DREAM BIG: This Album Does Not Exist proves earworms are not dead, should put DREAMERS on the map


DREAMERS at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

clr8iolwaaabfzpWhen I saw DREAMERS perform at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis last March with the Kickback, it was the perfect storm — a show with no promotion on a sleepy Sunday night with non-stop rain and no audience other than myself and the bands. “If you ever wanted to see an entire concert just for you, this is your night!” Nick Wold joked from the stage, and while it was disappointing few saw it, the band proved from that point they were capable of putting on a great performance in any situation.

Fast-forward to the pending release of their latest album This Album Does Not Exist, due out via Fairfax Recordings on August 26th. A kinetic example of pop confections of the finest order, this album plays nonstop cool from the first notes of “Drugs,” a propulsive mix of Wombats-esque dance backdrops with vocals that echo the credible hooks of Guided By Voices, even as the overall result of the DREAMERS sound is something completely on its own plane. “Wolves (You Got Me)” is already a legitimate hit, and I’d be surprised if “Never Too Late To Dance” and “Come Down Slow” don’t soon join it on radio stations terrestrial and streaming alike.  Even having seen them live, knowing the depth of their catalog and the number of songs they already had with hooks capable of worming their way into the brain, the new album proves surprising in that there’s not a dud here.

Even in a world of single-serve pop, these songs are best consumed in quick succession with the top down and the volume at 11. Pleasure is only guilty if you make it so, and the only thing wrong with this album would be passing it up.

SLAP-HAPPY: Rockümockery delivers full unhinged Slappies experience in album form


The Slappies may seem like they’ve been rocking their way around Indianapolis forever, but that’s only because the various members of the band have played their parts in all manner of other local punk mainstays, including Smash and Grab, Gay Black Republican, and God only knows how many others. I’ve been in the city since late 2014, and I kept hearing people say I should seek them out live, and though I haven’t yet that’s soon to be rectified after hearing this album.

Though I don’t have the official first-hand evidence to back the claim, even a cursory listen to Rockümockery makes it clear these guys all know their element, and they’re comfortable in the studio as well, laying down thirteen tracks that showcase what I can only imagine is a blisteringly fun experience. “Beer Time,” “Social Retard,” “Monster Truck” and “”My Own Way” open the album on blitz of raw energy that plays fast and loose with melody and turns of phrase, daring you to look away. You won’t. Even the choice of cover material is inspired, particularly the cover of Ellen Foley’s “Torchlight,” featuring memorable guest vocals by Toni Bennett, which had me hitting repeat as I researched her contribution to the album.

Catch yourselves a Slapplies show and then grab this from the merch table afterwards, you’re sure to be looking quickly for the follow-up. The real disappointment is that this gem has been available all year and no one’s been spreading the word … well, hop on the “Hear! Hear!” bandwagon: The Slappies rock, and this album’s a keeper!

The band’s album currently can be purchased at shows  in person
and at Indy CD and Vinyl, as well as select Karma locations in central Indiana.
If out of state, hound Rich on Facebook to build a website, already!

ALBUM REVIEW: Tracksuit Lyfestile – “E=MC Hammered”




When I covered the finals of this year’s Battle Royale at Birdy’s, I was impressed to see that the much-vaunted Tracksuit Lyfestile lived up to all the musical hype. “An instrumental combo featuring trombone distorted through a varied set of live FX pedals, the band brought a hard rock edge to what is still a highly experimental sound,” I wrote at the time in NUVO. Combining tight metal guitar riffs with adventurous experiments in instrumental looping built upon, among other things, live trombone, makes a Tracksuit Lyfestile show something to behold.

The same holds true when listening to the band’s debut E=MC Hammered, though listeners should certainly knock their expectations up a notch as the level of musicianship is impeccable. Headphone listening at its best, Tracksuit Lyfestile encourages you to rock the fuck out at a live show, and then sit back and pick the music down to its bare elements at home, reveling in how they build these acid soundscapes.


