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History In The Making

With her sophomore album, The Historian, Lucy Dacus is a voice hard to contain. At the centerpiece of Lucy Dacus’s recently released album, the stunning The Historian, sits a song that encapsulates both the humble, folkish, reality of her newly found fame and the roaring, existential assuredness that proselytizes her unwieldy visions for her future. [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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With her sophomore album, The Historian, Lucy Dacus is a voice hard to contain.

At the centerpiece of Lucy Dacus’s recently released album, the stunning The Historian, sits a song that encapsulates both the humble, folkish, reality of her newly found fame and the roaring, existential assuredness that proselytizes her unwieldy visions for her future.

“And I fight time, it won in a landslide. I’m just as good as anybody, I’m just as bad as anybody,” Dacus sings on “Timefighter” as if she’s already dealt with the trappings of the tastemakers, and can finally focus on following her muse and ditching the hype. At 22, Dacus has a voice that speaks to generations and universal truths like death, tenuous love, and losing her religion, begetting her rookie status in the industry. Her signing to Matador records after her second record shows an artist looking for a permanent place in which to create. As such, hers is a career in reverse: she’s already grounded beyond her years and has even settled down in her native Richmond, buying her first home and finding an affinity for Virginia trees.

It’s an attitude that is indicative of her songs on The Historian—confident, majestic, youthful yet stoic. In the recording of the album and in touring, Dacus’s band have evolved past the role of back-up. Together they fuse a sound that straddles their Mason-Dixon Line that sits in their horizon, but buoys Dacus’s melodies into bombastic grandeur. Last month, on the eve of the record’s release, I spoke with Dacus about the blitz that was about to become her everyday life.

With your new album and its critical success, you’re likely to have a very exhausting week at SXSW, as well as another two months of intense touring, so how do you prepare yourself for extended life on the road? What fills your cup? 

Before we leave I try to load up on friendship and family interactions. I try to intentionally do things that are mundane, like sitting around with friends or saying proper goodbyes so that I’m leaving in a good place. While we are on the road, we really relish the time we have in the van. There’s a lot of time for silence, which leads to reflection and reading and journaling. It’s built-in “me” time.

After the success of your debut, No Burden, you probably had your choice of labels. Why did you decide to stay with Matador? Is there an affinity for the history of that label or something intangible that they can provide? 

I’ve been a fan of Matador bands for a really long time. When I was trying to decide they just seemed very sustainable. They have Yo La Tengo and Cat Power, and all of these legacy acts. They’ve been making great records for decades. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do something like that, but I like that I have the possibility.

The Historian deals with a lot of loss and transition, but in a recent article you talked about how you “would love it if hopefulness were more of a cliché,” can you expand on that?

There’s a lot of work that focuses on negativity. In pop music I feel like there’s a lot of vapid material just about attraction or partying. Within indie rock, it’s always music about heartache. And both have their place, and both have a community for that and need to be sad, but I wish hopefulness was more of a cliché because it’s harder to express and maintain. It’s something I need more of in my life. Whenever I get my hands on that, when it’s beautiful and not cheesy or overtly happy, I really value that perspective.

Songs like “Timefighter” or “Pillar of Truth,” I think are great representations of your shift in sound on The Historian. The record is equal parts sinister, majestic, and mysterious, like something strange bubbling underneath. And you arranged it all. Given your sound is so expansive on this album, do you take issue with being relegated as just a folk singer-songwriter?

Definitely. It’s happening less now that The Historian is finally out because it’s really more of a rock record. I get bothered when people say we are “Americana,” because there is so much good “Americana” out there and we are not it. I think we are just a rock band and that’s just how it is.

That tag also comes with the baggage that much of what you write about is deeply personal, and there are some very personal explorations on The Historian. But as a young songwriter, do you feel any responsibility to speak to more political topics since you have a voice everyone is paying attention to?

Not as much a responsibility [so] much as a weight. The problem is when I try to write politically it usually comes out pretty dumb. There’s a song on the record called “Yours and Mine” that isn’t dumb, but it’s more political adjacent. It’s about deciding how you protest and how you can deal with activism in your own way, not being judgmental about those around you, those people who might not want to march. If I try to write about how much I hate Trump it will sound too angry and not artful. If I shared it, it would not be effective at all.

You’ve been quoted regarding The Historian as saying that you’re “very intimidated by what it might mean to people and how (your) identity is going to be dispersed by it.” What do you imagine or hope your identity will be to audiences a year from now?

I would never want my personal identity to eclipse the music itself. I’m thankful that people want to talk to me, or that you want to do this interview, but what I really want to share is the music. There are parts about my life that I want to keep personal. Maybe the ultimate perception is just that I’m a normal person making … better than good work. I don’t need to be the next Bowie or the next superstar, but I’d love to be able to continue to make music for a living.

Lucy Dacus plays The Basement on Sunday April 8. Visit lucydacus.com for music and more information.

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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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