ON THE MUSICAL RADAR
The Bangups' journey in fashioning its new rock album, Hellcat, took its share of twists and turns, from an invigorating stint on 2012's national Warped Tour to a "crazy" detour into the realm of "chiptune" bands that create electronic music using sound chips from video game consoles. In the end, Joey Dornbos (guitar) and Brent French (drums) returned to their roots in recording their sophomore album with Peter Fox at Grand Rapids' Stone House Recording.
"We went to a time of reflecting and a deeper understanding of who we are as a band," Dornbos said. "We come from Delta blues and old country to '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll and on into punk rock. We had to come to grips with that."
The result? More refined and focused rock songs that still bristle with "this scrappy meanness" of a two-piece band. Tracked over five days, the album by this powerhouse Grand Rapids-area duoforms part of a serious business plan with "national connections" afoot to broaden exposure.
"It was intense," Dornbos says of recording the new songs that represent a stronger collaboration with French, his musical brother for 15 years. "It feels like a Bangups record to me. Lyrically, this record is just so exciting."
The Bangups credit Fox for seamlessly integrating their rawness with natural reverb and precise drum sounds French has long sought.
"It was really refreshing to work with Pete," French said. "We're sort of from the same tribe."
With new material to unthrottle, expect The Bangups to hit the road again in 2013, honing live shows and growing audiences.
Lineup changes in a band can be painful and anxiety-inducing. They can also be rewarding. Pop Evil frontman Leigh Kakaty says the Grand Rapids-based hard rock band's personnel shakeupsover the past year may have helped spark the group's best studio experience ever. The well-traveled band returned early this year to Chicago's Groovemaster Recording Studio with producer Johnny K to lay down tracks for the follow-up to 2011's War of Angels,an album that spawned several Top 20 mainstream rock hits and a series of high-profile U.S. and European tours. North Muskegon native Kakaty calls the new album "the record we've always wanted to do," a harder-edged project sure to pleaseloyal fans with its "guns a-blazing" style. Longtime members Kakaty, Matt DiRito and Dave Grahs entered the studio after welcoming drummer Chachi Riot (formerly of Saraph) and guitarist Nick Fuelling to the fold following the departure of Dylan Allison and Tony Greve. "We know what our core audience wants and we wanted to do a record for them this time," says Kakaty, who expects release of the first single in March.
Contemporary folk singer Rachael Davis concedes that moving from her native Michigan to Nashville last year with her husband, bassist Dominic John Davis, who tours with rock icon Jack White, was an adjustment. But Davis has started making significant connections in Nashville, developing a relationship with a publisher and collaborating on songs with other writers. There are "so many avenues" to explore, says Davis, who'srecording two new songs at a time this year so she can release vinyl 45s every six weeks or so. Eventually, she'll compile them into a full-length album.
Romance for Ransom
Five Ways to Keep a Secret
If Melissa Dylan and Grand Rapids' Romance for Ransom(with roots in Walking Ionia) are likened to Paramore because of the whole female-driven, alt-rock/pop punk thing, so be it. But from the outset of the group's five-track debut EPco-produced by Mike Cervantes at The Foxboro, Dylan's emotion-drenched performances of expertly crafted takes on breakups and fierce independence prove that her transition from folk-pop solo artist to rock siren has paid off. And that means this guitar-propelled band – Dylan, lead guitarist Ben Soper, bassist Mike McNally, guitarist Josh Stover and drummer Aaron Flint – won't be a secret for very long.
A Miracle of Birds
Inspired by his voyage last year to the West Bank for the Run Across Palestine to support fair-trade olive farming, veteran Lansing singer-songwriter Joshua Davis' life-changing experience in this severely oppressed region hatched a thought-provoking folk/Americana collection with world music accents ("The Market") and gospel-infused charm ("It Won't Be Long," "Valley of Fire"). As a Jewish-American traveling through Israeli-controlled Palestine, Davisstruggled with conflicting emotions and returned home "with more questions than answers." But his heartfelt documentation of "people as people" offers up compassionate songs of darkness and hope and perseverance.
Music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics comments on the local and national music scene at localspins.com (Spins on Music), spotlighting artists at 10 a.m. Wednesdays on Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM.