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.”

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: Lauren DeSantis

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Lauren DeSantis is a NJ local entrepreneur & music goer & friend who does nothing but support not only her local scene, but the scene as a whole. As someone who has always loved music & impressed me with the genuinity and free-thinking, Lauren had to be part of our series!

Check out what she had to say below!

Lauren DeSantis: (Entrepreneur/Music Listener):

As an entrepreneur and a tournament softball player, I couldn’t envision life without music, as cliché as that sounds. Music plays a huge role in both of those passions. Music means literally everything to me. I live in band shirts. I spend all of my money on concert tickets and meet and greets. It’s just something that’s too hard to put into words sometimes, you know. It’s something you have to experience in order to understand. Nothing makes me happier than being in a sweaty pit at a metal show (even at 26 years old with bad back!). When I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Being my own boss was the ultimate dream of mine. I got into the music scene shortly after when I attended my first Warped Tour. From that very day, I knew I wanted to forever be involved with music. It has allowed me to meet so many great people, and discover so many talented musicians.

Music fueled me to start a project called Remedies (still in the very beginning steps) - which I’m gearing towards feeding both local and touring bands and artists while on the road. I have a bunch of friends that tour frequently, so I know how hard it is to eat an actual meal, and that it can get costly. My main goal is to be able to use a huge passion of mine to help keep the dream going for others. Music has allowed me to appreciate life more. It’s just something that can’t be explained.

One of my favorite songs from a local band that I jam to almost everyday is Hold My Breath by Forest Green, from Michigan. I found them on whim one day, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Also, if you’re in a band and ever pass through the Ocean County area of NJ, and want to be fed, please feel free to reach out and we can set something up!

What Music Means To Me: Jake Marquis

Photographer: Anam Merchant

Photographer: Anam Merchant

Guitarist & Vocalist, Jake Marquis, is one of the kindest people in music that I know! I had the pleasure of seeing him & Sleep On It perform at the last cross country Warped Tour in Camden, NJ at BB&T Pavilion, Summer 2018. The band brings back Pop Punk in a meaningful, fun way that is not only easy to listen to, but relatable for listeners. We decided to bring Jake on to collaborate with us, because we’d love to hear what he has to say - so, we did!

Check it out below!

Jake Marquis (Guitarist/Vocalist):

“Music is the foundation of my entire life past the age of 12. I began actively seeking out albums & concerts as a young teen & shortly after started playing bass guitar. Growing up in Maine wasn't easy for a music lover - I was isolated from most of the major music scene 's in the country. I would travel to an hour & a half to Portland, ME to see shows, purchase gear & play my first shows of my own.

This music scene was the building blocks for my music career. My first bands, were of course nothing special but a series of trial & error : a lesson in what not to do. I left Maine to pursue a degree in Music Business at Columbia College Chicago. I would go on to integrate myself with the vibrant Chicago music scene & interned for publicity, management, & marketing firms. I spent almost the entirety of my 20's watching or playing live music.

I started Sleep On It in 2013 & has been my musical passion ever since.”

Sleep On It are currently on tour with This Wild Life & Crooked Teeth, both bands we’ve mentioned here on The Hook, which is pretty dang rad!

What Music Means To Me: Sam Gellerstein

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Sam Gellerstein plays trombone, but not just any trombone, the most beautiful trombone playing to hit your ears! Whether it was for Cute Girl From English or Jazz Performance, Gellerstein is a powerhouse in the Philadelphia, PA area if you want impeccable live sounds, and to hang out with a stellar & kind human being! We had to get his take on “What Music Means To Me” because music is such a huge part of Sam’s life, so we did!

Check it out below!

Sam Gellerstein (Musician/Dog Dad):

I think as humans, we are consistently striving, pushing, and struggling for the most we can get with the time we’re given. Now, in no way do I think it’s a bad thing, in fact most beautiful things are created for that specific reason. To create not for fame, or money, but because we the artist, absolutely HAVE to do it. Once we move on past the initial phase of deciding that we want to become artists for a living, we give ourselves some options. We can become jaded, and fall out of love, and forget what we got into this path for, or the path which I have chosen and hope to retain; unabashedly, and unapologetically grateful for what we have.

Music has given me so much more than just a “career”, it has given me a purpose. We are able to communicate love, sorrow, pain, and everything in between, when people can’t think of what to say, or how to say it. Now we are given the daunting, but incredible task of recreating that for someone else. So, I implore to the other young creatives, be grateful, be humble, and never forget why we did this. Reach down before the anxieties, the comparisons, the deadlines, and the bills. We do this, not only because we want to, but honestly we never had another choice.

Please listen to Max Swan's "The Fisherman", while I do play in his band I think this is an album that everyone needs to hear. He has poured his soul into this and I think you will all love it.

What Music Means To Me: Tre Turner

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Vocalist of Spirit Breaker, and generally good person, Tre Turner gave us his take on what music means - not only to him, but to scenes as a whole!

Check out what he had to say below!

Tre Turner (Musician/Vocalist):

“Most of our lives are filled with the strong and constant longing for something more. No matter how much we dive into things that make us happy, most of the time these things end up being conditional, predictable, materialistic,and unfulfilling. At least until one day you stumble upon something that consumes you.

For me, its Progressive Metal. A genre that is so unpredictable, unconditional, and breathtaking. If I could put it into a visual, it's a sky full of overwhelming colors, shape-shifting clouds, a vibrant burning sun with a soothing warmth, and lightly frosted moon with a calming wind in the evening air. For years, I've bared witness to bands expanding on their craft, uniquely redefining their sound and song structure. Periphery, Invent, Animate, and Veil of Maya are all examples of this. The odd time signatures, the complicated guitar-work, the ferocity of the drums, and the soul-infused jazz breaks speak love into this tired body. To me, this genre is love.

Nothing compares, though, to watching someone you know do it in your backyard. Blank Slate: a band paving bright sounds into a gloomy, oversaturated Michigan. What started off as a simple, experimental band has now grown into a storm of color that I've had the pleasure of watching rain over me side stage and intimately from a beautiful home. Something about a Frontwoman gliding her voice in and out of electrifying riffs and drum-work with elegance and charisma. I find myself in awe at the beauty of my local music scene.”

Check out Blank Slate on their Facebook page!

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.”