Why diversity — especially gender diversity — in your local scene matters

Hi all!

We did a piece on the importance of diversity in the DIY music scene. It was featured by none other than The Bay Bridged! We are truly excited and grateful to be featured on a site that does so much to support the music scene in the Bay Area! Follow the link to give it a read!

We believe diversity isn’t just a good thing to aim for, it is necessary to the lifeblood of the DIY scene.

Source: Why diversity — especially gender diversity — in your local scene matters

Making Your Own Come Up: A Guide to Putting on DIY Shows

 

Summer is officially here, which means people all over the Bay Area are looking for ways to  enjoy themselves. Checking out a local music or comedy show is a great way to spend this special season. It is interesting living in San José at a time when so many creatives are putting on shows and events with the intent of helping the local scene thrive. And with people visiting or coming back for Summer break, your show can leave a lasting impression on an individual or the community. 

If you are reading this, you are probably hoping to put a somewhat professional show together. Putting on any show is tricky and an audience can tell the difference between a low-effort show and something truly unique that had some thought, sweat, and love behind it. With about 40 shows under our belts in less than 2 years, we figured we could provide some advice on how to put on your own DIY shows that probably won’t suck. 

1. Set A Date

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First thing is you want to have a small team of people, preferably people with experience in throwing parties, experience in art and design, who have a strong social network, and have good tastes in music. Then set up a date. You want to give yourself at least six weeks to plan out your first show and at least a month to announce it online and to friends. You want to pick a date that doesn’t compete with other events that will eclipse your show (graduations, bigger artists in town, local festivals, or that guy that everyone knows’ birthday party). 

We also recommend having no more than three to four acts for your first show and giving yourself a half hour between sets to space out your show, especially if your show will have bands. In short, your show should be scheduled to be about 4 hours with the expectation that it will run a half hour longer. Stacking too many artists will fatigue your audience and while it can get more people to show up, it makes logistics, set up, and timing a pain in the ass. If you want a super stacked show, have a strong team and some good acts line up. 

 

2. Find A Venue

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And of course, you have to choose a venue. Bars, warehouses, retail spaces, and breweries are open for a music show because it will bring people in on a slower day. A lot of retail spaces or bars have access to music equipment or they have the capital to invest in one. But using someone’s business as a venue means more restrictions on musical content and you have to run a tighter ship with set times in order to please the owners. A shop is more likely to say yes to you putting on a show in their brick-and-mortar if you will put on an event that will bring in a crowd on a slower night of the week. Unfortunately, most slow nights for a business do not land on the weekend, so choose wisely. 

Using a house as a venue tends to mean a looser structure. You don’t have to worry about a band being too hardcore or vulgar, you can charge tickets easier, and the show can progress into a party. That being said, people have to live in the house once your show is over. Just make sure that everyone involved with your show knows how to respect the space, no matter where it is. We know some fellas who were evicted after putting on a show that got out of hand. Just be smart and cautious. 

FY6A1107A photo from a basement show at the 363 House. It’s always a good idea to find a house with people who are invested in putting on events for the community.

3. Book Your Acts

What is a music show without music? Whether it is a rap show, indie rock, blues, EDM, bedroom pop, or Norwegian death metal, you want to have a lineup that excites people and gets them to dance or awkwardly nod their head off-rhythm. The Come Up tests the waters with the genres we will have on the lineup, but overall we will make sure the bands all have some common threads. Whether the acts are all jazz inspired, have indie rock feels, or even sets the same mood, you want to make sure that the crowd doesn’t get turned off by a complete change in musical style. 

There is a 70% chance that if you are reading this, you are a musician or in a band, and you will be part of the lineup. And nothing is wrong with that. But it is important to pick bands that are good, that are fairly reliable, and that will also have an investment in your show. We recommend going to local shows and meeting with bands after their sets or just browsing through Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Spotify to find some good local acts. It is always good to carry extra cables, amps, and equipment in case a band forgets something important. And it is always good to send out an email, dm, or text with all of the show details to every group performing and hold them to that load in and sound check time. If you have some money to pay them, this makes this process easier. 

AND HAVE THE NUMBER OF AT LEAST ONE ARTIST FROM EACH ACT IN CASE THERE IS AN EMERGENCY.

Make sure that you promote the show and band and be a good host wherever you have the show. Remember there is no show without these musicians taking the time out to put on a fun show, so be appreciative and accommodating. Who knows, they may make it big and say good things about you in Pitchfork. 

