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On their eagerly awaited debut album Samsara, the visionary Austin, TX combo Los Coast delivers a fresh blast of punchy psychedelic-pop-soul that effortlessly incorporates a wide range of genres. The band's seamlessly soulful songcraft incorporates the band's distinctive grooves along with the inventive compositions and commanding vocals of principal members Trey Privott (lead vocals, guitar) and John Courtney (guitar, keyboards, vocals).
Even before Samsara had been recorded, Los Coast had already earned a reputation as one of Austin’s most exciting and inventive young bands. With its lineup rounded out by Megan Hartman on bass, Damien Llanes on drums and Natalie Wright on keys, plus a varied assortment of guest players, Los Coast was already renowned for its rousing, expansive live sets.
That same mix of energy and expertise is reflected on Samsara, which features such memorable, no-nonsense tunes as "Simplify," "Monsters," "Graves" and the frantic, tongue-twisting "(Everything But) The Kitchen Sink." The album delivers infectious hooks, ironic lyrical twists and explosive funk grooves in equal measure, providing an irresistible frame for Privott's soulful vocals and the band's explosive grooves.
"We love pop music, but we also love to experiment," says Courtney. "We try to avoid letting the listener know what's coming, and we like playing with people's expectations and catching the listener off guard. It becomes stale if it's too familiar, so we like to come up with music that's familiar and surprising at the same time."
"We're lucky to be able to explore these different sounds and different attitudes, and do a little dabbling," adds Privott. "We started with a blank canvas, and we built a diverse color palette around the album that we wanted to create. It felt like everything was fair game, from psychedelic funk to the blues to acoustic singer-songwriter pop."
"I think this album captures a moment in time for the band, and a moment of time in Austin too, with certain things that were in the air at the time, and certain tides turning," Courtney offers.
Georgia-born Privott's first love was jazz—thanks to the influence of his uncle, noted guitarist and former Late Night with David Letterman band member Hiram Bullock—but his musical consciousness soon came to embrace gospel and soul, thanks to his family's Southern Baptist faith, as well as punk rock, folk and hip-hop. He began picking up various instruments in his early teens, and began experimenting with recording soon after. Although Texas native Courtney focuses on lead guitar with Los Coast, he's a versatile multi-instrumentalist whose sensibility was influenced by his extensive studies at the prestigious Berkley College of Music.
"I see us as a rock and roll band with a lot of soul influences, like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding," Privott states. "Otis was from Georgia, Little Richard, too, and that music is in my blood. What I think makes Los Coast stand out is that we’re psychedelic. As a guitar player, John Courtney is into guys like Jerry Garcia and he’s also jazz-trained. His playing defines the band just as much as my voice does."
Trey and John hooked up in Austin in 2015, and quickly won an audience in their adopted hometown, thanks to a long-running weekly residency at the Austin club C-Boy's. "We had wanted to use the residency as a chance to get comfortable onstage, and to really learn to play as a group," Trey explains. "But more and more people started showing up, which we hadn't expected at all."
A high-profile gig at 2016's Austin City Limits festival helped to spread the band's reputation beyond its hometown, as did some out-of-town touring that helped to build demand for Los Coast's long-simmering debut album, elevating the group to official buzz-band status. The band's memorable first indie single, "Summer Samaritan," gave way to the indelible gospel-funk of its followup "Simplify," which now serves as a key track on Samsara.
"We reworked the album multiple times because we wanted to get it right," Courtney admits. "We were being a little perfectionist, but we finally got to the point where we felt good about it. It was a long process, but it was time well spent."
"We built the sessions from the ground up," adds Privott. "It was kind of a non-traditional way to make an album, to work on it for so long. We went moment by moment, instrument by instrument, and we used everything we had to work with. That seemed to work for us. Now we're looking forward to sharing it with the world."
"Gonna hang on a little bit longer, sleep well, work a little harder; put my faith in something I can't see," sings Lilly Hiatt on the title track of her third LP, Trinity Lane. It's a set of honest words from an album of personal truths; a collection of songs that take stock of where she's been, where she's going and the challenges she's weathered to get there. Produced by Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope, Trinity Lane is indeed about hanging on, working hard and keeping the faith, centered on songwriting that melds the observational with the confessional and never tries to follow any particular genre code – the guitar riffs are as Seattle as they are southern, the topics are modern as they are built on the past. East Nashville's Trinity Lane is where Hiatt lives, and Trinity Lane is a document of what lives inside her.
"There is a lot of hope in the album," says Hiatt about the follow-up to her sophomore LP, Royal Blue. "There is a lot of pain, but this album is a more mature response to that pain. It's taking responsibility for those emotions, and realizing what they are. A little brighter perspective. It took some time to get there."
Hiatt went through many toils to finally reach Trinity Lane: she overcame heartbreak, she conquered alcohol abuse, she lived with the heaviness of knowing she had surpassed the age her mother was when she took her own life when Hiatt was just a baby. It was after a particular breakup when she moved to an apartment off Trinity Lane in East Nashville, off the beaten path from the town's growing tourist draws – there, she started writing by herself, fresh off the road supporting John Moreland, mixing a sense of creative isolation with a newfound feeling of belonging in the idiosyncratic neighborhood.
"It's an A-frame with brown carpet," she says, describing that home off Trinity Lane. "It's really cheap to live in, and there are all kinds of people in my neighborhood. None of us seem to have a ton of money. My house is right by the woods, and I can stare out to the trees, which I love because I grew up on a farm. I just love me some trees."
It was there, amongst those trees, where the songs started to work as both diary entries, expositions and therapist sessions in one, helping her to explore and decode what exactly was going on inside her own mind. Once completed, she took them to Trent’s Studio Bees in Johns Island, SC, where he produced (his Shovels & Rope partner, Cary Ann Hearst, appears on a song) and Andy Dixon engineered, in a way that really hit at Hiatt's playful, rock-focused core. She brought her band along to South Carolina, where they not only preserved Hiatt's Americana roots but let her gritty influences shine – like an array of nineties grunge and post-punk bands like Dinosaur Jr., the Breeders and the Pixies. Somehow she's created a sound that exists within both those roots and rocking realms, firing along with ample sass and unbridled attitude.
"I like to rock out," says Hiatt. "Trent really brought that alive. I wasn't playing by the rules because I didn't and don't believe in them. "And what I really miss is the way we celebrated angry women in the nineties very openly and allowed them to express that side of themselves through their music. I think women should be allowed to be angry"
Trinity Lane isn’t all an expression of anger, but it is an emotional, honest confrontation of Hiatt's feelings and her past, like how she's processed her mother's suicide over the years. Hiatt lost her mom when she was just one year old and was raised by her father, John Hiatt, and his wife Nancy, struggling her whole childhood and adult life thus far with how to process that resentment and grief. And it's a chronicle of overcoming heartbreak and addiction: "Different, I Guess" is a slow folk ode to losing love, and "Imposter" is about the difficulties her father faced raising his daughter, and the sparks of her mother that still shine through.
"I've been thinking a lot about my dad and the strength it took him to keep me going and to bring me to Nashville," she says about "Imposter." "Just to keep us together and keep us going, that's always meant a lot to me. For a long time I felt pretty angry with my mother. But through maturation, I feel like I understand her more these days."
"She's never coming back, I think we both know that," sings Hiatt before cooing with her steady twang, "I count on you." It's an incredibly vulnerable and intimate family diary, but never at the expense of a rich and stirring melody perfectly in tune with the modern pulse of Americana. It's an offering of sonic salvation that Hiatt hopes will do as much for the listener as it has done for her own personal healing.
"It's really cool to be honest with yourself," she says. "When I have a clear head and a peaceful mind, that process of looking back at things is so much easier. It's a very empowering feeling. It has literally saved my soul, songwriting. I would not be here without that and without that outlet of writing."
The songs on Trinity Lane have even helped Hiatt process things like the death of David Bowie, which functions as a metaphor for a lost lover. On the heavily nineties-tinged "The Night David Bowie Died," she bids farewell to a relationship and to a musical genius while also evoking Veruca Salt-style vocals and guitars. It was a track written entirely in one stream-of-consciousness, where Hiatt didn't edit or write anything down – she just sang and played. "That was David Bowie's little gift to me," she says with a laugh.
Trinity Lane is full of gifts and full of guts – an album that is a healing process and a road map forward, filled with Hiatt's wildly expressive approach to songwriting and stark, honest lyrics. To get there, she finally had to put her faith into something she couldn't see. But to hear that journey, all you have to do is listen.
“Compact in some ways, yet expansive,” is how New Madrid's Phil McGill describes their new album. magnetkingmagnetqueen (Normaltown Records) takes a wide swath of influences ranging from the guitar tangle of Television and the tripped-out introspection of Yo La Tengo, to the angular experimentation of Can and the harmonic bath of Magical Mystery Tour; and combines them into something entirely unique.
magnetkingmagnetqueen has it all. The album reveals New Madrid’s evolution and collective growth, resulting in the band’s most complete work to date. “Don’t Hold Me Now” is like Pylon channeling the pre- Tommy Who. “Untitled III” is a pint-sized epic, with several movements in a three-minute window. On the other end is the dark, monolithic stomp of “Guay Lo” and the dirge-like march of “Shades.” Bringing it all together are centerpieces like “Summer Belles” and “Darker Parts,” songs with an undeniable pop sensibility that go through the looking glass and emerge as the sonic amoeba well known to fans of New Madrid’s live performances.
magnetkingmagnetqueen was made with engineer/producer David Barbe (Deerhunter, Drive-By Truckers, The Glands) in two primary locations. The group started out recording at Dogwood Lodge, the site of an unused summer camp on Lake Chickamauga in a large, open room with mobile recording gear over a week in the summer of 2015. More recording and mixing was done at Barbe’s Athens, GA studio, Chase Park Transduction with additional recording at New Madrid’s home base, The Barn.
New Madrid formed in the fall of 2010, and shortly after was approached by Barbe, who invited them to his studio to record their first full-length album, Yardboat. It happened fast. Inspired, they finished in three days.
Signing with Normaltown/New West Records, the band released their sophomore album, Sunswimmer in 2014. A live EP, Dawn Teeth Rattling, was released in 2015.
Since then the band has toured consistently across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. When not on the road, they live together in The Barn (a literal barn located in the agrarian outskirts of Athens) constantly working on new ideas.
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