Enjoy a wholesome helping of "soul-gasms" this Friday and Saturday.
Watch out, O‘ahu…With the most Hoku nods of the isles and a sundry selection of talented musicians who exhibit solid skills and quality spirits, Maui’s local music scene is alive and well. We’re extremely fortunate here-aside from obvious weather and scenic pleasures-as more and more exciting talents are making a stop on the Valley Isle to display their goods.
This weekend, some great folks return to the island to celebrate life, creativity and love among family and friends, old and new, with a good old-fashioned “jam-packed” weekend of music.
Join The Reflectacles and Folk Uke this Friday, May 21, at Stella Blues Café in Kïhei for a one-of-a-kind music showcase, beginning at 9 p.m., then serve yourself a second helping on the North Shore at Charley’s in Pä‘ia on Saturday night, May 22.
Who are The Reflectacles and Folk Uke you ask?
Well, Folk Uke is the “eclectic acoustic folk duo” of Cathy Guthrie and Amy Nelson, who play quaint harmonies with sassy and amusing songwriting. Both daughters of esteemed American icons, the girls randomly met while working together at a restaurant in Cali and merged a beautiful friendship. In 2000, they gave into the “family business” when Amy bought Cathy a ‘ukulele and Folk Uke was born.
The folk poets say they’re “not very good,” but that their humor and charm won audiences over, although national airplay was unattainable due to their explicit lyrics. They remind me of Tegan & Sara, but saucier, and channel the sweet, silliness of June Carter Cash, but the naughty version of her.
Visit www.folkuke.com to learn more.
(Unfortunately, I was unable to catch the girls on the phone for an interview due to conflicting schedules and life, so this extensive blog concentrates on The Reflectacles and Maui boy Micah Nelson's world. Stay tuned for an in-depth piece on Folk Uke in the future.)
Old-fashioned, psych rockers The Reflectacles are an inspiring sextet that has had my music palette delighted since the moment they said Hello me in their song of the same name. Not only impressive in sound, but in the creative efforts of the multi-talented members, on and off the stage.
I’m strangely intrigued that I can put the phrase “down home” and Los Angeles in the same sentence when speaking of The Reflectacles as well, which reiterates to me that anything is possible when it comes to music. They vow to be a part of a burgeoning scene of their own—‘40s-style Fedora hats, corduroy vests, vintage instruments and all.
Via their MySpace page, the pioneering players are listed as Logan Metz (Rhythm guitar, Banjo, miscellaneous musical things); Lincoln Mendell (Keys, Mandolin sometimes); Gerry Hirschfeld (Guitar things); Devin McCartey (Lead Guitar, Bass sometimes); Chris Bullard (Bass Guitar, Lead sometimes); and Micah Nelson (Drums).
When I started listening to The Reflectacles recently, it reminded me of how I felt when I first discovered The Walkmen—an East Coast collective which is a vital addition to any music lover list of proclivities, as its vintage musical experience captures you and lead Hamilton Leithauser gives it his all vocally, each and every time.
(I suggest The Reflectacles’ Lincoln scavenge for an upright piano.)
With honest harmonies, gritty passionate vocals and layers of storytelling, The Reflectacles' sound brings you back in time to jam with The Band, stops in the present to hang with Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, then shoots you forward into a kooky dream world where The Flaming Lips have been living for decades.
I recently caught up with percussionist Micah, and what was supposed to be an interview, turned about to be one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in awhile.
As son of Willie and Annie, Micah enjoyed an eclectic childhood, bursting with music, arts and an array of intriguing individuals as he traveled all over with his family and friends. A Montessori School of Maui grad, Micah is creating an iconic league of his own generation. He said he was stoked about returning home, and revealing The Reflectacles to the islands.
“It’s really exciting what’s happening right now, and I feel very lucky that the world’s magnetic forces have drawn us together,” he said.
If creativity feeds this good-natured soul, he’s been bingeing on it for a long time. Being proficient at several instruments, mediums of art, well-read and eloquently spoken while still comedic at times, is a feat to be admired and enjoyed.
Born Jacob Micah Nelson—who goes by his “alter-ego” J.M. Nelson when it pertains to his artwork—this young journeyman has never limited himself when it comes to the arts and music.
