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Class of 2017: Matt Umland

I usually don’t take solicitations for picks, but when your editor texts you at 1 a.m. and says, “Matt Umland is playing some otherworldly stuff by himself at Little Rock right now. He’s got to be in the Class of 2017,” and you realize that Umland is one of the dependable forces behind beloved local indie [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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usually don’t take solicitations for picks, but when your editor texts you at 1 a.m. and says, “Matt Umland is playing some otherworldly stuff by himself at Little Rock right now. He’s got to be in the Class of 2017,” and you realize that Umland is one of the dependable forces behind beloved local indie rockers Tin Armor, it’s time to investigate.

What Umland does currently is an entirely different beast than what he’s done with Tin Armor for the past decade. It’s more like he’s become a flannel-wearing progenitor of blue-eyed soul, or a late-night quiet storm on the AM dial—say Michael McDonald, Donald Fagen, or Steve Winwood.

Take for instance, “Magnet,” which has been hiding on the Internet for over a year now. While you wouldn’t mistake it for the D’Angelo cuts which Umland calls a direct inspiration, it does have all the touchstones of neo-soul.

It’s a hybrid of the classics and modern genre-bending visionaries like Frank Ocean and James Blake. Then again, you might also mistake it for ’80s-era Hall and Oates, or any number of yacht rock heroes.

“You’re starting to see this weird blur in music, where the idea of interesting, engaging production is becoming central to all music,” says Umland on what attracted him to his current aesthetic. “I think that mix of ambience, experimental, and the emotive use of voice, can flow under this umbrella of R&B and sensible pop music.”

For those not expecting this left turn, no worries. Tin Armor is still around (with an album complete and ready for release) and Umland is still a member; but the lengthy hiatus allowed for him to explore his more sensual side—navigating through one-man slow jams.

“For a very long time, I’ve only made music with a group of people,” says Umland. “I just wanted to try to do a musical project that was just me—it’s been a decade since I’ve done that. I’ve also become very interested in music technology, like modular synths and Ableton—software and hardware. I’ve been doing that for fun. And with that I wanted to make R&B and have it be just me.”

Opposed to the rough-hewn, three-chord jangle of Tin Armor, as a solo artist Umland has focused on production and craft. His knack for sound design is nuanced and sophisticated. In the wrong hands, what Umland does could be seen as hokey or inauthentic. But given the amount of time and effort and sleight of hand Umland uses in his first batch of recordings—all by his lonesome—it’s more than evident that he’s projecting from a very real and sincere center. There’s the same attention to detail in his live show as there is to his arrangements in the studio. Playing solo adds yet another layer of depth and difficulty, but it’s a challenge Umland thrives on. In the same set, he’s prone to play a number of different instruments backed by his compositions, something Umland eventually wants to eliminate.

“Nowadays I feel more beholden to having a good sound system,” says Umland. “I never used to care about having a good sound system, but now I want to be effective in more settings, and be able to have a live set where I play more instrumentation. “

So far, there’s no real plan to expand this project into a full-blown band. He’s determined for the project to exist under his own name and keep it that way. While it’s a labor of love for Umland, to him it’s high time for everyone to start hearing what he’s been working so long to achieve. An EP will be released this summer, followed by an album by the end of the year.

In this new generation of disposable music and internet consumption, soul music is soul music wherever it comes from. And according to Umland, his soul comes from a place where there are no limits to what can be accomplished and what soul can sound like. Sugar is sugar whether it’s brown or white.

His EP is set to drop this month. For more, visit soundcloud.com/mattumland.

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Music

Local rocker Angela Perley shines on solo debut

Mike Thomas

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This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue of (614) Magazine.

Folk, alt-country, or indie rock—however you choose to categorize her sound, Angela Perley remains a pillar of the Columbus music community—and highly in-demand as a national touring act, to boot.

(614) caught up with Perley to discuss her new album, life on the road, and what it takes to make it as a musician in the Capital City.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

(614): YOUR NEW RELEASE, 4:30, IS YOUR FIRST AS A SOLO ACT. WHAT LED TO THIS CHANGE?

AP: Since 2009 until last year, I had the Howlin’ Moons. It’s always been myself, Chris Connor on lead guitar, and then we had bassist Billy Zehnal in the band up until last year. We’ve had a rotating extended family of drummers. Billy’s not in the band anymore, and we were also on Vital Companies, which is a studio/label in Columbus that did our previous albums.

https://open.spotify.com/album/04pKByd2ygDHXdvl1TcdWP?si=6njCmRpfR5GRWe5kLNghVw

So this one—it’s a solo one, it’s my first independent release. There’s no label involved, I own the masters to the songs. It’s hard to keep a band together, so Chris, who’s been in the band since the beginning, and I, we’re kind of the only members, and we have an extended family of really great and talented people who have other projects they’re in. It just works a lot better with what I want to do.

