New Video: Lenny Kravitz – “The Chamber”

Songwriter, producer, musician and rock star Lenny Kravitz recently released the visual for “The Chamber”, lead single from his 10th studio album, Strut.

The video opens with Lenny walking the streets of Paris at night, “followed by the Nietzsche quote, ‘The true man wants two things, danger and play. For that reason, he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.’ Dutch model Rianne Ten Haken plays the part of femme fatale.

According to U.K.’s The Telegraph, Strut “explores desire in all its forms, from the most physical to the most idealised, through its 12 songs, including “New York City”, “I Never Want to Let You Down” and “She’s a Beast”.

“This record brought me back to a place of what I love so much about music,” Kravitz says. “Back to the feelings I had when I was in high school. It’s a real rock and roll record – it’s raw, it’s got soul and it came together really quickly.”

“The Chamber” was directed by Anthony Mandler, who has created clips for Rihanna, Beyonce and Jay-Z. Strut will hit stores on September 23rd.


Volunteered at LouFest: Discovered 4 Cool Bands in the Process

LouFest Program 2014

LouFest Program, 2014. Forest Park, St. Louis, MO. Photo: ND McCray

Because we love music so much, my partner and I decided to volunteer at LouFest, which is St. Louis’ annual two-day music festival held in Forest Park. It’s a great way to hear a lot of new bands, plus we could support the event in any way they needed. The weather was nice, a perfect 78 degrees, sunny and breezy, so it was a win-win all around. On Saturday, I worked at the water filling station, refilling guest’s water bottles, CamelBaks, cups and the like; she was at one of the information tents, directing patrons to performance stages, food vendors, Johnny on the Spots (porta-potties) as well as returning lost cell phones, wallets, purses … and unfortunately, kids. On Sunday, we were together at the same information tent! On both days, we showed up a few hours before our shift for an early check-in — that way we could walk the festival grounds with friends, check out some bands, take some photos, get a drink or two, dance, and just chill before starting our three-hour shifts. So, below I’ve listed the bands that I liked the most while we volunteered at 2014 LouFest.

The 1975 – Although I’ve heard of English rock band The 1975, before Saturday night, I had never listened to their music. With only one proper album release and four EPs, the quartet is making headlines, as they also played Coachella this year. I’m digging their funky, synth-pop, alt-rock vibe, especially on “Girls”, “Chocolate” and “Settle Down”. The band members are Matt Healy (lead vocals, guitar), Adam Hann (guitar), George Daniel (drums), and Ross MacDonald (bass). Give them a listen and let me know what you think.

Blackberry Smoke – These guys are a southern rock band out of Atlanta, Georgia. Their set was very groovy, kind of psychedelic. “Six Ways To Sunday” is a favorite; you can hear some soul influences, but these are country boys to the core. If you want to check them out, they’re on tour, playing Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 3rd and 10th. The lineup includes Charlie Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), and Brandon Still (keyboards). Groovy!

Lettuce – From Boston, Lettuce is a funk band created in 1992 by students at Berklee College of Music. Their set was the kind that made your body move whether you wanted it to or not! Full of inspiration by Earth, Wind and Fire and The Ohio Players, and featuring powerhouse vocals by singer Alecia Chakour, Lettuce is guitarists Eric Krasno and Adam Smirnoff; Neal Evans on keys, piano and Hammand organ; Adam Deitch on percussion and drums; Erick Coomes on bass, Sam Kininger and Ryan Zoidis on sax; Nigel Hall on vocals; and Eric Bloom on trumpet. Krasno and Evans, alongside Kininger and Zoidis are members of the jazz/organ group Soulive. Lettuce is on tour as well. If you can catch them live, do it!

Vintage Trouble – With a 50s/60s rock, soul, blues and gospel edge, Vintage Trouble killed it with incredible energy and musicianship. Hailing from Los Angeles, California, the band had me grooving at the porta-potty!  Ty Taylor, Nalle Colt, Rick Barrio Dill and Richard Danielson have opened for the Rolling Stones, sang with Lenny Kravitz, and made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Later … with Jools Holland. Take a listen, you just might dig it.