Tracksuit Lyfestile live at Birdy’s during the Battle Royale Finals (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)


From the opening build of “Hurricane” the music grabs your attention, and then the band holds it through the little things; the “Hey! Hey! Hey!” choruses of “90/10,” the thundering wall-of-sound that is “Lunar Lounge,” and the crowd-pleasing “Beat It” cover being stand-outs. By the time they place us back gently on the ground with the staccato crunch and intricately melodic “A Vigorous Joe Pesci,” a return visit is a foregone conclusion. Just as soon as one can get online to find the band’s ‘Band In Town’ page, that is, because once you’re hooked you’ll want to see them live just to know for sure it isn’t just a bunch of studio trickery.

I assure you, it isn’t. Tracksuit Lyfestile is the most original band I’ve heard come out of the Indianpolis scene since I’ve moved here — call them the Cake of Naptown; they’ll inspire many, but few will be able to outright copy them. And that’s a very good thing!

The band will release the brand new album E=MC Hammered at the Melody Inn on july 15th with support from Moxxie, Coup d’Etat and Midwest State of Mind! Not many better spots to catch a live band in any city …. and for only $5!

Shane Owens proves “Country Never Goes Out Of Style,” gets Randy Travis’ nod of approval


I hear a lot of country music these days, but it only rarely takes me back to the country I grew up on — the Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, John Anderson school of neo-traditionalist twang that dominated before Garth Brooks ushered in the era of pop/rock country. I can tell you, though, I’m keeping both ears out for new information on Shane Owens, a songwriter whose latest single “Country Never Goes Out Of Style” has earned the legendary Travis’ seal of approval. His appearance in Owens’ video for the song is his first in a music video since his stroke in 2013.

“Shane brings it all…vocal, writing, performance, and passion,” Travis said in a recent press release. “He has paid his dues, remained committed to traditional country and brings you a song with a heart and a story.”

Owens spent more than a decade on the fringes of the country universe, indeed paying his dues while playing country nightclubs throughout the south, before back-to-back record deals fell through due to labels folding. The sense is he had the chance to season these songs through those hard times on the road and by tasting failure in Music City, so the resulting album Where I’m Comin’ From — produced by another country legend, former ACM Producer of the Year James Stroud — bears all the earmarks of a potential winner.

“This new song means so much to me,” explains Owens. “It really talks about the way I was raised and the way I live my life today, so it means so much to have Randy join me in the video and talk about my music in that way. It was truly an honor.”

You can see the video below:

Ethan Burns drops single “Homeward,” maintains air of mystery


In this era of instant gratification, it’s hard to maintain a sense of mystique about an artist. We’re at least three decades removed from the era when labels would release a band’s single with a “white label” in order to avoid giving radio programmers too much information, which allowed some interesting artists to gain airplay without overexposure.

So it’s refreshing to occasionally stumble on a songwriter about whom I can find little information, but whose song speaks for itself. In the case of Ethan Burns’ debut single :Homeward,” which echoes hints of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” in its bare delivery, less is more. The song is supported ably by a strong rhythm section, and Burns’ deep throaty vocals glue themselves to your brain on first listen, demanding frequent repeats. The California songwriter’s roots are in the working class, which shows through in his strong yet subtle delivery, making this a real keeper, particularly for a first single.

“Homeward” is perfect for rolling the windows down and cranking your car’s speakers to ten. Give your neighbors something to talk about! Better yet, when they come up to ask, show them this review. Let’s make this one the perfect unexpected summer viral sensation!

NAPTOWN VIRGIN: Lucas Jack makes his first Indianapolis appearance at Union 50 tonight!

I’ve been following Houston songwriter Lucas Jack now for several years, since the first moment I heard his album Sun City and wrote about it here. That album unfortunately never got the traction he wanted (explained further in the Q&A below) but he’s had the option to “trim the fat” and relaunch the album under the name Before I Forget, traveling the country and giving these cinematic songs the live treatment they clearly deserve.

I sat down to talk with him by phone earlier this week, in advance of his Union 50 debut here in Indianapolis. It’s a free show, so there’s no excuse not to spend your Friday evening downtown hearing some great music. Show starts at 10:30! And read on below for his take on turning Sun City into Before I Forget, the cinematic lyricism of Billy Joel, and why he’s really excited to start playing Indianapolis on a regular basis.


