Mini Dresses have long been the soundtrack to our daydreams and our doldrums, their beautifully entrancing pop acting as a soothing constant. This September the group will release a self-titled LP on Joy Void, which was "recorded mostly at home on laptops." "Fantasy Nails" is the album's lead single, a delicate, airy melody driven by the sounds of seemingly warped strings and vocalist Lira Mondal's piercing soprano. It's careful and subtle, moving at the pace of a woozy waltz, inviting you to sit awhile in their spell. When so many moments of our days are felt to be rushed and full of mundane business, "Fantasy Nail" is a welcome invitation to slow down and just dream.
words: Michael Brooks
"Spill", the latest single from Amy O's forthcoming album, gently glides and breezes along, striking the perfect balance between somber and beautiful. Prior singles "Lavender Night" (which sounds like Frankie Cosmos with her amps cranked to eleven) and "History Walking" (imagine Adult Mom covering the theme from Scooby Doo) showed that Amy O was taking a bold direction on this album and "Spill" continues to push their sound into new directions. The slow burning song builds upon a warm keyboard adding guitar and tambourine to its hushed arrangement. Amy O has always had the ability to stuff an entire album worth of ideas into a two minute song but on "Spill" she dials it down and instead chooses to lure the listener in with almost hypnotic vocal lines. As with earlier singles, the lyrics on this one address the death of Amy O's grandmother, and the triumph of this song takes place during the moments where Amy O finds strength in herself. The repeated line of "open the bedroom window feel the air" becomes a moment of catharsis, reminding the listener to take a moment and breathe when life becomes overwhelming.
Elastic is out on 8/4 via Winspear records.
Loneliness can be both beautiful and crippling. The feelings of that emotion can often leave us astonished and grow to seem larger than one can grasp. On "Exquisite" Amanda X encapsulates the highs and low that accompany periods where "I'm feeling so alone." The single is a constant evolution, a gathering of momentum and force, all the while a question lingering - "will you be there for me?" It's a thunderous, fuzzy return, knocking you off your feet and leaving you feeling overcome by its power and beauty. Look for more from the band when their new album Giant drops 8/18 on Self Aware Records.
"Somebody Else" is stunning, a choir of voices glistening under the weight of its supporting instrumentals. The voices of Dianas break through, gleaming like a beam of sunshine before disappearing and allowing the sounds of warped guitar and drums to engulf you. The single plays out as the soundtrack to a brand new video directed by Tom Mannion, and its visuals are just as stirring as the track. The band explained that, "It follows one girl through multiple identities with the band playing the background characters in each of her potential lives."
Amanda is basically a hero. In between playing Pokemon Go and touring with some of our favorite DIY acts, she's made an inspiring documentary, fought back against the president with art and shares some of our favorite new musical discoveries with the world. We had her on the podcast and she's a treat! Listen in.
Our heroes over at GFP premiered this dazzling new single from Soft Fangs and its beauty is so immediately striking that we can't seem to quit listening. "Elephant Girl" is the first track from the artist's upcoming Disposable America release, out Sept. 1. Beginning with whispers of strumming, the track quickly reveals its secrets - with a beautiful cascade of drums and guitar. It's a steady, soft backing that continues as vocalist John Lutkevich shares secrets with careful, hushed thought. The vocals are etched with a huskiness and at times it's so soft that you're forced to closely lend your entire ear. The idea of giving yourself over to this song completely is what makes it so special; for if you're willing to listen, Soft Fangs has quite the story to tell.
It's safe to say there here at TGE we've fallen in love with Ramonda Hammer. The band will release their Destroyers EP on August 4 on New Professor Music and each sneak peek has been honest and enduring. Ahead of the release, the band was kind enough to answer some of our questions through e-mail and share a little more about the EP, creative process and more.
The Grey Estates: A lot of your material is so open and honest, and really delves into your personal life. I think that's a really powerful thing and brave to share so much of yourself. What made you decide to be so open about those hard moments and is it ever scary to express about ex relationships or mental illness? Is it hard to relieve those times on stage?
Justin: I can’t really speak for Devin on this since she writes the lyrics, but in my past I’ve always had issues talking to people about my own deep personal issues so the stage is kind of like a confessional. It’s our platform to say what we want and expose our true self.
