indie

What Music Means To Me: Ari Michaels

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Ari Michaels has been a compassionate friend of ours, an opinionated woman, and someone who celebrates Body Positivity for femme folx of every shape & size. A truly inspiring, and not to mention, hugely talented human being who we’re happy to have as part of our What Music Means To Me project.

Check out Ari’s thoughts down below!

Ari Michaels (Advocate/Singer/Songwriter):

”I think one really special thing about music is that just about everybody likes it. Even with a variety of genres to favor over others, music has an ability to be objectively uplifting, to bring us to dance or tears, to recall memories and help us escape. Everyone is welcome in music, everyone has a spot. Shower acoustics and highway breeze car-rides can transport a person into their rockstar fantasies, just as overhearing “Take On Me” by AHA on the radio can trigger a sweet, hilarious memory.

Lately I find myself listening to funk like Parliament Funkadelic, upbeat Hip Hop like Anderson Paak. or pretty much anything under Soul, old and new. It makes me feel slick and reminds me how cool I am, since I forget from time to time.

Point blank, music address a core desire in all people which is a sense of belonging. A local artist who I feel encapsulates this feeling is Remember Jones, a Soul/Pop singer out of Asbury Park, NJ. The album “Tranquilizer!” is full of tight band hits and old-school harmonies. RJ produces hypnotizing melodies and original lyrics that’ll pull you in like a magnet and bring you to your feet. I’m thankful I’ve been able to see RJ live on a handful of occasions because the live performances completely transform the listening experience. Not only does the band have intense energy on stage, but all the members actively turn their performance into a space for you to let go and join in.

You’re never left out of the Remember Jones experience.”

What Music Means To Me: Evan Balikos

Evan has been a good friend of mine since the days of Tumblr (hah). We bonded over our mutual love of music & writing, and have continued to remain friends since! Evan is an avid music listener, blogger, journalist & member of his college radio station! We had to ask him what music meant to him, and in return he gave us a poem interpreting the questions!

Check it out below!

Evan Balikos (Writer/Music Listener):

press play

It’s not magic but it’s cosmic

what can happen when our heads

connect to heads that are empty

pitchers waiting for sugar water

How they plead for meaning

How they fly across 10,000 globes

sharing their secrets lightning up the skies

cracking a ceiling they could never see in silence

And the words that drive those heads

up tall mountains born from fertile soil

are banners that demand to be hung from the sun

These sirens are unique Gods

They squeeze us into boxes or catapult us into bliss

their voices bind our eardrums to their lips

Never would we dare to try and stop them

We allow stringed weapons to rock us into submission

We are happily bending forward to an anthem

Demanding beats and kicks and strums and licks

that throws bodies into bodies and hands into hearts

Stirring the air into a twister of footwork

Creating colored effigies from ponderous banality

melting and buzzing and glowing all the time

They are able to feel and heal us by holding us in song

We bathe in earthquakes and headaches and mistakes of youth

We stand tall as an invulnerable world shakes within us

We spectate a battle of energy with no end in sight

And so it stands and so it remains

pressing play releases the army

pressing pause halts the war

Evan currently recommends Miami, FL locals - Palomino Blond.

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: Katie Miller

Photographer: Stavi Xinou

Photographer: Stavi Xinou

Katie Miller of Kate Dressed Up has been working her butt off in the local scene to create music, network, and generally be a good human being. As an integral member of our local scene, we wanted to know what Katie’s thoughts were on music & what it means to her!

Check it out below!

Katie Miller (Singer/Songwriter/Instrumentalist):

”Emily reached out and asked me to write at least 250 words about what music means to me. Last night, I went to Union Transfer with my friends and saw Better Oblivion Community Center, a band I would call a supergroup made up of Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. I cried 3 times during the show. On the way out, the task of writing this article jumped to the forefront of my mind.

Music means everything to me. Everything. Not an exaggeration. Music means everything to me.

Music is the way I connect to the world around me. In everything I do, in all my relationships with others, there’s music. It’s been that way since my very first memories and has never changed. My parents told me that at their very first parent-teacher conference (I’m talking nursery school, here), the teachers told them I was a great kid but that I sang a LOT, and loudly. It was probably Celine Dion. Point being, I’ve thought about music all day, every day, forever. It’s my deepest obsession and I could never change it if I tried, and I’d never want to.

As one so deeply in love with music itself, I look at myself and the world around me and see all the ways that music serves The Big Picture and all its infinite minutia. Music is a mandala of expression. We sing, we play, we listen, maybe we dance, and then it’s over. Music not only helps us celebrate, but it is the celebration itself. Music not only helps us grieve, but we literally pack our grief into the song until it becomes grief itself. We are able to lose ourselves in these vibrations and come out the other side changed. The creation of music is an extremely intimate thing, but we share these moments and people come together and connect through them in the most beautiful ways.

