Exploring Life鈥檚 Complexities in Foreign Colour鈥檚 Debut Album, Weight of a Rose

Fall has personally always been a relentlessly nostalgic season, pelting a world of memories in your brain synapses…kinda like that particular scented candle that brings you back to a specific space and time. In this case, I think the latest release–and debut album, Weight of a Rose–from Raytheon Dunn’s Foreign Colour embodies that same feeling.
The ten-track album encapsulates a horde of emotions colorfully painting a beautiful but complex picture of life displayed and imagined through the existence of a rose. The rose is the symbolic crux of the album, fulfilling its ordained role of carrying the burden in representing life, joys, passions, struggles, doubts, and love—like Atlas holding the weight of the world…this is Weight of a Rose.
Read my track-by-track take on Foreign Colour‘s debut album along with some insight from the artist himself.

Your Heart, My Flower

Jasmine Rodriguez: Pivotal in setting the tone and mood of the album, “Your Heart, My Flower” exists almost like that time-lapse your bio teacher would play when learning about the genesis of a flower in the plant kingdom. “Your Heart, My Flower” is that flower bud—that love and life ready to bloom.

Foreign Colour: I knew I wanted this song to be the intro. I used to play this song in-between breaks with my old band. I was inspired a bit by The Last Bison after seeing them live for the first time some years back. In the background, there is an older man speaking. That sound comes from a recording we had during one of our jam sessions, and when things got quiet, we heard this old recording coming out of my amp.

My amp was sort of old and not the best, so it picked up a radio frequency, and we thought it best to keep for future use. When I got to this song, I felt like it needed something underneath the music to help give it a dreamy feeling, so I added that recording. The beginning of the song is my old friend David recording himself walking and hitting his tape recorder.

Goodnight (I’m Happy for You)

JR: Moving on from the previous track’s somber melody, “Goodnight (I’m Happy for You)” opens up both in a musical and figurative sense with a bright shimmering sound matched with a colorful array of percussive instruments. The track symbolizes a new beginning, a new life that brings along with it bittersweet emotions. This can best be understood in lyrics ‘I heard the days have changed / It gives us new life to gain / But when your problems they grow / We all know how the story will go.’ Exuding child-like energy, Dunn manages to temper naive expectations while also uncovering all of the possibilities that life brings forth. The flower is in bloom.

FC: This is probably the oldest song on the record, going back almost nine years. There are probably eight versions of this song floating around the internet somewhere. Musically, I wanted this song to be a bit festive/colorful. I was listening to a lot of Washed Out albums, Paracosm and Purple Noon, which had just come out. I would like to add that I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a rush of inspiration when I hear new music from musicians I really enjoy. I just have to create while the energy is there; it’s too powerful not to do so. I remember that feeling riding my bike late at night last summer and hearing the entire song in my head, so when I got home, I got to work, and a few days later, it was done!

Lyrically, this comes from a relationship I was in many years ago where the person I was with was very prideful, which caused many problems in our relationship. Too stubborn, you get in your own way; too stubborn and there will be no room for you to grow. More or less, it’s a song about agreeing to disagree about how to grow a flower.

Sundancer

JR: Like you always do‘ is the core sentiment of Foreign Colour’s debut single, “Sundancer.” Approached similarly to “Goodnight…,” a light and airy nature consume the five-minute track, playing out to a cyclical scheme of rhythm and lyrics, which is kind of genius of Dunn. In an interview earlier this year, Dunn gave some insight on the origins of the song, noting heavy existential questions that would make any nihilist nod their head–or really anyone during 2020. Despite the hardships and growing pains that life presents us, Dunn reminds the listener that at the end of the day, you’re still moving, breathing, and accomplishing things, no matter how big or small. And that is something to dance for.

FC: This was the first song I wrote and completed for this album. Originally, this song was much darker and moody, which is how it usually goes when I write on acoustic, but when I brought it to my studio, I realized I might have something bigger here. The rhythm guitar is a rendition or inspired by my old band’s song, “Sleepy River,” but with more groove to it.

I battled a lot with my friend/mixer & mastered engineer Severin about how the song would end because for some weird reason, I wanted the outro to play for an obnoxious length, and he quickly told me, ‘Don’t do that!’ I just enjoyed how it sounded, and I was proud of it, so I didn’t want it to end in a weird way. Once I got the music right, or the sound I was looking for, I sent it out to some friends to get reactions. After hearing [the song], I felt like this would be the debut single whenever I put out this [album].

This takes inspiration from my wife sort of having a mid-life crisis questioning ourselves as humans and our place in the world. In the midst of lockdown, we talked about a lot of things, what our purpose was, and honestly, the meaning of purpose. After many late-night conversations, it all came down to no matter where she goes in life, I will love her just trying and figuring out what life means to her—to love someone without being possessive of where their future will go.

The Flower

JR: “The Flower” is the comedown from the former high-tempo songs, replacing the youthful, exuberant energy with something more grounded and mature—perhaps signifying that the flower is now fully developed. Reassurance in lyrics ‘I’ll wait for you / The flower as it blooms ‘ paired with the sweet and soft lulling melody assures the person on the other end that all of their worries and aspirations are valid. Because regardless of how things turn out, “the flower” will be cherished for all of its qualities and for simply being. This is the calm before the storm.

FC: This song was written sort of out of the blue but for a good reason. I found out while recording this record that we were going to have a baby. I was extremely emotional about it. My wife suggested this was a perfect song to write about and something for her to listen back on. So I tried to bottle everything going [on] when I first found out [and] let it out over this song.

“The Flower” represents my daughter, Sienna, who I try to [symbolize] [as] a flower. With a taste of the sun and water, she will bloom into a beautiful human being. I wanted the music to be like a lullaby. Also, the piano in the middle of the song is called “Fairytale Lullaby.” I wanted it to be something she could listen back to, or my wife could play for her to help her sleep. It’s funny too because she said it does work! My favorite part of the song would have to be the guitar solo panning left and right during the bridge.

Under Your Spell

JR: If “The Flower” was the calm before the storm, then “Under Your Spell” is the storm. Juxtaposing the last song, “Under Your Spell” introduces a nice change of pace with a gradual build-on instrumental that carries an energy not see before in the album. I imagine if this was played live, the lighting engineer would have a field day. This song positions itself as the rough storms we weather in life and can be interpreted as the turning point in the album.

FC: In my opinion, this marks a turning point in the record where the tone is less lighthearted. This song was supposed to be on my band’s record, but we went different ways before the record could debut. I felt like this song needed to be heard by everyone, so I re-recorded the guitars, added some synths, and there it is. It’s a song I can’t way to play live. I love when bands/artists show off how beautiful and powerful their music is when there are no vocals. It can feel like an organized jam session.

A Swan Song

JR: The title immediately caught my attention for this track. Typically, a swan song is like the final bow that an artist or performer carries out. That being said, it makes me wonder if Dunn had doubts about continuing on with his passion which, in the context of this album, represents the flower slowly wilting away. Whatever the case, Dunn really shines in this stripped-back song with an acoustic accompaniment that emits a hauntingly beautiful aura. It’s my absolute favorite song from the album and one that I wish I would have written.

FC: This one is quite personal. I had the first couple of lines I sang for about three years or so, but I could never find the words to help me finish it. I was writing about something I felt inside of me, but it wasn’t clear for me to distinguish exactly what it was. It wasn’t until things took a turn for the worse that the song found its meaning, and it wasn’t about me anymore.

I found myself in my relationship where my partner lost someone extremely close to them. I have learned in the past to never put yourself in their shoes but just be there for them when it’s hard to do anything else. The emotional battles we fought would take a toll on us, and I did my best to understand it all. Our time together ended before the light could be at the end of tunnel. With this song, I wanted to tell my final feelings—a sort of wishful, ‘Goodbye, I hope you found it in the middle of it all.’

Hallucinate

JR: Continuing the darker sound in the latter half, “Hallucinate” instills an almost hypnotizing-like quality with its swaying rhythm and lyrical refrain of ‘I can’t let you go, ‘ signaling a cry of defiance against the once resigned fate drawn in “A Swan Song.”

FC: This was the last one I wrote but also the fastest. I think I finished 90% of it in a day; the lyrics came a couple of days later. This song was fun to play and write. I had this bass line stuck in my head after listening to Fontaines D.C.’s song, “Televised Mind.” That song gets me excited! The drums came naturally after [listening] [to] that!

I listened to an interview of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala saying, ‘You know you got something special when you can just play the drums and bass line on loop forever.’ That’s what I did. The crazy thing is I’m still trying to decipher the meaning of this song–it doesn’t have a huge meaning, but is something you will just have to determine.

Adorn

JR: The curveball of the album! I did not expect to hear a “jazz meets samba fusion,” but here we are. It’s the way Dunn sings ‘ How I love to, to adore you / Feel my love now, all around you‘ that makes you feel like you’ve been enveloped in the warmest embrace. Coupled with the comforting lyrics, the gentle presence of “Adorn” brings respite from the prior sullen soundscapes. The flower has been revived.

FC: This song probably took the longest for many reasons. Growing up, my mom did her best to expose us to different kinds of music [that] I really gravitate[d] towards, [like] blues, jazz, and R&B [with] artists like The Isley Brothers, John Legend, and (most of all) Sade. I’m a huge fan of Sade’s work and sound. This was originally called “Whisper,” which is an entire song itself, but out of curiosity, I changed the BPM of the drums to something faster, and all of a sudden, we had something different, a brand new feel.

There are so many elements in this song that it was a little complicated for me to mix myself [in], but I knew I struck gold with how this song could potentially be. What was also cool about the song was that I felt like I was the producer because I sent this song to a friend of mine who plays trumpet, and I knew it was the perfect element to add to the song; without it, the song was lackluster.

I think he sent me about four takes of the song. [From] [there], I picked and stitched parts together that I liked, placing them in different places throughout the song. It was a tedious process, but it needed to be done! I always knew this song would be a [feature] debut, but who would it be and would they help elevate the song? I would sometimes hear my friend Ciara singing on her Instagram stories (before she deleted her IG), and I thought she would be perfect for the job. We sat down and had long talks about the song and approach I needed from her to make this song something special. I think after two sessions, she nailed it and for that I’m eternally grateful for her giving this song so much life. People are really surprised with this song because there’s nothing like it anywhere else on the record.

The Doppelganger

JR: Jolting the listener out of the previous dreamy-like reverie is the unsettling “The Doppelganger.” Serving as a reality check, “The Doppelganger” delivers a foreboding warning to establish who you are before someone else does it for you. It’s a reinforcing track about taking back control against a world that isn’t always so kind and forgiving.

FC: This song really came out of nowhere. I don’t remember exactly how I got started on this song; if I remember correctly, I was listening to a lot of In Rainbows by Radiohead, and I wanted to make something weird and progressive. At the beginning of the song, my guitar is making a crazy feedback kind of sound which was totally done on accident. I was getting flustered with how the recording process was going, and I just started hitting the string hard and randomly. When I listened back, I said, ‘I think this could work for some odd reason.’ I tried to stray away from playing chords and lean on just playing leads throughout the song, which I think I nailed down during the chorus. I was focused on the delivery of my vocals, wanting it to be as smooth as possible like I was talking on a phone.

Another big influence on this song was HRVRD. They have a demo floating around the internet that inspired a bit of lyrics in this chorus. This song [came] to me after reading this book called Supermarket. It was a short but twisted book about a man losing his own mind in the effort to be successful. After reading it, I thought about myself in this man’s situation and how I would be if the person I feared the most was myself.

Sound of Your Dreams

JR: Closing out the album is the mystical, “Sound of Your Dreams.” Despite the track’s tranquility, it doesn’t pose itself as the deus ex machina. Instead, there’s an air of unfinished business strewn throughout that screams “to be continued.” Maybe it’s because of the song’s short length, or maybe it’s because the song just fades out with no clear ending. In any case, the closer is the epitome of life being a mixed bag. The ups and downs…lessons learned and personal victories earned…all make life worth living.

FC: I was attempting to build this song into something very whimsical, something orchestrated to where you could feel the world around you while listening to it. However, I think I was towards the end of the record feeling the need to just surrender what I have and really take the time to make something like that on the next go around. I feel like you need to look at each instrument like it’s its own character, and you need to find where they belong in your story. I have always liked the phrase “Sound of Your Dreams.” It’s something that I carried with me in several different projects, so I thought it was time to give it a home. Besides, I did feel like it sounded like a dream.


Featured image artwork courtesy of Severin Di Croce; edited by Raytheon Dunn.

Thank you to Raytheon Dunn of Foreign Colour for providing a behind-the-scenes look into each song. Weight of a Rose is out now on all streaming platforms!

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Celebrating Juneteenth with Norfolk’s Finest at the Smartmouth Juneteenth Solstice Festival

Join the city of Norfolk’s finest for a day full of music, art, food, good people, and most importantly…good beer.

It’s safe to say that after the past year, people are yearning to get back together and celebrate life and all of the beautiful things that come along with it. Luckily, the good folks at Smartmouth Brewery have got us covered with this Saturday’s Juneteenth Solstice Festival.

In honor and celebration of Juneteenth, Smartmouth has teamed up with local NFK brands and organizations to throw a good-ole fashioned block party. The day’s festivities will consist of a black-owned art & vendor market, food market featuring black and POC-owned restaurants, chefs, and food trucks, and a diverse range of musical acts throughout the 757. The festival will be held at the Smartmouth NFK HQ from 12 PM – 10 PM, is free, and welcome to all ages.

