Don’t think there’s much going on in St. Joseph’s music scene? These local musicians might want to have a few words with you.
Each of these talented artists has released, or will soon, a new album, EP or mixtape. From the acoustic folk of Simon Fink and Austin and Dansare Marks to the cross-genre rock of Matthew Coman and the heavy beats of Bryan May, each is deeply passionate about the music they create.
None of them would mind in the least if you took an hour or so to take a listen.
“August” by Still Lost Bird Music
Still Lost Bird Music is the project of St. Joseph transplant Simon Fink, who moved to the area two and a half years ago after completing a doctorate in music composition at the University of Chicago.
Released on Aug. 23, the self-produced “August” marks Fink’s second album under the Still Lost Bird moniker. And, he explains, the album’s name and when it was released were no coincidence.
“There’s a certain feeling at the very end of August that you sometimes get,” Fink says of the theme he explores in “August,” relationships and the transition of one season of life to the next.
For “August,” this theme takes form as a collection of 13 love songs in Fink’s folk rock stylings.
The tracks aren’t just any love songs, but a library of famous poems, most of them from the beginning of the 20th century or earlier.
Fink borrows the lyrics of classical poems, including Sara Teasdale’s “The Storm,” “Nightfall” and “At Night,” Ezra Pound’s “Francesca” and “Song,” Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “August” and, reaching all the way back to the early 16th century, William Dunbar’s “Lament for the Makers.”
It’s a technique taken from classical composers who have done it for centuries.
“I thought it would work really well to do it in a rock album,” he says.
Musically, folk and Americana fans will hear hints of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and early pop and rock ’n’ roll. Fink’s “August” has a fresh, modern sound that, at the same time, retains a traditional folk quality.
And, it seems as though every note serves a purpose. Nothing feels out of place as Fink displays his technical mastery of a number of instruments, including the guitar, banjo and mandolin.
What’s more, the notes themselves begin to evoke the feeling of a new season setting in.
“It’s hard to pin down, like, ‘How does the end of August sound?’ But I feel that music can evoke a time of the year that way,” Fink says. “... There’s sort of a natural folky Americana feel to the songs that to me feels like being outside around this time of year.”
“August” features some guest appearances as well, including an impressive harmonica solo played by St. Joseph’s Pedro Squella in Fink’s take on the late 19th century poem “A Garden by the Sea” by William Morris.
Visit stilllostbirdmusic.bandcamp.com, iTunes or Amazon to purchase “August.”
“The Woe Dies” by Eyelit
If you’re going to force comparisons, St. Joseph singer/songwriters Austin and Dansare Marks — the husband and wife duo that forms Eyelit — say Bon Iver, Iron & Wine and Bob Dylan are the three groups people most often say they sound like.
They’ll take that compliment any day.
“I’m not as good as Bob Dylan, but we kind of have a similar sound to that. Dansare has a prettier voice than him, too,” Austin laughs.
Eyelit currently is wrapping up work on its second self-produced EP, “The Woe Dies.” Though there’s not yet a firm release date — they’re sending off the EP’s 12 tracks to be mastered before printing up the copies — Austin promises it will be available soon.
Most of the songs on “The Woe Dies” started from the bare framework of Austin and his acoustic guitar. Dansare would sing some layered vocal harmonies, sometimes taking the lead on songs like “In Shade” and “Rolling Road.” But it was the violin parts, played by Austin’s sister-in-law, that pushed Eyelit’s acoustic folk style in a new direction.
“After that, it kind of just created this whole new sound, so then I started throwing in mandolin, banjo, bass, some percussion,” Austin says.
The project soon took on a life of its own, consuming the better portion of a year, with Austin constantly writing new parts, recording, re-recording and mixing the tracks until he found the right sound.
“With this album, I actually dedicated huge amounts of time to make it sound how I wanted it to sound,” he says.
That, Austin says, is in contrast to their first release, “The Elephant EP,” which he describes as rushed. Primarily guitar and piano-driven, “The Elephant EP” also had a slower, more downtrodden feel than “The Woe Dies.”
“We have some more upbeat songs as well, but we generally just focus on pretty melodies and pretty lyrics,” Austin says.
Check out Eyelit, as well as tracks and videos from both EPs, at www.facebook.com/eyelitband.
“Carpe Noctem” by Matthew Coman
Just as “carpe noctem” turns around the well-known Latin phrase “carpe diem,” Matthew Coman’s solo material turns around the style of music he plays as a member of St. Joseph band The Woodpile.
Where The Woodpile is rootsy and unplugged, Coman’s solo album “Carpe Noctem” — Latin for “seize the night” — is often louder and more experimental, even if it does count a number of folky, country-twinged tunes among its 20 tracks.
As Coman puts it, his solo material is an outlet for the wide variety of styles he writes in.
“Even if its anywhere from country to heavy metal, there’s usually something in there that, if you’ve got a pretty open mind, you can find something you can appreciate,” Coman says.
And it’s all on “Carpe Noctem.” From experimental rock songs “Where 2 is 4” and “Dinner with Dionysus” to acoustic tracks like “Ballad of a Cynic,” listeners can hear the influences of Neil Young, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Tool, The Vines and ’90s grunge rock.
“I love so many different kinds of music that I’ll get inspired by just about anything,” Coman says.
Until Coman puts together a band to play his material — something he says he plans to do in the near future — music fans will have to be content with a free download of “Carpe Noctem” available at matthewcoman.bandcamp.com.
On top of that, The Woodpile often performs versions of Coman’s solo material, even if it’s in a different style than he wrote the songs.
“They don’t sound necessarily exactly the way they do on the record,” he says, “but it’s still interesting to hear a different take on the song.”
"Joe City Vol. 2: Crownholder” by MayB
MayB is the stage name of St. Joseph rapper Bryan May, and his new mixtape “Joe City Vol. 2: Crownholder” is his announcement that it’s time for rap and hip-hop fans to pay attention.
“With this one I’m pretty much saying I’m the best without stepping on toes,” May says. “If I’m not the king, I’m the one holding the crown.”
He doesn’t mean it as a put down of what anyone else out there is doing. Rather, May says he believes that much in his own abilities and will work tirelessly to be the best.
But May hasn’t always been that confident. He tried his hand at rapping for the first time about five or six years ago, he says, but initially didn’t enjoy it much. So he stopped, but May was surprised to discover that he missed doing it.
“Once I missed it, I started working harder at it and I got a lot better. ... I had more confidence to do it,” May says.
Recorded in local producer Ivan Martinez’s home studio, May says the “Crownholder” mixtape is the kind of music “you want to put in your car and play as loud as possible.”
May’s rhymes are also very lyrical, marked by the quick delivery, clever punch lines and up-tempo beats of tracks like “Goin’ Ham,” the first he’s released from “Crownholder.”
May says he wanted to make music that people can relate to, and he spent over a year working on the mixtape so that it would be exactly what he had in mind.
“I’m a perfectionist to the fullest,” he says.
May’s releases can be heard on the YouTube channel he’s created to promote his music (bryanmayb).
Kevin Krauskopf can be reached at email@example.com.
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