featured artist

What Music Means To Me: Mochi Robinson

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One of The Hook’s most favorite music makers, Mochi Robinson, delighted us when he agreed to participate in our What Music Means To Me Series. The experimental artist has been one of our favorite to review, to talk about, and for almost four months stayed as our featured album!

Here’s what Mochi had to say about music’s impact on himself & growing up!

Mochi Robinson (Artist/Musician):

”Music wasn’t something I always had, it was something I had to find. But, once it gripped its teeth into me, I haven’t been able to look the other way.

Music has been a source of identity for me since middle school. As an interracial kid, growing up in a predominantly white area, I was able to shed the burden of trying to identify myself through race from music. It gave me an identity as an artist, and as a creative, which has been empowering ever since. Painting landscapes with sound, and being able to connect to so many people globally through one common denominator have been the most powerful tools given to me.

On the other hand, listening to music has become a tool to either narrate my own adventure, or to help sort through thoughts, always cathartic along the way. When the wintertime blues hit, Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago will always make its way to the top for a melancholic morning. Or if I need summertime energy, Kendrick Lamar’s to pimp a butterfly has the hits that slap and bring energy to the forefront. There seem to be songs and albums that surpass being songs, and remain in your life forever and never being obsolete however many times you listen, usually always because of its nostalgic connection. I.e songs your parents played growing up, first car mixed CD, Etc.

Recently, I’ve been able to add a good friend, Sam Bekt, to that list of songs. In his new record Selfie, the second song, “Switzerland,” is an absolute bop that brings a sense familiarity for me. Would absolutely recommend listening to the whole record, each track feels like its own character.”

Artist Interview - Alex Di Leo

Alex Di Leo - 70s car.JPG

The Hook recently had the opportunity to talk with singer/songwriter Alex Di Leo! Check out our interview with him below!

Dylan: Hey Alex, my name’s Dylan Young, I’m an artist myself who previously had gone the band route for a while, but since then, has recently transitioned into being a solo artist. With that in mind, I’m interested to hear your take on it.

Alex: Hey Dylan, So nice to meet you! Thanks so much for reaching out to me. 
Great to be talking to another artist.

Tell me about your writing process. As a solo artist, do you write alone? Do you collaborate with other writers or musicians? Do you write a song, then when you feel it’s ready to be recorded, bring it to a certain go-to producer you gel with? What’s your process?
    
Most of the time my songs are inspired through an idea/melody that randomly pops in my head. The best is when a great lyric comes with that random melo-dy. If that does not happen, I write the lyrics as I work on the song more. Most of the time I try to create the melodies for each part of the song before really focusing on the lyrics.

Most of this EP I wrote by myself with the exception of a few songs. I love collaborating with other artists, producers, and writers because I think each time you work with someone you learn something new.

 After I have all the melody, lyric, and arrangement I take it to the producer who I’m currently working with, which at the moment is Josh Diaz. From there we make scratch tracks if I haven't already done so. We make sure we like everything about it before we move onto any part of the production and after that..the magic begins.

Apparently your old band, Wyld Fly, was fairly successful. What happened to the group and why did you decide to go the solo artist route? What about it appeals to you? Is there anything you don’t like about going solo?

Wyld Fly definitely did some cool things in south Florida. The reason the group ended was because of the disagreements in musical direction we were going. I was the lead singer/frontman in the band and at most times I felt like I didn’t have a say in many of the band’s decisions. This led to me becoming a solo artist. It appealed to me because I’d have much more of a say in what I’d want to do. The only trouble I found going into this was trying to put a committed group of musicians together. It took me a while, but  things have changed and I have got an amazing group of musicians backing me up now and ready to go.

Do you miss being involved in a full band? How was making the transition from that world into being a solo artist?

I don’t really miss being involved in a full band. I think this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my music career. It’s really helped me move along and find the sound and image that I had envisioned.

What can listeners expect for So We Go?

‘So We Go’ is about falling in love, the first time you laid eyes on your partner. Continu-ously wanting to feel that way you did when the "stars first collided”, that magical spark. That is a feeling only the two of you share together. Both taking the chance on possibly one of the greatest adventures of your lifetime. 

What’s the inspiration for your songs? Are you inspired by personal events? Do you just write to write? Is there an ex out there that kinda just messed you up? Where would you draw your creativity from? Sadness? Anger? Happiness? Etc.
 