Get up to speed with the day’s details below.


Utopia Feni Art Market | 12 – 6 PM


Nomarama Food Market | 3 – 9 PM


Music Lineup

Listen to our specially curated Popscure playlist while you get familiar with the stacked lineup below:

Well seasoned producer Gabe Niles is a household name in the city of Norfolk. When he’s not producing earworm tracks like Shelley FKA DRAM’s “Cha Cha”–or working with his partner-in-crime for experimental outfit, Sunny & Gabe–the producer is delivering larger-than-life mixes that are bound to whisk you away. 


Hot off her latest EP release, “All My Friends,” Koren Grace is more than ready to take on the masses and introduce them to her world. There’s no plane of emotion and existence the singer/songwriter can’t take you with a discography rich in colorful sounds.


Dariel Clark has a powerful, magnetic presence about him that amplifies when he cranks the amp up. Sparing no niceties, the Virginia Beach musician delivers a one-two combo through his weapons of choice—his guitar and voice.


Headed by the musical virtuoso Big Torrin himself, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is the sonic definition of the phrase “good vibes.” With tasteful flecks of jazz, r&b, house, hip-hop, and soul, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is sure to satisfy every groove nerve in your body.


Rapper/lyricist Cam Murdoch is known for his pensive, neo-soul inspired raps that focus on the ‘self’ as much as they do fictional characters. His latest single, “The Wave,” carries on this wave of introspection through an unlikely combo of soothing ukelele riffs and strong trap beats.


While fairly new, Kyere Laflare is not to be underestimated. Debut single, “How Does It Feel,” brings in a throwback r&b vibe that’s sure to remind you of simpler times.


If you go by 1pump and wear Scott Summers-esque visors, you better come with the heat and charisma. 1pump certainly doesn’t disappoint with a strong, bombastic release in Scott Summers II: The Light Within.


Known for her hypnotic but real delivery, Lex Lucent is ready to put you under a spell with a laidback flow and unique instrumentals. Her debut project, “Incase You Forgot,” solidifies the rapper as one to look out for.


2020 – A Year in Reflection

As we wrap up one hell of a year, we thought it was only best that we took some time to reflect on some of the really goods things that have come out of this year, specifically with Popscure. Thank you all for making this year a special one—here’s to many more.

What was your favorite write-up from this year? Why?

Tyler W: It’s probably a tie between the Dawit N.M. interview conducted by Cam Murdoch and the Q+A I did with members of the Wild Bunch before the “Our Streets” exhibition, both of which focused on photography. Since practically everyone in the digital age can capture an image with ease, it’s really interesting to me to hear how photographers approach it as an art form.

Jasmine R: My favorite write-up probably has to be “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”— a Q+A written and conducted by Tyler. Documenting the (without a doubt) historical summer of activism and unity is so, so crucial to say the least.

Cam M: The Tyler Donavan piece, I just want that guy to win and have his story shared, so it was big for me to see the response he got from that.

Shannon J: From Overseas, Tyler did a great job poetically telling the story of Kevin Sery and made the piece just as atmospheric and grounded as his music. Otherwise, I was excited to have a couple pieces I wrote go out (“Treasure,” “Bubble Ball“). Since I started working full-time, I haven’t had much time to write for Popscure, so I’m glad I can contribute, and I’m excited to have some new writers on this year too (Allison, James and Noah).

Noah D: Oh jeez, I don’t know. I hate to self-plug but maybe the Why Bonnie interview. It was the first time I’d interviewed a bigger name band, and I just really enjoy the chances it gave me, and I was proud to see it get feedback. Other than that, I loved the recent article [“25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757”] focusing on shops in the 757. I think it gave some really solid media coverage to businesses that needed it, and I think it influenced a lot of peoples’ decisions in gift buying.


What was your favorite piece to have edited and published? Why?

Tyler W: I really liked how Jasmine’s interview with LEYA came together because I see that as a great example of how Popscure can create connections both online and IRL. We were able to create a relationship with both the band and their label through email correspondence and then reach new readers through social media shares by the band and label. At the same time, we were telling our local readership about this emerging band that was on tour coming to play in our town. And then we were able to go to the show, meet the band, network with local musicians, etc. I also just really like them and their album—their album was one of my favorites this year. 馃檪

Jasmine R: One of my favorite pieces that I helped put out was the Shaina Negr贸n feature by one of our writers, Darryan. It was a super cool look inside the conjoining of art and self-expression from Negr贸n. I’m also really proud of our Black Experience Collective that we put together as a response to the events of police brutality and blatant murder and injustice that occurred this year. The collective serves as a platform to amplify the black voices unheard in this country.

Shannon J: Jasmine took care of much of the editing, bless her soul, but one of the few I did was “Coronavirus and Why Your Fave Band Tee Is Important Right Now.” Documenting such a shift on the blog was crucial since so much of our content is dependent on live music and the musicians who play shows.


What was your favorite standout moment for Popscure this year?

Tyler W: One moment that stands out for me is posting the Fake Uzumi feature on our new WordPress site in February. Around that time we were leveling up, and I felt proud of the efforts from our newly-formed team. I knew the feature was going to get a lot of exposure, and I remember feeling like our operations were just starting to run smoothly; we had all been working hard getting ready for this new level of attention.

Jasmine R: One of my favorite moments from this year absolutely has to be the Valentine’s Day-themed party we did with Smartmouth Brewing Co. and Citrus City Records. This may sound cliche, but the energy was literally full of love that night. It was literally “nothin’ but love.”

Cam M: Nothin’ but love show with Smartmouth.

Shannon J: Stay Put Fest 2020 was amazing. It was such a fun challenge to translate the exhilaration, fun, and camaraderie of live music onto people’s phones. It was the first time I’d chatted with local showgoers and saw my friends play music in months. There were technical difficulties and a learning process for sure, but I think everyone appreciated it. FlyyScience’s COVID info takeover was super interesting too, and getting to know her and her work was awesome. We just really had to think outside of the box this year with events. No one stole our Instagram account either, which was a plus!

Noah D: I haven’t been on the team long enough to comment!


What do you most look forward to in the future of Popscure?

Tyler W: I look forward to us continuing to grow our team. By adding more contributors, Popscure will expand our investigation into the various aspects of culture and bring our findings to our community.

Jasmine R: Our growth!!!

Cam M: Breaking boundaries and bringing obscure talent to the masses.

Shannon J: Parties, hopefully we can do something fun in the summer!

Noah D: Writing more, editing, carving a voice for myself in the team, etc. etc.


Thank you all for the love and support you showed us this year! On to the next one…

25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757

We all know supporting local is important year round, and the holidays are no exception. Skip the Amazon orders and last-minute Target run for something more unique! Not to mention after a year like 2020, our small businesses need us now more than ever.

According to 13 News Now, local retailers predict a 15% drop in holiday sales, and have experienced 50-75% lower sales since shutdown in March. 20% of businesses had to close temporarily or permanently, with 75% closing for 15 days or more. 

Some businesses that did not survive the pandemic include sister bars Saint Germain and Pourhouse in Downtown Norfolk, Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, and Jones鈥 Restaurant in Portsmouth, the latter which has been opened for 34 years.

If you鈥檙e running around the 757 still trying to figure out gifts for loved ones, here鈥檚 a few places to start:

El Rey (photo credit: Realtor Richard Calderon)

Restaurants have been hit especially hard with dine-in service being limited, so buying a gift card to give your loved ones a nice night out is a good option. Here鈥檚 some restaurant suggestions:

Dirty Buffalo: With basketball season underway, it’s only right to grub on some wings while watching – they鈥檙e currently doing dine-in and takeout.

Kappo Nara Ramen: This place is the real deal ramen joint, starting with the edamame and finishing with the black tonkotsu ramen is the way to go. If you buy their cute t-shirt as a gift, your loved one can wear it in there and get 10% off every meal – the gift that keeps on giving.

Noodeman: Speaking of noodles, this Chinese restaurant is named one of the best in the world with their diverse menu of handmade noodle dishes. Hot and Spicy Soup and the Jalape帽o Chicken are the way I roll.

El Rey: With the best shredded beef tacos this side of the border, this family-owned restaurant gets a lot of bang for your buck with $2 tacos on not only Tuesday, but Sunday as well!

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Kobros Coffee (source: company’s Facebook page)

Skip Starbucks, there鈥檚 plenty of great coffee shops in the area that need support. Whether your giftee enjoys making fancy french presses at home or knows someone who needs to break from their work from home desk for a few hours, there鈥檚 a gift within this option of roasteries and cafes. 

Kobros: With their new location in the works, the veteran-owned coffee joint is sure to be a great spot to unwind. Pop in their location on 24th street during your weekend shopping for a rotating specialty latte.

Fresh Cup Coffee & Tea Company: With their easy-to-use online ordering system, pick out artisan flavored coffee from the comfort of your couch.

Lucky Cup Coffee: This shop is a cute spot to get some work done, or grab a bag of CBD-infused coffee to wrap up. 

DJ Bee of Freshtopia (source: company’s Vimeo)

Looking for that special something for the music lover in your life? Check out one of these locally owned record shops for something new they can spin.

Freshtopia: Home of Real Fresh Radio, this spot is the place for hip hop records and I really want one of those hoodies鈥

Vinyl Daze: One of the larger collections of vinyl in the area, this place specializes and only sells records. They鈥檝e had to expand not once, but twice to hold their collection! 

AFK Books: A great spot for not only records but a wide variety of books. If you have old records bring them in for consignment to get some extra Christmas cash. 

Local Heroes (source: Travel and Leisure)

Speaking of books鈥 avoid Amazon or Barnes and Noble and shop local book shops! Many of these places have used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well. 

Prince Books: Right around the corner from Waterside, this place is a hidden gem with a wide range of titles. It’s a charming place with a good selection of fiction novels and biographies.

Local Heroes: The gold standard of comic shops, full of single issues, graphic novels, and other fun gifts. I can鈥檛 help but always get some cute stickers or a mystery box for myself when I go here. Fun fact: This was also named one of the best comic books in the country by Travel and Leisure.

Book Exchange: This place has a wide range of used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well. 

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Veil Brewing (source: company’s Twitter page)

Beer is one gift you cannot go wrong with! With so many great breweries across Hampton Roads, a six-pack could be the tastiest site under the tree for an indulgent giftee. 

Veil Brewing: Some of the most unique brews in the country let alone the area. Not only is their beer delicious for any palette, but their merch is very cool, too.

Big Ugly Brewing: Over a decade in the making, this spot has some solid brews you can get in growlers or giant cans. If you have someone in your life that loves old cars and motorcycles, this spot is a great place to get a gift card to.

Commonwealth: Armed with the knowledge of European brewers, this family-owned spot went from homebrewing to big time after years of perfecting the craft of, well, craft beer.

Norfolk Country Feed and Seed (source: The Virginian-Pilot)

Plants are the hottest trend right now, and a gift that most folks can appreciate (well, at least I can – I鈥檓 pushing 70+ plants in my home currently). Whether your loved one is a self proclaimed black thumb or has accumulated a jungle during quarantine, these are some of my favorite nurseries in the area:

Plantbar: More on the boutique side of the nursery spectrum, this spot is super cute and offers take-home terrarium gifts for a more interactive planty present. Not to mention you get a free alcoholic beverage while you shop, which is very clutch. 

Anderson’s: This huge location is worth the drive to Newport News, and has a lot more than just plants available in their gift shop. It鈥檚 a great place to knock out a good amount of shopping. 

Norfolk Feed and Seed: This place has a good selection and great prices, with one section that has smaller plants for $1.50. Plus, there鈥檚 store cats, which makes it even better in my book. 

Velvet Witch (Source: company website)

If you鈥檙e looking for other unique gift items such as jewelry, home goods, and so much more, these are some really cute spots to get your shop on:

Velvet Witch: If your loved one is obsessed with crystals, is a foul-mouthed feminist, and/or personally identifies with their star sign, this is the spot to buy for them. 

Kitsch: This was my first spot in my Christmas shopping journey, and I knocked out a good amount with their wide variety of items.

Mrs. Pinkadot: I got a lot of my ornaments and Christmas decorations here, so they have a great selection of borderline tacky but utterly charming gifts for everyone.

Hot House Yoga Shoot | Norfolk Virginia Beach Commercial Photographer
Hot House Yoga (Photo Credit: Echard Wheeler Photography)

Stuff is great and all, but what about something fun you can do together? Here鈥檚 some interesting activities that can get your giftee out of their comfort zone.

Mambo Room: Get your favorite couple or significant other a different kind of date night. With the clubs closed, anyone can use an excuse to get dancing!

iFly: For those who have a fear of heights, this may be as close as they鈥檒l get to the thrill of skydiving.

Hot House Yoga: They鈥檙e offering a 10-class card right now good at multiple locations, and this could be a great gift for someone who has mentioned detoxing and getting more mindful after a crazy year. We could all use a little of that after 2020, couldn鈥檛 we?

Era Hardaway is Undeniable

Era Hardaway is a twenty-seven year old rapper, producer, and entrepreneur continuing the honored lineage of innovative thinkers and musicians from Virginia. Following the release of the emcee鈥檚 latest EP, “Undeniable,” I had the opportunity to get better acquainted with Hardaway鈥檚 journey and vision.

Era and I met up at his studio in Norfolk, VA, where he develops the bulk of his material. As an artist who is always working, you always have something new and crazy sounding to play, and today I was the lucky guest. Displaying his range as a more than capable producer that鈥檚 laced countless other artists with beats, such as Young Crazy, he began to demonstrate a number of styles from trap and drill to cinematic soundscapes that belong in the next Final Fantasy.