Devin: Thank you. And also yeah I do feel slightly nervous once in a while with new songs, but not really because of the content, it's because I'm afraid I'll mess it up live. After a few performances it's all good though. And I really don't mind sharing personal information, it helps me cope by saying it out loud so much.
Andy: I'll say that any time Devin writes about something personal between us, she always talks to me before we put it out there. I think reliving those moments on stage helps provide powerful performances.
Mark: Thank you so much for asking, oftentimes people just can't really hear the honesty in my drumming. It's really refreshing to get a question about it. I feel like every single rhythm I play or groove I explore is really just a way of expressing my inner dialogue and it is quite terrifying to put that on display for people every night.
When did Ramonda Hammer come together and how did the band find each other? Have you always been interested in music?
Andy: Devin and I met at an art compound where we both lived. We snagged Justin on the rebound after his previous band broke up. Mark was recommended to us by our label.
Mark: Devin, Andy, and Justin had been playing together for a while, but mostly just jamming on Jefferson Airplane and AC/DC covers in the garage at Andy's house. Once Mark joined in early 2017, he introduced them to Justin Bieber's critically acclaimed 2015 smash record "Purpose," and the rest, as they say, is history. [Yeah, okay. -Devin]
Justin: I joined the band two years ago. I previously had a band for around 10 years that ended with heartbreak and devastation. I got a call from Jessie of WASI telling me to come to her place to jam and meet Devin. I was pretty reluctant since I was going through so much shit dealing with my band and relationship ending. Long story short I’m glad I went, one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Music has always important to me, I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I'm a man of very few talents.
Devin: I started writing what would become early RH songs in 2013 when I was super depressed living in my hometown in Orange County. I finally moved to LA in the summer of 2014, where I met Andy at my first LA home, an art compound in Frogtown called Nomad. Then a year later we met Justin after his other band had dissolved. Basically everything the rest of the band already said...except Mark, nothing about Mark's answer is accurate in any way.
When did you first start working on and recording the EP and what was the process like for you? What kind of mindset do you have to be in for songwriting and is there a particular place or time that you like to write? How does the band work together to record and release? Do you have start with something first and then come together?
Devin: The songs on this EP came together in a variety of ways. "Destroyers" was a totally different song that I had written three years ago, that we morphed into a hard hitting single. "Same Thing" was an unfinished song that we played once at a show like a year and a half ago and then ignored it for a while because it needed work but we didn't really know what it needed. "Bender" and "Care 2 Slam?" are riff based songs and they came together pretty quickly. But the weirdest experience I had writing for this EP was "Too Much, Too Recently", where I literally woke up one morning about two weeks before our recording session and was compelled to grab my guitar off the wall immediately. I then wrote the entire song in about ten minutes, brought it to the band, and then we recorded it.
Justin: Most of the songs off the EP were tracks we had been messing around with after we finished “Whatever That Means”. The process for me was a great experience since it was technically the first time we were able to write as a complete band.
Before Ramonda Hammer I usually wrote with the whole band just jamming and everyone making up their parts on the fly. Our songs are more calculated and based off of Devin’s experiences, so I try to really focus on the sound, mood, and tone of her voice and lyrics to help me get into a mindset.
I usually make up what I'm doing on the fly while everyone is playing. I like to hear all the instruments together to write.
Andy: The process was really quick. We set a serious EP deadline for ourselves but at the time we only had one or two songs ready to go, so we got together several times a week to hash out ideas and to reach back into our 'riff bank' to see if we could flesh out anything. We will have to recreate the process for our full length album....
Mark: Some of the songs on the EP we had been kicking around for years, but others came together in the weeks before we hit the studio. The process of writing, pre-production, and recording was pretty intense for us, we all shirked our personal responsibilities for about a month as we wrote and rehearsed tirelessly. Although getting the songs recorded was rewarding and cathartic for all of us. We usually start with a riff, melody, or chord progression that Devin writes, and then we flesh it out and arrange it as a full band.
You self released your first album and then signed to New Professor for this one. How has that differed and was it hard to get something out there on your own?
Andy: We raised money for our first album through Kickstarter, which we will probably NEVER do again. We love New Professor, and can't imagine getting this album done without them.
Justin: Yes, that Kickstarter campaign was so fucking hard. Being with New Professor has been a great experience, having representation has been very helpful.
Devin: Oh man, Greg Katz is one of my fave humans. Since signing with his label, I don't even wanna think about all the extra work I used to do. I mean, I still do a fuck ton, but New Prof cares and helps SO SO much!
Mark: It was great to finally be on a label. Our label paid us a huge advance, so we've been just rolling in the dough as we worked on the record. Like, Devin bought a new car right before we recorded. That's actually what one of the songs on the EP is about. "Same Thing" is the story of Devin's car. Because it was the same car that she used to have, or something like that. [Uhhhh, no. -Devin]
What would the themes of this EP be? Do you have a favorite track or any interesting backstories to the tracks or the release as a whole?
Devin: Every song on the EP touches on destruction in some way. I think the main thing is like destruction specifically in the modern age. I love all of the tracks but I really think "Care 2 Slam?" is cool because it was inspired by an illustration that our friend Kat made. She's an incredible artist and for this last Christmas, she made me a rad drawing that was inspired by the RH song "Goddamn Idiot"...and so I thought I'd do the reverse and write a song reacting to one of her art pieces, which I chose one of this naked monster-like woman cartoon that said "Care to slam?". If you wanna know more, you can visit katbing.com.
Mark: The record is about Netflix, and Devin's car, and also destruction. But it's very political too, very timely shall we say. [**smh** -Devin]
Justin: I tried to develop some themes within my guitar parts using more dissonant chords and spaced out shit. Just destructive and weird.
Andy: Devin would disagree, but I think the most consistent theme on the EP is 'watching Netflix.' [Sure. -Devin]
What would the title of the Ramona Hammer Netflix documentary be?
Devin: Dash Underscore Dash
Mark: 'This Banana Is Not Going As Planned' and Other Short Stories: A Biopic By Devin Davis [There really was a day where the banana didn't go as planned, so I'll let mark have this. -Devin]
Justin: Since When Is Grunge Pop A Thing?! The Ramonda Hammer Fiasco.
Andy: Shameless Californication
Give us a RH fun fact.
Devin: On our last tour, in a hotel room in Sacramento, we all tiredly and drunkenly made a four-way pinky promise to do something. But then the next day we all couldn't remember what it was. While Mark and Andy later became convinced that we all swore to go see the new Mummy movie while on tour, Justin and I are certain that we would never swear to such a thing, because 1) no thank you, and 2) no fucking way. The mystery hasn't been solved since.
Mark: WE FUCKING LOVE BRUNO MARS! [**eye roll** -Devin]
Justin: Andy is not a real person. He’s hologram, kind of like that Japanese Vocaloid thing. We tried to keep it a secret until he started glitching out during a show. His holographic image turned into Betty Boop while bass tracks suddenly became speeches from Benito Mussolini. Very embarrassing.
Andy: Bruno Mars is our ghostwriter [What's with these assholes and Bruno Mars?? -Devin]
Describe the new EP using emojis.
words: Sean Deveney
There are certain bands that when I first hear them, I can immediately say “Oh definitely.” Somehow, something just clicks right away, and I want to hear everything else they have. Such was the case upon hearing Leap Day from Terry vs. Tori.
Terry vs. Tori has a timeless simple yet heartfelt sound that I will always appreciate. It might be the catchy bass lines that drive the songs along or just the general low-key vibes I get from this band. Leap Day is their most recent release and contains five songs that are all substantive and chill at the same time.
The riff that starts out “High Tide” really sets the mood for this EP with its calm and slightly sad progression as the bass and drums delicately push it forward. Erica Pender’s vocals find the perfect balance between emotional and restrained. This band speaks through simple riffs and rhythms that contain a great deal of meaning, so it is appropriate that the vocals are also delivered in a somewhat withdrawn but still emotional manner.
The desperation contained in the song “Leap Day” is palpable. The brilliant part of it though is that the song is so laid back while conveying this desperation. Pender sings “Another extra day to make it right. Today I’ll give it my best this time.” The bass establishes the mood in this song as it meanders through the guitar riffs that shimmer and the drums that steadily advance.
