GroundCulture – How Well Do You Know Yourself?

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: May 1, 2020

Genre: Post-Hardcore, Metalcore

Label: Hopeless Records

One of the newest bands on the scene set to rise through the ranks is the metalcore/post-hardcore band, GroundCulture who hail from Newcastle, England. The quintet have delivered their much anticipated ten track debut record, How Well Do You Know Yourself? The band’s music is meant for the black sheep, the underdogs, the outcasts. This album was created with the purpose of making the outsiders feel seen, heard, and as though they belong. Every single track on How Well Do You Really Know Yourself? was designed by the members of GroundCulture to approach a different angle of an individual’s self-discovery.

The opening track of How Well Do You Really Know Yourself? is the blistering song, “Life Won’t Wait.” As the track opens, vocalist Roy Watson yells the words, “How well do you really know yourself?” I feel this line frames this entire album and begins the thought provoking dive into the psyche of the human mind that takes place throughout the record. The song mostly covers the topic of how life doesn’t slow down and sometimes you just need a break from it all. “Self-destruction’s the face of a stranger / Life won’t wait / Set your pace and stretch yourself to the changes you’ll make.”

“REALEYES” is the albums lead single and opens with an alluring and haunting female voice singing the words, “Don’t wanna wake up,” an element that continues throughout the entire track. “REALEYES” tackles the subject of kicking your subconscious in the teeth and appreciating who you truly are underneath the surface. “You make me wanna find my strength / As I begin to realize I’d been giving up / Nothing matters when you close your eyes / Nothing matters when you realize time’s on your side.”

The album’s second single, “Trauma Can Teach,” continues with the band’s now known boisterous sound and showcases more of their influences in the likes of Architects and The Ghost Inside, in shaping what their sound is today. “Trauma Can Teach,” illuminates the fact that all of our painful experiences hold immense value and power when faced properly. “It’s not gospel / For I search in the darkest of corners for moments to feel alive / Find something to believe in / All this stress is my vector for suffer spent.”

GroundCulture leave their tempestuous energy behind them to close out How Well Do You Really Know Yourself? On the penultimate track, “Dream Like a Child,” the band bring the tone down for a post-hardcore track featuring, Philip Strand, the front man of the pop/rock band, Normandie. Ending off, How Well Do You Really Know Yourself? is the beautiful acoustic track, “1974.” Leaving you with the final message of loving your true self after having you ask yourself, “How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?” during the albums duration of thirty-seven minutes.

Lil Xtra – Taking Up Space

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: April 24, 2020

Genre: Alternative Hip-Hop, Alternative Rock, Post-Hardcore

Label: Hopeless Records

The Atlanta, Georgia hip-hop artist, Clayton Roney, more famously known as Lil Xtra has returned with his genre bending third album, Taking Up Space. Roney is often referred to as “the La Dispute of emo rap” with a passion for music as a form of self-expression and healing. While using music as his outlet, he continues to share personal experiences through his songs. Lil Xtra is representing a new generation of musicians and fans who were raised knowing no genre-boundary lines. Roney cites artists Juice WRLD, Blink-182, A Day To Remember, and Post Malone as his main musical inspirations. Lil Xtra has rightfully claimed his seat amongst his SoundCloud equals in the likes of similar artists, guardin and nothing,nowhere. Taking Up Space was completely written, produced, and recorded by Clayton Roney in his hometown of Atlanta.

Taking Up Space opens with the melodic track, “Hive,” which leaves you with just a taste of what the album offers by mixing genres throughout the track. “Hive” touches on the subject of being pushed out of a circle of peers and being bullied. “But I’m just your project / You’ll beat me unconscious / Make sure I know I’m better off in the ground / I’ll long for the casket / I’ll put on the mask when you say / Hey you know that no one wants you around right?”

The lead single, “Under The Weather,” tackles mental illness from the perspectives of both the people who suffer as well as the loved ones who are around them. “Cause I just need some time to feel better / I’m bent and too broken / Falling under the pressure / But I think we’ll be fine / Keep it together / It feels like we’re dying / We’re just under the weather.”

The fourth track on Taking Up Space, “HXHXHX,” takes a drastic shift in tone and is indisputably the heaviest track on the record, showcasing Roney’s post-hardcore talents. A song that can’t be argued draws solely from Roney’s heavier influences in his music inspirations. Other tracks on the album such as “Hive,” “Under The Weather,” “Alive” -as well as a few others- take elements from this influence as well.

