Five years ago, Matt Baumann was exploring the fringes of avant garde Jazz and creating sparse Ambient soundscapes with nothing more than his alto/tenor saxophones (he occasionally duoed with friends Eric Barnett and Jim Feist, but largely worked on his own) and a vision of crafting a quietly powerful body of work. At the time of our last interview, in late 2008, Baumann namechecked all the right Jazz influences — John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Jan Garbarek — but he also ticked off a number of singer/songwriters whose work had been more inspirational than influential, from Warren Zevon and Tom Waits to Jason Molina and David Bazan, saying that he attempted to channel their passion and not necessarily their method of expressing it.
In 2011, disillusioned with the local Jazz scene, Baumann opted for the singer/songwriter route, learning to play the plectrum banjo but maintaining his lone wolf performing status. That may well have been Baumann's inspiration for adopting the nom de plume of WolfCryer, as well as his desire to begin a fresh new direction.
His acclaimed eponymous debut EP dropped in 2012 and he's been steadily working the Folk/Americana scene ever since, but the last few months have been especially productive with the release of a trio of evocative, emotionally engaging and typically atmospheric EPs. The first,The Long Ride Home, dropped quietly last September and showcased a new WolfCryer of sorts, as Baumann added acoustic guitar and harmonica to an arsenal already loaded with melancholy melodicism ("Roll Call of Ghosts") and intelligent wordplay ("Never Carry More Than You Can Hold").
The next two WolfCryer EPs, sporting four tracks each, have come in fairly rapid succession; Hell's Coming Down came out at the end of November and Wild Spaces dropped on New Year's Day, both generally following the template of The Long Ride Home and both stacked with highlights, like the lovely "Andromeda" and winsome "whiskeyheart" (where Baumann's banjo makes a welcome reappearance) on the former, the expansive "Lonely Country" and the heartrending "Better to Be" on the latter.
Baumann was a cluster recordist back in his Jazz days, and that aspect of his creative life hasn't changed much; on the heels of his last three EPs, released over the course of the last three months, his plans for the new year include both his debut and sophomore full-length albums (the proposed title track for the latter, "Box of Bones," is posted below). Originally slated for next month, WolfCryer's debut album, The Ivory in the Narrows, has been pushed to a summer release, but his Feb. 15 release show at Southgate House Revival remains intact as Baumann is re-releasing The Long Ride Home, which was never given an actual official release in the first place.
If you think a guy and a guitar is drab, give WolfCryer a shot; given the slightest opportunity, he'll build a quiet and beautiful new room in your heart.
Saturday at Bogart’s you’ll have a chance to see 10 of Greater Cincinnati’s finest up-and-comers as CityBeat presents the first “Best New Bands” showcase. The event coincides with our “Best New Bands” cover story, featuring profiles and info on all of the performers — grab a copy if you haven’t.
Below is the lineup, which includes all six of the local acts nominated in the “New Artist of the Year” category and four other favorites, plus some audio/video previews to whet your appetite. Click the artists’ name to read CityBeat’s stories (and some great original photography) about each. The stories include links to the acts’ websites and more music.
The doors open at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bogart’s and admission is just $5. Performers will be featured on two stages, so it will be non-stop music all night.
7:30 p.m. Pop Goes the Evil
8 p.m. Molly Sullivan
8:30 p.m. Injecting Strangers
9 p.m. ADM
9:30 p.m. Mardou
10 p.m. Austin Livingood
10:30 p.m. Archer's Paradox
11 p.m. Little Lights
11:30 p.m. Tweens
12:15 a.m. Electric Citizen
Word has been trickling out over the past few weeks about a new Country music festival in Cincinnati, organized by Bunbury Music Festival founder Bill Donabedian. Today, the first four artists slated to appear at the inaugural Buckle Up Music Festival were announced. The festival is set for the weekend after Bunbury — July 18-20 — and will use the same grounds at Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River. (Think of it as Bunbury’s version of Coachella’s Stagecoach fest.)
The lineup will feature “upwards of 80 performers” and include both modern, commercial Country acts and variations on the Country theme — “folk, bluegrass, Americana, roots rock and more,” according to the press materials — something the initial lineup announcement reflects.
Legendary Country act Alabama (which for many years used the controversial Confederate Flag in its artwork, years before Kanye decided to reclaim it) and current Country hitmakers the Eli Young Band will be joined by up-and-comers J.T. Hodges (whose music has been described as “Country Soul with some Rock N’ Roll”) and eclectic Brooklyn-based Americana trio The Lone Bellow, which performed last November at Cincinnati’s 20th Century Theater (read CityBeat’s preview here).
Voting for the 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, celebrating the best of the Greater Cincinnati music scene, ends TONIGHT at midnight. Click here to cast your ballot for your favorite nominated local artists.
The CEA ceremony is set for Sunday, Jan. 26, at Covington’s Madison Theater. The show/party will feature performances from CEA-nominated artists Honey & Houston, Moonbow, The Yugos, The Upset Victory, Valley High, The Almighty Get Down and DAAP Girls, as well as a secret opening performance by an entity known (as of now) only as Saint Ain't Mangled Angels (those who read CityBeat regularly will likely be able decipher the thinly-veiled pseudonym).
Also added to the run of show for the CEA event is a special performance by Cincinnati Folk trio The Tillers, who released their fantastic Hand on the Plow album and toured the U.K. with Pokey LaFarge in 2013. The group, nominated for CEAs in the Folk/Americana, Album of the Year and Artist of the Year categories, will be paying tribute to their former bassist Jason Soudrette, who lost his battle with acute myeloid leukemia late last year.
This morning, the annual Bunbury Music Festival, coming up July 11-13 and returning to Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River, announced the first acts for this summer’s event. Fall Out Boy, which won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Alternative Band last night, will be joined at the fest by consistent Pop/Rock hit makers Paramore (who were up against FOB for that People’s Choice Award and are doing a co-headlining tour with the band this summer, something that leaked early, allegedly angering Paramore) and up-and-coming Danish alt-rockers New Politics (also on the FOB/Paramore jaunt).
The full lineup for the Bunbury Music Festival is scheduled to be announced next month. Tickets are on sale now; below are details:
One-day, Any-day: $55.00 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Three-day: $130.00 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Three-day VIP: $325 (U.S.) Buy on layaway until January 31, 2014
Hotel and Ticket Package: Buy one three-day, get one free. Book now
Please note that ticket prices will increase after February 15 and again after July 1.
Also this morning, it was announced that The Afghan Whigs, one of the best musical exports to ever come out of Cincinnati, are returning to the road in 2014 to play (at least) the Coachella festival in California this summer. (The full Coachella lineup, which was released this morning and includes Arcade Fire, OutKast and The Replacements, can be found here.) Sounds like a good fit for this year’s Bunbury lineup, too.
CityBeat met with drummer and instrumentalist Josiah Wolf (Yoni’s brother) at The Comet and spoke to him about Cincinnati, his new projects, upcoming shows and WHY?’s latest albums.
CityBeat: Cincinnati is your hometown. You and Yoni grew up here?
Josiah Wolf: I was born in Philadelphia but came here when I was, like, two. So yeah, I grew up here. I lived here all of my formative years…left when I was around 21.
CB: I saw that WHY? is nominated for the “Indie/Alternative” category for the Jan. 26 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs). How does it feel to be nominated?
JW: I don’t ever expect to win those things, but it’s nice that we’re on the radar of the city. We were nominated last year too and went down to The Madison. I think [the CEAs] have gotten bigger. It’s cool — it’s kind of a way of getting the music community and art community together.
CB: Do you interact with some of the local bands here?
JW: Uh, never, no. [Laughs] Just kidding. Yeah, I’ve met some good friends here and some good bands here. I’ve met a lot of people through WHY?’s other drummer Ben Sloan — a lot of his friends that he went to school with. They have a collective, The Marburg Collective, and they play at The Comet every Monday.
CB: Aside from WHY?, I know you’ve been working on some other projects, such as Dream Tiger with your wife, Liz. Can you tell me about that?
JW: I’m doing stuff for myself right now that is only in infancy. Some of that might be music I release myself or I might collaborate with Liz on it. Some of it might become WHY? songs. I have a lot of tracks that are in their beginning stages.
CB: So with WHY?, do the members work on music individually and then come together?
JW: Yeah, we do that a lot of the time. Every record is different, though. Like with the last record, Mumps, Etc., Yoni worked on almost all of that by himself. With the Golden Ticket EP, I did all of the music on that. Yoni wrote the songs on the piano and then he sent me the tracks and I put music around it.
CB: How is it different to do your own stuff versus stuff for WHY? or Dream Tiger?
JW: WHY? is kind of Yoni’s band in a way even though we’ve had times of collaboration. It’s my band also but he’s the main guy. Dream Tiger is Liz’s band. [Laughs] In both bands, I kind of take a side role. The difference is working with my brother versus working with my wife. They’re different but both are good in my life. Lately, I enjoy working by myself in a way, as far as coming up with ideas.
CB: You’ll be playing at The Comet on New Years Eve with WHY? for your last show of the year. How do you feel about that?
JW: I love The Comet. It’ll be a fun, low pressure show for us. I’m excited about it. I’d say that intimate shows [are] my preference.
CB: Which of your albums is the band’s favorite to perform? I know at the Fountain Square show this summer, you guys played a lot from Alopecia, which is one of my favorite albums. How do you choose which albums to play?
JW: Right now we’re focusing on the new record, Mumps, Etc. We do most songs from that but, yeah, we do a lot from Alopecia. Some Elephant Eyelash. We don’t really do much Eskimo Snow right now. The Alopecia songs do lend themselves to the live performances better than some of the other ones — they are more exciting songs in a way. For some reason, the Eskimo Snow songs are a little more difficult to pull off live [but] we do a couple.
CB: So Mumps, Etc. came out last year after a three-year break. How would you say the band’s sound has evolved in that latest album? And since then?
JW: That record was mostly Yoni as far as the arrangements go. He didn’t play a lot on it but the rest of us got the parts he arranged and learned them and embellished them a bit. The goal was to get a very clean, large sounding record with minimal instrumentation — not too cluttered. I think we did pretty good with that. When I listen back to the instrumentals, it’s clean, and that’s what we were going for. Nowadays, the newer stuff that we’re working towards is a little more homemade — a little more experimental. We’re trying to get back to some of that stuff and get away from being in a big studio. Next up, we’re going to record more at my house in my basement studio.
CB: And then there’s the September EP Golden Tickets from this year on the Joyful Noise label. It is a described as “a collection of personalized ‘theme songs’ for and about seven specific WHY? fans who were Internet stalked.” Can you tell me a little bit more about that project?
JW: It first came about through our web store three years ago, I believe, right around this time. We had this one t-shirt that was a misprint. All of the other shirts had a certain color but one shirt was gold. It was like a test print. Somehow we came up with this idea: How about we put up a contest online and say whoever gets the golden shirt will have a song written about them. And the first guy who bought the shirt — it was Hunter Van Brocklin, the guy — was sent the shirt and we wrote a song about him. That’s how it started. From there, we did another merch contest and then we kind of got away from the merch contests and did more of a charity after the Japan [tsunami]. We did an auction where whoever gave the most to the benefit got the song written about them that month — that was the golden ticket. So every month, it became a little different.
CB: When the fans found out about their “theme songs,” how did they react? Creeped out? Flattered? Shocked?
JW: Everybody liked it! At least nobody expressed a [creeped out] sentiment. Maybe some people were creeped out [Laughs], but people seemed to like it a lot. People wrote us about it. We were lucky; all of the people we selected were really cool people. If you’re going to put your information out there on social media, we can write a song about it. It’s all public information. We had a good time doing it. Yoni would send me the tracks and I would make the music around it. It was just a fun little project.
Check out WHY?’s website for more information about the band.
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.”
The nominees for the 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards were announced Wednesday and now the polls have opened and it’s time for you to vote for your favorite Cincinnati area musicians.
The public is invited to vote (once per email address) in 16 categories ranging from Blues, Jazz and Folk/Americana to Electronic, Hip Hop and Metal/Hard Rock. You can also vote for the “Best Live Act” and in a brand new category — “Best Music Video.” Links to each of the videos are included with the online ballot, so you can watch them all before you vote. (If you’d like to check out all of the acts in each category, CincyMusic.com, the staff of which was a great help on the nominating committee, has provided a page with links to their CincyMusic sites.)
The “Album of the Year,” “New Artist of the Year” and “Artist of the Year” categories are decided by the CEA nominating committee.
With the annual slew of complaints about which artists were or weren’t nominated, the CEAs are also, for the first time ever, allowing music fans to vote for whomever they want, nominated or not. The “Best Band/Musician That Wasn’t Nominated” category is open to any active band/performer who has played shows locally in the past year and does primarily original material, regardless of genre. Or talent. Write in those artists we’ve so tragically wronged by not being able to nominate every single act in Greater Cincinnati; once an artist receives enough write-ins, they’ll be added to the drop-down menu. (We are vigilant about ballot stuffing and tampering, including in this new category. So don’t be an a-hole.)
Another annual tradition is people contacting us to ask about the nominating process and how someone goes about receiving a nomination. Here is the still (and forever) applicable response we gave last year.
Click here to start voting for the 2014 CEAs now. The deadline for voting is Tuesday, Jan. 14 at midnight.
On Jan. 26, the awards will be presented at our annual CEA ceremony/party, which is returning to Covington’s Madison Theater and will feature numerous live performances. Stay tuned for ticket and other info updates, including details on our “Best New Bands” showcase at Corryville club Bogart’s on Jan. 18. Happy voting!