The AM – Breaking New Ground


New press pic by the Parrot Collective edited and directed by Hazel Miller 

I am unabashedly madly in love with this band! I am honored and thrilled to be able to share the reasons why such a strong connection exists between fans and music, presentation, and the group themselves. The AM (formerly Acoustic Minds) have broken new ground by communicating on a very intimate and personal level with fans, writing openly and honestly about their struggles and victories, and by creating a live performance that engages while purposefully and carefully replicating their recorded sound. Intentional steps to recreate the energy the group radiates are intended to involve audiences and create lasting memories. In this article, Jenni and Amanda share the story of The AM over the past few years in their own words, giving great credit to their bandmates and the Portland music community.

Twin sisters, Amanda and Jenni Price,  Aaron Altemose (producer/vocalist/keyboardist and Josh Lorenzen (producer/key bassist) compose The AM. The band’s unique sound blends live electronic dance music with Pop, House, Hip-hop and R&B. With a new album (The AM) , officially released August 26 at a mind-blowing show at the Doug Fir Lounge, alongside Fox and Bones and Moonbeam Kelly with Phoenix Rising, the group introduced stadium worthy elements into their live performance which brought the audience to their feet, singing along and moving on the dance floor. The band is captivating, with soulful harmonic vocals, insightful and revealing lyrics, dancey club beats, spacy synth sounds, and unforgettable visual aspects. With musical influences like Rihanna, Katy B, Imogen Heap, Phaeleh and Zedd, the live electronic, deep bass sound – what the band dubs “Soul/Womp”, was certainly new to me when I first heard them play. Now I tend to compare all live performances to the magic of what The AM was able to create live on stage.

I was immediately drawn to what I can only call the “realness” of the Price sisters. I first met the twins a few years ago at Portland Radio Project, when I saw them setting up for an afternoon interview to discuss their first album, aptly named Electric Sol. The twins were wearing brightly colored tights, and sporting some insanely fashionable ensembles. Personality overflowed from the energetic women, and I was equally impressed by their ability to work with foreign electronic gear in the radio studio. Watching and listening to them prepare for their interview and live studio performance, I was further impressed! I have not stopped following them since. Jenni and Amanda are experts at sharing just enough of their lives and band chatter to keep fans intrigued and engaged. We always want to know, “What is the band up to next?” because they are accessible and genuine to the fans – we watch them grow emotionally and professionally, because they continue to allow us to have insight into the band’s progression.

What struck me most about the new album release show was the absolute honesty the band presented, even to the point of revealing their frustrations and challenges while making music. Amanda emotionally told the audience that she has personally grown dramatically while living and making music in Portland. She sweetly described the city as her best friend and her worst enemy “in the BEST way.” Making music in this very competitive city has created a desire to push the limits of their live performance in every way. The band introduced intense and targeted lighting, modern dancers, and an interactive show that testifies to the visible friendship connection between the band mates. They sneak previewed some new songs at the end of the show, a special treat for the audience, and also showcased Aaron and Josh’s duo group Subco along with Josh’s solo group J La Rae. Sharing the stage with other groups is a joy to The AM, as they humbly and energetically support all local artists.

A conversation is happening on stage – revealing and deeply emotional. One audience member was heard to say, “I don’t usually listen to this type of music, but what they are saying really speaks to my heart”  The AM’s lyrics are strong and empowered, speaking to loss and victory, the beautiful and ugly sides of relationships, pain and struggle…the visuals of the performance carry the same mood throughout, with a constantly driving light show and the very special addition of stage dancers. The AM is an impressive album, and is equally impressive live from stage. The AM is breaking new ground with their sound, lyrics and stage presentation. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

Portland Notes:

You mentioned on stage that the new album reflects a change in your feelings about life. Could you speak to that a little?

The AM:

The summer of 2015 was a very challenging summer, although musically there was an upward swing. We had put out our very first music video, “Kitty Kat”  plus directed and wrote our politically and socially charged music video “Quicksand”, which had released in July (crowd funded by our fans). While developing the video, we had the honor of working with an incredible film team from Philadelphia (Kenny Lewis of Klews Films (now Pyramid)) Personally, much loss and cleaving of family and dear friends left the twins in a dark place…they found themselves challenged to create or feel inspired. It was a very difficult time. Throughout the next 16 months, the loss of three of their best friends to death and three sisters from another Mr. to negative backlash, left them feeling undeserving or not worth what their craft portrayed.

“The thing about Music is it is the one authentic piece of ourselves. We dig deep, we hash up past pain and we put it into the music as therapy for ourselves – but also to hopefully inspire others to keep pushing and striving to be the best and live their most authentic life and selves.” (Jenni) The decision to relocate came after much backlash in the city.  Feeling like it was time for a change, the twins packed up and moved to LA in June of 2016. Closer to their family and swimming in a larger artistic pond, they began to focus on getting their health and minds back in the right space to create happy music.

Portland Notes:

So, the new album, The AM -what messages are you sharing through music?

The AM:

February 2017, The AM was released out into the world with an attitude of empowerment.

This album speaks of love and loss, the raw and sometimes ugliest love, and finding your true inner destroyer and warrior. Each song is crafted by personal experience, four years in the making, The AM is back and ready to share a new layer of their journey.

“We had to burn to ashes into dust to rise as a Phoenix and find our true love (for ourselves, craft and the art we create around it)” (Amanda)

Portland Notes:

What have you been up to? What’s next for you? Where do you go from here? We will miss seeing you at all the shows in Portland – you are great supporters of local music.

The AM:

As of June 2017. We’ve been back in the lab (aka the Oregon Coast), creating the new album, Beach Vibes. The new music touches on a lighter “beach like” feel. R&B, electronic and house influences our present with a sense of ease and love for life. “We want to create something not soooo serious! Filled with love and inspiring lyrics, brushing off the BS, and really expressing the love in our music over the darkness”

The band has just signed a publishing deal with Portland’s Marmoset Music Agency thanks to fellow musician and A&R rep, Farnell Newton, and are working to introduce this original music into film and television.

The big picture promises larger show presentations in festival and amphitheater type venues,  and the band’s hope to play as much as possible in 2018 across the US and in Europe. We have recently discovered a loyal fanbase in Europe,  and are anxious to seek an agent in booking to perform for those fans.

“We want to create something fresh, fun, late and danceable to inspire everyone in such dark times in our world. Beyond excited to share this new music and truly hope everyone loves the album as much as we do!” Jenni

Thank you to The AM for all their local love over the years – truly my favorite people to watch on stage!  You can check out their music on The AM website, ITunes, CD Baby, Spotify and Soundcloud.

Laryssa Birdseye’s Debut Album is Better than Perfect

The production, songwriting, and singing on Laryssa Birdseye’s debut album, “So What?” rival any major label release. It’s incredible that this kind of talent exists right here in Portland.

Birdseye’s musical style hints of two of her influences, Adele and Amy Winehouse. Her songs tell honest stories about co-dependence, self-doubt, breaking free from addictions, and her journey to self-acceptance. Like her influences, Laryssa lives her life with passion, and it shows in her unguarded songwriting and singing. On this album she gives it her all. “Loser“ and “Done For” are standout R&B tunes. “Haunt” is a highlight for its spare authenticity and tenderness. “All of You” is a great example of Laryssa’s vocal suppleness and lofty highs.

Laryssa has been singing ever since she can remember, and has been writing songs since she was 13. Her early singing background included musicals and choir, but where she really began to blossom and feel free was in college in gospel choir. She found the ability to let emotions fly, rather than control everything perfectly. She learned to to let loose and go after the song.

She met producer, Jeanot Lewis-Rolland, two years ago by chance when a friend’s band needed a fill-in back-up singer. His production includes playing acoustic and electric guitar, bass, piano, strings, synthesizers, marimba, mandolin, and drum programming- which is a testament to Jeanot’s ability to know exactly how to make each song shine. Laryssa says that “he had such a clear vision with the songs, and it took us 2 years to stop being perfectionists and just release it.”

Several of her songs have explicit lyrics. Laryssa explains that she started writing these songs before ever considering that they would be shared with the public. She says “I say what I mean in exactly the way I mean to say it.”

The music video for the opening track “Loser” depicts a complex alter ego with several dimensions. The last track, “So What”, wraps the album up with a final acceptance of self. This album has depth from beginning to end. Learn more about Laryssa in a candid personal interview with Vortex magazine. Listen to her entire album on Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Check out Layrssa’s website and follow her on Facebook. Her next gig is at the White Eagle on Oct 23.

All I Feel is Yes’ New Double Album Dares to Sound Different

While most bands are putting out EPs and singles, All I Feel is Yes, takes a different direction with their new double full length album, Golden Noldies. This album, which incorporates improvisational and experimental aspects, requires commitment from the listener. Musicians can really appreciate the particularly solid rhythm section, topped with sizzling guitar leads, and jamming Hammond-tone keyboards.