How did you get into music, was there something else you wanted to do before that?

I learned the turntables early on, but it wasn鈥檛 something I really had my heart set on. Before the music shit, I really wanted to be a street ball player. My mom bought me a basketball, and I鈥檇 be in my room rolling the ball between my legs acting like I鈥檓 shaking defenders off. I had all the And1 mixtapes, even the joints where they went overseas. I used to always watch the marathons on ESPN. I started getting into other leagues that started up like YPA and a few others in the street ball community. So that鈥檚 what I wanted to be, then I decided I wanted to go to the NBA, but I was ass at basketball. I had handles but my shot was wack. I mean, now I鈥檓 alright but back then? Yeah, nah.

What got me into music at first was when I started DJing parties with my pops. This was probably like age 7 or 8; my pops would get a party and let me do half the set and keep half the bread. When I started doing that, I thought, ‘This might be it,’ because I started buying kicks and shit. But I still just wasn鈥檛 ready to step into rapping yet. One day when my dad was teaching me how to blend, I said, ‘Man, who is making these beats?’ When you listen to a beat without the lyrics, you just wonder how they put it together. So around the age of 13, I did my research and found out about Fruity Loops, and once I started making beats, I knew this is what I was going to do.

It kind of started from there. For Christmas, my dad bought me the little M Audio package with two small studio monitors and a dynamic mic with the desk stand. You could only do input or output on that M Audio interface; you couldn鈥檛 do both. It sucked, but I made it work. I stacked shoe boxes on top of each other in my closet, put my mic on top, and made a make-shift pop filter with a stocking cap—and that was my studio.

Would it be correct to say your parents were supportive of your creative exploration?

Yeah, they were. Both my dad and my mom, although [my] [mom] didn鈥檛 really understand it and still doesn鈥檛 to a degree. They were always supportive. My dad was one of those people who, no matter what I wanted to do, would support me even if he didn’t understand it. I know as I got older and more mature, they didn鈥檛 approve of some of what I was saying about gas, smoking weed, and pulling different girls. I know they don鈥檛 want to hear all of that, but this is what鈥檚 going on. I鈥檓 not capping on anything. 

At first, my mom didn鈥檛 even know I was rapping. She knew I was DJing, and she didn鈥檛 really like that because she was worried about me getting caught up in the party scene. I鈥檓 actually glad my dad introduced it to me early on because now when I鈥檓 in the club, I don鈥檛 even want to be there unless I鈥檓 celebrating or I鈥檓 paid to be there. It鈥檚 old to me now. 

I really started rapping in 2009, when I was 16. My mom didn鈥檛 know, even though her office was right next to my room. I鈥檓 cranking music, but she had her speakers as well, so don鈥檛 get me wrong…she was cranking in there too, but I know she can hear me through the walls because I can hear her. The funny thing is, she didn鈥檛 realize I rapped until I handed her my first mixtape, “Yeah I Rap.” I spent all my money making about 100 CDs to take to school to give out for free, and they were gone before the first period. People from the Burg hit me up to this day like, ‘Yo, I still got that CD.’ After that, I go home and hand the CD to my mom, and she says, ‘Oh, that鈥檚 what you鈥檝e been doing locked inside your room all quiet for long periods of time.’ I was surprised when she said she couldn鈥檛 hear me there.

Courtesy of Malik Emmanuel

You鈥檙e self-taught as a musician, was your process always this DIY? If not, when did that change?

I鈥檓 an Internet baby. As computers were being developed, I was around it. I mean, we didn鈥檛 always have that, but since maybe around the time I was fourteen, [we] started having iPhones and computers. Even before that, I always asked questions when seeking the source was just asking somebody. When I found out that seeking the source could be a simple search online, I began to look it up first before asking somebody…especially with simple stuff like 鈥渉ow to tie a tie.”

After hearing some of the beats you have, I鈥檓 compelled to ask, have you ever thought of composing for video games?

Hell yeah. I鈥檝e also thought about scoring for movies. That鈥檚 really the main goal aside from rap. I want to be able to build suspense in a situation with music…really learn the process of that, even the mixing and mastering style of it. 

Who were some of your early influences?

Dilla. Definitely Dilla. He was a heavy influence towards my junior & senior year (of highschool). Madlib, of course. And other people I used to watch on YouTube growing up, like Lex Luger and Southside.

I used to always watch everyone鈥檚 come up stories because you feel like you鈥檙e right there with them. I remember watching Lex Luger talk about how he used to have the computer with the full CPU, monitor, and a keyboard in a bag, and he鈥檇 just pull up. The side plate was gone, so you could see all of the computer chips and everything on the inside, and the power button was gone, so he had to hit it a certain way to make it power on. Lex Luger was making beats on that, and that鈥檚 when I knew I could be successful wherever I was at as long as I had the tools to make music. As long as I got a computer, I鈥檓 good. 

“Hardaway” – “Slightly Hyped”

When I recall some of your earlier work, like “Slightly Hyped,” many of those earlier influences like Dilla and Madlib shine through. But, there seem to be followers that saw your progression into The Juug Tape as an abandonment of the earlier, more 鈥渂oom-bappy鈥 sound. To what do you attribute the change in your music?

On “Undeniable,” I rap, ‘The whole juug won鈥檛 to dumb it down, just give y鈥檃ll another sound to show you that across the board I don鈥檛 fuck around.’ That was the juug, and that鈥檚 why I was making the The Juug Tape. I was giving people bars, and it was cool but I was also like, ‘Let me have fun.’ There are still bars, you know what I鈥檓 saying? If you listen, there are still bars in there. A lot of people were telling me, ‘Aww you鈥檙e doing the trap sound now?’ and really there鈥檚 just a difference between what you make and what you put out because I鈥檝e been making beats like that, and I鈥檝e been making songs like that, but they never heard it until I put out a concentrated version.

Plus, it was just my environment at the time. I always tell people Fredericksburg was cool; that鈥檚 where I learned. But being down here in Norfolk really made me a man. I really saw things that I was taught about back home but never got to embrace. So going through all of that, seeing all of that, and growing as a man was what made that music as well. 

So now, when I give people the bars, they’re like, ‘Oh shit, he can spit!鈥 Yeah…I鈥檝e been doing that. It鈥檚 about having fun. The only thing you can do in this life is take a craft and have fun. The world will try to rob you of all of that, your peace, love, and happiness. So you got to keep yourself excited, do it for yourself first at all times.

You mentioned the difference in experiences you had growing up in Fredericksburg as opposed to Norfolk. Tell me about your upbringing in your hometown compared to what you came to find in your second home?

Fredericksburg is a bit country, my mom is from there, and my dad is from Jersey. My cultural retrospect was very universal. I鈥檇 always be out there at my grandparents’ house riding four-wheelers, playing in the dirt, and things of that nature. We鈥檇 try to help my uncle work on cars and clean up the shop, my cousin Nick and I. If we weren鈥檛 there, we鈥檇 be at his house playing ball. It was very wholesome. Fredericksburg is like a commuter town, so there鈥檚 not much for the youth to do, but it can get wild out there. There are still hoods out there, and everybody from the Burg knew about the VFW before it got shut down. There used to be parties, but it鈥檇 always get shut down when people got to wrecking and shooting. That was the only thing out there until we got Jay鈥檚, and that got shut down too, but by that time, I was in Norfolk. There wasn鈥檛 much for the youth, so we鈥檇 just hang out at the mall or go to the movies, typical middle-class childhood shit.

When I came down to Norfolk, that鈥檚 when I started to see things. Like I was saying, my dad is from Jersey, so he and my uncle used to tell me about certain street shit. They would always be like, ‘Watch out for that,鈥 or ‘Look out for this.’ Before I was ever smoking, my uncle told me the difference between “mid” and “loud,” just so I would know. When they taught me things up there in Fredericksburg, it was never really applied until I came down here to Norfolk. I came down here to go to college, but the environment surrounding it is really gritty, and you have to know how to navigate. With certain people I came to be around, even with some of the things that I got into…I had to dabble in those environments and know how to move. That鈥檚 when all that I鈥檇 learned in Fredericksburg became applied and I could see, ‘Oh, this is what pops or unc was talking about.’ I鈥檝e seen some wild shit being down here, and that鈥檚 why I say it made me a man, the experience. Experience is the best teacher.

There are six songs on “Undeniable,” but as we know, you have plenty more in the tuck. Tell me about the selection and arrangement process for the songs that made the cut.

Initially, I wanted there to be more, but I decided to give a more concentrated body of work. With the arrangement of the tape, I was talking with my manager, and he was like, ‘Bro, I rock with it, and I see what you鈥檙e doing, but I think you should take 鈥淪tep鈥 off or rearrange it.’ 

I believe sometimes you鈥檝e got to humble yourself with your art, and if it鈥檚 someone that you consider very close to you and have respect for their musical ear, you鈥檙e going to take that into consideration. That night I rearranged it, and as I was sitting there with my shorty listening to it, I was like, ‘Yeah, he was right.’ Once I made that change, the whole tape flowed differently.

What was your mindset going into the new project, and why the title “Undeniable”?

At this point in my rap career, that鈥檚 just how I feel. I can do anything, and you could put me in the studio with damn near anybody, and I鈥檒l make it happen. There鈥檚 a high percentage I might body you on your own track.

Image courtesy of Rare Cinematic; Cover Art designed by Ali Dope/OnlyDopeMedia

Featured Image Courtesy of Malik Emmanuel (@Foreva.suave).

Thank you to Era Hardaway for the interview. Listen to “Undeniable” here!

Whose Streets? Our Streets!

Members of the Richmond-based photography collective, the Wild Bunch, answer our call to share their insights and experiences ahead of Norfolk exhibition.

Merriam-Webster defines the word movement in a number of ways, the most apt for our purpose being a series of organized activities working toward an objective, or an organized effort to promote or attain an end. There is much to draw from the definition as it pertains to the events that began to unfold around the country at the end of May, immediately following the barbaric killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, MN police officers.* The status quo of unjust treatment towards Black people in the United States was coming into sharp focus in our streets and across our smartphones. The movement towards equality that had already been going on for a long time was suddenly energized in a way we’ve never seen before.

In Richmond, the capital city of Virginia and former capital of the confederacy, what started at the end of May and continues today is being documented in part by a photography collective who call themselves the Wild Bunch. Having witnessed the very good, the bad, and even the ugliest parts of the streets, the Wild Bunch’s exhibition titled “Our Streets” is one of the largest collections of movement photography ever assembled in the state of Virginia. There is much to read about the Wild Bunch and the upcoming “Our Streets” exhibition in this article in the Virginian-Pilot so we at Popscure decided to highlight a couple of their members to discuss the processes, motivations, and lessons learned from their practice. With a Q&A conducted by executive editor Tyler Warnalis, we introduce to you Keshia Eugene and MarQuise Crockett. Read on and be sure to check out “Our Streets” at the Slow Dive Gallery, opening this Friday October 30th. Spoiler alert: the movement is not over.


Keshia Eugene @chocolatekesh

Documenting the chorus of “enough”

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
First off, could you please tell us about your artistic/photographic background?

I began technical shooting as teenager, with a film camera. Yet as a kid I loved disposable and Polaroid cameras and experienced genuine joy from seeing the photographic results. Since 10th grade having a camera in my purse was hobby that turned habit. So basically what you will see me photograph are reflections of my passions such as live music, candids of hang outs or communal events.

When the protests first started in Richmond, I鈥檇 imagine there was something in you that said, 鈥淚 need to document this.鈥 Could you tell us about that motivation and how you involved yourself? 

Due to science, I didn鈥檛 feel comfortable marching in masses, and I have spent many years protesting in different cities. The collections of photos you will see from me will be more of the unfamiliar forms of protest like the teach-ins and the transformation of reclaimed space of Marcus David-Peters Circle鈥 this is important to show. There is such uniqueness to speak or express through art here in Richmond, the former tainted heart of the confederacy, and prominent slave drop-off; it was necessary to document our chorus of 鈥渆nough鈥.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
While documenting crowds, engaging with people you may not know, and perhaps even putting yourself in tense situations, what sorts of things did you encounter that our readers may or may not have expected?

People are rude. Even if they may be on your side. I鈥檝e seen a lot disrespect towards black women in general during Say Her Name demonstrations. In some cases it did spark some conversation but some people truly don鈥檛 seek to understand. Or performative protestors who are doing this for the first time and making it more of a social event and not focusing on the initiative; it鈥檚 mad irritating but this is my life and validation so I keep my head straight.

What do you think you learned in the process of photographing the protests that you could share with our readers?

My biggest takeaway is my new lost respect of black leaders in Richmond who allowed police to torment the entire city and instead of engaging in true conversation they played safe for political gain and more conservative relationships. Not sure who they are representing because it鈥檚 not the common Richmond resident and it鈥檚 like this in too many states and cities.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene
What do you hope to communicate to the viewer through your photographs?

If you feel uncomfortable in the streets find different ways to share your disapprovals and thoughts for equitable change.

Finally, as a member of the Wild Bunch and a citizen of Richmond, the United States, and the world, what does the title 鈥淥ur Streets鈥 mean to you?

A reminder that origins of Monument Avenue, which was first set to segregate, will soon be dismantled. Things are going to change our way, in our streets.

Courtesy of Keshia Eugene

MarQuise Crockett @_innervator

A gravitational pull to be on the streets

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
Could you tell us about your artistic background? What led you to start using a camera as your preferred means of expression? What sorts of things are you typically photographing?

I was raised by my great grandparents Vernon and Dorothy Crockett who had deep roots in the Baptist church community in Richmond, VA. Not going to church wasn鈥檛 an option on Sunday. I first started singing in the youth choir and did it for the majority of my childhood. Then in middle school I was introduced to the lever harp and later graduated to playing the pedal harp in high school, as well as playing the 5th bass in my high school high step marching band. [As far as photography goes] even at a young age I was kind of obsessed with old family albums. I was in love with the idea of having tangible memories. The love came full circle a few years later when I was gifted my first camera, a Canon EOS Rebel t3i. I鈥檝e been learning ever since. I don鈥檛 have a preferred thing to shot I just love to create content. However, landscapes were my first love.

When the protests first started in Richmond, I鈥檇 imagine there was something in you that said, 鈥淚 need to document this.鈥 What compelled you to hit the streets with your camera?

I don鈥檛 know what made George Floyd鈥檚 death different from all the others, but I had a gravitational pull to be on the streets, to let my voice be heard and tell the real stories of what鈥檚 happening on the ground. I remember reading a quote 鈥淲ould you rather be at war with yourself and at peace with the world OR at peace with yourself and at war with the world?鈥 Every time I turn on the TV, or look on social media, or even walking in my everyday life I鈥檓 constantly reminded that the world is and has been at war with black and brown people.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
While documenting crowds, engaging with people you may not know, and perhaps even putting yourself in tense situations, what sorts of things did you encounter that our readers may or may not have expected?

Being on the ground for the first time was intense, the air is electric with emotions, the sea of signs and messages, megaphones singing chants, trailing cars blasting “Fuck Donald Trump.” It was a lot to take in, but what I also experienced was a real sense of community. There were so many tents of people in and around the circle. Whether if it was for making free masks, food, medical attention, liberation education, music, and sanitation – the PEOPLE proved that it could provide for its community.

What do you think you may have learned in the process of photographing the protests that you could share with our readers? (This could be either technically related to your photography or on a more humanitarian or societal level)

I鈥檓 learning that outside of taking photos and being passionate about my craft and telling important compelling stories through my art form that getting connected to the community and the leaders who have been doing this work is just as important if not more important.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett
What do you hope to communicate to the viewer through your photographs?

I want to convey the truth of what really transpired this summer. Its important for people to engage with these images and see what we experienced this summer at the hands of RPD, VSP, VCU PD, and Capitol police, the sense of community, and the fight that is STILL being fought on our street.

Finally, as a member of the Wild Bunch and a citizen of Richmond, the United States, and the world, what does the title 鈥淥ur Streets鈥 mean to you?

“Our Streets” means another chapter in the struggle for equity and equality – a story as old as the American experience itself.

Courtesy of MarQuise Crockett

“Our Streets” opens to the public on Friday, October 30 at the Slow Dive Gallery in Norfolk, VA and will continue to be on view for several weeks following, both during normal business hours and by appointment. More information on the opening, including the link to RSVP for your specific time slot on Friday or Saturday, can be found here.

*All of this coming mere months after Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by Louisville, KY police and Ahmaud Arbery was pursued and fatally shot by white men while jogging near his home in Brunswick, GA and the list goes on and we should know their names and say them.

Redefining the Framework of tyler donavan

Popscure’s Jasmine phoned in Virginia Beach rapper tyler donavan on a rainy, Sunday afternoon to talk about his predestined beginnings as a musician, his thoughts on Virginia’s future in music, and redefining who he is as a person and musician through his latest release, “inhale.”

鈥淲hat you see is getting framed.鈥 Tyler Wright鈥攂etter known as tyler donavan鈥攑rides himself on his 鈥渙pen book鈥 level of transparency. Our first conversation was scheduled for a late Friday afternoon/evening, a few hours into the start of the weekend. But a couple hours before the agreed time, tyler had asked to reschedule, citing a bad mental health day. This level of transparency shouldn鈥檛 come as a surprise to those that know, or are familiar with, tyler donavan鈥檚 work and personal testimony. Following major spinal surgery in 2018, tyler donavan has done nothing but stay true to his word. From documenting his first steps without a walker to expressing the ebb and flow of doubts that surround his psyche of who he is as an artist and a human being, tyler donavan continues to maintain that what you see is what you get鈥斺渨hat you see is getting framed.”

Although Georgia-born, the Virginia Beach, Virginia artist has always held that special, particular energy that is so unique to VA. Coming from a family of music, tyler donavan鈥檚 place in music always seemed like a given. His mom, an Airforce veteran, was a member of The Airmen of Note, a jazz band that would travel to different bases worldwide to perform as well as being a member of the touring group, Tops In Blue. It was there that tyler鈥檚 parents would eventually meet. But tyler didn鈥檛 delve fully into music until middle school. 鈥淚n middle school, I was bullied a lot. It was like 02-03, so 8 Mile had just come out, and everybody thought they could battle, you know鈥ypical like lunchroom, locker room stuff鈥︹ he says. 鈥淪o to get into creating music, it was just out of curiosity, but it was more so like鈥ell, I wouldn鈥檛 say curiosity鈥it] [was] more of a defense thing . . . I was just kinda there, you know? I wasn鈥檛 really participating.鈥 Despite his introverted nature, tyler got sucked in鈥攖he dormant energy was ready to erupt at the slightest hint of a trigger, and that trigger so happened to be Linkin Park.

鈥淟inkin Park had a song called 鈥H! Vltg3 [鈥淗igh Voltage鈥漖. It was a demo on Hybrid Theory? Or I think it was like a bonus track on Hybrid Theory, like in an international CD or something like that. But when they did Reanimations, there was a remix, and Mike鈥檚 [Shinoda] first verse鈥 can still quote that verse to this day. So I did that, and they were like, 鈥Oooooooh!鈥 cause they were like鈥e [Mike Shinoda] was rapping like big words talking about double helixes and stuff [laughs]. I was like 11; I don鈥檛 know what a double helix is?? Like?? [laughs]” From that point on, tyler began rap battling and eventually the bullying stopped, and in its wake came the shaping of his identity.

With this newfound discovery of rap [tyler wasn鈥檛 introduced to rap until around 10 or 11 years old], he would begin crafting his art鈥harpening the pen鈥efining the mind. Over time, the young artist would release works like debut album, Nimbus, in 2016, along with singles ovation and talkin 2017. tyler donavan [at the time tyler wrighteous] was beginning to find his identity as not only an artist but as a person. Then came 2018. As many can attest, life has a funny way of working out, and in the midst of figuring out who he was, that process was cut short鈥yler donavan had to start over. Who was he? Who was the person known as tyler wrighteous? As .donavan.? As tyler donavan? As Tyler Wright?

How did you take that first step into writing and rapping?

As far as writing my own stuff, I just started with random freestyles over beats that I liked. And I was just rapping and talking shit. It was just rapper talk鈥ust trying to sound cool in a way no one heard before. I think the first beat I ever wrote over was Dumb It Down by Lupe Fiasco, if I remember right鈥ause Lupe is my favorite rapper鈥攅ver. And so, I remember I had it on like this little MP3 player [laughs]. I went around to everybody that I knew with headphones, and I was like, 鈥楲isten to this! Listen to this! What do you think???鈥 Mix was horrible鈥 sounded super monotone鈥 wish I still had the verse, I鈥檇 send it to you. It was [big sigh]鈥ut you know, for the people that actually listened to it and weren鈥檛 annoyed by me, um鈥hey were like, 鈥極kay, you have something鈥ike the talent is there, but you鈥檙e not talking about anything.鈥

. . . The rest of high-school, I was just trying to get my pen right. I was just trying to sharpen the sword, studying, listening to a lot of Lupe鈥 lot of Jay-Z鈥 lot of [A] Tribe Called Quest鈥 lot of, just you know鈥tuff that I gravitated to. Then I got the Internet and you know, fairshare[music] and Limewire鈥o, you can get everything under the sun. So I just鈥 just kinda dove in and when I started realizing that I can actually write about myself, write about like鈥hat I鈥檓 feeling and not just how cool I am, or how much of a better rapper I am than you . . . it was Kanye鈥檚 second album, Late Registration. That album is a masterpiece to me. It covered so many topics, and he produced damn near everything. It鈥檚 just鈥t鈥檚 super influential. I wouldn鈥檛 be鈥 don鈥檛 think I would be the writer, or the producer, or the performer that I am if not for that particular album more than any other album. And it came out right before my birthday, so it was like, 鈥極kay cool. This is cool. I鈥檓 supposed to listen to this.鈥

For those that don鈥檛 know, you are from Stafford, VA, but moved to the 757 after college. What is so different about the 757 compared to the rest of Virginia?

I love the 757 so much鈥ust the energy here that like鈥rom when I first came down here for school, I just鈥 don鈥檛 know. Where I was from, especially on the creative side, there weren鈥檛 venues that hosted local artists. Like there was nothing. We had coffee shops鈥hat was it. So, to be able to see venues like 37th and Zen or the Iguana (or whatever the hell they鈥檙e calling themselves now) small venues like that, to the Norva and the amphitheater [Veterans United Home Loans Ampitheater] where local artists are performing鈥m, I don鈥檛 know. Like Work Release and Toast鈥ust all these different places, these in-the-wall type places where some of the best music can be heard鈥 love live music, that鈥檚 my thing. That鈥檚 my thing. That鈥檚 what gets me every time. 

So, there was just more opportunity for that down here, not just as a performer but as a fan鈥o someone who just loved listening to music鈥ome of my favorite concerts were here. I saw Mac Miller, Pac Div, and Casey Veggies at the Norva鈥hat was one of the best shows I鈥檝e ever been to. I saw Portugal. The Man at the Norva and that was one of the best nights of my freakin鈥 life. Like, that night was incredible. I have a love for the Norva. I鈥檝e put it in a song where I was like, 鈥業 don鈥檛 know if I鈥檒l ever do the Norva,鈥 but that鈥檚鈥 was supposed to do the Norva, but things happened, and I couldn鈥檛 do the show. But I don鈥檛 know鈥here鈥檚 just something down here. I personally don鈥檛 know if I can tailor it to a certain person that chartered that energy, but I will give credit to RBLE [Rebel-E]. [From] the RBLE team to like Gabe Niles to Artel Carter鈥hey were a part of it in some way, shape, or form. Whether they were on the bill or Gabe鈥檚 DJ鈥檌ng鈥omehow, someway RBLE was a part of it. Just seeing those different opportunities . . . seeing the different genres鈥ike, you can really be yourself here. There鈥檚 a platform for it. There鈥檚 a place for it. There鈥檚 an audience for it. People accept you for it.

To go off that, the 757鈥here鈥檚 so much diversity beyond people, music, all of the niches that you can think of鈥hy do you think Virginia is not included in the conversation of other music hubs like New York, LA, Nashville? Do you have a theory behind that?

I was just talking to somebody about this. [Long pause] I have鈥 don鈥檛 know if it would necessarily be a theory because it鈥檚 based [on] observation鈥nd I don鈥檛 wanna鈥 wanna make sure that this doesn鈥檛 sound like I鈥檓 complaining, or from a space of entitlement because that鈥檚 not it at all. But the first that make it out of here, 9 times out of 10, don鈥檛 mention us. They don鈥檛 mention what鈥檚 going on back home, or if they do, it鈥檚 in passing. Or, up until recently with you know, Pharrell doing Something In The Water鈥攚hich is incredible鈥攁nd now, with Pusha T starting Heir Wave Music Group鈥攚hich is also incredible鈥攂ut, we鈥檝e recently had big artists come out of here. And again, they don鈥檛 owe that to us. You know? There are certain artists from here that, I guess, hold a grudge or something because the spotlight isn鈥檛 being shown on us based off of what someone else has already done. And you can see that desperation, for lack of a better word, in their work. Artists are trying really, really hard to put on for Virginia and make it like an Atlanta, or a Chicago, or鈥 truly believe that Virginia can be one of those mid-tier scenes. The top three scenes right now will always be LA, New York, and Atlanta. And Nashville. Those are the top four; I could be missing one. But like, a lot of regions are having incredible runs. Chicago had an incredible run from like 2010 to I鈥檇 say鈥ell even to now! Philadelphia had a good run with artists鈥lorida鈥ven like Louisville, Kentucky鈥ortland鈥eattle鈥ustin. So, Virginia can be in that conversation. 

And I think鈥sigh] I鈥檓 trying to find the right way to word it, but I think there鈥檚 just a sense of entitlement that we expect these bigger artists to come back when they never may have said they were going to come back. When Pusha announced the record label, the first thing I saw was them hating on the first person that he signed. And it鈥檚 like, 鈥榊o, what do we want?? Like is it just cause it鈥檚 not us??鈥 Like Pusha T may never hear my music ever in life. I鈥檓 not gonna be mad that he doesn鈥檛 pick me for his label just because I feel like I make the best music in the world and I鈥檓 from here? People don鈥檛 want to put on for Virginia like they say they do, they just want to be the face of it. And when they鈥檙e not the face of it, whoever is the face of it is a hater, or they don鈥檛 put on for home . . . And I just never subscribed to that sort of鈥攁gain, for lack of a better word鈥攙ictim mentality.

It鈥檚 almost like a double-edged sword, right? Like the Virginia pride of鈥ike you said, putting on for Virginia, but then at the same time are you really putting on for Virginia?

Right. And I have that pride, and I wasn鈥檛 even born here鈥 was born in Georgia. I moved here when I was five, so I pretty much grew up here. And I love it here. And there鈥檚 so much history here. We always go to the Pharrell conversation鈥攍et me say The Neptunes conversation, I鈥檓 not gonna forget Chad Hugo鈥攕o, we had The Neptunes conversation and the whole Star Trak empire. We had Clipse who was rapping about nothing but drugs鈥nd making it work! Then you have Pharrell rapping, then you have N.E.R.D., you have freakin鈥 Kenna, all in that鈥elis鈥攕he isn鈥檛 from here鈥攂ut all in that same camp鈥nd it was based out of Virginia. Like that was incredible. And then you have Timb [Timbaland], and you have Missy [Elliott] who were genre-bending since they kinda started. 鈥Get Your Freak On鈥 could come out today, and it still sounds like, 鈥極h, this sounds like this was made 10 years in the future!鈥 So, the history is there.

And we鈥檝e had our second wave鈥攆or lack of better words鈥攐f you know, some of the biggest records that have come out of here. DRAM owned two summers with two records like 鈥Cha Cha鈥 and 鈥Broccoli.鈥 He owned the summer. And you know, Masego鈥e鈥檚 like part of this new wave where like jazz is coming back to the forefront, and I think that he played a major part in that. So it鈥檚 like鈥e鈥檙e here, but I think that the reason we鈥檙e not in the conversation is because we either aren鈥檛 getting the look, or we are getting the look and dropping the ball. And so, I鈥檓 grateful that artists are focusing more on being the best artist that [they] can be instead of trying to put on for something. Because if you focus on just making the best art, and multiple people are doing that at the same time鈥攁t a high level鈥攖he conversations will come. 

But right now, it鈥檚 just been kinda like one after the other. One person pops from here, or six months later, somebody else pops from here鈥nstead of creating like a real hub and working with venue owners and working with local brands and really creating the network here as opposed to everyone kinda doing their own thing. I think that鈥檚 where we can start getting into the conversation. But who knows? Unfortunately, I can鈥檛 just get everybody on the same page, at the same time鈥nd it鈥檚 not my job to. I just wanna make the music I wanna make. I wanna connect with as many people as I can because there is a lot of fucking talent here, and it deserves the light.

So basically, we are missing that unity, collective aspect?

Yes, and that鈥檚 what makes Richmond so dope. Because Richmond has that. The Richmond hip-hop scene鈥here is a unity there. And that鈥檚 why you have legends like Nickelus FMichael Millionsthe Radio B. And then you have people like the Mutant AcademyFly Anakin, who I鈥檝e known since around 2012. We did shows together鈥 think we did songs together. And now he鈥檚 working with fucking Madlib, and it鈥檚 like, 鈥榊oooo!鈥 Like there鈥檚 definitely more of a unity there. You can see it in events, and you can see it when people drop projects, they鈥檙e actually supporting and pushing it and local radio playing the records and like鈥here鈥檚 definitely a sense of unity. And I鈥檇 love to see that more in other regions of the state. 

Since we are speaking about Virginia, I noticed you were included in the Commonwealth Sounds, 鈥淲elcome to Virginia,鈥 playlist. How does it feel to be included amongst obviously some very big names in Virginia music?

So remember when I said that I like鈥hen I first moved down here my first introduction was RBLE? It was RBLE and Commonwealth. Those were the first two things that I saw where I was like, 鈥極kay. This is what鈥檚 cool. This is culture (even though that word is played out). This is the鈥hese are the top dogs that are creating and making dope stuff.鈥 I wasn鈥檛 expecting it at all. I think鈥ho sent it to me? Fake UzumiShaded Zu! He sent that to me. He just sent me the playlist and was like, 鈥榊O! You鈥檙e on this!鈥 and I was like, 鈥楤ruh, stop playing with me!鈥 I didn鈥檛 think that anyone at Commonwealth knew who I was. I love them. I love how they present themselves. Their branding is incredible. I think the history they have is incredible. I will always love Commonwealth. So, to be included in that playlist, and to see so many people that I knew included鈥t was really dope cause it gave me that hope that, 鈥極h! Okay鈥aybe the seeds are being planted for that unity that we were talking about.鈥 And to have that platform鈥reakin鈥 Commonwealth! To have that platform shine a light鈥t鈥檚 incredible. There are different tiers where it鈥檚 like the top tier right now, for me, as far as recognition is playing Something In The Water. And then Heir Wave Music Group is right under that, and then I think Commonwealth is probably on the same level just because of their longevity. I don鈥檛 know much about streetwear brands and stuff like that, but I view Commonwealth as having almost that same respect as like a Supreme. Commonwealth is like Supreme, where it鈥檚 like high-level quality, totally respected鈥hey just make dope shit. So the fact that they included that song [鈥淭he Lamb鈥漖 is incredible鈥 big honor.

I know we touched on this a little bit. Do you think there is a new movement stirring in Virginia music?

Yeah, I do, because I think people鈥檚 mentalities are starting to change. I think that people are just focusing on the art. Some of the best music in Virginia right now is coming out of Suffolk. And no one ever talks about Suffolk! There鈥檚 a group, IllDaze, that鈥檚 incre鈥攍ike from music to how they present their music to visuals鈥hey鈥檙e unbelievable. BreezePark is another great collective. And then what鈥檚 dope is that all of the members in those collectives do their own individual stuff, and they鈥檙e top-notch in that. Not just music but production鈥hotography鈥ike oh my God! And it鈥檚 just incredible, and they never get brought up. But they鈥檙e doing numbers! They鈥檙e doing better numbers than us by far. So it just goes back to if you just focus on the quality of the work, then that movement will come. Yeah, I think鈥ive it about five years. If we can have just five solid years of work and connecting and building something, I think that we can be in that conversation for sure. And not just like a 鈥渇lash in the pan鈥 either. I want us to have a run. And I think that we will鈥 think that we will. Whether I鈥檓 a part of it or not, I think we will.

Take us back to the early days of your career. You had a couple of name changes – tyler wrighteous and .donavan. What inspired your artist name to what it is now?

I got tired of changing it, and I just wanted to use my regular name. I was originally wrighteous鈥ust wrighteous. I got that from鈥onestly, from Finding Nemo. I was sitting with my friends in Stafford, and we were happily watching Finding Nemo. I think one of my friends鈥 nephews was actually watching, and the scene with Crush, 鈥楻ighteous! Righteous!鈥 [laughs] came up, and we were laughing, and I think it was my best friend Jeff, who was jokingly like, 鈥楬ey, that should be your rap name.鈥 And then like a week later, I like sent him a song and the artist title was 鈥渨righteous.鈥 And then I added 鈥渢yler鈥 to it because 鈥渨righteous鈥 sounded too general, and I wanted it to be a little more personal with me. And then the name 鈥渨righteous鈥 itself got kinda corny because I kept getting the assumption that I was like a gospel rapper鈥nd I鈥檓 not. And that is interesting all in of itself because I have definitely gotten closer in my faith and it鈥檚 grown back鈥nd it feels awesome now, but back then it wasn鈥檛 there, and I didn鈥檛 want to give out that assumption that it was. 

So then I switched to 鈥.donavan.鈥 cause that was my middle name, and I share that with my father. And I wanted to honor him because he鈥檚 been fighting brain cancer for the past few years, and鈥 don鈥檛 know. We didn鈥檛 have the best relationship growing up just because he was always working, and he was strict鈥nd I鈥檓 very sensitive so that usually doesn鈥檛 mix [laughs]. But the older that I got, a lot of the things that he was trying to tell me and get into my head鈥t made more sense the older that I got. It was kinda a two-way thing where it鈥檚 like, 鈥極kay鈥 feel more connected to my dad now more than anything,鈥 and when I write I鈥檓鈥 try to鈥鈥檓 usually very inspirational and try to be motivational and uplifting and positive. I kinda got that from him in a way cause it was like, 鈥楬ey, life is gonna suck sometimes, but we gotta keep pushing. And we gotta keep moving. And we gotta keep going,鈥 and that energy I got from him. So, I changed my name to 鈥.donavan.鈥 And then I added the dots just cause I was having an identity crisis鈥nd then people kept spelling my dag-on name wrong throughout the whole time! Like 鈥渨righteous鈥 they would spell wrong. 鈥渢yler wrighteous鈥 they would spell wrong. My biggest show to date鈥擨 opened for IDK in D.C., and the guy who did the poster knows me鈥e did my first freakin鈥 album cover, and he still spelled my name wrong! And I鈥檓 just like, 鈥楿ghhhh! Like how can you like?鈥 Even now, with it being 鈥渢yler donavan,鈥 they still spell it wrong. They spell it 鈥渄ono-,鈥 that鈥檚 how my dad spells his name鈥ine is 鈥渄ona-.鈥 And there is a Tyler Donovan that鈥檚 spelled 鈥渄ono-,鈥 and he鈥檚 like a kid from Hawaii that plays like acoustic stuff鈥攈e鈥檚 not bad!

Yeah, I鈥檝e come across him! [laughs]

Yeah, you know what I mean!? He鈥檚 not bad [laughs]. We should do a song together! Yeah, to get to 鈥渢yler donavan鈥 and to kinda stick with it鈥鈥檓 not gonna lie and say that Kendrick [Lamar] wasn鈥檛 a major inspiration in that. Where it鈥檚 like your first and middle name. It鈥檚 more of a personal thing, it鈥檚 more, 鈥榊ou鈥檙e gonna feel what I鈥檓 saying. I want you to really feel and relate to what I鈥檓 saying.鈥 That definitely played a factor in it, and I don鈥檛 know鈥 like it. I like it better. I think it鈥檚 a good representation of where I鈥檓 at. I鈥檓 not changing it again, I鈥檓 kind of stuck with it [laughs].

I like it too.

Yeah, it鈥檚 definitely my favorite out of the four different things that I鈥檝e had. 

Yeah, it鈥檚 kinda like 鈥渨hat you see is what you get.鈥

What you see is getting framed. Yeah, that鈥檚 a line that I have off of the 鈥breathe鈥 EP I put out last year. What you see is getting framed. I鈥檓 never gonna be here selling this image to you. I am not selling a gimmick. I am a typical鈥ike I am your 鈥渆veryday rapper.鈥 I鈥檓 not trying to be a superstar. I鈥檓 not trying to act like a superstar. That鈥檚 just not me, and it鈥檚 never really been me. I鈥檓 just a regular guy that has feelings just like you; this is how I get them out. I鈥檓 blessed that even one person connects with it in any way鈥he fact that there are more than that is just a blessing on top of it. I figured why have a fancy name? I can have the name my mama gave me, and it鈥檒l be good enough. If it鈥檚 good enough for my mama, it鈥檚 good enough for me.

You had a, and correct me if I鈥檓 wrong, debut album in 2016 titled gasping for air. Is that correct?

Um, Nimbus. gasping for air is the album I鈥檓 working on now. But yes, I had an album in 2016. It was pretty鈥ixing aside, it was a pretty solid album. I produced every song. It had Sunny Moonshine on it, and Masego played sax on it. Yeah, that came out four years ago.

In what ways do you think your music has evolved?

That鈥檚 a good question. I think that the biggest difference is鈥 would say the level of transparency. I鈥檝e always been an 鈥渙pen book,鈥 especially when it comes to writing, but if I listen to Nimbus front to back, and if I listen to the songs I have for gasping for air front to back鈥 think there is a level of maturity I didn鈥檛 have before. Nimbus was like high school to me, if I had to put it in a maturity standpoint鈥hich is kinda weird since I made it when I was like 25. But it felt like high school to me, and I think that with the songs I鈥檓 working on now . . . more life has been lived. You know? There鈥檚 just been more experienced, and I鈥檝e grown up and鈥 think it鈥檚 displayed鈥攏ot in just the music, but in the writing and production. I鈥檓 a little more seasoned now. 

When it comes to writing music, are you more of a 鈥渢hinker鈥 relying on music theory more, or are you more of a 鈥渇eeler,鈥 what feels right?

Definitely more of what feels right. I have a basic understanding of music theory, and in certain instances, it does make sense, [so] I do utilize it. But for me, it鈥檚 just what feels right. One of the biggest challenges I had initially [pause] I didn鈥檛 have a鈥ike a sound. I didn鈥檛 have a signature sound. We talked earlier about how Kanye had the sped-up sample鈥harrell had the almost like video game [sound] like if he鈥檚 just producing by himself, it鈥檚 almost like a video game type of sound, and Chad is more super chord heavy, almost jazz-based. Everybody has a sound, and I didn鈥檛 have that. I still don鈥檛 think I do. On the flip side, it鈥檚 so freeing because now, more than ever, genres are kinda out the window. And you can do whatever you wanna make, and I鈥檓 influenced by sooo many different sounds that like [pause] I was told that I was hindering myself by not allowing  it [the process of creating without a genre in mind] to happen. 