EBONY: Floetry’s Natalie Stewart Talks Solo Career [INTERVIEW]

EBONY - The Floacist

Natalie Stewart (better known as The Floacist of the English R&B duo Floetry) returned in March with her third solo project, Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid. The 35-year-old British songstress talks relationships and heartbreak this time around, including songs about positivity and moving on.

Joining the 1990s poetry scene in London, Stewart formed Floetry with her music partner Marsha Ambrosius (a.k.a. The Songtress) in 1999. Fast-forward to the early aughts, and the duo was touring the world, opening for artists like India.Arie and penning tracks for Jill Scott, Bilal and the late Michael Jackson.

Floetry was a success, but the group disbanded in 2007 to pursue solo careers. Since then, The Floacist has released two solo albums: Floetic Soul (2008) and Floetry Re:Birth (2012). With Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid, the poet continues to change with the seasons, all the while intriguing us with her signature poetic style.

In a phone interview from her home across the pond, Stewart speaks with on how reading books influences her sound, what’s playing on her iPod (if she could find it), whether or not she’s open to recording a live project as a solo artist, and the evolution of her music.

EBONY: From Floetic Soul to Floetry: ReBirth to Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid, what major musical differences will we hear this time around?

Natalie Stewart: This album is the first I’ve actually been in acceptance of the fact that I am a solo recording artist. And in that acceptance and kind of submission, there is a bit of calm and peace. I’m very grateful to be 14 years into a really interesting exploration, so that development is there as well—even though on this album I revisited songs that I originally came across about seven years ago, in terms of the journey.

EBONY: I recently found out that reading is your first love, that you read more than you listen to music or watch movies. How has that passion influenced your approach to music?

NS: I think reading and writing—before even getting into the idea of writing a song per se—it is a way to develop your vocabulary, but it’s also a way to kind of live a lot of lifetimes; learn from a lot of experiences, contemplate different ideas and broaden yourself. It’s like travel, but of the imagination and astral sense.

I’ve read books and grown with them. I’ve lived the full life, like the character I just read for four weeks or whatever. Reading is very important to me, it has always been. And then not just the reading of stories but the listening to stories—the oration of story in itself.

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Album Review: Water Seed, Retro Electro (soul/funk/jazz)

Water Seed_Retro ElectroNew Orleans-based band Water Seed shares a cool mix of covers by some of our favorite artists of the 70s and 80s on their latest project, Retro Electro. From  The Jacksons’ disco-funk tune “Shake Your Body Down to British singer-songwriter Junior’s R&B hit “Mama Used To Say” to New York singer Al B. Sure’s pop single “Night and Day”, Retro Electro is a soul, funk and jazz-influenced road trip through our collective past.

If you’re an 80s baby and didn’t already know the music, they could easily be the band’s own. With interludes being quotes and show tunes from popular films and sitcoms such as Boomerang, Gimme a BreakMartin, and Sanford & Son to name a few, the group definitely keeps it old school.

Founded by drummer and New Orleans-native Lou Hill – who also writes and produces, Water Seed includes musical partner and keyboardist J Sharp, California-born flutist Cinese, and Houston blues and gospel-inspired singer and lead vocalist Shaleyah. Other covers featured on the album are Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”.

Download Retro Electro for free on Water Seed’s website.


