Category Archives: FEATURED ARTIST

April Ventura & The Magnolias: An Interview

Christy Huber is a beautifully talented 25-year-old local San Diego musician and student. Her band is called April Ventura & The Magnolias, and she is studying communication studies and English at San Diego State University. Her audience members are lucky sons of bitches.

How did you, personally, get into music?
Ever since I heard the Spice Girls in fifth grade, I wanted to be a pop star. I would try desperately to get a “band” together with my three friends at school, but that never happened because my three friends later left me for the popular group of girls that made my life a living shithole for the rest of my grade-school days. But seriously, I actually got into the music I play now because of a series of people. My grandma was a country singer in her day and would always push me to play that kind of music. And her son, my dad, was my biggest supporter and would encourage me all the time to write more and play more. My friend Tony Campbell got me into pretty much all the music I like and am influenced by today. But  essentially, music runs in my family so I couldn’t really avoid it. I’ve been drawn to it ever since I was a little girl crawling into my dad’s bass drum in the basement and finding his [guitar] picks all over the place. I guess you could say it’s in my blood.

What bands have you been in, and what genre of music were they?
I’ve been in quite an eclectic range of bands. My first band was in high school and we were pretty bad. I named the band Tribal Beat Party and employed my non-musician friends to play random instruments. I think we’re still up on MySpace somewhere. I was in a couple bands in college, the first one being a ’90s metal band. Think Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones but a bit harder. I played bass for one show in Chicago where supposedly the Smashing Pumpkins played their first show as well. There were a few bands in between, covers mostly, in Chicago and Nashville where I lived for a few months. My last band was a great band from San Diego called Dead Feather Moon who are doing pretty well now. I’m in their music video for “Free Hand Blues” and it’s pretty awkward. I played bass for them for about eight months and it was fun, but I’m a writer and I wanted something more than what I was doing with them.

How did April Ventura & The Magnolias come about?
After leaving Dead Feather Moon and taking a year off of music and selling all my gear, I started going out to shows more and more. What actually set the wheels in motion was meeting my friend John Cooper from a band called The Howls. Seeing him with his own band and having success with it and writing great songs…it really inspired me. It took a long time to actually get the band I have today and make everything sound good. I went through quite a bit of players and different arrangements for the songs, and we just added in a pedal steel player recently which I am beyond thrilled about because it’s my favorite instrument of all time. I’ve had the concept of April Ventura in my head since my stint in Nashville in 2007, but it’s taken me up until this year to get it going. I knew it would be hard, and it was and still is, but it’s been well worth the work.

What type of music do you guys play?
That’s always a hard question to answer, because when I write I’m influenced by so many different people and bands. I guess you could classify it mostly as alt country with an occasional harder edge. I’m really influenced by Whiskeytown, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Jackie Greene. But on the other end some huge influences have been Black Sabbath, The Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. If there’s black in the band name, I probably really like it.

What is your role in the band?
I write the songs alone in my room, and bring them to the band and they put their parts to it. I book the shows, promote and pretty much do all the boring stuff. I arrange practices and meetings and deal with all the organization and whatnot. I hate the term “band leader” but I guess that’s what I am. Derek (lead guitarist) is also a big part of everything. He’s basically my right-hand man, and he’s been through a lot with music. He’s toured and been under labels and knows the professional side really well. So if I do something stupid he’ll call me out on it. I’m really new to this so I’m still learning a lot about what I should and shouldn’t do, but my band has been through it way more than me so they help me out a lot. I’m like a kindergartener and they’re like the college kids in this business. I’ve got a vision and know what I want and how I want everything to go and they help guide me to get there.

Tell us about your band members, i.e. names, personalities etc.
Derek Dreyer is my lead guitarist. He’s one of my best friends here too. We fight like a married couple and we have a really strong dynamic. He’s known for being a very tasteful guitarist. He knows where to come in and where not to play. In my opinion, he’s the biggest voice in the band apart from myself and really knows where to go with the songs, and our ideas match up pretty well for the most part.

