NJ Local

What Music Means To Me: Ky O'Connor

Core member of local band, Steve., Ky O’Conner has been apart of the music scene for as long as I can remember. An advocate for marginalized groups, and a human who asks tough questions, I’ve always admired them as someone who has no fear in speaking their mind and inciting important change. Especially in local DIY scenes in which we still harbor people who have done bad things, or those who have not been confronted about extremely dangerous topics & issues including sexual assault, and white privilege. They were one of the first that came to mind when this project was incepted, and I’ve never been more excited to read why someone was into music than Ky!

Check out what they had to say down below!

Ky (Musician/Advocate):

”Music helps me speak. I'm a very open person, and I feel my music reflects that. I like to tell my stories in ways that convey emotion, which is why I think I gravitated towards playing punk rock. Punk, to me, is unfiltered passion. Through music I found a voice that's loud and unapologetic. I listen to all kinds of music, so it's hard to define what shapes my creativity. I can pull apart any one of my songs and find subtle nods to the vocal melodies of Tammi Terrell, or the overall wordiness of my lyrics, something that I stole from Elvis Costello. I'm typically a first draft kind of person. I'm a big fan of letting whatever comes out be the entire song, so sometimes they're short, sometimes they're even shorter - I don't really care. I’m not a great songwriter. I think that is reflected in what I create, and I’m totally fine with being mediocre.

I love hearing anything new. When I find a new artist’s music, I listen for the rhythm, and if I like it enough, I'll come back to it and focus more on the lyrics if there are any. Both elements of a song exist to tell the story and that's the part that I really want to find. Through the vast community of DIY across the country I've found friends that I love as people and as artists. We share stories that bring us closer, build friendships outside of shows, and in DIY establishing out of state contacts is necessary if you want to keep going. The community allows me to see parts of the country I would otherwise never go to. It's thrilling for me to hear a lyric in a friend's song and be able to understand the reference, or catch a little guitar part I’ve heard them noodling around with for the past year.

Don't Be a Stranger by Nervous Dater is an absolute bop. It's a record that covers all the bases for me: good riffs, killer choruses, carefully crafted chord progressions, etc. When I heard the line, “I love in small doses...” from the song “Vominos” for the first time I cried because of how intense the build up is to that lyric, and it feels incredibly relatable for me.”

Check out Nervous Dater’s “Don’t Be A Stranger” streaming down below!

What Music Means To Me: Bobby Mahoney

Photographer: Mark Ashkinos

Photographer: Mark Ashkinos

Bobby Mahoney of Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son has been an incredible friend, musician, and supporter of The Hook. As a person with connections, Bobby has worked super hard to get to where he is, and we’ve always admired his work as a musician & peer. We just had to get into his brain a little about what music meant to him, so check it out below!

Bobby Mahoney (Singer/Songwriter/Instrumentalist):

“Music is expression, at its simplest form. Art in general is the product of humans trying to make sense of the world around them, with whatever talents they are born with/learn. Visual arts, prose, poetry, lyrics, music, etc. the list is endless- are all just the release of our personal experiences and point of view. If someone somewhere called it art at some point, then that's what it is.

Some of my earliest memories of music are from listening to cassettes with my parents on long car drives. Things like the Grateful Dead, Meatloaf, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and AC/DC were some of my favorites as a kid. Songwriting and playing guitar became an obsession for me, starting at age 10. I began teaching myself on my mother’s old nylon-string that my Pop-Pop brought over at my request. It took me many years of trial and error to figure out.

I’ve played many not-good shows, and written many not-good songs, and I’m sure they all aren’t behind me either, but as you practice and develop- you improve. Every experience, good or bad, shapes your skills and your artistic output. I am thankful for every opportunity I have had to perform or create music because it has all shaped me as an artist. When I was younger, I was told to play every show like you were playing Madison Square Garden- give it your all every time. I try to live by that every night.

They don’t lie when they say the music industry is bullshit. It really is. It's a necessary evil, but at the end of the day, its 99% smoke and mirrors and is currently a complete wasteland, and no one knows what they are doing. It all needs to be rebuilt. That being said, all the crap is worth the 20 mins/hour/whatever our set length is. That release of playing the guitar, and singing our songs is the best feeling I have ever experienced, so we deal with all the “Spinal Tap” shit in order to play our music.

Music should be an accessible art form for everyone. Full stop. Not everyone has to be insane enough to try to make a living with it, but everyone should have music in their life in some capacity. Playing music alone in your room, or playing in a band full time- it's all the same. It is just artistic expression packaged differently. Go pick up and instrument or write a song. I hope music becomes more accessible regardless of social class because I realize growing up in a well-off town, I had access to music in school, and a lot of not-well off schools didn’t. We need to check our privilege and do more to make sure ANYONE can make music if they want to.

If playing it isn’t your thing, then the experience of going to a live show is life-changing, and sometimes even life-saving, and I encourage anyone I can to go see new music outside your comfort zone. You never know when you might hear your new favorite song or band. Some of my favorite local artists at the moment: The Vaughns, Natalie Farrell, The Burns, Blue Vervain, Chris Rockwell, Levy & The Oaks, Idle Wave, Hit Like A Girl, Lowlight, Matty Carlock, and Bulletproof Belv. Hard working people, making music for the right reasons. There are countless others too in the NJ/NY/PA area. So much good music in the world today- it is a constant inspiration.

Music is a soundtrack to life. Creating music and sharing music helps add to your soundtrack, as well as other people’s, which inherently makes the world a better place- in my opinion. I am not sure how much of this is just me ranting, but thats what music means to me.”

Currently, Bobby is listening to NJ Local, The Vaughns. Check out their most recent cover “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” down below!

