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Face the Music

The Music Issue

Meet 10 local music acts you must hear… and if you like what you hear, we’ve got more for you.

electronic dance music
Eyes Everywhere

THE RUNDOWN: Fans of electronic dance music in Buffalo might know Eyes Everywhere by their former name HXLY, but when the duo changed their name in 2012, they also adopted a more focused approach to production. The production duo—Kyle Tatum and Brian Doyle—met at Canisius College.

“When Brian came to check out my dorm room I was wearing an Operation Ivy t-shirt. I guess that’s how he decided to be my roommate.”

The two found common ground in all sorts of music including hip-hop and electro. After years of producing fidget-house tracks that saw regular play at the Communist Parties at Soundlab and scored them gigs at local clubs, the duo re-emerged last summer as Eyes Everywhere and caught the attention of Nick Catchdubs of Fool’s Gold Records, home to artists as diverse as Danny Brown, Chromeo, Flosstradamus, and Kavinsky. Eyes Everywhere will open for ambient LA beat-smith Shlohmo at the Waiting Room on Sunday, May 4.

Essential listening: Earlier this year the duo released a bassy house track called “Off Bailey,” on Brooklyn record label Fool’s Gold as part of their Clubhouse series. “I was living in a trap house off Bailey Avenue at the time,” says Tatum. “Our songs tend to be moody and dark. Brian thought the song sounded like the soundtrack of late-night walk down Bailey Avenue, so that inspired the title.” With stabbing synth vamps and twisting basslines, the intense house groove was released by Fool’s Gold for free on the internet for one week before it was added to a compilation of fellow Clubhouse artists. The compilation was eventually released on Beatport and iTunes and ultimately charted on Beatport earlier this year.

> cory perla

If you like Eyes Everywhere, check out: 222 Oceans & Cloud 11, Rufus Gibson, Mike Parker, Chris Sendziak

indie rock
The Tins

THE RUNDOWN: The Tins are on an upward trajectory in the local music scene and beyond, rising above the homogenous pool of indie rock and bolstering their ranking as one of Buffalo’s best acts. With a sound that’s catchy and danceable without sacrificing musicianship, there’s no shortage of clever hooks and imaginative melodies with this trio—and any band that cites the Beatles, Spencer Krug, Isaac Brock, and the Flaming Lips as influences are keeping good company when it comes to songwriting. Delivering tight, guitar- and synth-laden songs that range from driving alt rock anthems to atmospheric indie pop, the Tins’ original sound stems from the fact that all three members contribute different lyrical and musical qualities to the songwriting process.

The group got to work after winning Artvoice’s Battle of Original Music in 2012, releasing their debut album, Life’s a Gas, with acclaimed producer/engineer Joe Blaney (Modest Mouse, The Clash). Working with Blaney proved to be a formative experience for the band, who took that know-how to the studio again this past winter to record a four-song EP, Young Blame, which is set to come out this summer. “Working with Joe was an incredible learning experience for us. On our new EP however, we are happy to return to self-production,” says keyboardist/vocalist Mike Santillo. “We’ve been able to take everything that we’ve learned and apply that to our new recordings in a way that is more focused, and better represents what we are trying to achieve sonically.” Sonically, the band is as polished as any in the local circuit, which is why they’ve been selected for past gigs to open for the likes of Sam Roberts, Tokyo Police Club, the Blow, and Plants and Animals.

Essential listening: The single off Life’s a Gas, “Whiteout,” is an ambitious track that showcases the top-notch vocal harmonies between counterparts Santillo and Adam Putzer (guitar/vocals). Beginning with a plaintive guitar riff backed by a percussive loop from the keyboard, the interspersed synth breakdowns lead into an epic, Band of Horses-esque chorus belted out by the harmonic duo of Santillo and Putzer.

> jon wheelock

If you like the Tins, check out: Aircraft, The Screaming Jeans, Bryan Johnson and Family, The Albrights


THE RUNDOWN: Hip-pop/soul singer Johnal got his start singing as a choir leader at a church on the East Side of Buffalo. “That taught me that I had the right qualities to stand in front of a crowd,” he says. From there he went on to talent shows, and now he’s pushing his brand of soulful R&B that falls along the lines of artists like Trey Songz, Lloyd, and Miguel. As a singer, he’s more inspired by hip hop and rap than traditional R&B. “I grew up listening to the Pacs and the Biggies and the Nas’s, so what I did was I took the hip hop culture side of it and wrote raps and just sung them out. I just turn raps into melodies, and that has worked for me.”

