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OurStage Hip Hop Habit: IB

Taming your  jealousy of another person’s success becomes a lot easier when you keep in mind that everyone’s just trying to make it. Same goes for the world of musicians. The collection of artists here on OurStage consists of minnows and sharks with careers both static and mobile, perhaps the latter of which is best exemplified in female emcee IB. To be fair, this girl is connected. Like really, really well connected. From her familial ties to the Knowles family (yes, that would be the family of Beyoncé Knowles) to the star-studded guest spots in her OurStage catalog (Wale makes an appearance), it appears on paper that she’s off to the races. In reality that hasn’t happened yet, but if her fantastic output remains consistent, it will soon.

Hailing from Houston’s storied third ward, IB literally grew up in the shadow of Destiny’s Child. Wanting so much to emulate Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle, IB and her friends started up their own girl pop group and took it as far as they could before realizing they were too young and just weren’t ready for the big time. Whether she regrets skipping out on what could have been is irrelevant, but her rhymes prove that if nothing else, she did a lot of learning in her second lease on adolescence, evidence of which can be found in her fantastic raps.

IB Press PhotoDear Daisy” steps foot in the door with a soggy sax/brass interplay and guitar riff that sounds inherited from boastfully Kentuckian rappers Cunninlynguists. The mood is dismal from the start, as IB uses the mild instrumental tones as a landscape on which paint her sorry past: “Did you grow up with one brother/ no mother/ junkie daddy/ are you happy/ that’s me/ cause if so that explains exactly/ why I’m an easy target so you just attack me.” The justified venting continues throughout “Dear Daisy,” IB leaving no sour character in her past unpunished. From ex-lovers to slighting haters, the stories IB tells down memory lane make the fact that she’s made it to where she is today even more impressive, and gives legitimacy to the meaning behind her moniker, Incredibly Brave.

That down-in-the-dumps mentality is nowhere to be found in “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me Now,” despite the open verse profiling a maybe/maybe not so fictional drug arrest. If “Dear Daisy” was a slow-paced drive through rotten nostalgia, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me Now” puts the pedal to the metal as IB uses an extended car metaphor to describe just how commanding her momentum has become. “Within my city they hatin’/ bypassin’ me like I’m fakin’/ there’s way too many takin’ my ideas and runnin’/ but my headlights are bright/ I can see them comin’/ I don’t slam on my breaks/ I smash on the gas a bit harder.” Instrumentally, this tune carries same melancholic atmosphere but the chord changes resolve to a resolution tinted with hope, a resolution cemented in Chris Styles’ empowering chorus soliloquy: “I’m gon’ show the world and everybody who ever hated/ you can’t change it/ I’ve done made it/ ain’t no stopping me now.”

As long as she doesn’t get cold feet about the biz, there’s little that can go wrong from here on out. Having earned invaluable connections and experience from a management stint with Matthew Knowles Music World Entertainment and opened for blockbuster names the likes of Wale and Drake, it won’t be long before this battered underdog climbs out of the pits and sings for all the world to hear.

Catch Strictly Global’s Episode Dedicated To Lilith 2010’s OurStage Artists Here On OurStage

Strictly Global is a weekly broadcasted television series featuring alternative takes on pop culture. The program aims to “enhance public understanding and provide alternative representations of diverse ethnic groups that contradict the stereotypical images frequently encountered in mainstream media through music, art and entertainment.” OurStage recently collaborated with the folks at Strictly Global to help tell the story of Lilith 2010. In case you didn’t know, OurStage and Lilith partnered in May to give up-and-coming artists a shot at performing at the legendary festival as it made its way across the country. Strictly Global and OurStage worked together to feature some of the winning artists from the Lilith competition on the season premiere of the series.

The season premiere of Strictly Global was televised on September 17, 2010, but don’t worry— you can catch the entire episode right here on OurStage. The hour and a half-long episode showcases interviews from Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan and co-founder Terry McBride, OurStage CEO Ben Campbell and various winners of the Lilith Local Talent Search. Check out behind the scenes interviews and new music from these budding stars.

Metal Monday: Voyager Q&A

Deeply rooted in the greater Boston area is a niche scene known to some as “post metal” or to others as “sludge” metal, popularized by bands such as Isis and Pelican.  In close style proximity to these bands is Voyager. With their fearless leader PJ Mion, the band has seen some adversity in recent years but continues to move forth as self-proclaimed “Astronauts.” Check out what PJ had to say regarding the band:

OS: You’ve had some lineup changes recently, losing/gaining two members. How have the newest members been fitting in thus far?

PJ: We’ve actually had two lineup changes since when we originally got started and wrote/recorded our self titled EP—new bassist and second guitarist both times.  After Ryan & Luke left around the same time back in 2008, our friends Sal and Matt jumped in to help us out, keep us playing shows etc.  Both of those guys had been playing in a great sort of progressive indie rock band called The Locomotive Espada at the time that had been put on hold since their singer was moving to LA.  They both fit in really well with the band, but unfortunately with them living in NYC and working full-time it became logistically difficult to practice and write with us up in Boston, so we ended up getting Brian [Barbaruolo, bass] and Sean [Harrington, guitar] in the fold in the spring of this year so that we could start playing shows more frequently and fast-track finishing up the writing for our new record, which has been a long time coming.

OS: Any updates on the forthcoming recording session at Planet Z for the new record?

PJ: I actually just firmed things up with Zeuss today, and it looks like we’ll begin tracking partway through the first week of October, with plans to finish things up at the end of the month and possibly into early November.  He has a lot of larger projects on his plate (like mixing the new Crowbar record, which I am quite excited to hear will be getting finished up relatively soon), and all of us are juggling different work schedules and all of that, so scheduling hasn’t been real easy, but we are all looking forward to finally getting the ball rolling on this thing, working with such a well-respected engineer, and to see what type of sounds we can get since our new material is fairly different from that of most bands that he works with.

OS: Are there any plans in the works for more extensive touring outside the Boston and NYC areas when you’re done recording?

PJ: Doing some real touring in support of the new full-length is certainly something that we are hoping to do, and the tentative plan at this point is to try to find a time that works for everyone in early 2011 to make it out to the west coast for at least 7 or 8 days (which we were trying to do this summer but couldn’t quite work it out).  Before then we have been talking about trying to set up 3 day weekends here and there so that we can make it down to Philly, Jersey, western NY, etc. which we haven’t ever done too much of.  In all honesty, while all of us are pretty much out of school and working real jobs, I’m probably the biggest limiting factor in our ability to tour—I’m a geologist for the Army Corps of Engineers and it is hard to free up long periods of time off with all of the field work that we have going on.  Sometimes life gets in the way of what you really want to do.

OS: You recently released your split with fellow sludge metal band Monolith as a vinyl-only release originally (on Science of Silence) but have since made digital copies available, what was the thought process behind this?

PJ: All facets of the split LP release were handled by the label, including the limited shirt preorder packages and the digital version.  I can’t speak for them, but I’d imagine that while they are planning to stick with vinyl-only as far as physical product goes, realistically not everyone has a record player or equal interest in the analog medium, and there are bound to be people that are willing to pay to get the songs but don’t want to spend extra for the LP (and the amazing artwork that comes with it) if they aren’t going to use it or aren’t interested in collecting.

OS: Why a limited pressing clear vinyl?

PJ: The limited pressing was the way the release was planned, and I believe that high quality, collectible limited pressings are going to be what Science of Silence is looking to do as a label for the most part.  The clear vinyl was what we wanted, since it looks awesome in conjunction with the rest of the artwork, and Marc &; Tim (who run Science of Silence) were very accommodating with letting us run with our ideas for the layout and overall package.  They are great guys to work with, definitely want to take a second to thank them and to tell everyone reading this to check out their second release which is out now—Constants’ If Tomorrow the War, which is easily one of the most epic things I’ve heard in a while.  Another great Boston-area band well worth giving a shot.

OS: Tell me about the video for your song “Avulsion.” Was this a planned thing or a fan tribute?

PJ: That video was created by a guy named Shawn Kilmer, shot fully in HD, basically just a bunch of cool scenes that he put together to go with the song.  It was unplanned, but I’ve been in contact with him a number of times over the past couple of years, and it was definitely cool to see an artist take something that we’ve made and create something on their own to compliment it.  People can check out his other stuff at his Web site.

I also want to get in a quick plug for our singer Devin’s screen printing company that he runs with his brother Tom, Portal [who did the cover art for the Monolith/Voyager split LP].  I should also send out a shout to Ben from our new label, Creator-Destructor who is a great guy and has been good with putting up with my delayed responses to things.  Lastly, thanks to Munson the Destroyer for the interest and the questions.

Check out the video for “Avulsion” below:

If you’re interested in purchasing the split that Voyager did with Monolith, you can order if from here, but you better order fast because it’s limited to 500. Otherwise, you can get it from the iTunes Music Store.

Killing It Softly

Live Hart’s got friends in high places: multi-platinum producer Veit Renn (NSYNC, Backstreet Boys), Brand New Heavies backup vocalist Honey Larochelle and songwriter/producer Shaun Fisher (Mandy Moore, Gloria Estefan) to name a few. So don’t be surprised if one day in the not-too-distant future you hear her on the radio. Here’s what to listen for:  soft, pliable vocals spread over breezy, acoustic R&B. On “Please Don’t Say It’s Over” Hart’s gentle voice glides over the delicate stitch work of acoustic strings and a pensive piano line. One of the hallmarks of Hart’s songcraft is the layers of background vocals present in every track. You’ll hear their dulcet refrains on the watery “What Is Love,” and “This Is Me,” a limpid R&B ballad. Lyrically, the song veers towards trite, but it’s hard to get critical when you’re being lulled by a gossamer slow jam. We’re not going to fight it. If you need us, we’ll be in our mental hammock, listening to the supremely tranquil “La La,” and setting adrift on memory bliss.

Live Hart

Needle in the Haystack: Hailey Wojcik

This week’s Needle in the Haystack is an artist whose parents were both zookeepers, but whose music is not defined by this animalistic upbringing. Be that as it may, Hailey Wojcik is known to perform her song “Raised in a Zoo” wearing brightly-colored animal masks.  Talk about having a unique personality!

Hailey has recently released her full-length album called Diorama, which explores the idea of being part theatrical, part museum exhibit. The album features wide use of instrumentation including an Indian banjo, mellotron, and recorded samples of (you guessed it) animal noises!

For the album artwork of her album, Hailey actually created a diorama to represent each and every song. It turns out that she’s actually a very talented visual artist as well. In addition to her Diorama skills, Hailey co-produced and co-directed a music video for each of the eleven tracks on her album! Her videos have received airplay on VH1, MTV and LOGO.

Take a listen to her free track “Pumpkinteeth,” available below. If you check back again this week, there will be plenty more Hailey Wojcik to come, so stay tuned!

Scene & Heard: Minneapolis, MN

This week Scene & Heard is taking you to Minnesota. Minneapolis contains one of the most interesting and varied music scenes we’ve covered to date. Of course, one of the most notable era’s in Minneapolis’s music history was the R&B-dominanted 1980s. The city earned its position as a center for R&B due to the emergence of a certain R&B/pop icon, the artist both formerly and forever known as Prince. His fusion of R&B, pop and disco styles helped forge a truly unique sound for Minneapolis and gave it viability in the urban/R&B markets.

Currently, the scene is saturated in alternative/underground hip hop and spoken-word poetry. Some of the most notable alt rappers in the country either hail from or associate themselves with Minneapolis. Perhaps the most famous rapper is Atmosphere, who strings together intelligent lyrics about politics and social commentary. Other rappers that associate themselves with Minneapolis are POS and the hip hop collective he founded,  Doomtree. Incidently, many of these artists operate under the Minneapolis label Rhymesayers.

With the hip hop and spoken word poetry, it seems only natural that Minneapolis would have a strong affinity for writing and the arts. In fact, alongside Seattle, Minneapolis is the most literate city in the country. It is also home to a vibrant theatre and fine arts community, including the Minnesota Orchestra founded by Emil Oberhoffer in 1903. The orchestra recently hosted a collaboration with singer/songwriter Josh Ritter.

While this scene is full of great classical musicians and eloquent lyricists, it’s important to mention the pop/rock scene. OurStage band Cedar Avenue base themselves in Minneapolis. Their sound can be described as a mixture of rock and indie/pop with songs quite reminiscent of Relient K and Cartel. They support their high-energy songs with subtle acoustic chords and soaring melodies that would impress even the toughest of songwriting critics. Check out Cedar Avenue’s OurStage profile and hear for yourself.

“More than anything, [the Minneapolis scene] has allowed us to meet a lot of really fun, passionate people and make some great friends,” said CA. “ It’s really cool to be surrounded by musicians (and music lovers) that are so dedicated to their career and their art.” When asked about venues, the band was adamant that there is a large number of venues that offer music every night. “I like the Varsity Theater. It is undoubtedly the most gorgeous venue I’ve ever seen. The velvet curtains, leather couches, and overall vibe fit our music much more than a dark, industrial bar.”

Cedar Avenue

As for venue recommendations, Palmer’s Bar on S.Cedar Ave offers country, blues and rock music in a standard bar environment. The previously mentioned Varsity Theater boasts a full calendar of performances that is always kept up-to-date. Overall, no matter where you go, you should be satisfied.

Cedar Avenue won the chance to open for Hanson earlier this year and has even had music featured on the hit television show Rookie Blue. Take it from the band themselves, “The Minneapolis music scene is ambitious and tons of fun.”

Scavenger Hunts Killed the Bonus Track Star

If you’re an ingenious indie band, your wallet doesn’t have to be stuffed with Golden Tickets to play Willy Wonka. Hidden and/or free stuff can be a smart and inexpensive way to get a message out and bond with fans, who dig exclusive “insider” content, merchandise or info as a reward for loyalty.

These kinds of engagement programs can be traced back to the surprise bonus track. The most legendary? “Train in Vain,” that unaccounted for secret number that closed The Clash’s legendary 1979 LP London Calling. With nary a mention on the record’s jacket or label, punk fans started looking for hidden messages in music a la Paul is Dead: The Sequel. Flash forward a few years and the mystery bonus track is so common it appears to be a required CD marketing gimmick.

Available now through

Scavenger hunts are the new surprise hidden bonus track.  They range from extravagant international searches to one-zip-code contests. The latest? DJ Shadow. This month, NME reports he’s stashed two new vinyl tracks, “Def Surrounds Us” and “I’ve Been Trying” in random shops across Europe and the US while on tour. He’s dubbed the give-a-ways “shop-placing” as opposed to shoplifting, and it serves as a kind of anti- downloading statement. DJ Shadow seems to have cribbed the idea from guerrilla artist Banksy, who snuck into 48 music stores and switched 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s CD with his own remixes in 2006.

“With Facebook and Twitter, artists often have thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions in some cases of fans looking for communication, sneak peeks and direction from their favorite artists. When done right, these fan armies can be an extremely effective online street team and can pass messages to exponential numbers of people,” suggested Sam Ewen, CEO of New York-based experiential marketing agency Interference Inc. (Vespa and HBO are clients.) The price is nice, too.

Eminem uses Twitter  to give out tickets to his concerts. (“Ok… First 20 of you to Undftd. in Silverlake get a pair of passes to tonight’s Activision gig at Staples Center. I’ll be there. Go!”  or “First 50 fans in NYC that want to come TOMORROW night for my performance on LETTERMAN email: [redacted] Must be 25 yrs w/ID.”) Not only does this tactic cause a frenzy with his million-plus followers, it gets media play and proves that brand EMINEM is a creative powerhouse.

By Becky Ebenkamp

Becky Ebenkamp is a pop cultural anthropologist and former West Coast Bureau Chief for Adweek Media. Becky has a radio show called “Bubblegum & Other Delights” that airs 7 to 9 PM PST every other Tuesday on

Q&A With Switchfoot

“Switchfoot” may be a surfing term, but it’s also the name of a band that screams California pop/rock. Hailing from San Diego, the guys from Switchfoot have been releasing albums since 1996. While their lyrics are definitely influenced by their Christian roots, they’ve worked to define themselves outside of the Christian genre. Rather, the band has caught the ear of fans, critics and even music supervisorsSwitchfoot wrote music specifically for use in a Chronicles of Narnia movie in 2008. We got a chance to speak with keyboardist/guitarist Jerome Fontamillas about the Chronicles experience and reflect on this past summer’s shows.

OS: Lyrically, why do your songs seem to gravitate toward deeper and often literary references?

JF: John, our lead singer, writes most of the lyrics. He reads a lot of books. John and I actually kind of have this “book club”. We give each other books and suggestions to read, but he reads a lot more than I do. From being with him for over 10 years, a lot of the stuff that he writes is taken from personal experiences and what he’s going through. He writes a lot about stuff he doesn’t understand—whether it’s politics, God or relationships. It’s kind of like a journal of his life.

OS: Specifically, you’ve mentioned that “Meant to Live” is inspired by Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men”. How does the poem relate to the lyrics?

JF: I wouldn’t know particularly, but what I know is that the basic premise of that song is that life is short. You should live it and make sure it counts. He’s talked about the correlation with me before, and it seems like it’s a little more of an abstract connection.

OS: In 2008, the band wrote a song for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. How was this process different for you as opposed to writing more standard Switchfoot songs?

JF: When you get offered the chance to write for a movie, they usually look at your back catalog of music to see if it will fit in. This is a special case, though because they approached us. They said, “Hey, would you want to write a song specifically for this movie?” That was a really great opportunity for us.

OS: Yeah. How did you guys actually approach writing process for this?

JF: All of us have read C.S. Lewis, especially the Chronicles of Narnia. When we got to the drawing board to piece that song together, the general theme of the whole Chronicles was what it derived from—the longing for a home. We kept that in the song. We didn’t write it to make it specific, but rather wanted to make it more general to encompass the theme of all the Chronicles. It was really a great experience for us. C.S. Lewis has been a big influence in our lives. It was an honor to even dive into something like that.

OS: The band performed at the US Open of Surfing . Are you guys big surfers yourselves?

JF: Well, three of the guys grew up surfing. I picked it up a few years back and so did Drew. The term Switchfoot is actually a surfing term. It’s a big part of our lives. Doing the US Open is going to be a great experience, because you get to watch surfing and then you get to play.We’re kind of bummed, because we won’t be around to see Weezer play it. We’re excited, especially because it’s in California so we’ll kind of get to go home.

OS: Can you talk to us about the background of the Switchfoot Bro-Am and what’s it’s become?

JF: You’re right, it’s kind of like the Open. It’s our annual charity event where we try to raise money and awareness for a local charity in San Diego called “Stand Up For Kids”. It’s probably our favorite time of year, because you mix surfing, and music and you bring these kids from this shelter and have them hang out. It’s a great day for those kids, and we feel very honored to be a part of it. We’d have Tim Curran, Rob Machado, etc. You’ve got some pretty great surfers coming and helping out to support. So it’s an awesome experience.

OS: Switchfoot have a lot of associations outside of the music scene (the surf contests, your own MacBeth shoe, etc). How do these partnerships come about?

JF: You forge a partnership by going out there, playing and building relationships with the people you meet. MacBeth’s office is actually a couple doors down from our recording studio. So, it was really cool to build a great relationship with them.

OS: The upcoming album Vice Verses contains material from your sessions for Hello Hurricane. Can listeners expect a similar album?

JF: We’re hoping to push further, creatively and musically. Whether it’s a natural progression from Hello Hurricane or not, you never know.  We’re still planning how we’re going to go about recording the album. We have an abundance of songs (like 90), and John is a writing machine. So we have new songs, and you’re adding 20 or 30 into the mix. So it will be interesting.

OS: So are you guys planning on releasing that other material from the Hello Hurricane sessions?

JF: We’re hoping to. There are a lot of songs. I’m not saying all of them are good, but we just have to dwindle it down to a regular amount of songs. We are diving into the idea of a double album or something. That’s the greatest thing—that we’re able to release these songs and other people will hear them. We’re just trying to figure out a way to get these songs out there so people can hear them. A CD is one format, but there are other ways too.

OS: Can we expect to hear them live?

JF: We’re not prepared yet to play the songs that haven’t been on albums yet. I know John has been doing these “after shows” where he will go out after the show with his guitar into some corner somewhere and start playing our new songs. It’s pretty awesome, because we’re really excited about the new songs. We’re getting geared up to go record them.

The release date for Vice Verses isn’t set yet, but is expected early next year. Keep an eye out for an acoustic “after show” the next time you catch Switchfoot live!