I know we are focusing on the EP right now, but the main focus that I hope you hear from the album [gasping for air] and the two EPs [鈥渋nhale鈥 and 鈥渆xhale鈥漖, production wise, is like the energy of a mixtape. One of my favorite things about rap mixtapes was鈥eople were just getting on whatever beat they liked. They didn鈥檛 care. There was no cohesion behind it; there was no structure behind it. Like, 鈥業 like that beat. I鈥檓 gonna rap on it. This is what I鈥檓 gonna say. Alright, let鈥檚 go.鈥 I love the range of that. One of my favorite mixtapes ever is [laughs] by this guy out of Canada named Colin Munroe. He had a mixtape in 2009, called 鈥Colin Munroe – Unsung Hero.鈥 And he had like indie-pop songs, indie rock songs on there鈥ike cloud rap type beats on there, he [even] had a song with Drake on there. And then he had a whole song where he was just singing over a Dilla beat. I鈥檇 never heard singing like that over a Dilla beat. Like the only singing I鈥檇 ever heard over J Dilla was Erykah Badu. This may not be the best comparison, but it was like if you took the singer from Death Cab for Cutie and put them over a Dilla beat. It鈥檚 the dopest thing in the world! I love the experiment of, 鈥楬ey, you鈥檙e not supposed to sound鈥eople would expect you to be over this.鈥 At first, I was like, 鈥楢w, I don鈥檛 have a signature sound,鈥 but now it鈥檚 like I don鈥檛 care! I wanna have songs where I鈥檓 just singing. I wanna have songs where I just rap my ass off. Because I know that I can do both at least somewhat well, enough that I enjoy. So, it鈥檚 just what feels right, and it鈥檚 always been that way. I鈥檓 really grateful for that cause when I start thinking, it feels too processed. Music is like time capsules to me. I鈥檓 not gonna force something if I don鈥檛 feel it.

You have a very unique way of vocal delivery that keeps the listener hanging on to every word you say鈥ven what hasn鈥檛 been said. Was that always something that came naturally to you, or did you deliberately hone that skill? Or were you even aware?

That is definitely something that has always been stated. I don鈥檛 know where it came from, to be honest with you. I think it was just natural. But I do have to give credit to being in choir and doing theatre in high school, where voice inflection is really important. You can say the same sentence three different ways, and each way can have a completely different meaning depending on how you present it. I always try to keep that in mind. I listen to a lot of Outkast, where they flip their voices in different ways. That Colin Munroe mixtape I mentioned before, he used pitch bending and manipulation鈥endrick does the same thing, and Mac [Miller] did it a little bit as well. I like the idea of trying to make something that you鈥檝e never heard before.

You鈥檝e been very transparent about your major spinal surgery in 2018. Since then, you鈥檝e released your mini-mixtape, 鈥.Respiration.鈥 and EP, 鈥渂reathe.鈥 How much of that transparency and writing has been therapeutic for you?

I mean [pause] I鈥檒l put it this way. I went to therapy, and I wrote music鈥 got more out of writing music than going to therapy. I鈥檓 not saying not go to therapy. I need to go back! There are certain things that I have to talk about that I can鈥檛 do in a song. So, I need to go back to therapy, but at that particular time, I was getting more out of writing than talking to somebody for an hour. I felt more relieved, especially with..and I鈥檓 glad you brought up 鈥.Respiration.鈥 cause no one has talked to me about it. Those were the first things that I wrote after getting out of the surgery. Honestly, there wasn鈥檛 a lot besides the 鈥淚 Got Up鈥 remix over the Nickelus F beat. The other two songs on that project were really just me checking to make sure if like, 鈥極kay, does the pen still work?鈥 When I saw that it did, I was like, 鈥極kay. We can get back to work.鈥 That gave me the energy to make 鈥渂reathe,鈥 and then the whole idea of gasping for air came up, and it all lined up from there. Those remixes were really important because it allowed me to kinda shake off the rust and get back in and see where I鈥檓 at. It let me know that I didn鈥檛 fall off, and that was my biggest fear. I thought that I was going to fall off as a writer and, if anything, I got better. I鈥檓 really grateful for that project.

It鈥檚 interesting that you say that because when I listened to 鈥.Respiration.鈥 I noticed that there was a darker, almost rougher sound compared to 鈥渂reathe.鈥 How much of that juxtaposition reflected your feelings about 2018 and your surgery?

Hmm鈥ark is a good word. To be honest with you, I haven鈥檛 been the biggest fan of myself for the past five to seven years. Music was the only thing that I kinda had that I was like, 鈥極kay. I鈥檓 good at this. This is something that doesn鈥檛 define me, but like鈥ou know, it鈥檚 something that I鈥檓 good at, and it鈥檚 something that I love to do.鈥 And [pause] a major part of that was performing and being in front of people and being honest with myself and being honest with people. I got a lot out of that. When the surgery happened, I honestly didn鈥檛 know if I would be able to perform again. I was always going to make music. If my voice worked, I was always going to make music. But to be able to perform that music鈥 didn鈥檛 know if I was going to be able to do that again. So, I kinda had a chip on my shoulder鈥nd I always rapped with a chip on my shoulder cause I always felt like the odd one out. And I still do鈥nd that鈥檚 okay. 

Writing for 鈥.Respiration.,鈥 compared to 鈥渂reathe,鈥 鈥渋nhale,鈥 the next EP 鈥渆xhale,鈥 and gasping for air鈥ll of those projects are to inspire, to encourage, to motivate, and it鈥檚 just a testimony, right? With 鈥.Respiration.鈥 I just wanted to rap. I just wanted to get my shit off and get rid of that chip on my shoulder to prove that, 鈥榊eah鈥 broke my back, but don鈥檛 get it twisted for one second. I鈥檓 still nice with this. And I鈥檝e been nice with this for a minute.鈥 Do I feel I get that recognition? I don鈥檛鈥t least not vocally. 

With the exception of Pusha T, the best rapper in Virginia, to me, is Nickelus F. Pusha T and Nickelus F are the two鈥nd Fly Anakin. Those are the top three best rappers in Virginia, in my opinion. Pusha doesn鈥檛 know who I am, that鈥檚 cool. I鈥檝e known Anakin for years, that鈥檚 cool. Nickelus F is my hero鈥ike he鈥檚 one of my heroes when it comes to rap. Bar for bar, I鈥檇 put him up against anybody. After I did 鈥.Respiration.,鈥 I did a show in Richmond鈥nd Anakin was actually on the bill now that I remember! And Nick was there! I didn鈥檛 expect him to be there, but he was there. And I was doing that remix to open the set. He had already heard it, and he had shown love to me before, which was crazy in itself. He walked up to me and was like, 鈥榊o, I heard the remix. You killed that.鈥 I was like, 鈥極h. My. God.鈥 I was still on a walker鈥 was still using the walker. And I was like, 鈥榊o, thank you!鈥 After the set and show, following when 鈥.Respiration.鈥 came out, [he] came up to me again and said, and I quote, 鈥榊o. You can rap your ass off.鈥 That is all the validation that I needed. I stopped caring about trying to be the best rapper. Do I still have that ego? Of course I do! Do I still think that I鈥檓 top 10 in the state? Yes! And I鈥檓 NOT 10. And I鈥檓 NOT 9. I truly believe that when I have a pen in my hand, and I鈥檓 focused, I am one of the best rappers that this state has to offer. I truly believe that. And I will continue to believe that until the day that I die.

Photo Credit: @kliftxn

So, 鈥.Respiration.,鈥 I just had that chip on my shoulder like, 鈥楧on鈥檛 forget for one second鈥鈥檓 gonna focus on songwriting, and I鈥檓 gonna focus on trying to evoke emotion鈥ut don鈥檛 get it twisted for one second. I鈥檓 still really good at this.鈥 And the fuel I had for that was to get people to leave me alone and respect me. I wanted that respect, and I still want that respect鈥ut it鈥檚 not as much the fuel anymore. I鈥檓 not worried about respect from rappers that I may never meet anymore. Again, one of my favorite rappers gave me props鈥ore than once. I鈥檓 good. So, I guess the perspective changed from that. And who knows? I may do another one day. I鈥檒l probably do another 鈥.Respiration.鈥 that may become a mixtape series where I鈥檓 like, 鈥業 wanna rap for 15 minutes. Alright, cool.

The first installment of your upcoming series, 鈥渋nhale,鈥 is coming out soon. What, if any, of the songs do you feel tested your songwriting ability, or became a song you were surprised to write?

Oh the last song for sure, 鈥渢ake the lead.鈥 That was a completely different song. Like production wise, it was a completely different song before the version that you heard. You actually heard the original one cause you were at the Charlie鈥檚 show!

Oh, forreal??

Yeah, you were at the Charlie鈥檚 show, and during the set there was a song where I just didn鈥檛 perform, and I just played it. That was the original version of 鈥渢ake the lead.鈥 That was definitely the most challenging one because鈥 mean if there鈥檚 gonna be any song that I have so far, that鈥檚 been released, or that鈥檚 gonna be released, that I think could be like on radio or be mainstream鈥t鈥檚 that one for sure! From the structure and from the outside looking in, it kinda reminds me of 鈥3005.鈥 It reminds me of that sort of energy where the production feels really good, but if you really look at the lyrics, it鈥檚 talking about this heavy stuff. That whole song is about a toxic relationship that I was in. That was definitely the most challenging structure wise, and then writing because it was about something really personal. 

Where does 2020鈥檚 鈥渋nhale鈥 find you mentally compared to 2019鈥檚 鈥渂reathe?鈥

With 鈥渂reathe,鈥 I was living in it while I was writing and recording it. It was very in the moment like, 鈥楾his is just where I鈥檓 at right now鈥 lot of shit has happened鈥his is where I鈥檓 at.鈥 But the series that I鈥檓 doing now, it鈥檚鈥efore it was gasping for air, I called it a testimony. And I鈥檓 just viewing the smaller EPs as chapters of that. So, it鈥檚 more of a reflection now with these projects as opposed to 鈥渂reathe鈥 where I was actually still in it. The focus behind the first chapter, 鈥渋nhale,鈥 is living in the good. That鈥檚 why the songs are kinda more chill, more laidback鈥xcept for 鈥渢ake the lead.鈥 It鈥檚 more relaxed and more of a good vibe, right? And that鈥檚 kinda where the story starts. The next project will probably get a little deeper鈥 little darker. Then the full album will be like the full piece鈥he final piece of it. I like trilogies. I鈥檓 weird. My favorite number is nine鈥hrees and nines. I rock with trilogies, they鈥檙e dope.

I feel that! I love a good concept. 

Me too! And I鈥檒l be honest with you, I was worried about doing it this way, and I was worried about this release strategy because I haven鈥檛 seen a rapper do it. But when I saw鈥t was originally inspired by John Mayer because he did it with鈥ot his last album, but the album before. But more directly, what Hayley did鈥hat Hayley Williams did!

Oh, Petals For Armor!

Exactly! I think, from a business standpoint, it was freakin鈥 smart. Cause it鈥檚 like鈥ayley Williams is probably鈥 would say one of the best live voices I鈥檝e ever鈥ne of the best voices period, that I鈥檝e ever heard. And I think she鈥檚鈥ike I鈥檓 not the biggest into rock cause I鈥檓 just not there and there鈥檚 so much, but from鈥鈥檒l put it this way鈥efore he passed, Chester Bennington was the greatest living frontman in my opinion. Obviously, we had Freddie Mercury, but like鈥hat was living at that point, Chester was the guy. That was the voice for me. When he passed, there was this time where I just started to listening to Paramore more, and I was like, 鈥楪oodness gracious鈥his girl is like鈥t鈥檚 insane!鈥 To see her do that鈥 love Petals For Armor, I love that album. 

Oh yeah, that album has been on repeat. 

It鈥檚 so good. It鈥檚 so good, and I鈥檓 so happy for her because like鈥henever an artist goes solo, it鈥檚 like, 鈥極kay. It鈥檚 either gonna be really good or eh鈥︹ and she killed it. I was really inspired by that and with how she broke it down. Like I said, I wanted it to be like a mixtape, production wise, and like an album, lyrically. I wanted to break it up because I鈥檓 still trying to reach a new audience and get new ears. If I see somebody that I haven鈥檛 heard of before or in a long time, I鈥檓 more inclined to listen to a four-track EP than a nine or twelve-track album. I focus more on making small, cohesive pieces so that if you rock with those pieces, and you come along with the story, then I know you鈥檙e gonna love the album. That would be the approach. So where 鈥渋nhale鈥 finds me now is鈥鈥檓 at a point where I can look back instead of being in it. It鈥檚 a different energy, but it鈥檚 still me鈥鈥檓 still in the energy of some of those songs. You know what I mean? On a spiritual level, the EP is the chapter that is focused on the flesh. The whole album, in general, is a tug of war between faith and fear. When you get tired of fighting that, and when you get tired of being in that tug of war, you just wanna live in the moment. You just wanna do whatever it is you wanna do鈥ou wanna hangout鈥ou wanna get fucked up鈥ou wanna鈥ou know what I mean? 鈥渋nhale鈥 is like a soundtrack for that basically. It starts off really chill like you鈥檙e talking with your friends or whatever. 鈥渇orecast鈥 is kinda the same way. 鈥渙ptions,鈥 which is more commercial sounding, is more like the pregame, turn up song, or whatever. 

