill overlooking a lake. I had a really awesome view from up there. The weather that day was crazy. It was like Mother Nature was almost bipolar. There was a snowstorm with twisting winds and all of a sudden the clouds would part and it was sunny out, like a spring day. The water had this crazy, blue hue to it. I was at a point where I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in life. I was sort of reflecting, thinking about the turns my life took, not expecting what had happened to happen.

I think it’s really about painting a picture of your own life. You have control of your own thoughts and how you react to things, whether or not it’s going to be a cloudy, crappy, stormy day or it’s going to be sunny and beautiful. We do have some control of how we react to things.

The music video was interesting. The director took a turn with it bringing Mason into the picture. I thought it was really cool because he interpreted the story differently. His wife had a similar story to mine where she was about to go to Africa to do an anthropology project and she ended up getting pregnant. Her whole life changed at that point and she had to rebuild her life. It was neat that the director had that story in common about his wife and what she went through. I wasn’t expecting to have a child. It was amazing at first but then I realized music was going to have to sit on the back burner a bit.

J: Well, I’m glad you have stuck with it. It was exciting reading your article in Maximum Ink about your Kickstarter campaign. I can’t believe it! You raised $21,000? Tell us about that experience.

K: Yeah. It was a huge decision and really scary because I didn’t want people to know that I was struggling, but I came to the realization that I either needed to ask people to help me out or I wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. I planned a lot for it because I knew I was going to need a good chunk of change to put together a polished product. I felt like there were so many artists around me doing the same thing and all of them including myself were struggling.

Every time I would do a show I never had anything to sell because I didn’t have the money up front for it. I had this little five song demo that I put together for $1200, and we did it in like three weeks time. It was never mastered. The volumes were really low. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time on it. I just felt like I didn’t have anything to show for as many years as I had been doing music. I thought I had to do a Kickstarter and I saw a lot of people who were really successful with it, so I pushed aside those self-defeating thoughts that I might fail. I might not make it. I planned a lot and had a lot of help from my family who gave me ideas on how to reach an audience aside from online. Because a lot of people who donated were not online and wouldn’t have known it was even happening. I was a basket case for a month.   

J: Did you do any shows beforehand to get people interested in what you were doing?

K: Yes. I talked about it a lot before I even launched it. Where I bartend and at my shows I spoke about it just to let people know I was going to be doing something. I put together a little two song demo with what I had done already. I had started the album previously and realized I couldn’t finish it without financial backing, so the two songs I had already finished I gave away. I printed 200 copies. Every single person that I gave it to I asked them to check out what I was up to and if they liked it and people felt like donating, they could. So that was a way to reach people. I also had a fundraising party where we had computers set up and my band came and played.

J: Awesome! And the name of the album is Pieces? And it’s available on your website?

K: Correct.

J: Is it available anywhere else?

K: iTunes, Spotify and Google Play I believe.

J: So, you were talking about merch and how important it was to have that. Why do you feel it’s important? Do you notice a difference in response from the crowd at your shows when you do have merchandise?

K: Yes. Definitely. People are intrigued by it because I have stuff that looks good now. It looks professional. Sometimes I do shows and nobody buys anything, but then there are shows where people buy a ton of stuff. It definitely helps because people come up and look at it and it starts a conversation. People love t-shirts. I made some handmade coasters, and I’ve got stickers and stuff. It’s extra revenue on top of the performance. It helps get the word out when people have your stuff and they’re wearing it.

J: So in terms of physical CDs would you say you’ve sold more physical copies than digital?

K: Yeah, I think so. You know with streaming these days it’s hard to say. You get less than a penny per stream. With digital downloads where people have actually paid for the album, yeah, I think I have still sold more physical copies.

You know as much as people are into digital downloads and having everything on their phone… I’m old school. I think there is something cool about getting something tangible in your hands, being able to look at the artwork and read about it. A lot of other people still feel that way. They like to have something, but a lot of vehicles don’t even have CD players anymore.

J: What was your inspiration for the songs on Pieces?

K: Some of them were songs I had written in previous years. One of them was with my band Rivalry, which originated from Sibling Rivalry with my brother. Another song I had half written, and I went down to Nashville and worked with a songwriter by the name of Carey Ott. He’s really amazing at what he does. He’s like a music mentor now. I was having writer’s block and he kind of helped me finish it and pull out the good stuff. But the idea for the album came from the first song on the album which was “Whitney,” not really named for any particular reason. It was the working title, and we just left it. I felt like maybe there was some Whitney out there who might think the song was written for them and maybe it would help them in some way. But I was at a low point. I didn’t know how I was going to continue doing music as a career because it’s hard. It’s really, really hard as you know. I just felt this urge while writing the song to just keep reminding myself or reminding whoever is going to hear this song and feel inspired not to give up. You don’t have to have it all figured out right then and there. It’s a journey. You’re going to figure it out as you go, and that is what it all came down to. I didn’t have it all figured out when I started. I just knew I wanted to do something bigger than what I was doing. As things developed, “pieces” were falling into place. It was like a puzzle, picking from different parts of my life, different pieces in the song, bringing it all in and figuring out exactly what it was. It was a reflection of where I was in my life. I was in a broken place and I needed to make something of myself from that broken place.