He said he’s been pretty decent at every instrument he’s picked up over the years, but that he excels in drums, and that all The Reflectacles sing and write.
“I try to conquer each thing I attempt, and I’m constantly challenging myself and explore new avenues,” said Micah, also a member of “theatrically, wild” LA band called Insects vs. Robots that play “gnome thrash, post-universal rock.”
His “true love” though is his 10-string “mandolin-‘ukulele hybrid,” which he loves to carry all about town.
“It makes the most beautiful sounds—it sounds like snow smells,” said Micah. “It’s crisp, like traveling through the mountains on a gorgeous day.”
Micah’s artistic techniques are spread across the board, as he dabbles in ink drawing, traditional paintings, wood burning, installation varieties and more. Check out his “visual dream journals” and surreal clockworks more at www.jmnelsonart.com and ghandarva.deviantart.com/.
His brother, Lukas, is a kick-ass frontman of The Promise of the Real—Micah sometimes does live painting at their shows—and exposed him to the creative world of the Venice Beach scene when he first moved to Cali. He almost left.
“I didn’t want to stay, but after finding my ‘tribe’ and feeling like I was doing something meaningful and progressive, and having tons of fun, I realize it’s been a blessing I didn’t,” said Micah. “I support the notion that ‘everything happens for a reason.’”
Micah said how all The Reflectacles members came together is an “interestingly, intricate story” of random encounters, school and mutual relationships.
“Long story short, I met Logan and Lincoln through my brother, and I loved their tastes in music and creative energies—in fact, Lincoln and I began collaborating on artwork for animators—then we started playing music together,” said Micah. “The rest of the band just fell in place—it was meant to be.”
Over the last year, the guys have been manifesting a new society of sorts that includes intellectual artists, filmmakers, musicians, educators and more striving to thrive apart from the overproduced, mainstream-inflicted West Coast.
Micah is “chain-stoking” about a special place they have created in West LA called the Cozy Castle Collective—a live venue/rehearsal space/warehouse/arts community gallery that The Reflectacles have made into a whole new world for aspiring bands and creatively-conscious souls.
“This place is ‘our home’ and is really turning into something spectacular,” said Micah. “The shows we’ve had there—our bands and others—draw these awesome crowds. There’s no other venue in LA that would let things happen that happen here.”
The innovative locale is near a train station, and the artists foresee it becoming a landmark stop in the future. "Next stop, Cozy Castle!"
“Bands are constantly wanting to come play here,” said Micah. “There’s nowhere quite like it.”
After beating out 60 other bands to win the Music Industry Studies Artist of the Year for California State at Northridge—where none of the members actually attend—The Reflectacles were taken on as an experimental project for a music studies class. “It was cool to record, take photos and build press packets,” said Micah. “Great experience.”
Recently, the sextet finished their debut with brilliant producer Eric Thorngren (Talking Heads, Violent Femmes). "He's the man!" said Micah. "It's like if Hunter S. Thompson and Howlin' Wolf (aka Chester Arthur Burnett) had baby, it would be him."
The five-track EP, Wiley Post, is named after a street near the house, or “neo-surrealistic museum” as Micah called it, where Logan, Lincoln and Gerry live in the Westchester neighborhood in LA.
“There are levels, you see” to The Reflectacles, who are working on some big things for the future, including being a part of changing the formula to the world of music business and broaden a genre of intelligent music that will be integrated into the educational system.
“We’re all smart, like-minded and have a million interests,” said Micah. “Logan wrote us a grant that earned us a chance to create a five-part Shakespearean musical melody.”
The guys plan to tackle King Lear, Macbeth and other epics in this “Shakespeariment.”
“We want to develop ‘book rock’ and integrate musical concepts into the classroom, where students enjoy learning and extract the same type of significance,” he said. “Let’s get people excited about meanings in history and literature.”
Perhaps we could all learn a few things from “reflecta-cation.”
The Beatles have always inspired The Reflectacle guys, and they were fortunate enough to work on a soundtrack for a film about the legends in an alternative universe called Turn Me On Dead Man by college student Adam Craver.
“Lincoln and Logan won this music contact for a movie about the ‘Paul is dead’ conspiracy, so we created some poppy, psych Abbey Road-like songs,” said Micah.
(Take a trip with Don’t Look Back on their Myspace page.)
