We recently got word that our friend Jon Brandon Cruz, whom we spotlighted on the Weekly Feature, was hitting the road with Mansion on the Moon as a part of his Cruz on Tour series. Jon has been capturing the band as they make their rounds from city to city electrifying crowds. We were stoked to get a peak of his video featuring one of the members of Mansions getting wild on the guitar. Scope out the Video and check out theMansions on the Moon Tourin a city near you.
We are bringing theWeekly Feature Series back to our blog and couldnt be more excited to share the stories of so many inspiring individuals with you in the upcoming weeks!
Looking over the past years stories made the thought of bringing the Weekly Feature back irresistible.
The segment was created to share the stories of artists, musicians, photographers,athletes, chefs, visionaries- making it happen in their community. If you would like to share your story with us and the rest of the Ark Collective community, please email us a little more about yourself — we would be more than happy to share your creative side in the upcoming weeks.
The artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature is a firm believer of taking the time to experiment with various musical elements of a song, in order to craft the exact sound he wants and leave the listeners feeling like they’ve been put under a spell… A Goldenspell that is.
Eric Frank, otherwise known as Goldenspell, is a multi-talented up and coming musician out of Los Angeles. In his younger years Eric played drums in every type of rock band imaginable, and enjoyed the band life experience to the fullest. Along the journey he also learned how to write music, sing, and play guitar from his band mates; which further strengthened his musical forte. However, just a couple years ago Eric took the initiative to branch out and start a solo project all of his own called Goldenspell.
His mission was to take all the different elements that he loved so much about music, and put them together piece by piece just like a puzzle. Armed with a “sure why not” mentality, he decided to give it a whirl and try his hand in music production. Fortunately he ended up with this: kicks and claps of the drums that slice through airy vocals like butter to a warm knife, that when combined with wispy guitar riffs; make for a truly unique sound. And voila – Goldenspell was born!
Continue reading to find out what Eric is all about; why anyone who’s thinking about starting a band should be super careful when picking the name. And get the inside scoop on Goldenspell straight from the mouth of Eric Frank, in this edition of the Weekly Feature. Enjoy!
Name: Eric Frank Place of Residence: Los Angeles Current Jam: The new Feist record “Metals” Favorite Food: Pasta Mode of Self Expression: Music
Ark: Hey Eric, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself? Eric: Sure thing! I’ve been playing music since I was 10 and have been in bands since 14. I was in punk and metal bands during high school, and then I started playing in an indie rock band in college that I was in for 4-5 years. I made the move to LA and toured all over the country with them. The band split up just about 2 years ago and that led me to start doing my own stuff, and that is how Goldenspell sort of came about. It had been a while since I’d started a new project, so I decided to go with it and it worked. It allowed me to incorporate all my own elements and things into the music that I wanted, which I really like.
Ark: Who are a few musicians or artists that have served as major sources of inspiration for you and your music? Eric: I really like people who take the time to craft the exact sound they want. I lovePrince. He records all of it on his own and I appreciate the risks that he takes. Also absolutely love artists like Beck. He wants to break new ground and experiment with new sounds, and is not afraid to take a beat up old keyboard and lay down a beat then throw a bunch of effects on it.
Of course I also love old rock bands like The Band and The Beatles. They’re both great.
Ark: At what age did you start playing music, and are there any other musicians in your family? Eric: The first instrument I learned to play was the drums and it was right around the age of 10. My dad was a drummer in a jazz band and he always had a drum set around when I was growing up, so he was the one who first taught me to play. I played drums in a band in high school and everything sort of branched out from there. While drumming in the band in high school I also learned how to play guitar from the other guys in the band. But it was a good thing to start off with drums, since I believe rhythm is the most important thing when it comes to music.
Ark: So what’s the story behind this collab project Goldenspell is doing called City Of The Black Sea? We listened to the song “Salt” on the Facebook page and want to know more about this project! Eric: That is sort of a mixed collaboration with another artist named Jonathan Logan. When Goldenspell plays live there is no way I can play all the instruments at once, so he plays the drums in the live band. We had been playing together on a few songs and Jonathan said he wanted to write a song with me, not just play songs together. From there it blossomed into what it is now and we’ve done 2 songs together so far.
I really like to be free and not be the person who says, “I’m in 1 band and 1 band only.” It’s fun to have lots of side projects and it makes you better as an artist.
Ark: We’re all about learning the creative processes different artists take when it comes time to create a new track. Is there some form of “routine” you tend to stick to, or does it vary each time? Eric: It’s a little bit different each time, but I do have a formula that I stick to in order to keep my mind in the right place. The actual song usually starts in my head as a melody. No lyrics and no beat. Just a vocal melody and it usually happens when I’m driving/walking/doing the dishes/something random.
I have a hard time when I sit down at my desk with my guitar and try to write a song. It just isn’t good and doesn’t feel right to me. So when the song comes to me when I’m doing something random it frees my mind. After that I can sit down at my desk with laptop, guitar, and computer and get to work on the song.
Ark: Alright, now it’s time for the “Lightning Round.” If you could please answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it. *Eric’s answers are inRED
Analog or Digital? – Analog
Lounge or Club? – Lounge
Indie or Electro? – Electro
San Diego or San Francisco? – SF. I’m from Berkeley originally
Mountains or Beach? – Mountains
Ark: What is the strangest, most memorable, funny, awkward…(fill in the blank) encounter your music has led you to over the years? Eric: I would say it was when I was touring with the band I was in for a few years. We played a show in Provo, Utah and were supposed to stay the night in Utah after the show was over. The show ended at about 11:30PM and everyone was super tired, but we really wanted to sleep in our own beds back in LA. So we decided to pack up and drive all the way back to California.
We hopped in the car and drove for about 4 hours until we had to stop for food and gas in Vegas. I quickly put a couple dollars on black and actually made some money that time, which was great. After that we got back in the car and kept on driving all the way back to LA. It took us about 11 hours and as soon as we got home I immediately passed out in the clothes I had been wearing since the night before.
Anyway, that’s pretty typical of a band on tour…. Doing crazy random stuff at all hours of the day and night.
Ark: Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re going to be locked inside a studio for exactly 1 week and can only take one instrument of choice with you… What would that instrument be? Eric: I would take my 1940s Martin Ukulele. It’s just a little ukulele and is very simple, but that is what I would want it to be with.
Ark: What are a few of your hobbies / how do you like to spend your free time when you’re not creating awesome tunes? Eric: I love to cook. I’m a huge fan of going to the farmers market and picking up all sorts of fruits and vegetables then cooking them up in my kitchen. I’m also kind of a foodie and really like to go out to restaurants. Oh, and I love trying out new concoctions and coming up with recipes and creating specialty cocktails at my house.
Ark: Thanks for taking the time to answer or questions Eric. Any last words for the readers? Eric: Yes. If you’re going to start a band… you should pick a band name with 2 words in it, since all the 1 word band names are taken.
Now turn up the volume & jam to a couple Goldenspell songs!
The artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature, Raya Belna, is a culinary innovator whose unique recipes have been generating quite a bit of buzz all across the nation recently. In fact, one of Raya’s gourmet treats earned her a first place award while she was a contestant on The Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race 2″ earlier this year!
In addition to being one of the nicest people we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Raya is a Raw Foods & Vegan chef with an appetite and approach to food preparation much unlike anything you may find in a traditional kitchen. She is the executive chef of the Seabirds Food Truck, and uses only the freshest locally grown, sustainable, organic, whole-food ingredients in her cuisine. But here’s the kicker: Raya does it all without the use of ANY heat or meat in her dishes.
With a menu that offers everything from tacos to spring rolls to BBQ wraps to cupcakes and cakes; it may be difficult for some to believe these mouth watering morsels are made of all organic ingredients and were never cooked. However, we can assure you this is completely true and they’re absolutely delicious!
Continue reading to find out what Raya is all about, how she made the transition to a Raw & Vegan Foods diet, and a bit of info on the exciting new project she is starting; in this edition of the Weekly Feature with chef Raya Belna. Enjoy!
Name: Raya Belna Place of Residence: Costa Mesa, CA Current Jam: Anything by Ray LaMontagne Favorite Food: Reed avocado with Himalayan pink sea salt Mode of Self Expression: Raw Food
Ark: Hey Raya, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
Raya: Thank you for having me! I am a Vegan and Raw Foods chef, originally from Maui, Hawaii. Grew up picking fruit off my neighbor’s trees and walking around barefoot… basically your typical 80s hippie child. Love all things water and earth. Fantasy life would be to bounce around the world living in eco-retreats and doing yoga all day.
Ark: Who are a few chefs or culinary masterminds that you feel have served as major sources of inspiration for you and your culinary adventures?
Raya: When I moved to Orange County a year ago, I met Chef Ito. He has been a huge mentor, friend and inspiration to me. Chef Ito took a vow of silence 10 years ago and dedicated his life to the service of others. He runs Au Lac Raw Restaurant in Fountain Valley and has been like family. Creatively, I am also inspired by Omid Jaffari, a Raw Chef from New Zealand. His form of expression is Botanical Cuisine. I am fascinated by the act of breaking food down to its simplest form and presenting it as art.
Ark: So how did you originally make the switch over to a Vegan diet? Was there one specific event that prompted you to do so?
Raya: I grew up eating a lot of vegetarian and health food, because my mother was Buddhist, so I had a good foundation and tended to gravitate toward fresh fruits and veggies. While living in San Francisco, during college, I became interested in Veganism and Macrobiotics, which eventually lead me to Raw Foods. I was teaching yoga and part of my practice was to maintain a Vegan diet, so that is what really lead me to this path. I decided to pursue Raw Foods professionally, after living in South Korea. I got really sick with the swine flu and refused to take any medication, instead I put myself on a month long Raw Foods diet and “juiced” my way back to health. Seeing the direct healing results of Raw Foods, I knew I had to share my discovery with others.
Ark: We’re all about trying to learn the creative processes different artisans take when it comes time to create a new recipe or dish. When you’re getting ready to start trying things out, is there some form of “routine” you tend to stick to or does it vary each time?
Raya: My process is to break everything down to its simplest form. What are the basic components to each recipe or dish? What is the purest form that can be presented, so that every ingredient has a voice and shines? I want to taste every aspect of a dish, down to the mildest herb and spice. In my mind, we should be able to deconstruct and identify every ingredient in a dish.
Ark: In your opinion, what is the most beneficial aspect of eating a strictly Raw & Vegan Foods diet?
Raya: A Raw Vegan diet is the cleanest diet available. When we eat foods in their natural state, we absorb their life force along with all their vitamins and minerals. Our bodies become strong and pure. Excess weight disappears, skin becomes vibrant, and minds become clear. It is truly the fountain of youth, not only for our bodies, but for the planet.
Ark: Do you have an “all-time favorite” culinary treat or dish that you like to prepare? If so, what would that be?
Raya: I love the artistry of RAW desserts. Sweets are such an indulgence, and normally laden with wheat, eggs, dairy and sugar. To create a decadent treat without all those additives is beautiful. To truly break something down to its purest form- Raw Cacao Beans, Nuts, Vanilla Bean, Coconut Nectar- is perfection.
Ark: Alright, Now it’s time for the “lightning round.” If you could answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it: *Raya’s answers are inRED
Macadamia Nut Oil or Coconut Oil? – coconut oil
Kale or Arugula? – kale
Soup or Salad? – salad
Summer or Winter? – summer
Rock or Rap? – rock
Ark: We’ve been told that some people who have a strictly Raw Foods diet believe when food is cooked, whether it be fruits, veggies, meat, etc. – that all the nutrients and burnt away in the process. Is this fact or fiction?
Raya: Heating does destroy a lot of the nutrients, but mainly it destroys the enzymes in the food. Enzymes are what help us to absorb the nutrients and break down the foods. Without absorption, eating is pointless.
Ark: What is the strangest, most memorable, funny, awkward…(fill in the blank) encounter your Raw & Vegan Foods diet has led you to over the years?
Raya: The most memorable was winning the cooking challenge on “The Great Food Truck Race 2” with my RAW Vegan Cupcake.
Ark: Do you have any secrets you want to tell us? Maybe something like what we can expect from you and your culinary arts in the coming months, or are any projects you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?
Raya: I am starting a Raw Food delivery program for OC residents and teaching a lot of cooking classes. I am also working on a project to bring Veganism and Raw Foods to students and families nationally. While on the road, with The Food Network, it was shocking to see how uneducated people were about fresh produce and healthy eating. It’s possible to eat local and organic in every community with the right tools and education.
Ark: When you’re not crafting delicious eats, what do you like to do with your free time / what are a few of your hobbies?
Raya: I love to read and travel… and jump on my Rebounder.
Ark: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Raya. Any last words for the readers?
Raya: Thank you, it was my pleasure! I hope everyone will take a second look at what they are putting in their bodies and consider adding more RAW and Vegan foods to their diet. Also, go outside and hang out in nature once a week, walk barefoot and play!
Scope out a couple photos of Raya’s delicious RAW and Vegan cuisine!
The artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature, Andrew Means, is 1 part man / 1 part musical prodigy / and 100% guaranteed to leave you begging for more after hearing just a sample of any of the songs he’s had his hand in. Which makes for a pretty powerful force to be reckoned with when it comes to producing music in the colossal realm also known as the music industry.
In addition to being a French music fanatic, Andrew is a highly skilled music producer and makes up 1/2 of the out of this world dance music duo otherwise known as FiFiNasty. Alongside his partner Meghan Sepulveda, FiFiNasty has been tearing up stages and leaving crowds starry-eyed and smiling all across Southern California with their captivating live performances.
What’s even more impressive is their dedication to the music. In just one year’s time FiFiNasty has spent an innumerable amount of hours in the studio relentlessly perfecting each and every song; and as a result, have released two full length albums. Both of which have been outstanding and jam-packed with top shelf tracks.
Continue reading to find out how this Newport Beach native first got acquainted with his passion-turned-career, what’s in store for FiFiNasty in the coming months, and what it’s like to practically live in the studio in this edition of the Weekly Feature with Andrew Means of FiFiNasty. Enjoy!
Name: Andrew Means Place of Residence: Newport Beach , CA Current Jam: Raspberry Favorite Food: Wasabi-crusted filet mignon Mode of Self Expression: Music
Ark: Hey Andrew, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
Andrew: Of course, I’m 25 years old, born and raised in Newport Beach. I have played guitar since before I can remember, but I won’t ever forget that Blackbird was the first song my Dad taught me. Since then I have studied classical guitar and composition at Loyola Marymount University, and have played and practiced with every instrument I could get my hands on. I would now consider keyboard my primary instrument. The only instrument I enjoy working on more than keyboard is the digital audio workstation, or in other words, the software one uses to arrange, edit, and affect audio. I appreciate all styles of music and have studied the harmonic and rhythmic inner workings of every genre I can find, from ancient to classical to modern.
Ark: Was there a specific “a ha” moment in your life when you realized you wanted to turn your passion for music into a career, or did it just kind of come to be naturally?
Andrew: It certainly came naturally, from about the age of 8. I didn’t gain an appreciation for many musical styles until about eight years after that.
Ark: We’re all about trying to learn the creative processes different artists take when it comes time to create a new track or album. When you and Meghan are getting ready to start making the music, is there some form of “routine” you tend to stick to or does it vary each time?
Andrew: We basically never stop writing music, so there is no routine , it’s different every piece . That being said, we usually start by talking about the sonic soundscape we want to produce. We bounce different combinations of style, mood, and tempo off of each other until we have a pretty good idea of what we want to create. I then program and arrange basic percussion, or record and arrange the harmonic underpinnings on the keyboard. We don’t use any pre-programmed loops, so every sequence you hear has been built sample by sample.
Ark: Just a year after releasing your debut album, FiFiNasty came out with the second album Fringe Element. What else were you listening to while writing and recording the music on Fringe Element?
Andrew: Meg was listening to house, electro, dub and dubstep… but when I write I tend not to listen to any music other than what I’m working on. This helps prevent me from subconsciously copying what’s last in my audio memory.
Ark: In past couple months we’ve had the pleasure of seeing FiFiNasty perform at Pacific Festival, Detroit Bar, La Cave, and Coast Point. All of which have been awesome shows. With that being said, what do you like most about live performances?
Andrew: The interaction with the audience and our fans is certainly the best part, but a close second is hearing our new material out of the house speakers. We always play new and unreleased tracks at our live shows.
Ark: Alright, now it’s time for the “lightning round.” If you could answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it.
*Andrew’s answers are in RED
Digital or Analog? – Analog Signal Recorded Digitally.
80s or 90s? – 90s
Dive bar or Nightclub? – I’m a hermit
Punk or Classic Rock? – Classic Rock
San Francisco or San Diego? – Saint Francisco please
Ark: What is the strangest, most memorable, funny, awkward… (fill in the blank) encounter your music has led you to over the years?
Andrew: We were lounging in the artist area at Coachella when Steven Tyler from Aerosmith walked by and said something extremely explicit to Meghan. We looked at each other and could not stop laughing, mostly because he looked like an eighty-year-old woman.
Ark: You’re going to be locked inside a studio for exactly one week and are only allowed to bring one instrument with you. What would it be?
Andrew: A computer with Ableton Live.
Ark: When you’re not playing music, what do you like to do with your free time / what are a few of your hobbies?
Andrew: I love to paint, eat , and ride my bike around. When you basically live in the studio it’s pretty easy to forget that you need fresh air and vitamin D.
Ark: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Andrew. Any last words for the readers?
Andrew: Thank you for having me, keep your eyes and ears open for new singles from FiFiNasty, as well as instrumental synthesizer music from my pet project Pagan Chic.
Now indulge your ears with some auditory goodness courtesy of FiFiNasty!
It’s not everyday that a twenty-four year old musician is given the opportunity to play alongside a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer the likes of Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers…. Unless that is, you are the artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature, Gabe Rabben: and are currently on tour with him!
Even from a young age this Orange County native knew he wanted to be a musician and didn’t waste any time turning his dreams and aspirations into a reality. While most other 4 year old kids were playing with Matchbox cars and Barbies – Gabe was already learning to play drums.
Over the next two decades Gabe went on to diversify his musical talents by learning piano, guitar, bass, accordion and has also become quite the talented songwriter. However, it was his one true love of playing drums that he focused on the most and ultimately led him to where he is today.
Continue reading to find out what Gabe is all about and what it’s like to spend every day with a rock and roll living legend in this edition of the Weekly Feature with Gabe Rabben. Enjoy!
Name: Gabe Rabben Place of Residence: Laguna Beach, CA (Soon to be Nashville, TN) Current Jam:“Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band Favorite Food: Way too hard to answer… Love spicy food as a general rule. Mode of Self Expression: MUSIC! Either through song writing or performing.
Ark: Hey Gabe, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself? GR: My pleasure! I am a Musician/Songwriter born and raised in Laguna Beach, CA. I’m currently playing drums for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bill Medley of theRighteous Brothers.
Ark: Who are a few musicians or artists that you feel have served as major sources of inspiration for you and your music?
GR: I am strongly influenced by so many artists but, for me, it boils down to a few major influences. First and foremost – Stevie Wonder! I have idealized Stevie my entire life and I am constantly re-inspired by his music. Lately, I have been trying to hone my songwriting skills so I have been paying close attention to the song as opposed to the theatrics that we are subjected to in today’s pop music. Ironically, I’ve become fonder of singer/songwriters and a lot of really simple music. Growing up I used to think country music, for example, was really lame. I’ve come to realized that, although there still is some pretty corny country music out there, the heart of the music is the song and they do it so sincerely and the musicians are all so accomplished.
Ark: At what age did you first learn to play music, and what instruments do you currently play?
GR: I first started playing drums when I was about 4 years old. I picked up piano and guitar and bass soon after that. I recently picked up accordion and I’m super intrigued by it. But, drums were my first love and always will be MY Instrument.
Ark: We’re all about trying to learn the creative processes different artists take when it comes time to create a new track or album. When you’re getting ready to start making music, is there some form of “routine” you tend to stick to or does it vary each time depending on the mood?
GR: As far as songwriting goes, it is such a spontaneous art for me. When I am on a roll, I try my best to record whatever I’m doing at the time and do everything in my power to make the ideas keep coming. But, like anything creative, it comes in waves and you just have to be ready when those waves arrive. Lately, I have been writing a lot with Bill Medley’s daughter, McKenna, and we have tried lots of different things when sitting down to write a tune. It seems that whenever you try to force a song to emerge, there is a certain level of resistance involved. It’s hard to describe but sometimes there is just magic and the song almost writes itself.
Ark: Was there a specific “aha” moment in your life when you realized you wanted to turn your passion for music into a career, or did it just kind of come to be naturally?
GR: I have always known in my heart that I was going to be a musician. Luckily, my parents have been extremely supportive and allowed me to fully pursue my passion. There was a time when I wasn’t sure how to make music my career because it wasn’t a conventional choice and earning a living seemed questionable. I just knew it was what I needed to do. But, thanks to the support of my family and friends, I have been able to really align myself with the right people and pursue what I love to do most.
Ark: Alright. Now it’s time for the “lightning round.” If you could answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it:
*Gabe’s answers are in RED
Mac or PC? – MAC!!!!
Rhythm or Blues? – hmmm so tough… I am a drummer so I’m kind of obligated to say rhythm but man do I ever love the Blues!
Acoustic or Electric? – Acoustic
Small venue or Large venue? – Large, nothing like the energy of a big crowd
Tahiti or Taiwan? – Haven’t been to either… that being said…Tahiti
Chocolate or Vanilla? – Vanilla
Ark: As there are highs and lows associated with every profession, what would you consider to be the most rewarding, as well as the most frustrating part about being a career musician?
GR: In my opinion, there is no greater honor or pleasure than having people connect with and appreciate your music. If someone is digging my playing or loves one of my songs and comes up after a show and tells me about it, it really makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing with your life. That being said, it sucks when you’re playing for a crowd that just doesn’t get your songs or relate to your music. But, to each their own. That’s what is great about art.
Ark: What is the strangest, most memorable, funny, awkward (fill in the blank) encounter your music has led you to over the years?
GR: I’ve had a ton of memorable moments so far in my career but, to be completely honest, just the fact that I’m playing music for a living is such a blessing! I’ve been playing drums for Bill for 2 years now and there are still times that we are sitting on the tour bus or we are at an airport and I look around and say to myself “Am I really doing this? Am I really touring with a rock and roll living legend?” It still blows my mind!
Ark: Do you have any secrets you want to tell us? Maybe something like what we expect from you and your music in the future, or if there are any projects you’re working on that we should be on the lookout for?
GR: Secrets…hmmmm… I don’t really like secrets. I’m busy touring with Bill but when things settle down a little bit I am moving to Nashville to further pursue my songwriting and playing. Hopefully, if things go well, you will be hearing some of my songs sung by some big hitters. A guy can only dream, right? Also, keep an eye out for McKenna Medley. In addition to being one of my writing partners, she is trying to launch her career in the country scene and she is a super talented and serious up and comer.
Ark: When you’re not playing music, what do you like to do with your free time / what are a few of your hobbies?
GR: I love sports – basketball, football, baseball and I have been playing a ridiculous amount of golf. It might be a new obsession. I love hanging out with my friends and catching up on what everyone is doing with their lives. Ark: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Gabe. Any last words for the readers?
GR: Thanks for having me! It’s been awesome talking with you guys and I wish Ark all the best! It’s a great company! Not only do your backpacks and clothes rock, you guys give back to the community which is so easily overlooked in business these days. It’s refreshing to see and I love being a part of it! Rock on!
Now scope out a few photos of Gabe as well as a video of he and McKenna performing a song they wrote together titled “Saddest Goodbye”
The artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature is a multi-talented musical mastermind who’s relentlessly trying to create the perfect blend of electronic and acoustic music. In our opinion: Billy Scher and the rest of the guys in the band American Royalty aren’t too far away from discovering the secret recipe.
American Royalty came out swinging fast and hard with the release of their debutEl Ardemo EP and first live show together just less than a year ago. Buzz about this mysterious new group’s eccentric sound and mind-blowing live performances spread like wildfire and they immediately began taking LA by storm.
With a complete disregard for the word “genre” and the creative mindset that anything is possible – American Royalty has successfully carved our their own niche in the music world. Continue reading to get the inside scoop on the band in this edition of the Weekly Feature with Billy Scher of American Royalty. Enjoy!
Name: Billy Scher Place of Residence: Venice, CA Current Jam:J. Philip – Bootyberg Favorite Food: toasted P B & J Mode of Self Expression: light sculptures
Ark: Hey Billy, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself and American Royalty? Billy: My name is Billy Scher. I was born in New York, NY and raised in New England. I’ve spent the last 5 years in California. I’ve been playing guitar and writing songs since I was lad in the country. American Royalty was formed in the Spring of 2010. Our first live show was in September of 2010 so it has been a year since we have been on the live music scene. Marc (the other half of American Royalty) and I are obsessed with trying to find the perfect combination of electronic and acoustic music. We are working on the formula, but at the end of the day it is all about process. I would say my favorite part about American Royalty is the fact that there are no creative boundaries. No boundaries means we can sonically travel to any realm of reality. That’s a special thing that not all bands have the privilege of doing.
Ark: How did you guys come up with the name American Royalty, and is there any symbolism behind the name? Billy: When we were trying to think of a name for the band we started to talk about the desert. And skulls in the desert. And a skeleton that would come out of the sand to ride horses, so skeleton cowboys who then died and came back as skeleton cowboy zombies. That’s when we came up with American Royalty.
Ark: The last time we saw American Royalty perform live, you were doing vocals and also switching off between jamming on a guitar and a sampler. How do you manage to pull it all off at the same time?
Billy: It is just starting to feel natural. I like to move a lot when we play live so it is fun to switch it up and be able to groove all over the stage.
Ark: We’re all about trying to learn the creative processes different artist take when it comes time to create a new track or album. When you’re getting ready to start making music is there some form of “routine” you tend to stick to, or does it vary each time depending on the mood?
Billy: Honestly, it is always different. Sometimes it feels like a song is just meant to be and comes out. Other times it is a battle to make it work. The process might start with a vocal melody, a synth line, or a guitar part, but it’s always different. The key is being ready and willing to follow an idea down the rabbit hole to see where it takes us.
Ark: Your debut EP El Ardemo is killer! What else were you and the rest of the band listening to while writing and recording the music for the EP?
Billy: Thank you. Glad you like. We are always listening to a ton of different genres, but at that time the Black Keys, Bloody Beetroots, and Beck were definitely in high rotation.
Ark: Was there a specific “a ha” moment in your life when you realized you wanted to turn your passion for music into a career, or did it just kind of come to be naturally?
Billy: I am extremely blessed and lucky that I am able to be doing music full time right now. At the end of day, I am all about positive energy and believing in what you want. A combination of that mentality, dedication, supportive friends who let me couch surf at their place, and luck has allowed me to get this far, which is only a start. I have also been fortunate enough to know that I wanted to pursue music from a young age. The big moment was when I saw the light while watching Blonde Redhead at Vegoose in 2007. There was a moment during their set that I was in it with them. I felt like I completely understood their vibe. At that moment they were the definition of music for me. I connected with them on a musical and artistic level that I had never been on before. It was at that moment that I decided to start logging my 10,000 hours.
Ark: Alright. Now it’s time for the “lightning round.” If you could answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it: *Billy’s answers are in RED
Digital or analog? – Analog
70s or 80s? – 90s
Dive bar or nightclub? – Dive Bar
San Francisco or San Diego? – San Francisco
Surf or snowboard? - Sledding
Ark: What can we expect from American Royalty in the future? Are there any projects you guys are working on that we should keep an eye out for?
Billy: We are currently in the studio recording a new four song EP. We are extremely excited about the songs, but are even more excited because this is the first time we are recording in a legitimate studio with people who are sonically on the same page as us, so the sound we have always imagined is finally starting to take form. Shout out to Eric and Infrasonic Sound. We are releasing one of the singles called “I’ve Been Fighting For You” on vinyl with Seaport Records out of New York City. The whole EP should be dropping in early October. Be on the look out!
Ark: What do you and the rest of the guys in American Royalty like to do with your free time/ what are a few of your hobbies?
Billy: I’ve been on a crazy deejay high for a little bit now, so if I am not working on original songs I am up on the CDJs and looking for new music. I still try to get down to the basketball courts at Venice Beach once a day to play a quick game of pick up. Between the courts for me and ocean for Marc (who is a surfer) Venice Beach is a nice place to have at the end of the street.
Ark: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Billy. Any last words for the readers?
Billy: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for featuring us on your site!
Now scope out the video of an in studio recording session they did last month for the song “Levrolution” and listen to a couple other songs by American Royalty!
LA natives Tyler Blake and Michael David are the men behind the music in one of our all time favorite DJ duos: Classixx. And fortunately, Tyler just so happens to be the artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature.
Tyler and David spent a majority of their childhoods growing up together in LA and back in 2007 they decided to try their hand in making music. From there Classixx was born and they have since gone on to grace us with smooth and timeless tracks that never seem to get old no matter how many times you play them.
Best known for remixing indie songs that are already good in their own right. Classixx breathes new life into the tunes by adding a bit of funk in just the right places which gives them an awesome electronic nu-disco feel.
What’s rad about Classixx is that instead of falling into a rhythm with their live sets (like some musicians do,) they are constantly changing things up on stage. We’ve seen these guys more times than we can count and every single performance has been different from the last. Find out what these guys are all about in this Weekly Feature with Tyler Blake from Classixx.
Name: Tyler Blake from Classixx Place of Residence: Echo Park in Los Angeles Current Jam:Benoit & Sergio-Everybody Favorite Food: Italian Cold Cut Deli Sandwich Mode of Self Expression: Music
Ark: Hey Tyler, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about Classixx?
