Ivan & Alyosha
There's a scene in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov where the main characters Ivan and Alyosha discuss the existence of God. Ivan, in particular, questions the idea of God. Alyosha, on the other hand, is a monk, a believer, some may say, a holy fool.
Talk of faith and exalted things is rare in indie rock today. Enter Seattle band Ivan & Alyosha. Throughout their second release, the five song Fathers Be Kind EP, the band chart their own course between divinity and disbelief.
"I left my family and my home/to fight the battle on my own
I stole a car and drove away/but in my hate St. Paul did say
'Glorify the Lord above/with your drink and making love
Glorify the Lord my son, with your whisky and your gun."
Ivan & Alyosha began as the solo outlet for Tim Wilson but in spring 2007 the band formed after Tim met Ryan Carbary through a former band mate and mutual friend. Ryan and Tim began playing and recording together and a trip to Los Angeles to work with Eli Thompson (Richard Swift, Delta Spirit) spawned the name Ivan & Alyosha. According to Tim, Thompson is a huge Dostoevsky fan and the name stuck. With that, Wilson and Carbary released The Verse, The Chorus, their debut EP on Cheap Lullaby Records (Joan as Police Woman, The Silver Seas, Teitur). The stand out track "Easy To Love" earned NPR Song of the Day honors as "a propulsive, sweetly booming ode to love as a feat of endurance."
The name Ivan & Alyosha is apt for a band cutting its teeth. As Ivan in Brothers Karamazov moves through the novel with doubts, Ivan & Alyosha navigate the indie rock world contemplating their path as a band. Tim says he writes songs about what's current in his life. He recently married and had a son. Songs like "Living for Someone" and "Fathers Be Kind," reflect Ivan & Alyosha grappling with the idea of being in a band and trying to fashion a career. Not only to follow their dreams but to earn a livelihood and support their families; a feeling he expresses in the former song, "Expecting our first child / Amid the great recession". Despite the uncertainty, Ivan & Alyosha's soulful folk tunes suggest a band inspired, hopeful and longing; a band unafraid to probe their collective faith and doubts.
Plus, things are different this time around. Tim and Ryan are joined by two others – Tim Kim and Pete Wilson, Tim's brother. The band built a studio in a barn at Ryan's parent's house in Snohomish, 45 minutes outside of Seattle. Snohomish provides an idyllic setting with a charming main street lined by bars and little distraction. Self-recording their upcoming EP allows the guys more time together to create and perfect the new songs. Recently the band spent a week in New York playing gigs at 92Y Tribeca, Maxwell's in Hoboken and Brooklyn's Littlefield. They also took a trip to NPR Headquarters in Washington DC to record an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, and opened a run of shows for the Jayhawks' Mark Olson.
In the Brothers Karamazov, when Ivan asks Alyosha to renounce his beliefs, Alyosha refuses. Rather, he kisses Ivan on the lips. Seattle's Ivan & Alyosha are not nihilist indie rockers but a new brand of tender dreamers. And non-believers be damned! God, or no God - these guys are no holy fools. They have their music to prove it.
The seeds for Coby Brown’s new record, French Exit, were sewn a couple years back. Recorded in fits and starts over the course of 2010 and 2011, sessions were paused, scrapped, restarted and reconfigured.
Now, almost two years later, French Exit finds Brown in full bloom. The end result is a record that marks a breakthrough both stylistically and personally for Brown, who also became a father along the way.
“This record took a while to make because everyone had a kid, so we were getting into the studio pretty intermittently. But it gave us the time to really dial it all in.”
While 2008’s Stars & Curses, written after a bout with cancer, was a love letter to being alive, French Exit is a visit with ghosts. The record has a sense of urgency that comes from realizing the clock is running.
The lyrics explore moments of departure, when the familiar becomes unrecognizable, and the struggle that comes from trying to hold on to things designed to disappear.
“I couldn’t shake the feeling that once you walk through certain doors, you can’t go back to where you were, even if you wanted to. And it’s liberating, but it can feel like a smack in the face.”
French Exit also marks a seismic sonic shift for Brown. These songs are short and spare, dressed up in an echo and over before you’re ready for them to be.
Recorded at Chalet Studios in Los Angeles with producer Will Golden, French Exit once again features a stellar band, comprised of guitarist David Immergluck (Counting Crows, Camper Van Beethoven), Fil Krohnengold (Sarah Bareilles, Duncan Sheik), bassist Jonathan Ahrens (Liz Phair) as well as new addition drummer Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson, John Cale).
Brown, for one, is grateful for all the time it took. He funded the record through Pledge Music, with a portion of the proceeds going to stupidcancer.com, an advocacy group working on behalf of young adult cancer survivors.
“These breaks gave me time to get involved with Pledge and to have my fans be a part of helping to release this. And I’m particularly excited to have raised some money and awareness for stupidcancer.com”
Currently, Brown has songs in the features “The River Why", “Answers to Nothing”, “Lo-Fidelity” and “Loosies”, and Counting Crows have covered his song "Hospital" on their latest release, "Underwater Sunshine".
The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers
Will Wadsworth formed The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers in the winter of 2010 following a failed relationship, a band dissolution and a scary airplane ride. In order to respark his interest in music, he and his roommate, Jeremy Horton, gathered friends together to sing old Gospel songs. They sang songs inspired by their love of Washington Phillips, The Staples Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe – you know, the real classics – and held house parties just so they could perform. Soon enough, a large, shifting group of people came each week to join in on the weekly jams. There could be anything from 8 to 18 participants, depending upon the night. Wadsworth and Horton, realizing this might work in a club setting, pared down the group to core members, and they began performing around Los Angeles. In 2014, they recorded their first album with Matt Wignall (Cold War Kids, J. Roddy Walston and the Business). Heavenly Fire is an explosive barn-burner, taught with electricity and highlighting Kim Garcia's remarkable singing. It provides an articulation of their sound, honed over those many group parties, into a band that has become a rousing celebration of traditional Gospel sounds with rock foundations.