All posts by Kelly Jones

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.

“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!

Avalanche Lily – EP Release May 27 at Valentine’s!

I’ve been introduced to each member of Avalanche Lily separately over the past few years. Not surprising, since each member is also part of at least one other local band that I follow. I was so honored to have Cyndy, Ramune and Drew sit down with me to talk about their combined project and the upcoming EP release this Saturday at Valentine’s. They’ll be playing with Shed Incorporated and Vibrissae at the intimate venue, where the band is at eye level with the audience. In the audio interview, the band talks about show strategy, the visualization of the music, and a completely unique writing/compilation process.

Avalanche Lily is what I would call an intentional band. Cyndy calls herself a “collector of songs”. She’s responsible for bringing songs that she’s heard and loved in her travels. She finds that Avalanche Lily challenges her to take these songs and adapt them for this band, sweeter and softer and with room for all three members to add their vocal textures. Ramune also writes and brings songs to the band, again – knowing that there is a feeling, perhaps even more than a sound, they are looking for. This is sometimes achieved with the addition of unusual instruments or by Drew bringing subtlety, dynamics and variety to the percussion. The band is excited about the depth of the music flowing organically from the members.

The sound of the EP is designed to create a casual and relaxed emotional response. Meant to invite the listener to just relax and enjoy the sound, while feeling comfortable and cozy and leaving the opting to tuck in for a deeper experience if desired. Creating this simplicity and accessibility in the studio was also intentional. It was a choice to keep the sound free of unnecessary layers and modifications. Avalanche Lily will give you the same experience live as in the recording – a feeling of being welcomed and accepted as a friend. I loved Drew’s visual description of the music. He actually sees and projects color as he drums. After listening to the EP only a few times, I could sense that there was indeed a visual element to the way the music comes together.

 A Conversation with Kelly Jones

Check out the interview, listen to a sample of the music, and join us at Valentine’s on May 27 for a change to hear Avalanche Lily play through the EP. Cyndy is creating some exclusive and very limited handmade merchandise that I cannot wait to get my hands on! This band has a vision, and they make their vision accessible to all of us. They describe themselves as “salty and sweet.” I would add “savory and a little bit addictive.” Music is also available on their website and on CDBaby for advance listening.

Avalanche Lily’s “Astronaut”

The Shrike – Heavy hitters with heart!

You know – oftentimes when I sit down with a band, I’ll admit I have already made many assumptions based on their sound or what I’ve seen on stage. I’m generally fairly accurate, but I’m also almost always surprised by something that comes up in conversation. Darren Linder of The Shrike was kind enough to sit down with me at Portland Cider House, and completely blow my mind in the best possible way. This extremely hard hitting band from Portland, Oregon is a group of friends who exemplify outstanding business skills, dedicate themselves to causes they believe in, and are developing an ever-growing friendship based fan group. Check out the audio interview for a nice look into the band, courtesy of Linder.

The Shrike has been playing as a band for about three years now, and have just released their second group of songs, an EP entitled Chase the Sun. The collection features aggressive female vocals by Jamie Lynn Summerfield, who also destroys faces with her intensity on the electric violin. I saw the band at the Portland Pride Kickoff party last year, and the band moves so much on stage that I had only a few photos where someone’s limbs weren’t completely blurred out by speed. Forget about getting a drummer pic! The songs range from pensive to confrontational, but all have the deep intensity and attention to dynamics that is characteristic of the band. The album, produced at Kevin Hahn’s Opal Studio, is a perfect portrayal of their attention to detail with sound.

Linder shared with me the origins of the band, as well as where they are now – a band that formed organically, by friends who would hang out at festivals, listen to the same music, and experiment with creating what they love. Now, he finds himself filling the role of booker, press agent and more. The entire band is focused on self-management, perhaps because it is composed of members who have success in their additional careers. Experience in life has caused the band to recognize what works and what doesn’t. What works for The Shrike? Sharing their music. Check out the blogs that have written about them. Watch their fan base grow at each event. They are on the move, and in the right direction!

The Craw (guitars), Roya Hellbender (bass), Darren Linder (drums) and Jamie Lynn Summerfield (vox and electric violin) compose this band on the rise. Chase the Sun, the new EP will be shared at an event March 31 at Analog Cafe. Kill Frankie opens, and The Slants (Band Who Shall NOT Be Named) release their new CD. The event will be epic, to say the least! Enjoy the interview and music, and hope to see you there!


Have a listen to Chase the Sun!

Kelly’s conversation with Darren Linder

Joel Swensen – Changes, Transitions, and the Responsibility of an Artist

Joel Swensen says, “I like the way words sound…” He uses words to paint a scene or a picture for the listener. The intent is not literal, but Swensen’s songs come from a place of deep emotion and allow his audience to get lost in the entire experience rather than a particular phrase or poetic structure. Using descriptive visuals and referencing specific people in his life, he invites us to feel, rather than listen to the music.

Swensen states that he is most often connected to his writing by the heaviness of darkness, pain, and empathy. He stands out as an artist because his music reflects not only his feelings, but the needs, challenges and fears of the people in his life. We were honored to have him play live in the Portland Notes Studio, sharing the stories of the friends who inspire him. Listening to him speak, we can see that Swensen’s tone is brightening.

From a song that discusses death and hot anger to a tune called “Moonbeam Kitties”, Joel Swensen is exploring his responsibility as an artist. Understanding that ,in this current climate, we might need encouragement, he has been carefully considering his live show song selections to be on the lighter side. Swensen is not necessarily feeling more positive about the world – he is just feeling like he needs to identify and propose some alternatives to simply giving up.

Please enjoy these live recordings, and the interview with Joel Swensen. He’s also looking forward to a show to introduce some of these new songs. He’ll be playing February 26 at the White Eagle Saloon with House of Angels at their album release show. Until the show, you can take a listen to Joel Swensen at http://joel-swensen.com