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What Music Means To Me: Tyson Evans

Credit to the photographer, please contact us

Credit to the photographer, please contact us

Longtime pal & talented musician, Tyson Evans, (you know from Crooked Teeth), took time out of his busy schedule to enlighten us on what music means to him!

We’re super stoked to share Tyson’s thoughts with you, so check out what he had to say down below!

“What does music mean to me? Literally everything. It’s been with me since I was little kid listening to Matchbox 20 and Dixie Chicks driving to school with my mom. It drew me in completely when I saw Green Day’s music video for “American Idiot” at 13. I knew at that point I had to do whatever it took to get my hands on a guitar and write songs of my own.

I started my first band at 15 with some friends from my hometown. That band took me across the country countless times, was the vehicle that led me to new friendships near and far and ultimately threw me into a sense of community I never found in church or sports or school. 

Today, at 26, it still holds the same weight. I still get excited when someone introduces me to a new band or artist and I still love getting up on stage whether it’s in front of 5 people or 500. 

Right now, a band from LA that has my attention is Mermaed. The alternative punk band fronted by rightful cool kid, Arielle, is everything I wanted and needed from a band in 2019. They’re bringing the nostalgia of bands I grew up listening to such as Hole and Green Day while offering  up their own massive pop hooks to the mix. I first heard Mermaed on the KROQ Locals Only hour that Crooked Teeth was also featured on. They’ve released two undeniable bangers so far and I am so stoked to see where they grow the band from here!”

We never know what’s next (well, sometimes we do) so stay tuned to find out with us, and thanks for reading!

What Music Means To Me: Jay Sakong

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Composer, singer & core member of up & coming band, OWEL, Jay Sakong took some time recently to sit down with us at The Hook Journal & let us in to what music means to him!

We’ve got it all down below, so take a moment and enlighten yourself!

“For me music is the thing that can make mundane moments feel cinematic. A random smile from a stranger on a subway ride, perfectly timed with a song playing in your ear buds will make you remember why you're alive. And why it's good to be alive.

Music is a time machine that can teleport you back to moments that you may not have realized were so special while you were living it the first time. But there you are, able to relive it again and again like some kind of life hack/cheat code.

Music is a drug I use to give me my second wind while exercising, when I'm too out of breathe to even hum the melody I'm hearing.

It's a warm blanket for the days that you're down and a cool breeze for the days that you're up.

And all of that is just in regards to consuming it. Making it brings me a whole other layer of joy and purpose.

When it comes to creating, music is the children I may never have. So that if I end up an old man without ever having had a family, I can rest easier knowing that at least I put some part of myself into this world.

Really, music is just the primary avenue I take to create art. So maybe it's not just music that I'm specifically obsessed with, but more so just the act of creating. If my worst fear ever came true and I lost my hearing, perhaps I would pursue filmmaking or painting or the culinary arts. Whatever it is, I do believe that creating is just as vital to a human being as consuming. We must consume in order to nourish our bodies, but the act of creating will often nourish everything else.”

We’ve got lots more exciting content coming up, so stay tuned for more of What Music Means To Me, and music and life, generally!

What Music Means To Me: Jimmy Lo Fi

Photographer: Rachel Malvich

Photographer: Rachel Malvich

Jimmy Wilkens of The Sonder Bombs & Jimmy Lo Fi (as well as countless other music endeavors like Drag Daze & The Scuzzballs) is making his second appearance with The Hook Journal! The first being a gig back in Philadelphia, and now to share his thoughts on what music means to him!

Check it out below!

“It's hard to describe what music means to me because music is so abstract. I can't explain why myself, and thousands of other people, are willing to risk their health & financial livelihood all over 12 notes rearranged in different-yet-sometimes-the-same pattern. But for me, it's the only way I've ever truly been able to express myself. I tried drawing, I tried writing, but none of it stuck the way music did. Music allows me to connect with other people, to learn new perspectives, to discover things I like and don't like about people in a safe, constructive way. It also helps me make friends as an adult. I'm not in college anymore but I'm still in a community where I get to meet new people all of the time and that's pretty cool. Also, it's such a weird feeling listening to a song all the time and then meeting the creators of that song. You feel like you know them, but in reality you don't. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on the circumstance, but it's an amazing feeling when you meet that person and then end up being really good friends.

Music also means I get to help others.

Playing in The Sonder Bombs has been wonderful because the songs we put out have connected with people in ways that words alone may or may not have. Willow & I started this band a little over 3 years ago and it has grown beyond something we ever thought it would, and having people come up to us after shows to tell us how a song of ours has helped them through something, it's incredible. Willow is a superb songwriter and the excitement I feel when she says "I have a new song" cannot be contained because it means I get to find a way to add a piece of myself to it and then ultimately share it with others.

I guess all of this can be summed into on statement: Music means to me that you'll never be alone.

A local artist I've really be into lately is Teamonade. They just dropped an EP, THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING and they have this song "Wreck" that literally wrecks me. The lyric "...so much has changed in the worst way" has me doubled over because it had effectively ripped my guts straight from my body."

You can check out Teamonade down below & stay tuned for more artists as we delve into What Music Means To Me!


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!