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O’HEFFERNAN: Kris Angelis is Melodic, Hypnotic, and Addictive in Her New EP, ‘Heartbreak Is Contagious’

Love’s Demise Takes Front Seat on New Record

By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN

I have been listening to Kris Anglis’ new EP, Heartbreak Is Contagious over and over since I recently had her on my radio show, partly because I can’t stop and partly because every time I listen, I hear something musically and emotionally new.  As with all things Angelis, Heartbreak is Contagious is melodic, hypnotic, and dense with addictive emotion.

Three of songs on the EP explore the pain of the love’s demise; the fourth is fun, funny, and foot-tapping but actually a cathartic part of the EP’s soulful narrative. Only Angelis could pull that off —  perfectly blending pain and heartbreak with laughter and catharsis in the same EP.

Kris Angelis keeps it real – Photo courtesy Kris Angelis for CaliforniaRocker.com

‘Heartbreak Is Contagious’

Heartbreak Is Contagious was written with and produced by Morgan Taylor Reid and Alexander Cardinale. The album follows her earlier The Left Atrium, in that it makes you feel what an emotionally defective heart feels like with stunning poetic lines like I swear there was a time /when you belonged to me/But I’m a two-way heart/ On a one way street.  Even deeper than the writing are the concepts: Taking a heart off life support in one song and a love as a home built by love but then turned into a solitary confinement prison when love dies in another.

The title concept is also deep, but, for an emotional EP, very logical.  When a heart breaks, two hearts are damaged and they can’t love others, or as she sings, Heartbreak is contagious, contagious/Its not like we can talk it out/we’ve run out of words somehow.    Simply put, when you can’t really love anyone, including yourself,  you often end up breaking someone else’s heart…your pain becomes contagious.

Kris Angelis – Photo courtesy Kris Angelis

Angelis as Singer-Songwriter

For me the most powerful song on the EP is “Life Support.” The song’s concept of a heart on life support is true to the corazón narrative, and the writing is as poignant and personal as anything Angelis has written, but the arrangement grips your heart and your ears. It begins with her gentle vocal fingers that slowly increase the pressure on your heart until she shocks it with electric paddles in full orchestration and an overdubbed voice drenched with urgency.  And then she takes you off life support and  lets you drift free, the pain ebbing back.

The last song, “Kevin Bacon” is almost from another world, a pop world.  It is bright and snappy and loaded with hooks.  As the drum machine taps out a dance beat she sings,

There’s something, there’s something in the air, in the air
Running your fingers, your fingers through my hair, through my hair
and then we’re kissing lipstick is everywhere, everywhere .

Wow; I am dancing everywhere, everywhere.

Kris Angelis

B Female Album

This EP was a stretch for Angelis, not only in the addition of a hooky pop song, but in the collaborative writing process – not her usual m.o.  She also wrote one of the songs in one day, also not her m.o.  The result of this stretch is the best thing this winner of the B Female Album of 2013 by the LA Music Critics Awards has done to date and I suspect it will rack up more awards and add many, many new fans.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  is the host of Music FridayLive! and co-host of MúsicaFusionLA

Kris Angelis. https://krisangelis.bandzoogle.com

Heartbreak is Contagious is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify

Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus Show Quality Has a Bold Shape with New Album, ‘East Lansing’

With Iraheta It’s All About the Voice

By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN

I thought a long time before I nominated Allison Iraheta for the LA Music Critics Award for Best Rock Singer of 2016.

Allison and her band Halo Circus are like no other band in rock music today, so there is no precedent I could point to for my fellow writers.  Her superbly controlled voice moves effortlessly from an anthemic howl of anguish to throaty introspective gentleness, but never quite registers in the tones and colors of familiar female rock or pop singers.  It has a curl — a shape that is beyond the geometry of what we expect from women fronting bands.   On stage she goes into an interior world that does not engage the audience like we expect bands to do, but rather converts them into rapt observers in her inner dimension.

Allison and Matt – Photo courtesy of Allison Iraheta

There were no precedents, no one to compare her to. But, despite all of this, my fellow writers agreed with me and voted for her.

It was this preconception of Allison and Halo Circus as unprecedented and incomparable that was in my mind when I put on my earphones and launched a preview copy Halo Circus’s new album, East Lansing, due out May 5.

When I put the headphones down, I asked myself “what just happened?”  Many of the songs were familiar to me from the Bunny album – “Nothing at All,”  “All I have” and “Band-Aid,” the band’s  #1 Popdust song last year.  But this was a different side of Allison and Halo Circus, one I had never heard before despite the many times I have seen them live. This album has the pain, the power, the presence you expect from Halo Circus, but it holds you close like nothing you have ever experienced before in music.

