SALES is the collaboration between ultimate buddies Lauren Morgan (guitar/vocals) and Jordan Shih (guitar/programming). Depending on who you are talking to-- it sounds like rock pop/soft rock/electro folk. They self-released their debut EP on September 22nd, 2014, and their singles have gained the attention of The Guardian, Majestic, Stereogum, Bandcamp Weekly, Hype Machine + BBC 6, CMJ, and Gorilla vs. Bear, amongst others. Artwork for all of the band’s releases is done by collage artist and designer Alana Questell.
photo credit Carlos Quinteros Jr.
“We’re horny. And we’re sad.” We could stop right there. Singer/keyboardist Sarah Rayne makes it abundantly clear that the hormonally charged pop music of Babes is simply an extension of the hormonally charged people who make it – herself, along with birth brothers Aaron and Zach and figurative blood brothers Bryan Jeffrey and Jeffrey John. And while their music encompasses the past five decades of pop music - from Brill Building to the grimiest Los Angeles punk basements - Babes recognize “horny” and “sad” as the two core impulses from which 99% of all great art is derived. Babes is a locomotive sex drive down a trail of tears. The story of Babes is likewise populated by the weirdo archetypes of pop – high school dropouts, boho parents, mohawked punk rockers, shady Svengalis, chance meetings at crushing day jobs. Each member is a real life character in this bizarre story. Singer/producer/auteur Aaron styles in a quasi-Pony Boy look, while Zach sports a Freddie Mercury mustache. A member of a university orchestra, Bryan is blessed with encyclopedic knowledge of both aquatic fish and music theory. Meanwhile, drummer Jeffrey’s sex appeal amongst both men and women is the source of much pride amongst his heatseeking bandmates. Sarah is the “wild rat” of the group, Jeffrey explains, “We like the female element. I couldn’t dedicate my life to only a male voice.” Pop provided a structure in the Leigh household that was otherwise non-existent. They’re a family of Los Angeles gypsies, born to ballet dancers and subject to moving literally dozens of times during their high school days – from Hollywood to Venice to Echo Park and back, as they’ve set up in their Mime School studio, a practice spot that doubles as a crash pad and impromptu movie gallery. Babes’ self-titled EP on Harvest Records is the culmination of these experiences, combining punk irreverence with the kind of gold-standard professionalism you’d get from Oliver: The Musical. Sarah wants to stress, “We don't want to have the ‘band’ vibe, bands can be so boring.” The name itself embodies their joking, but not joking approach: “We just wanted something that fades away quickly and leaves you with just the music and visuals.” She muses her ideal crowd would be “1,000 people crying, I want everyone to cry.” They consider their fog machine as the sixth Babe, especially after it hazed out the entirety of Portland’s Holocene, a club with 35-foot ceilings. Their ambitions for their stage setup range from “300 puppies on stage” to “stuff on fire.” And if you don’t believe any of this, the Babes hotline is open (470-Babes-77) – this inspired bit of old school/new school social networking has resulted in many fans texting and calling into the band only to find out they’ve underestimated Babes’ freakiness. Jeffrey claims, “We’ll respond, ‘hey, come hang with us.” Even though it is clear that they put their blood, sweat, tears, and other bodily fluids into their music, they broadly state “we don’t take anything that seriously.” Much like Todd Rundgren and Harry Nilsson, Babes are similar studio rats/space cadets who recognize that the absurdity of life is even more pronounced within the strictures and structure of classicist pop. Or, it just comes back to being horny and sad. “We feel like not a lot of people are talking about how life sucks and it’s lonely and it hurts …but once you realize that, you can say ‘now let’s just have fun.’”
Hi Ho Silver Oh
A short biographical essay about Hi Ho Silver Oh.
By William Randolph Brafford.
A week or two ago, I was watching my friend Casey play his songs for a small crowd at Chapel Hill's Nightlight club. I hadn't seen him play solo-acoustic at a show in I don't know how long, and I was a little bit surprised to find that the things I love about Casey's music now are basically the same things I loved back in high school when we played shows together in church rec-rooms. And now Casey has asked me to write a short biographical essay for his "one sheet," whatever that is, and so I get to try to put some of what I observed in the Nightlight into prose. As I see it, the point of what I'm writing is (1) to explain to you something about who Casey Trela is and where he comes from, (2) to say something about what his band, Hi Ho Silver Oh, sounds like, and, if all goes well, (3) to give a glimpse of what I think Casey is about, deep down. I'm not sure that I can do it right, but here goes.
Casey spent the first part of his life in Rome, New York, which is somewhere in the upstate, but he moved to North Carolina and went to middle school, high school, and college there. While in high school, he wrote and home-recorded a couple of largely acoustic albums that sounded a little bit like unplugged Jimmy Eat World, but more expansive and autobiographical. It was during this time that he started developing his penchant for house shows, playing, for example, in my family's living room for maybe fifteen people who all liked his songs. (He'd also play for bigger audiences churches and coffeehouses; we were too young to hang out in bars.)
In college, Casey started a band called Sweater Weather, and he kind of blossomed as an arranger, bandleader, and songwriter. They'd play everything from fantastically loud and intense songs about the eschaton to whisper-quiet songs about moving away from a childhood home. But college ended, and so did the band, and Casey moved to Los Angeles. On the West Coast, he started writing songs that he could play either by himself or with whoever else showed up, and he called the project Hi Ho Silver Oh.
But what does it sound like? There are some things that hold constant over Casey's entire output: the introspective-with-bright-flashes-of-humor lyrics, the intuitive sensitivity to dynamics, the catchy-enough-to-sing-along choruses that beg you to participate, the home-recording ethic. But with this project Casey has started to do things I haven't heard him do before: a few Roy Orbison-style love ballads, sunny California harmonies, and delicate instrumental lines and chord progressions. The guitar is the central instrument, so everything works for the solo shows, but the sound gets fleshed out in the recordings by keyboards and tambourines and the occasional violin, depending on what the song requires.
And I think I can shed some light on why Casey writes these songs. One time when we were driving south from Washington DC back to North Carolina, Casey explained to me why Roy Orbison's version of "Love Hurts" is better than any other version he's heard. There's this one line — "love is like a stove / burns you when it's hot" — that some covers omit. Even good covers, like the one by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, tend to make love's hurt sound like something that's good in the long run, but not Roy. When Orbison sings about getting burned, he means that love actually hurts. Badly. It's not a no-pain-no-gain kind of thing, it's just hurt. Some of us know this from experience. Of course, Roy Orbison also sang "Running Scared," so he knew that love is good even as love hurts, and these parts of love can be separate or they can be mixed, and that these are truths that can be hard to sing without being sentimental. These are the kinds of truths that Hi Ho Silver Oh wants to get across, and to get them across in a way that we can sing them together and maybe be somehow better for it. Or at least, that's my take on it.
I hope that answers all of your questions.