YOU USED KICKSTARTER TO HELP FUND THE ALBUM. WHAT WAS THE CROWDFUNDING EXPERIENCE LIKE?

Before, with Vital, they had a studio and video production, and they took care of all of our recording in-house. We didn’t realize how expensive everything was. We had paid for studio time [for 4:30] through show money, but to look at all of the other expenses of making a record happen and trying to get it out there, it’s pretty intense! There have been a lot of independent artists that we know that will do Kickstarters, and I’ve never done anything like it before, so I was really nervous doing it. But it was a success, and I actually just finished sending out all of the preorder vinyl that people ordered.

YOUR SOUND IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS ANYTHING FROM AMERICANA, TO ALT-COUNTRY, TO PSYCHEDELIC ROCK. WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITHIN THOSE TRADITIONS IN 2019?

You kind of have to make your own path, because although there is a resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll, everything’s been done before. It has those roots, but we’re not breaking the mold or anything. You just have to be true to yourself and to the music, and just go from there. Everyone’s voice is important as an artist, so that’s important to remember.

YOU’RE ON THE ROAD TOURING QUITE A BIT. DO YOU STILL KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE COLUMBUS MUSIC SCENE?

Columbus is definitely growing, and moving toward doing things independently. I’ve seen a lot of bands touring, which is good. It’s an affordable place to tour out of, and there’s a community here for sure. Whenever I have a chance, we go out to the shows. We love The Cordial Sins, and we’re having them as our special guests for our album release. The High Definitions, Souther—there are just so many good bands.

When I go to other cities and I realize that there’s not really much of a scene going on, it is kind of cool to see that in Columbus, people are very aware and supportive of musicians. Even the businesses around here, everyone’s trying to work with musicians in some way. There are so many gigs, be it at breweries, at restaurants, or little festivals that pop up. There’s work for musicians here. And some other cities, there’s really not.

IN THE PAST, YOU’VE PLAYED SOMETHING LIKE 150 SHOWS A YEAR. ARE YOU KEEPING UP THE SAME PACE THESE DAYS?

I’m glad that we played that many shows at that time. We were playing anywhere and everywhere, and a lot of that was pressure financially. If that’s the way you’re making a living, you’ve got to take every gig. We’ve spread out the shows since, especially since we have been doing it for this long. We’re kind of gearing more towards quality shows. I will say, playing that many shows—I needed that. We needed the experience, and just the repetition. Every venue is different, every environment, every crowd. You cut your teeth and it makes you stronger.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LOCAL ARTISTS HOPING TO MAKE A CAREER IN MUSIC?

It’s tough, because for each person it’s so different. Getting out there and working hard, playing as many shows as possible—that's all really great experience. But also focus on the music itself. If you’re going to make a music video or a recording, take your time—don’t half-ass it. Wait until you know what you’re doing. Although, you kind of have to learn from your mistakes, too.

Catch Angela Perley with special guests The Cordial Sins on September 6 at Skully’s Music-Diner for the release show of her new album, titled 4:30.

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(614) Sessions

614 Sessions: Doc Robinson

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4QdxpbrZgg&feature=youtu.be

Doc Robinson, the collaboration of Columbus music stalwarts Jon Elliott and Nick D’Andrea, joined us for this session in the 614 offices to share their unique brand of "Backyard BBQ Breakup music."

While here, the duo played stripped-down acoustic versions of their songs "Wilderness" and "Wild Beauty."

To hear more from Doc Robinson, follow them on your streaming platform of choice, or visit https://www.docrobinsonofficial.com/

Be sure to catch the group at Woodlands Tavern on Saturday, September 21, when they'll be joined by Hebdo, Parker Louis, Honey and Blue and many more for their Family Jamboree.

Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5O0efDEpkqEmWbXD2zpkjz

Apple Music:
https://music.apple.com/us/artist/doc-robinson/1116027164
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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper, Mike Thomas
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley
Video Editing: Mike Thomas
Contact: [email protected]
Website: 614now.com

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(614) Sessions

(614) Sessions: The Turbos

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ThYK1D0000

The Turbos’ high-octane heroics have earned the group a fierce following in the Columbus rock scene and beyond. Combining shredding guitar virtuosity with soaring, anthemic vocals, co-frontmen Alex D. and Lucas Esterline lead the group in a sound that combines the best of the old and the new. Rounded out by the multi-talented Cameron Reck on bass and mononymous local music veteran Jahrie behind the kit, the Turbos are leading the charge for a new generation of rockers.

For the first of what we hope will be many in a new music series we're calling The (614) Sessions, The Turbos joined us in our offices for a stripped-down acoustic set. Despite leaving the electrics at home, the power of their performance was still enough to garner multiple noise complaints (sorry, neighbors).

For show dates and more, be sure to follow The Turbos on Facebook. Big thanks to the group for sharing their music as our first-ever guests in this new endeavor!

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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Mike Thomas, Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley Video
Editing: Mitch Hooper
Contact: [email protected]

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