Interview with Cold Weather Company by James Saulsky

On a bitingly cold New England day, I met up with Steve Shimchick, Brian Curry, and Jeff Petescia from Cold Weather Company outside of The Middle East before their debut Boston show. In between digging through old vinyl in a Cambridge record store and devouring $1 oysters, we talked about touring, recording their sophomore album; A Folded Letter, and shooting album art amidst plumes of smoke billowing from illegal fireworks.

Origins:

The New Jersey based alternative folk band first formed in 2011 when Jeff and Brian, who were both attending Rutgers University, had a chance meeting on campus.

Jeff:

I was a freshman and was playing with this girl for an open mic night trying to get myself to play out more. It was a weird rainy day and I was practicing on a park bench when Brian walked by. He had on a Chad Stokes shirt and we had on the same Sanuks and the same color and brand guitar case. It was one of those moments where you look over and you’re just like we should be friends.

Following that first serendipitous meeting, it took another two years for the final Cold Weather Company lineup, and name, to solidify. After Jeff and Brian linked up on that rainy day, they began playing together under various names at a monthly open mic on campus where, one night, another performer timidly approached them.

Steve:

I remember watching these guys play and I recorded videos of their sets and posted them to YouTube. I felt so nervous talking to them. I especially remember being nervous talking to Brian. He was older and had just really rocked some covers that night.

Nerves aside, Jeff and Brian liked what they heard in Steve’s piano playing and singing and invited him to join the group. Despite their mutual admiration, it took another year for the current lineup to start playing together on a regular basis and begin working on their first album.

Interview:

What was the most challenging part of this second record?

Brian: I think we were trying to set a higher standard for ourselves in this album. For the first album we were really focusing on being two acoustic guitars, a piano, and 3 vocalists and we wanted to stay as true to that as possible. We were also letting some things slide when it came to timing but wanted to have an organic and raw sound. For this one, we were going for more of a refined sound and a little fuller. We wanted some more cello, we wanted to add some drums here and there even if it’s just me with a big floor tom in my bedroom with a mic on the floor. I think we tried to layer a little more and really explore what we could do with the songs more than we did in the first album.

Jeff: The newer songs are much more fun to play. They’re much more instrumentally complex. Guitar wise I’m doing a lot more riffs. Overall, we feel like the new stuff is a lot more challenging. Like I’ve got to be on my game. It’s just more fun.

*Note.....The show in Boston is part of the last leg on a grueling 16 day tour schedule that took Cold Weather Company from Durham, NC up the east coast through Maine with a show every night. Brian and Jeff both have full time jobs in addition to their time with the band and the trio wanted to make full use of every vacation day they were able to take.

 

*Note...As Steve was quick to admit, planning a tour as independent artists isn’t always an easy process. The previous week, when they were still touring with Bluebird, Brian’s converted mini-school bus that he had painted light blue, they arrived in town the day of a show they weren’t sure would actually happen. After several urgent emails and phone calls, Steve was finally able to confirm the date with the venue just seven hours before they were slated to play. Overall, the guys have been enjoying the tour though and those stressful moments have been balanced out with more enjoyable ones.

Brian: Philly was definitely great, Radford was great, last night in Providence was great. The number one thing you want, especially since we’re not heavy, we spend a long time writing these lyrics – a lot of them are very personal, we spend a long time on the guitar phrases and the piano phrases and we want them to be heard. When we get a room of people that are actually listening and responding and asking about it later that’s what makes a great show for us. I’d rather play to 15 people who are really engaged and talk to them afterwards. It just feels better overall.

Steve: Last year in Philly we played a basement show, it was a little less… I wouldn’t have invited my parents to it. [This time] my parents were able to see us in a good environment. It was intimate and friendly with really nice lighting and the whole setup, the bands we played with were great.  It’s nice to go back to these communities that are welcoming and that are really just looking forward to hearing you play again.

*Note...From watching their interactions with each other, it’s obvious all three members of Cold Weather Company really enjoy playing music and being on the road as a group. Earlier in the day, we stopped by Cheapo Records to comb through their diverse selection of CDs, vinyl, and tapes. In between laughing together at some of the more suggestive and dated album art, Jeff quickly found two handfuls of CDs he wanted to buy. I think Brian managed to talk him out of a few but he still left the store with several new purchases and a smile from ear to ear.

As their current tour wraps up, Cold Weather Company have already started looking ahead to what’s next and are setting their sights on more live shows.

Steve: The album’s only been out for a little over two months so we’re just trying to see how far we can take it. We haven’t traveled nearly as far as we’d like to. This year, especially in the coming summer and fall, we’re going to get into setting up the next tour. I think this is going to be a pivotal year in showing how far we can take the album. We’re just going to play it out as much as we can and really make the most of it.

Brian: We’re proud of the first album and hold it near and dear to our hearts but I don’t think we saw it as the place where we were ready to jump in. This one feels a lot more like a jumping point. We’re very proud of this, we worked on it for a long time.

 

In addition to planning more tour dates, the band is also pushing the new songs for placement in movies and short films. Their dream placement: a Wes Anderson movie.

Brian: His movies are so fun and out there. One of the best compliments we get is when people say that they love listening to our music on road trips or traveling around or that it takes them to another place.

Several songs from A Folded Letter have already started popping up as the soundtrack for videos on YouTube and Instagram. Although not quite offering the exposure of a Wes Anderson film just yet, the videos have still attracted thousands of views from all over the world.

On creating the album art for A Folded Letter:

Brian: I had a dream of what I wanted the album art to look like with these three figures confronted by floating orbs in the middle of the woods.

To bring the idea to life, Brian, Jeff, and Steve headed out into the forest at night armed with camping lights, smoke bombs, and a tripod.

Brian: I set the camera up on a tripod with a 30 second exposure and was running around throwing these illegal smoke bombs all over the place to create the fog. For anyone who was wondering, the lights are actually camping lanterns inside of trash bags.

 

What would you say if you could write a letter to all of your fans?

Brian: Someone told us one of the new songs was their favorite song. How could I possibly display what that means for somebody to say hey that song that you guys wrote in your living room is my favorite song that I ever heard. I cannot comprehend it. You can’t explain what that means.  

Jeff: If I could send a letter to everybody I would say thanks so much…yeah, just thanks so much.

Space Hero Mission by Sean Campbell

Each person in this world has their own journey through life. It is in these journeys, a cumulative dynamic comprised of each individuals experiences, that the person is defined. Getting a person to step out of the norm and then reflect on how it affects them, you will find that no two reactions are the same. Sharing those reflections is the goal of Space Hero Mission.

Space Hero Mission was created by Don and Julia Derosier in 2015. The project was incarnated from their wanderlust and the desire to find out who we are in an an ever changing world filled with the unknown.  The project focuses on the stories of those involved and bringing those stories forward to be shared. Wearing the space suit has a different effect on each person who takes the step into the unknown and wears the mantel of a space explorer. 

“The project is not just about us it is about the people we work with because without them the project wouldn’t exist,” said Julia 

From its start, the project has evolved. Originally it was putting someone in the space suit and taking a photo. It wasn’t till later on that they started putting the participant in a special location and added the stories of the people who dawned the suit.

“We recently did a shoot with a tattoo artist where he was giving someone a tattoo in the space suit! so it was something that meant a lot to him because it showed who he is as an artist,” said Don. “We try to get to know more about them and through getting to know them build a community.”

With each Space Hero Mission shoot the participant gets a printed copy as well as the digital copy of them in the suit. By getting the printed copy they have something physical that they can be proud of and show to their friends and family. 

Currently there primary goal with the project is making it more accessible to people so that more people can participate. They want to do this by getting into more galleries and touring. Recently they have planned a tour throughout the western united states to go out and bring there project to more people. 

But in able for them to go on this tour and bring Space Hero Mission to more people they need some help. You can help them by contributing to their Kick Starter HERE

“When we conduct the project in public, people watch with lit up faces and its something special. Its a mesmerizing experience that you do not get everyday,” said Don. “People are drawn to it and we want more people to have the opportunity to experience it whether getting in the suit or simply witnessing it!” 

 

 

 

Artist Spotlight: John Paul White by Lane Smith

It's a Wednesday night and the rain has just begun to pour over Santa Monica Blvd. The streets were alive, but all was quiet outside the Troubadour. I was late. Thankfully, I was just in time to catch Alabama raised artist, John Paul White. As this half of the former duo 'The Civil Wars' walked on the stage, the intimate room errupted with cheers. 

Photo by Allister Ann

Photo by Allister Ann

The set began fairly mellow. What started as JPW on stage with nothing but his guitar, turned into a full six piece band after just a couple songs. It was a night filled with variety. It was a perfect mix of folk, americana and even some authentic southern rock. As Los Angeles was one of the final stops on this tour in support of Beluah, you could tell the whole band was thankful for the attention the crowd was giving them. As the "final song" ended, the band exited the stage. However, John began to laugh and quickly yelled for the band to come back out for another two songs. It was a joyful night filled with dismal lyrics; a picture perfect evening. 

If you haven't had the chance to listen to any of John Paul White's album, Beluah, I highly recommend it. Guaranteed to have something you'll fall in love with. Also, be sure to catch him at one of the last four stops on this winter tour!

JOHN PAUL WHITE LIVE
January 15 /// Seattle, WA /// The Crocodile
January 16 /// Vancouver, BC /// The Biltmore Cabaret
January 19 /// Denver, CO /// The Bluebird Theater
January 21 /// Kansas City, MO /// Knuckleheads

Artist Spotlight: The Hotelier by Lane Smith

Earlier this year, Massachusetts punks The Hotelier released an album called 'Goodness' on the label Tiny Engines and we've been obsessed ever since. TBH, we've been in love with these guys since 'Home Like NoPlace is There. The five-piece group has a strong lyrically emotional presence that carries over just as well to their live concerts. Go to almost any of their shows and there won't be a single person who doesn't sing along to 'An Introduction to the Album'. 

The band is currently on a U.S tour as support for Joyce Manor. Make sure to catch a show near you! TOUR DATES >>> HERE

Artist Spotlight: Judah & The Lion by Lane Smith

At No Anchor, we try not to limit ourselves to anything creatively. Within that, we are always looking to push and promote others living within this lifestyle. Judah & The Lion is the definition of limitless. With folk inspired melodies, hip hop beats, the energetic stage presence of a punk band, subtly brought together with pop lyrics, this band has no boundaries. 

Upcoming Tour Dates HERE

Although I had listened through their most recent album 'Folk Hop N' Roll', I was nowhere near prepared for everything this band brought live to their show in Los Angles. Whether it was climbing truss, Judah entering the crowd to mosh/dance, a cover of the Killers or a full stage drum rage, the night just kept on escalating for the better. The crowd was completely engaged, hands high and hearts full. If you have the chance to see them perform near you anytime soon, I completely recommend it. One of the best shows I've seen this year from a band of this size. 

Upcoming Tour Dates HERE

Upcoming Tour Dates HERE

 

An Interview With UK Artist SALT ASHES by Lane Smith

We recently had the chance to sit down with Brighton based singer 'Salt Ashes', who released her debut album July 15th with Radikal Records. We loved it so much we had to ask her a few questions about it. 

Q: With the very recent release of your debut album, what has the reaction been like so far? And how excited are you about it?

A: It's been overwhelming actually. I didn't expect this kind of reaction from people. Everything has been positive so far and I'm so happy that it's finally out there for everyone to hear.

Q: The record seems to be an incredibly good one to dance to. How excited are you to start performing these tracks live? 

A: I love performing the tracks so much. It's great to see the audience moving to my music and making the room all sweaty!

Q: What was the biggest inspiration for this album? 

A: Different things really. The album is an insight into around 5 years of my life and I think in some ways my entire life! There's a lot about previous relationships, friendships, experiences I've had and stories I've created from people watching which I love to do. It will be different with the next album, I'm sure.

Q: In terms of songwriting, do you typically write with the live aspect in mind? Maybe give us a brief overview of the writing process for this album. 

A: My writing process is different each time I write. Sometimes I'll start off with a beat and build a track up roughly from there then start singing over what I've created. Other times I'll have a lyric in mind, start playing some chords and begin playing around with those words. Usually with an uptempo song I'll imagine playing it live and try and create something that I think will take the audience on a journey with tension and builds etc.. other times I will be so in the zone of writing that all I am focused on is the moment.

Q: What is one of your favorite lyrics that you've written?

A: Into me, like bullets through a screen, my heart is no machine.

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to take music to the next level and make Salt Ashes a career? 

A: I've always known that I wanted to be a singer... the songwriting came a little later for me but I started taking everything seriously around the age of 18.

Q: What's next for you? Is there a tour coming any time soon that we should know about?

A: I'm hoping I'm able to make more music, play more shows and yes... a tour would be sick!

 

You can find Salt Ashes debut album (Salt Ashes) on Spotify, iTunes and anywhere else you listen to your tasty jams. 

Follow Salt Ashes Here:

Facebook | Twitter | Website

 

Zella Day (Live at U Street Music Hall) by James Saulsky

Photo taken by James Saulsky

July 6 in Washington, D.C. is the kind of day where stepping outside feels like walking into the embrace of a warm, damp blanket made from interwoven fibers of heat and humidity. Even at 8pm, long after the sun has sunk behind the rows of colorful brick apartments and bars that line both sides of U Street, any activity more taxing than sitting still and blinking is enough to produce beads of perspiration.