It’s funny, because I recently was sent a copy of your new album for possible review, and after listening I realized it was mostly the same songs as Sun City.

Yeah, I sold out of Sun City, I sold all my CDs and I got a new manager, and the new manager was like ‘we need to work on new product,’ all of this stuff. And he basically said I had too many slow songs. We needed to take the five or six slow songs out and get it remastered to make it a little bit louder. Then we were able to re-release it in a better way, because the first time I released it I just put it on iTunes, you know? I didn’t do it right. So this time I tried to do things the right way. For the thousand people who bought Sun City and they come to a show and say ‘is this the new album?’ I tell them they can just have it because I know they already bought it. But for the most part, most of the world had never heard Sun City, so Before I Forget is new to them. I have a ton of new songs that I just can’t wait to get back into the studio and record. And I usually don’t bring this up, I just bring it up with you because we did talk about Sun City before [back in 2013].

Plus I’m old school, right? I’ve been following you for a while.

Yeah, it was my first release and I just didn’t do it the right way so not enough people heard it. But Before I Forget is really a remastered, re-released trimming-of-the-fat edition of my first record. And I’m really actually much happier with the way the songs flow and the way the whole album works. I do have a couple new songs I like to play at shows.

I was going to say, because you’d talked in the past about all the new songs you had ready, and you were excited to get around to recording them. It sounded like that kind of got put on hold.

We play all the new songs live. We recorded a live album when we played at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, the show where we opened for Foreigner … we recorded that show and that has a bunch of new songs on it.

How did the Foreigner fans react to your music?

Man, it was by far our best show. Everyone there was really into it. When people pay $80 for a ticket they’re usually a little more attentive. We made so many new fans at that show — I still have people who come up to me and say ‘hey, I haven’t seen you since Foreigner, but I’ve been following you online!’ We must have made a thousand fans that night, we sold two hundred CDs, it was phenomenal.

Of course in general the days of selling music are over. CDs are the promotion for a live show, and I’m thrilled about that because I’m much happier on stage than I am in the studio. I like recording and I really enjoy songwriting, but what I really like is performing. And I want to sell people music if they want to support what I do, but I would rather have them come out to a show and sell the ticket to a show than a piece of plastic with my songs on it.

Do you like to twist the songs up when you play them live, do they grow with the audience?

I really like playing new songs for a crowd. I play new stuff all the time. I write a song a week, something at that pace, so I have tons of songs and I try them out constantly. I’ve had some die-hard fans who come to all my shows, and those are the fans I really target — they’re part of my process. And what I like about playing live is I can change the song if there something I don’t like. I can change lyrics I don’t like, last night I changed the lyrics to a chorus and it was so much better. Of course I had to tell my bass player who was singing harmony, so he had to remember a new lyric. My bandmates aren’t always crazy about it. But there’s no mystery involved, I write a song and I want to get it out there. I write songs that I hope will connect with people and you really get to feel that if it happens at a live show. And if a song doesn’t work you get to see that too. After you’ve played it enough times you know when to just shelve one.

I’ve always liked your lyricism. I’m glad to see “Paralyzed” still made it on the new record because as far as the lyric goes, that song is the most cinematic you’ve got.

I can feel that song every time I sing it. It’s a very specific song about a very specific night in my life … walking up to my gate and it’s raining, walking inside, upstairs, through the bedroom and then laying down on the ‘frozen bathroom tiles.’ It’s just a vignette of one night and it makes it easier for me to sing and stay passionate about these songs, because they are so specific to my experience. I really feel like I’m telling a story every time, in particular with that song.

It reminds me a lot of Brenda and Eddie from “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel, as if we can peer in on their lives twenty years later.