As “Holiday Inn” closes out the EP, it becomes clear that this is a great band to listen to alone on a hot day. Its laid back and reflective feelings are perfect if you suddenly find yourself having “another extra day” on your hands.
From the outset of The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves, the energy and ferocity are apparent. And that spirit doesn't let up for the entirety of the album's 12 tracks. Ahead of its Friday release, we're bringing you the full stream, and you can get wrapped up in its noise and force below. The band explains the release as trying to capture the feeling and emotions of energy:
'The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves' is our first album. We listened to the MC5, The Sonics, Otis Redding, Bratmobile, The Nation of Ulysses, Black Eyes. We read Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Truman Capote, Walt Whitman. We paid close attention. We tried our best to capture a
certain energy, what it feels like to be alive. 'The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves' is a sort of opening statement: we made sounds we were anxious to hear, an exciting thing to do with electricity.
Welcome to TGE Recipes, a place where our favorite bands share the secrets straight from their kitchens. Think your favorite Food Network show except on a purple blog. Today we welcome Bo Prochnow of Baby Dumpling.
Chili From Scratch
- 1 cup dried black beans
- 1 cup dried pinto beans (can substitute 1 15 oz can ea. for beans)
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp chili powder (more to taste)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 or 2 15oz cans, with liquid)
- 1 jalapeno or pasilla pepper, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Dash of balsamic or apple cider vinegar
- Salt + pepper to taste
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly crosswise
- 1 lime, juiced
- distilled white vinegar
- white sugar
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Avocado, diced
- Queso fresco + sour cream
Pre-cook beans if using dried by preferred method.
Prepare pickled onions. In a small jar, mix onions, lime juice, a large pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and enough vinegar to cover onions. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, overnight if possible. These keep well and can be used for a million other recipes!
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. When oil is shimmering, add onions and bell pepper, and saute until softened and just starting to brown. Add garlic, hot pepper, and herbs + spices and saute until fragrant, only 30-45 seconds.
Add beans and tomatoes. Add salt to taste, reduce heat, and simmer until tomatoes soften and release juices, ~20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add vinegar to taste, and serve with garnishes of choice.
interview/words: Andrew Lopez
When would you say you began cooking seriously, like without the help of anyone?
I cooked a little bit in high school and while in college I was living in a co-op where every few weeks I would be on the cooking crew and would cook for the house. We were cooking for 55 people so you’d spend 3 hours in the kitchen on a team with four other people intensely cooking. Sometimes people did a good job. Some people knew what they were doing and some people didn’t have their shit together. We’d get full pallets in, it was like a restaurant operation.
And how long have you been making music? I know you play the sax, right?
Yeah that’s like the instrument I first started playing in the second grade. Sometime in middle school I decided I wanted to play rock and roll so I learned guitar and stuff.
The kitchen I usually operate in is teeny-tiny, so it’s nice to be in a kitchen like yours!
Yeah I’m definitely lucky to have a full kitchen to my disposal. It’s been fun cooking here because I have access to stuff I otherwise wouldn’t have and it makes it possible to cook and practice new recipes.
My approach to cooking in the past has been to decide on something I want to cook, maybe look at a recipe, maybe glance at it, and kind of go freestyle.
To me I’ll get half as far. I’ll find a cool recipe and try to save it for the future but then forget about it.
I do a lot of that too. *laughs*
But lately I’ve been trying to stick to recipes more closely and try different cooking techniques. I would say being in this kitchen has definitely improved my cooking quite a bit. It’s cool to be able to cook in that very free manner but I think you produce tastier food if you follow the directions carefully and learn.
That’s going to be my headline.
I was thinking about how can I compare cooking to music and I feel the same way about music. Especially about jazz, for a lot of my life I’ve mostly played jazz, and like everyone thinks great soloists in jazz naturally play whatever and it sounds amazing - but in reality John Coltrane was practicing 12 hours a day playing scales over and over. So when he got on stage he could express what he wanted to with the vocabulary he had built. That’s my best cooking / music metaphor.
Ultimately, I think that the beauty of DIY music is that it makes it explicit that you don’t have to be a musician in a classic sense or a truly technical expertise to play music or call yourself a musician, you just have to want to try it. I think the same is true about cooking, sometimes people are afraid to cook, but you just have to try new things and experiment.