Still, a little bit of heat isn’t nearly enough to deter waves of determined concertgoers making their way down dusk-blue streets towards the nondescript entrance to U Street Music Hall. Groups of girls, their hands marked with large black X’s, stumble excitedly down the carpeted stairs to the venue, arms wrapped around each other, in sets of two and threes. An hour earlier, the line to enter stretched halfway down the block. Inside the crowded club, an anxious buzz has settled over the room and risen above the heads of the sold out crowd, flitting in and out of narrow spaces between tightly packed bodies slowly edging closer to the scratched and worn wood planks of the stage.

Photo taken by James Saulsky

Some impatient fans take to Twitter, their pleas oddly reminiscent of the famous Princess Leah line from Star Wars Episode IV. “Please hurry, my feet hurt”…you’re my only hope.

Suddenly, there is movement in the back of the dark stage. Beneath ringing screams of delight from the audience, the first few notes of an opening song ascend through the commotion.

Zella Day has arrived.  

Photo taken by James Saulsky

Long before nation-wide tours and performances on Conan, Zella Day Kerr, more commonly known as Zella Day, was entertaining patrons from the age of 9 at a family owned coffee shop in her hometown of Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona. Pinetop-Lakeside is tiny community with just over 4000 residents situated a little over an hour from the New Mexico state line and bordered by a lengthy stretch of arid ground that stretches out to Petrified Forest National Park. After growing up surrounded by this expanse, it’s hard not to imagine the western landscape of her childhood having an influence on Zella Day’s songwriting.

Even for the audience, crammed between the dark walls and low ceiling of U Street Music Hall, her music, a mix of pop vocals and indie rock influences, produces a feeling akin to standing in the center of the sweeping yellow and white sands that make up a vast desert.

Photo taken by James Saulsky

On Sweet Ophelia, a sparse intro interspersed with soft, beautiful melodies gives way to a powerful, vocally driven chorus that tears across the room like cracks in bone-dry ground. During Shadow Preachers, the tambourine clinks along like the tail of a rattlesnake until it is tossed into the air and snatched up by the crowd.

Then there’s Zella Day herself.  Like a flag caught in a storm, her slight frame bends and waves in all directions. Her arms frequently plunge into the outreached hands of the fans nearest the stage, stopping occasionally to grasp onto set of fingers before letting them slip slowly out of her reach. They drink up every second of it and leave smiling. After a long hot night, their thirst has been quenched.

 

Article written by: James Saulsky

Photos taken by: James Saulky

Taste of Chaos 2016 by Sasha Danielle

As I walked the beautiful streets of Chicago, I could feel the buzz and beat rolling off the crowds crawling across the city. There was a flock of us heading to the Taste of Chaos through the museum campus walkways, each of us meandering along the park from different parts of town.

I passed the entry gate after a pit stop at the box office, making my way toward the stage; a commanding, booming pedestal among a see of faces. This was my first time at the Taste, and I could already see the beginnings of a fleeting emo-revival before my eyes.

Photo taken by Sasha Danielle | Full gallery HERE

The Early November was the first to perform on stage. They played with incessant skill and passion, while intimate at times. Familiar, but overall diverse. Their set seemed so short, and I was left wanting more. When they played “Baby Blue” off of The Room’s Too Cold, fans aggressively pushed to the front, singing each line, soaring and effortless.

Photo taken by Sasha Danielle | Full gallery HERE

Saosin was up next. I expected nothing short of spastic, relentless energy, and they didn't disappoint in the least bit. Anthony Green was quite difficult to keep up with, running from each end of the stage, roaring into the mic, and shredding up every corner of the stage. It’s glorious, and I love Saosin’s consistency. They played a few songs off their new album Along The Shadow, and it was better then I could have imagined. 

Photo taken by Sasha Danielle | Full gallery HERE

I must be honest though... I was most looking forward to Taking Back Sunday. I shot them at Riot Fest this past September and the caliber of their shows is astounding. They opened with “Cute Without The E,” a staple song of the early 2000s pop punk scene. It was infectious, unruly, and rapid, with people belting out every word. TBS followed it with a few other favorites, two new songs, and plenty of personal tidbits between performances. Their set was over in what felt like no time, and I’m already planning out the next time I can try to catch them again.

Photo taken by Sasha Danielle | Full gallery HERE

The evening finishes off with Dashboard Confessional. I remember when “Again I Go Unnoticed” came out in 2000. When they played their first few chords, it became difficult to hear the words atop the roar of the crowd. It’s sobering, and soulful.

The Taste of Chaos spans across multiple dates in the US, finishing in San Bernardino, CA on July 16th. The Starting Line, Senses Fail, Quicksand, The Get Up Kids, and more will join for a prevailing final show.