Having my feet planted in both Philadelphia and New Jersey means that I get to experience the best of both of these musical scenes and all the characters therein. Right now my favorite artist in Philadelphia is Elaine Rasnake, an incredible indie pop artist that I went on tour with in 2018. We now play in each other’s bands. Some other honorable Philly mentions include Secret Nudist Friends, Wallace, and Dominy. New Jersey seems to be constantly bursting with talent, but right now I’m really digging all the new stuff that The Vaughns and Lowlight have been putting out. Jeff Linden is another artist I listen to consistently; my favorite release is Sad Bastard Songs.

I feel blessed every day because music is central to my existence. In a way, that is living the dream: being able to spend time daily with this art form, whether it’s my own or other people’s. Having other people respond to my art, or feeling responses within myself to others’ art, is where the magic truly lies. We are able to reach one another at the most vulnerable level, and also experience our own vulnerability in doing so. My adventures with music have taught me to feel gratitude for my life and everyone in it, whose unwavering love, honesty, and support help me know that everything is working itself out.”

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: Anna Ladd

Photographer: Megan Kelly {@quinoa.cowgirl}

Photographer: Megan Kelly {@quinoa.cowgirl}

An art maker and creative peer, Anna Ladd does it all. Whether it’s visual art, writing, making podcasts, or being a good human being - she’s got it covered. Of course, sometimes that isn’t always what we feel on the inside, and Anna is no stranger to that. After following her through social media outlets, and rare sightings (one in particular with a dog), Anna seemed like the type of person I wanted to ask questions about - especially what music meant to her, so I did!

Check it out below!

Anna Ladd (Artist/Creator):

Like most EmOtIoNaL suburban youths, I grew up listening to pop punk music and dreaming about fronting a band on tour. But I wasn’t very good at the main skills someone needs to write a song: singing and playing an instrument. So, I figured I was doomed to watch from the sidelines. By high school, I had resigned myself to taking pictures at shows, hoping someone might bring me on the road when I was old enough.

I put out my first record nearly five years ago, when I was 20. I was at art school, and when you’re at art school, you’re not allowed to suck at art. And I really needed a creative hobby that I could suck at, so I wrote some songs. It was weird to engage with the creative process like this – without thinking about what I was doing, without learning how to be good first, or without really even trying to be good at all. It was also out of character for me to adamantly want to perform this thing I wasn’t very good at, in public, where everyone could see. But for some reason, this was the first place I felt comfortable being a little bad.

Visual art was a different case for me – the post-graduate depressive hole didn’t lend itself to making work, or really even having ideas for work. If I made something that sucked, then I must also suck, and will probably suck forever. I also stopped listening to music. I couldn’t tell you what records came out in 2017. But through this otherwise creatively sterile period of my life, I kept writing songs.

They weren’t a life-or-death reflection of all my shortcomings, or something I felt a pressure to connect to like I did when I was 15. They were just some songs, that were kind of bad, about kind of boring feelings, about being kind of boring. They carried no weight. And they were my entry point back into making my “real” work – even though I consider my music to be an important part of my creative practice now, not just adjacent to it. My whole perspective on making things follows this mantra now – I’d rather be prolific and kinda bad than never make any work at all.”

Anna is currently listening to Magic Gone by Scranton, PA local, Petal. Check out the album streaming below!

What Music Means To Me: Eoin Murphy

Photographer: Aaron Jenkins

Photographer: Aaron Jenkins

Eoin Murphy has been a collaborator, peer, and heavyweight supporter in the experimental, jazzed up, indie scene here in Philadelphia. An audio engineer, instrumentalist, and lead in his own project, Brushstroke, Eoin is a come one, come all type of guy - and that’s just some of the stuff we love about him!

Check out his thoughts below on what music means to him!

Eoin Murphy (Audio Engineer/Instrumentalist/Singer):

Music to me has always been a form of communication, it allows me to say anything and feel anything in ways I could never put into words, it also allows me to truly meditate on my life and recenter my focus!

Currently, Eoin is bumping along to “Crispus Attacks” by Killiam Shakespeare, check it out below!

What Music Means To Me: Mikie Mayo

Photographer: Richard Sanders

Photographer: Richard Sanders

Rapper & overall human of good vibes, Mikie Mayo has been in and out of the Philadelphia Music Scene for years, collaborating with peers and creating exciting content that pushes the limits, while also overcoming his own struggles with mental health and addiction.

Having been apart of Hook Showcases, and a crowd favorite, how could we not include What Music Means To Mikie Mayo! Check it out!

Mikie Mayo (Writer/Rapper/Collaborator):

Music: These relatable noises that visit you where you are at, take you somewhere you’ve been, somewhere you want to be, or somewhere you’ve never been before.

Currently, Mayo is rockin’ along to Flowermouths by People Eating Fruit, check it out below!