Monday, August 20, 2018

Meet Robinson: the rising star behind pop juggernaut "Nothing to Regret"

“It’s about not setting limitations and wanting to take it as far as you can. You never know where the boundaries are”

“I am someone that gets very excited over everything” 21-year-old Anna Robinson tells us midway through our chat in the NME HQ. This is a very good thing, as the young singer-songwriter who goes by just her surname, Robinson, has had a lot to get excited about recently. Her latest tune ‘Nothing to Regret’ has totally blown up. Its gone gold in her home of New Zealand, platinum in Australia and currently boasts over fifty million streams worldwide.

It’s unsurprising, though, that ‘Nothing to Regret’ has earned her support from tastemakers and consumers alike. All subtle builds and triumphant climaxes, with a huge, emotive earworm of a chorus (à la fellow Kiwi Lorde), it’s makes for a heady sugar rush.

But none of this is the result of overnight success; it’s come from years of grafting. Growing up in a musical family, Anna always loved writing music but “absolutely loathed the idea of performing” She got over this after singing ‘My Favourite Things’ at primary school concert (“I messed up… It was scary but you have to go through that so you can get to a point where you’ve experienced it all and feel comfortable knowing that mistakes are ok!”). She then actively pursuing a career in music as a teenager, creating the Robinson moniker last year, and she’s been dutifully crafting outrageously good music since.

“I remember when we released the first song under the Robinson project that got maybe twenty thousand streams in a week or two and to me that was crazy,” she tells us, but even now the streams have rocketed, Robinson remains enthused and humble about every aspect of her blossoming career.

“In Manchester this group of like celebrity spotters, they were like “’oh my god, Anna, can we have your photo?’ and I was so confused looking at everyone like maybe we knew these guys, she says excitedly. “Do they have an app on their phone that scans a face? I was trying to work it out, I mean on the Internet it says I’m fifty-five. That was a moment where even if they were a celebrity spotter I’m still going to take that!”

We caught up with the talent ahead of her debut show in London (“I’m so excited”) last month, to talk writing a smash, the album and the time her Mum rang up Hollywood Records and made her sing a Katy Perry song down the phone.

When you finished writing ‘Nothing to Regret’ did you envisage this success?

“No! I think it’s weird being in a studio, I always think of it like a studio bubble that’s cast over you and everyone that is in the room and I think that’s just because when you’re writing a song you get so inside your own head. You’re spending so much time finessing over all these points in the song that you kind of lose the ability to be like “this is good” or “this is bad. It’s weird, when we wrote ‘Nothing to Regret’ it felt really good but I don’t think we really knew what it truly was if that makes sense. But that could also be because it was three in the morning when we left! Probably just really tired and we were like “let’s call it a night.”

And now it’s racked up millions of streams – what’s that like?

Crazy, very crazy. It’s been such a gradual process for me so I really love being able to appreciate each achievement for what it is.

What was it like the first time you heard it on the radio?

Well, it was amazing. It’s such a cool feeling to think that something you created in a room with no one else but yourself and the producer is now in a place where it’s totally the opposite of that.

I think I was driving somewhere and I knew that the radio was going to play it and I remember pulling over and turning it up. Not in a conceited way but just kind of, it’s a proud moment when you’ve put so much into something and finessing over the little details and wanting to make it perfect.

How supportive of your music are your family?

Unbelievably. My mum is so supportive. When I was fourteen I went through this phase where I thought I had to live in America or London or a big city to get out there and do it, and one day I found the number for Hollywood Records [released records by Queen and Demi Lovato] and I nagged my mum, and was like: “Mum, you’ve got to ring them and just say I really love music”.

I was sitting in the room next door so nervous, and so she called them and to the receptionist she explained that I was a writer and a singer and did the typical mum thing of really building me up. And she was like ‘Anna said that she would sing ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry down the phone”. So I ran in and said ‘no no no no!’ and my mum hands me the phone. I think I did a verse and a chorus which makes me cringe so much just thinking about it.

