Lior Ben-Hur Interview

Time to send some new music your way, Murfie friends! Lior Ben-Hur is a reggae musician currently residing in the city of San Francisco, California. His band goes by the same name. Lior is from Jerusalem originally, and has seen a lot of different countries—which is why his reggae tunes are infused with an infectious “world” sound. His EP is currently available on Murfie, and it has contributions from musician Marcus Urani of Groundation.

I was lucky enough to chat with him the other day! Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Lior Ben-HurK: Thank you so much for calling in, how’s everything going?

L: Everything is great, and you?

K: It’s great! Where are you calling from today?

L: From San Francisco.

K: Ah, love it. You know, San Francisco—I feel like people have been talking lately about how expensive it’s getting to live there. Do you find it’s hard to keep a band in that city?

L: Very hard, and the city has been changing a lot—especially where I live, which is the Mission District. The city used to be a good place for artists when I moved into this neighborhood about 10 years ago, but it’s been taken over by high tech people with good income, and good paychecks, which makes the landlords raise the rent a lot. I think in the last three years probably most of the rent around me has been raised almost 100%, which means the artists are leaving the city. The art scene is not really here as much anymore. There are still some people, like myself and the band, but still it’s kind of hard because things are changing.

K: You spend a lot of time touring with the band and traveling, which seems to be the way musicians survive nowadays. And you’re from Jerusalem originally, so you’ve seen a lot of different countries. What types of music have stood out as your favorite?

L: Well I’ve been traveling a lot, and music that I’m really inspired by is Latin music and Caribbean music. I’ve spent some time in Columbia, and this summer we toured there a little bit, and it was really great to hear the music over there. Obviously I’m really inspired by Cuban music, Jamaican music, and the Caribbean style, and also Latin music as a whole. I’ve also traveled in southeast Asia, so I spent a lot of time in India. I’m not very knowledgeable about their music, but I’m inspired by their culture—their way of seeing musicians, and their place in the culture and society.

K: Do you like any other US-based bands that are considered “world” bands, like yours?

L: There are a few bands in San Francisco. We do kind of world reggae stuff, so the idea is to take a lot of inspiration from reggae and bring a new twist to it. There’s a great world reggae band in Israel, in Tel Aviv—their name is Zvuloon Dub System, and they combine Ethiopian music with roots reggae. Being here in California, one of my biggest influences is Groundation, and their take on reggae with their jazz and other influences. There are also bands here that are more on the world side and Latin side, especially in the Bay Area. It’s very inspiring for me and for the band.

Harrison and Marcus from Groundation on Kayla's radio show!
Harrison and Marcus from Groundation on Kayla’s radio show!

K: I love Groundation! They’ve come here to Madison and I’ve seen them play. Marcus Urani from Groundation, who played on your EP, played on my radio show as well. How did you link up with him?

L: Groundation has been a great influence in my personal journey into reggae and live music. I’ve seen them live in San Francisco many many times. The first time was about eight or nine years ago, and when I saw them live, they kind of blew my mind. I took a lot of inspiration and vision from seeing what they do. For example, the instrumentation—they have a vocal section and horn section. That always was my dream to do a full band. I’ve been lucky to get connected with them just by being around the Bay Area, and I reached out to Marcus and Jim Fox, who is the guy who mixes their albums, and the one who mixed the EP. So I reached out to Marcus, and he was very nice and generous, and offered to help out. He came to the studio and helped out, and we really formed a relationship. He is a great guy. We connected in not only music but on a personal level, and since then we’ve been friends. Of course they tour a lot, so it’s hard to see him because most of the year they’re gone. But actually, we’re going to get in the studio this month in California and record the new album. He’ll be helping engineer and produce it.

K: That’s awesome news! Do you have any new directions planned for this album, or will it be a continuation of what’s on the EP?

L: There is a concept and a direction. The EP is a reggae EP—we’ve done a lot of music throughout the year, a lot of world music, and the idea with the EP is just to bring our take on reggae. There is some in English and some in Hebrew, which are both the languages that I speak fluently and sing. The new album is going to connect a little bit of my Israel and Jerusalem roots to this musical experience, and tell the journey of coming from Jerusalem to Israel in the lyrics, in the message, and also in the music components.

K: Great. Well I’m excited to see what you come up with! Thanks so much for taking time to talk today—keep us posted about all the things you have going on in the future!

L: Sure thing, thank you for the time.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.

Album Review: “A Miracle” by Groundation

A Miracle Groundation

In the opening lines of “Riddim Hold Dem,” the first track of Groundation‘s 11th studio album A Miracle, frontman Harrison Stafford sings:

“Without woman, what would man be?”

This question marks the beginning of an album centered around exploring and cherishing the role of women in life. Something I always loved about Groundation, a jazzy roots reggae band hailing from Northern California, is their inclusion of female vocalists in their recorded and live productions. Over the years, vocalists Kim Pommell and Sherida Sharpe have emerged as powerful forces in the band, and they play a strong part in this album. “They’re not backup singers by any stretch of the imagination,” said Harrison in a recent interview we had on my radio show. “Groundation is about a balance of sound—everybody really taking part, sharing the spotlight…this is a part of our one-ness.”

