On Stage: Heather Maloney kicks off 2018 tour locally

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Heather Maloney

Heather Maloney is a singer-songwriter-rocker from western Massachusetts who has released several critically-acclaimed albums over the last decade. She has been recording and playing her music live since 2009 and has had numerous performances in this area – including Kennett Flash and Burlap & Bean.

On January 18, Maloney will kick off her first tour of 2018 with a show at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com).

Last April, Maloney headlined a show at Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) with her “ProjecTour,” which was billed as “the audio-visual-show-that-determines-which-new-songs-will-be-on-my-next-record.” The tour looked at something that has become a dying art form – music released in physical form rather than just as digital content.

That attitude informed the release of Maloney’s new EP “Just Enough Sun.”

“I released the album in two waves,” said Maloney, during a phone interview Wednesday evening from her home in Northampton, Massachusetts. “It was released strictly in physical form on December 1 and then was released digitally on January 12. It’s fully released at this point.

“I did it his way for a couple reasons. There’s a lot going on lyrically. So, now more than ever, I want the lyrics to be a centerpiece. I wanted to release it with lyrics printed up in the album art – something that you could look at and read.

“Also, I wanted it as a whole album so that people would listen to it in its whole form instead of listening to just one ort two songs online. I wanted the whole package.

“It also felt kind of interesting to release it before and after the New Year with two lives. Now, I get to release it as a 2018 thing. So far, the physical copies have been selling really well.”

Maloney realizes the importance of keeping the CD format – and the vinyl album format – alive.

“We’re now in an era where CDs are becoming obsolete and downloading becoming less popular because of streaming,” said Maloney. “I found myself thinking more-and-more about how I used to buy records.

“I’d buy a record and then go to my room and listen to it front-to-back while reading the insert and looking at the art. Back then, we were involved in the whole experience.

“I would always read the lyrics. That little ritual I had was what made me fall in love with music. I missed that ritual and wanted to pay homage to it. One thing that hasn’t gone away with musicians is the live show. I don’t think anything is ever going to replace the live experience.”

According to Maloney, “I went into the studio and recorded six songs. Most are single takes, played live in a room together, instruments bleeding into vocal mics, vocals into instruments. It’s the most raw and unedited recording I’ve ever done. While there is a certain amount of vulnerability in sharing my most unedited self with you, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“These songs are vulnerable ones. They are underbellies, hidden things, turned-over stones, sometimes unflattering but always worth inspecting. They’re what I found when I went digging through my family history, human history, forgotten friends, forgotten heroes, the boxes still in my mom’s basement, old dreams and old records I used to know all the words to.

“There was no other way to record them other than the immediate and cathartic way we did — screaming at the microphone or whispering all of my secrets to it, and leaving it all just the way it came out. I’ve put it all out there on this one, and it felt damn good to do it.
“My duo-bandmate Ryan Hommel was the lead producer on ‘Just Enough Sun’ and did an incredible job listening to what each song wanted from us. Andrew Oedel engineered this baby at his gorgeous studio right down the highway from me – Ghost Hit Studio in Holyoke, Massachusetts.”

The new EP is straightforward, pure and organic.

“I wanted this record to be very acoustic – keep the instrumentation minimal…keep focus on the lyrics and the vocals,” said Maloney. “Ryan was successful at maintaining these focal points. We recorded ti at this fantastic studio. It’s a very homemade studio in an old mill.

“It felt like the most cathartic record I’ve ever made with a lot of references to my childhood and my past. The theme is just getting really close to messy, touchy subjects – about facing your demons.

Maloney’s involvement with music goes back to her student days.

“I studied jazz vocals so I’m also a very percussive singer,” said Maloney. “I studied music at a college in North Jersey and focused on classical operatic vocals. Then, I left everything music behind and lived at a meditation center in western Massachusetts for three years. I was a vegetarian cook there.”

“When I’m writing songs, I start with an analogy on the modern world and then take it deeper. The lyrics are written as signposts. When I’m writing, voice is the first instrument and piano the second instrument. Piano is where I started writing songs.

“The songs come in little waves. I have a lot of influences. I listened to a lot of Indian music, classical opera, kirtan and jazz improvisation. I write a few new songs every month.”

Maloney frequently plays with her band but not on these shows.

“It’s a duo set,” said Maloney. “I have an incredible guitarist – my producer Ryan Hommel. He’s also a great harmony singer.”

Video link for Heather Maloney – https://youtu.be/YbCNh19IlK0.