Looking at the rest of your year, what’s the plan?

I think for me; an album has always been my goal because it is such a nice home for these songs to be. In my head it would just be nice for all the songs to be on one thing, you can just see it and maybe that’s the inner Virgo in me thinking it’s got to be perfectly on an album.

Do you have one milestone you want to achieve in your career?

I’ve always thought about it from the aspect that I don’t ever want it to get to a point where it stops. I always want to be pushing as far as it can go, goals are really important and I should probably set them but even playing Glastonbury would be really amazing and performing at an awards show would be really cool. At the same time as setting goals, it’s about not setting limitations and wanting to take it as far as you can. You never know where the boundaries are if just keep doing it.


Singer/Songwriter Sammi Rae Murciano Adds More Upcoming Performances to Summer 2018 Schedule

Having already taken the stage at the famous Jones Beach Bandshell just last week Singer/Songwriter Sammi Rae Murciano is keeping the momentum going with more upcoming performances all over the Island - starting with the Adventureland Amusement Park stage TONIGHT, August 9th at 7PM!

A Long Island native, 17yr old Sammi Rae has been singing for four years, and garnering a ton of praise from audiences nationwide.

Inspired by a wide range of talents before her, she has cited her major influences as everyone from Beyoncé to James Arthur, Rihanna, Adele, Dua Lipa and many more. Her strong and soulful voice is well beyond her years at the young age of 17, and knowing that you have to believe in yourself and have confidence to be successful has been her continued mantra, especially showcased through her most recent single “Reflection”.

Upcoming Shows:

Thursday, August 9th, 7PM @ Adventureland Amusement Park, Farmingdale, NY

Sunday, August 26th 12PM @ Revolution Music Hall, Amityville, NY

Saturday, September 8th @ Center Court at Walt Whitman Mall, Huntington Station, NY

“I am very honored to have performed at some amazing venues and I am excited for what is to come in the future. I have many shows coming up as well as new music that I can’t wait to share with everyone. Most importantly always follow your dreams!”

Her three song EP “The Story” includes “Reflection” along with “Back to Me” - about wanting to move forward and finding the strength to trust and love again, and “Never Letting Go” - a track she says she wants “to inspire others” continuing “no one should let anyone stop them from doing what they love”. The final track also sums up the feelings that connect through the whole EP in a sense, one of the lyrics being “Take the risk or the chance to lose it all, let the burning desire go” which she expresses as “meaning you should always take a chance and do what you are passionate about each and every day."

Having been involved with organizations whose causes she feels truly passionate about including a performance at the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying's 2nd Annual Fall Gala and another upcoming at the MyFace Races for Faces Walk to Empower the Craniofacial Community September 16th (More info TBA!), Murciano certainly continues to use her talents to spread awareness whenever possible.

Now, as she gets ready for more shows straight through September, her fans and followers have plenty of reasons to come out and support the rising star.

To Purchase “The Story” EP via iTunes, VISIT:

To Hear The Single “Reflection” via Spotify, VISIT:

The Quirky Beauty of Ariana Grande’s Sweetener

We’ve all had a wild year, but Ariana Grande might’ve had the wildest. Since last spring, the Floridian singer with the outsize voice had her world rocked by a terror attack at her arena show in Manchester. Just two weeks later, she made a brave return to the stage for an uplifting performance at One Love Manchester, a star-studded benefit for victims of the bombing and their families. Her romance with the rapper Mac Miller fizzled out, and she later revealed that she was dating Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson, and that the new romance had quickly bloomed into an engagement. Just a few months later, the singer is back with album number four. On this month’s new Sweetener, Grande spices up the expected array of Max Martin, ILYA, and TB Hits productions that netted platinum certifications for Yours Truly, My Everything, and Dangerous Woman with a half-dozen quirky beats from Pharrell. The shift in personnel lends the new album a deeper R&B cred than the three before it, and that gives the singer ample opportunity to gush about falling in love.