Tyler: We’re an electronic act based out of Los Angeles. We’ve been friends since we were kids and started making music together in high school.
Ark: It’s no surprise you guys dig quite a diverse spectrum of music and hence the name Classixx. Out of everything you’re listening to right now, what artist/track/album sticks out in your mind the most?
Tyler:James Blake is great. Most of the stuff that’s been coming out on DFA recently has been really good. DNTEL just did an album where he remixed all his favorite Enya songs. We’ve been listening to that a lot lately. Its really good music to listen to on a long flight.
Ark: The Classixx remix of the Phoenix track “Lizstomania” is one of those tracks we just never get sick of listening to and it’s received a good amount of love from music critics all over. Where did the inspiration behind remixing that track come from?
Tyler: Kitsune was putting out the single and asked us to do it. We jumped at the opportunity. We’ve always been huge Phoenix fans so we wanted to make sure we did the song justice. We just set out make a great version of the song that sounded like us.
Ark: We’re all about trying to learn the creative processes different artists take when it comes time to create a new track or album. When you’re getting ready to start making music is there some form our “routine” you tend to stick to, or does it vary each time depending on your mood?
Tyler: It varies but usually one of us will come up with an idea and then we’ll work on it together until we decide its good enough to finish or not. The initial idea could be anything; a drum beat, a bassline, a melody, chords… whatever.
Ark: What would you consider to be the most rewarding, and adversely, the most frustrating part about pursuing a career as a musician?
Tyler: The most rewarding part is making things that people appreciate and enjoy. The frustrating part is that its really hard to make a living off of it without touring. So we tour constantly and its hard to make time to finish things and it ends up taking forever. That’s why we are so slow and why it has taken us so long to finish making our album.
Ark: Alright. Now it’s time for the “lightning round.” If you could answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it: *Tyler’s answers are in RED
Studio sets or Live sets? – not sure what that means
MAC or PC? – MAC
Originals or remixes? – Originals
Vintage or modern? – Both
Beach or lake? – Beach
Coffee or tea? – Coffee
Ark: What can we expect from Classixx in the future and are there any projects you guys are currently working on that we should keep a watchful eye out for?
Tyler: We’re finishing our album which we hope to be done with by October.
Ark: If you were going to be locked in a room for 1 week straight and could only choose one instrument to take with you. What would that instrument be and why?
Tyler: A Piano. The piano is unique in that it can play the bassline, the chords, and the melody of a song all at once.
Ark: What are a few of your hobbies/ how do you like to spend your free time when you’re not creating and playing tracks?
Tyler: Los Angeles has a lot to offer in that you can go to the beach and surf or go the mountains/hiking trails, the desert… almost every kind of environment is within a couple hours of driving. so we try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. I skateboard and snowboard also. Although, honestly we don’t really have much free time lately.
Scope the “I’ll Get You” music video & check out a few Classixx tracks
It’s always refreshing to meet people who are equally as humble and easy-going as they are musically talented and the artist in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature, Sarah Barthel, is a shinning and shimmering testament to this.
Sarah plays in a band called Phantogramwhich is one the better psych rock/indie electronica bands to come out in the last few years (in our opinion) and can be found belting out vocals on the mic and tearing up the keyboard on-the-reg.
With tracks that are chock-full of supernatural synths sounds, catchy, melodic guitar riffs, whispery vocals, and an amalgamation of other auditory gems; their live shows are nothing short of captivating. Oh, and their music videos are just as mesmerizing!
Phantogram made their debut with the hit track “When I’m Young,” and quickly became a powerful and mysterious force on the music scene shortly thereafter. They know how to stay true to their roots by continuing to write, record and produce music in the same place where it all began just a few years back: a barn in Upstate New York.
After watching their performances at Coachella and Pacific Festival earlier this year, we reached out to Phantogram and were stoked when they agreed to do a casual little phone Q&A session with us. So without further adieu, we give you Sarah Barthel of Phantogram’s Weekly Feature. Enjoy!
Name: Sarah Barthel Place of Residence: Saratoga Springs, NY Current Jam: favorite new artist is Com Truise (on Ghostly Intl.) Favorite Food: lobster Mode of Self Expression: vocals & keyboard
Ark: Hey Sarah. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
Sarah: Well my name is Sarah. I’m 28 years old and play keyboard and sing in a band called Phantogram. I tend to produce music and like making beats, and also attempt to play guitar when I’m alone in my own room (haha). We are currently hanging out in Salt Lake City for a few days then we’re off to Mexico City for the next stop of our tour. Oh, and I like music!
Ark: Awesome! At what age did you start playing music, and are there any other musicians in your family?
Sarah: I started singing when I was very young. I guess it all got started by just singing along to songs on the radio and my cassette tapes. I’ve been playing the piano since I was in junior high but I’m not musically trained so I made stuff up and messed around.
As far as other musicians in the family…My grandmother was a professional piano player and used to do concerts all the time when she was younger (until her 30s I think) but I believe that’s it for musicians in my family.