At the same time, he often chooses production values that stick to classic R&B sounds full of strings and keys.

Essential listening: Buffalo producer Tyrie Hames crafted the beats for Johnal’s latest single, “Fly Thang,” a tight, hard-hitting R&B track with some contagious hooks. The video, shot in Toronto, is highly polished; shots of airplanes taking off and fancy cars match Johnal’s luxurious lyrical vibes. The video has been featured on MTV’s Emerging Artists website, and last Friday he was part of an MTV Emerging Artists showcase at Lux Night Club on Chippewa, which was filmed by MTV.

> cory perla

If you like Johnal, check out: Mack Benton, Carel, Bentlee Gavin Wright, Gogev

Cross Stitch

THE RUNDOWN: Local punk upstarts Cross Stitch were born from the simple desire of friends Emma LaQue, Holly Bloom, Joleen Bolger, and Keely Guiliano to better hone their craft individually. Keely says, “Cross Stitch mostly started because none of us really knew how to play our instruments. Joleen had been playing acoustic guitar for a few years but not electric and Holly had just started taking drum lessons a couple months earlier. I think everyone felt the best way to really learn was to just start a band, you know, so we would have to be forced to practice.”

This collective blank slate helped create the best kind of musical monster possible, one free of any pretense or a need to live up to any previous musical endeavors or influences. Any technical inexperience implied would never be guessed by the casual listener. More than any kind of musical influence, what really translates to the listener is the shared DIY ethic amongst the four. As vocalist Emma puts it, “I think since none of us had any experience writing music or song structure, that we didn’t really have any specific influences. I think we all like different kinds of music, but we never said, ‘Let’s write a song that sounds like this.’ We are all definitely influenced by DIY punk culture, and that kind of lifestyle is where we come from, so I think it’s inevitable that we bring that to our band.”

Essential listening: Their six-song debut, The Early Years (available on cassette via Drug Party Tapes and at, could be used in a class to teach students how to perfect the earworm. Without a song reaching the two-minute mark, these post-punky exercises in precision and dynamics should be the envy of their peers and beyond. Depending on one’s personal listening canon, elements of early Sonic Youth, Bratmobile, Dead Kennedys, and even Adolescents can be picked out of the brief musical fray, but not for very long. Cross Stitch’s minimal sense of layering—yes, they are experts in layering within the confines of a two-minute song—gives each member room to breathe while simultaneously take shifts supporting one another.

Catch Cross Stitch Thursday May 1 at Broadway Joe’s with Michigan’s Knife Ritual and Pagan Piss, Finnish punk band Hero Dishonest, and Buffalo’s own Resist Control.

> eric kendall

If you like Cross Stitch, check out: Resist Control, Fleshy Mounds, The Mallwalkers, Ronald Raygun

commercial production
Like A Parrot

THE RUNDOWN: Production and songwriting team Like A Parrot do a little bit of everything, from producing music for commercial use, to producing music for Buffalo-based artists and writing their own records. The duo—Aaron Bonus and Justin Gammella—make original music pop and indie rock with a focus on writing and producing tracks for television, film, commercials, and other artists. For their commercial productions, they’re often commissioned to write songs with a certain sound, be it indie rock like the Black Keys or Passion Pit-inspired new wave tunes.

“That’s where we got the name—it’s kind of tongue in cheek because we’re mimicking other bands,” says Bonus, who along with Gammella works on commissions from companies like Kings of A&R. The commissioned songs are produced and then sold by the company.

“Bands like Fitz and the Tantrums, Foster the People, Band of Horses, all of those bands started off doing what we’re doing now, getting our feet wet writing songs in all different genres,” Bonus says.

The duo is also looking for new local bands trying to break into publishing. They’ll be moving into a new recording studio at the corner of West Utica and Elmwood in the coming weeks.

Essential listening: When Bonus and Gammella sat down to write music together for the first time nearly a year ago, the result was “The Balance,” a bouncing indie-pop song with a catchy synth hook and some impressive vocals. “It’s about writing not only good music, but marketable music,“ says Gammella. The duo has mastered their process and says that given the right circumstances they can pump out a track a day. In addition to writing music for commercial use, the team plans to release an EP this summer.