The different band members, who call themselves a collective, are local music veterans and play in various projects. Keyboard player, saxophone player, and singer, Alison Dennis is known for her band sketches, which are featured on the Portland Notes website. Alison, along with bass player, Jacob Anderson, and drummer, Mike Chastain, also plays in another local band, Dr. Something.

The anchor of this band is multi-instrumentalist and singer, Jason Ferris, who plays some tasty guitar riffs. His bass playing is also notable, as exemplified in the short and catchy tune, Anti-Bionic, on the first of the two volumes. The song, “A Warm Bath at the End of Time”, wraps up this double album perfectly, with Jason riffing on the keyboard and Alison playing soothing sonic tones on the saxophone.

Alison describes the band’s recording methodology: “We’ve made recordings of most of our rehearsals. We usually jam for at least part of every rehearsal, occasionally we’ll spend an entire night just improvising.” While this recording method works pretty well for instrumental music, the vocals end up sounding a bit rough as compared to the type of productions that most people are used to.

As far as influences, I hear a similarity to Gong, a prog jazz rock band from the 1970’s, but my hunch is a bit off the mark. Alison cites “Crazy Horse, Flaming Lips, Amon Düül, early Pink Floyd & P-Funk” as influences. Jacob offers additional insight by explaining that bandmates share a “track of the week”. While not all of these are considered influences, it’s what they’ve been listening to over the space of a couple years: “Träd, Gräs och Stenar, Sylvester, Cherelle, David Bowie, Arthur Russell, This Heat, Limahl, Dragontime, Richard Youngs, Richard Harris, the Beach Boys, Yoko Ono, Komeda, Alice Coltrane, Paul Horn, Penny McLean, Wilson Pickett, Dawn of Midi, Queen, Gershwin, Wire, Single, King Crimson, Devo, Midlake, Floex, and the Five Racketeers.”

The two Golden Noldies volumes are grouped chronologically, with Volume 1 recorded in 2015 and Volume 2 recorded in 2016. The tunes are a great backdrop for scrapbooking and other crafty listening endeavors. Check ‘em out on Bandcamp.

Anna Tivel Tells Stories from Life on the Road

Photo credit: Jeffrey Martin

Anna Tivel is for the careful listener who appreciates lyrics and is intrigued by a well-crafted story. Her songs and style match the light of Sunday mornings in winter. The minimal production of her new album, Small Believer, preserves the quiet sensitivity of Tivel’s voice. The music is haunting and provocative, with lyrics describing melancholic stories that reminisce of the truck stops, trailer parks, and ghost towns that we only see when we set out on the open road, which is where Tivel wrote most of the tracks on her new album.

Tivel released the first track, All the Way from Illinois, as a single recently, and the entire album will be available on September 29, on Fluff and Gravy Records.

“Evershine” by Rocket 3 releases today – Inspired Rock!

Since the release of Rocket 3’s last album BURN in 2014, Ramune Nagisetty and her band have not stopped writing new music. The band also has not stopped thinking about how to grow and change. Today, Rocket 3 released their first single since BURN. The song is called “Evershine”, and I think you’re going to love it! “Evershine” is the first single to be released from a full length album that is well underway.  We can expect to enjoy the entire full length album early next year, according to Nagisetty.

ROCKET 3’s modus operandi: “Bash the eardrum, touch the heart, and give the frontal lobes a bit to savor—the way the best rock & roll is and always has been.” “Evershine” is a beauty of a song, with the elated psychedelic instrumentals and convincing lyrics and warm harmonies that we’ve come to expect and love from this band. Have a listen and see if you don’t fall in love with this sound! Some changes in the band are highlighted with the upcoming album’s first release: this is the first recording to feature one of Ken Foust’s (bass player) tunes. The new song also features Gavin Duffy on saxophone.

All proceeds of this track and the entire Rocket 3 discography will be donated to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research through the end of the year.  Parkinson’s has affected Nagisetty’s family (her dad)  and drummer Drew’s family (Drew’s late father, mother-in-law, and aunt). Music can be found on Bandcamp. Take a moment, listen to “Evershine”, and then reflect for a while. Rocket 3’s songs always challenge me to step outside of my plans and lists…just to relax and get carried away by music. It’s a pretty good feeling!

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