East Lansing is all about Allison’s voice. The music is stripped down, the arrangements are stepped back, the environment is Brian Stead’s acoustic guitar.  The horns are subtle, almost secretive unless you listen close for them. And the drumming is restrained, relying on soft mallets and brushes rather than the nuclear-powered (and often broken) sticks that Veronica Bellino and Matteo Eyia brought to the band in many of its recordings and live shows.  But most striking is the intimacy – Allison is no longer in her 4th dimension, she is present, vulnerable, there in front of you, singing to you in ways that are even more thrilling than the anthems.

Perhaps the intimacy comes from the fact that the album was not recorded in their usual SoCal studios, but while they were on the road in the 30-city crowd-sourced tour they recently completed.  Produced by Allison’s husband, band bassist and platinum producer Matt Hager, East Lansing was recorded live at the Troubadour Recording Studios in Lansing Michigan (the album cover photo  is not the recording studio).

Allison doesn’t give anyone the cold shoulder – Photo courtesy of Allison Iraheta

Perhaps it comes from the other evolution that has been surfacing in Allison and the band, her recognition of her inner Latina.  Born of Salvadoran immigrants, she cut her singing teeth at the local Latino electronics store and later on in a Telemundo singing contest.  All of that seemed to go away as she rose to the finals on American Idol, but returned last year with “Yo Me Voy” on the Bunny Album and in her stage and video appearances with an “Immigrant” banner across her chest.

Where ever it comes from, Allison’s vulnerability and intimacy in East Lansing adds to, rather than mutes, the power of the songs.  The hooks, flourishes, emotional hypodermic-shots the band is known for are now delivered with equal potency by her voice. “Nothing at All”  cuts as deep as ever, but with her voice wielding a scalpel, not a knife, carving “I want what I want” from your flesh. The soft, almost Spanish guitar in “Band-Aid” pulls you so close that when she belts “We want a revolution,” it engulfs you like a thunderstorm, instead of a pile-driver The throbbing drums of the live performances and earlier recordings are replaced by the authority of her voice while the snare drum brushes create a soft texture that she sails over.

Allison Iraheta has beautiy inside and out – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

The band’s cover of Neil Young’s  “The Needle and the Damage Done” works in a way that I have not heard other bands accomplish.  Again the acoustic guitar creates a spare environment that carefully cups Allison’s vocal curl. It is her voice, as much as Neil Young’s compelling lyrics, that covey the anguish, the loss, the melancholy and the horrors observed.

Allison’s front and center vocals makes East Lansing an understated nuclear reactor of music. Her fire on the album burns as hot as the anthems that she ignites on stage, but they simmer with the white heat of a slow burning star and the poignancy of a dangerous embrace.  East Lansing will accelerate the band’s momentum:  they have completed the first crowd-sourced tour in the US with RoadNation, released the  debut album Bunny,  posted numerous videos including “Band-Aid”,  seen a remix of “Band-Aid” by John Taylor of Duran Duran,  and announced a new 2017 tour,  and are releasing East Lansing May 5. .If you can see them live on the new tour, don’t miss what is always an unforgettable experience;  in any case, get the album – it will hold you close.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

Halo Circus,  http://www.halocircus.com

East Lansing,  available NOW on the band’s website

California Rocker Q and A with Duane ‘DT’ Jones: SWIRL the Band Roars Back with a Strong New Album

By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN 

The band SWIRL has tight music and a clear message: Choose your path, stand up for it, don’t let negative voices deter you.

The music from SWIRL is powerful – hooks that don’t let you go, achingly crisp guitar licks, percussion so sophisticated it sounds simple, and an unerring sense of how it all should come together. The band’s journey has been a long and winding road that has gone through Los Angeles, Japan, the U.S., various recording studios, a film score and support gigs with for top of the pile hard rockers.

With the release of their new self-titled album, SWIRL, they are headed for the top of the hard rock pile themselves. SWIRL founder Duane “DT” Jones stopped by for a chat about their new album.

PO: I have been listening to your music all week. I love the sophistication of your arrangements and your playing chops. I want to get into the lyrics in a bit – because they are in many ways the heart of your music, but first – how did this band get formed?

DT. The easiest way is to start with the drummer. After years and years of walking around the house I finally ask my mom, who is this person? She said, well, that’s your brother. My brother is the drummer. For us that was the easy part of getting together. Then we added a base player and singer from a previous incarnation of the band in the Northwest. After some family tragedy we moved to southern California – I moved to SoCal to join my brother. And then Claude Snow said he lost a guitar player, he is thinking about going into the studio and why don’t I think about working with him. I was coming out of my funk from my father passing away, and Claude and a few other people get me back into music. We did some shows and I really liked the singer and the bass player. The sessions with Snow never happened but I stole the singer and bass player and that was how SWIRL happened.

PO: You did lot of touring, went into the studio in 2008 and produced your first album, and then it wasn’t until 2011 that you re-emerged with some new music. what was going on between 2008 and 2011?

DT. A lot of touring. We have been together since 2008 – there have been no band changes. We are still very much in love with the idea of working together. When you are doing the independent band thing, sometimes you want to move on, but not us. We have stuck to our guns and together. Part of that is that first thing we did when we got together is toured -50,000 miles, opening for RATT, Bullet Warriors, Cinderella – anybody a stage and electricity. And in the process we found out that we liked each other in those three years on the road.

PO: In that period the band developed a knack for lyrics that are are both narrative and musical. The lyrics in “Rise Up” are a great example:

You got your boots you got your suits the attitude and from the outside/all the right moves
House on the hill another shot another pill/do whatever it takes just to make it through the day
Handcuffed in gold you been bought you been sold/can`t complain for the money you slave

If you read those lines without music they are a melody in themselves they are poetry. Who does the lyrics?

DT. I will give all credit to Alfred Ramirez. He puts phrases together like that and I am in awe of him. I am in the same boat as you – where did he come up with those lines. I am just happy we are in the same band. He is very much about writing things that people can relate to – he tells a story, paints a picture. It just works.

PO: You are from Washington State and then Southern California but your toured for three years. You must have played the East Coast – New York City?

DT. We have played New York – we played Times Square with RATT and a few times with LA Guns and other bands. We are looking to tour very soon for “Rise Up”. The video for “Rise Up” debuted Monday and we are excited. It has been a great spring for us, with the release of Dich Day film with our music, interviews, reviews so there is focus on us now. It is time to tour. Check www.swirltheband.com for dates.

PO: Several of the songs on the new album were for the movie Ditch Day, which is out now on Amazon Prime and in Europe. You scored a number of songs for the film – were they written for specific scenes?

DT. The way that worked out was my brother was working on another project whose writer’s wife was working on Ditch Day. We were in the studio creating the songs for the album and the producer took a demo to the writer, who played for his wife, the film’s producer and they loved it. We didn’t write the songs for the movie, but they used them. All the credit goes to Megan Waters, the producer and assistant director of the film

PO: The song “Spell” in the album is really full of hooks. The lyrics “ I feel a change coming over me/I was blind now I see/I won`t waste another minute on you and me are a really good hook. Did you plan that? To create lines that stick in your ear?

DT. I don’t believe so. It was a classic love gone wrong story as told by Alfred in his genius way. That is just him…that is what he does.

PO: “Spell” was used in the film. How did the director decided to use it in the film?

DT. I recall vividly being at the screening party. It is a horror film. Three fourths of the band all watch horror films. I don’t – I am the quarter who does not like horror films. I got into it when our music was in it. But that scene – I missed it. I was sitting in the screening on the big screen next to my bass player – there is a party scene going on at the screening and I am looking around — and my bass player leans over a says “you do know that this is us right now, don’t you?” And I was like “Oh hey, it is!” So I missed it.

PO: Another song used in the film is “We Are Alive” which is very direct both musically and lyrically and an interesting choice of music for a slasher film. It sounds more like a political critique. Does “We Are Alive” sort of boil down your personal determination?

DT. I have talked to Alfred about it and I feel comfortable saying this now – that was a former employer of his. Somebody upset him and he wrote a great song about it.

PO: Breakups and former bosses are often a source of great material.

DT. Yep. When you let the pain in, the lyrics flow. You get the best stuff

PO: DT as you have moved forward, the band has gotten better and better musically – each of you have developed amazing chops. Has there ever been any friction because of it – anybody wanting to be a prima donna and show off their skill?

DT. No. First things first. Everyone’s sole purpose is to serve the song. We recognize how well we can play but no one is sitting there saying they are a virtuoso. Whatever the songs needs is what we do. Part of that is the history of the band. We have been in the studio with Fred Coury from Cinderella and with Carlos Cavazo from RATT and Quiet Riot and Matt Thor from Rough Cut and a Grammy-nominated engineer. so those are our recording mentors. We learned our lessons there and went into the studio in Wildomar California and produced it ourselves. We were sitting with the mixing engineer in the studio and remembered and applied a lot of the lessons learned in working with the people on the top of the pile in the rock world. That’s what helped us learn to write and record those songs.