Sweetener is serious enough in its commitment to break with the traditions of Ariana Grande albums to serve three big, weird Pharrell collaborations right up front. “Blazed” is textbook Skateboard P, all funky, ascending keys and busy percussion. “The Light Is Coming” features a capable Nicki Minaj guest rap and chiptune affectations, and shifting tempos reminiscent of the last N.E.R.D. album, No One Ever Really Dies. “R.E.M.” remakes a five-year-old Beyoncé demo, keeping the original song’s gorgeous doo-wop vocals but easing off of the hip-hop verses. It’s a bold sequence of songs because Ari albums have a tendency of dropping two megaton hit records by track four (and because the last person to schedule this many Pharrell beats on the same album was Justin Timberlake, who didn’t do such a great job of it). Sweetener is an exercise in world-building. It’s as interested in piecing together a breezy, gregarious mood as it is in crafting hits. There’s no EDM banger until “No Tears Left to Cry” at track ten, and it’s the only one on the album. As a lead single, it’s a delectable fakeout, a promise of dance-floor heat the record has very little intention of delivering. A few fans of Ariana Grande’s dance-pop hits are seething this week.

Anchoring this album in the jazzy chords, wonky synth tones, and offbeat samples Pharrell favors gives it a more playful and adventurous energy than the mechanized radio pop Ariana usually gets from all the in-demand pop and EDM beatmakers. The singer’s voice is a joy in this setting — in any setting. Elastic vocal runs and delightful harmonies make this batch of lyrics about the ups and downs of a whirlwind romance seem all the more lived in, and Pharrell matches the energy on cuts like the title track, which outfits Ariana’s food/sex double entendres with an ad-lib track that sounds like someone scoffing at them in real time, and “Successful,” whose drum programming includes a track of sensual, rhythmic breathing. Other collaborators match his methodology. On “God Is a Woman,” “Better Off,” and “Goodnight n Go,” ILYA, Hit-Boy, and TB Hits use kick drums as melodic instruments in the same way P’s production on the title track (and a few on the Timberlake album) does. Working with producers who have very specific signature sounds, like Pharrell and the mid-tempo disco-beat tactician Max Martin, sometimes means struggling to come out with a product greater than the sum of its highly recognizable parts; Ariana, a bubbly singer with chops beyond her years, doesn’t have this problem.

The baking metaphor powering the title track serves as a mission statement for the whole album: “When life deals us cards, makes everything taste like it is salt / Then, you come through like the sweetener you are to bring the bitter taste to a halt.” Ariana’s happy, and she intends to pass the feeling along to anyone who’ll listen. The album’s not all confections and kisses though; cohabitation and companionship are rewarding, but they also require work. Sweetener’s flow between songs about desire and songs about the attendant stresses of making a relationship work feel natural to the dizzying sensation of falling for someone and finding a routine for living that appeases both parties. The album’s not afraid to talk about working out the kinks: “Everytime” perches on the point where attraction threatens to become obsession; in “Breathin” and “Get Well Soon,” the singer coaches herself through anxiety attacks and fears about her future.

This is a confessional album when it comes to matters of the heart, but if you dive into Sweetener thinking the calm-after-the-storm conceit of “No Tears Left to Cry” suggested an album about overcoming tragedy, that’s not the spirit of the thing. We hear a lot about Ariana being in a good place and working hard to stay there, but not so much about how she got there. Sweetener offers gourmet parfait, when some listeners might have expected steak. This isn’t a knock against the quality of the music; it’s perhaps unfair to make the soul-searching honesty of albums like Bey’s Lemonade or Kesha’s Rainbow the bar for how a pop star processes trying times and approaches the business of returning to work afterward. What counts is that Ariana Grande seems at peace after what looked like a rough patch, and Sweetener lives up to its name as a heartening dip into the sights, tastes, and smells of blossoming romance.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Lovehoney Believes Sleazy Blues Rock Can Take Over the World

Lovehoney is here to make you care about rock and roll again, and they’re doing a pretty damn good job of it. Band members—vocalist Alysia Quinones, guitarist Tommy White, drummer Tom Gehlhaus and bassist Matt Saleh—may not presently live in Brooklyn—though Alysia grew up in Bushwick—but their home base where they rehearse is a local fixture. The Sweatshop, which lies off the Montrose Avenue L stop, offers space to many rising New York artists. As we’re chatting, the whirring of a machine and other banging noises periodically disrupt our conversation. Tommy smiles wryly and says, “The perks of having a rehearsal studio in a warehouse.”

(Photo: Missy Dee)

The group first began when Alysia and Tommy came together via a Craigslist ad, not long after Tommy began working at the Sweatshop. They wound up writing two songs during their first meeting. While many Craigslist encounters prove to be ill-fated, this one stood the test of time. Some months later, Tommy met Tom in 2014, and Lovehoney was born.

“When we would get together, we would always play each other different blues, R&B and soul stuff. Like, he would show me something from Albert King and I would show him something from Gary Clark Jr. We just bonded over really cool R&B and soul, and we knew that we wanted to do something on that level but more in a rock vein,” said Tommy.

The trio banded together in the fall of 2015 to start Lovehoney. Matt joined the band shortly after in 2016. But why Lovehoney? The sweet and sexy name, which echoes the band’s playing style, has more dopey origins. Literally. “I texted him [the name] when I was on the couch stoned in Florida,” Tom started to say, when Tommy cut in. “And Tom was like, ‘Do you want to start a sleazy blues rock band and take over the world?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’”

One of the first things you notice about Lovehoney is their impeccable—and seemingly coordinated—sense of fashion. When I mention it to the group, they laugh and give each other knowing looks. “I’ve gotten more fashionable since I joined,” says Matt humbly. Tom riffs on that: “Yeah, we made him grow out his hair!”

But their fashion is more than just naturally good taste—it’s part of a carefully crafted brand that harkens back to the ’70s, adding a colorful palette to their sultry rhythm and combining to create an effective audio-visual, modern-day take on classic rock—but tastefully so. No crazy wigs or eye makeup or unbearably tight leather pants here. “We try to make sure that our fashion is natural, but it vibes with the type of music that we make. And I think the ’60s and ’70s was probably the coolest time for fashion,” says Tommy.

Tommy White (Photo: Tara Yarlagadda)

Lovehoney also hews toward some unique marketing decisions, eschewing the standard process of releasing a 12-song album every two years in favor of a three-song EP every few months. They do plan to release a traditional album at some point down the line, though Tom mentions that they’re conscious of consumers’ short attention spans. Alysia agrees.

“I feel like a lot of times with albums, you have filler songs. You don’t really get an opportunity to tell a story…We have damn near 13 songs on Spotify now. You want an album? It’s an album then,” says Alysia.

Tommy nods in assent. “And I think it’s really a great way for us as an independent artist right now to keep what we’re doing fresh and involved with everyone. ‘Cuz music has become so disposable…We’re doing rock and roll. We’re not doing pop. We’re not doing hip hop. We’re not doing country. You know, genres that are—” Alysia pipes in to finish, “Well-oiled machines.” Tommy continues, “So for a rock band, I think it’s important that we want to stay on the playing field above those other genres.”

But even with their quirky EP releases, on-point fashion, and the band’s synchronized medley of raspy vocals, rockin’ guitar riffs and lively bass and drum sequences, isn’t it hard to perform rock and roll in an era of synthesized pop? How can they distinguish themselves from not only their contemporary peers, but also the classic rock giants that inspire them? Well, for one, the band’s diverse makeup sets them apart from the oftentimes homogeneous Brooklyn boy band set and the largely white rock and roll idols of the ’80s and ’90s.

Matt Saleh (Photo: Tara Yarlagadda)

Alysia smiles as Tom says of other bands, “You’d never see a little tiny brown girl on stage destroying it.” He continues, “We’re not five dudes with five beards and five leather jackets.” Each band member brings a different cultural and musical experience to the group, which melds into their unique blend of rock and roll with hip hop, soul and R&B influences—a slightly different melody than, say, Jack White or the Rolling Stones.

Going beyond the music, the band also seeks to bridge the divides between local artists and the spaces that host them, as opposed to a rotating cycle of bands who flit from one venue to another without developing any connection to the local music scene. To that end, Lovehoney just capped off a residency at Arlene’s Grocery, the rock-music hub on the Lower East Side. As he’s describing the residency, Matt turns to the rest of the group. “I don’t feel like personally—and if this is talking shit, you guys can disagree—but I [can’t always] walk into a venue and find music I’m going to relate to in New York City…I think it’s about re-establishing that connection where people can really walk into a place and meet a new band that they didn’t know about and is going to make them feel something.”

Alysia Quinones (Photo: Tara Yarlagadda)

Lovehoney’s latest EP, Dig This!, stems from Matt and Tommy’s exploration of funkadelic and low-fi rock vibes and Alysia’s lyrics, which center around “expectations and disappointment.” The EP’s cover, designed by Kate White, features Tommy’s father in a dark, suave outfit and top hat straight out of the ‘70s. The band often pays homage to their parents; Aly’s mother graced the cover of a previous EP, Devil Woman, and Matt’s mother made it onto artwork for a single. And Tommy’s father is particularly well suited for the look and feel of Dig This!. “My dad lived in New York, in the Bronx, during the ’70s. So, when you see that picture, it’s for real. It’s that life. My father had a Cadillac at that time. He had the hat, he had the ring. He had that jacket…Like Shaft or Superfly. He embodied it. He still does, to this day too.”

Lovehoney hops on stage to play two songs for me: “Open Door” from Dig This! and “I’m Gone” from an earlier EP. By the second song, they’ve really found their groove as the heart-thumping vocals and blues rock rachet up to an electrifying harmony. I think back to Alysia’s words during our conversation, “We’re super hyper and we feed off of the crowd’s energy and we feed off of each other’s energy and that’s what gains us more fans. And if they didn’t know about us, they want to know about us after that.”

You can find Lovehoney’s latest EP, Dig This!, on their website and on iTunes. But their performances are best experienced with the thrumming energy of a live audience, so make your way to their next show at Arlene’s Grocery on Thursday, September 27th at 8 pm.

Ryan Chernin Packs Brilliant Indie-Rock, Alt-Focused Tunes in Latest “You Know Who You Are” LP

Following the release of the single and video “Ash Tray Kisses”, Singer/Songwriter Ryan Chernin recently dropped his Debut LP “You Know Who You Are” via Inhuman Records. Packed with “mature songs, personal lyrics, and intricate instrumentals” its being called “more like an exploration of self than a combination of songs”. And for the NY based Chernin, it seems likely only more positive feedback is headed his way!

Singer/songwriter Ryan Chernin showed an inclination for music at an astoundingly young age.

“My mom has this one story – my grandmother swore by it too – that at three or four months old they were talking to me in my crib and I apparently gave them their exact intonation back,” Chernin recalls, laughing. “According to my mom, that was my introduction to music.” He insists that his real introduction was the Yellow Submarine tape she’d play for him in the car, and the piano lessons he begged his parents to sign him up for as a child.

Over the years Chernin’s parents continued to encourage his love for music and his passion for performing, knowing even back then that it was more than just a phase.

In college Chernin studied film, and as an accomplished actor, spent much of his time in and around theaters. However the spotlight is something the soft-spoken artist has never been entirely comfortable with. The reason, according to him, is simple: “Every time I got on stage and did musical theater, I was always a character. I was very much about throwing myself into those characters.” That disconnect is something Chernin struggled to overcome as he began working on his latest LP, “You Know Who You Are”. “It’s me up there. It’s my pain, my happiness. It’s all out there and it’s very vulnerable.”

