Groovy Uncle – “A Clip Round the Ear” (Album Review)

Located in South East England you’ll find the Medway-based group Groovy Uncle, and they’re back again with the release of their sixth album “A Clip Round the Ear.” The album serves as a nostalgic trip to the 60s for those who remember the era as well as serving as a gateway drug for a new generation to discover that sound for themselves. However, Groovy Uncle isn’t just here to re-create songs from the past for the sake of going down memory lane, but rather using the classic sounds and old-school style songwriting as a springboard into new uncharted territories topped off with a shiny polish for contemporary audiences.

Groovy Uncle is the moniker of singer-songwriter, arranger and guitarist Glenn Prangnell who has surrounded himself with a revolver door of talents through previous albums for a surprise with each release. For “A Clip Round the Ear,” Nick Rice (bass), Mole Lambert (drums) and a full cast of other talented musicians fill out the record with the most notable collaboration being that of vocalist Suzi Chunk, whose flavorful delivery on many of the tracks becomes the main attraction against the backdrop of soulful, energetic and sometimes raw songs found on the record.

“Mrs Saywell Says” opens the album with garage rock optimism by incorporating a catchy chorus, clear groove basslines and Beach Boys-styled guitars that combine into a fun pop song dipped into a vat of lyrical quirkiness. Glenn’s inspiration for this track’s lyrics stem from his parent’s tales of a real life infant school teacher called Mrs. Saywell in the 1930s and 40s who used the classroom’s open coal fire to heat up her rear end. This highlights Glenn’s ability of taking peculiar situations and creating a narrative consisting of memorable characters that are easy to latch onto and cleverly bringing the album to life in the process.

The nods to the 60s and 70s as an influence are especially notable on “Our Gary’s No Fool,” which is seemingly a lost Beatles track featuring John Lennon at the helm. Other songs such as “The Moon and Back” evoke memories of The Clash with its sassy, fun, and rocking sound that is perfect for blasting loud from a convertible in the neighborhood to enrage those still sleeping at dawn. The guitar solo completes the energetic tune and it’s a stand-out track off the album.

Other songs such as “I Thought It Was About Time,” “The Scheme of Things” and “I Really Wouldn’t Know How” are softer and offer an introspective Jazzy experience filled with sophistication and candor. These songs would not sound out of place coming out of a diner’s jukebox from the golden era. Suzi really displays her talent here in delivering emotion as well as articulating the meaning behind the songs and her boldness and vitality take Groovy Uncle to the next level.

The upbeat rocker “Oil and Colour Man” dives into an interesting narrative that applies the album’s title in its lyrics. The song takes inspiration from Glenn’s memories of a man back in the day who would sell items such as soap and lipstick around the neighborhood. The story in the lyrics is the definite highlight of the song and the spoken words and laughter by James Worse adds humor and a touch of distinctiveness. Listeners can truly visualize the character in the song, but it’s your decision to either feel pity or sympathize with this zany man.

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The rest of the songs on the album are either rocking with the occasional use of horns, or slower-paced with sing-a-long melodies that have clear, purposeful vocals, a tight rhythm section and solid production. “A Clip Round the Ear” is ultimately for those seeking a glimpse into a simpler time through light-hearted snippets about not-so-ordinary people told in catchy songs that will get you off your seat and dancing the night away. All the song are short bursts of energy and accessible for newcomers to the genre. If you’re looking for a classic sound injected with experienced yet always curious talent, look no further than Groovy Uncle’s “A Clip Round the Ear.”

The album is available on limited edition green vinyl and CD and is available from groovy-uncle.co.uk and iTunes. Like them out on Facebook.

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Lola – Solo Artist Interview

St. Louis-native singer-songwriter Lola Toben has been releasing singles from her EP titled “Extended Play” once a month since May for everyone to enjoy. Today, Lola spoke with ETV about her earliest musical influences, the challenges with music she has had and what cities she would like to perform in the near future. Check out her song “Way to Your Heart” here:

Lola said she got into music at an early age and has a wide variety of musical influences that has inspired her writing style.

“I have loved music since I popped into this world,” Lola said. “My parents were both music lovers, so there was always music playing around the house. My earliest influences were Elton John, Billy Joel, Carole King, Joe Cocker and The Beatles. I would always sing along and make up dance routines. I feel like my writing style has a lot of that 70s vibe because of those early influences. I also adored Disney music, you know like Little Mermaid, Lion King, and Pocahontas.”

Lola’s latest project is an EP titled “Extended Play,” where she has been releasing a single at a time from it since May. She worked with Topher Mohr and Alex Elena, two Grammy-nominated producers in Los Angeles.

“They were fabulous,” Lola said. “The type of music is soul/pop/singer-songwriter. There are some retro vibes for sure. I think it is a great introduction to my music. The lyrical themes mostly revolve around love: looking for love, trying to hold onto love, forgiveness, breaking down walls in relationships, and overcoming obstacles.  My second single, ‘Feeling Fine,’ I wrote after graduating college. That one is more about transitioning into a new life, letting go of the past, and stepping out into the world as an individual.”

Lola said the most gratifying thing for her about music was performing and sharing music with people, saying that being on stage melts all her stress away.

“The hours of learning, preparing, and rehearsing become worth it when you get to move people and touch their souls,” Lola said. “I feel like music has a way of reaching the deeper side of people and connecting them in ways nothing else can.”

However, making music doesn’t come without its challenges. Lola said the hardest part about making music was keeping her head up in the face of other’s criticisms.

“Not EVERYONE is going to like your voice, your style, or your songs,” Lola said. “You can’t be making music to get approval. It has to be because you believe in it. Whenever I start doubting myself, I remember that it is not about ME, it’s about the music. I think I have a message to share: one that is healing and unifying.”

In addition to making music as a solo artist, Lola makes music with her husband Bryan Toben. They started their project Bryan and Lola in 2014 where they perform a combination of acoustic original music, classic rock, and modern covers. Lola said they have performed at many wineries, bars and private events in St. Louis and that their folk-rock is low-key.

In 2016, Lola pursued her career as a solo artist where Bryan works as manager, booking agent, guitarist, and backup singer for the project. Lola serves as front woman, songwriter, arranger, pianist and singer performing songs of original soul, pop and R&B. Depending on the venue, Lola will either perform as solo artist or with her husband depending on the venue.

As far as performing live, Lola has a show coming up at The Mint on Sept. 9 and plans to continue performing locally in Los Angeles. She also has plans to perhaps play shows along the west coast.

“I’d like to get up north and do some shows in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland,” Lola said. “I also plan on doing another big St. Louis show sometime next year. We just put on a huge concert celebrating the release of my EP in St. Louis (my hometown) with a full 8-piece band. It was amazing!”

Lola will continue to make mark in L.A. as the intricate songwriter with a booming voice. She can only continue to rise and we look forward to hearing what’s next in store for her. Lola said she has written a lot of new songs since moving to L.A. and she wants to try them out in the studio. We can’t wait to hear them!

Stay up to date with Lola at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes and her official site.

AJ Steel – Solo Artist Interview

Melbourne singer-songwriter AJ Steel is an upcoming talent from down under who is turning heads with his catchy tunes and pop rock style. Today, AJ spoke with ETV about his early influences, the making behind his latest single, and his writing style. Check out his single “Love You When It’s Bad” here:

Some of AJ’s influences growing up were Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and classical music, even going so far as falling asleep while listening to the 1812 Overture back in the day after a morning in the waves. So, it’s no surprise that he would enjoy the likes of “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys. He’s also a fan of The Beatles, U2, and Bob Dylan, all artists who are known for their memorable and deep lyrics. Although he is a skilled performer today, he stated that he didn’t start getting into music as early as most musicians do.

“I was probably a bit of a late starter when it comes to music,” AJ said. “I used to play the piano by ear when I was about 10 or 11, then I got side-tracked into surfing. I lived on the coast and it was a real beach town.  Everyone seemed to surf there. So, I didn’t get serious about it until I was about 16.”

Since then, he has established himself as a prolific songwriter. His songs have been added to satellite radio with more than 3 million listeners, have been used in independent films out of Los Angeles, and have received national airplay on commercial radio in Australia along with numerous internet radio stations worldwide.

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Photo via https://www.ajsteelmusic.com

AJ’s music is a mix of the alternative rock sound mixed with the endearing qualities of a good pop song. “Love You When It’s Bad” is an introspective track tinged with hope hanging on each note of the piano ballad. The song soars high in the second half with a full band sound and lyrical inspiration about how much people are prepared to go through to chase after the one they love.

“The song probably took about four months to do,” AJ said. “I’d work on it then have to put it away and then come back to it. I just couldn’t nail down the story for that one. I kind of knew what I wanted to say but it took some time to reveal itself. Some of them come quickly and some of them just take time. There’s not much you can do about it, you just have to keep working on it if you believe the idea has integrity. The recording and production process took some time as well. I tried all sorts of instrumentation and arrangements until I found an arrangement that worked.”

Indeed, it worked, and the story does present itself naturally as the song develops. Like many songs, parts of the production were easy to work on while other parts were either challenging or difficult. One challenge was making a song that covered new ground while also retaining elements of what made his previous work stand out.

“I don’t like to go over what feels like old ground, but sometimes you have to if you want to bring a song to life,” AJ said. “Sometimes you just fight it, you shouldn’t, but sometimes you just do.”

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Photo via https://www.ajsteelmusic.com

His latest song is just one of many songs he has done before. As a solo artist, AJ has released an EP and four singles, and from his previous band, he has released an EP and an album. To create his songs, he mostly creates them in his studio but is open to collaborating more.

“Music is more fun when there’s other people in the process, but so far I’ve kind of locked myself away,” AJ said. “After going solo, I really wanted to find my sound, what I wanted to say as an artist and that took a lot of time to dig right down and find the real artist I wanted to be. So, I had to lock myself away to do that.”

Overall, AJ Steel is a name to lookout for. He is currently working on two brand new singles, with one of them due out this month and another in the writing stage. As time keeps ticking, AJ will keep writing, recording and releasing new songs that will touch the hearts of many. His next big hit is just around the corner, and we hope you’re there when it arrives.

To find out more about AJ Steel, be sure to check him out on Soundcloud, YouTube, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his official site.

Easy Star All-Stars Concert Review

The Echoplex welcomed reggae bands The Elovators, The Late Ones, and Easy Star All-Stars on Memorial Day 2017 as the three bands embark on their West Coast Tour.

Opening the show was The Elovators from Boston, Massachusetts, who brought the beach sounds from the east coast to this side of the country on their first ever performance in California. They performed songs from their recently released album “The Cornerstone,” setting up for what would be a very funky night. Throughout their set, the band was friendly, even asking everyone to step in closer to the stage to create a more intimate setting. From clean vocals to the groovy trombone, The Elovators successfully brought their authentic sound to the Echoplex and showed what their hometown was all about. Overall, they were a great opening band and enjoyed themselves on stage just as much as the crowd enjoyed watching them perform.

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The Elovators. Photo via Isiah Reyes

The Late Ones came out onto the stage next with a different approach. They brought a lot more energy and instantly got everyone hyped. Based out of Laie, Hawaii, brothers Tui Avei (lead vocals), and Tau Avei (vocals), along with cousin Josh Brunson (vocals) brought their rapid-fire rhymes and rap-infused style to give everyone a chance to let loose and truly enjoy the night out. Some of their songs were full of high-octane ferocity, while others were slower jams. Either way, The Late Ones managed to get their new fans swaying to their hypnotic rhythms in no time. The youthful band is taking hold of the reggae torch and infusing its flame with dashes of Jazz and R&B in new and exciting ways. They got everyone pumped up for the final act and the headliners for the night’s show.

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The Late Ones. Photo via Isiah Reyes

Before the Easy Star All-Stars took the stage, there was an undeniable energy in the air. I believe those in attendance had an idea of what to expect, but no one was prepared for just how hard they would rock out. A thunderous applause followed as each member finally stepped out. The opening song started as a long instrumental that allowed for everyone to get accustomed to the band’s versatility. Soon after, the collective force of all eight members on stage playing off each other began to shine and they started playing their reggae cover hits by legendary acts Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson. The highlight of the night was when they performed Pink Floyd’s “Money” leading into “Billie Jean” and just when you thought it was over, they went back into “Money,” with a flourishing end that had everyone head-banging to the dynamic rhythm section and outstanding vocal harmonies from the multitude of vocalists on stage. This performance proved the Easy Star All-Stars are indeed one of the top reggae performing acts in the world right now. As someone who doesn’t listen to reggae regularly, the entire show for me was a gateway into a new sound that I’ll be keeping an ear out for.

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Easy Star All-Stars. Photo via Isiah Reyes

If you’re ready to experience The Elovators, The Late Ones, and Easy Star All-Stars, three reggae bands that know how to put on a good show, be sure to check out their tour dates to know when they’ll be coming into your town so you can enjoy it all for yourself too.

Mascarada – New Single Release

Latin psychedelic rock duo Mascarada released their debut single “Conéstame.” Check out the Latin grooves here:

Mascarada members Leana Courtney and Shawn Grindle got the idea for creating a new Latin psych rock band while driving along the I-10 from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Together, they co-write all the songs together as they both come up with music and Leana adding vocals. In the studio, they took their 60s psych-pop influences from the likes of Pink Floyd and The Beatles and went all in creating enough material to complete a full-length album. Their self-titled debut is coming out May 9, with plans for a follow up record in 2017.

To experience Mascarada live, check out their debut show at The Hotel Café on May 9, located at 1623 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028. For tickets click here and also check out their Facebook, TwitterInstagram and official website.