Most of the songs on the EP lean towards a positive side and were inspired by a relationship that I’m currently in. There’s a couple songs that talk about the frustrations of being in a relationship, but they are in an encouraging way. I also find that when I travel, inspiration strikes and melodies and song ideas come easier to me. Maybe, it’s because I tend to be more relaxed and music and ideas seems to flow . 

How would you describe your sound in 5 words?

Melodic Alternative/Indie/Rock/Pop

I read that you went through 4 previous production sessions in making So We Go, which as anyone who’s made a record before can consider a grueling process. Why don’t you talk about that a bit? What went “wrong” the first four times? Was each time with a different producer? Were there any mistakes you might have made that in hindsight, now know to avoid? etc.

In mid 2014 I recorded a few songs Saigon Kick lead singer, Matt Kramer. This production sounded more like American/folk and was coming out a little too much in the bluegrass style then what I was imagining.

I didn’t record anything again until the beginning of 2015. I went up to the House of Blues in Nashville with a local producer,  Mike Puwal from Insane Clown Possy and Phil Richiardi. We went in aiming for an alternative pop, The Fray, Coldplay sound. But they ended up leaning a little more towards mainstream country which wasn’t the direction I was aiming for either. Not saying I don’t like country. 

I started another recording production with another a local singer-songwriter from     Miami Jim Camacho and a producer, Jodi Marr from Nashville. Still aiming for a similar sound I decided to go for another three songs and they sounded a little closer but still, not there. They were more of an Adult/Contemporary sound.

Towards the end of 2015 I did another few recordings with StreetRunner, a Pop/R&B producer who’s worked with Eminem, Lil Wayne, and a few other well known rappers. We spent around  4-5 months in the studio. After all that time I realized the direction was a little closer to what I’d been looking for, but since most of the instrumentation was coming from within the computer and the way it was done, it sounded too..stiff and like it was lacking feeling. 

Throughout that same time I had started an alternative dance side project with my close friend, lead guitarist from my previous band, called Cold Summer. When I’d take a break from my solo stuff we’d meet up during late nights to work on this one song which we also called “Cold Summer.” We actually released the single in April of this year, 2016. We were in the midst of recording another but haven’t gotten back to it since..

 Finally, in January of 2016 I started another recording production with Joshua Diaz, lead singer of Kids and now guitar player for Further Seems Forever, who I’d met November of the previous year. I felt that we had really clicked. I showed him a few of the things I’d recorded throughout the last couple years and told him what I was going for. He said he knew exactly what it was. So I decided to shoot for three more. But these felt different from all the others from the very             beginning. All the other productions I’d done were in high end top of the line studios, even though Josh’s studio was a small quaint wooden cabin with a vintage board, I felt different about these. Throughout that time I’d asked Josh to join the project and he’s been the bass player since. In mid April we had finished the first three, they turned out so great we decided to do another three which were finished in early June which complete the first EP, “So We Go”

There were definitely some mistakes made a long the way through this process. But to be honest, I think making mistakes is one of the best things anyone can do,  especially as an artist. I think it really helps you identify yourself even more.


What do you wish to achieve? Like, what are your goals with pursuing music? Your dreams. What motivates you to wake up in the morning and go after this? Was there some sort of a-ha! moment or experience that led to this pursuit?

My goal is to share my music with as many people as possible and hope to make them feel something in some sort of way. Soon I’ll play festivals and climb the ladder in that aspect and eventually grow to the arenas. This has always been my mind set and is constantly reinforced every time I create a melody and get goosebumps from it.

What’s your musical background? 

No one in my family has a musical background. The way I got into music was through my Grandma. For my 10th birthday, my Grandma  gave me an acoustic guitar. At the time, she had started dating a guy who was involved in music and I think he was a great influence on the idea. 
    
Shortly after I started taking lessons and found out my friend also played. We decided to put a little group together around the age of 13 and this really inspired something greater.

What’s your current top 5 bands/artists you’ve been into?

Coldplay, Ben Rector, Walk The Moon, Vance Joy, One Republic

Do you have any advice for people considering going into music?

Truly make sure this is something that feeds your soul and gives you a high.

Anything you want to say about So We Go?