Joining forces with Groundation on this album are two mighty, mighty queens of reggae: Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. Marcia and Judy, along with Rita Marley, were the I Threes—the original backing trio of Bob Marley & the Wailers in their heyday. Marcia’s gorgeous, etheral voice is considered one of the best in reggae music, and she is featured on track two, “Defender of Beauty.” Judy is featured on track six—the title track—”A Miracle,” sounding enticingly bluesy and soulful, combining perfectly with the jazzy piano and brass which set Groundation apart from other roots reggae bands.

A Miracle is a solid continuation of Groundation’s other recorded works. You can expect the previously-mentioned jazzy keys and saxophone, and the heavy, heavy basslines that make you want to fall to the floor. Their live show is a must-see. It’s good for your soul!

Along with the woman-centric theme, Groundation covers familiar ground with their lyrics—the state of the world, a call for liberation, trust in Jah, and the power of music. Within the woman-centric theme itself lies the curveball—because very rarely, if at all, had Groundation sung about romantic love. But in this case, as you will hear on the last track “Cupid’s Arrow,” it’s far from wishy-washy. It’s about real respect and equality. “Respect me, do the right….oh love me absolutely, and you and I shall prosper.”

Track four, “Gone A Cemetery,” has made the list of my favorite Groundation songs. It’s about a freedom fighter who met a cruel end. I don’t know if it’s about a specific person—if it is, I’m curious to know. Besides the lyrics, the melody is great.

Groundation is an internationally-acclaimed band, and their message is spiritual and universal. I strongly recommend picking up this album, plus more from the Groundation discography, and anything created or produced by Harrison Stafford—someone who works tirelessly to preserve reggae history and spread positive music to the masses.

From the inner liner notes of A Miracle: “This album is livicated to the beautiful female spirit: The powerful empress who manifests creation.”

Big up Groundation!



Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


Interview with Zoë Keating

Photo credit: Chase Jarvis

Zoë Keating is a renowned cellist who uses technology to loop tracks and enhance her live and recorded music performances. Her songs tell stories without words—and luckily we have this interview to make up for that! Read on to learn more about Zoë, in her own words. :-)

(This interview was perviously recorded as a podcast back in January 2014. You can listen to the audio version here.)

[MUSIC: “Optimist” by Zoë Keating]

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast. A few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Zoë Keating at her show in Madison. Zoë is a world-famous cellist who’s crafted a bunch of scores, in addition to playing with musicians like Amanda Palmer and DJ Shadow. Zoë creates amazing layered compositions by looping cello tracks with her laptop. Not only was her show incredible, but her personality is great, and she told the audience funny stories between songs. Here’s a recording of the interview we had backstage at the theater.

Kayla: So, I’m at the Majestic in downtown Madison right now with Zoë Keating—thank you so much for talking with me today, Zoë.

Zoë: Oh, you’re welcome.

Kayla: I’m excited for the show, first of all. Um, did you just arrive today in Madison?

Zoë: Yeah, like two hours ago [laughs].

Kayla: Okay—what do you think of the cold? It’s finally over zero.

Zoë: You know, I arrived in Minnesota the day after the polar vortex left, so that was pretty darn cold…and in comparison, it feels pretty warm now.

Kayla: Yes!

Zoë: I think it’s like fifteen degrees outside, and it feels lovely.

Kayla and Zoë: [Laugh]

Kayla: I know! Who would have thought we would appreciate fifteen degrees. But you’re from Canada, is that right?

Continue reading Interview with Zoë Keating

Interview with Pigeon John [Podcast]

Pigeon John is a rapper and more—with a deep focus on the musical element of his songs and influences from De La Soul to The Beatles, lovers of pop, rock, and blues can easily find themselves turned on to his sound. After continually evolving over the years, Pigeon John has discovered himself as a writer and storyteller, making his everlasting mark on the exciting genre of hip hop.

Encino Man is set to be released April 29th—order your copy on Murfie today!

Encino ManWho: Pigeon John; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
What: Pigeon John describes the similar spirit in all music, the importance of being your own planet, and the dangerous, relevant, “pinpoint sharp” American genre known as hip hop.
Where: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, OH) and Murfie headquarters (Madison, WI), via Skype
When: Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
How: Recorded by Kayla Liederbach
File: mp3 version

Find music by Pigeon John in our shop.

Check out more at pigeonjohn.com.

Into RSS? Follow our podcast feed via https://blog.murfie.com/category/podcasts/feed.

This Week in Music History (January 1st-7th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

1/1- On this day in 1960, Johnny Cash played a famous free concert for the inmates of San Quentin Prison in California. The recording of the concert was released as At San Quentin, Cash’s 31st album.

1/2- On this day in 1971, George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass began a seven-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart. The spot made Harrison the first Beatle to score a No. 1 solo album.

1/3- On this day in 1976, Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane” peaked at the No. 33 spot on the Billboard singles chart. The song received enough publicity to eventually get Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former boxer, released from prison. The song was written to promote Carter’s innocence.

1/4- On this day in 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the first of what would be over 240 shows of that year. The band’s appearance on January 4th was at the Bromel Club in Bromley, England.