I love that song! ‘A couple of paintings from Sears, a big waterbed that they bought with the bread they had saved for a couple of years.’ We listened to that song … my band doesn’t listen to a lot of pop music, they’re into jazz, music-major types. They have degrees, and are very very good at what they do. But I make them listen to these old Billy Joel songs and we listened to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and they really liked it! I said we had to learn how to play it, because of course it has three different movements, key changes and some really significant time and tempo shifts. But that’s such a great tune and I definitely appreciate it — I’m a huge Billy Joel fan, and i’ve always appreciated how vivid the pictures he painted of people were. People, places, towns … if you listen to a Billy Joel song you know what he’s singing about.

I’ve wondered in the last couple years, have you had any new people you’ve found who inspire you when you get the chance to listen to new music?

I really like the new Dawes album, All Your Favorite Bands it’s called. I’ve listened to it at least fifty times. I just saw them in Austin and actually got a chance to talk to the guys again. I’d met them at Bonnaroo, then saw them again backstage at Stubbs and it was phenomenal. But I also love Langhorne Slim and the Law …

I love them!

I met him in Austin too and got into his music. I also really like Jason Isbell, his Southeastern was just a great album and he followed it up with another that’s really really good. I’d say it might even be better than Southeastern.

I thought it was great when Bruce Springsteen dropped his name last year in an interview, pulling him up on his iPod playlist and calling him an amazing songwriter.

I should pull up my playlist and tell you all the people I’ve been listening to. I’ve been riding in the van a lot, and when I ride I don’t always listen to music … sometimes I listen to audiobooks. I read it years and years ago but I’ve been listening to “Underworld” by Don DeLillo, which is a really great book. My desert island book would be “White Noise” by DeLillo.

I could tell you read a lot when I realized how much “Bonfire of the Vanities” influence there was on “You Belong to the City Now.”

I love “Bonfire of the Vanities.” [Returns to playlist.] I know everybody’s already onto this guy but the band Bahamas, they’ve got a great new record. There’s a song called “Waves” and I’ve been really jamming that. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan lately, Blonde on Blonde, Visions of Johanna, and on repeat the other day, maybe twenty times in a row, I listened to “Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” one of the songs he never performs live. But it’s a crazy song about the Jack of Hearts in this bar … nobody knows what the song means, and of course Dylan is so cryptic he’ll never explain what his songs mean.

And even if he tells you you’ll never know it’s true.

No, he’s funny. But yeah I’ve been listening to a lot of Dylan, Leonard Cohen, he’s had a flurry of new work coming out and I’m so happy for it.

So is this your first proper road-trip getting outside of Texas?

We took a tour to a lot of these cities last year but we played smaller clubs and we didn’t have a manager. So, like a lot of things, I just kind of threw the tour together and got gigs where I could. We didn’t get radio or press in any of the cities, so we didn’t have great turnout. This time around we’re doing everything a little bit more ‘correct.’

So have you played in Indianapolis before?

We didn’t play Indy last time. So this is going to be the very first time we play Indianapolis, is at Union 50. But hopefully we’re going to be coming back in November or December and start touring, playing Indianapolis once every four months or so. Indianapolis is a really cool market. I’ve been really watching Indianapolis because it’s always near to shows I’m booking, like Chicago … or Kalamazoo [laughs]. And Indy’s really seemed to have a renaissance as far as Downtown, local music. There are so many more places to play. When I was in college in Chicago, people didn’t go to Indianapolis to see shows … I knew people from Indianapolis and there just weren’t as many places in 2000 as there are in 2015, there are so many cool clubs now.

We played Little Rock this tour and had a really great show at a place called Juanitas, and they liked us so much they offered us an opening slot for Phantogram and Matt Kearney, so we’re playing a couple sold-out shows in support as well. Those are exactly the fans we’re trying to make, and it’s a really great club in Little Rock, right on the river. We also had a really great show in Wichita, got a lot of support and good press there, and a good show in Norman [Okla.], and 250 people who showed up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. That’s where I grew up, the hometown show, so it was a lot of friends and family … in fact one girl who opened for us, Megan Hickman, she’s from Chicago, she’s going to be playing Union 50 in Indianapolis about a week after us. We’re going to follow each other around the country, since she’s on tour as well.