J: Where did you record the album?

K: We started recording it up at my parent’s cabin. We did an experimental project and filmed the video “The Walrus,” which is on YouTube. We played a gig up there and used the money to rent the rest of the equipment we would need to start recording. I thought that we would record the whole album that weekend but that was not the case. It took another two years to finish. But I had all these pieces from there and then we went to DNA Music Labs with Mark Whitcomb, and I did some stuff in my kitchen. I just couldn’t figure it out, but I knew there was one person who would be the glue, Paul Schluter from Megatone Studios. He took all these pieces and kind of mapped it out and we recorded the rest of it there.

J: What is your writing process like? How do you go about writing a song?

K: I usually start with the guitar and I will just start humming. It’s almost like I am talking in a different language, like speaking in tongues. *laughs* I just start these melodies and then a line will come out and I will be inspired by that, and then I figure out, okay where did that come from? What is the subject right there? And then build off of that, and it kind of just develops from there. And then sometimes I will write a poem and just start singing pieces of the poem and begin rearranging it if it doesn’t quite work with the guitar, or if the melody and consonants don’t fall into place.

J: When did you start to feel comfortable being on stage?

K: Right after high school I auditioned for a play called “Tick Tick Boom,” and I got a pretty good part. I practiced and practiced. I don’t know what it was but I built up a confidence to keep those nerves at bay. It felt really good. I felt like my voice was getting stronger. I still get nervous but it’s controllable I guess. Knock on wood. I’m opening for Jay Leno on Friday (May 19th, 2017).

J: I was going to ask you about that! How did you get hooked up with that show?

K: A friend of mine is their main booking person now. He’s been helping me out with shows here and there since I got into the Madison music scene. He does the main booking for Brat Fest. Do you know Michael Alexander?

J: I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard the name.

K: Yeah, so he took over that job and asked me if I wanted to open for Jay Leno. I was like, “what?!” I think I’ll pass on that.

J: But you decided to do it anyway?

K: Oh yeah. It wasn’t for sure I was going to get it. He had to personally approve it, so I quickly went online and dolled up my website. In the top corner I put a “Hi Jay!” with a little smiley face.

J: Do you do your booking personally or do you normally have someone book for you?

K: It’s a mixture. I have two different booking agents that help me out.

J: As a singer/songwriter would you say it’s pretty easy to get shows in Madison?

K: Yeah, but I do 50/50 covers and original material. People always want to hear covers. I’m trying to get away from that and do more original stuff. I’ve been trying to get more into the listening room type venues which is more difficult than booking at a restaurant/bar and being the background music. I can do the Tracy Chapman or whatever songs people want, but then I’m not really doing my own art. It isn’t as rewarding as booking a coffeehouse where people pay $5 or $10 and are really engaging and listening to the music. Playing a bar sometimes is easier. You get paid a flat fee, but you don’t really gain as much in terms of fans.

J: So other than Star Persons and Rivalry you have the Katie Scullin Band. Who is in that band?

K: I like to call it “the revolving door band.” There have been so many people in it. My original drummer is Travis Drumm. He recently moved out to California. He was in a lot of different projects so I would have several other people fill in for him. The original bassist stepped away for awhile so Nate Wiswal took over. Nate is on 8 or 9 of the 11 songs on the album. He also got a really good job out in California and moved out there so Jacob Bare is playing bass with me again. My brother has always been my number one guitar player. He has a newborn now and is married and has a really great job, so he doesn’t do all of the shows. My boyfriend, my baby’s daddy, Darren, is also my guitar player, but sometimes it’s hard getting a babysitter so I’ve had Paul Schluter play guitar for me before. And then my new drummer, his name is Bruce Root, filling in for Travis. I don’t know how long he will be in California… You should play!

J: It would probably be good for me to play! I rarely play live, but I want to get to the point that I feel comfortable doing it. So are you thinking about writing a new album?

K: Yes I am. I worked on Pieces for so long that within the last 6 to 8 months I probably wrote a whole other album worth of songs. I learned a lot this time around and think things will go easier next time, knock on wood.

J: Well I’m down to help on production.

K: That would be awesome!

We hope you enjoyed this interview. Check out some of Katie’s other videos on her YouTube page. To purchase a copy of her latest album Pieces, click here.

Want to see Katie Scullin live? Click here for her tour schedule.

Album Review: Brother Ali- All the Beauty in This Whole Life

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Brother Ali, a Madison, WI native based out of Minneapolis, MN recently released his sixth studio album, titled All the Beauty in This Whole Life, on Rhymesayers Entertainment. Ali once again teamed up with Ant (producer for Atmosphere), who he’s worked with almost exclusively in the past save for his previous album, Mourning in America Dreaming in Color, which was produced by Jake One.

For nearly two decades Brother Ali has been spreading messages of love, hope and acceptance contrasted at times with anger, struggle and reprisal. Ali suffers from albinism, a disorder characterized by lack of pigment in the skin, which consequently led to enduring social stigma throughout his childhood. A number of his works portray instances where he was discriminated against because of his condition followed by moments of personal triumph as he overcame his abusers and the mentality associated with defeat.