PO: Last question. How has your music changed over the years?

DT. We got a little more modern in our production, but the way we write is the way we write – . It usually starts with me creating something on the guitar, then I sit down with Brian (Bam Bam Jones) and work on arrangements and then we take it to Shane (Carlson) and Alfred (Ramirez) and they will add their parts to it. The stylistic differences between our two albums are due to my brother. He wanted to go to a little more modern, including guitar tone and tuning and writing. I was resistant because my heroes where classic hard rock guitar players like Warren DeMartini, but he got me to listen to more modern players. I thought “what would it sound like if you put someone like DeMartini into Nickelback, or Creed – you know – let’s try it out.” That was the mentality — to see if it comes across.

Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

Check out the SWIRL web page 
SWIRL, the album, is available at www.swirltheband.com,  iTunes, and Spotify

John Mayall at The Rose in Pasadena: A Divine Experience For Those Who Worship The Blues

By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN
Special to CaliforniaRocker.com

PASADENA – Going to a John Mayall concert is like going to church – not to a religious ceremony, unless blues is your religion, but being inside a cathedral experiencing something divine. With 61 albums and more than a half-century of music behind him, British bluesman John Mayall’s current USA tour is cool, reflective, gentle on the mind and the ears, and absolutely divine.

John Mayall’s new album is Find A Way To Care and you can listen to it on Soundcloud here.

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

At 83 years young, it is no surprise that Mayall’s energy level is far more relaxed that it was in the days when Eric Clapton and John McVie blasted out hot blues on English stages with him. But, as anyone who has followed Mayall for the past 50 years knows, hot or cool, he loves the blues and that love was on full display Friday night at Pasadena’s The Rose music venue.

Standing in the spotlight on the stage, Mayall and drummer Jay Davenport and bassist Greg Rzab pulled the audience in close with a warm smile and old familiars.  Mayall started the concert easy, conserving his energy for the 12-song set.  Playing on his revered Hammond, Mayall opened with his 1993 release “I’m A Sucker for Love,” introduced by Rzab and Davenport with a relaxed percussion riff that set the contented tempo.

Mayall’s voice, still strong but flattened with years, moved us along to the breakdown and a hot drum solo.  We knew we were in for a night of classic blues by one of the best.

CHECK OUT JOHN MAYALL TOUR DATES

Mayall moved to the Roland keyboard for the  Arthur Crudup song “That’s Alright” made famous by Elvis in 1954 but reimagined very blue by Mayall in his 2013 European concert.  Switching to the electric guitar, Mayall moved to the end of the stage and electrified the crowd with his guitar chops in a coolly delivered “Do I Please You” from his 1977 album A Hardcore Package.

Mayall's tour continues - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan for CaliforniaRocker.com

Mayall’s tour continues – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan for CaliforniaRocker.com

Always a natural with audiences, he introduced “The Bear”  from the 1968 album Blues from Laurel Canyon with the story of his stay at the  home of the band Canned Heat in Laurel Canyon and the band’s  lead singer Bob “the Bear” Hite.  He rolled the song out on the Roland with a toe-tapping tempo and his flat voice, edged with a smile. He stayed with the Roland for Sonny Landreth’s song about Louis Armstrong park,  “Congo Square,” delivering the lyrics in a muted monotone but them picking up the pace and adding heat with harmonica. A drum solo further upped the energy and the band finished the song with a flourish.

Davenport and Rzab introduced  “Moving Out and Moving On” with a strong  percussion lead in to Mayall’s guitar, which rode nicely on the kick drum beat. The lyrics were muted, almost flat, but the music moved right along. The feeling shifted to jazz with the “Sum of Something,” originally recorded as electric blues on Mayall’s 2009 Tough album.  Mayall kept things cool until the breakdown and a hot piano and drum solo that got the audience up and clapping.

Both Mayall and the room were fully warmed up as the band came down the stretch.  Even the slow blues number, “Blues for the Lost  Days” had a thrum of electricity through it that  got ramped up in “Moma Talk to Your Daughter” and broke out in a high energy “Chicago Line” with Mayall belting the lyrics and blowing the harmonica for all it was worth.

The band got brought back for an encore which was full tilt blues harmonica, exactly what the room was looking for.  Couples danced, diners clapped and you could tell that as much as Mayall blues are now cool and relaxed,  he loves blowing the harp for all its’s worth and so do his fans.  Mayall’s US  tour has seven more dates in California, Hawaii and Florida before he moves on to Europe, doing what he loves to do… playing divine blues.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

For more information on John Mayall check out his great fan site: www.johnmayall.com

— Video courtesy of Rob Orme —

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