> cory perla

If you like Like A Parrot Productions, check: Joywave, Early Attic, Dirty Smile

hip hop
Rapper Mad Dukez and Fresh Kils

THE RUNDOWN: As I write this, Buffalo rapper Mad Dukez and his Toronto-based producer Fresh Kils are touring the Czech Republic, Austria, the Netherlands, and France, playing to sold-out crowds. After years of grinding out a name for himself in Buffalo, Dukez, a.k.a. Mamudu Kargbo, is making some serious moves with the help of Buffalo-based hip hop record label Deep Thinka Records.

As far as the hip hop scene in Buffalo goes, he’s one of the more respected rappers. “He’s got the right formula,” says beat producer Jamie “Jacebeats” Catania. “He’s humble. I wish there were more people like him in Buffalo.” On a national and even international level, he’s certainly gaining some buzz with his well polished yet underground beats and feel-good vibes.

Essential listening: Last summer Mad Dukez and Fresh Kils released their full length record, Gettin’ Gatsby, essentially a 21st-century spin on the themes of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby. The album takes a look at that book’s relevance to hip hop music today. “We’ve all read the book. We took some of the themes from it—overindulgence, decadence, infidelity—and brought them up to speed for the current generation,” Mamudu told Artvoice in an interview earlier this year. On top of the heady lyrical content, the juxtaposition of the innovative and highly refined beats of Fresh Kils with Mad Dukez’s old school hip hop flow make for an unique listen.

> cory perla

If you like Mad Dukez, check out: Cove, Chae Hawk, Remain Nameless, JaceBeats, Network, Ajent O


THE RUNDOWN: In October 2010 vocalist Ricardo Ivan Ramos moved to Buffalo from his hometown of Yauco, Puerto Rico, where he formed KDC in 2005. When Ramos, also known as Casper, arrived in Buffalo, he quickly found a place to stay at the now defunct Buffalo DIY hardcore space the Funeral Home, where his friend Aaron King was living. Ramos had previously met King, a veteran of the local hardcore scene, when King’s former band, Able Danger, made their way to Puerto Rico. A few months after Ramos moved into the Funeral Home, his friend and guitarist Juan Carlos Lebron-Montes left Puerto Rico to restart KDC with Buffalo as home base.

After several years of DIY touring, the band now has help from booking agency State of Mind Touring, Columbus, Ohio record label Head2Wall Records, and their touring bassist Nathan Patterson. Now they’re on an 18-date tour that will take them from Detroit to Mexico before returning home to Buffalo. “Believe it or not, one of the coolest places I like playing is a place in Fargo, North Dakota, way the fuck up there,” says Ramos. “The kids there have been really responsive.”

Essential listening: The band’s latest record, The Veracity of Solitude, is a caustic combination of hardcore, metal, and punk. The album moves from head-spinning punk like “23to28” to heavy metal tracks like “Echopark” without batting an eye. It was recorded last summer in Chicago and released on Head2Wall Records in December. “I grew up listening to a lot of Latino punk rock, bands like Tropiezo, Dos Minutos, and Sin Dios,” says Ramos. “Latino punk rock just goes at a million miles per hour.” King is the key to the band’s heavy sound, says Ramos, while Carlos brings in some thrash and weirder influences.

> cory perla

If you like KDC, check out: Cain, Hellcannon, Murder City Outlaws

What Would Mingus Do?

THE RUNDOWN: Like so many of jazz’s luminaries, Charles Mingus was the unpredictable type. The virtuosic bassist, composer, and bandleader was known for being relentlessly innovative, ignoring musical conventions, and pushing the envelope in a way that was adventurous and groundbreaking. Jazz pioneers What Would Mingus Do? take that same spirit, asking an essential question of their namesake, and of jazz in general, and set out on a musical journey looking for answers. Led by award-winning saxophonist and composer Kelly Bucheger, WWMD’s lineup is always subject to change; on any given night you could see a different incarnation of the group with varying instrumentation. Whatever the combination of musicians might be, you can be sure that the group will comprise true heavy hitters in the local jazz world, offering an incredible display of improvisation and attention to mood. Playing from their repertoire of original compositions, the ensemble touches on genres like swing, hard bop, and free jazz, wandering seamlessly through solos, repeating motifs, and sharing an onstage chemistry that always leads toward uncharted territory.