Paper Magazine: Napoleon Dynamite: Ten Years Later [INTERVIEWS]

Napoleon Dynamite

Jon Heder - Photo (right side) - David Crotty

Jon Heder – Photo (right side) – David Crotty

2004 was a big year, apparently, for teen-oriented flicks with enduringly rabid followings. Mean Girls, The NotebookDodgeball and Anchorman all celebrated their 10 year anniversaries this year and now another mid-aughts gem — Napoleon Dynamite – approaches the decade mark next week. The cult indie favorite about a socially awkward teen living with his “modern family” in Preston, Idaho, generated catchphrases (“gimme some of your tots!”), Halloween costumes, an animated TV show and even profits. Shot by filmmaker Jared Hess on a shoestring budget of $400,000, the film went on to gross $44 million nationwide by the end of 2004. In honor of the movie’s anniversary, we caught up with Napoleon (Jon Heder), Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), Kip (Aaron Ruell) and Lafawnduh (Shondrella Avery) to hear their memories of filming the movie, what kind of impact the film had on their careers and what they’re all up to now.

On getting cast in the movie:

Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite): I went to college at Brigham Young University with Jared Hess, who wrote and directed the film — that’s where it all really started. I had done very little acting, only like a few student projects — I didn’t have an agent or anything. So Jared and I worked on some of the same student projects and he had brought [a short film version of Napoleon Dynamite] to me and he was like, “I think you could do this, I think you could pull it off.” 

Shondrella Avery (Lafawnduh): At the time, I worked at Hilton Hotels Corporation in Beverly Hills as an executive negotiating contracts for all of the lighting packages for all of the Hiltons worldwide. But the casting call came through and it was [for] a 5’10” or taller, African-American women, full figured so right then and there, I really didn’t have anything to do other than to look the right part. I figured I already had 90 percent of the battle because I knew I could act.

I remember I read the script in Kinkos and I thought, “If this isn’t the funniest thing I’ve ever read!” It was just hilariously funny to me. So I went in for the casting and there were a few other girls there but I walked in and the casting guy was immediately like, “If you can act as good as you look, then you’re going to Utah.”  

On prepping for their roles:

Jon Heder: [Napoleon] was kind of a perfect mix of Jared’s younger brothers and my younger brothers where they’d say, “Life isn’t fair.” It’s their cadence, how everything was unfair, everything sucks, everybody’s an idiot and stupid. 

Jon Gries (Uncle Rico): I think there’s a universal truth in Uncle Rico. He’s a character that a lot of people like. Even though he’s kind of a bad guy, the fact is there’s a sense of being a couple of steps away from something he really believed he could’ve done. I think that we all share that in one way or another. There’s either, the person — the one that got away — or the dream that didn’t quite happen.

Aaron Ruell (Kip): I have a brother who spent a lot of time chatting online with babes. He had an affinity for Russian women, so my role was easy to tap into. 

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New video: Daley – “Look Up”

DaleyBritish singer and musician Daley shares new video for latest single “Look Up” from his debut album, Days & Nights. The visual features appearances by mega-producer Pharrel Williams and singer Marsha Ambrosius, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the songwriter in studio, at a record store and during a sold out-concert performance earlier this year.


Angela Johnson new album, Naturally Me, coming Aug 19

Angela Johnson_Naturally Me

Soul singer Angela Johnson‘s music is smooth, romantic, honest and hopeful. Set to release Naturally Me via Purpose Music Group on August 19 — her much-anticipated sixth album, the New Jersey native lays it all on the line.

Steeped in soul, R&B, gospel and jazz, Johnson not only shares reflective thoughts on love and relationships on tracks like “To Love Again”, “I Don’t Mind” and  “He Saw Love In Me”, but she tackles the plight of young black males on “Black Boy Lullaby”. With a gospel backdrop and intense lyrics of “what I’m about to tell you is a matter of great concern / there’s a burden you must carry for being a black women’s son” – it definitely gives room to pause in remembrance of young black teens in America who fight everyday for survival because of their race and circumstance. Johnson sings of courage and hope, a seemingly personal topic from the mother of a young child.

Naturally Me also includes singer-guitarist Raul Midón on the inspiring “I Promise (M.O.N.E.Y)” and a sweet cover of the late Teena Marie’s “Déjà vu”-featuring pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs.