Hey friends, Katie here! It’s probably for the best, too. I have spent the week completely obsessed with three or four lines (depending on where you put the line break!) from a Built to Spill song, and though I have told literally everyone in my zip code, it remains a one person obsession. Better I be here, telling you about another band that plays— and when I say that, I mean they experiment, delight, enjoy— music. Today, I’m introducing you to Wild Pink, who we’ve been lucky enough to have before— but now that we know exactly how impressive they are live, we can’t wait to have an encore performance.
Katie here, and I can’t tell you how happy we are to welcome Underwater Alum Jordan Klassen back to the stage in November! His forthcoming record, Tell Me What To Do, is a stunner, and deepens the well Zoe talked about in her initial artist profile of Klassen last year— she used the phrase “grounded Sufjan Stevens,” and I’d say that still applies, but I’m also starting to see shades of Conor Oberst, Dylan LeBlanc and Gregory Alan Isakov: he’s become or is becoming the journeyman storyteller that knows how to use a folkier sound to enhance lyrics, instead of writing lyrics specifically trying to fit into genre.
Friends, enemies, and neutral parties! (As my wife likes to address people these days.) It’s Andy back again and it’s been too long but after a long summer it’s good to be back with you. I’m excited to be introducing to you lovely Underwater Sunshine people to the latest addition to our November line-up, The Accidentals.
Teddy Thompson is a musician I’ve had more than a passing interest in for well over a decade. I’ve seen him with Rufus Wainwright, I’ve seen him with the Old 97’s, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him up close and personal playing his Garden Session. I bought the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack because of his work on it (particularly his version of “King of the Road”), and because of that, I learned I love Gustavo Santaolalla and his film scores— which was an entire genre of music I had largely ignored. I’m telling you this for a reason: when you become a Teddy Thompson fan, what happens is you actually become a bigger music fan.
It’s an understatement to say that Keenan’s voice is beautiful but the most phenomenal quality in his singing, to me, is how he is able to use different parts of his voice to become either percussive or at times almost slippery, gliding in and around his melodies like a woodwind. His high range almost always clips a phrase in a way that gives a sharp point, like the line or word has been chopped in half.
Hey Underwater Sunshine fans, it’s Charlie, here to tell you about an act that has a special significance for me. Mikaela Davis and the Southern Star played the first Underwater Sunshine Fest, and for that reason her act is important to more than a few of us—but her Garden Session just happened to be starting as I walked through the door for the first time. It was already overwhelming to work with all of these incredible musicians, producers, writers, designers. Almost a year ago I walked into a thoroughly intimidating setting as an intern, feeling totally unqualified for the position, and was almost immediately confronted by an enormous harp sitting in the middle of the room.
Last October, I said he would probably be one of your favorite artists too, and after watching him play a set in a jam-packed room at the Bowery Electric, I’m pleased to say I was right. Seán is an expert at leading a crowd: his energy is that of David Bowie and Stevie Nicks’s love child— but beyond that, his music is meticulously, beautifully crafted, which makes perfect sense once you get to know Seán: that radiance, joy, and sense of humor— that’s who he is on and off the stage. I got in the habit last year of looking around every time someone made a joke to see if I could find Seán because I knew he was going to top it. Listening to his music, there’s that same electricity. Once you’ve seen or met Seán, you keep looking around the room— any room— just to see if he’s there.
The landscape of American musical history has been so irrevocably shaped by Canadian artists, and somehow we never remember that many of the artists we love, like Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Neil Young are all Canadian. So I want to lead with the fact that Wintersleep, a Juno award-winning folk-rock group that just signed up to play the festival this fall, is originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia—and I don’t know if “winter” and “sleep” have different connotations up in the Great White North, but their music can hardly be encompassed in the standard American connotations of those two words. I opened Spotify and searched for “Wintersleep,” expecting sweet, soothing, perhaps even dark music—and at times Wintersleep can be all of those things, like in “Into the Shape of Your Heart,” from their most recent record, In the Land of— but what I got was one of the most versatile groups I’ve ever encountered, working without regard to genre, trope, or tradition.
The act I have the pleasure of introducing today, The Suitcase Junket, isn’t a metal act— far from it— but one-man band (literally) Matthew Lorenz sprung to mind immediately when I sat down to think about the concert I’d just seen. He’s a master of using levels to his advantage, and he’s followed blues and folk greats when it comes to songwriting and tone. That talent necessitates an understanding of levels— the ability to take your audience by the hand and lead them through a story or a moment.
Katie here, and I have a special privilege today: I get to introduce you to hip-hop duo Blackillac. Underwater Sunshine Fest has always tried to bring in as much variety in musical styles as we can, but Blackillac’s performative, percussive vocals up against their clever, engaging lyrics make them a hip-hop act you can’t miss.
Clayton Johnson of Paper Compass - like Andre - has the kind of unpracticed but easygoing, natural vocal ability that, paired with Elliott-Smith-inspired vocal layering and delicate reverb, emphasizes its own vulnerability without pageantry. Despite the years separating them, when I hear Paper Compass recordings, I can’t help remembering the beautiful lo-fi, natural quality of Andre’s songs (the ones I’m referencing were recorded over 10 years ago) and how they reflected the intimate, bedroom-recording nature of their conception. That special quality of intimacy in Johnson’s music, combined with his masterful fingerpicking, vocal layering, and his whispery, confessional voice, takes the music to a distinct, familiar world.
Hey Underwater Sunshine fans, it’s Charlie again. The act I’m here to tell you about this time is a little different from most of the groups playing the festival—in fact, they’re a little different from most groups, period. A relatively new act, D.Light & the Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra is the brainchild of Delano Montgomery (the “D.Light” of the band’s name) and boasts Underwater alum Mikaela Davis as part of the aforementioned orchestra, as well as members other well-known Brooklyn based bands like August West, The Cutouts, and Salón. While a name like “Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra” suggests that the group would have some kind of futuristic electro-pop sound, it doesn’t suggest what is possibly the most appealing aspect of the Intergalactic Ear Orgy Orchestra’s sound: underlying all of the futuristic, synth-heavy music is an intimate retro element that roots you in the familiar sound of artists like Bowie and the Talking Heads while pushing you to accept the outrageous.
Hello everyone, Katie here, and I am bringing news from the front that is almost too exciting for me to process. If you’re a Podcast listener, you’ve heard about the first time August Cinjun Tate played a Garden Session. I almost missed it. The team needed to be down at the club to get set up and make sure everything was going as it should be, and Adam asked me if I was going to stick around and see Cinjun. I said I couldn’t, but something about the name pulled at me.
Hey everyone, it’s Charlie, and this week I’m excited to tell you about The Hunts, an indie-folk alternative group out of Virginia. The group is seven brothers and sisters, and I would ordinarily call their music something out of this world - but I’m going to argue instead that their music is distinctly of this world, and that’s precisely what makes it so remarkable.
Katie here writing another essay for Underwater Sunshine Fest and feeling incredibly privileged that I get to share such special musicians and art with you. This one is a little bit different for me, though, because I’ve already written about the band— Marcy Playground— when they played our inaugural festival last October. In my first article, I wanted to make the point that any band that has survived, thrived, and gotten better over decades is a hell of a lot more than one song. So, having written last time about how they’re not just “the guys who sang ‘Sex and Candy,’” let me tell you a little this time about what they are.
Our musical landscape needs more artists like Claire Morales. Her songs are weird. And great. But weird. The baritone flutter in her voice, the chordal structure and spatial arrangements, the lyrical prophecy of something like “too rare so far / you can't remember what you are / you need someone to show you what / this cosmic dust is doing here”.
I was going to write this about how Fairhazel was one of the most exciting bands to come out of April’s Underwater Sunshine, because...well, they were. I loved them the first time they sang through my headphones way back when the year was still new and cold. Then they came and turned The Bowery Electric upside down and inside out with a live show that somehow both accentuated their quiet solemnity and, more surprisingly, showed their sharp teeth, as they knifed into these lush gorgeous songs and just made them bleed out in the room. Hugh Macdonald knows how to put a live band together, no question about that. Fairhazel’s music actually blooms when you hear it live.
Hello friends and family, Katie here again! This time, I won a bit of an arm wrestle and I get to introduce you to Onliest. Toward the end of the first loooooong 12hr day of the spring festival Garden Sessions— also known as Thursday night— we were all, to stick with the “underwater” theme, a little waterlogged. My guess is everyone’s had the experience of going to a great concert and either crying, being completely overwhelmed, or just not knowing how to process it, not because it was BAD, but because SO MUCH GOOD happened at once? (I’ll admit I once cried the entire was from Indianapolis back to southern Indiana after an Old 97’s concert and I still think it was just too good for me to be ready to leave.)
I listen to a ton of new artists so, for someone to catch my ear, they need to hit my musical trifecta. I knew Town Meeting was great from that first video because the music, the voice, and the lyrics all worked. Town Meeting has not one amazing lead voice but three! The Condon brothers are all songwriters. Sometimes they sing their own songs and other times the four of them write together and the person taking the lead just happens. Luke couples singing with guitar, Russ with cajon or drums and Babe with harmonica and tambourine. Tim adds depth and color to their voices with his rotation of bass, mandolin, acoustic, electric and tenor guitar, and now banjo!
