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The Real Red Light Special

Everyone—everyone—knows the words to some TLC songs. And there’s probably no shortage of you who know the Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes rap interlude in “Waterfalls,” (We know you save it for those special dance floor and karaoke occasions.) During the ’90s, TLC dominated the American and world music charts, going on to become the best [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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Everyone—everyone—knows the words to some TLC songs. And there’s probably no shortage of you who know the Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes rap interlude in “Waterfalls,” (We know you save it for those special dance floor and karaoke occasions.) During the ’90s, TLC dominated the American and world music charts, going on to become the best selling girl group in American modern music. Twenty-five years after their first album hit, surviving members Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins are back on top with the number one independent album in the world, and are taking stages by storm on their “’90s Fest” tour, featuring artists like Blackstreet, C+C Music Factory, and DJ Suga Ray. (614) caught up with Chilli between shows to talk loss, music, and the next generation.

You guys very successfully crowdfunded for this album, including support from other artists (like Katy Perry and The New Kids on the Block) How did independently funding your album change things?

Just the freedom of doing that, and not have to deal with someone at the label and their opinions… it was awesome. We were so surprised that our fans showed up and shelled out the way they did. Even some of our peers contributed; it was really unbelievable. We were so excited to go in and make new music. Not only is this our album, it’s the fans’ album, as well.

Why do you think people want to revisit the ’90s so much?

I think that the music from the ’90s was better music. Everybody talked about something. You had great lyrical content there. And you really had some serious competition. You really had a lot of great artists and a nice variety of music. Even the fashion back then, I think people miss that. This newer, younger generation is into it. Most of my followers, honestly, are young kids. I’ve read their tweets where they say they were born in the wrong era. People love coming and being able to sing along with all the songs that they love and grew up listening to.

Speaking of young people, you have a son who is about 20. What kind of musical tastes have you passed on to him?

When I had my son, it was very important to me to expose him to all different types of music, even contemporary jazz. I wanted him to be a very well-rounded kind of person—when it comes to a lot of things, but definitely music. I love that one of his favorite groups is Kiss. He’s so well-rounded, it’s ridiculous. He even introduced me to a few bands from back in those days that I didn’t even listen to. He definitely has the music gene. It’s definitely in his blood, from me being his mom and Dallas [Austin, music producer] being his father. He really does have the gift—he can sing, he produces, he writes. And he plays the drums! He’s an awesome young man, I’m so proud of him.

If you’re listening for enjoyment only, what are your go-to favorite albums?

I love Seal. I mean, he is one of my all-time favorites. That voice is just mesmerizing… my husband, of course, Michael Jackson [laughs]—that’s my baby. I love him so much, he is greatly missed. I don’t think there’s a Michael Jackson song I don’t like. But “Human Nature” is definitely my favorite. It just makes me feel really happy. And I love some of the ’80s stuff like Duran Duran. Boy! I like to listen to that when I’m in my car and I’m just jammin.’ I can only imagine what the person next to me thinks when they pull up to that red light and look over and see me singing, ’cause I’m so into it! I love Robin Thicke’s second album; there’s so many great songs on that album that I hate didn’t get released.

TLC was really blunt about sex and sexuality. Do you think in the time since your first album came out, that the image of the empowered woman has changed?

I think that there’s a combination of things going on here. ’Cause we’re all about women and empowerment. It still takes a little bit more work from women, period, than it does from men. I do believe that we knocked down some doors for not just women in the music industry, but in everyday life. Having that self-esteem and believing in yourself and knowing that you’re amazing and can do whatever you want to do. The downside, right now, I feel is—in the world, not just in the music industry—being promiscuous is glorified. It’s funny because [T-Boz] always says “Hoes are winnin’ these days.” [laughs]

You guys have said that you will never replace Left Eye. You’re touring and recording as a duo now. How did your recording and creative process change?

Losing a sister is devastating. It is something that we’ll never get over 100 percent, ever. We still love her and miss her dearly. After she first passed away, doing shows and stuff was the most difficult because that was when it was really real, like “Oh my god she’s not here on this stage with us.” It’s been many years since she’s passed, and we’ve been touring, so it’s our new normal. We’re used to it now. When we perform now, it is a celebration of her in this group. Her legacy will live on forever through us. We know she would want us to continue on, and we think she’d be very proud.

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Music

Local rocker Angela Perley shines on solo debut

Mike Thomas

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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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