As a father, Ali often writes songs for his son, Faheem, providing him guidance or letting him know how difficult it is to be a parent who has to make tough decisions. He raps, “I can’t protect you like I want to,” a line that breathes truth to any parent, that no matter what you do to protect your children, they will at some point be subjected to the dangers of the world. In fact, sometimes, all you can do is pray.

Religious themes have become somewhat of a motif in Brother Ali’s later albums. Ali converted to Islam at the age of 15 and is now a practicing Imam. Although religious messages exist in his music, they are not bold advertisements coaxing listeners to follow Allah, rather they are a proclamation of his own spiritual journey to find peace and understanding through God.

In addition, many themes of social justice have been incorporated into his music. He raps frequently about racial inequality, slavery and the U.S. government’s trends to exploit minorities and the working class. He has been arrested in the past for occupying a house in Minneapolis to fight against its foreclosure. He was also recently trapped in Iran after giving a speech on the significance of Black Lives Matter and performing his song, “Uncle Sam Goddamn” on the Combat Jack Show.

Unbeknownst to Ali, and as luck would have it, hip hop music is illegal in Iran, and the event had been televised through all the major broadcasting networks. This led to accusations by leaders of the Nation of Islam calling him a terrorist and stating he was aligned with ISIS. Death threats and lax security at his hotel caused him to flee but his escape was halted when he found his credit cards, phone service and airplane ticket had all been voided. Brother Ali sat at the airport for three days without money or food! His song, “Uncle Usi Taught Me” explains the event in detail.

That said, All the Beauty in This Whole Life does not disappoint in its delivery of Brother Ali’s most crucial topics. “Own Light (What Hearts Are For),” the first single on the album, conveys a message of rejection for the lives we as a whole are sold in order to keep us subdued. Ali raps, “And you know they want to paint us with the same brush / Wanna entertain us ’til we fill our grave up.”

He explains that we’ve been manipulated and controlled through our desires. We’re raised to believe we need to reach certain plateaus in life or we’ve failed. Those ideals cause us to spend our lives worrying about things that for the majority will never be achievable. Ali gives praise to God for helping him overcome these unnecessary desires. He raps, “They’ve been trying to shut us down our whole life / I thank God for healing / You ain’t got to get me lit, I got my own light.”

The production on the track is a gorgeous mix of layered keys, guitars, bass and drums, classic boom bap. There are some smooth vocal parts in the background that fill out and add depth to the beat as well. Ant is known for quality beats that have a soulful, vintage feel to them. Brent Bradley of DJ Booth wrote, “The production on this album crackles with the warmth of secondhand vinyl even in digital form.” I would agree. This beat sounds like something Kanye West or Ryan Lewis (producer for Macklemore) would have produced.

In addition, the music video is visually stunning and opens doors to the imagination.

The second single off the album, “Never Learn,” is one of my personal favorites. It’s the most unique beat on the album. Lyrically it has a battle-rap quality similar to something off of Shadows on the Sun. The instrumental feels like it could be on a soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film. Furthermore, it reminds me of production from Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet, or earlier works such as Portishead’s Dummy.

Brother Ali sings the chorus in a soulful, sorrowful tone as if he were singing “Strange Fruit” by Nina Simone.

“I don’t know where to turn 
I hit my head I guess I’ll never learn
But they tell me I should let it bleed, let it sting, let it burn
Get my head firm”    

Once again, the music video is visually stunning, no doubt a lot of time, energy and resources went into these marvels.

Additionally, “Out of Here” is one of the most emotional tracks on the album. The song addresses Ali’s struggles in dealing with the suicide of both his father and grandfather. He raps that he felt to blame for their deaths and wished they had given him a chance to sit and listen. Maybe he could’ve helped them. Toward the end of the track Ali questions his own life and its importance because sadly, the men in his family have all died young. He raps, “Every man before me in my fam died by his own hands / How am I supposed to understand my own role in this plan / When nobody who grows old stands a chance?”

The beat sounds similar to “Don’t Ever F**king Question That” off of Atmosphere’s Lucy Ford EP (another great album produced by Ant), however, it has a much better dynamic range. The beat comes in as you would expect with any boom bap beat, but it soon dissipates into a single acoustic piano riff. As the track progresses, subtle guitar strums chime in between the rhythmic phrasing of Ali’s lines. The minimal nature of the track makes for the perfect canvas for Ali to paint his emotions on.

All in all, the album was well crafted. Ant is a great producer. At times he can be a bit methodical with his production (intro, verse, chorus, repeat), but it pairs well with Brother Ali’s storytelling and preacher-like delivery. The uplifting beats on the album sometimes clash with the darker lyrical themes, but it’s almost necessary to keep you from becoming depressed.What Brother Ali is saying can sound ominous, but he doesn’t want you to feel like it’s the end of the world. He wants you to keep your head up, and if you find you can’t, find God.

How did you feel about the album? Feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Also, if you are a Brother Ali fan or would like to purchase other albums from his discography, click here.

Amazon Echo vs. Sonos Play:1- Who will be victorious?