INTERVIEW: Frankie Rambler


Frankie Rambler onstage at the 5th Quarter Lounge (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

On a severely stormy Saturday night at the end of May, I happened to be safely tucked inside the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis awaiting a triple-threat of locals — Speedbird, Mardi Belle and the Fuss — and a band called the Fever, who were making an Indianapolis pit stop while here from Germany. But it was the mild-mannered opener, just a lone cowboy-hatted singer and his guitar, who won me over right off the bat.

Frankie Rambler, who you may also know as the bassist for Indianapolis rockers We Are Gentlemen, kicked off the night with a tight blend of psychobilly and acoustic folk, songs constructed around vivid imagery and bare-bones acoustic hooks which proved particularly barbed. I was so impressed I just had to pick his brain. The result, this rambling five-minute interlude recorded behind the 5th Quarter at well past midnight, should prove an effective introduction to a performer I think you’ll be hearing a great deal more from.

Watch a video from his set here, then dig in!

– – – – –

Frankie Rambler

Night Ramblin’ outside the 5th Quarter. (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

So how long have you been doing the solo performing as Frankie Rambler?

For about six years now, actually. I’ve been writing and trying to bring everything together for that long. It’s been three years that I’ve been playing live.

I heard you describe yourself as psychobilly. I kept hearing that in my head as I listened, as if Tiger Army and Ward Hayden of Girls, Guns and Glory were put together on a stage.

I’m a big fan … I like Tiger Army, and when Nick 13 did his solo stuff and took a break from them for a while, I liked that it was a little more country sounding. I’m a big fan of Necromantix, Koffin Kats, and a local band from [Dayton] Ohio called the Loveless. I love them too. They’re good dudes to just sit and have drinks with.

I like when singers from bands go solo and they switch up the expectations like Dustin Kensrue when he split off from Thrice and did all that really crazy-good acoustic country stuff.

Yes. [Nods emphatically.] Kind of the same thing with JT from Hawthorne Heights. They had their almost screamo rock and roll stuff, and he does the solo stuff where it’s just him and an acoustic guitar, so he can really let his folky roots show. I appreciate when artists do that.

So what were your goals as a solo artist? What do yo want to get across via your songs as Frankie Rambler?

Really I just want to play and have fun. With this psychobilly stuff, it’s not just your normal love songs. I really incorporate a lot of the horror themes and make it as gory as I can without scaring my grandma. My mom hates it, but she also loves the fact that I’m playing music and having fun with it. That’s really the main goal.

Do you have an album out yet?

I’m in the middle of working on one. We’re aiming for the end of July, beginning of August.

What should people expect from that? Are you working solo or with a full band?

On the CD I’m playing guitar, bass and then I have a drummer friend who’s going to throw some drum tracks down. But when I perform it, for now, it’s just me live. Eventually I do want to put a full band together but for now it’s just me and my acoustic guitar.

Any other shows coming up that people should check out?

Right now no. I play open-mic nights mainly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Aristocrat and Tow Yard Brewhouse so people can catch me there. It’s always glad to hear how people react, and when you realize they enjoy it.

Is there anything you ever wish people would ask you about but they never do?

Whew, that’s a good question! Wow … no, I can’t think of anything! Give it a couple more years. I don’t really get a lot of people asking me questions, they just tell me they had fun listening.

So you haven’t gotten to the point where you have questions you wish no one would ever ask?

I’ve had some people ask me why I write the stuff that I write. And just from what I’m into, with old horror movies and stuff like that, I enjoy that so I want to put it into music. But some of my songs are actually inspired by real events. Like the one song I played tonight called “At Your Bedside,” it’s all about going to my ex’s and taking care of our child while she was sick, and I just got this idea in my head: “I could kill her in her sleep!” And she loves the song, so I can’t … she’s not upset or anything! But it’s one of those songs where it was fun to write, a real life situation I got twisted up morbidly.

Is there anything else you’d want people in Indianapolis to know about you?

Not off the top of my head … you’re good! You keep stumping me! I really try to push the envelope when I write. There are other bands that kind of do the same thing I’m doing and have for years, and I try not to mimic their sound or ideas. I try to make it my own.