When I think of 鈥渙ptions,鈥 I picture myself in like a really nice car, windows down, got a blunt, shades on, bad chick is in shotgun, and I just feel like the coolest dude in the world driving down the oceanfront at three o鈥檆lock in the morning. And, I鈥檓 not that person. So, it鈥檚 fun to kinda step into that world and live in that for like two鈥wo and a half minutes [laughs] before I come back to reality, and that鈥檚 what makes the transition from 鈥渙ptions鈥 to 鈥渢ake the lead鈥 so cool. There鈥檚 a sample at the end from 500 Days of Summer cause it鈥檚 literally like that breakdown of expectations and reality. That鈥檚 really what those two songs are. I wanted to just make it an enjoyable listen for 10 minutes. I didn鈥檛 want to make anything forgettable; I wanted to set the tone of, 鈥極kay, this is the first part of the story. If you like it, we鈥檒l keep going.鈥

Yeah, I was gonna say鈥 like to listen to new music in a quiet space where no one is going to bother me. When I listened to 鈥渋nhale,鈥 I felt that story鈥 went through that journey. And that last song鈥an鈥

Yes! That鈥檚 what I wanted! I鈥檓 so happy that I didn鈥檛 scrap that song because I was going to. I liked the original version, but it wasn鈥檛 there yet, production wise. Compared to the other songs, it sounded bland. I had like a super, awesome guitar solo at the end that isn鈥檛 on the actual version, which I鈥檓 a little bummed about鈥ut it鈥檚 okay. It was a last minute thing where I sent it to my friend, Nu$e [Musik], out in LA. He added some keys to it, and when he sent it back, it was like the battery was recharged. I went back, and I just changed everything with the beat. The way it transitioned from the bachata drums and stuff like鈥t鈥檚 my favorite part鈥t鈥檚 my favorite part of the whole EP. 

I was gonna say, that song鈥hat song is the one. 

I appreciate that. To date, that is probably the most complete song I have. And I鈥檓 really proud of it, and I鈥檓 really grateful. I gotta thank Nu$e again because he鈥檚 one of the most talented musicians that I鈥檝e ever met. I call it the Hey Arnold keys. He put the Hey Arnold keys on there and gave it a different energy.

I鈥檓 really excited for this to come out. It will be out next month on the ninth, correct?

That is the plan. We are shooting a lot of dope visual stuff at the end of the month, so more stuff will come out after the EP comes out. The idea with 鈥渋nhale鈥 and 鈥渆xhale鈥 is to treat them like mixtapes. I鈥檝e always viewed mixtapes as trying to get as much local attention as you can while trying to build up that local fanbase. That鈥檚 why I鈥檓 upset with COVID, one because it鈥檚 a super health thing, but two鈥 was planning on hitting every open mic that I could just to try and get into other people鈥檚 faces. You know鈥 haven鈥檛 really been out there like that with my surgery and just with mental stuff. I鈥檝e gone out once in a while, but I鈥檓 not really out here. 

I鈥檓 just grateful that certain people in the music scene here know me and remember me and have been really supportive. There are so many ears out here that haven鈥檛 heard me, and I can鈥檛 expect people that already know I鈥檓 great, or know that I make music, to always [spread the word] about me. I have two legs. I have a voice. I can go out. The exciting part about it is that I do think this is my best project to date, so I think that it鈥檚 going to get the fans that I already have back because I know that I鈥檝e been really inconsistent with releases. But I also believe this will be the first project that I can stand on, and I think people will actually want to share鈥攏ot just because they鈥檙e my friends, or saw me at a show鈥攂ut because the music is actually really good from start to finish. I think this is the first time word of mouth will really鈥he product will back it up. I may have fallen short of that in the past, or I didn鈥檛 fall through more than I needed to. I don鈥檛 know if I鈥檓 gonna make another full album again. I want to. I absolutely want to, but I can鈥檛 do it if I don鈥檛 live anything. This may be the only one that I do, and if it is, then I just wanna invest into it, and I want to do it however the hell I wanna do it, so I have no regrets. I鈥檓 excited. I鈥檓 nervous as hell. I really think this is gonna鈥t may not get me in the door, but it will definitely be a solid knock at the door鈥ou鈥檒l hear鈥nd you鈥檒l pay attention. 


inhale” – tyler donavan (artwork: @bigbadlone)

Featured image by: @leansvision

“inhale” is out NOW on all music streaming platforms! A big thank you to tyler donavan and 9th Nimbus for the chance to conduct this interview. And most importantly…don’t forget to breathe.

Discovering How to Be Human with Suburban Living

Ahead of their upcoming show together in Norfolk, Popscure contributor Elliott Malvas took some time out to interview his bestie, Wesley Bunch, founder and bandleader of the Philadelphia dream pop band.

Having grown up together in Virginia Beach [a small enough town where everyone who listens to a certain type of music naturally coalesces], Wes and I have been best friends forever. I remember the day he started writing songs as Suburban Living some time in the early 2010s. He has since moved to Philly and his band has seen various personnel changes, the current lineup backed by Michael Cammarata, Peter Pantina, and Chris Radwanski being the longest-running and most consistent. With a brand new single out, an album release on the horizon, and a slew of tour dates ahead of them, we’re sure to hear some new tunes as well as old favorites. Having listened to the upcoming LP [along with every other Suburban Living release heretofore], I can confidently say it may be their best yet.

I have fond memories playing with Wes in different bands or just kicking back with my main homie, but I tried taking an unbiased perspective as I asked him about his latest work. It was difficult and a little odd, to say the least, but I hope you enjoy this unique inside look into Suburban Living. We’ll see you all at the gig this Wednesday with my band, You’re Jovian, and new wave revivalist duo, Korine.

Suburban Living has had a long history. When do you consider the start of Suburban Living? Do you start counting from the first few demos or first shows?

I guess I’d consider the summer of 2012 the start of it. I was living in Ghent, and although I had some songs recorded under the name Suburban Living, I didn’t take it seriously. Once one of my songs got published on a reputable blog, I knew I wanted to start assembling a live band and try and take the project as far as possible.

Suburban Living has been a blue collar effort from the start. Do you think people around you know how much effort you put into your band? I think sometimes it鈥檚 hard for people on the internet to see this.

I think so. I try and not think about it too much. I’m a workaholic when it comes to my band, and sometimes that works for me and sometimes it works against me. I think in the past couple [of] years, I’ve been able to find a balance of not overwhelming myself with the project. Coincidentally, my friends and my partner helped me find that balance.

Speaking of band, you have quite a band behind you. At what point were you content on them writing parts and recording in the studio with you?

I love my dudes. I knew about six months into us playing shows together that they were in it for the long haul and understood the music. It’s been a blast carving the songs with them. It’s also been fun trying to write songs for them, or certain parts [that] I know [will] gel well with how they play their instruments.

What鈥檚 been your process as of late for writing and tracking demos? What rate do you write new songs, and are there any songs that kinda get lost and never fully come to fruition?

It hasn’t changed much. Usually, I just sit down with my guitar and synthesizer and just try and come up with stuff. If nothing comes about, I’ll take a 30 minute break and eat some food or go for a walk. I’ll come back to it later. If something does click, I play it over and over and over again until the natural movement of the song comes to me. When I’m in a big writing fury, and stuff is clicking, I’ll sometimes go weeks without listening to anything besides my unfinished demos. I took this process really seriously when writing [songs from the new album] How To Be Human and found myself really out of touch with current music and releases, which was different for me. As a music lover, I try my best to listen to new bands that are up and coming.

How long does it take roughly for you to start a song and finish it from its initial inception?

I guess it depends. Some of my favorite songs I’ve written were finished in only a couple hours. Some took me days to finish. A lot of the How To Be Human songs took forever to finish because the structure of the songs were out of my comfort zone. I tried my best to branch out of the intro/verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus pop structure on this one, which was tough for me.

Suburban Living鈥檚 upcoming full-length album titled How To Be Human comes out on 5/22 via EggHunt Records
The new record coming out sounds really promising. What are you hoping to get out of this release, and what are your expectations for the record?

I try not to have super high expectations, but I’d love for the album to reach as many ears as it can. Having it come out on vinyl is a huge accomplishment, and we’re psyched to finally see the records.

How did the deal come about to sign to EggHunt Records? Because just before this you were on 6131, who are also based out of Richmond. Any bad blood?

Nah, just the way the wind blew I suppose. We were talking with EggHunt years ago before we signed with 6131, so we had always stayed in touch with them. I’m psyched to still be working with a VA label since that’s my home state, and I love RVA.

The new record is legitimately the best work you鈥檝e done by far. This is on all fronts. Song structure, recording, production, PR, etc. What would you attribute to this?

Thank you!! I really put my head down in the writing process. It was the most determined I’d ever felt, and it helped that I was consistently playing tours between Suburban Living and filling in for Swirlies. I felt like my mind was always wrapped [around] writing and performing music, which made me push myself harder in the songwriting process.

Any interest in releasing Suburban Living demos and B-sides? I love that kinda shit.

I actually wanted to do this for our last album, but the idea got canned. I love that kinda shit too and would be open to it. Maybe on a tape or something? I feel like that’s the perfect platform for my demos.

What鈥檚 Suburban Living’s long term goals and aspirations? On an indie level, I feel like you all can go head to head with the best. What is it going to take to get to a national audience and get to that next level? Does this even concern you?

Ha, if I had the answers I’d be there I suppose. Like most bands, I just want the music to be listened to and the opportunity to play the most live shows we can. I try and take a step back at any moment I can and just be thankful for where the project is. Sounds corny, but being in a band has extreme highs and extreme lows. Sometimes it’s easier to crack a beer and laugh when you’re in the lows. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t ever frustrated though. Life moves on, it’s not going to stop for you and make your band successful for you.

How do you balance personal goals within the band vs. the goals of your bandmates? Is everyone on the same page if things change and really take off?

Definitely. This is all what we want to do with out lives, and since I’ve been out on my own I’ve designed my life for this lifestyle.

Last question. Since moving to Philadelphia and being embedded in the culture up there, how do you feel about the south on a political and cultural front? When you visit home, do you notice a big difference between people and how they interact, etc.?

It’s different, but not as different as a lot of people would think I feel like. Honestly, it’s been crazier seeing how much more HRVA has turned more liberal and progressive every time I visit, which is awesome. It’s never a shock at how hyper conservative the south is though. Being on tour and seeing so many different cultures, I try and just keep my head down and focus on getting to the venue without dying, haha. We do get some stares at some gas stations though, that’s always fun.

Bonus – favorite venue in Philly?

Johnny Brenda’s, hands down. There’s a reason why so many people say its the best. Cause it is ; )

Find full event info on Suburban Living’s Facebook

Thank you to Wesley Bunch and Suburban Living for the opportunity to conduct this interview. We’ll see you at Chicho’s Backstage in Norfolk, VA on Wednesday, March 11th. Photos were taken by Kelly Cammarata and come courtesy of the band.

LEYA Sheds Light on a Sort of Beauty

The NYC experimental music duo talk community and connections in a thoughtful Q&A with our managing editor, Jasmine Rodriguez right before their debut album release and Norfolk gig this Friday.

Described accurately as “transcendental punk”, Marilu Donovan and Adam Markiewicz use detuned harp and violin + vocals respectively to create ethereal sounds that evoke a tangible chasm of emotion. Their debut full-length album Flood Dream drops this Friday 3/6 via experimental label NNA Tapes and they鈥檝e got their hometown album release show tonight at a DIY venue in NYC before embarking on a two-month tour taking them down the east coast en route to SXSW and through the Midwest and Canada. I鈥檒l be checking back in with them this Friday when they play Taphouse with Community Witch, Dysphonia, and VV, but first I wanted to get to know them a bit more…

I鈥檝e read that you all aim to show that there鈥檚 more than meets the eye with the musical instruments you play – in this case, the harp and the violin. The sounds emitted aren鈥檛 what many would consider beautiful by standard, but in a way the dissonance and harshness do reveal a sort of beauty that people tend to look away from. Would you say that鈥檚 a perspective you all try to show?

Marilu: Of course! Unconventional beauty is far more interesting to me. I grew up playing the harp, and I鈥檓 tired of it being thought of as an instrument that can only sound 鈥減retty鈥 – that idea is boring.

Adam: “A sort of beauty people tend to look away from” is pretty nail on the head. We deal in a lot of non-traditional…but intense…beauty: a strange harmony that is held so long it becomes all-encompassing, the vibrations of detuned harp strings filling your entire body, the general vibe of sound over notes while still working within a pretty fixed musical frame.

Your music conjures up a vast spectrum of emotion. Do you have to be in a certain mindset when creating the music you make? Is there a specific feeling you all set out to express, or does it all come together organically?

Marilu: I don鈥檛 think we specifically set out to create sad music, it just kind of happens that way – at least so far… For me, whenever I am creating, it鈥檚 so difficult to start the process in a 鈥渃ertain mindset.鈥 Some days creativity pours out, and some days it doesn鈥檛.

Adam: Playing and writing with Marilu is organic and natural. Despite all the work…we’re not thinking about it that hard, y’know?

Did you all find it hard at first, trying to get others to see your vision? Or does living in NYC make it easier?

Marilu: Living in NYC makes doing most things 鈥渙utside the box鈥 easier – definitely. I think we鈥檙e still trying really hard to get others to see our vision, but thankfully each year it gets easier.

Adam: Honestly, our community here has always been very supportive. I think the decision to dive so seriously into this over the last couple years was partially driven by the cohesiveness we immediately felt with an audience of our friends when we first started. Our peers/friends/chosen family have been part of the connection to every moment of growth for LEYA. I like to think of everyone being together in this and all of it. I’m honestly surprised when people allude to the music being hard to access – it’s actually meant to be very easy to feel and understand.

Your music seems to be the perfect compliment to a performance art piece or visual installation. I鈥檇 say your music videos for 鈥淲ave鈥 鈥淪ister鈥 and 鈥淚NTP鈥 each possess their own cinematic quality to them. Have you all considered pairing your music to any other visual (or other sensory) aspects in the future?