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The popularity of music streaming continues to rise as more companies enter the market to compete and win over customers looking for easy-to-use, high-quality playback devices. There seems to be a trend in the home stereo market that’s leading buyers away from complex systems with dozens of components to sleek, simple machines that roll your tuner, receiver, and speakers all into one. Of all the choices available, the Amazon Echo and Sonos Play:1 have become two of the top contenders, but which of these devices is truly worthy of your dollar?

At a glance the Amazon Echo seems promising. It features Alexa, a voice assistant program similar to Apple’s Siri. Alexa can be commanded to stream music from your collection, give you weather updates and even help you with your math. There is a large list of commands people can use and even some “Easter eggs” to get things done or have a little fun.

Digital Music News quoted The Times, saying, “While Echo has received mixed reviews for its sound quality, its Alexa voice assistant — which allows people to quickly play music with verbal commands — has captivated the tech industry and the public.

The Echo sounds like a great investment if you have your hands dirty and need someone to scratch your nose for you, but what about its sound quality? How does the Echo compare to the Sonos Play:1 and other streaming devices?

A number of reviews state that the sound quality of the Echo is uneven (despite its 360-degree, omni-directional audio capability), and that the bass frequencies are weak at high volumes. When pushed up against a wall, it showed minimal bass improvement, a poor use of the “boundary effect.” It also lacks resolution at times, which could be due to the fact that the Echo encodes mp3s at only 256 kbps using a variable bit rate. A variable bit rate means that while complex parts of audio are playing, the overall bit rate will be higher than when less complex parts are playing, so listeners are not hearing the same quality audio at all times.    

On the contrary, the Sonos Play:1 has received rave reviews for its audio quality. Trusted Reviews writes that it, “…produces excellent, rich and meaty sound for its size. It has pretty neutral voicing, but the depth and scale of the bass the speaker is able to produce is very impressive.”

A single Sonos Play:1 can fill a room with sound almost as well as the Echo, but if you’re looking for true surround sound, Sonos gives you the option of purchasing multiple units as well as woofers and soundsbars to pair together and play as one unit. What’s more, the device allows you to stream mp3s at a constant bitrate of 320 kbps, not to mention FLAC and ALAC files at a whopping 1411 kbps. That’s over four times the bit rate of the Echo!

In addition, nerdwallet.com reports, “the Echo can play songs from Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Amazon Music Library, whereas the Sonos Play:1 can stream music from your iTunes library, pull from over 100,000 free radio stations, and work with a number of popular online music services (Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, Google Play Music, Amazon Music and iHeartRadio, to name a few).”

Not to mention, you’re able to stream your entire Murfie CD and vinyl collection via Sonos. We at Murfie have been using the Sonos app and speakers to listen to music for several years now, and we love it!

Price-wise, the two are comparable. The Amazon Echo goes for about $179 retail while the Sonos Play:1 goes for $199.

There has been some debate on whether or not the Sonos Play:1 will remain a competitor in the streaming device market in the coming years. There are a number of other companies producing similar products for a fraction of the cost (i.e. Google Home priced at $129 or Muzo’s Cobblestone priced at $60). Regardless of what the future holds, the choice for audiophiles and music aficionados should be clear. The Sonos Play:1 is hands down the better buy. It may not have all the bells and whistles the Echo has, but it does what it was designed to do, provide listeners with the highest quality audio possible.

We at Murfie will continue to support Sonos because we know the importance of audio quality. When subscribers send in their collections, Murfie ensures quality playback, with full metadata, in 320 kbps mp3, lossless FLAC, and other formats, all of which Sonos is able to deliver.

To learn more about our streaming services, see our FAQ or contact us.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album review: Slowdive releases their first album in 22 years

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Slowdive materializes once again from the nebulous vastness of space and time with an uplifting, re-envisioned, self-titled album. After releasing Pygmalion in 1995 and being dropped from Creation Records, the band’s members dissipated and reformed as several offshoots including, Mojave 3 and Monster Movie in the coming years. In 2014, the band hinted on Twitter that they were reuniting. In 2017, they signed with Dead Oceans and released their first single in 22 years.

Slowdive features drummer Simon Scott, who left the band after their 1993 album, Souvlaki, which consequently sounds reminiscent of it. Contrarily, the album differs greatly from Pygmalion in energy, texture and composition. The drums have moved to the foreground in several of the tracks and are the driving force in maintaining and supporting the movement of the swelling, ethereal guitars and vocals.

Texture-wise, Slowdive is comparable to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, but it retains chord progressions more similar to previous works as well as Beach House’s Bloom. The composition is well planned, each part of the song flowing into the next without interruption. Many of the songs have two-minute intros before the vocals start, which in the case of shoegaze is paramount because it allows the listener to be enveloped totally by the realm of each song before reaching any sort of plot.

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Slowdive via Flickr

The album begins from nothingness. The guitars fade in, each strum like a tiny bolt of lightning, and suddenly you are swept away by an anxious drum beat similar to Lush’s “Superblast!” The title of the opening track, “Slomo,” contradicts the feeling of the song; the name would have been better suited for one of the tracks off Pygmalion, where everything was slower paced.