4. Create a Good Flier

 

 

 

 

With this step also comes the step of creating a name for your show. You can call the show whatever you like, but it’s always a good rule to never take your show title too seriously. You want something catchy and that rolls off the tongue. It’s never a bad idea to throw a pop culture reference or callout to a show  (see SanJoChella)

Once you get that taken care of, create an eye-catching flier. We recommend having one nice image that matches vibe of the show, up to two fonts max should be on the flier, and the text should not fill the page. 

Above are some great examples of eye catching fliers with clear information about the event. Once that flier is done, put them in the local cafes and hangout spots, make a Facebook event, and share it on your social media.

 

5. Set a Vibe

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So you have the date, the venue, the bands, the flier, and you are now promoting your show. Now you have to figure out what kind of atmosphere you want to create for your attendees. What is the stage going to look like? Does the venue look sketchy? What kind of lighting will you use? Will you have someone hosting the show? Is this show about getting hype or is it chill and intimate? Are you going to have party favors? Will there be Glow sticks? Beer? Weed? Pizza? All of these questions are about establishing a tone of the show. 

Setting a vibe is about making sure people feel comfortable and have a good time at your events. It also means ensuring your space is safe and inclusive to all. Besides just being a good thing to strive for, diverse groups bring in more people, which allows you access to more artists and show organizers. 

This all ties into creating a message behind your show (is it just a fun show, a party, or part of a bigger movement?). Remember when promoting the hell out of your show to try to articulate what the overall theme or atmosphere of the show will be. Posting on Instagram, Snapchat, and your Facebook event page is a good way to create hype alone.

And make sure you have a good time, but remember your first priority is sticking to your schedule, making sure everything sounds good, and your performers and audience are enjoying themselves. DIY shows are a lot of fun with the right people, proper plans, creative minds, and good attitude. Below is a video of one of our backyard shows last year, remember to take photos and document the great work you do. Have a fun Summer Everyone!

 

Planttvibes Wows with the Floral Sounds of “Nip it in the Bud”

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Julia Bozzo refers to her recording setup as “janky,” but the term seems to be applied lovingly. Equipped only with the Garageband App on her iPad and the built in microphone of her earbuds, Bozzo records songs as “Planttvibes” within the four walls of her bedroom. She is one of many young musicians taking the simple resources available to them, and defining the genre/aesthetic known as bedroom pop.

The term has picked up a certain connotation within the music world. Some would claim that “bedroom pop” props up shoddy production work on the basis of authenticity and vulnerability. I’m inclined to disagree. The genre has grown to its considerable place in music culture thanks to easily-accessible recording and publishing tools, but the best of the genre is defined by the depth of feeling some artists are able to elicit from their listeners. People respond to something that sounds as if it was made, not flawlessly, but intentionally, and with love.

Planttvibes is elevated above the crowded bedroom pop landscape thanks to Bozzo’s talents as a songwriter. Even in her earlier work, such as 2018’s A Summer in My Dreams EP, she demonstrates a level of poeticism and emotional honesty few would expect from an artist who is just now graduating from high school.

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The idea for Planttvibes’ latest work, the 8-song Nip it in the Bud, “came about gradually,” according to the artist, “[but] from the start, I knew I wanted something natural and ‘floral’ sounding.” Bozzo also set out to evolve from the “soft ukulele girl” sounds that formed her earlier releases, which meant more digital keyboards, lopped samples, “and a bit of guitar, which I suck at.” Humility aside, Nip it in the Bud does have a distinctly rougher edge than the serene, somewhat nostalgic Summer in My Dreams. The new album also features a collaboration with Coltan Fuller on the track “The Sight of You.” Fuller, a young guitar player from Canada and frequent collaborator, brought to Planttvibes’ project, “an awesome new sound which I had been looking for, but couldn’t create myself.”

Any discussion of Plattvibes would be remiss without taking a moment to highlight Bozzo’s voice. It is at once disarming and bewitching; moody one minute and soaring the next. On “I Wonder” her voices dances across the sparse production, wrapped in its own harmonic garments and interjected with slight, spoken asides that gives the impression of Planttvibes figuring the track out as it went along. And the all-too-brief but unforgettable “Maybe” is a nostalgia-filled stunner. Bozzo’s voice floats by, as if on a cloud above a brilliantly sunny day, while underneath there is a sharp thematic tug of longing.