Releasing my debut EP is definitely the highlight of the last 3 years. I’m beyond excited to share the positive vibes and stories that relate to a period in my life. I think because I’ve done 4 other recording productions to get to this sound I was looking for, I’ve truly come to appreciate the journey and outcome even more. I’m constantly thinking of how short our lives are and how important it is to experience new things, take risks, and to not be afraid of what could go wrong, but what could go right, and that’s what helped evolve the concept of So We Go.

My new single "I've Been Waiting" is now on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other streaming services! Follow me there!

A huge thanks to writer Dylan Young & Alex Di Leo for this really awesome interview. Check out Di Leo's track "Make It Easier" above! For more, check out Alex Di Leo's social media links below!

Alex Di Leo: AlexDiLeo.com // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // YouTube // Soundcloud

Artist Interview - Amanda Jones

Recently The Hook was able to get in touch with rising Oregon-based pop artist, Amanda Jones. The vocalist answered some questions for us regarding music, life, and her childhood! You can check out the full interview below for the inside scoop!

1.)    It seems that resetting life seems to be thematic in your music. Tell me about some of your experiences with starting over and refreshing yourself.
As a 21 year old, it’s been a time in my life where change is all around me. I’ve spent a couple of years figuring out myself, my beliefs and what makes me happy and am starting to feel really good about the place I’m at currently in my life. Sometimes you just need to start over to become the best version of yourself.

2.)    When you write music, are you influenced by real life happenings or do you take inspiration from other things?
Both! I write about personal experiences, things I see my friends going through, or random words/ phrases that might stick with me. It’s always a little different and makes the process unique each time.

3.)    What was your hardest “goodbye?”
My cousin passed away in a car crash 4 years ago, and it’s something I really struggled with. I wrote “My Goodbye” during that time to find peace/ closure from his death. 

4.)    How do you feel about this generation and how it handles romance and relationships?
The dating culture for this generation is honestly really weird, stressful and confusing. The general “hook up” culture that has become prominent over the past few years, makes putting yourself out there and dating so much harder. I don’t like it.

5.)    What is the role that love plays in music?
I think that love plays a huge role in the sense that it’s an emotion we feel, something that we as humans always crave, and a huge part of every person’s life. It’s a topic that everyone can connect to on some level. 

6.)    Tell me about your childhood.
I was really shy until first grade, when I had an awesome teacher that brought me out of my shell. I hardly talked to people until that year, but somehow we connected and she got me really into writing poetry and reading my work at poetry readings/ coffee shops. I saw the movie “Annie” and was inspired by it to start singing the words and poems I would write, and I haven’t stopped singing since! I’ve grown up with lots of dogs and cats, one brother and my parents. It’s still weird to think about the fact that I’m an adult!

7.)    Where are you from? What were some of the customs in the area that you grew up in and how did this affect your music?
I was born in Idaho, but moved to Oregon with my family around the age of 3, so I consider myself a Portlander (since I’ve basically spent my whole life here!) There is a very strong music scene, and I started going to concerts around age 11. Seeing artists I admire pour their hearts out on stage was/ is still so inspiring to me. Being so far into the local music scene, it definitely helped shape me into the strong independent artist I am today. 

8.)    When did music become an important part of your life?
In 1st grade, but I really started taking it seriously in middle school. Singing at coffee shops, posting demos on Myspace- that is the time period when I really started working toward my musical goals.

9.)    When you are making music, do you create for yourself or do you create with other people in mind? Why?
This is a tricky question, and my answer would be both! I create songs to help me get through rough times or celebrate good times, but also write with my listeners in mind. I want to write songs that they can connect with or relate to through their own personal experiences.

10.)    Tell me about your creation process.
I have thousands of voice memos with song ideas on my phone. The process varies, but i usually end up sitting down with my guitar and just singing whatever comes to mind, and building up ideas from there.

11.)    Have you taken any steps to educate yourself in regard to your profession?
I have focused on writing and poetry classes. I spent a few years in a community choir when I was younger, but veered away from that when I was tired of making my voice blend in and stopped growing vocally. 

12.)    Do you have any “before performance” rituals?
This is so strange but 99% of the time, I eat chicken in some form as my meal before a show. It’s so random but I guess it’s good to get my protein for the day in!