Seeing this band live Wednesday, May 29 at Pausa Art House is certainly something Mingus would do.

Essential listening: House of Relics isn’t just a memorable local jazz album; it’s a memorable jazz album, period. “The Other Side” has that familiar Charles Mingus vibe about it, featuring the impressive interplay between Bucheger and Tim Clarke on trumpet. These guys have some serious chops, which is made even more apparent in the fast-paced bop tune “Soho Down.” Not appearing on the album is another WWMD gem that you might be able to catch the band performing live, “Charles.” Bucheger’s smooth, cool jazz styling of the melody is beautifully understated in this tender tribute to saxophonist Charles Lloyd. “The tune was inspired by Charles Lloyd’s performance in the Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox a couple of years ago,” describes Bucheger. “There is a beautiful, lyrical, spiritual directness in CL’s music: I was very moved by that, and I tried to grab some of that vibe for ‘Charles.’”

> jon wheelock

If you like What Would Mingus Do?, check out: Blue Shift, Star People

Julie Byrne

THE RUNDOWN: Anyone interested in imaginative songwriting with solid vocals should give Julie Byrne a listen. Byrne got her start in the local music scene playing house shows in 2008 when she was just 17, under the alias Mock Syringa. After only a few months of practicing guitar, she was able to silence loud crowds and chatty bars with her captivating sound and presence. Her home was routinely scattered with Fisher Price xylophones, wooden flutes, and percussive interments. As her sound progressed, her beautifully haunting voice and finger picked melodies proved powerful, unaccompanied. She traveled across the country as Julie Bryne with an acoustic guitar, settling down first in Chicago and then in Seattle.

Essential listening: Byrne has recently been featured by national media outlets such as Pitchfork for her album Rooms With Walls and Windows and was selected for Mojo magazine’s list of the 20 best albums of 2014 so far under her record label, Ordinal Records USA. Byrne’s minimal, folk-influenced music is laden with nostalgia and reverie. Her dreamy songs have a rare ability to permeate even the rowdiest spaces. In April she played to a packed room of many of her musical peers as part of her So Many Feels Spring 2014 tour at Allen Street Hardware. She sang to the dark room surrounded by candles, while her audience sat cross legged on the floor in an intimate circle around her. The site of so many old friends was overwhelming, and at times she buried her face in her palms, beaming. “None of this would have happened with out the encouragement from all of you when I was just getting started, thank you so much for supporting me.”

> sarah barry

If you like Julie Byrne, check out: Damian Weber, Bethlehem Steel, Nick Gordon, Inquiring Mind, Alex Berkley

alternative rock
Sleepy Hahas

THE RUNDOWN: By the summer of 2010, childhood friends Pat Butler and Phil Shore started to take their hobby of jamming together a little more seriously. “It just had a lot to do with the bands we were listening to at the time, and we decided, yeah, we should actually do this.” As if it were out of a dream, Butler awoke one morning with a name in his head, and immediately called Shore. It was official—all they needed to do was form the second half of their band. Now accompanied by Steve Tripi and Ron Hensberry, the guys are inspired by the likes of the Arctic Monkeys for their uniqueness and diverse sound.

They will release their first full-length album, Dull Days, on May 13, and immediately follow it up with a Northeast tour starting May 16 at Buffalo Iron Works. They’re not slowing down and are in the process of writing for their second album, to be produced by Drew Vandenberg (Deerhunter, Toro y Moi, Of Montreal, The Whigs, Futurebirds). They will hop back into the studio this August.

Essential Listening: Sleepy Haha’s latest single, “I Hate My Body (and it Hates Me Too)” is accompanied by a trippy, DIY, out-of-the-garage video release on YouTube. The track, which is equal parts comedy and soul, beckons comparisons to popular grunge or southern rock bands, but doesn’t replicate. “I think that we try not to be like a throwback band at all. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. We put our spin on it as it should be in 2014.” Heavy guitar, raspy vocals and emapthic lyrics form a spiral of twisted reality from which you can’t escape. “I Hate My Body (and it Hates Me Too)” will be on Dull Days, recorded by Paul Hamann (The Black Keys “Attack & Release”). This and other releases can be found on bandcamp.

> samantha wulff

If you like Sleepy Hahas, check out: Johns, Cosmic Shakedown, Del Paxton, Real People

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