“You don’t have to have to say yes to me if you don’t want to. I won’t take it hard, it’s happened to me before. You don’t have to say yes to me if you don’t want to. I’d understand, it’s not that big a deal to me.” 

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As the album closes with the eponymous “Nip it in the Bud”, Planttvibes strides out into the pleasant sounds of uncertainty. She’s conflicted about a feeling:

“It’s new to me, I can’t decide whether to nip it in the bud or let it grow.”

The song and album end with just three words, a very representative “I don’t know.” One thing, however is certain. If Nip it in the Bud is any indication, Planttvibes still has plenty of room to grow.

As for the future, Bozzo does not have the next musical project in mind. But she is always creating, as a visual artist and a dancer, because “Art, in every form, is a huge part of my life and what I’m most passionate about.” It stands to reason she may be a bit preoccupied by the transitional moment of starting college to dream up a new album, but Bozzo plans to keep at it. She is excited for the artistic endeavors to come, and noted that with a recording studio on campus, she may be able to upgrade from her “janky” setup.

Listen to Nip in in the Bud by Planttvibes via this link.

Socorra Shares Personal and Powerful Video for “Believe”

 

Local legend and friend of the Come Up Socorra released her newest single, “Believe” on February 8th. It’s an incredible song, and a powerful personal statement of optimism. We’re excited to be sharing the music video, which takes a documentary-style look at Socorra and her band in the studio, opening for Blues Traveller at Music in the Park, and performing at previous SoFA Street Fairs.

Socorra is one of the hardest working musicians in the San José scene, and the “Believe” beautifully encapsulates her tireless efforts. We’re so excited to see Socorra’s work paying off for her – check out the video above and see her opening for Fantastic Negrito on Saturday, March 9th. 

It All Started Here: 1 Year of The Come Up

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written by Riley McShane

The Come Up began, as you might expect, at a table outside Cafe Stritch. On Wednesday, October 18th 2017.

I didn’t know Isaiah Wilson that well, but I liked him. We met up and he told me about his idea for a show.

Just one show.

The thought sparked some excited chatter between us, and someone leaned over from the neighboring table. Without so much as introducing himself, he chimed, “what you guys are talking about…I like this. How are we gonna make this happen?”

We.

Leopoldo Macaya was in, without a note of hesitation.

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Above: the photo Leo took for his contact info in my phone, so that I, “could remember what he looked like.” Oct. 18, 2017.

I look back on that night, and it’s hard to describe it without a word like fateful, which feels grandiose. But if not for that moment of sheer coincidence, this whole thing may never have happened.

Certainly not the way it did.

We parted ways that night with a loose framework for our show, under the working title “Orange Sauce Fest.” And you’ll have to forgive us for that one, we were younger then.

Isaiah and I reconvened the following month to pitch an evolved version of the idea at Pitch Please?!, an event sponsored by Exhibition District at Local Color in Downtown San Jose. The purveyors of the best idea, as chosen by a panel of judges, would receive $1,000 to help make it a reality. Our pitch boiled down to a central mission: building a platform for artists in San José to perform, and to be seen.

IMG_0431Notes from the original pitch.

Pitch Please?! became the first of several instances in which a person, organization or business within the greater San Jose community heard the idea of The Come Up, and decided to take a chance on it.

With that $1,000 we had tangible evidence of someone else believing in the idea, and that was all the motivation we needed to turn our scrappy dream into something real.

At Uproar Brewing, The Come Up found its true and original homeland. Against a red-brick backdrop, and with a borrowed sound system we made our debut on Friday February 2nd, 2018. Four musicians, 3 comedians, and 2 bright-eyed, nervous hosts (myself and Isaiah).

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Above: Pictures from the debut. February 2nd, 2018.

The first show was a quiet, albeit significant success. It burgeoned into a monthly showcase of some of the best performers in the area, with the messy-yet-magnetic energy of something new, slowly figuring itself out. Uproar gave us the best start we could have asked for, and helped give The Come Up a visibility that allowed us to tackle new projects: a new performance series at SoFA Market, and the job of curating a stage at SoFA Street Fair. 

Meanwhile, we started to focus more on our visual identity. Guided by Leo’s talents with visual storytelling and incredible eye for capturing live performance, The Come Up began producing high-quality visual content on a regular basis, and cultivating a distinct brand.

 

Above: Some early work from Leo, our Creative Director.