13.)    Tell me about your most recent performance.
I recently opened for Sebastian Olzanski and Jonah Marais on the “Daydream Tour” in Portland, and it was such a fun show. I got to perform original music and a couple of covers. I was so stoked to be back onstage after not having a large show for a few months.

14.)    Are there any concerts or tours approaching?
There are no confirmed tour dates yet, but I am hoping to hit the road in the very near future!

15.)    In regards to music, what has hindered you most?
For a few years I was my own personal roadblock. I doubted myself and really struggled with committing to YouTube content and growing as an artist. Luckily that phase of my life has passed, and I am feeling stronger than ever with my artistry.

Huge thanks to Amanda Jones for her honesty and sincerity! The Hook appreciates the time taken to complete the interview, and we hope our readers do also!

Amanda Jones: Twitter // Facebook // Spotify // Website  

 

Artist Interview - Sonnder

Photography: Alexandra Elisabetta

Photography: Alexandra Elisabetta

The Hook had an awesome opportunity to interview Sonnder - a band we love, you should love, and has been on our site as one of our Featured Locals! Their newest album Entanglement came out this year, and it's really the bee's knees, but we were just stoked to find out some more about this truly unique group of people.

Check out the interview below!

1. Obviously, and I’m sure you get asked this a lot; the name Sonnder is a really interesting title. I’m curious, though, what drew you to the definitive of “Sonder,” and do you believe that to be true in your music making?

It’s a feeling that none of us had a word for and we appreciated and connected to the definition of sonder. You’ll never truly be able to comprehend the depth of intellect of everyone around you thus the possibilities are infinite. It’s a staple commandment within the band because we view our songwriting and our music direction as limitless, in the sense that every time we go to write something we want to push ourselves in a new direction and there’s no way to predict where it’s going to go. 

2. What brought everyone together and how has the original reason for being changed or grown as you’ve cultivated Sonnder?

We all connected, and still connect, with the messages of the songs. Everyone could see where their lives fit within the meaning of the original demos. It’s something that continues to grow as we are influenced by each other’s joys and hardships. 

3. Now that Entanglement is out, especially after your year of hard work doing the Monthly Singles Project, what can you say about the finished product – did it turn out better than expected, different?

We are all very proud of the album. We put a lot of ourselves into it and it led us places we did not necessarily see ourselves beforehand. Going into the recording process, the album was already very cognitive and thought out, so not much changed over the course of the project concerning our plans. 

4. If you could play a show anywhere and with anyone (srsly anyone) where and who?

Mike: Wembley or Red Rocks with Prince or Michael Jackson
Ryan: The Fillmore in San Francisco with Radiohead or Wembley with The Cure - also, to have Days Away reunite.
Steve: The beach with The Beach Boys feat. John Stamos (or Chain Reaction with The Fall of Troy)
Kat: Wembley with Paramore or Radiohead

5. What is the best food to eat on a Saturday night?

Mike: beer
Ryan: Jule’s Pizza from Doylestown or mango chicken indian food
Steve: a burrito
Kat: sushi or every type of cheese

6. How do you feel 2016 has been going for you?

An unimaginable series of events. A lot of deep emotional lows transfixed by an abundance of positive opportunities. We’re so stoked about moving forward and seeing how our artistry develops and continues to provide opportunities musically and personally. 

7. What excites you about the upcoming summer music-wise? Personally?

We are all super excited about playing the next Redbull Sound Select show at Underground Arts with mewithoutYou on June 16, and then hitting the road.
Ryan: experiencing different emotions in life to turn into songs, and jammin' to the new saosin album.
Mike: spending some time in the sun with the people I love.
Steve: shows, bro.
Kat: going home to visit family, moving into a new house, WARM WEATHER

8. What kind of personal advice life would you give to people, right now in this moment, if you could?

Mike: spend your time on the things that matter
Steve: make sure you love everything you do
Kat: focus on your own happiness before worrying about other people
Ryan: be mindful of how people’s words line up with their actions. Sharks4lyfe.
Us: buy the new Sonnder record (true, do it.)