While Taking Up Space is primarily an emo rap album front to back, it’s also no secret it draws elements from several genres all over the musical spectrum and uses elements of these influences throughout the album. The tracks “Alive” and “Wasted In Paris” mostly from hip-hop, while tracks like “Home” and “Normal” are essentially just Clayton and an acoustic guitar. Lil Xtra has found a way to put his own stamp on the emo rap genre, with his latest release, Taking Up Space.

Check out more from Lil Xtra:

The White Buffalo – On The Widow’s Walk

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: April 17, 2020

Genre: Alternative Country, Folk, Rock

Label: Snakefarm Records

Los Angeles alternative country/folk singer-songwriter, Jake Smith, or more famously known as, The White Buffalo, has returned once again with his seventh full length studio album, On The Widow’s Walk. On the album, Jake Smith is joined by Matt Lynott on drums as well as bassist Christopher Hoffe.

The White Buffalo’s continued rising success has in part from nearly a dozen of his tracks being featured on the series, Sons of Anarchy. Most notably, “Come Join the Murder,” which was featured on the series’ season seven finale. On The Widow’s Walk, was produced by two-time Grammy Award winning producer, Shooter Jennings (Waylon Jennings, Billy Ray Cyrus, Duff McKagan).

On The Widow’s Walk starts off with it’s second single, “Problem Solution.” This, as well as the album’s third track, “No History,” approach the subject of living in the moment, however, “Problem Solution” gets Smith’s message across in the style of a folk rock ballad.

“But they’re so sincere, triumph and fear, coursing, forcing their might / Well, you can’t live this life straight, so get high, get gone / Well, I think it’s a little too late to be moving on / No one is a really to say, what’s right, what’s wrong / So let’s just get through the day.”

“Faster Than Fire,” the album’s third single, tackles the subject matter of the indiscriminate wrath brought upon the human race by mother nature’s sometimes very spontaneous destruction. Associated with and without climate change and global warming in a high octane folk punk infused track.

“Oh, you can’t run faster than fire, faster than water / Oh, you better run for your lives, grab your sons and your daughters / Oh, well the fire line, I don’t think we’ll hold you / Oh, mother nature’s a bitch, I don’t think she warned you / But she is gonna show you, hey!”

“The Rapture,” which happens to be the first single off On The Widow’s Walk, is a track where Smith wrote about what happens when the moral compass spins wildly out of control in the setting of a slow, yet menacing alternative country track. The track also features Smith howling like a wolf through the interlude.

“Well, I’ll tell you I got secrets, I know you got yours too / But mine are a little more sinister, done things I can’t undo / I bury all my secrets in the deep, dark woods of the pines / Covered in mud and timber, they come calling me at night.”

“It’s a twisted, primitive tale of an unrelenting thirst for blood,” explains Smith. With “The Rapture,” I wanted to blur the lines between animal and man, to create a tension of moral restraint and unbridled evil.”

At one point in the songwriting portion of On The Widow’s Walk the idea of a concept album was thought up by Smith and the band, however Smith didn’t want to leave out valued tracks because they might not fit a specific concept. On The Widow’s Walk features the underlying theme of water and the ocean, rather than dominant themes throughout. On the track, “Cursive,” Smith touches on the soulless march of technology. Smith also writes about the sense of longing, which is something reflected in songs such as “Sycamore,” “River of Love and Loss,” and the album’s title track, “Widow’s Walk.” It’s even right in the album artwork as well in a portrait painted of Smith by UK artist, Jack Browning.

Take a look back to March 23, 2019, when The White Buffalo last performed in Winnipeg, Manitoba at The Garrick for what was a memorable evening!

Q&A With Red Vienna

By Samuel Stevens

Photo by Kasia Stromecki

What’s the significance of the name Red Vienna?

Robbie: Vienna was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe that we visited while on tour with our previous band. When I got home, I did some research on the city and saw the term “Red Vienna” which was an effort in order to rectify many of the cities social crises. Some great artists and Art Deco architecture came out of this era in the city. It just had a really interesting meaning and the cultural significance seemed to resonate with us as a new band. It had nothing to do with politics, I think it just suited the vibe we were going for. 

How would you describe your band’s music for any person who may have never heard Red Vienna before?

Jahmeel: Aspects of it are heavy, but it’s also very melodic and melancholy. 

Robbie: The songs also have post-punk and shoegaze elements at times, but don’t necessarily fall into those categories.