New Music Biz 101: Reading the Right Blogs

We all know the music industry is nothing like what it was 10 years ago, or even 10 months ago. The strategies used back then are quickly becoming obsolete. So, it is of the utmost importance for an independent musician to stay on top of the changes that effect the industry and their craft. This New Music Biz 101 post is about how to stay on top of the quickly fluctuating world that is the music industry.

There are many strategies when it comes to discovering new information and strategies about the music business, but the one we’ll focus on today is reading the right blog posts. Below is a list of blogs we find to be valuable for musicians.

HypeBot – This blog is literally subtitled: Music. Technology. The New Music Business. Right off the bat, you’ll feel as though you’re in the right place. Posts cover everything from marketing strategies to educational updates from all the big players in the new music industry.

Recent interesting features include:

Slicethepie retooling fan funding and partnering with UMG

An article about Bandcamp charging for free downloads.

An article about the launch of a new Artist Services & Management company

Social Media Examiner ­– Social media examiner focuses on all thing social media. This means they don’t focus exclusively on social media for musicians. However, we’ve found that almost all of their articles are instantly applicable to music. Below are a few samples of blogs from the site.

How to create fan-only Facebook content.

Studies that have shown Facebooks Marketing potential

5 Ways to get the support of social media influencers

OurStage Online Magazine The OurStage online magazine is a resource for both musicians and music fans providing content that is educational, interesting and fun! A few great series to follow can be found below:

Behind the Mic – Creative advice for how to stand out in the crowd as a musician.

New Music Biz 101– The wonderful series you’re reading now *cough*  covers new and existing online services and tools for musicians.

Tune Up – An educational post about what gear to use.

At the very least, skim through a post from each of these sites every day, and see how it changes your knowledge of the industry. We’re confident you’ll learn a lot and be able to see some results right away! If there are other great blogs out there that we should know about, let us know in the comments section!

Katrina Skalland Collaborates With Drew Grow, Records New Album

Last week, OurStage featured writer Paul G. Maziar posted a review of the new Drew Grow and The Pastor’s Wives album on the OurStage blog. As a compliment to that post, we wanted to keep the love in Portland and broaden the spotlight to focus on another local up-and-comer, Katrina Skalland. Katrina Skalland and Drew Grow are long time friends and admirers of each other’s music. Back in 2008, the pair collaborated on a joint album entitled Sow to Sow. Skalland is currently hard at work on a new album with producer/instrumentalist Dave Middleton (The two make up the songwriting duo Deluxe.)  Their music is eclectic to say the least, combining elements of indie rock, acoustic balladry and singer-songwriter storytelling. Skalland took some time to talk to OurStage about working with Drew Grow and the new Deluxe album.

Skalland remembers the day vividly when Drew Grow called her and the idea for Sow to Sow came to fruition. “I was on a bicycle ride, half way up this ridiculous hill in the Sunset. My phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Drew. I stopped to take the call, sat down on the sidewalk and looked out over the neighborhood. The conversation materialized on its own. We arrived at this decision to make something together because it would be fun and beautiful. It must have been in the stars for us, it was relatively fast and easy to accomplish. We both stretched ourselves to meet the other person half way. Drew is a gem to work with. He has a strong spirit and a kind nature. Though, with all of that said, he is also somewhat enigmatic. I am often surprised by him and never feel as though I can anticipate what he is going to do next.”

The new Deluxe record, described as an indie pop record by Skalland, is currently in the process of being recorded in two separate studios and features Sam Coe (Low Flying Owls, Seventeen Evergreen) on the drums and Kris Doty (The Pastor’s Wives) on the bass. “My songs are influenced by my need to move, comments Skalland.” She states that although she’s “listened to so much dance music these last couple of years,” the songs will still be “true to form singer-songwriter stories.” When asked about new studio techniques, Skalland commented, “We have been using live drum sequences, sometimes 2, 3 or 4 takes of different grooves set against each other. Same with the rest of the tracking. . .it is us having fun experimenting.” To listen to music from Deluxe, and tracks from Sow to Sow, head to Katrina Skalland’s OurStage profile or check out the playlist below. Be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming new album from Deluxe, The Light Tree, due in early 2011.


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