You came to hear about Skout, the guitar-playing duo comprised of Laura Valk and Connor Gladney, whose website describes them as “indie folk with an edge,” who opened for Underwater Sunshine alum Eric Hutchinson in 2015, and whose music, if you’ve given it a listen, is somehow both arresting and electrifying. But I’d like to argue for a moment that Skout and gravity have a lot in common.
I wrote the profile of Matt for the inaugural Underwater Sunshine Fest in October. It’s only been a year but, when I went to “update” my work for this fest, I was blown away by everything Matt has accomplished since then. He never, ever stays still. Among other things, he toured all across the country, released a brilliant LP in Thousand Dollar Dinners, and even filmed a performance at the Paste studio. So while some of this essay might sound similar, my guess is what you’re picking up on is largely tone: how can you write about a man who beams like Matt Sucich without picking up some of the radiance and glow yourself?
Here’s the thing: Hugh Macdonald, the man behind Fairhazel, is tapping into something special. It’s clear that Hugh is a writer’s writer and a storyteller’s storyteller. He just also happens to be a talented musician with an ear for melody and a gift for building simple, restrained parts that layer together to form a perfect, complementary bed for his stories to inhabit. This combination of tight, purposeful prose wrapped in meticulously crafted, lush melody is the hallmark of Fairhazel and it’s why Fairhazel is one of the bands I’m most excited to see play the Underwater Sunshine Festival the first weekend of April…
It’s the kind of magic that happens often in New York. Maybe it’s bound to, by virtue of the magnitude and diversity of the population here. New York is a place where a Robyn dance party erupts out of nowhere in a subway station and where a rodent can be seen hauling a whole slice of pizza. And it’s the kind of place where one of my late-night walks through Harlem was interrupted by music that stopped me in my tracks, and led me down into the speakeasy-esque basement at Silvana’s…
The Underwater Sunshine Fest is taking over NYC again next weekend. This indie music celebration is about "finding those musical gems from the deep," as music journalist James Campion writes. Each artist is hand-selected by two-time Grammy nominated Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, who curates a lineup that feels like the best mix tape you've ever heard. He gets by with a little help from his friends who also support indie music, including this year's Very Special Guest Cyndi Lauper and platinum recording artist Eric Hutchinson.
Hello everyone! Katie here today. I’m so proud of the lineup we’re already establishing that it’s sometimes like an embarrassment of riches: I am always vibrating with a weird excitement for who I get to write about, and even better, what I’ll be able to share with you April 5th and 6th at the Bowery Electric. This is a particularly special post for me, because I was actually introduced to this band in the basement of the Electric, years ago, sandwiched in a full room, holding my husband’s hand as the band led a singalong. But I’m getting ahead of myself. (It’s the excitement.)
They’ve certainly captured that vibey indie sound, but the combo of Katie Von Schleicher and Gabriel Birnbaum’s voices plus the nature of Gabriel’s songwriting evokes something else I usually call “dream pop”. The songs are haunting and moved forward by driving percussion but they take you somewhere else, sometimes quite literally, while you’re listening to them.
The Ryan Hamilton that emerged from People on Vacation had tongue firmly in cheek and had left some of the straight folk sensibilities of Smile, Smile in the past in favor of writing perfectly crafted power pop rock that married melody to wit and welded it all together with loud guitars and just the right amount of humor. Recording since then as Ryan Hamilton and the Traitors and current incarnation, Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts, Ryan has developed into an adept pop rock journeyman, bringing forward the best legacies of the genre: earnestness, loud guitars, and a more than healthy dose of wit.
With over one-thousand performances and seven full-length records released; including 2013’s With Innocence and Go Amaze in 2016, both debuting in the Top 10 on the iTunes charts, Taylor Carson comes to the Underwater Sunshine Fest through our pal, and Fest alum, Stephen Kellogg. Taylor opened for Stephen’s Daryl’s House show in upstate New York late last year and caught my attention by stilling the room as he humbly presented his gripping songs of love, life and family…
Honestly, the hardest part about writing this review is that every single lyric is so good, I could write an essay purely discussing the nature of how it interacts with the current political and social climate and how that runs counter to human instinct. Instead, I’m just going to share the first verse and chorus. I want you to listen to the song. Desperately. I want you to go turn it on right now so that we can talk about it. I want you to message me on Twitter about how great “Double Take” is (so not kidding: @kwdarby). That said? Even reading these lyrics delights me…
Bear Cub is a great band, and you can hear some of the reason behind that in the way Hall approaches, talks about, and truly loves music. He listened and he studied and he knows why the pieces fit where they do. He knows how to connect the chambers of the heart. And now he’s doing that with his own music.