During the first wisps of summer, Leo brought up the idea of a backyard show-slash-barbeque. Being the resident skeptic of the group, I resisted slightly. Anyone who has been in San José long enough knows the complications of trying to do anything as spontaneous and fun as a backyard concert. Oh, just wait til SJPD rolls up. Oh, just wait for those noise complaints, etc.

Fortunately, Isaiah subverted my doubts and introduced us to the good folks at 363.

Cue: someone taking a chance on us.

IMG_2101Above: building the scene at 363.

We had our backyard, but it needed work. Over the first two weeks of July, along with the residents of the house and a group of phenomenal collaborators, we completed the DIY music-scene equivalent of an Amish barn raising. A stage and deck were built. Lights were hung. The whole place was cleared out and prepped for a show.

The night prior, as Isaiah, Leo and I attempted to cook an unfathomable amount of Smart-and-Final ground turkey for tacos, a feeling of dread crept over me.

Are people really gonna show up to this thing?

They did.

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Above: Scenes from the Backyard. Captured by Leopoldo Macaya

The shows at 363 vaulted us into the next stage of The Come Up. Presented with an essentially blank canvas, and together with a community of brilliant and dedicated artists eagerly holding brushes, we painted a gritty and gorgeous portrait of what we’re about, and what is great about San José. We were able to create something simple and powerful: a place to hang out and enjoy music. To meet interesting and like-minded people. For me, 363 is a place to feel just a hint of childlike freedom, the infinite possibility that comes with playing in the backyard. 

FY6A7954.jpgAbove: Joy Hackett and Brandon Walters at the “SJW: San José Winnin” Show. Photo by Leopoldo Macaya.

Coming down the home stretch of 2018, we finally got a chance to catch our breath; to appreciate all that had happened and strategize for the months ahead. And most importantly, to take time and be self-critical. We realized our primary area for growth was inclusivity. Not only in being considerate of who we choose to present on stage, but also how we make ourselves more of an open platform. We, the founding members, have never striven for exclusivity. The Come Up is our baby, and we are overprotective parents. We still need to improve this regard, and it is a process we are very much looking forward to.

FY6A5293.jpgAbove: Kamiko performing at “Sound Scaping” at the San Jose Museum of Art

The start of 2019 has been electric. Sound Scaping, a partnership with SJMADE at the San Jose Museum of Art, was a success beyond what we could have hoped for. A deeply humbling milestone. And only this past week, The Younger Lovers gave an unforgettable performance at Cafe Stritch, right where it all started.

FY6A7789Brontez Purnell of The Younger Lovers. Photo by Leopoldo Macaya.

The founders of The Come Up are forever indebted to those who took a chance on us. This idea was born of a very complex love for San José, and the desire for a way to express it. It’s not always an easy city to pursue your passion in. But the brilliant creative-entrepreneurs who work at it, who see the potential instead of the obstacle, who hold up the light and help others find the way, are a miracle. We’re honored to be a part of this extraordinary time in our city.

There’s more work to be done. We are still on the come up, after all. 

FY6A8188.jpgLeft to right: Leopoldo “Jon Jon” Macaya, Isaiah Wilson, and Riley McShane. Co-Founders of The Come Up.

 

 

The Man Behind The Mulch: A Talk with SJ New-Comer Mitchell

written by Isaiah Wilson

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Mitchell greets me upstairs at Caffe Frascatti with two iced waters, which were much appreciated. Even though it was a cold rainy day, our interview was in the hot, stuffy upper floor of the cafe. He runs back downstairs to grab his hot tea. I recall this is where I first met Mitchell; it was an Open Mic Night at Frascatti and he was playing some acoustic tracks that sounded like a cross between Ty Segall and Bass Drum of Death unplugged. He seems very focused and in good spirits, he has been spending a lot time in the studio working on multiple projects.

When I gave a synopsis of Mitchell’s Canned Worms (Demo) EP for our Best of 2018 list, I noted that the EP sounded like a soundtrack for a night of drinking, skating, and debauchery. So there was a contrast between the conjured up alter-ego that is Mulch and the Mitchell Licata who sat across from me sipping tea and nibbling on a cookie.

Mitchell Licata, who was taken on the pseudonym Mulch, is a musician, songwriter, and graphic designer who currently resides in San Jose. While there are multiple musicians in San Jose creating r&b, hardcore punk, and hip-hop, Mitchell has been churning out garage rock projects, pushing a different sound in the South Bay. Last year, he began putting out slow, easy-going rock songs onto Soundcloud that garnered a decent amount of buzz. Mitchell preceded to drop a surprise EP, Canned Worms, a self-depreciating, aggressive, punk-rock influenced work about a young man dealing with unemployment and maybe a little bit of heartbreak.

