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Needle in the Haystack: S-Preme

There are loads of niche rappers in the world these days. It’s easy to make an OK beat and spit a line or two. However, finding a good rapper before they’re mainstream is a difficult feat. S-Preme is one of these rare finds. This week’s Needle in the Haystack artist is on his grind, growing online buzz through interviews with hip hop Web sites, and pumping out new tracks like it’s his job (which it kinda is). Afterall, this is what’s required to become successful, so S-Preme is on the right track!
Once you listen to the free track “Popular”,  you’ll quickly discover why we’ve selected S-Preme as this week’s Needle in the Haystack artist. No doubt you’ll hit the rewind button to hear more thanks to the song’s mainstream sound and infectious hook.

As always, we’ve got an exciting week ahead of us and look forward to learning more about S-Preme. Don’t forget to let us know what you think of the track below!

Tune Up: Your Prescription For Staying In Time

In general, one of these most widely neglected tools for pop musicians is a metronome. If you ask any orchestra, chamber ensemble or marching band, they’ll tell you that next to their tuner, a metronome is the only thing they wouldn’t be caught dead without at rehearsal. The Dr. Beat line, made by BOSS® is arguably one of the smartest, most intuitive metronomes on the market. This thing can do everything from standard measure beeps (in any time signature you can imagine) to complicated subdivisions and polyrhythm’s. It has become a staple at school band programs and should really be a staple for rock bands, pop acts and producers alike.

BOSS® DB-90

-Two overlapping beat options

-Multiple click sounds

-Human voice sound

-50 memory slots

-MIDI in to sync with DAWs or Sequencers

-Drum machine-like click options

-Rhythm coach

Clearly this isn’t your standard metronome. Check out the BOSS® video review to see their DB line in action:

While the features speak for themselves, what stand out the most are the complexity of rhythms, the drum features and the “Rhythm Coach”. You can create virtually any rhythm fathomable on this, and you have the ability to assign a counting voice or even drum sounds to it. This helps to insure timing and gives you reference to your place in the music. Something that is completely unheard of with metronomes is the ability to record your own sounds for playback. Beyond this, they’ve even got programs that test your ability to play along with these complex rhythms by giving you drills and monitoring your playback through a built-in microphone with their “Rhythm Coach”.

Sure, you can pick up a standard metronome (perhaps even one of the smaller ones in the DB line). However, making the investment in the DB-90 will truly make you a better player, and it will give you the ability to rehearse in a full band setting while keeping time quite well. To top it off, you’ll even be able to record with it as it can sync to your recording program. Really the only downside is that the interface can be a bit awkward to set beats up in (as seen by the small screen in the video above). However, with versatility and a robust set of features, the DB-90 is an amazing tool for the performing musician.

New Music Biz 101: Paid Ads


You see them everyday. You may even click on them once in a while. For musicians, paid advertisements on platforms such as Facebook and Google are one of the most underutilized resources.  In fact, the idea of paying for advertisements make some artists cringe. The thought of the bill coming in without a guaranteed return on investment can be tough to swallow. Hopefully this post offers a few techniques that make the process less intimidating and maybe an attractive and worthwhile option.

Promote Your Shows – PPC (Pay Per click) advertisements give you the ability to target by location which means you’re able to pinpoint your promotions within your city. With Google, you can target people as specifically as a 1 mile radius of a specific location. This is a valuable tool to use when you’re getting ready to promote a show. Setup a campaign with an ad that tells people to come your next show. Then focus on people in your’s and/or the venue’s immediate area. A person is more likely to support an artist if they’re from their hometown. On Facebook, you can home in on users who are fans of a particular venue’s Facebook page. If a user  frequents a venue, then they are more likely to be influenced by your advertisement.

Target Based on Interests – Do you think your band sounds exactly like John Mayer?  Great!  When you set up a campaign through Facebook, simply target your efforts towards users that are fans of the artist your band sounds like. Make sure the text of the ad caters towards your intended audience and that it provides links to a place where the user can quickly access your music.

Bonus – Many of these services have free trials, so you have some room to experiment for free!

Hope these two tips were helpful in explaining how artists can use  ad resources to their advantage. Any questions? Ask in the comments section!

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: The Orkids

It’s been a lot of fun working with the talented band The Orkids this week. We had a great Tweet & A with the band where their number of followers actually grew by 10% before our very eyes.  Seems like the short period of time during which the interview took place made an impact, and that was very cool to see! In addition to the Tweet & A, the band gave away a free track out on Monday that is worth checking out. To wrap the week up, we’ve put together a short video featuring the interview that we had with The Orkids yesterday along with some added material from the band. Let us know what you think!

Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week’s Needle in the Haystack artist!

Cherryholmes Sweet Sound Ripens

Anyone who was at Nashville’s legendary Station Inn when Cherryholmes played there during the recent Americana Music Festival likely won’t forget the event anytime soon.

Although there were a host of big name entertainers in town and playing that night, it was this family band that pulled in a huge crowd that forced the venue managers to halt access to the show. Yet plenty of fans stood outside in the cold rain hoping for a chance to hear the band.

“I just love to sing,” Cia Cherryholmes, one of the group’s main songwriters, said of concerts. “I especially love to sing [the jazz number] ‘Just You.’ I get to sing in front of a large microphone and sing in a way that’s a little different than what we usually do.”

If there’s a secret to the band that Jere and Sandy Cherryholmes formed with their children after their eldest daughter died, it’s that the members aren’t afraid to reach beyond the bluegrass format.

Perhaps Sandy Cherryholmes explains the dynamic best, noting that she and Jere come from the ’60s and especially enjoy musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughn while the siblings have passions for modern rock and jazz. The mix of influences can push musical boundaries at times–such as when the band discusses how to work with a jazz-inspired number–but generally swings back to the bluegrass roots that tether the band’s sound.

“Molly wrote a song and when she first played it, for us it was more of a jazz tune that you’d play with a jazz combo,” said Sandy. “We had to decide how to work with it. We don’t use a piano and we have to decide what we would want to do with a banjo role and [otherwise] how to best fit on a bluegrass record without being too far out.”

Although such conversations would lead to rifts in more than a few bands and families, the Cherryholmes admit they are “brutally honest with each other,” says Cia. “One of us might way ‘Why did you write that? What were you thinking?’ We can say it because we’re family.”

Adds her brother B.J. “We are real people. That just kind of comes out in our music.”

And what a way it has manifested with awards including “Entertainer of the Year” from the International Bluegrass Music Association to many nominations including two for GRAMMY Awards. Now the band is supporting its latest release Cherryholmes IV: Common Threads. Critical and popular kudos have led many to believe that the band may finally win a coveted GRAMMY.

“We have been all over the world, we enjoy performing, we have done so well,” said Cia of her dream. “If we could just bring home an actual Grammy–not a nomination–and I could have that gramophone sitting on the mantel, well, I’d be very happy about that.”

By Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and other publications.

Punk on the Rocks: The Queers “Back To The Basement”

I’ve always had a soft spot for New Hampshire’s The Queers. Maybe it’s because their song “Punk Rock Girls” was one of the very first “punk” songs I ever heard, or maybe it’s because, when we started dating, my boyfriend made me a mix CD featuring The Queers tune “I Can’t Stop Farting.” Whatever the reason may be, I was excited to get a review copy of their latest release, Back To The Basement.

Back To The Basement is a solid addition to The Queers’ catalog of Ramones-meets-foul-mouthed-Beach Boys pop/punk. The album kicks off with killer quasi-surf instrumental “Rollerdog” and the band’s Ramones influence is out in full force. Standout track “Outta My Skull” sounds like a long lost Ramones demo, while “Fucked In The Head” could be an updated version of  “Go Mental.”

The Queers keep it punk with 'Back To The Basement'

Short-but-sweet track “I Knew GG When He Was A Wimp” name-checks the late Boston rock hot spot The Rat and gives a nod to the band’s New England roots with the line “…Being from New Hampshire really wasn’t too cool / But we always drank our Bud from a can.Basement closes with two more standout tracks: “Everyday Girl,” a surprisingly sweet love song (and the longest song on the album, clocking in at 3:23) and “Keep It Punk,” an ode to the rough and tumble punk scene. The best part? The 13-song album clocks in at just over 22 minutes. Keep it punk indeed.

Back To The Basement drops November 16th on Asian Man Records. Pre-order on CD or green or black vinyl here!

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

OK Go releases “Last Leaf” video

If you read this column with any regularity, you know that if OK Go releases a video, it’s likely to show up here. Today we present you with “Last Leaf,” wherein a few slices of toast provide the backdrop for a poignant, stop-motion vignette. We still can’t tell if the animation is etched onto the toast itself, or projected. Either way, it’s a bread-winner. Hope you like.

Best duets this week—Conan and Jack or Rihanna and Jon?

Does the joy on Jon Bon Jovi’s face when a culturally relevant (and minxy) pop star joins him onstage do it for you? Or is it seeing Conan O’Brien wield an axe and do his best rockabilly snarl? You don’t have to answer yet—watch the clips below and then decide who wins the week’s best duet.

The Bad

NKTOBSB co-headlining tour

Muffle your squeals, 30-year-olds! New Kids On The Block and The Backstreet Boys have joined forces FOR THE OLD-ENOUGH-TO-BE-YOUR-DAD TOUR*. Stop thinking about your mortgages and toddlers and rediscover the glory of A.J. McLean’s goatee!

*Not the real tour name, but it should be.

Keith Richards attacks Swedish journalist

Strangely enough, it seems a lifetime of soaking your liver in Jack Daniels doesn’t mellow you out. Keith Richards found this out when confronted with a reporter who had negatively reviewed a Rolling Stones concert in 2007, calling the band “amateurs.” Richards hoisted himself off his rocker* and demanded the reporter, Markus Larsson of the Swedish publication Aftonbladets, apologize. When that didn’t happen, Richards proceeded to give Larsson a couple wallops about the head, hissing, “You’re lucky to get out of here alive.” Don’t feel bad, Markus. At his age, Richards is lucky to get out of anywhere alive.**

*not really
**snap.

The Ugly

Courtney Love shows The New York Times what class looks like

Courtney’s school of class involves getting tipsy before your interview with The New York Times, sending the reporter and photographer up to your room at the Mercer Hotel, then showing up an hour later drunk and completely naked. Read this indelible tale of elegance and refinement in its entirety here.

Miscellany

Ernie Ball Metal Winner For October Announced!

In October, long time OurStage partner Ernie Ball sponsored the Metal Channel, giving headbangers around the country a chance to compete for a year’s supply of free strings. The votes are in and the folks at Ernie Ball have made their choice. A Vision Grotesque—hailing from Salisbury, North Carolina—shredded and rocked their way to the top of the channel, and into the ears of the judges. Their unique blend of wailing guitar solos, brutal vocals and furious riffage will have your head moving all night long. To listen to A Vision Grotesque, head to their OurStage profile and check out their tracks. Ernie Ball is currently sponsoring the Punk Channel. Hit up the playlist below to listen to some of the top artists currently competing in the channel. The competition continues throughout November, so be sure to head to the Punk Channel to vote for your favorite artists.

Q&A With Matt & Kim

In 2004, after meeting while pursuing art school degrees at the Pratt Institute, friends Matt and Kim decided to form a band— even though Matt had never played keyboard and Kim had never played drums. Surprisingly, the indie pop duo was able to self-release their first EP a year later. Matt & Kim continued to tirelessly practice, write, record and tour—which eventually earned them thousands of new fans, sets at massive festivals, a gold single (“Daylight”) and a VMA for their “Lessons Learned” music video.

Earlier this month, Matt & Kim released their highly-anticipated new album, Sidewalks, and received rave reviews from Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and more. Though these two hardly take a break from their work, we got the chance to catch up with Matt Johnson about the new record, the group’s influences and life on the road.

OS: Your last album, Grand, was recorded in your childhood bedroom, and you mixed it on your own. How was the recording process different for Sidewalks?

MJ: Well, the recording process was different because we didn’t do this one on our own. We had some people who knew what they were doing helping us, which was nice. While we were very proud of Grand and we’re very happy with what came out, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We were just guessing about, “I think this is how you mic a kick drum…” but there’s all these techniques that have worked for years and years that the guys we worked with on this latest one knew. But basically, what this came down to, was that Kim and I could concentrate more on the actual songs than the technical aspects of having to know what the fuck you’re doing.

OS: When the band first started, you didn’t even play your respective instruments. Did you start taking lessons and learning theory or did you just learn by ear?

MJ: We’re still figuring it out (laughs), just going by ear. Yeah, Kim had never played drums, I didn’t play keyboard. I played guitar and bass in bands, I sort of sang in other bands, but it wasn’t so much singing as screaming in punk and hardcore bands. I never tried to hit actual notes. Really, the only thing that has expanded our ability of playing is that we’ll write something that’s kind of harder than what we can actually play and then we just have to practice it enough to be good enough to play it. But singing was the one thing that I took a couple lessons for, mostly because I was really singing from all the wrong places and screwing my voice up super bad. When you have to sing every single night, it gets to be a lot. Also, I’m not opposed to singing on key, that wouldn’t be so bad (laughs).

OS: You and Kim started with, and still have, a very DIY approach to this band… how did you get the band to grow in terms of doing your own promotion?

MJ: We have a machine that does a lot of things, and that machine is Kim. For all the beginning years of this band when we did so much for ourselves, Kim booked all our own tours, she answered every e-mail about everything, she handled this and that….she doesn’t need to sleep. Her last name’s Schifino but I like to call her “Machine-o,” I think it might fit better! So it was a lot to take care of. Even now, we want to be so involved in so many things, but we have to give things away because there’s just so much and we’re on the road so much. Thankfully, we have a great team that takes care of a lot, but we still stay involved with everything and approve everything and put our input in.

OS: The two of you met at the Pratt Institute and continue to use your art skills for the aesthetic elements of the band. Where do you draw your artistic influences from?

MJ: Kim has had a style she’s worked in and you can notice from the album covers that they stay in a similar style, which is typical among artists that work in a wave rather than changing everything up. We like keeping things in that style. The fact of the matter is, through the last few years of this band, there’s been no time for anything non-band related. So whenever Kim works on art, it’s related to the band. Whenever an opportunity comes up that we need something for the band, it gives her a chance to work on art stuff again. But for me, I’m really involved with the videos. I have a lot of ideas on what makes a good video and a bad video. People have definitely appreciated our videos and they’ve had such a reach. We have one we’re shooting in a couple weeks that I’m excited about, it will definitely make some people angry.

OS: You won a VMA for Best Breakthrough Video for “Lessons Learned” and developed the concept for it yourself…which has you and Kim taking all your clothes off in Times Square. Do you have any crazy ideas for things you’d like to try in future music videos?

MJ: Yeah, it never hurts to get naked! We definitely have a dumb idea we’re going to do, coming up. We were supposed to shoot it before the tour started, but things got a little too hectic so we had to push it back. But it will be fun and  it will be very much another Matt & Kim video.

OS: Even though you’re an indie pop act, you seem to be influenced by a lot of hip hop. Which hip hop artists influence you the most?

MJ: We’re big fans of whatever is fun. But I think a lot of who I find inspirational in the hip hop world are different producers, because I key really into beat and melody and composition, even more than to lyrics, for any sort of music. I think there’s producers like Swizz Beatz and Pharrell and the Neptunes and Timbaland, who make really creative, awesome, energetic music that can be very bizarre but still have such a reach. I think that’s very inspirational.

OS: You were on tour for most of 2010 playing both club shows and festivals. How were the two types of shows different from each other and how did the fans react to the new material?

MJ: Well, we’re not playing anything off Sidewalks yet. When people go and see a band and the band’s like, “Who wants to hear some new songs?” The general feeling in the crowd is sort of, “Well, I’d rather just hear the things I know and can sing along to,” and that’s my feeling when I go and see a band. So, being that the album wasn’t really out, people didn’t have a chance to study up yet. We decided that we’re really going to make this the last tour of Grand and we added some other little bits and pieces of new stuff and kept it fresh, but we’re waiting on Sidewalks for what will probably be a late spring, early summer trip. But as far as clubs and festivals, I love doing both, for similar and different reasons. Kim and I give every show we play 110%. There’s no point to doing it if you’re not going to give 110%. We love it and if I can squeeze 112% out, I totally do. But this year, with Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits and places where you’re playing in front of 30,000 people…it’s pretty wild, because you can feel all of that from so many people. But then when you’re in a tighter atmosphere, playing for 1,000 people or 1,500 people, everyone’s so close and they’ve paid just to see you and they know all your songs and they can sing along really loudly. That can harness that same energy that all those people can as well, but whoever’s willing to go wilder is usually my favorite. We love doing both.

OS: You and Kim live together in Brooklyn when you’re not on the road. How do you like to spend your time when not working on your music?

MJ: It sounds almost like it’s impossible, but Kim and I don’t ever really do things that aren’t really related to Matt & Kim. This last year, we never took more than one consecutive day off. But we’re happy working really hard on everything band-related. After shows sometimes, we’ll come back to the bus and we have a lot of things on Hulu, TV shows that we keep up to date with—Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—that’s sort of a good downtime for us, to take an hour and just chill. But we don’t usually take more than hour at a time!

Be sure to pick up Sidewalks, in stores and on iTunes now. Check out the band’s award-winning video for “Lessons Learned” below!


Soul Searching: Iyeoka

Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo, also known as Iyeoka, is a full time poet and recording artist here on OurStage.com. This Nigerian-American singer and songwriter possesses some serious soul that simply can’t be ignored. Iyeoka was actually a pharmacist before she became full time artists, and boy are we happy for that career change!
Iyeoka’s music is happy and uplifting so it’s no wonder she’s achieving a respectable level of success thus far.  She is the founding member and lead singer of the word poetry, jazz, blues, gospel and electronic soul group The Rock by Funk Tribe. This unique genre combination earned her an opening slot for touring acts such as Femi Kuti, Zap Mama and Slick Rick. But her unique performance hasn’t been her only achievement. Iyeoka is making strides as a writer as well. She has been commissioned by Discovery Channel for one of their brand campaigns. She was also commissioned by a Top 20 ad agency to write a piece for a diversity-training tool.

Take a listen to Iyeoka’s music below. What do you think? Does she remind you of any artists you’ve heard before?

 


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