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Guided by Voices

When we first started, we instantly wanted to hit the fast-forward button and make a record,” says Blake Skidmore of the humble, somewhat green, folk-rock endeavors of Old Hundred back in 2009. “That record came out right before Mumford and Sons became big, and we quickly were associated with them, so right away we were [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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When we first started, we instantly wanted to hit the fast-forward button and make a record,” says Blake Skidmore of the humble, somewhat green, folk-rock endeavors of Old Hundred back in 2009. “That record came out right before Mumford and Sons became big, and we quickly were associated with them, so right away we were like “F*ck that,” and knew we needed to force ourselves to be darker.”

Fans of Mumford and Sons and the stomping stringed revivals of Americana hokum can likely stop reading here. It’s been five years since the formation of Old Hundred, and now they’re a completely different beast. Of course their latest album, the long-gestating but wholly rewarding, Let In the Light, still satiates anyone yearning for soft, unplugged traditionals, but Old Hundred have evolved past those early homespun signifiers and are now more inclined to kick around their sonic world like Neil Young or R.E.M. lost in the more avant garde soundscapes of Grizzly Bear and Sigur Ros.

Soon after the cycle of 2012’s Time in the Wild the band took an extended hiatus, not with a desire to escape the stage or each other, but to refresh their creative juices. Six months later, the quintet reconvened and went to writing the demos for Let In the Light at a cabin deep in the woods of southern Ohio. What they found is that this time around everyone brought their singular personalities to the fore. As a result the record is noticeably the most collaborative effort of the group thus far. While Old Hundred’s last album showed them growing a discernible skin of their own, on Let In the Light they’ve worn in that skin and sound completely comfortable playing their maudlin pop songs under the cover of left-field atmospherics and majestically stirring arrangements.

The constant juxtaposition between Skidmore’s acoustic guitar and Hal Hixson’s electric provides a layer separating the terrestrial from the depths of the cosmos on “One Good Man.” The heavy battery of Gordy Smith’s basslines and Jon Helm’s percussion match seamlessly with Chris Westra’s viola and Nate Gelinas’s shimmering mandolin melodies on the sweeping lead track “All Your Sons,” and signals from the start that the album is immersive, experiential, and much bigger than just six guys playing in a room together. They credit the expansiveness to a refined concentration, a musical telekinesis owed to the live recording sessions that dominated Let In the Light, the gnarl of distortion and feedback in the room playing as much of a role as the plucked notes. Producer Josh Antonuccio, of 3 Elliot Studio in Athens, became an unofficial seventh member of the band, pushing the group to focus on those intricacies.

“Josh will hear something none of us will hear and instead of just pushing a button, he’ll actually find a way to make that sound,” says Skidmore of Antonuccio’s incredible awareness during the sessions. “Not only does he understand when you need to put a microphone on the bottom of a trash can, but he also has a great pop sensibility in the best way. In that ’60s way.”

What truly rises above the new din in Old Hundred’s sound on Let In the Light are the voices. The “all-join-in” philosophy adhered to in their approach to songwriting also permeates the harmonies, the live experience, and the darker, insular themes present on the album.

“There are a lot of references to voices coming from somewhere else. Whether that’s an angel ascending from somewhere to destroy you or a voice calling you out into the woods,” says Skidmore of the dark themes that inspired this batch of songs. “There are all of these external callings from other space. Not sure why we were writing about that, but ‘Casey’ is a very specific account of a guy from an affluent family who had schizophrenia. The story culminates in the day when the voices in his head finally get him.”

Old Hundred have no immediate plans for the future. No never-ending tours or aspirations to ascend out of the family they’ve established in Columbus. They’re not even sure if there’s another album to come. But again, that’s not the point. There are no prophecies spoken on Let In the Light; they’d rather just meditate in the current miasma of songs they’ve created this time around. What comes next is merely fate.

Old Hundred will be celebrating the release of Let In the Light with two nights (11/7-11/8) at Brothers Drake Meadery. For more information and to download the album, visit oldhundred.bandcamp.com.

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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