The show at Burlap & Bean will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming shows at Burlap & Bean are Dan Bern with Vanessa Peters on January 19 and Mason Porter on January 20.

The Verve Pipe

On January 18, the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host multi-platinum alternative rock band The Verve Pipe, a band recognized worldwide for its radio hits “Photograph,” “Hero,” “Never Let You Down,” and the massive 1997 #1 single “The Freshmen.”

Depending on the venue, the Michigan-based group, which features Brian Vander Ark (vocals, guitar), Lou Musa (lead guitar), Randy Sly (keyboards, backing vocals), Joel Ferguson (bass, backing vocals), Sam Briggs (drums, percussion), Channing Lee (backing vocals), Craig Griffith (harmonica, backing vocals), will perform three different types of shows during this tour — a full electric rock show, a pared down acoustic/electric show of the band’s hit songs and fan favorites, or an acoustic reimagining of the group’s platinum-selling major label debut album “Villains.”

“Last night, we did a ‘Villains’ tribute show on acoustic instrumentation,” said Vander Ark, during a phone interview last Friday as the band was travelling to a gig in New Jersey. “This leg of the tour is more of a storytelling acoustic rock show.”

In 2017, The Verve Pipe released its latest studio album, “Parachute,” along with the band’s first-ever live album, “Villains – Live & Acoustic (recorded at The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI).” With a new lineup and a renewed energy and focus, lead singer/principal songwriter/co-founder Brian Vander Ark and the band, play original music that is distinguished by innovative arrangements, soul-searching lyrics and layered vocals.

“We recorded ‘Parachute’ last year,” said Vander Ark. “A lot of these songs were written by individuals in the band as a shell and then brought to the rest of the band to fill out. This is the best we’ve ever done. I’m surrounded by talented people.

“We cut the album at our bass player Joel Ferguson’s studio. We played live in a room to do the demos. We’d work on songs and then record together in the studio.

“We started with one song 18 months ago and about every three or four weeks, we’d put up another song on social media. After a while, we collected the songs and put the ‘Parachute’ album out. Staying in people’s faces is the way the industry is right now – keeping everything fresh.”

In addition to recording rock albums, The Verve Pipe expanded its repertoire in 2009 to include writing and recording “A Family Album,” a critically-acclaimed introduction to the world of children’s music, as well as the band’s 2013 follow-up family-oriented release, “Are We There Yet?”

“Eight or nine years ago, we put out a kids’ record and it was huge,” said Vander Ark. “We do kids’ shows and the merch sales from these shows keeps us afloat financially. It’s nice to know we have that revenue source. Now, we’re back in rock and roll and put out two records.”

The Verve Pipe has been making top-flight rock and roll records since its formation in Michigan in 1992.

“25 years – the fact that we’re still doing sound checks and trying new things is something,” said Vander Ark. ‘It’s hilarious to me.”

Video link for The Verve Pipe – https://youtu.be/5FY2k2KUf-k.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Pete Distefano as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are “Music for the Arts: 11th Annual Benefit” featuring Old Soul Revival, Chris Grunwald and the Slow Response, TC Cole Riot, Droppin Deuce and The Bad Larrys on January 19, John Eddie and Junior Brown on January 20 and “Funky Brunch & Market: Local Vendors, Local Music, Beer & Brunch” featuring The Rekardo Lee Trio, The Whiskeyhickon Boys and Hannah Taylor on January 21.

YACHT

It’s not often you’ll see a yacht coming to Philadelphia – especially during the winter months — unless it is at one of the area’s boat shows.

But, YACHT does come to Philadelphia – not to boat expos but rather to rock clubs.

YACHT, a rock band from Los Angeles featuring the musical and real-life partners Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, has performed at a number of music venues in Philly over the course of its decade-long existence. On January 18, YACHT will return to the area to headline a show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

The band, which just released the video for the song “Shame” on January 9 via Brooklyn Vegan, is touring in support of its new EP “Strawberry Moon.” The tour began a week ago in Chicago.

“We just started playing songs from the EP in our live shows,” said Evans, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour break in New York City. “We haven’t played any of them yet in Philly.

“The band started in Portland, Oregon but we’ve had our home in Los Angeles for a while. Jona and I met in 2004 so it’s almost 15 years old as an entity. We met when our bands played on the same bill at a gallery in L.A. I was in college at the time studying English and Comparative Literature at Occidental College.”

YACHT had three albums as Bechtolt’s solo projects before he hooked up with Evans.