“The Beatles had so many things to say, whether it was about love, life or just absurdity, and they put it in melodies and captured a world forever,” said Micah. “I hope in my life, I make some beautiful impacts.”
LA is frequently a spring-board for many fledgling music bands, with its endless resources, mainstream exposure and money-hungry executives, yet The Reflectacles are hoping to draw their own path and definition of “success.”
The term “success” is thrown around a lot, but I think success is about doing what you love, creating something that’s important to you, and hopefully some others.
Micah became seriously passionate during our conversation when we started talking about The Reflectacles, LLC and their collaboration with innovative professor John Hartmann and his new paradigm of marketing for the music industry called “The Holodigm.”
According to his site, Hartmann is a veteran music agent, personal manager and record executive, John has provided career direction for such luminaries as Chad & Jeremy, Sonny & Cher, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Canned Heat, Eagles, Peter, Paul & Mary, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, America, Poco, and many others. Visit www.holodigmmusic.com.
“He has so many amazing ideals and we feel grateful to be at the helm with him,” he said.
The Holodigm is a training, mentoring and coaching system that seeks to evolve musical artists in the professional realm, without putting “your dreams at the mercy of a broken industry.”
“Forget about labels and rely on each other—be equal partners, on equal terms,” said Micah. “We have a potential to make our kooky dreams a reality in an honest, hard-working, creative system that avoids bands being at the mercy of a company. We’re the company!”
“Theoretically, the music will take us where we need to go,” said Micah.
Listening more and more, I’ve found these fellows don’t just write and play songs, but yet make complex compositions and take you on a jam journey. As they grow, they will fine-tune their sound, but isn’t it so sweet to experience a new band in its raw stages when they are all over the place, yet exhibit talent and immense potential?
I recently read an excerpt by David Byrne in a recent Rolling Stone about what he was excited about in music right now called “Musicians Taking Control.”
“The romantic notion that musicians can’t deal with the business aspect of things, or can’t be interested in anything outside of their music—that has disappeared, thank God…Young musicians I’ve worked with—(i.e. The National)…are throwing away that whole lackadaisical attitude. But it’s just not about business: These new acts are deeply involved in film, art and books. The National just curated an experimental music festival in Tennessee, they are collaborating with visual artists—they aren’t just staring at their guitars. These musicians are more engaged in the world around them, and they are going to survive.”
I’ve always admired this groundbreaking music man and all-around arts intellect—whether he was fronting Talking Heads, tearing it up at CBGB’s in NY or making groovy sounds with Brian Eno—and his views here provide a refreshing dose of artistic optimism.
As The Reflectacles’ continue to work with the clever Hartmann and the former Talking Heads’ producer Thorngren, perhaps the West LA collective can survive in the long run as Bryne predicts. I see Coachella 2011 in their future, for starters.
The notion of “creative fatigue” will most likely never enter The Reflectacles mindset, and I envy and celebrate them for that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being open to many of life’s delights—even some fine scotch and whiskey on a regular basis—and not being able to restrict to your one “favorite” or “the best.” Right on, brothers.
From the footage I’ve seen online, the energy of these six players together compares to the way I feel when I’m with my closest friends—it just feels right.
Join The Reflectacles and Folk Uke this Friday, May 21, at Stella Blues Café in Kïhei for a one-of-a-kind music showcase, beginning at 9 p.m., with Maui’s own darling Gail Swanson opening, and acoustic wonder Mary Jane Babashoff. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Call 874-3779.
Then head up to the North Shore for a family affair at Charley’s in Pä‘a on Saturday, May 22; show starts around 8 p.m. The country rock outlaws of Portland sensation, Sugarcane, are set to open. Tickets are $20 at the door—no presale. Call 579-8085.
Experience Hawai‘i’s first shows in “Reflectavision!” The amusing guys honor their name and have ordered in bulk these paper spectacles called “reflectacles” to add some “rainbow shafts of sparkling light” flair to their show. Cool.
“They’re not 3D,” said Micah. “Wearing them, you can enjoy an acid trip of sorts, without the acid, as light sources reflect and scatter, creating these rainbow shafts of sparkling starlight. It’s like a ‘soul-gasm.’”
Shall we all “soul-gasm” together this weekend?
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