It was sometime back in September that I stumbled upon the story of Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry, and her piece in The Guardian about the unfortunate realities she faced as a female musician. Only days later, I heard the stories of classical composers wearing their own diadems of misogyny. All these forces were crumbling away at what I once believed to be the most progressive industry we had at our hands.
With such revelations came a personal desire
for truth at a closer proximity. I honed in my lens and turned it on the state
of our own music scene, and the circumstances of female musicians in the Queen
I may have stumbled a bit the first time I saw Molly Sullivan perform. It could have been the champagne. It could have been the wine. It could have been the sheer, uprooting shock of such a sneakily sultry voice filling all the quiet corners of a room.
It was 2011 and the setting was a birthday party at the neo-historic Marburg Hotel, and local heroes Shadowraptr had just finished their set in the basement — a lush and operatic performance of their usual brand of psychedelic Prog-Rock, with Jazz sensibility. They didn’t disappoint with an expectedly raucous presentation, and we didn’t back down as an ever energetic crowd. It was in a quiet aftermath, among friends and fellows just as imbibed as our beer-soaked shirts, that I wove my way through a hallway maze and sauntered into a living room with an organ against its back wall. At its helm sat Molly Sullivan.
As she would come to tell me nearly three years later, “Going back to when I first started playing out as a singer songwriter, I always felt this extreme pressure and insecurity of being a female musician…whose music was tending to be more on the delicate side of things, an emotionally driven side of things. It required a little stillness from the crowd.”
But back looking back on that night in March 2011, stillness was inevitable. Warm from wine and an approaching spring, the handful of us that sat in the living room did so with an active passivity. But even as heads lolled against neighbors’ shoulders or against the walls at our backs, there was an intensity in every pair of eyes that I glanced into; all were watching, focused, as Molly struck a chord and then another, taking us through the coziest part of the evening with two or three ballads of life, lovelorn.
It was an intimacy that couldn’t have escaped those of us even if it had tried, and only a brief, drunken sampling of where Sullivan had started her story, rising to the ranks of the recognized, respected and regaled. Before that, she was front woman for the electronically infused No No Knots and a few months after that, she would play out as a solo artist with a backing band, making a stop at The Heights Music Festival and a New Year’s Eve show at the Southgate House Revival in 2012, before a brief hiatus kept her choruses hushed.
Sullivan admits that a lot of the anxious cogs of her earlier years were weighed on heavily by being a female musician in a primarily male-dominated scene.
“I feel like it’s a lot
easier for men as artists,” Sullivan Says, “generally, because you have the
potential to be the heartthrob, and also it’s not necessarily a sissying thing
to go to for a guy. So I feel like there’s more of an audience inherently built
In the later months of 2013, however, she re-emerged, armed with a loop-accentuated sound and a solo confidence that she speaks fondly of. Crafting songs, sonically clad with vocal layering and solid to the string guitar work, Sullivan took her one-woman symphony on the Cincinnati circuit, to high acclaim — winning the solo artist bracket of FB’s local “Last Band Standing 2013” battle of the bands, and earning herself a spot on one of the participating MidPoint Music Festival stages.
Sullivan had dedicated time to playing earlier shows in spots she would normally not perform, in venues and around crowds she would normally not consider being her primary audience. She says she found new courage in taking these risks. Though initially unsure about even participating in the event at FB’s, Sullivan came to find her hesitation was unnecessary.
“I made some assumption about the clientele there – it’s kind of known to be like a bro bar,” Sullivan explains. “I was thinking, ‘They’re not gonna get my art.’ That ended up not being true.”
When asked about the
progression of her performance presentation, Sullivan says, “I think I’ve
actually come to learn — just by doing it when I’m in a bar and everybody is
silent — just like recognizing that there’s something captivating about the
simplicity and the emotion of being present with your songs. It’s a really
empowering thing when people are dedicated to listening and joining you in that
Sullivan also recognized the power of community, and the part that earnest encouragement from within the Cincinnati scene played in her career as a musician. One pillar in her support group is claimed by The Daughters of The Midwest, an ensemble stage set of premier, female musicians dominating the Cincinnati area.
“I’ve definitely kind of
geared my energy towards being supportive of other female musicians,” Sullivan
says, “supporting Kelly (Fine), Mia (Carruthers), Maya (Banatwala). And now
that I’m back out there again, because of the support that I’ve been shown.”
“I think it’s a really powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other,” she continues. “And as soon as I got back into it, it made it a lot easier to go with the flow and be excited for people wholeheartedly.”
And looking outside of the just the female musician community, Sullivan vehemently recognizes the support of Cincinnati as a whole. Sullivan expresses an appreciation for her time playing with The No No Knots, as well as the support she received from the members of Cincinnati’s Marburg Collective. As she explains, "There’s mostly positive reinforcement floating around. There’s kind of this really solid to the earth community here that exists that wants to support."
She admits that what hides outside of Cincinnati is what scares her most. We traded stories and conversations about recent revelations of ignorance and misogynistic skeletons in some of contemporary music’s most renowned scenes, tales of classical composers saying woman have no place in conducting pieces.
Sullivan acknowledges being weary of “the whole, big wide world,” with such possibilities floating around in clouds of reality.
“Cincinnati scares me in its
own ways,” she says. “Almost what scares me more is beyond what’s Cincinnati,
just the competitiveness that can be fruitful if you’re successful in the game.
And I think part of me has been afraid of success, because with that success,
you know what’s gonna come: it’s gonna be that banter online, all those
anonymous people hemorrhaging bullshit…Why bother?”
Even with such uncertainty for outside markets, Sullivan exhibits an insight and strength that propels her forward, even more so because of her acknowledgements of the bad that can come with the good. She says she’s learning to navigate her way around “the hemorrhaging bullshit.” Her awareness of everything that can dampen an otherwise well lit stage is what makes her voice so definitive on the conversation about the regressive mentality of misogyny that can still exist in our present day music-scape.
There exists within Molly Sullivan a partnership between community appreciation and individualistic impetus. She acknowledges the power of community backing, saying it’s a “powerful thing to have a female musician community to support each other.” And she recognizes the groundwork that’s been laid out in years past.
“We’ve seen the rise of a few
female fronted bands come through,” Sullivan says, “and people are more willing
to be excited for that and support it.” (She cites the Seedy Seeds and Wussy as
pioneers for female musicianship.) Sullivan is aware of where we’ve been and
where we are. But what’s more, she’s ready to take us to where we need to be.
And she’s ready to do that with a self-made spirit.
“I’m getting to a point where I don’t give a fuck really,” Sullivan says.
It was with a new impetus
that she’s approached her musicianship. “I’ve grown stronger as a female
musician,” she says. “Now I’m just kind of like, well, if you don’t want to
listen to it then fuck you, you don’t have to be here. It took me a long time
to get to that point, and I still kind of have some insecurity about it. But
most of the time I’m just like, ‘Molly, grow a pair, get over it.’ ”
Sullivan also explains the intentionality behind her current solo-set performances. Much in the same vein of playing in new venues, under possibly uncomfortable lights, she exhibits a drive to explore her boundaries, and expand past her limitations.
“I’ve chosen to do these
things by myself,” she says. “If I’m going to play with a band later, I need to
be OK playing solo first. It’s been really empowering, doing all of that.” She proves herself to be relentless and,
though hurt, unscarred by the outside forces of misinterpretation and
It’s with a knowing, weathered paddle that she navigates these future streams. And it seems she couldn’t be more pleased with the direction she’s headed.
“So far, it’s been really
lovely being back.” She takes a moment, at the end of our conversation, to
reflect out loud. “Would you look at that? I did that. And I don’t need anybody
else. I’m all about collaboration, but it’s really good to know that I don’t
need anybody. I’m capable.”
So far, the videos released from The Queen City Project’s series of clips from The MidPoint Sessions (a day party that took place at the Art Academy during September’s MidPoint Music Festival) have showcased three great Ohio acts — Athens’ The Ridges (also the curators of the Sessions), Cincinnati’s The Happy Maladies and Columbus’ Indigo Wild. Today you can check out the final clip from the performances, this one featuring another Cincinnati artist — intriguing singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan. While the previous performances were acoustic, Sullivan strums an electric guitar and utilizes loops to create a haunting effect.
Click here for more about Sullivan. And you can see/hear her live this Thursday at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine as she opens for Lexington, Ky.’s Ancient Warfare, which also played this year’s MidPoint Music Festival. Find details on the free show here.
Cincinnati five-piece Zebras in Public has released some propaganda to promote its new single and sophomore album.
Actually, it’s a new single and accompanying music video for the group’s strong new song “Propaganda,” an ear-grabbing AltRock track that is slated for the new Zebras in Public full-length, Paradise Leg. The follow-up to the eclectic band’s 2010 debut album Scars & Stripes is due early next year.
Papadosio is a trendsetting, progressive voice in the world of Rock, mixing an electronic sound with improvisation and dashes of psychedelia. The North Carolina-based band has created a groundswell through the musical landscape with steady tour dates and the development of its own festival, Rootwire, in Southeastern Ohio, the group's birthplace. CityBeat caught up with drummer Mike Healy, a Cincinnati native, and chatted about his Ohio roots and the development of the Rootwire Music and Arts Festival. Papadosio storms into Bogarts this Friday night for an evening of high energy and eclectic sounds. Click here for tickets and further information.
CityBeat: I wanted to ask you about the Rootwire Festival. How did you guys start the festival and decide on the location?
Mike Healy: Some of us went to school in Athens, Ohio, and we actually played some festivals there before we started doing Rootwire six or seven years ago. We checked out the property and really liked it and had an idea to do a festival ourselves from traveling a lot and making so many awesome friends across the country we could collaborate with and create an amazing event. We decided (on) that land because we had previously visited it, Kaeppner Woods, outside of Athens in Logan. It is absolutely beautiful, some of the oldest mountains in the world in the Appalachian foothills. There is a lot of great energy there, it’s beautiful and it just couldn’t be a more perfect place to throw a festival the last four years. That’s how that place came about. The festival, we have just been collaborating with so many amazing friends. We just invite our friend bands and friend artists from all over the country and installation artists from all walks of life. It’s just been an absolutely amazing time for four years.
CB: I saw the band for the first time this year at the All Good festival (in Thornville, Ohio). Listening to your music, it feel like there is a little bit of a spiritual element to it. Do you guys consider yourself spiritual or religious and how does that inspire your music?
MH: I would say that none of us are religious. There are definitely all sorts of messages throughout our music of some sort of divine connection to Mother Earth and taking care of the place we live and taking care of others and loving others, all kinds of common things we like to talk about. I guess if you want to call it spiritual you can — we call it a no-brainer. You love your neighbor you take care of each other. You want peace in the world and all these universal values I feel like people can connect to. There are definitely a lot of those messages in our music. I don’t find any of us to be religious at all. Music is our religion, honestly. We are always searching for alternative thinking. We are all into the green movement and really into eco-building and sustainable living and alternative energy. All these things are on our mind a lot and we speak about them in music.
CB: The band has relocated from Ohio to Asheville, N.C. I heard you moved to a cabin somewhere outside of town. You must be together as a band a lot of the time — or all the time. Is it hard being around each other so much?
MH: We actually don’t live in that cabin anymore. We are spread out around town living with our girlfriends and stuff. We do spend a lot of time together. We are on the road 200 days a year. We are always just hanging out on the tour bus together. Even when we are home we still get together and hang out. We are a big ol’ band of brothers (and) just love spending time together. We really enjoy making music and we are all really great friends. It is totally insane. We are gone all the time and it is hard on our ladies, spending so much time away. It’s quite the crazy lifestyle. It is not for everyone. We love it. We try to do the best to make it work.
CB: What is your favorite part of being on the road?
MH: Definitely playing music every night. That is what we live for. The whole set up and tear down and all the long hours of waiting around are not so fun, but once you get on stage and are able to create and get people dancing and seeing all these smiling faces everywhere, that definitely fuels us. Some of the favorite times too are when we are on the road and have a couple days off that we get to go do beautiful things like go visit beautiful national parks or go on some crazy hikes or go relax at a really nice hotel or someone’s house. Those kind of times we look forward to because it is nice to relax and see friends all around the country.
CB: What is your favorite song to play live?