“Our first album together was ‘See Mystery Light’,” said Evans. “It hit at the right moment – when blogs were getting popular. It had a song – ‘Psychic City’ – that was a hit. Over the years, we’ve been a five-piece, a three-piece, a six-piece but it’s always been the two of us – and Rob.”

Rob is Rob “Bobby Birdman” Kieswetter, a permanent touring member who handles vocals, bass guitar and keyboard. Bechtolt’s contributions are vocals, programming, guitar, drums, bass guitar, percussion, claps, synthesizers, keyboards, piano, and effects.

“Jona is primarily a drummer but he plays a lot of instruments,” said Evans. “I’m the only one who just does one thing. I sing – and write songs. In the band, I’m the performer.

“We’re a punk rock band and we’ve toured relentlessly for years all around the world – Europe, Asia, and all over America. And, for some reason, we’re big in Mexico.

“We’ve had five albums, a bunch of singles and EPs and a number of videos. We do all the production ourselves in our studio with Ableton Live. We play live instruments and all our tracks are really layered.”

Evans has also pursued a career as a writer.

“I just finished writing a book which is coming out this year,” said Evans, a science journalist. “It’s about the feminist history on the internet.”

The book – “Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet” – will be available on March 6 via Penguin Random House on sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Additionally, YACHT has been awarded two grants to restore the Triforium, a 1975 polyphonoptic sculpture in Downtown Los Angeles.

But, before any of that happens, YACHT will be rocking the house at Johnny Brenda’s this week.

Video link for YACHT — https://youtu.be/p95_rB6WPc8.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Jennifer Vanilla as the opening act, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Curtis Cooper on January 19, and Oolala on January 20.

SondorBlue

If you’re a fan of the softer side of rock with bands featuring multiple harmonies, then some of your favorites are probably the Eagles, the Beatles, America and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Music fans in this group should consider adding SondorBlue to their playlists.

SondorBlue is a self-described “semi-psychedelic, harmony-infused rock and roll band.”

On January 18, SondorBlue, which is based in Charleston, South Carolina, will make a return visit to the Grape Room (105 Grape Street, Philadelphia, http://www.graperoommusic.com).

The band, which features Andrew Halley (Bass, Vocals), Connor Hollifield (Electric Guitar, Vocals), John Sheehan (Acoustic Guitar, Violin, Keyboards, Vocals) and Drew Lewis (Drums), will also have an area show on January 19 at Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com).

“We’ve been playing together for two years as SondorBlue – with the full lineup with the four of us,” said Sheehan, during a phone interview Monday morning from his home in Charleston.

“We all knew each other from Hilton Head, which is where we’re from. Connor and Andrew started busking together at Coligny Beach in Hilton Head. I joined them five years ago. Then, we made the transition to a full band two years ago. We relocated to Charleston for college. Andrew, who is two years older, was the first to go off to coll4ege and we followed one-by-one.

“We all went to the College of Charleston – except our drummer who went to the University of South Carolina. When he joined in the summer of 2011, we were playing covers. Not long after that, we started recording original songs. We came to Charleston with original music.”

Now, the band is touring in support of its new EP “You Will Find Love On Ashley Avenue,” which was inspired by their times living together in a house on Ashley Avenue in Charleston.

“After 11 months of consistent touring, we went into the studio to make this EP,” said Sheehan. “We wanted the EP to reflect our live show. We wanted to capture that sound on the recording. We live-tracked all the songs and then did some overdubbing.

“We recorded it at Fairweather Studio in Charleston with Omar Colon as the producer. We had a lot of common ground. We made it in four days and then did four or five days of mixing. We tracked everything really fast.

“We’re all songwriters. One of us will spark an idea individually and the bring it to rehearsals where we all collaborate. We have a lot of the same influences – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Beatles, Pink Floyd and newer bands like Tame Impala and Lemon Twigs.”

Video link for SondorBlue – https://youtu.be/FxrGwNh9Nk4.

The show at the Grape Room, which also features The Chordaes, will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the Grape Room are Stand and Wave and Tiger Castle on January 19 and Kenny Price on January 20.

The show at Tellus 360, which also features Flapjack Jones and The Bender Brohs, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Kategory 5

Other upcoming shows at Tellus 360 are City Blues Night on January 20, Vinegar Creek Constituency on January 21 and Death Café on January 22.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Kategory 5 and Rusty Blue on January 20 and Open Mic with guest host Felicia Berrier on January 21.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Kathleen Madigan on January 20 and Tina Karol on January 21.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Classic Albums Live: Led Zeppelin II on January 18, Kick on January 19 and Tinsley Ellis on January 20.

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