Mitchell has touted this as his proper first release and it’s a solid punk project. Before Mulch and Canned Worms, He removed his first few demos off his Soundcloud to rework the songs and polish unintentional sharp edges.  After hearing some positive feedback from the local community, Mitchell felt he could do better as far as the mix was concerned, “There were a few things in the demo that I wasn’t pleased with,” Mitchell admits when deciding to release a studio version of his Canned Worms EP on multiple platforms. “And I feel like I could do [his songs] a little more justice as the first thing I show people.” Mitchell took Canned Worms and rerecorded it at The Cosmic Hippo, a music studio in San Francisco. He was grateful for the recording process. Not only did he receive great resources from a studio space, but he had a co-creator to help bounce ideas during the recording sessions, “It was great to get this wholesome experience of being in a space that I didn’t create myself.” Mitchell added.

Garage punk is the only justifiable name for Mitchell’s music because his first few demos were made in his garage, a makeshift studio and practice space at his house in the Washington-Guadalupe neighborhood in San Jose. “In my garage everything feels like it’s not finished,” Mitchell tells me. “Even if it’s a good mix. It’s just the nature of being in a garage.”  If I am going to remain honest, I am a sucker for unpolished music, especially if it has the rawness that Mitchell displays in his vocals. However, Mitchell has more ambitious views on his final product, “That’s only going to get you so far with limited resources. I can be resources for my friends [with his experience creating a studio project]”

Some of his friends are Swells and The Lunatics a brain child’s of SJ artist Austin Avilla’s, which is made up of  young talented such as John Lord on synths, Anthony Garcia on drums, Ryan Wall on guitar and Mitchell on bass. While Swells’ first projects seemed to be the sole creations of Austin’s, this future project appears to a comprised effort of the collected talents of the Lunatics. They also began working on a studio album in recent weeks. Swells and The Lunatics’ live performances are some of the best performances we have had for The Come Up shows, so we’re looking forward to their album.

The new mixing on Canned Worms improves the project, which was already solid in its demo form. The bass and drums are distinguishable, and the vocals are better mixed within the rest of the songs. The project’s harsh vocals, fuzzy guitar riffs, all complement the rage manifested and articulated in the project.

Mulch is a new moniker for Mitchell and it appears that it is a character meant to embody a more aggressive side of an otherwise chill artist. “I am a fucking slob, I need a fucking job” is the first lines on the EP and acts as the thesis of the project. Mulch feels like Mitchell in a manic frenzy- he is angry at his boss, the world, and himself- and it’s the energy you should expect over the next few songs. A notable refrain in the project describes himself as a worm “Crawling nowhere through the dirt“. Lyrics like this paint the imagery of Mitchell as one of many worms in the can, aimlessly meandering in soil trying to figure out his place.

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After some listens, you realize how well thought out the EP is. All four songs on Canned Worms were written in the span of a week, inspired by his frustrations at a sub-par job. Feeling under utilized and under appreciated, he channeled his grievances into this project. “It is a feeling of guilt and lack of self-worth” Mitchell says, describing the feeling of unemployment, now currently enjoying his career in graphic design. That nuanced anger is laced on the tracks, something that is beyond a typical tantrum song on a angst punk project. Mitchell seems to be the master of the imagery that can be heard in the lyrics, seen on the lyrics videos he released to complement the release, and on the EP cover art designed by Mitchell himself.  “I was feeling like I was crawling around that I wasn’t succeeding in the way I envisioned myself to do.” Mitchell tells him as he snacks away on a cookie. It’s hard to imagine an artist with this much focus had doubts of his self worth.

My favorite track Give/Take centers around the frustration with his employer. The song is about Mulch feeling like he was giving more than he was receiving with the relationship with his job. As suspected, Mitchell revealed the lyrics are partially inspired by romance. When it comes to the sources of the gritty record, Mitchell says the lines are blurred and up for interpretation. Discussing the song Alright, Mitchell claims  “It’s a push-and-pull where everyone wants to be in-between casual and series all time and that’s a little reflection on that [modern relationships].” Mitchell has the writing style of a story teller who can paint a picture with his musings. It will be fascinating to hear his future projects now that he is in a better place. But based on his previous demos and his overall demeanor, I dont believe he will have to rely heavily on raw rage.