MH: That’s a hard one. We have like 50 songs that we have in rotation. I love all of them. I really like playing a new one that Anthony (Thogmartin) wrote called “New Love.” (There) are really fun new songs we have been playing live a lot in every town. Everybody has been really digging it. It is hard to pick a favorite because I love all the material.
CB: The band has played a lot of festivals, particularly around Ohio. Do you have a favorite festival moment?
MH: There are so many. I guess we love playing All Good every year, because those have been some of the biggest crowds we have ever got to play in front of. We got to play on the main stage last year in front of 15-20,000 people. Previous years … we got to play after Flaming Lips one year and right before Primus one year and those crowds were like 30,000 people. It was totally insane. It was so cool. Those are definitely high moments. Obviously Rootwire is a big moment.
We have started playing some festivals on the West Coast and all over the country. We are really enjoying trying new ones out. We have played so many in the Midwest and East Coast and it has been so nice to try some new festies out west. This year we are doing some of our first international plays. We are really excited to go down to Central America and play … in December. There is so much going on.
CB: Can you describe your songwriting process?
MH: There (are) several different ways we go about doing it. We will have a jam session and we come up with a song on the spot and write it together in the rehearsal room, and somebody will have a riff and we will go around adding pieces of the puzzle together as a group. Other times, somebody will have almost a completely finished song idea and bring it to the table. People will learn their parts and put their own flare on it. Sometimes someone will have half a song and come to somebody else to help finish it and someone else will write lyrics.
It all depends on what is happening during the creative process. Sometimes we will be on tour sitting on our laptops and all of a sudden a riff will come to our heads and we will start writing the song while sitting on the van or the bus and then bring it back after (the) tour and bring it to the band and go from there. Sometimes we are walking through the woods and we get an idea in our head and sing it into our phone real quick and then we will go back later and hop on the computer and our instruments and figure it out and bring it to the band later. It just comes to you sometimes. It’s crazy how it works. It is part of the creative process — you just never know when you will get an idea that will pop into your head and you have to jot it down somehow.
CB: Being with the band in Athens, I am sure you have spent a little time in Cincinnati. Do you have any fond Cincinnati stories from the past?
MH: Oh yeah. I grew up in Cincinnati. I lived there until I was 18 and then I went to Athens for school for seven years and then I moved down to Asheville. I’ve been playing drums since I was 3 years old and I have been in a band non-stop since fourth grade, so from fourth grade all the way through senior year I was in so many different projects. I played at Bogarts all the time for the Battle of the Bands in high school and got a lot of exposure back then with my younger bands. Now it’s full circle and now my band Papadosio is back playing at Bogarts again. We played there last year for the first time since high school. It was great. It has a lot of memories for me (from) when I was younger.
CB: Where did you go to high school here?
MH: I went to Clark Montessori in Hyde Park. I played in a steel drum band all through junior high and high school too and played all over the city and also toured the country. I played in Hip Hop bands and Rock & Roll bands, Metal bands, Alternative Rock bands, all sorts of bands in Cincy, as well as steel drum ensembles and the steel drum band in high school. I was quite the busy musician all throughout my childhood.
CB: This is basically a hometown show for you, so it will be fun to be back.
MH: It’s great — so many friends and family.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been sharing some great new videos shot at September’s MidPoint Music Festival by The Queen City Project. The clips feature performances from The MidPoint Sessions, a day party held during MPMF at Art Academy of Cincinnati in conjunction with FotoFocus’ Reverberation concert photography exhibit. The event showcased acoustic performances by four Ohio acts — Athens’ The Ridges (who curated the lineup), Cincinnati’s The Happy Maladies and Molly Sullivan and the star’s of today’s video debut, Columbus Indie Rock foursome Indigo Wild.
Indigo Wild formed in 2010 and, if the name sounds familiar, it may be due to the band’s frequent shows in Cincinnati. So far, the band has only issued one recording, the 2011 EP If By Sea, but for The MidPoint Sessions, Indigo Wild unveiled a newer song titled “Be Patient.”
The band’s website says “Be Patient” “lays a stepping stone” to Indigo Wild’s first full-length release. Keep updated on the album’s progress and all things Indigo Wild at indigowildmusic.com.
Tomorrow (Friday) at Over-the-Rhine’s Know Theatre of Cincinnati, a special photography collection will be on the display, showcasing some of the best work of local photographers who especially shine when shooting live music events.
In the spirit of the Reverberation: Capturing the Live Music Experience exhibit presented by FofoFocus at the Art Academy of Cincinnati this past September leading up to the MidPoint Music Festival, the photographers whose work is published at the great local music site CincyMusic.com have put together a collection of some of their favorite shots. The photos — by Jacob Drabik, Brian Bruemmer, Kelly Painter, Phil Dawson, Julia Huber, Matt Steffen, Mike Clare and Sarah McDermott — were all taken at club shows, festivals and concerts in the Cincinnati area (including ones from MidPoint and the Bunbury Music Festival).
CincyMusic.com hosts tomorrow's free event at Know, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. and runs until 8 p.m. There will be light appetizers and the venue’s lower-level bar will be open for business. And if you're up for a little theatre afterwards, tickets are still available for Know's 8 p.m. staging of Bull, a play about adult bullying (timely!). Rick Pender reviewed Bull in CityBeat earlier this month, writing, "You won’t like anyone you see onstage in this savage tale. You’ll probably question your own enjoyment of the show’s dark humor and vicious actions. But the acting and staging of Bull make this a riveting piece of theater." Get tickets here or at the theatre if any remain.
Along with creating captivating, dynamic music that has helped to make it one of Cincinnati’s finest Hip Hop groups, Valley High has released several stellar music videos over the past few years to accompany its tracks. This year has seen some of the best clips yet from the group, including ones for “That One Too” and, more recently, “8 Ball.”
The group blends sounds from several genres and features live instrumentation, like guitars and keys, to back the ear-grabbing flow of MC’s Moxy Monster and The M.O. Hour. Self-described as a “new wave hip hop band,” the latest video from Valley High (which really needs to parody the Van Halen logo on a T-shirt or something) is for the track “Let Me Get Em,” described as “a hard jazzy gritty street track that is a throwback to the 90's era.” The track is featured on the group’s 14-track album titled, appropriately enough, 90’s Tape, which is available for free download here.
One week ago today, on Nov. 14, the fun and increasingly acclaimed Michigan-based Electro Pop band Stepdad was bringing its nearly two-month, nationwide tour to a close and was set to perform at Cincinnati’s MOTR Pub. The band had a great fall tour; outside of some trouble with its tour van, things had gone smoothly until that point. With a few final shows on the tour after the Cincinnati date in their home state, the band members were heading into the homestretch and returning home triumphantly.
Then one of them them got arrested. Stepdad had played Pittsburgh the night before its MOTR date, driving through the night and grabbing a room at the Super 8 motel in Cincy exburb Mason, Ohio, (north of the city and near the Kings Island amusement park, where the Brady Bunch once frolicked) to get some rest. Early in the morning of Nov. 14, Stepdad’s Nathan John Klages — a multi-instrumentalist and also a solo singer/songwriter who works under the name Nathan K. — was arrested at the motel, charged with public indecency and “obstruction official business,” according to the police report. Klages got arrested for doing something many, many men have done — taking a piss outside. He was booked into the Warren County Jail. The look on his face in the above mugshot is one of understandable confusion, probably a little anger and definitely a lot of fatigue after working all night and then traveling.
Those souls in attendance at MOTR Pub for the November 14 show by underground pop superstars STEPDAD won't soon forget it. Neither will Stepdad's NATHAN K. He might never forget it -- because of a very wrong reason.
The evening before the show, the band, which hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was staying at a motel in Mason, Ohio. It was there where Nathan K. was arrested for -- allegedly -- urinating in the great outdoors. Nathan was subsequently charged with public indecency and taken to the Warren County Jail, where his arms and legs were placed in shackles and he was placed in a cell.
He was fined, processed, and eventually released just before showtime, so as to avert what would have been the compounded injustice of having to cancel the show.
Taking into account the advice of the legal defense, we will say nothing about the charge levied against Nathan. However, Nathan is saddled with fines and travel expenses related to this episode. He must return from Michigan to Southwest Ohio on Tuesday, December 17 to face the judge, and we, at MOTR Pub, want to help.
Nathan has agreed to play a set at MOTR Pub on Tuesday, December 17 at 9 p.m. We are asking fans of Stepdad, and fans of blind justice, and fans of rock 'n' roll, and fans of Nathan K. to attend the show and join us in throwing a fiver or a ten-spot in Nathan K.'s hat to offset his debts and to make something good of the bad.
Since Los Angeles is one of the centers of the music universe, being dubbed the “Best Live Band” in the city is an incredibly high honor. Energetic eight-member Americana ensemble The Dustbowl Revival received that exact honor this year when the city’s L.A. Weekly named the group the Best Live Band of 2013 in its Best of L.A. issue. Tonight you can see and hear for yourself when The Dustbowl Revival headlines MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Brad Loans of local greats The Sundresses opens the free show at around 10 p.m. with a solo set.
The Revival’s kitchen-sink approach touches on a bigger-than-usual array of American Roots music influences, from Western Swing, New Orleans Jazz, Dixieland and Be Bop to Blues, Gospel, Folk and numerous other styles (both expected and not). Delivered using the classic tools of the Americana trade (numerous brass instruments, fiddle, clarinet, mandolin, washboard, harmonica and kazoo, plus stand-up bass and guitars), The Dustbowl Revival’s latest release, Carry Me Back Home, was released to critical acclaim earlier this year. But, if the enthusiastic testaments online are any indication, seeing the group’s wildly entertaining live show is the best way to experience the Revival.
• Punk rockers turning to Folk and Roots music is nothing new (see: Billy Bragg, The Pogues), but it’s become a not unwelcome epidemic in the past decade. It’s easy to see the appeal — Punk and Folk are kissing cousins that share a raw purity and, often, a sense of social/political justice in the lyrics.
Another part of the appeal may just be how some of the artists who make the shift and go full Folk have found huge success after the makeover. Frank Turner, for example. The British folkie was the singer for Hardcore Punk band Million Dead in the early ’00s. The band’s run was short and relatively successful, but nothing compared to what Turner has experienced since strapping on an acoustic guitar and going solo in 2005 after the band’s split. After his debut album in 2007, Turner’s career took off and he built his now-huge fanbase by touring with bands like The Gaslight Anthem, The Offspring and Green Day, which had him open stadium shows for the band in 2010.
This year, Turner released his fifth album, Tape Deck Heart, his first recorded in the U.S. and his first under a global deal with Interscope Records. Turner comes to the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre tonight in support of the album. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Koo Koo Kanga Roo and The Smith Street Band open. Tickets are $20 at the door. Turner is touring with his full backing band, The Sleeping Souls.
Here’s the video for the new album single “Losing Days”:
• Two up-and-coming Rock crews with a rising presence on the FM Rock airways cruise into Bogart’s tonight. The Classic Rock-influenced bands Taddy Porter and Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights play at 7 p.m. Read Amy Harris’ interview with Tyler for CityBeat here and check out Taddy Porter’s video for the single “The Gun” below:
A lot of the great up-and-coming touring artists that made September’s MidPoint Music Festival one of the best yet have been building on their MPMF momentum and returning to the area. Even some of the bands that canceled their MPMF appearances have made their way back.
Korea’s Love X Stereo had travel issues and missed this year’s MidPoint, but recently played MOTR Pub (the club owned by MPMF artistic director Dan McCabe) and now the amazing seven-piece Wisconsin crew PHOX (who missed MPMF to tour with Blitzen Trapper) is headed to the same venue tonight for a great double-bill with San Francisco Psych Rock/Shoegaze outfit (and MPMF alumnus) Sleepy Sun.
The wonderfully eclectic PHOX, which recently announced a new recording was in the works, appear to be on the verge of very big things; seems like everyone who hears the band’s gorgeous and unique mesh of Folk, Indie Rock, Soul, Americana, Jazz, Chamber Pop and other styles instantly falls in love with them. In September, the group issued a live EP taken from its appearance at the ITunes Festival in London. It was the follow-up to its Confetti EP, released earlier this year with an endearing companion “music video EP” featuring clips for each track on the release. Check it out below:
Tonight’s show at MOTR (the venue’s website is calling it “a once-in-a-lifetime MUST SEE Mind Melting Monday Mash-Up”) starts at 9:30 p.m. and, like all MOTR shows, is free.