By Nathalie Phan
For the past 10 years in Austin music, Curbside Jones has been quietly working in solitude. That's why when COVID-19 devastated many music makers, it didn't bother him; he's always been his own mix engineer, producer, and graphic designer. But that doesn't mean that his latest EP was without international collaboration.
Heavily inspired by Japan, Curbside and a group of his friends planned for a 2020 fall tour of Japan but their plans were rudely interrupted by the pandemic. After having already worked with Japanese artists before including Dyelo Think (fka Free Design), his intention was to collaborate with members of LafLife, a Japanese rap group, and push the music through both countries. They had been exchanging emails and sharing beats back and forth over a few months along with Maryland-based artist Dexter Fizz.
In February of this year, Curbside Jones went to work on Gyakusou, Vol. 1, a three-song EP, the first release in a set of three, named after the Japanese term for "running in reverse."
Curbside notes that the Japanese track team of the same name will run in the opposite direction as a representation of their rebel identity and going against the status quo. "I took that idea, of going against the grain, going against the norm. People think it's moving backwards, not forward, but the EP is forward-thinking," Curbside says. "It's taking American rap and putting it over Japanese instrumentation."
The EP was made in collaboration with Japanese producer Ballhead who he discovered while watching Jazzysport Kyoto sessions. Eventually through his previous work with LafLife, he also connected with Japanese rap artist MUMA. MUMA is featured on the second track on the EP, "Coffee Stains."
The inspiration for "Coffee Stains" came after Curbside had spilled coffee on his pink Converse x GOLF le FLEURs (cue the verse: "Damn I can't believe coffee spilt on these pink GOLF le FLEURs / had to seek 'cause I know there's more."). Initially upset, he embedded the theme of not crying over spilled milk (or spilled coffee) and finding inspiration even in times of hardship: "had to fall before I could find division."
Similarly, each song has its own theme as Curbside, who describes himself as being "heavy into concept work," decidedly wished each track to have its own life. "I wanted the Gyakusou series to be less of a conceptual project as a whole and I wanted each track to be different."
For example, "Terrace House Flow," the final song on the EP inspired by the Japanese reality TV franchise of the same name, features a verse about self-love, a theme that was especially important to Curbside because two days after recording the track, Hana Kimura, a member of the latest season of Terrace House, committed suicide.
Overall, the project is bouncy and fun, but very different. In many ways, between the production and the bars, it speaks to the depth of the person that is Curbside Jones, the mastermind behind the EP. Both in solitude and collaboration, he excels in creating islands of hope in a sea of madness. When you step foot in his world, in the less than 10 minutes of modern-day boom-bap that is the length of the first installation of Gyakusou, you feel the chaos of "running in reverse" but instead of adding to the stress of our dystopian universe, it's relieving and hopeful.
Gyakusou, Vol. 1 is available July 3, 2020 on Bandcamp.
By Adrian Gonzalez
David Sikabwe is a 22-year-old who spits out bars to songs that you didn’t even know needed it. Over the past year, he’s been turning old songs on its heel and gives them a twist that makes them even better. James Corden, yes the James Corden, even said he could “legitimately listen to this [Going Spaceward] all day.”
When asked about his stage name, Sikabwe was quick to shut down that notion. “It’s not a stage name,” he said jokingly, “it’s a band name. I’m a band. Think Panic, nevershoutnever, Owl City.” He came up with the idea in high school when he had one of his friends draw an artist's watermark. “The idea of having my logo before my name was unorthodox, but I think it worked out in the end.” His friend drew a triangle and an arrow pointing upward. Sikabwe looked at it and came to the logical conclusion: Going Spaceward.
Going Spaceward knew that the singer-songwriter genre can get very muddy in terms of style. He knew that to be different, he had to sound different. Growing up, he loved video games. Especially the 64-bit video games with iconic techno sounding theme songs and scores. He decided to incorporate that heavily in his R&B/Pop style and he got something that sounded unique, interesting, and most importantly, good. As far as beginning to rap, he credits the hit-musical Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda for that. He told me that he “fell in love with the internal rhymes and rhythms that Miranda can come up with.” He knew that recreating that style and feel would fit perfectly into his music.
Only recently has Sikabwe been grinding in the game. In 2019, he had a major successful turn out at Texas Revue, UT’s largest student-run talent show. Post-revue, he decided to make his original songs official. He went home to his studio and started recording from scratch. According to him, he knew nothing about recording. “I watched an inexcusable amount of videos trying to figure it out, and hopefully I did.” And to Sikabwe’s credit, he did more than figured it out. After his debut EP, he released Underground alongside his version of Fly Me To The Moon, his YouTube listener count went ballistic. These two songs combined up to 1.5 million views. Sikabwe took the idea of nostalgia and catered it to his style and his vibe of music.
David Sikabwe is proud of what he’s accomplished so far, and he hopes that he can continue this success in the future. “Right now, the only thing that matters is graduating. I want to go through with this college ordeal that I’m in. Then we’ll see what happens.”
By Adrian Gonzalez
The answer to this article’s title is probably: “Not that long!” Springful is the new kid in town. And boy, are they making a splash! The band’s founder Jim Hampton, found that Springful is a magical middle between his music tastes.
“There are too many moving parts for Noise Club,” Hampton states, “but’s too aggressive for a quieter solo project.” And by the sound of Springful’s first real single, he is 100% correct. The creation of “How Long Have You Known” began with guitar riffs that Hampton recorded onto his phone which, fun fact, actually made it on the final mix. These guitar riffs were recorded months before Hampton met bassist Kinseli Jazz and and drummer Dominic Neri and over a year before the band started playing shows in 2019. To Hampton, this was the “impetus for the band’s formation.”
“How Long” is a beautiful marriage between alternative and rock pop. Through my ears, it’s the angsty love child of Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys, but with a dance twist. This first impression of Springful is an impressive one. The lyrics of the song are widely open to interpretation.They are definitely the type that tend to sit with you for a while. Hampton says the song is “about realizing someone doesn’t love you the way you love them.” With this in mind, “How Long” took on an entire new level of emotions. I felt cathartic. The contrast of the opening guitar and the power chords in the second verse keeps you on your toes. You’ll find yourself swaying peacefully to jumping uncontrollably in the span of 30 seconds.
“How Long Have you Known” was released on February 28th, 2020, a date that the band will remember for a long time. About a week following the release Springful is performing at The University of Texas’ Battle of the Bands, a competition where the winner has the opportunity to play at Forty Acres Fest, an event that has featured giant names from John Legend to Waka Flocka.
Listen to Springful’s new release everywhere.
By Nathalie Phan
The many shades of lead man Zach Black can be found behind the curtains of his newest project, Souls Extolled. Through this roller coaster of a journey, Black rips through a number of songs with high energy, smooth vocals, and instrumental harmony. Resulting from the chaotic cacophony is their debut album Follow the Ghosts.
In one of my favorite tracks titled "Mutations Sake," the song starts with ambience and masterful lyricism: "From way up high, looking down at the ground / You can feel the gravity pulling me down / Tripping through the mission just a vision away / Hopin' for the wisdom of another day." Like some of the other tracks on the album, the song eventually breaks down into an epic release of energy before returning to its original slow prowl.
In another track titled "Garden of Eden," Black sets up for the perfect retelling of Adam and Eve's creation story. Dark but with a slight levity from the guitar picking up in the chorus, the bass creeps throughout, adding a quick slapping funkiness to the song.
Lastly, the most provocative song in the whole bunch might be "Touch Me (F**k Me)." Black burns through his guitar like a hot knife through butter but soothes it momentarily through pieces of the song before returning it to an angry blaze down the neck of his guitar. The drums beat down just as heavily and rapidly, competing for moments to breath with the lead guitar parts.