“Slomo” takes you for a ride. It’s an attention grabber, and at the same time it feels like a testament to the reestablishment of the band. It speaks to its fans and lets them know that they’re back and all they have is love for those of you who are still here and have been waiting all this time to hear another album. Of course fans were never too far away since the members had gone on to form other bands that included Slowdive’s core members Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and Christian Savill.

The second track titled, “Star Roving,” was the first single to be released off Slowdive. It has an energetic quality similar to “Slomo,” but feels deeper and thicker. Pitchfork’s Marc Hogan, called it “revisionism, not revivalism”. Slowdive at this point is able to pick and choose from a variety of styles they have experimented with in the past. That being said, “Star Roving” sounds like something off of Souvlaki, but this time around all the kinks have been ironed out.

In “Don’t Know Why,” the energy and driving force of the drums continues to whisk you away to a place outside existence. The airy vocal harmonies float elegantly over the guitar and drums, beckoning the listener to come closer. Be one with us in the emptiness of space. Follow us into the center of a star where it’s hot enough to dissolve your entire being. That’s where you’ll find love.

It’s not until “Sugar For The Pill,” the second single off Slowdive, that we get a chance to breathe. Up until now, we’ve only been taking off. We’ve finally reached the stratosphere, and now we can float for a bit. This track is definitely one of my favorites on the album. It begins with gilded, shimmering guitars followed by a pulsing, four-on-the-floor kick and rich, moving bassline, a perfect pocket designed to carry Halstead’s spectral vocal lines. He writes,

“And I rolled away
Said we never wanted much
Just a rollercoast’
Our love has never known the way
Sugar for the pill
You know it’s just the way things are
Cannot buy the sun
This jealousy will break the whole”

In other words, you can’t have everything you want in life. If you don’t let go, you will ruin what you had. Take nothing for granted. At least that is my take on the song, however, I believe Halstead may have left it open to interpretation.

The album continues to breathe and expand until it ultimately reaches the final track of the album, “Falling Ashes,” another one of my favorites because it encompasses the totality of Slowdive’s creativity. The track is eight minutes, but its length is hardly noticeable. The track develops continuously keeping the listener curious and eager for what comes next. “Falling Ashes” has the most complex texture of all of the songs on the album. There are pieces of guitar noise and plucked notes which loop in the background as a sort of counterpoint to the main piano riff. Bitcrushed pads phase in and out like an electron cloud around an excited atom. The vocals are solemn yet sultry, similar to Ride’s “Ride The Wind.” The chorus, a single line, “Thinking about love,” is repeated over and over, summing up the theme of the entire album. Eventually, the instruments fade away and Slowdive ends how it began.

What were your thoughts on the album? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you are a fan of Slowdive and would like to purchase albums for your collection, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evolve your listening experience with Murfie!

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Imagine a time before the invention of the CD burner, back when tapes were still more popular than CDs because they were more durable and our only means of copying and cataloging music.

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I remember fearing the inevitable destruction of my CDs, a consequence made real by overplaying them or neglecting to put them back into their cases afterwards. I certainly didn’t want to pay for the albums again (though that would have been the only option since there was no internet), so I often transferred them from CD to tape.

There were moments when my CDs even fell by the wayside and all I had were tapes of albums I had recorded or mixes of the lot. After all, cassette Walkmans were still more efficient than CD Walkmans back then because CD skip protection was still in its infancy, and I liked to jog while listening to music so the choice was obvious.

When CD burners entered the scene, CD Walkman technology had improved enough that you could pretty much play a CD without skips so long as you didn’t jostle the player too much. People were already ripping CDs to their computers and storing them on hard drives at this time, but it wasn’t until awhile later that actual burning capability became a household item. Consequently, we might have just skipped burning CDs altogether and just moved immediately to file sharing and streaming if it wasn’t for the lack of technology and our learned behavior of collecting physical media.

Binders full of plain discs with hand-scribbled titles gradually replaced the authentic, colorful and provocative ones. The originals were either sold or sat on shelves or in boxes in storage. Eventually, all I had to look forward to was what was on the CD when I played it. I could no longer hear with my eyes. It’s no wonder many of us lost interest in physical media.

music-1163286_1920Today, with the advent of streaming services, ownership of music has declined. We no longer flip through tiny booklets filled with pictures, art, lyrics and production credits while we enjoy our favorite albums. Certainly, we might look at the CDs front cover as a 2″ x 2″ thumbnail through the glare of our cellphone screen, but for the most part the haptic aesthetic of albums is gone.

Additionally, we pay for monthly subscriptions to listen to our favorite tunes, but in the end we’ve sacrificed ownership. If we lose our account or stop paying, our collection disappears. Not to mention, the music we can listen to is limited because subscription services do not have everything. The collections are incomplete.

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Contrary to the latest trend, physical media still exists and will continue to exist in many forms because there is a human need to experience the world with all of our senses. An artist performing a show personalizes it by offering physical media to their fans at a merch booth. A rare box set sells because it was uniquely crafted in remembrance of a great musician. A new generation of audiophiles realizes we got it right the first time with vinyl records and begins rummaging local thrift shops for sonic delights. Not to mention, a vast majority of consumers’ shelves, attics, basements and storage continue to brim with cassettes, CDs and vinyl records.