Ark: We’re all about learning the creative processes different artists take with their music. When it comes time to create a new track or album is there some form of “routine” you tend to stick to, or does it vary each time depending on the mood?
Sarah: Yeah it kind of depends where we are (on the road, at home, etc.) However, if an idea strikes we record it wherever we are. Sometimes Josh or I will play something on piano or guitar, or maybe Josh will make a beat while we are apart. Then we will combine ideas/thoughts together when we meet back up and go from there. But for the most part it’s different every time.
Ark: Phantogram put on a killer performance at Pacific Festival two weekends ago. Congrats and well done! In regards to music festivals, what would you say is the main different between West Coast and East Coast festivals?
Sarah: Thanks, that was an awesome time. I don’t think we’ve ever played any festivals on East Coast besides Lollapalooza but that’s more Central.
The difference between a festival like Coachella or Outside Lands vs Lollapaloozais that there is a much different type of energy going on. For a festival like Coachella that is out in middle of nowhere that people have to drive to from all over the place, and its BEYOND hot… they are going because of the music and experience. Those people are willing to do whatever it takes because they love it and are in it for the overall experience not just to see a single act.
But for something like Lollapalooza which is right in the middle of the city, more people are coming for the day or single shows. So you definitely get a different type of vibe off that.
I’ve always enjoyed the festivals where people have to come out and camp because that’s just the way it is. There is this awesome vibe and energy going around the whole time.
Ark: Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re going to be locked inside a studio for exactly 1 week and can only take one instrument of choice with you… What would that instrument be?
Sarah: If I was going to be locked in a studio I would take a Moog Voyager with me because there’s just way too much fun to be had with one of those things!
Ark: Alright now it’s time for the “Lightning Round”. If you could please answer as quickly as possible, we’d appreciate it:
*Sarah’s answers are in RED
Mac or PC? – Mac
Analog or digital? – analog
Coachella or Treasure Island? - Umm… Coachella
Dive bar or nightclub? – diver bar
Summer or winter? – Summer
Ark: What is the strangest, most memorable, funny, awkward…(fill in the blank) encounter your music has led you to over the years?
Sarah: I think one of the strangest experiences on the road was almost getting our butts kicked in Hamburg, Germany for arguing with the bartender since they tried to scam us. Apparently it happens to tourists all the time in Hamburg and they obviously knew we were American.
There were these two girls at the bar right on the strip right where the tourists go and one went up to Josh and one went up to tour manager and asked them to buy drinks. So they ordered the girls the drinks they asked for and we got the bill at the end of the night each drink cost like $200! It was unbelievable because they were theses small bottles of sparking wine that were absolutely ridiculous and we were like you’ve gotta be kidding me. The girls totally scammed us and to make a long story short this extremely enormous, scary, German bartender told us if we were’t going to pay the bill we had the option of going out back and getting “the other treatment.” So we paid the bill and learned our lesson.
Ark: Since there are highs and lows that accompany every type of career and yours requires going on tour. What is the absolute best as well as the absolute worst thing about being on tour?
Sarah: The best thing about touring is playing music and people getting really excited to come out and see you. When you see them admiring you and your music and what the music does to them. Seeing people sing and dance along to music is incredible.
The worst is without a doubt how stinky the van smells with 4 guys just and just me. No offense to men, but I don’t know how it happens or how it is even possible, but it smells so bad.
Ark: Phantogram has toured alongside some seriously big ticket talent. Out of everyone you guys have been on tour with, who has been your favorite?
Sarah: Yeahhhh. We had a blast with School of Seven Bellswhen we toured with them a few year ago. The [Crystal] Antlers and The XX are also at the top of our list.
Ark: When you’re not creating or playing music, how do you like to spend your free time and what are a few of your hobbies?
Sarah: I spend a lot of time with Phanotgram so there isn’t much room for free time. I guess catching up with family and friends whenever I get a minute is something I take priority in. I love it. I also really enjoy eating good food and going out to restaurants. So…… eating!
Ark: Do you have any secrets you want to tell us? Maybe something like when the new EP is going be released?
Sarah: Hmmmm not really. I actually don’t know what day it is going to be released. All I know is that it will be sometime in September and there will be 6 songs on it.
Ark: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Sarah. Any last words for the readers?
Sarah: Check us out and make sure if you’re listening to our music to turn it up really really loud. It sounds way better loud!
You never know where you may cross paths with the artisan in the spotlight of this Weekly Feature, unless you’ve got a bird’s eye view that is. Stephanie Morgan aka “Mama Seabird” and her team of ladies are constantly on the move, serving up delicious and nutritious vegan treats all across Southern California in the Seabirds Food Truck.
After reading the back label of a Wheat Thins box one day and not knowing what 90% of the ingredients were. Stephanie took it upon herself to make a major lifestyle change by switching over to a vegan diet. From that moment Stephanie began putting her innovative spin into vegan cuisine and the concept of the Seabirds Food Truck was born!
Check out this weeks video Weekly Feature with Stephanie Morgan to hear about the conception of the Seabirds Food Truck, her participation on the Food Network show “The Great Food Truck Race” and her thoughts on the new wave of the future: underwater food submarines. Enjoy!