Mitchell’s musical influences include The Growlers, Neil Young, Fuzz, and Ty Segall, artists known to make unique sound while still being nuanced and introspective in their songwriting. Mitchell has spent the past few years searching for a grunge, surf rock sound that mirrored his influences. This led him to explore different genres and places to draw inspiration. Honing in on that sound required Mitchell to listen to work that captured the raw emotion reflected in Canned Worms, such as Minor Threat and The Dead Kennedys. It is that punk-inspired animosity combined with Mitchell’s garage rock swagger that make Canned Worms a unique fun ride for hipsters and Punks alike.

And on a sonic level, Mitchell describes his sound on the EP as “kind of dirty and in the mud.” And it contrasts greatly from his garage rock sound that can be heard on his demos and live performances. There is a through line in Canned Worms’ narrative structure, beyond imagery and sound, that works well in a four song project. That through line is the character of Mulch himself.  Mulch’s Canned Worms is a relatable story that describes a common phase in a young person’s life; you are down on your luck, your romantic life sucks, and you have an axe to grind. Hearing the re-recording process and polishing of a short hard rock record paints a picture of the man behind the Mulch. A matured, thoughtful artist who is meticulous and intentional with his work. It’s digestible enough where it deserves multiple listens.

And this is only the start of Mitchell’s plans for this year. “I want to start establishing shows around here,” Mitchell asserts. He even has a small team to push his new EP with the hopes of securing shows, hopefully Burger Records, a Fullerton-based record label that has established a sound that has been an influence on Mitchell’s sound. “We think that community [Burger Records music community] would really accept and welcome the music… As far as other projects go, I’m already working on another EP, which I plan to release before Summer, and then hopefully a full length by the end of the year. I’m making a list and I have a lot of content I want to share with everybody.” After three years of writing and composing, Mitchell is relieved to have a project he can stand behind. Canned Worms was a genuine push for Mitchell to put something out and he seems impassioned on continuing the forward momentum.

Mitchell’s inspiration for the character Mulch provides insight on Mitchell’s likely trajectory, “The definition of Mulch is a protective layer that allows the nutrients to do there job underneath so it allows it to grow,” he says, “and that took on a different meaning because now I have something on which to build.” Mitchell feels confident that his foundation is laid out and the only move next is growth.

Canned Worms is now available on all platforms.

Best SJ Releases of 2018

 

 

 

written by Isaiah Wilson

edited by Riley McShane

San Jose has had an astounding year of local music, shows, and performances. There are several artists to list- some of which will have their own spotlight pieces in future Come Up wrtie-ups. For now, the following makes up the most original music to come out this year and the songs, EP’s, and albums I found myself listening to over and over again this year.

SWELLS

Bedroom Tapes EP

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The creative love child of singer and multi-musician Austin Avila, Swells is the coalescing of modern lofi hip hop and the current shape of the indie sound brought on by genre heavy-hitters Connan Mockasin, King Krule and Ariel Pink. Swells’ take on indie pop is a dreamy project that has the feeling of a sultry indie pop song on a worn cassette tape. The guitar is sexy and coaxes the track with reverb that is akin to surf rock, and his breathy ethereal vocals mesh well with the hip hop grooves brought on my the drums and bass. The live variation of Austin’s solo project, Swells and The Lunatics, comprises of several great solo acts and takes the down-tempo of Swells’ solo work and adds a surf-rock-meets-rockabilly excitement to it. I have had the pleasure of seeing the talents of Swells first hand and I have no idea what his next project is going the sound like. And that is the excitement of it.

 

Dreamawake

For production “You Ain’t Loyal” , “Highs & Lows”, and “Rage”

 

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In the shifting landscape of modern hip-hop, there is a revitalization of the importance of the producer within the genre. Acts such as Zaythoven, 40, Metro Boomin, and Knxwledge are becoming household names, even releasing commercial and critically successful projects themselves such as Not All Heroes Wear Capes and NxWorries. Because of this dynamic shift in the genre, and the greater accessibility of music producing software and midis, producers are attempting to distinguish themselves from the other beatmakers by their unique style and the artists they choose to collaborate with. Dreamawake has stood out among the South Bay producers by being the mastermind behind some of best local releases of the year. He excels in creating slick production, instrumentation, and samples, for an array of rappers and performers from Young Tsukune, Kylah Symone, Dima, and more. Dreamawake’s mastery is his ability to make content that is dark and emotionally potent, and collaborating with artists who bring his production to life. 

Young Tsukune

“Hollow” and “Weed & Shorty” Singles

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A tricky aspect of looking at the SJ music scene is recognizing the artist’s performing are still in the early phases of their musical creation. As a result, a lot of artist’s influences are apparent to point that is distracting.Young Tsukune has crafted his own sound that cannot be found anywhere else, not to say you cannot hear contemporary acts that influence him, but he has made his sound uniquely his. His singing voice is incredible, but his years developing his rapping abilities has created a synthesis of triplet style rapping with a r&b. Tsukune’s choices of instrumentals, use of autotune, are deliberate, because he has a self-awareness of his sound and how to best utilize. “Weed and Shorty” “For The Love” are examples of his diverse sound. Tsukune has the kind of voice and vocal range and control that some of the most successful hip hop artists in the game do not possess and it’s why in every conversation about the SJ music scene, Tsukune is brought up. His music is melancholy usually discussing love, struggling to become a success, and the growing pains of adulthood. Even his more bubbly lofi instrumentals cannot mask a deeper longing that is present in a lot of his tracks. 

 

Mild Monk

Kindness and Here’s To You singles

 

 

 

 

Mild Monk’s “Kindness” and “Here’s To You” is fairly stripped down from his typical layered, quirky bedroom-pop influenced production. Mild Monk offers laidback textures akin to Homeshake, while embodying a fun-loving indie rock sound that’s part Mac DeMarco, part George Harrison. Monk isn’t tied to any particular sound, providing a smorgasbord of sonic diversity from adding synths, acoustic guitars, trumpets, all over his whimsical vocals. A peak inside his downtown studio apartments reveals a music studio set up with keyboards, drums, guitars, bass, and software to satisfy his appetite for experimenting sounds. He seems primarily focused on creating music, taking down his social media presence, and utilizing Funnybone Records to promote his releases.

 

“Kindness” and “Here’s To You” act as two halves of the same creative coin. They both sound like a moment of creative clarity, Monk’s choice using more subtle synths and allowing the guitar and a sparse drum and bass that feels like demo from The White Album. The songs are full of gratitude, the beauty of existence, and a choice to pursue a greater self. It feels like when your face catches a moment of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy winter day. These tracks are a fascinating indicator of where Mild Monk is headed; be sure to watch for the sunlight when it arrives. 

 

Natasha Sandworms

Single Celled

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Natasha Sandworms’ Single-Celled is a proper first album from the local indie rock artist: like a coming-of-age project themed around isolation, self-reflection, love, and loss. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lyrics and concepts that made up Single-Celled have been written over the course of years. The guitars are droning and melancholy on the majority of the album, only occasionally opening the door to more bedroom pop sensibilities. Natasha’s writing, singing, and guitar talents are on full display, but also her restraints; she allows the guitars to carry the songs at points to establish a tone, sometimes using her voice sparingly but effectively such in tracks like “Talent Show”. The aggressive self-deprecating track “My Partner” is the standout track: a raw lamentation of a broken romance carried through harsh vocals and a acoustic guitar. It’s the one moment where she does not pull a punch and it works. The closing track “Single-Celled” which feels most like the album’s lead single is a beautiful finale to a project that feels like Natasha’s story.

 

This may be my favorite local project of the year. It was released in July and it feels like something you listen to in the quiets moment of the Summer. I am glad we were able to catch up with Natasha so far, I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from her. 

 

Dima

Highs and Lows single

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Dima’s music occupies two worlds; in her live performances, she plays with a full band where she hones in a r&b, neo-soul sound. The second world Dima occupies is where her studio work mirrors a contemporary pop that covers the ground of modern r&b and hip-hop. Her live performances, discography, and circle of artists she chooses to collaborate with, prompted The Come Up to book her for a show and interview her. From “Coffee” to “Sick and Tired” she carries a unique vocal style and confidence behind her style, even in tracks that showcase her insecurities. However, it is her Dreamawake produced track “Highs and Lows” that is a high for her and SJ music. It indicates a more mature tone, combining lyrics of a distant lover, dark moody well mixed production, and utilizing autotone and pitched vocals to add another a layer to the final product. It is composed with sonic highs and lows, which complements the content of the song itself. I do not think Dima is going develop ‘one’ distinct sound. The through line for Dima’s sonically diverse output is Dima herself. 

 

Mitchell

Canned Worms EP

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A succession of hard rock demos from SJ based artist Mitchell caught our attention this year with a indie rock sound with an almost California rockabilly swagger to it. Then Mitchell surprised folks with his Canned Worms EP, an fitting title of his condensed four song project with aggressive chords, straightforward lyricism as unchained as early Fidlar. Canned Worms is short, sweet, aggressive fun that makes you want to skate through back alleys downing tallboys with your homies. Mitchell channels the spirit of a lot of talented contemporaries- The Growlers, Wavves, with a smattering of The Descendants and Cherry Glazerr. This revival of a skate punk sound comes from an artist who has concentrated all of his various talents into a cohesive project. Alongside Austin Avila in Swells and the Lunatics, the two acts on this list create a whole unique sound of their own. Mitchell is poised to be a significant presence in the SJ music scene, and we’re excited to see where he goes after such a big year. 

 

Normtronics

6 Months of Grind

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I am not sure if any artist can compete with Normtronic’s output this year. Releasing about 160 songs this year alone, the New Jersey born artist creates immersive beats that blend together elements of house music, jazz, and new age lofi that follows the veins of fellow New Jersian producer Knxwledge. While a lot of beat tapes nowadays can feel a bit stale, confined by formulaic techniques meant to create a rhythm to study-slash-chill to, Normtronics demands attention by melding synths, smooth bass lines, unique and hard-hitting drum patterns, and samples that move him into the realm of of DJ Shadow or RJD2 or as far as complexity and execution is concerned. Currently residing in Oakland, he has pulled in influences from several genres of music, making his work a sonic kaleidoscope of sounds that have no business melding together . All of his tapes are worth listening to, but a standout for me is 6 Months of Grind, a compilation of 6 months of work over this past year. The tape provides the listener a look into how much heart and work ethic is molded into a cohesive project. 6 Months of Grind is a modest title, years of musical training, studying, beat making, and appreciation for several genres make this project. I’m assuming Normtronics will be on to bigger and bolder works come 2019. Favorite tracks: “Experiment 3” and “Can’t.Take.It.Anymore[Love Ain’t Coming]”.  

 

Knowmadic

Hydrangea

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Any self-proclaimed lover of lofi hip hop who has not come across the work of SJ based artist Knowmadic needs to stop what they are doing and queue it up this second. Providing his instrumentals for various labels, being part of countless instrumental and lofi playlists, and contribution to compilations such as acclaimed behemoth beat tapes BLESS Vol 1. and Vol 2., Knowmadic has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent beat makers in the game right now. A standout project for me was Hydrangea, a beat tape that is textured with low pitched kicks and snares, samples that are dreamy with a vinyl analog touch, and basslines that balance all of the parts that make up each track. Hydrangea feels vintage with the care and attention to detail and overall originality propel this tape from the saturated “lofi” genre. It is a treat to hear the tape in its entirety. 

Honorable Mentions:

These are great notable works that are worth your time and attention. Who knows, some might end up being a piece later.

Reign-  Days Before Winter EP

Sam Ruckus- The Dedicated 

Quigs- My Feelings

Mahlleh- Dysfunktional 

Kamiko ft. Vudaje- Underwater 

Craig White & BcGot Bars- Real Player Hours 

Bird and Willow- Cloth 

Chine Slender- Know Who

Matinee – Breathe

Cultbusters – Stop Being So Dumb 

DJ EMz and Nate

Pink + Flourish Mix

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DJ Emz has been the resident DJ for a lot of Come Up events for the better half of this year. One of her best projects is a collaborative mix she made with producer and artist Nate. The ability to curate and mix various artist into a cohesive project is a skill. There is a unique talent in mixing and properly curating a decent collection of songs to invoke an emotion and to create a vibe. From remixes from Frank Ocean, Thugga, Kevin Abstract, Travis Scott, MGMT, and much more this is a love letter. Notably this mix creates a through-line for multiple artists who have no business existing on the same mix. It is a noteworthy mix and one of many from both artists, which is worth checking out. 

 

So that is our list! Want to be on our next ‘best of’ list? Be sure to submit your work to us and tell your friends about The Come Up. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on our upcoming shows. You may end up playing for one of our shows in 2019! Thanks for an amazing year everyone, be safe, and good to each other!

-Bless Up