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Subsequently, a solution that ensures consumers retain the value and ownership rights of the albums they’ve paid for must be brought into being. We need to preserve the option of the aesthetic experience of an album if a listener so chooses and alternatively provide an efficient and safe way in which to catalog and store it. Finally, we need to ensure that when music is streamed, it can be done so at the highest bit rate possible per listening device for the ultimate listening experience.

So what is the solution you might ask? Murfie.

Murfie will take your collection of vinyl, cassettes and CDs, digitize them and make them available for streaming in a variety of popular formats, such as FLAC and mp3, complete with metadata for your preferred devices. When you send us your collection, it is ripped to your personal account for you and you alone. We believe that ownership matters, and so we provide you with exclusive access to your albums as well as give you the option of selling or trading your albums in our marketplace. The marketplace is also useful for filling the holes in your collection. In addition, we provide you the option of storing your albums indefinitely in our secure warehouse to free you of the burden of storing them yourself.

What makes Murfie unique from other streaming services is that if at any time you want to cancel your account or get your music back, you are able to do so. We don’t want you to lose the music you have spent countless hours collecting. We also don’t want you to pay for albums you have already bought over and over. We encourage you to enjoy your physical media the way it was intended, but we understand that advances in technology have led us to more simplistic ways of consuming media. And that is why we are here, to help you evolve and make the decision of what to do with your physical media effortless and pain free.

Send us your collection today, click here for an instant quote. If you have any questions feel free to contact us or check our FAQ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exclusive Podcast Interview: Josh Rip talks about his upcoming album Trinity and more

joshrip

Josh Mallett (aka RIP), has been making music for the past 17 years. In that time he has aspired to become a well known local DJ, producer and filmmaker. His passion for music and video production can easily be measured by the amount of energy and focus he puts into every project. He is canny in his decision making when it comes to producing big sounding records with cinema quality music videos on a limited budget. Of course, he would tell you that his friends and family are the real reason he has achieved what he has. Not only because they (and God) inspire him to make the music he does, but also because they often play significant roles in his songs and videos.

We sat down with Josh and spoke to him about his upcoming album, Trinity, set to be released on May 19th, 2017. It’s coincidentally the third album in a series of releases which have spanned from 2010 until now, the previous albums titled, Fashionably Late and Sellout.

In addition, we talk a bit about the music industry and get the scoop on his coming of age story, a testament to the evolution of a striving artist who started from the ground up.

Josh Rip, originally based out of Northern Chicago, has now been a Madison-based artist for a number of years. Since his arrival he has managed to win five Madison Hip Hop Awards, an achievement very few can say they have accomplished. His last two albums were huge successes in the Madison hip hop community, and no doubt the third will be as well.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. 

J: So we are chilling in the studio with Josh Rip. 

R: What’s going on?

J: It’s going pretty good. How are you?

R: Excellent man!

J: So, when and where did you start making music?

R: Man, this is throwing it back. This is going to date me, but I started making music in the 90’s in my bedroom. I had started DJing at 14 years old back home in Waukegan, Illinois.

J: What type of music gear did you start with?

S: Meow?

Sammie, Josh’s cat just jumped up on Josh’s lap. 

R: Welcome, cat, Sammie. *chuckles*

J: That is a really cool cat. Is she a tortoiseshell?

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Sammie

R: I’m not really sure.

J: She looks like a tortoiseshell. They have a lot of personality.

R: She loves attention, that’s for sure!

*We laugh*

J: So, anyway. Back to the question. What type of music gear did you start with?

R: I started with a Radio Shack mixer, turntable, cassette player and CD player. I would record music on my computer before digital work stations like FL Studio were popular. This was back when Cool Edit Pro existed, which is now Adobe Audition. I would record instrumentals through my analog mixer into a program called N-Track Studio. That was when I got my first taste of really being able to record stuff digitally. I was 14 then and couldn’t afford to go to a recording studio… and then I got into producing with FL Studio right around 2001-2002. It was called Fruity Loops at the time.

J: What gear do you use today?

R: I have a home studio in my basement. I have a TASCAM 8-track digital audio workstation and a MIDI controller. I use a lot of software. I have a couple racks and a compressor for my vocals. It’s pretty much all software though. I use Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Audition, After Effects and Premier. And I still rock FL Studio.

J: So I see you have a platinum record on your wall. What is that for? 

R: It’s a certification for Twista’s Kamikaze album. Back in the early 2000’s I created a website for Twista which later became his official website. I had been making my own websites on sites like Angelfire since the late 90’s and started my own official website rip-records.com in March of 2000. Being from Chicago, Twista was one of my major influences but he didn’t have a fan page back then, so I built one for fun and that hobby kind of turned into something. The website was going strong with hundreds of thousands of views per month during the time when Twista was in between labels. The site helped his career by showing Atlantic Records that he had a huge core following, and because of that, they gave me a platinum plaque.

J: That’s awesome! So what projects are you currently working on?

R: My current project is called, Trinity. It’s my third studio album, hence the name, but there are other reasons for that too. It’s a new direction, a new phase in my life. Sellout was released 5 years ago and in that time I grew a lot. I matured and came to a point where my new music was leaning on my faith. I wouldn’t put the album in a box calling it Christian hip hop though. I think it’s got its own lane.