Adam: We’re open to many things and will definitely move into new territory. “Sister” was done so beautifully by our dear friend/muse/director Kathleen Dycaico that we were sort of propelled into this dreamy visual world – working with Brooke Candy and PornHub on “I Love You鈥 and scoring amazing animations by Jennifer May Reiland. It’s all been pretty amazing when we’ve worked with moving images. Obviously we want to score your next film – hit us up!

Marilu: I am super into the idea of working on more film scoring, and with live dancers. For sure – get at us!

Your new album, Flood Dream, will be released Friday (3/6). How was that process following the years after your debut with The Fool? Are there any new elements that you brought to the table this time around? How has the creative process changed or stayed the same?

Marilu: I would say the creative process is still very much the same between Adam and I. We really are just exploring and figuring out what we like and what works. We are constantly growing, and constantly massaging the music – really figuring out what sounds best to our ears.

Adam: While we have always stayed true to our specific sort of sound, this is definitely a new kind of record in a couple ways. We set out to write songs in a way that we hadn’t before – simpler and more transparent in terms of their role as just being songs, not these dense slabs, or pieces. We wrote most of them while on the road for three months January – March of 2019 and then three are adapted from earlier versions in the “I Love You” score. We continue to hone our process, but it’s basically the same as always – Marilu and I sitting in a room, working it out piece by piece, starting with the harp. There are some guests on this record – GABI sings on ‘Weight’ and our friends John and Tristan lend some flute, synth, and upright help lightly on two songs – but mostly it is a departure from the collaborative zones we’ve traversed lately. It has one thread and tries to a tell a story, whatever that means to you.

How did you all come across NNA Tapes? What drew you to the label?

Adam: Toby Aaronson, the original Co-Founder with Matt Mayer, is a friend of mine via the New England DIY scene. When we first started recording I reached out to him. I’ve always admired their work and catalog – so vital in its crystallizing of the experimental zone in the late 2000-oughts.

Marilu: Ya! NNA are old homies – they rule.

Cover art for LEYA鈥檚 debut full-length album Flood Dream
What does a live set-up typically look like and how do these songs translate live? Is crowd reception/connection a factor that you keep in mind when performing?

Marilu: Most of these songs sound pretty much the same live as they do on our recordings. I read something one time when we first started out that described us as 鈥渉arp, violin, and electronics鈥 and I was both like wondering what they thought were the electronic elements, and also like I don鈥檛 know how to work electronics! Crowd connection is so important to both of us. Both during and after the set – come say hi to us! Be our friends.

Adam: Our shows are intense and intimate and the audience is half of that, at least. My favorite part of LEYA is playing it live!

I know this phrase I am about to use is so vague and relative, but do you all feel like you fit in a 鈥渕usic scene?鈥 This may be helpful to other musicians reading this who make music in non-traditional ways.

Adam: We like to live in many scenes because many “scenes” are happening in their own way, but ultimately we came up through DIY culture and tend to play with bands that exist in that world. We play with punk bands, mostly, but you might also catch us at fancier spot every now and again.

Marilu: Ya – I agree with Adam. The DIY scene has been very supportive of us. But, people interpret LEYA in so many different ways; a friend of ours likes to describe LEYA as a hardcore band.

Photo by LAZAR courtesy of NNA Tapes
What would you say to those that think your sound is too 鈥渉igh-brow鈥 or 鈥渉igh-art鈥 for them?

Adam: We don’t like pretentious shit really, so we’d probably get along. They should just come to the show, though – it’s not a complex vibe.

Marilu: lol – truly we鈥檙e so scrappy!

Lastly, what does music, in it鈥檚 purest form, mean to you?

Marilu: emotion

Adam: Absolutely everything.

See more details on all these events via Facebook.

Thank you to LEYA and NNA Tapes for the opportunity to conduct this interview. The featured photo at the top of the article was shot by Serge Serum and comes courtesy of NNA Tapes. See you at the Norfolk Taphouse on Friday, March 6th.

Lovelorn Returns With New Sounds, New Tour

Philly electronic duo answer questions from Popscure correspondent Elliott Malvas of You’re Jovian as they embark on spring jaunt to SXSW.

I first met Anna and Patrick back in 2015 at The Ottobar in Baltimore, Maryland. Their band at the time, Creepoid, was opening for Swirlies; we were doing 3 shows together. During that time, I was able to get to know them a bit and establish a connection. Familiar faces in unfamiliar places. In 2016 I was able to get Creepoid to come to VB and play with You鈥檙e Jovian. Shortly thereafter, Creepoid would announce they were breaking up, and from those ashes, Anna and Pat formed Lovelorn.

Over the past few years, you might鈥檝e caught Lovelorn in Norfolk at Toast or Charlie鈥檚. Now they鈥檙e playing in Richmond at Wonderland with True Body on Sunday, March 1st and then in Norfolk at Taphouse on Monday, March 2nd with buds, Arms Bizarre. They also just released a new single that demonstrates the band departing from the previous sound of their former band. If you鈥檙e a fan of darkwave, post-punk indie rock goodness, then you don鈥檛 wanna sleep on this. I recently caught up with Anna and Patrick and asked them some questions, enjoy!

How soon was it before you and Pat decided to start another band coming out of the fallout of Creepoid?

Patrick, Pete, and I started casually playing together about six months after Creepoid ended. Patrick and I had just moved into a new house, with a practice space, and I think it was this shift away from where Creepoid had played that helped initiate things. It wasn’t until about two months after that we really started thinking of it as a ‘band’ and writing songs.

You already had great rapport with fans, promoters, and venues through Creepoid. Was it pretty easy to build Lovelorn and get started because of this?

It really wasn’t super easy. Lovelorn is a completely different project, and we had to start over in lots of ways. Although we had some carry-over fans from Creepoid, we’ve had to put the work in to build up that base with Lovelorn. Once we have an album out, hopefully, it will get easier.

When did the music for Lovelorn start to take shape? Because it seemed like a seamless transition. To me, you all already had songs and a tour booked with what felt like a week after Creepoid disbanded. Of course I’m exaggerating, but still…it was quick.

It *seemed* quick, but that was only because Creepoid had ended long before we announced the final show. It was during that in-between time that Lovelorn formed, but we decided not to announce the new project until after our final Creepoid show.

Creepoid, to me, was a darker sludgier shoegaze band, whereas Lovelorn kinda had that to start but now has started exploring more of this European type house trance music mixed with some post-punk goth vibes. Is this a fair assessment or way to describe Lovelorn to someone who’s never heard of you all?

I would say…yes, fair. But I often describe Lovelorn as what James Murphy would sound like if he grew up in Philly and had to sweat his rent every month : ) We definitely took some time to shake off the familiar, but I think [ ] we’ve fully embraced being whatever Lovelorn is, as opposed to following old habits.

Anna, what was the initial transition like going from a bass player/singer with a live/organic band behind you to now being front and center with backing tracks providing the music? One might say that backing tracks, as reliable as they are, can lack drive and liveliness versus a band which can provide a lot of energy and be somewhat different night to night. Which do you prefer? It seems like you’ve fully embraced being the front person of Lovelorn.

I always thought of myself more of a performer than a ‘bass player’ or ‘singer.’ So, it’s easy to transition to a position that relies more heavily on being performative all the time. It was harder to transition to playing to a track for sure! Creepoid was always more…let’s say…organic in how songs were played night to night. But, I wouldn’t say that our set up lacks any drive or liveliness at all. Patrick and I each do things that allow us to be flexible and creative within the structure, and that’s important to us.

You all always use the hashtag #bringweed. How often do people actually bring weed, and do you all actually smoke strangers’ weed?

Necessity is the mother of invention, and when you tour the way Creepoid did, we needed weed in a different city every night lol. We started using it in 2015, and I would venture to say there have been very few shows we played since then that people have *not* brought weed…along with other treats. No one is a stranger once they share drugs with you.

Between Creepoid and Lovelorn, have there been any close encounters with the police on the road, especially when traveling with so much weed?

Don’t want to say too much here…but yeah, please kids…don’t drive with a lot of drugs.

You all are coming through en route to SXSW. Is SXSW still worth it for independent bands? It seems that indie bands put a lot of emphasis into SXSW and front a lot of money just to get out there and play 2 showcases. Is the greater idea of SXSW dead? What should younger or less seasoned indie bands expect from playing at SXSW?

Yes and No. I mean, if you go into SXSW thinking this is going to be your big break and catapult you into instant fame and success…then you are going to be disappointed for sure. But, if you go into it thinking you’re gonna see your friends/peers, eat some good food and play some good shows, you’re going to enjoy it much more. Creepoid definitely benefited greatly from playing SXSW, but it often took months to years for those benefits to be realized. So, just have fun, be patient, and tour as much as you possib[ly] can.

Any showcase(s) you’re looking most forward to?

The showcase of breakfast I’m going to eat at Bouldin Creek every morning 鉂

Pat, I heard a rumor that someone once punched you in the face in Texas because they thought you were Nicky from Nothing. Did this actually happen?

Can confirm this did happen, but in Brooklyn.

Pat, you set up shows in Philly. As someone who plays in a touring indie band and books bands, what is your biggest pet peeve that other bands do when trying to book through you? Also, has lessons learned throughout show booking helped you personally book Lovelorn shows?

I’ve been booking shows for 15 plus years, so I have lots of pet peeves. [The] biggest has to be bands that aren’t willing to do their own promotion and expect the venue to do everything. It’s a team effort. I also get a real kick out of bands that complain to me about parking. My job absolutely helps me to book my own projects. I know the email etiquette (keep it short, be specific, and include a link (not 10)). I’m down to do whatever I can to make the promoter’s job easier – internal promotion, researching local bands, etc.

In 2015, Creepoid played 3 shows with Swirlies starting at Ottobar in Baltimore. How did that come to fruition? What do you remember from those short run of shows together?

Our booking agent at the time set that one up. 2 memories come to mind – the first is Sean Miller teaching them how to set up their pedalboards, which they bought on that tour. Second, the last night of that tour was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and we totally slayed. Really great set. Finished out the night partying with homies we have there. Very late/early morning, we got the notification of our long-awaited Pitchfork review of Cemetery High Rise Slum, and they TRASHED it. I remember thinking, “I’m glad we’re all real fucked up, or this would be a big bummer.”

Lovelorn has an interesting set up for only being a two-piece. Do sound people give you any flack for the way you go about your set up? I personally like that you keep the ability to mix the backing tracks up to you, the band, and not the venue sound person.

Sound people are actually usually pretty stoked on our set up. Every now and then, we’ve had a real square that’s just totally confused that we don’t have a guitar player, but the professionals are chill. I think they appreciate that we understand our equipment and are trying to have as much control over it [as] we can.

Favorite Norfolk, Virginia memory (even though you’ve played Virginia Beach before)?

THE SUPER VACATIONS

Philly is quite honestly one of the best cities. If you had to live anywhere else in the country and base Lovelorn out of it, where would that be?

Philly is the best city for sure. Nowhere else really feels like home. But we also love LA and Austin. [] If we move anytime in the near future, it would be to either of these cities.

Last question. I myself am a NASCAR fan. I often feel at odds with myself for being a musician and a sports fan. I feel that I get cast into this imaginary shoegaze culture of adoring all things beauty and being constantly artistic. It’s almost like this constant push and pull of being a jock and a musician. Some people don’t take me as serious for enjoying my sport of choice…I know that both of you are Eagles fans. I feel that in the indie scene, it’s almost a joke to some people to be an avid sports fan but also be a musician–especially to all the art kids out there. How do you feel about this? You notice it too?

I think that it’s less of an issue here in Philly because our sports teams are so pervasive in all parts of our culture–including music. Have you seen Silver Linings Playbook lol? In the Philly music scene, tons of musicians rep their team, whether that be Sixers, Eagles, whatever. That being said, I do know [a] ton of people that absolutely are not into sports and people into sports that aren’t into music–but not really too much animosity between the two worlds. What’s more of an *issue* is when you tour with a band from another city that’s equally passionate about their team…especially during football season : )

Go listen to the brand new Lovelorn single, “Around You,” and check them out on their spring tour, see dates below.

February 29th – Philadelphia, PA @ Ortliebs’s *with Night Sins

March 1st – Richmond, VA @ Wonderland RVA *with Night Sins

March 2nd – Norfolk, VA @ The Taphouse Grill

March 3rd – Raleigh, NC @ Slim’s Downtown

March 4th – Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone Club

March 5th – Atlanta, GA @ The EARL

March 6th – Savannah, GA @ The Sentient Bean

March 7th – Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic +

March 8th – Miami, FL @ Gramps +

March 9th – Lake Worth, FL @ Propaganda Lake Worth +

March 11th – Saint Petersburg, FL @ The Bends +

March 12th – Tallahassee, FL @ The Bark +

March 13th – Pensacola, FL @ Night Moves Pensacola +

March 14th – New Orleans, LA @ Santos Bar

March 15th – Houston, TX @ Rudyards

March 16th – March 21st – SXSW

March 20th – Austin, TX @ The Velveeta Room

March 22nd – Dallas, TX @ Three Links

March 24th – Tulsa, OK @ The Whittier Bar

March 25th – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge

March 26th – Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge

March 27th – Milwaukee, WI @ Club Garibaldi’s

March 28th – Chicago, IL @ Situations

March 29th – Grand Rapids, MI @ Fulton Street Pub & Grill

March 30th – Canton, OH @ Buzzbin Art & Music Shop

March 31st – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups

April 1st – Harrisonburg, VA @ The Golden Pony

*with Night Sins

+with Planet Loser