What Music Means To Me: Dustin Schumacher

Photographer: Andrew Ehritz

Photographer: Andrew Ehritz

Dustin Schumacher is a force to be reckoned with - a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, the Pennsylvania native has been bringing back emotion into the local rock scene with his ongoing project, Inner Temple (one of our faves, tbh).

Dustin Schumacher (Singer/Songwriter/Instrumentalist):

Music to me means no fear. For an instance, I am immortal. The world’s harm can no longer burden me. The dirt beneath my feet can no longer bury me. I’m as alive as I was when I left the womb. Music is the air in my lungs and the armor clenched tightly around my skin.

I feel like we’re too often surrounded by fashion trends that come and go, family and friends that don’t reach out, and toxic romantic relationships that are anything but fluid. One thing always stays constant and that’s musical release and energy. Too many people are afraid to be real with themselves and to others. Music demands you to be real. It holds you down on the floor and begs you to be completely naked and bare for it. It wants to see every inch of you from the inside out and then go back inside again. It wants to learn your deepest secrets that no one knows. It wants you in every definition and in every language, shape, and form. Music wants your emotional honesty and it can easily tell deceit.

The best songs we’ve heard are filled with singers who had tears in their eyes while reciting their poetic freedom and whose voices cracked and shattered from the emotional strain of hitting their highest note possible until their vocal chords ripped apart like a sharp knife through a tightly wound ball of yarn. Some call that imperfection. I call it human.

Dustin is currently hype on Wilkes Barre, PA natives, Toothless & their most recent EP from 2018, RED. Check out the EP streaming below!

What Music Means To Me: Sierra Binondo

Photographer: Julie Yi

Photographer: Julie Yi

With Sails Ahead is a rising star out of New Jersey, pushing themselves and the limits of the post hardcore genre they’re up against. Sierra Binondo knows all too well what it means to be behind the microphone, but as an avid music listener, and active scene member, she was one of the first people that came to mind when we initially began this project - not to mention, Sierra’s a pretty rad friend & human being above all.

Check out what she had to say down below!

Sierra Binondo (Vocalist/Manager):

In my opinion, the closest thing we have to superhuman abilities is the ability to create music.

You know a beautiful song, or a gifted artist when you hear one - that stirring feeling in your gut; when the music finds the deepest corner in your brain and taps into a nostalgic sense of wonder. There are seldom things outside of everyday human interaction that can make us feel this way, without warning. Music is an extraordinary way of communicating with one another, and when you are a musician, you yearn to replicate this feeling by creating something that transcends yourself. Since age 13, I have never stopped writing and playing music, and I probably never will. I don’t know if I will ever achieve greatness on a plane of virtuosic capability, but I know that a part of me would be missing if playing music did not have a space in my life; if I just gave up.

The stylistic choices in my singing and playing have been altered and marked by every chapter of my life. It has brought me close with other people, and it has been a companion when I felt most isolated. The fact that I have the ability to recreate songs like my inspirations have before me, and be able to create something that is uniquely my own while resonating with others, is the most rewarding feeling. I feel strongly that I have grown into the person I have become because of my musicianship and meeting others who share the same aspirations as me. Being a musician, despite the ebb and flow of its challenges, has been the biggest joy in my entire life. I hope to forever continue learning, growing, and hopefully creating work that brings the same sense of belonging that music does to me.

Sierra is currently listening to NJ Locals, ManDancing, and their EP, Hands On 3. Check it out below!

What Music Means To Me: Blake Horner

Photographer Credit: Original Photographer   (Plz contact us)

Photographer Credit: Original Photographer (Plz contact us)

Rich People is just one aspect of Blake Horner - a human being, a poet, a band member, a partner, a son and the first contributor for this month’s community out reach. Following up on a post we released last week called “What Music Means To Me,” we have set out to hear from contributors, friends, peers, colleagues from fans, to music makers, to visual artists, to writers, to people with opinions on things that seem important - and we asked them “What does music mean to you?”

Seems like a big question - but, we left it open for their interpretation, abstract or concrete, based in an art form or reality, using words or not, we just wanted to know. More importantly, we wanted to create the sense that, in all of our individual journeys, standpoints, behind a pen, or a microphone, or a stage, or a camera, the experiences we share give us commonality, hope, community - and, we can’t forget that.

Blake was one of our first respondents to the community effort - and, with his knowledge, basis, and general artistry, it’s sure to be an empowering read. Feel inspired, feel connected, feel like sticking it out - just one more day; but, first check it out below!

Blake Horner (Rich People/Poet/Artist):

”What does music mean to me? This is something I ask myself every single day. Something that I base every single move I make off of.

I made the firm decision when I was 17, (I’m 24 now), that I was going to do whatever it takes to make this my plan. I currently play in a band called Rich People, out of the Greater Philadelphia Area, that has been together since 2015. The process for anything worthwhile is draining, almost defeating at times. I do my best to keep a positive mindset about things. My mind is very business-oriented and I always try to find new ways of reinvigorating/reinforcing the concrete plans and goals I create both for myself, as well as group efforts that often span quite some time. If you haven’t yet decided on your concrete plans, think of what you want to do and how you can accomplish them. If something doesn’t currently exist for you to be a part of, or if nothing really feels like home, create it and figure out how you can collaborate with others and grow something substantial.

To be straightforward, you will just have to figure a lot of things out on your own; it’s definitely beneficial to ask friends for help, but at the end of the day, you should just go out there and fall on your face one thousand times. That’s why I’m proud to be a part of Rich People. We are four fully-committed friends who are constantly learning so much together. Throughout all of our hardships, there have been continuous victories that are only beginning to compound and unravel.

Although the journey can be so push/pull at times, the kind words from friends, family, and so many strangers, all make it worth the fight.”

Blake is currently listening to “Penny” by The Insides, a Philadelphia local - and you can check out “Penny” down below!