James Albers is our bassist, and he just joined recently. I actually met him at one of our Soda Bar shows awhile back and he came to a few other shows after and when he found out our old bassist had to quit he stepped right in and played the songs perfectly. He’s a really chill guy and we get a long great. He builds and fixes guitars on the side which is really cool and might come in handy someday as well. James and Derek and I all have a mutual passion for the game of pool so we hang out a lot and talk shit and try and beat each other in pool when we’re not playing shows or practicing. It’s good to be able to hang with your band when you aren’t doing band stuff.

Joe Camacho is our pedal steel player and he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. His sense of humor is so sarcastic I sometimes can’t decipher if he’s being serious or making a joke, which I find extremely entertaining. He’s a great player and has played with some amazing bands so I felt really honored when he decided to start playing with us. He adds so much to the songs, and is really fun to hang with as well.

Steve Smith is our drummer, and he’s probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Give that guy one tall Jack and Coke and he’s wasted. He’s actually a songwriter himself so he understands the dynamic of a band and the song. If anything weird ever happens while we’re onstage I always turn and look at Steve and he usually knows what’s up.

How did you come up with the band name?
My dad and I came up with it when I was living in Nashville five years ago. I think he got the idea from my grandma to come up with a stage name. I came up with Ventura, which is the title of a Lucinda Williams song, and I believe my dad came up with April. Magnolias comes from a Ryan Adams song called “Magnolia Mountain.”

What is your favorite song to perform?
My favorite song to play would probably be “I am Crazy.” I love heavy riff-based songs and this song is one of them. And I get to solo in it, which is cool. I’m not the best at guitar solos but I still think they’re really fun and I’ve played this one enough to not really mess it up too bad. Most people who see us say it’s their favorite song as well.(“I am Crazy” is track number 7 below.)

What has been your craziest rock-star moment thus far?
I haven’t really had that many rock-star moments, but whenever people ask me to sign stuff I think it’s really weird. My signature looks like two illegible blobs, so it’s really not that impressive.

Where do you see your band in the next year?
I’m hoping to have toured at some point in the next year. For being together for 10 months I think we’ve gone pretty far. We just played a show at the Casbah with two of my favorite bands ever and we’re about to go into the studio to record a full-length album. I’m hoping within the next year we’re playing better shows for more people and at some point releasing and selling an album that people are excited about.

Where and when can readers catch April Ventura live?
We play every Monday at The Riviera Supper Club in the Turquoise Room at 9 p.m. We also have a show Friday, Nov. 4, at Bar Eleven.

Where can readers purchase your album?
We have a live album recorded at Lestats for sale on Bandcamp, here, and we have a Kickstarter to help fund the album going up in a few days. Here’s the site for the project. Check back in a few days and it’ll be up and running.

For more information about April Ventura & The Magnolias, contact the band at aprilventuramusic (at) gmail (dot) com.

Follow April Ventura & The Magnolias on Facebook, Twitter and Reverbnation.

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Jealous Shmealous: Lana Del Rey

By Kaitlin Perry

A while back I wrote an uber-long post about my girl crushes here. It discussed how the girl crush is less lesbian fantasy and more a mix of envy and admiration, two feelings that perfectly describe how I felt after I watched Lana Del Rey’s video for “Video Games.” I saw her picture on Pinterest (yep, Pinterest) and immediately needed to know why she was famous. Google took me to her official website, which immediately plays her music video. As soon as I hear her voice I was sold. Reminiscent of a more soulful, less raspy Cat Power (and slowly becoming a regular comparison to Adele), Lana Del Rey (real name Lizzy Grant) is definitely deserving of her growing attention.

Her lyrics are nice to listen to and seem to make you compare your own life to the story she’s trying to tell, but it’s the way she sings them that makes the song. This girl can change her voice any which way, and that’s pretty hot/intriguing/listenable. Her beautiful, slightly crooked face is a mix between Julia Roberts and Brigitte Bardot, and her nostalgic outfits and hairstyles perfectly enhance the depth of her songs. She also makes her own spliced up music videos that are near genius, if you ask me.