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Trinity image from whoisrip.com

J: How is this new project different from previous records you’ve made?

R: Like I said, this album is more faith based. It deals with my struggles and addictions, issues with my family. I wouldn’t say it has a darker vibe to it but it’s more vulnerable. On my last two albums I took a more commercial approach. They were feel good albums. I geared them toward radio play. This new album is me, the real me. This is who I am and you can’t use it against me. I put all my faults out there for the world, to let people know I am still accepted by God despite my flaws. That is the message I am trying to convey on the album.

J: What makes this project stand out from the other records you have made?

R: What makes this album special to me personally is I feel God really had his hand on this album, especially lyrically. There were some lyrics where I thought wow, this is something I never could have come up with on my own.  Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe our talents were given to us by God.

J: What artists did you work with on your latest project?

R: The artists I worked with on this album were artists I have worked with on previous projects. My guy Billy, aka Sincere, I worked with him on my last album. He is a real talented dude. My homie, ANT da Hopeboy, he blessed me with some vocals. He and I actually won collaboration of the year in 2013 at the Madison Hip Hop Awards. A new vocalist I featured on this album was Katie Scullen. I actually had recorded something with her for my last album but the song didn’t make the cut. I love her voice. She has a distinct soulful voice. She has a passion. Even when we shot the video for the single she came out and got her feet dirty out in the swampy grass. She is an artist in every form.

J: Who are your musical influences?

R: Early on, early 90’s I listened to a lot of Chicago rap, artists like Twista, Crucial Conflict and Do or Die, but also Warren G and Dr. Dre. And then I got out of that phase and I started becoming influenced by everything. I became more influenced by pop culture and even country music.

J: How do you connect with your fan base?

R: Through social media and live shows mostly. I get a lot of response on Facebook. I also love to perform live. My CD release party will be held at Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub, Wednesday May 17th, 2017. I will also be performing May 27th, 2017 at Brat Fest. I love my supporters though. I don’t even like the word fan because that just sounds like we are on two different levels. One of my favorite lyrics is that “I was given a platform but never a pedestal.” I don’t like being put on that level where people feel like they can’t reach out to me.

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J: I totally agree. So how do you feel about the music industry? 

R: Bittersweet. We are in a different era from when I started making music. I feel like the industry is over-saturated. Anybody can record music or film a video and put it on YouTube and consider themselves an artist, which is great, but it’s also a double-edged sword. It’s harder to get music on blogs. It’s harder to get noticed. At the same time there are a lot of self made musicians who are making it without a record label. Back in the day you needed a record label to help get your music out. Today, if you can get an organic following of supporters you might not need a record label because you have so many supporters and so much muscle already behind you.

J: Do you feel the digital age has helped or hurt artists sell albums? 

R: I feel like the digital age has helped and hurt. I read somewhere that they are really starting to crack down on piracy, which I feel is a good thing. It seems like people are starting to accept paying for music online. At first they didn’t want to, but now it seems people are coming around… I believe digital is the future though. I knew that back before mp3’s were even popular. I was already streaming music from my website in the late 90’s. It’s a good thing. It gives people a platform to promote their music and get recognized across the world. Traditionally, I wouldn’t have been able to get my music out to people from other countries very easily.

J: Would you be upset if people pirated your music?

R: My music has been pirated. Fashionably Late, I think I’ve seen it on the Pirate Bay. I wouldn’t be upset. I see it like people want my music and they will get it by any means necessary. I appreciate it. At the end of the day, people who are going to buy music will buy it, and people who are going to pirate it will pirate it. There is no stopping it, but I prefer people purchase my music since it helps me continue doing what I am doing.

J: In what formats do you release your music?

R: I typically release my music in two formats, on CD and digitally (iTunes, Spotify etc.). When I released Fashionably Late in 2010, I thought that would be the last CD I ever pressed up, but the funny thing is I’m still pressing up CD’s. I like to have a hard copy.

J: Do you feel physical media is still relevant?

R: Physical media is still important. You get things with it you don’t get with digital media. Interacting with fans and giving them something personal that they can take with them is important. I remember buying Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme on cassette which had a booklet of pictures and all the lyrics, and for some reason I really liked that. Being an aspiring rapper, I wanted to get to know the artist. When you search for lyrics online they are often wrong. So having something official from the artist is a good thing, credits, who produced what tracks, I love that. It’s an art form in and of itself.

J: How do you feel about streaming services like Spotify?

R: It’s the future. It’s what people are using to listen to music. Trinity has been distributed on Spotify as well as my last two albums. I am open to having my album on all platforms, whether they pay full price on iTunes or stream through services like Spotify where I get pennies on the dollar per stream, if that, or whether people pirate it, as long as my music is getting out there that’s all that matters to me honestly. This latest album especially is not about the money. This album is about evangelizing and ministry. God has blessed me with the things he has and so the money I make is a blessing from God from Him. He will take care of me.

J: How do you finance the production of your album and your videos then?