You Know Who You Are is the culmination of a year’s worth of work in and out of the studio, a sultry collection of songs about life, love, and loss. “What was most important to us was to take our time with it and really make sure it was perfect every step of the way,” Chernin explains. “It was about selecting the right people.” That list of people includes producer John Eugenio, mixer Chris Davies, and SNL guitarist Jared Scharff. The result is a maturity and depth that takes most artists years to capture, with Chernin’s quick wit and caustic sense of humor complimenting his raw indie rock sound.

For More Information on Ryan, VISIT:

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Counting Crows, LIVE at Jones Beach, August 22

Miwa Gemini at Rockwood Music Hall, August 18

Kim Gordon: My Five Favorite Breakup Songs

Kim Gordon isn’t typically a list maker. “It’s sort of the thing I hate but once I start getting into it, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is fun,'” she says with a laugh. “I started out with the theme of classic breakup songs, but then it kind of morphed into the general relationship songs.”

Mostly, she came up with the theme because she thought it would be easy. “I listen to a lot of melancholy music,” she says, laughing. But it could have gone another way. “I was actually thinking of picking songs that dealt with different kinds of breaks, like a break with culture. I was gonna pick Bikini Kill’s ‘Suck My Left One,’ which is kind of a breakup with the hardcore scene and the patriarchy [laughs]. Or Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Out of My Mind,’ which is about feeling a separation from a community. Like [the fans are saying] ,’I’m breaking up with you because you’ve become a rock star.’ It’s about realizing, to use Sixties slang, that you’re becoming part of ‘The Man’ instead of being part of the revolution or the counterculture.”

Instead the Body/Head frontwoman, whose new album The Switch is out now, decided on songs by five women who perfectly articulated breaking up in their own unique ways.

Eleanor Friedberger, “Roosevelt Island”

The whole album, Last Summer, has such a great Seventies radio sound in the production. I love her wordplay. She can make something really mundane sound really meaningful [laughs]. On “Roosevelt Island,” she sings about riding the train and there’s a line, “And it goes and it goes.” And I think that song is kind of like, “See you on the other side of a breakup.” It sounds actually hopeful as opposed to the first song on the album, “My Mistakes,” which is sort of mourning a relationship. But on “Roosevelt,” she talks about riding a train and you really get a sense of living in New York and being alone. It’s a window into feeling, in a way, optimistic and excited. It’s about how the city can really energize you, even though going to Roosevelt Island is kind of escaping the city [laughs].

Aimee Mann, “Save Me”
She wrote this song for the movie Magnolia. It’s a classic. Not only does she have one of the most beautiful voices, her lyrics are also amazing: “You look like a perfect fit/For a girl in need of a tourniquet,” and then there’s that great chorus, “If you could save me from the ranks of the freaks who suspect they could never love anyone.”

Lucinda Williams, “Steal Your Love”
The album Essence is such a great heartbreak record, and I love the lyrics, “I don’t want your drugs and I don’t want your money/I just want to steal your love.” She’s just really great at how to be so vulnerable but also the song is dark. She’s really great with her vulnerability because it’s just so raw.

PJ Harvey, “Shame”
The albums Uh Huh Her and B Sides, to me, are two of my favorite PJ records. I love “Shame” because she’s so defiant in it: “I don’t need no ball and chain.” I also love the song “Who the Fuck” on Uh Huh Her. It’s kind of like, “You’re an asshole. Get out of here.”

Angel Olsen, “Unfucktheworld”
The whole Burn Your Fire for No Witness album is a great breakup record. I like “Unfucktheworld” and that line, “I am the only one now/You may not be around.” It’s kind of like, “You’ll always be alone in your life in a certain way” [laughs]. You’re born alone, as they say, although you’re actually not born alone because your mom is there [laughs].