Check her out, if not for her music than for the unique style of her vids. And read this Pitchfork thing on her. While some of the questions may be stupid, her answers are pretty smart and interesting.

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The Glitch Mob Needs No Introduction

By Kaitlin Perry

When a band (or group of DJs) has an album that has remained in the iTunes Top 20 for over one year is touring, show previews aren’t necessarily necessary. The Glitch Mob has obviously made their talent known, having played at Coachella, Lollapalooza and EDC among many other festivals. But, why? Doesn’t all electronic music sound the same? Don’t all DJs just remix other DJs’ songs? Fuck no. Such misconceptions are the reason that show previews become necessary. Besides the fact that the Mob has officially remixed big names like Daft Punk (whoa), and they can namedrop Bjork when talking about their incredible fanbase (jealous), it’s important to note that they are also considerate of their fans and people in general. I thought it was nice of the group to say this about their musical motives:

“We wanted to explore two very different feelings while keeping them in the same world – creating songs that are immersive in a live environment, but really make a great headphone listen, too.” – Justin Boreta

But then I read that they “donated” songs to help raise funds for Haiti. While it may be trendy for rock bands to donate money or play shows for charity, it’s not as common for DJs (at least to my knowledge). A band with a collection of such good hearts is guaranteed to play a show worth paying for, and that’s why you should see The Glitch Mob at the Belly Up on June 26th. Seriously, though. Seeing live DJ sets in a bar/concert venue is much, MUCH different than seeing them at a music festival. You’re surrounded by people that are there for the exact same band as you; people who aren’t planning on leaving halfway through to catch the end of someone else’s set. Sharing a Glitch Mob experience with such people is probably beneficial to your health and could positively influence your opinion of the current state of society.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to catch their show, maybe think of their music like this: It’s reminiscent of today’s trendy/irresistible dubstep sound, but mostly it’s authentic, classic electronic music that employs tribal drumming and that cool lemeur thing; the type of shit you want to listen to when you need to feel like a badass motherfucker who rules at dancing, partying and graduating from college. Check the video (if only YouTube could handle the bass). Though the song is slow, it has amazing beat delays/drops, which will obviously be nearly unbearably good live.

PS: Mob plans to release a brand new three-song EP on July 12th, titled “We Can Make The World Stop.”

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NewVillager Redefines Mythology

By Ryan Coghill

NewVillager: a band that considers themselves less of a band and more of a vehicle for creating art that is “everything.” NewVillager referred to this “everything” in an interview with AllSaints Basement as a mythology, which is self-defined as “a system of understanding how we make art,” which for them is, “essentially the universal cycle that underlies everything.”

While this vision might sound overly ambitious to say the least, what would the world be without musicians and artists making bold statements? If it weren’t for bands that had some sort of zeal for their projects, all the shit out there wouldn’t even smell bad.

NewVillager’s music smells great. A keyboard, guitar and drums create songs with uplifting melodies. The music is danceable in a relaxed and solo session kind of way, and it inspires drawings, paintings, films and writings. This seems to be NewVillager’s everything.

To see a band with some true dedication to their work, come check NewVillager out at the Belly Up Tavern on Friday, June 24. They’ll be playing alongside Titus Andronicus and Okkervil River. It should be an interesting show – perhaps you’ll see something life changing.

For further proof of the extreme levels of creativity that flow through NewVillager’s veins, check this video and excerpt from an IFC article about it:

Red is the pull of past, green is the present, blue, the push towards future. “Black and white characters represent the catabolic and anabolic forces underlying the action,” Bromley explained. “We set this little system of people in motion and ran the camera through it as observer-participant to see if a new, higher-ordered equilibrium would emerge among us.”

 

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Young Widows To Play Soda Bar

By Kaitlin Perry

What’s that saying, once you go black you never go back? I think the same goes for music. Think about it. Once you heard bands like The Black Keys, Black Mountain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Black lips, could you ever go back to the time where you didn’t listen to them? There’s something about darkness in music that makes me feel like a more well-rounded and experienced person. Being able to appreciate the darkness for what it is is a skill that those who listen to 93.3 on a regular basis are lacking. Why? They never listened to a band with the word “black” in their name.

Enter Young Widows, an up-and-coming band that has dark album art, dark videos, dark/deep instrumentals in their song, dark lyrics, a dark name that could easily include the word “black” (hello, black widows) and certainly conjures up images of blackness – I could go on and on. But maybe the press release said it best:

I’d like to offer Young Widows as a healthier rock alternative to Tyler, the Creator: both trade in dark, monolithic music steeped in atmosphere, and both offer engaging, amazing live shows. No need for ethical concessions with Young Widows’ lyrics, though; they’re rife with dark imagery sans sensationalism.

I needed no more convincing, and immediately checked the album out. It’s good, really good. And the band’s show on the 12th of June is sure to be anything but a letdown. Music like this calls for emotion and passion, both for the lyrical content and the ability to play it live. No passion = no darkness. I’ve developed a craving for a darkness that differs from that of a bar with the lights turned low. I’ll trade electro beats for a gritty guitar any day.

Check the music video for yourself, and buy your ticket ASAP. The doors of Soda Bar open at 8 p.m. and tickets are a mere $10. Sold at the box office only, an authentic show like this is worth the spontaneous trip to Normal Heights on a Sunday night. It’s summer, so there’s no such thing as spending the night before Monday sitting in front of a computer, reading S T E M posts.

Old Skin – Young Widows from Jeremy Johnstone on Vimeo.

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Black Lips, Flower Punk And The Casbah

By Ryan Coghill

A year-and-a-half ago, I had never heard of the Black Lips. So when I was asked to cover their show at The Casbah in February of 2010, I did not know what to expect. I had read they were a “self-proclaimed flower punk band.” I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but I assumed it must be a prettier light-hearted version of punk. Does that even make sense? I went through a punk phase just like most the other kids in jr. high, however it was never my forte. So not being too knowledgeable on the genre, my perception of punk bands was that they are made up of musicians who just don’t give a shit and love to throw it in your face with force using simple, loud, repetitive riffs.

Due to this understanding of what punk should be, the idea of “flower” and “punk” together was difficult to comprehend. Mellow hippies and punkers don’t usually see eye to eye. Regardless of this assumption, I understood the Black Lips’ approach to punk rock once I sat down and listened to the tunes. It only took a few tracks to conclude that the majority of “punk” resides in the vocal angst, and the “flower” is a blend of lo-fi ’60s psychedelic rock with just enough aggression to fall into the punk rock genre. This makes for a comfortable combination for those who are usually turned off by the anger with which punk is associated. Needless to say, I was turned on.

The Black Lips’ latest album, Arabia Mountain, released on June 7, does their “flower punk” sound justice. Having never worked with a producer on their previous five albums, the Lips brought in Mark Ronson to collaborate. This addition to the creation of recording has given the Lips an undeniably cleaner sound and tighter rhythm than before. The vocals are also smoothed out, even with a few harmonizations that are quite pleasant, especially since a lot of punk vocals can get annoying if not delivered with the right ease. This is not to say the yelling groans of punk are not present on the album. The beef is salted just enough to fuse punk roots with a more controlled sound.

Although control is present on Arabia Mountain, it’s doubtful the Black Lips have strayed far from their savage stage antics. During their last show at The Casbah, guitarist and vocalist Ian Saint Pé spit beer into the crowed, swung his Fender Strat at an empty beer can and didn’t mind that there were three drunk girls dancing on the cramped stage. That’s pretty punk.

Black Lips will be playing San Diego on Thursday, June 9, at The Casbah. It will be interesting to see how their mischief plays out with a more relaxed set of songs.

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