9. How long have all the members of Sonnder been playing music? Has it always been a goal to be in a band?

Ryan: I’ve been playing music since I was in 4th grade. Yes, I always wanted to be in a band, I was always starting bands. I started my own boy band called The Crimpson Boys when I was in 5th grade. 
Mike: I’ve been playing music my entire life. No, I didn’t want to be in a band until later in life.
Steve: I’ve been playing drums my entire life and now I’m a bass man. I always wanted to be in a band. 
Kat: I started playing piano in 3rd grade, violin in 4th grade, and bass in 9th grade. I didn’t want to be in a band till high school.

10. What can you say has been your biggest accomplishment with Sonnder, and how do you plan on moving forward from that?

Releasing the album. It’s allowing the music to speak for itself and helping us move forward. We believe honesty in art making and human interaction is paramount. 

*

Thanks to Sonnder for being rad as heck and for letting The Hook invade their lives for the month of May! You've got a follower & listener in us! 

Check out Sonnder's social media below for updates and news!

Sonnder: Website // Instagram // Soundcloud // Twitter

Artist Interview - Weatherhead

Photography: Rosie Becker

Photography: Rosie Becker

This week, The Hook had the opportunity to meet and talk with local Philadelphia band, Weatherhead. As covered previously, the guys have had an awesome start to 2016 - being one of The Hook's Local Bands to follow, as well as a stellar new EP, Cleaner Blood

Check out what Weatherhead's Evan King had to say to The Hook Journal about the artistic process, playing shows, and favorite animals below!

How does it feel to have Cleaner Blood finally out there?
Oh my gosh, it's such a relief. We worked on it for such a long time, the songs have gone through a crazy amount of changes, it's nice to finally just be done and satisfied with what we have. And I really am satisfied with it. It's for sure my favorite record I've written so far.

What are you most excited about moving forward?
We really just want to get out there and start playing more shows, seeing new places, and making new friends and fans. We don't really have any plans other than playing shows right now. 

What would you say your process is for creating music?
Pretty much it starts with me writing a very basic framework for a song. Just the chords, a simple melody, some rough lyrics. And then I'll show the other guys and kinda just be like "Make it not suck" and they do exactly that. Then we record demos for everything in my studio, and send it over to Bruce Wiegner's studio. On this record we co-wrote a little bit with Will from Reward and with Bruce Wiegner, both of whom are fantastic songwriters. 

What other bands do you draw inspiration from?
Oh god, I'll try to speak on behalf of the whole band. It's kind of all over the place. For me personally, I really like The Cure, Vince Staples, All Get Out, The 1975... I'm on a huge Yeezy kick right now, but it feels like I'm always on a Yeezy kick. We're all big fans of Foxing, The Chariot, PMtoday, Sufjan Stevens. Oh, and the Reading Rainbow soundtrack cause that shit's tight. 

What about Philly inspires you?
Rocky IV

How do you feel the local scene is in Philly?
It's super weird! But really it's awesome. Just a couple of days ago we played a packed warehouse show that got a bunch of people to register to vote and raise support for Bernie Sanders. #FeelTheBern

What goals do you have for yourself as an artist?
Oh boy that's loaded. Um, I guess I just really want as many people as possible to be able to hear my songs and to know that people are relating to them. 

What's your favorite aspect about being in Weatherhead?
We get paid tons of money. 

... Alright, but really I love writing songs with my friends. I'm in a band with some of my closest friends and we all share the same passion for it. It's really great. One of the only people from high school that I kept in touch with is also in a band with me, which is pretty sick. 
If not that, what I love the most is when people tell me that the songs mean something to them personally. Some of my friends, musical peers, and even strangers have told me that they connect to something I've written, and that blows my mind. Just the other day, Tristan from the band Amora texted me explaining that he and his friend were both going through some shit and that the songs on Cleaner Blood were helping get them through it. It's really wild. 

How'd you guys come up with the name?
It's loosely inspired by the song "Conversation 16" by The National, another band I really love. The one line, "try not to wonder what the weather will be", stuck with me a lot, and when we were thinking of band names I came up with that.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Definitely an Alaskan Brown Bear. I don't even need to think it over. Honestly I think about this question every day, and I always know the answer. 

We want to thank Evan and all of Weatherhead for their music and awesome answers to these interview questions! We'll be checking back in about Weatherhead (and others) about their Bernie Sanders support show later this week, so stayed tuned for that!

As always, support these guys and check out their links below!

Weatherhead: Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Tumblr // Bandcamp // Merch