One of the most critically-acclaimed singer/songwriters of the millennium, Sufjan Stevens is also entirely unpredictable. From lo-fi Folk to shimmering Electronica, Stevens has crafted a series of releases that allow him to continually refine his craft while keeping his audience intrigued and, ultimately, delighted. Regardless of what instrumentation he chooses to use for each album, his unique songwriting and his approach to haunting layered vocals makes each album distinctly his own. Ever since he broke out of ‘cult status’ with albums like SEVEN SWANS and ILLINOIS, Stevens has been able to chart his own musical course without repeating himself. It doesn’t hurt that he’s won plenty of awards along the way as well as being nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar (amongst others).
Mötley Crüe began life as just another Hard Rock band playing the dingy clubs in Los Angeles. Now, 38 years after forming, they are Rock ‘n’ Roll icons. What happened between then and now is legendary. From drugs and debauchery to tragedy, triumph and the firing and rehiring of their vocalist, the four members of Mötley Crüe – Nikki Sixx (bass), Tommy Lee (drums), Mick Mars (guitar), and Vince Neil (vocals) – have survived to tell the tale. Anyone that has read their book THE DIRT knows that the band never held back as they enjoyed the splendors of their fame and fortune. They were proof that you shouldn’t really enjoy success without at least a little excess…
While not billed as a ‘super hero’ movie, HARRIET most certainly deserves that designation. Based on the life of slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the movie tells the story of a woman whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Directed by Kasi Lemmons, who wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard, HARRIET stars Cynthia Erivo as Tubman alongside Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monáe. A film about Tubman has been rumored in Hollywood for years and has now finally made its way to the big screen.
The Scottish Rock/Pop music scene has always been ripe with talent. In fact, there have been so many great Scottish artists/bands, it would be impossible to list them all. From Pilot, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and Bay City Rollers to BMX Bandits, Belle & Sebastian, and The Orchids, the Rock, Pop and Indie Charts have been filled with acts that understood the mechanics of Pop music and how to create art from inspiration. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Scotland gave birth to many great bands that didn’t bother the U.S. charts all that much but are highly regarded today: The Bluebells, Aztec Camera, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Endgames, Altered Images, and Orange Juice. One band that certainly deserves to be added to that list is Friends Again.
Juliana Hatfield has remained an unpredictable artist during her 30+ year career. Since the formation of Blake Babies in the late ‘80s, straight through her most recent solo work, she has surprised critics and fans with her many musical projects. Since Blake Babies’ original demise in 1991, she’s formed her own band Juliana Hatfield Three as well as getting involved in many other projects including Minor Alps (with Matthew Caws of Nada Surf), The I Don’t Cares (with Paul Westerberg), The Lemonheads, and more. Along the way, she’s been involved in a few Blake Babies reunions while continually movie forward as an artist.
Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave is a music industry veteran and Rock icon. He’s been releasing albums for 40 years and shows no sign of slowing down, creatively. And after years of success, failure, tragedy, and triumph, Nick Cave remains a survivor. From his early days fronting The Boys Next Door through their transformation into The Birthday Party, Nick Cave became one of the most infamous Post-Punk musicians of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. When The Birthday Party split, he formed Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, gravitating towards a sound that was more atmospheric and less abrasive. For 35 years, Cave has become of the most respected songwriters and performers of his generation. In fact, his songwriting is now compared to greats like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Neil Young. And looking back over his catalog, those comparisons are well-deserved.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Strut Records is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2019. How does it feel knowing that you’ve come this far and your work is being embraced by music fans the world over?
QUINTON SCOTT: It does feel like a nice landmark – Strut has always been a labour of love and it is always really rewarding to see the reaction to the music. It’s also a better time than ever to be running the label, I think. There are so many other great labels around now and, as a result of that and the digital world, buyers have great choice and are much, much more open now to different niches and adventurous ideas.
DAVE RAYBURN: The release of JULIANA HATFIELD SINGS THE POLICE marks the second in a recent series of cover albums that puts the spotlight on another artist’s endearing catalog. Why The Police?
JULIANA HATFIELD: I sort of did it on a whim. Actually, I was preparing to do Phil Collins covers, and then sort of at the last minute… you know what, I don’t really have an emotional connection to Phil Collins. And, there’s just not enough depth there. So, I just went sort of automatically to The Police because I do have an emotional connection from childhood. They were a big, big thing for me during my adolescence. Same as with the Olivia Newton-John record. It’s like I’m being drawn toward artists that were very important to me at a certain time in my life. I mean, I have a plan to do more of these albums and I think that in the future I’ll be able to look back and say, “Oh yes, these all had something to do with what I became.”
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: THE HOLIDAY SOUNDS OF JOSH ROUSE is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
JOSH ROUSE: I’m excited it’s coming out. Just the label and friends have heard it but the reaction has been superb. The first single was released in September and it seems the fans have been waiting for something more “merry” from me.
In a time when most bands prefer to stick to a proven formula, Cold War Kids continue to break new ground while forging their own musical path. Although they don’t make drastic changes, they push the boundaries by experimenting with new musical ideas and adding new layers to their sound. From Post-Punk to Soul, Cold War Kids are not afraid to take chances. Integrity intact, they’ve been critical darlings and achieved commercial success as they’ve navigated their way through an ever-changing musical landscape.