Sep
2014

Get In Media: “Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton” filmmaker Jeff Broadway tells the 20-year history of Stones Throw Records [INTERVIEW]

Jeff Broadway_Head Shot

Created in 1996 by Chris Manak (aka DJ Peanut Butter Wolf), Stones Throw Records has cemented its reputation as an eclectic and influential indie record label, with a roster of acts such as hip-hop artists Madlib, Homeboy Sandman, and the late J Dilla, to soul crooners Mayer Hawthorne and modern-day funk musician Dam-Funk. Nearly 20 years later, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (This Is Stones Throw Records) tells its story.

Produced and directed by Jeff Broadway, Los Angeles-based filmmaker and co-founder of Gatling Pictures, the music documentary showcases the culture, energy, and history behind a label that started out releasing mainly hip-hop records but has morphed into a hotbed of electro, soul, and world music deals.

With exclusive interviews by Peanut Butter Wolf, as well as fellow DJ A-Trak, and noted stars such as Talib Kweli, Common, Kanye West, Mike D and Questlove, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton highlights the independent spirit and creative aesthetic of the respected indie label.

Get In Media: With so many independent record labels out there, why a documentary about Stones Throw? What drew you to tell their story?

Jeff Broadway: I live in LA and I’ve been here for about five years. With documentary production the margins are relatively small. And I thought it would be a wise move to do something on a subject that’s local. It’s also something that I’ve been a part of, at least peripherally as a fan, for some years. It’s a subject and a culture that I understand. I also felt like there was a demand from the fan base to learn more about it.

[Stones Throw] has been a relatively closeted and closed off label for some years prior to the documentary. Guys like Madlib and Doom, even Dilla, there hadn’t been a lot done of that collective of artists. And it’s been a collective that I’ve admired and appreciated as a fan for some years. So for those kind of myriad of factors, it just felt like a natural project for me to take on.

GIM: Where do you begin to piece together nearly 20 years of music history? How do you even start?

JB: It’s obviously a pretty large undertaking. I think that we started out mapping out stories based on the central figures and who have been the driving forces in comprising this collective of artists at Stones Throw. And really identifying those major figures and then kind of understanding which people, and which interviews, and which archival material would best serve telling those sub-narratives. And so really kind of attacking the story by its breakdown and just understanding what has made this clock tick for all these years. And then going after material, original production footage and interviews, and all that stuff that helps flesh out those storylines and those tangents that make up the larger, more holistic story.

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Sep
2014

New Music: TOKiMONSTA feat. Anderson Paak – “Realla”

Tokimonsta

TOKiMONSTA (born Jennifer Lee)

L.A.-bred producer and musician TOKiMONSTA shares “Realla” featuring singer Anderson Paak, a dope futuristic R&B track from her latest EP, Desiderium. Formerly on the Brainfeeder roster (founded by Flying Lotus), Jennifer Lee has now formed her own imprint called Young Art — the home of Desiderium. TOKiMONSTA starts touring in promotion of the album on September 24 in Vancouver, Canada; check out more dates here.

Sep
2014

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.

Sep
2014

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.

Aug
2014

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 EBONY.com 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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Aug
2014

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.