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October 30, 2023 Interview with Irreverent Indie Rockers The Valmonts

Interview with Irreverent Indie Rockers The Valmonts

Irish Indie-Pop rockers The Valmonts have an entrancing new EP, Living In A Paranoid Trance out now. Coming to you from Dublin, with a sound influenced by New Radicals and INXS, The Valmonts bring a quirky edge and raw power to the indie-pop world. Bringing to mind the effortless, fun delivery of The Kooks with a saccharine grit similar to The Vaccines. The EP’s featured single ‘Cry & Get A Little Drunk’, was quickly picked up by Notion Magazine, as well as being added to GoldenPlecs ‘Irish Songs You Need To Hear This Week’. With airplay on over 50 international radio stations and sold out performances in Ireland, The Valmonts are set to take over the indie-pop world. Darragh Whyte (vocals, guitar), Keith Whyte (drums), Cathal Sweeney (guitar), and Tymek Kocurkiewicz (bass) answered some questions about their distinct sensibility for pop hooks, laid over zany melodic riffs.

Walk us through your creative process?

The creative process is something that can always take you by surprise. Sometimes you can be messing around with a sound for weeks. Somedays it all comes together within minutes. It’s that constant dedication that’ll bring out your best performances. Having a space to be creative is super important for us as well as a band. As independent artists there’s a lot of hats that you need to wear so it’s important to kind of separate the analytical brain from the creative.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Biggest ones for the band would be acts like New Radicals, INXS and even AC/DC. It’s one of those questions that you almost feel bad answering because you’re never fully satisfied with the answer you give.

What would you like to work with if you weren’t musicians?

We’d be footin’ turf if it wasn’t gonna be music.

What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without? What equipment are you using?

Not necessarily gear but we all can’t live without Cathal. He’s the brains when it comes to all the technical stuff behind the band. Without him we’d be so lost. Some of us can’t even plug in a guitar lead without it going completely wrong. (Not looking at you Darragh)

Tell us something unrelated to music. What are your hobbies?

We all seem to be into our hikes and just going away into nature. Nothing clears the head better than being surrounded by massive hills or a forest. It’s either that or sitting down on a couch and throwing on some GTA San Andreas hahaha.

If you could meet one performer/artist who would it be?

It would be pretty dope to meet Little Simz. Totally different world musically compared to what we’re doing but we just have so much appreciation for what she does. Also meeting boygenius would probably result in a well of tears.

What does the future hold for you as an artist?

We’re already thinking of what we’re gonna release next. We’ve plenty of music we’re currently working on. Some of it is already finished. We’ve had the tunes from “Living In A Paranoid Trance” with us for ages so we can’t wait to show you guys what’s gonna come next.

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June 5, 2023 Interview with ‘Shades Of Blue’ singer-songwriter Lilith Merlot

Interview with ‘Shades Of Blue’ singer-songwriter Lilith Merlot

Image credit: Rona Lane Photography

Lilith Merlot makes music to connect with herself and others, plumping the depths of her creative being and coming out the other side with something soulful to share with her listeners. Recently, she shared a new work, a 5-track EP titled Shades Of Blue, a composition that stretches across the gap, the rift, that has formed between two lovers. The project represents a process, a cathartic unpacking that helps Lilith process personal challenges, a process that she hopes will also help listeners find solace in her music.

RCRD LBL introduces Lilith Merlot:

Stream / Download: Lilith Merlot – Shades Of Blue EP

Growing up, who was your biggest musical role model and why?

Alicia Keys, because I thought she was such a great singer, and I loved that she also played the piano. My favorite albums are her first two albums. The songs on there are such a great mix of groovy, uplifting tracks and ballads about heartbreak and other difficulties. I spent so many hours singing and playing her songs and trying to copy her ad libs! It definitely shaped me in a way. 

Your new EP touches on themes of heartbreak. How do you think music has helped you to process life’s difficulties?

Music has always helped me to feel comforted and not alone, and also it helped me to dream and drift off. When I feel a little sad and I listen to music that comes from the same emotion, I feel understood and connected. It is such a relief. And music can also be so uplifting and energizing, when I need a little badass energy I will play ‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo, and I feel like I can do anything. Great way to start the day!

What are some of your earliest memories of music?

My earliest musical memories are of my mom (who was a classical violinist) playing with the orchestra. I was 4/5 years old and I would listen to their rehearsal in an empty concert hall. I just remember how big everything was: the stage, the hall, the massive sound that came from all those instruments. It felt so exciting!

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

When I get inspired I usually feel a bit restless, as though I have to get something off my chest. So when I recognize that feeling I will sit behind my grand piano at home and start playing around with some chord progressions, and I improvise vocally until I find a melody that sticks with me. First, it’s all gibberish, and then slowly the right words come. When I start writing, I often have no idea yet what I want to write about, but those first few words that come intuitively will set the tone for the song and what it’s about. The first verse and chorus are always quite easy to write, but I find the second verse and chorus the hardest part – that sometimes takes months! When I am writing all I need is my phone to record my ideas, and my green leather notebook to write it all down.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

Both are so good! I loved creating all the songs in the studio with my producer Serge Dusault. Playing around with a song and trying different things until it all finally comes together is magic. But so is performing in front of a live audience. I initially write all these songs to help me navigate through feelings and just life basically, but I don’t want it to end there. I want these songs to help and maybe comfort others as well! Hopefully, these songs will let people know they are not alone in whatever it is they are going through, and there is no better way to connect with an audience than performing live for them. To me, studio work and performing live have one thing in common: if you are doing it right, you lose the sense of space and time for a moment, and that’s when the magic happens.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

It was not so much a response to my music, but a response to my voice at a time when I really needed it. I was studying Jazz vocals at the Rotterdam Conservatory when I was 19 years old, and I felt very insecure at the time. About my voice and my capabilities. Because of all the studying and the pressure, I had lost my joy in singing and it even changed my tone. Then one day, we had a masterclass by American singer Renée Neufville (who worked with the RH Factor, Roy Hargrove) and all the vocal students had to perform a song in front of her: In A Sentimental Mood. I sang, and for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed it. Afterwards, her feedback was that I sounded just like a Merlot, she thought my voice was so warm, deep and round. That gave me back my confidence, and years later I decided to use Merlot as my stage name.

If you could put together a radio show, what kind of music would you play?

Anything that moves me! It would be a lot of different genres, like Classical music, some soul and Neo-soul, Pop and Jazz and definitely some RnB.

Name five artists and their albums who would appear on your radio show

Nina Simone – ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’

Yebba – ‘Dawn’

Amy Winehouse – ‘Frank’ 

Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’ 

Lizz Wright – ‘Salt’

What would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you?

If I could just spend my days creating music in the studio and making albums and playing it live on tour to connect with people that would make me very happy. As long as I love what I create, and there are people out there who resonate with it and get something out of listening to it, that is a huge success to me. Also, I would love to play through Europe, and it would be wild to play in the States and Asia for example. Of course, I want to reach as many people as possible!

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May 9, 2023 Interview with Faroese songstress Marianna Winter

Interview with Faroese songstress Marianna Winter

Image credit: Dania O. Tausen

In search of fair treatment, Faroese songstress Marianna Winter says that women deserve to be heard, speaking through her latest song, ‘Consequences’. The song is a tactful approach to protest, delivering the message with grace. That isn’t to say it lacks fire. Rather, it sizzles with the heat of Marianna Winter’s clear voice and strong desire for equality.

Stream / Download: Marianna Winter – ‘Consequences’

What’s more, the singer has published an official music video for the track, which bolsters her message, acting as fuel to the social justice flame therein. But in a fun, light way. Wondering where this all came from, we asked Marianna Winter for the song’s backstory:

What is the story behind ‘Consequences’?

Long story short, the story portrays two women, acting like boys. 

We chose to reenact different iconic scenes from movies made by Quentin Tarantino, because of a love for his work, but also because the weird, surreal movie scenes portray our reality quite well.

Here goes the long backstory:

Trygvi, the director, and I were brainstorming on how we wanted to portray the song. Initially, I had imagined a couple, maybe a crazy girlfriend thing. But then we dove a little deeper into the feelings of betrayal, mistrust, and craziness that the song is built on and got to talking about a situation that had occurred a week earlier where I and some other female musicians had put together a girls-only jazz jam because the Faroe Islands is still very far behind on gender inclusivity in the music environment. Most professional musicians are male, and there are almost never any female instrumentalists at the late-night jams. Our girls’ jam struck a chord in a lot of men in the music environment, and it got a lot of weird pushback. We got to talking about how annoying it is to feel less than, as a woman in the music industry, and how I always feel like some men are just waiting for the opportunity to push us down and will call us whiney for pointing out the inequality.

So we decided we would stick it to the guys and give the song and music video an extra layer by making the narrative more about mistrust and inequality in general instead of “just” in a relationship.

What is your worst musical pet peeve?

When I’m at a concert and the musicians or singers have lyrics and notes on stage… I get feeling scared or nervous that you’ll forget the lyrics or something, but I would honestly rather hear someone sing “lalala” and be present rather than the right words.

What are some of your earliest memories of music?

The first time I remember being at a concert and having this screaming feeling of “I WANT TO BE UP ON THAT STAGE” was at a Britney Spears concert in 2009 at the age of 9.

Before that, there was a lot of singing and performing in front of my family, with my pink plastic karaoke machine. Music was a big part of my growing up. One of my family members is in a world-famous rock band and I remember how cool it was to be backstage at huge venues in the US and seeing them work. Music is also a big part of the Faroese culture, where I did most of my growing up. Basically everyone in our country CAN sing, because it’s a big part of our traditions, and it’s something we always end up doing at parties and cultural events.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

I like to start a songwriting session off with a vibe check. Like choosing if it’s a feel-good vibe, sad vibe, sexy vibe, etc.

When going into a session, I usually always have a handful of ideas. I have a million short and stupid-sounding voice memos and notes on my phone. Then I’ll choose, together with my producer, which Idea we both relate to and want to pursue.

Sometimes the idea will be a whole chorus, verse, sometimes just a singular lines, or just a melody. From there on, it’s all about the flow. I like to work with a producer because I find it’s way easier to write melodies and lyrics when I have an underlying vibe going on and never better if it sounds amazing.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

That’s a TOUGH one… I LOVE studio work and music creation because it’s always a surprise which way it goes, and I feel so much lighter after a session.

That being said, performing is also such a huge explosion of energy, love and connection, which leaves me all jittery after. The problem is, as much as I love performing I tend to get really nervous, which obviously is uncomfortable for a while until you feel safe and secure on stage. For me, it takes a couple of songs to feel at place, but when I do it’s all good.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

A very young little girl telling me after a concert that I was such a good singer that she was now going to go home and practice so she could sing just like me.

If you could put together a radio show, what kind of music would you play?

So much different music. It wouldn’t even make sense. We’d go through Pop, Indie Rock, Jazz, Americana, R&B, and Soul.

Name five artists and their albums who would appear on your radio show

Mahalia (Love and Compromise), Chet Baker (Chet Baker Sings), Lennon Stella (Three. Two. One.), Beharie (Beharie, the third), America (Homecoming).

What would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you?

It looks like performing in front of people, playing concerts around the world, and people showing up. This would also initially lead to living off of music exclusively and not having it be a stress factor.

One last thought to leave your fans with?

Go with your gut, not what other people think is cool.

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April 28, 2023 Interview with artistic musician AISTÈ

Interview with artistic musician AISTÈ

Image credit: Kipras Varaneckas

Songstress AISTÈ has released the first single from her forthcoming album entitled The Theory of Everything. Originating from the Baltics, she is currently living in the UK where she is currently working to make a name for herself. Signed to Saphira Record Label, she is making progress toward this end, having received press support from the likes of Underground England and Atwood Magazine. Her new single, ‘What’s Going On’, sees her continue this effort. But that is not all. She has also…well, you will have to read the interview to find out more.

Stream / Download: AISTÈ – ‘What’s Going On’

If you had to describe your latest song with a single word, what would it be?

The Trip.

What was running through your mind while you were writing ‘What’s Going On’?

Great question! I clearly remember the day when the whole album was written. ‘What’s Going On’ was written in the early afternoon. As I recall, while writing, I had a strong urge to ask and seek the universal truth – the truth that guides you through life. Later on, while listening to the initial demo, I realised that I was inspired by the idea of taking control of my own life and not waiting for someone else to make decisions for me. This song seeks to find an answer to the question: “Who am I?”

What are some of your earliest memories of music?

When I think back to my earliest memories of music, my great-grandfather immediately comes to mind. He was a talented opera composer and folk musician, and live music was always present in his home. As a child, I was captivated by his passion for music and would spend hours listening to him play and compose. I remember the joy he brought to others when he performed, and it left a lasting impression on me.

While my childhood favorites were Britney Spears, I quickly found myself drawn to the retro soul genre as I grew older. The smooth, soulful melodies and groovy basslines felt familiar and comforting to me, reminding me of the music I grew up with. It was so natural that I began writing my own songs, infusing them with the vintage sound that captured my heart.

Now, as an up-and-coming retro-soul artist, I strive to channel that same magic that first captivated me as a child. I want to transport listeners to a different time and place, evoking the same feelings of joy, nostalgia, and serenity that I experienced when listening to my great-grandfather.

My great-grandfather’s love of music has shaped my journey as an artist in countless ways. His passion for joyful music instilled in me a deep appreciation for the art form and a desire to share that magic with others. I am grateful for his influence on my life and my music, and I hope to honor his legacy through my work.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

How this album was written was it all came together at the same time. There was a feeling in the air, and the music was so overwhelmingly beautiful and entrancing. On that sunny day, all we did was follow the sound, but that’s how we got the structure. The rest of it was professionally recorded later, and I also took my time to write the lyrics. I had to feel them out. I didn’t try to be poetic or come up with intelligent innuendos. I felt them out. Simple human stuff. That’s what we’re best at.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

As an artist, I find value in both studio work and performing live in front of an audience. Each presents its own unique set of challenges and rewards.

When I’m in the studio, I have the luxury of being able to experiment with different sounds, instruments, and production techniques without any external pressure. I can take the time to carefully craft each note and lyric until it’s exactly as I envision it. This creative process can be incredibly satisfying, and I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with bringing a new song to life.

On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like the energy and connection that comes from performing in front of a live audience. The thrill of hearing a crowd singing along to my lyrics or seeing them dance to the beat of the music is an incredible feeling. It’s a reminder that my music has the power to bring people together and create a shared experience.

Additionally, performing live offers me the opportunity to connect with my fans on a personal level. I love hearing their stories and how my music has impacted their lives. It’s a humbling experience that reminds me of the importance of creating music that speaks to people’s hearts and souls.

Overall, I believe that both studio work and performing live are essential components of the music creation process. Each offers a unique experience that contributes to the growth and development of an artist. While I enjoy the creative process of studio work, there’s nothing quite like the energy and connection that comes from performing live. Ultimately, both allow me to express myself in different ways and connect with my audience in a meaningful way.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

When I think about the most memorable response I’ve had to my music, the day my album was written immediately comes to mind. It was a day filled with creativity, inspiration, and a sense of freedom that I had never experienced before. I remember feeling completely in the moment, lost in the music and the emotions it was evoking. It was a day of pure joy and happiness, and I knew that the music I was creating was special.

If you could put together a radio show, what kind of music would you play?

That’s a great question! Actually, I have my podcast on Patreon called ‘Just Enough.’ At the moment, I’m only playing my own tracks on the show, as they perfectly suit the spiritual, meaningful, and joyful themes that I’m discussing in each episode. However, my personal playlist is full of hidden gems from various genres and artists. I don’t have a specific preference for any particular genre or artist, I simply enjoy music that radiates truth and authenticity.

Name five artists and their albums who would appear on your radio show

It would depend on the theme of the show, but there are five albums that you can’t go wrong with:

  1. Rotary Connection – Self-titled 1968 album
  2. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  3. Dusty Springfield – Definitely Dusty
  4. Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace 1972 live album
  5. Kanye West – Graduation

What would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you?

Helping people to become the best version of themselves.

One last thought to leave your fans with?

My favourite words by Matthew McConaughey ‘If you’re high enough, the sun is always shining.”

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