R: I pour a lot of my own personal money into my music, income I make DJing and producing videos for other people on the side. My music career is not funding itself. But even if I made a million dollars I would put 60% of that back into the music. It’s a never ending investment. You have to invest in yourself. I feel that is why people have taken me seriously for this long because I am constantly investing in myself. I cut a lot of costs by producing my own videos, recording my own music. I am a very frugal guy not just in my music career but in my personal life. I cut out middlemen and get the best prices I can on resources. But it still gets expensive. You have to pay for help, for visual effects, sub contractors etc. There are a lot of talented people out there but they are not going anywhere because they don’t invest in themselves.

J: Your music videos look amazing by the way. What gear do you use to make them? 

R: I shot on a Canon T2i for a couple of years which was a DSLR. Then I upgraded to a Panasonic GH4 which was a DSLM. It was mirrorless, so it wasn’t a DSLR, but it was a camera. And then I just recently upgraded to a film camera, the Black Magic Ursa Mini 4.6k which was a big step for me, but it was something I needed to get to take things to the next level.

J: When and where can we purchase your next album?

R: Trinity will be available on my website, whoisrip.com. You will be able to order the CD from there. The CD is great. It has a booklet with all of the lyrics to the songs as well as a bunch of pictures. It will also be available at all digital retailers.

J: Anything else you want the readers to know?

R: I want to thank everyone for reading. I want to thank Murfie for interviewing me. I want to thank everyone who helped out with my album. My homie, Memory, lent me some dope production. He is a great guitarist and producer. I recommend him to everyone. DJ Pain 1 lent some percussive production on the album. Katie Scullen, ANT and my homie Sincere, you guys are awesome. I appreciate all the supporters who are still rocking with me with this new album, new sound and new direction. I love you guys.

Listen to the full RIP interview on Audiomack: 

Check out more of Rip’s latest music videos from his upcoming album Trinity

Music by RIP

Rip SelloutRip Fashionably Late

Pre-review: Feist drops latest album ‘Pleasure’ tomorrow!

feist pleasure

It has been six years since Feist released her album, Metals, the followup to her critically acclaimed album, The Reminder. Tomorrow she will grace the world once again with her latest album, Pleasure!

It has been a long time coming, and after listening to Metals on repeat for the last two weeks, I can say I am thoroughly excited to hear what musical direction she takes next. Metals was indeed a step in a more personal direction from The Reminder. The album was criticized as having lacked singles that stood up to hits such as “1234” and “My Moon My Man”. Slant Magazine stated that the album had no “real spark to it”. Additionally, Lindsay Zoladz of Pitchfork Media stated, “it feels like such a refreshing and slyly badass statement of artistic integrity” but still that “it doesn’t reach The Reminder‘s heights.”

Despite a few comments insisting Metals needed something more, the album overall got scores ranging from C to B pluses from various other sources and was considered a success. The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 selling 38,000 copies its first week, whereas The Reminder debuted at No. 16 and sold only 31,000 copies. Granted the albums were released at two different periods in Feist’s musical career,  it feels good knowing the artists you love are succeeding in their craft regardless of criticism.

I would agree that Metals really had no “true” singles to speak of, but in my opinion, it didn’t need them. The album is a book rather than a collection of news clippings. The tracks flow into one another like the turning of pages. The print is faded in some places and bold in others. Beyond the words there are fingerprints, smudges and coffee stains, the cohesive bits holding what you hear together, in other words the silence. With Metals, you have to listen more carefully to the subtle nuances than on The Reminder. Feist has refined her art, and so it takes an even more refined palette to taste the notes this time around.

The opening track to Metals titled, “The Bad In Each Other”, is no doubt one of my favorite tracks on the album. The guitar lick and subtle percussion at the beginning of the track carries you off almost instantly. The weight of the swelling horns and strings makes you feel like you’re floating down a “neon river” of thick molasses right up until the chorus.

“When a good man and a good woman / Can’t find the good in each other / Then a good man and a good woman / Will bring out the worst in the other / The bad in each other”.

Feist’s delivery of the chorus, although solemn, has a lightness that contrasts well with the verses. If you have the refined palette I mentioned earlier, at this point you can almost taste that first single. Still, the inflection of her words leaves something to be desired. It’s generally an artistic choice of hers to swing her words in ways a pop singer wouldn’t, but if the audience can’t sing it, the song might suffer at the hand of critical sources.

So what is to be expected from Feist after her last project? Will she take the criticism of news sources to heart and strive for an album more reminiscent of The Reminder? I believe it to be unlikely. I believe she will continue to make the music she wishes to make and will stray away from making pop records.

Unfortunately, my opinion is slightly biased due to the fact she released two tracks on Soundcloud, both of which I recently listened to. The tracks are titled, “Pleasure” (after the name of the album) and “Century” featuring Jarvis Cocker. Both of the tracks at first glance sound fairly similar to something you would hear on Metals. They both have an acoustic room feel paired with a distorted or clipping effect on the vocals, however, I am not sure if this is intentional in each of the songs or to keep pirates at bay. Either way, tomorrow is right around the corner. I hope all you Feist fans are excited.

What are your thoughts about the article? Are you a Feist fan? What are your favorite tracks from her last several albums?

If you want to hear more from Feist, click here.