Overall, the project, from top to bottom, is a made of fantastic and angry but sensational compositions. Weaved in are interesting and well thought out lyrics.
Stream Souls Extolled's Follow the Ghosts everywhere.
By Samantha Rodriguez
The last time country rock group Cowboy Diplomacy released music was back in 2017. Fast forward from two years ago to today and now, they’re making a comeback with their fascinating single, “The Get Down.” The single was released today, Friday, August 2, 2019 and it definitely brings forward the encouragement and motivation people may be seeking.
By Rey Castillo
The feel-good, empowering love song by Math Judson, “Love Someone," does what he himself intended the song to do: Tell people to show compassion to others.
By David Tran
Culture Wars, the Austin based rock trio featuring Alex Dugan, Mic Vredenburgh, and David Grayson recently released their single “Let Me Down” this Friday and we are in love! The track is filled with energetic melodies and guitar riffs to compete with Dugan’s silvery voice and the lively percussion from Vredenburgh and Grayson.
By Ashley Morris
Today, on April 18th, local Austin pop artist SOBBRS released his music video for “Monsoon,” which features a buoyant, electronically lush beat amplified by singer/songwriter Jesus Acosta’s vulnerable vocals. Modernly poetic, the fresh, minimalist track is pop recontextualized.
Color, movement, and light define videographer Mitchell Allison’s conceptualization of SOBBR’s new single. Following the ambiance of the song, Allison creates a minimalistic yet mind-bending video that has the vibe of a small art gallery mixed media presentation. The beginning of the video presents a neutral, muted setting of a few vases filled with water and fragmented images of a woman. Lyrics are thrown up on the screen in haphazard patterns, and shots of flesh, glass and water create a sensual surreal mood. About halfway through the song as the music builds, the color shifts from off-white to red, highlighting the visceral tones in “Monsoon” by elevating the intensity.
By Ashley Morris
We’re sweet on Nick Adamo’s smooth, dreamy bittersweet debut single “Sugar Daddy” and we think you will be too. An avid skateboarder in his youth, classic skateboarding VHS tapes and culture are a continuing inspiration to his art. The NY-born, Texas-raised artist came to Austin in 2015 to add his flavor to the music scene and will be dropping more tracks along with “Sugar Daddy” in 2019.
By Ashley Morris
Wrongbird’s EP Who is Wrongbird? debuted towards the end of 2018 and the eclectic band just now released their music video for “Leap Year Birthday” a sunny rock tune on the album.“Leap Year Birthday”’s piano driven track is amplified by energetic percussion and guitar set in opposition with Eric Baker’s nonchalant, unassuming vocals and ambiguous, riddle-like lyrics.
“Leap Year Birthday” is a goofy satire complete with temper tantrums and a cake fight to finish. The video’s setting is a sunny park during a child’s birthday party, but the children are all adults, featuring members of the band. The cinematography is simplistic with a home video feel to it, adding a DIY touch. But the video itself is anything but simplistic, with multiple things going on: the “parents” watching the birthday party drinking near the presents, various “children” playing on the playground, and the birthday girl playing tag with frontman Eric Baker. The interesting idea of portraying children as adults adds an endearing, awkward whimsy to the composition.
The video depicts a zest for life, both its pitfalls and its high times, through the lens of childhood scrapes on a playground and making fun out of things going wrong. The idea that “life is strange, but it’s fun” drives Leap Year Birthday. The chorus “I’m standing here, up to my knees in the milky way/ thanking God for when he said “breathe in breathe out breathe in let’s call that life what do you say?”/ And all his people said okay/ you can’t stop me” reflects a punchy optimism mixed with childlike wonder of the music video.
Goofy and endearing, Wrongbird’s new video for “Leap Year Birthday” will make you smile with its optimism and silly cast of characters. A reminder never to take life for granted, but also, don’t take it too seriously.
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