1/5- On this day in 1973, Bruce Springsteen released his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. The album, which was recorded in a single week, only sold about 25,000 copies in its first year.

1/6- On this day in 1975, the mayor of Boston canceled a Led Zeppelin concert after 2,000 fans rioted while trying to buy tickets. The riot caused an estimated $50,000-$75,000 in damage to the venue.

1/7- On this day in 1971, Black Sabbath released Paranoid, their second studio album in the US. The album included songs that would go on to become the band’s signatures, including “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”.

You can own any of these or other music history gems—just head to our music marketplace and pick them out! All albums purchases include: CD, streaming, and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless.

Sounds Like California: The Best of the Golden State

Last week, we brought you the best music that Murfie’s lovely home state has to offer. As in love as we are with the Wisconsin music scene, it’s time to take this nationwide. This week, check out reviews of three of the best albums by California bands!

Red Hot Chili Peppers
By the Way

In a blog post all about music from California, it was tempting to review RHCP’s Californication. I finally decided, though, that By the Way is just too good to miss; it’s like an answer to Californication’s question.

This is the first RHCP album that fully moves away from its ‘80s funk/rap/rock sound and pioneers a fresh new rock-pop sound. And what a successful move it was—along the way, the Peppers’ songs became more intricate, with guitar and string riffs and hooks for days. This album does the seemingly impossible: it creates music that sounds right at home on your radio, but that you’re not the least bit embarrassed to declare your love for.

This album was a big undertaking, chasing that pop-rock bliss that only masters like The Beatles have previously captured. It succeeds with catchy song after catchy song, complete with powerful melodic punches and existential lyrics galore. This is the band’s most consistent album to date, and it shows: this album is a timeless example of an already much-loved band evolving and expanding upon its sound to keep creating an even better album, without losing its signature touch.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Universally Speaking”, “The Zephyr Song”

Queens of the Stone Age
Rated R

If you’re a hard rock fan still mourning the loss of decades past, Rated R is likely the answer. It’s been hard to make a hard rock album in the last 20 years, but this 2000 album is one of the greatest of them all. Furthermore, this is a true California album, written in the desert of Joshua Tree.

Josh Homme and company have used this album to firmly establish their place as the reigning kings of the riff-heavy rock album in this new millennium. Full of low-guitar-string riffs and the band’s signature category-evading sound, this album is hard to pin down. Rather than being a weakness, however, that evasiveness turns this album into an experimental, instrumental album full of unique arrangements and unusual sounds, most notably electric piano and steel guitar.

What really makes this album fantastic, though, is that it’s totally fearless. There’s so many different styles and sounds represented here, each one cooler and more original than the last. Queens of the Stone Age is definitely made up of a bunch of weirdos, but here’s the thing: they figured out how to do whatever they want, all at the same time, and still make it sound pretty fantastic.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Better Living Through Chemistry”, “Auto Pilot”

No Doubt
Tragic Kingdom

I should preface this with my undying love for Gwen Stefani. Regardless of that fact, however, Anaheim, California-based No Doubt knocked this one of the park with an unbeatable combination of fantastic beats and one of the few female lead singers in alt-rock.

This album is at heart the most fun thing you’ll listen to all week, or maybe even all year. It’s on a whole new playing field from No Doubt’s previous albums, with hard-hitting rhythms and great instrumentation. Most importantly, though, is the ear candy factor: it’s an exuberant genre-bending collection of tracks, covering ground from punk to pop to ska and back again.

All the fun is backed up with some real musical achievements. The horn sections are killer, and Stefani’s vocals have several true shining moments. The combination of power ballads and poppy tracks with a bit of punk mixed in are a don’t-miss combo for when you’re just looking for a little sunshine.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Spiderwebs”, “Don’t Speak”

This Week in Music History (October 23rd-29th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

10/23- On this day in 1963, Bob Dylan recorded his hit album The Times They Are A-Changin’ at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City. The album, Dylan’s third, was his first to feature only original compositions.

10/24- On this day in 1962, soul legend James Brown recorded his world-famous Live at the Apollo album. In 2003, the album was ranked No. 24 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

10/25- On this day in 1968, Led Zeppelin played their first show after changing their name from The New Yardbirds. The show took place at Surrey University in England, and a poster for the gig later sold at auction for £2400!

10/26- On this day in 1970, a wake was held in San Anselmo, California to celebrate the life of late singer Janis Joplin. Joplin, who passed away after an accidental drug overdose, had left money in her will specifically for throwing a party in the event of her death.

10/27- On this day in 1975, after releasing the incredibly popular and successful album/single combination Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen was featured simultaneously on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines. Born to Run was a huge commercial and critical success, selling six million copies by 2000!

10/28- On this day in 1978, Queen played the first night on their 79-date tour for their album Jazz. The first show took place at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. The tour became famous for the spectacle and showmanship Queen displayed at the shows.

10/29- On this day in 1965—speaking of tours—The Rolling Stones kicked off their fourth North American tour. The 37-date tour began at The Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Are you looking to own a piece of music history, or download it in lossless format? Check these albums out on our marketplace!