What are your musical influences that shape the sound of, Red Vienna?

Jahmeel: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Failure, Killing Joke, Bee Gees, Black Sabbath, and Fugazi, are all groups I would say have had a direct influence in some way on our songs.

Devin: Interpol, Radiohead, The War On Drugs, The Stone Roses, Slowdive, and Wild Nothing come to mind.

Your new EP, Tomhet, is about to be released later this week and the two tracks have been released as singles the last few weeks. How has the reception been so far?

Jahmeel: Really great! Seems like we’re reaching more people than ever before and the reactions have been really positive so far. 

Robbie: It’s been so great, the receptions to the songs have been so positive. I’ve had people tell me how beautiful, “Evelyn” is… I never saw it in that way as the topic is so dark. It can be a bit nerve racking releasing your music to the world as everyone will have their own opinion on it. All you can do is hope people will enjoy it, and that has been the reaction so far.

The title track, “Tomhet” follows the subject of depression and hopelessness. If you don’t mind me asking, is that a personal subject to write about?

Jahmeel: It was at the time I wrote the lyrics. Happy to say I’m on the other side of that. 

Glad to hear you’re on the other side of it. How did the grim, yet haunting Robert Wiles photograph from 1947, titled “The Most Beautiful Suicide,” influence you in writing the song, “Evelyn?”

Jahmeel: I was really struck by the photo when I saw it. It’s a beautiful image even though it’s also a morbid one. There was also the influence of New York itself and the fact that the photo was taken there. It’s such a special city and anytime I can put my thoughts there in a song I find it really inspiring. “The Dead Lines” off our album, The Book of Hours, also touches upon similar subject matter. 

Are these songs just a taste of what’s yet to come in future releases? Do you happen to have any more music ready for the near future, considering Tomhet was only a two song release?

Robbie: We do hope to record new material in the near future. We currently don’t have any tour plans so for us, it makes more sense to release a song or two at a time.

With Tomhet being of a darker subject matter, is there any positives you want people to take away from the EP?

Jahmeel: That you’re not alone. I think most people experience the type of feelings I touch upon here. There’s a light up ahead. 

What’s currently planned for Red Vienna for the remainder of 2020?

Jahmeel: With the current situation in the world, the immediate plan is to work on more material at home. Hopefully we can continue to reach more people with these new songs and videos as well. 

Thanks for the time. With everything going on around the entire world right now, I hope you’re staying safe. Is there anything else you may want to add?

Jahmeel: Thank you for the interview. I’d like to send our thanks to everyone who’s checked out the new songs and shown their support online. We greatly appreciate it. Stay safe out there. 

Robbie: I would like to thank all the fans out there and that we very much appreciate the support. Wishing you all good health and to stay as positive as possible. We have to get through this together.

Red Vienna – Tohmet EP

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: April 3, 2020

Genre: Post-Rock, Alt. Rock

Label: Locust Hail

The Vancouver based three-piece, Red Vienna, return to the spotlight with a two track EP, Tohmet. The EP is a grim and haunting follow up to their 2015 full length album, The Book of Hours. Red Vienna was formed in 2010 by drummer Robbie Zgaljic (Sparkmarker, Black Halos), bassist/vocalist, Jahmeel Russell (ACTORS), while they’re joined by guitarist, Devin Boquist. Tohmet was produced by Jahmeel’s ACTORS band mate, Jason Corbett at his Vancouver studio, Jacknife Sound.

The album features two alternative rock/post-punk tracks “Evelyn” and title track, “Tomhet.” The pair of tracks pick up right where the band’s previous album, The Book of Hours, left off. The first track on the effort, “Evelyn,” was inspired by the photograph captured by Robert Wiles titled “The Most Beautiful Suicide.” While the image has been iconic for years, it’s quite the morbid and subtle image of a 23 year-old woman, Evelyn McHale, laying on the roof of a United Nations Limousine, taken on May 1, 1947, four minutes after she jumped to her death from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building. Where as the title track, “Tohmet,” is a song covering the similar topics of depression and hopelessness.

Tohmet beautifully captures various rock sub-genres in collective elements ranging from post-rock, alt. rock, shoegaze, and even in a little bit of punk. Although Tohmet is of a darker subject matter, there is still some positives you can be left with after listening. The album is for fans of bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol, Killing Joke, and Failure, to name a few, and these band’s influence shines through brightly on both of the tracks, “Evelyn” and “Tohmet.”

Check out more from Red Vienna: