All posts by Ramune Nagisetty

Evan Knapp’s Musicianship Shines through in an Impressive Debut

Evan Knapp wrote most of the songs for Green, his debut record, when he was 18 or 19 years old. The whole album conveys precious innocence and a shared sense of nostalgia through Knapp’s well-crafted songs and impressive musicianship. Knapp is an astounding bass player who plays in several local acts. His R&B and jazz sensibilities come through in all dimensions of his songwriting, singing, and multi-instrumental playing. Knapp’s good friend and collaborator, Salvatore Manalo, brings a Latin jazz feel to Knapp’s grooves by adding guitar or keyboard playing on all the tunes.

In “Today” Evan sings with the smoothness of Dido and the swing of Sade, starting the song with a sweet croon “Baby. How’s your day been?” Knapp continues his smooth swing and creative rhymes in “House” with an earworm “you know I ain’t hard to satisfy.” “Windmill,” a jazzy track describing Knapp’s bike trip from Salt Lake City to Portland and a love that he can’t shake out of his mind, is only available on the CD and Bandcamp.

In my favorite tune on the album, “Frosted Flakes,” Knapp joins great songwriters in using a breakfast theme- but Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes has nothing on Evan Knapp. Frankly, Knapp could sing the phone book to this funky riff, but even better, he describes an entertaining perspective on getting repeatedly stood up by the girl of his dreams, talking himself back up with the lyrics “you are what you eat, so enjoy them frosted flakes.”

“Take Your Time” has a funky vibe with an affirming message for those who are impatient to get to where they want to be “Take your time. Your opportunity will arise.” “Matter of Thought” describes the beginning of his journey westward and ends with Knapp saying to himself “what you’re doing with your life ain’t enough.”

It’s worth adding that Evan is a remarkably considerate person. I guess this is what might happen when someone grows up working on their parents’ organic farm and living abroad as an exchange student. When I first met Evan he was checking out all sorts of bands and venues, getting to know local musicians and their music. He supports other artists by playing in their bands and attending a lot of gigs. He has become woven into the fabric of the music community. His immense talent and supportive attitude make him one of Portland’s shining stars.

Get to know more about Evan through his brand spanking new documentary video on the making of the EP.

Check out Evan’s website, which includes links to all the major streaming services. The next opportunity to hear him play live will be on February 6th at Kelly’s Olympian with Sweet N’ Juicy and There Is No Mountain. And if you’re still enjoying this music review, please consider clicking on the sidebar to listen to the Portland Notes on-line stream and subscribing to the Portland Notes music blog so you can stay in tune with Portland’s amazing local music.

#WomenCrushPDX Supports Music and a Safe Community

Last month on the evening before Thanksgiving Day I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with #WomenCrush Music, an international non-profit organization whose mission it is to support rising women songwriters by hosting showcases, workshops & networking events, all while creating a safe community. I have to admit that I was there to perform with my band, Avalanche Lily, and that I wasn’t very familiar with #WomenCrush Music before then. What I found was a warm welcoming community of musicians and an incredibly talented lineup of performers and a mission that’s about a lot more than music.

Katelyn Convery
Katelyn Convery

The November showcase at the White Eagle included several singer-songwriter performances, starting with Katelyn Convery who sings aching songs with a strong buttery voice and bass-y acoustic guitar. I also really dug the darkly seductive piano pop from Lauren Kershner, who recently released a new single and music video, Wicked, that matches her intriguing persona perfectly. Special guest, EmZee, the co-leader of the Missoula, MT chapter, closed out the night with a spirited performance. The sheer talent of these three performers was impressive, reminding me and everyone in the audience of Portland’s bounty of incredible local music.

Lauren Kershner, photo by Lambda Lion Media
Lauren Kershner, photo by Lambda Lion Media

The next #WomenCrush Music event coming up on Wednesday, December 19, at the White Eagle will be a holiday party and an educational workshop about treating music like a business, taught and sponsored by lawyer Michael Jonas of Rational Unicorn Legal Services. The event will also feature live performances from Acoustic Minds, a well-known local band led by two sisters, and Complementary Colors, a duo of brilliant married musical ladies who recently released a new EP.

Complimentary Colors
Complimentary Colors

Hannah diMo, leads the Portland chapter of #WomenCrush and wants “to help other women and women-identifying humans achieve their dreams.” Her new single is coming out on Feb 23 with a release-party at Holocene and she will be playing with her band at the White Eagle on January 3.

#WomenCrush Music was founded in Portland in January 2017 by then-local musician Ashley Kervabon. In two years the movement has expanded to 15 chapters in 12 cities across the United States and in Vancouver, BC. You can learn more about the history of #WomenCrush Music by checking out their fb page, their website, and this article in Vortex Music Magazine.

If you’re still enjoying this music review, please consider clicking on the sidebar to listen to the Portland Notes on-line stream and subscribing to the Portland Notes music blog so you can stay in tune with Portland’s amazing local music.

Haley Heynderickx has a Quiet Voice and a Lot to Say

I spent the whole weekend flat out in bed with the flu listening to Haley Heynderickx. It was somehow appropriate to slow down time and spend it on soaking up the music of this Portland songwriter. Haley grew up in Forest Grove, which is far enough outside of Portland not to be considered a suburb. It is a small college town, home to Pacific University, in the middle of a scenic agricultural valley. Knowing what I know about Forest Grove, it seems nothing less than perfect that her recent album is entitled “I Need to Start a Garden.”

The album is a snapshot of a moment in time in an intriguing journey. Haley is of Filipino descent and grew up in a religious household with a mother who dragged her to karaoke. Then at the age of 11 Haley got a used guitar with a hole in the back and started taking guitar lessons from the only guitar teacher around, who was a bluegrass musician. The bluegrass influence is evident in her fingerpicking style, complete with a bass line, and punctuating flourishes. Her fingerpicking weaves a perfect nest for her fragile voice, as strong and delicate as spun glass. Bob Boilen from NPR’s Tiny Desk even went so far as to use the word frail, but in the most flattering way possible. In fact, she gives Boilen’s Tiny Desk contest a lot of credit for her quick rise, though her label, Mama Bird Recording Co., has done a lot to guide her along as well.

Haley’s guitar playing and voice are only half of the package. The other half is her songwriting and character. Her songs, some of which were recorded and released more than once, are polished gems with odd tunings and thoughtful lyrics about god, starting gardens, not being put in a box, how people are judged, and so many more things. Her songs are so unusual, they get under your skin with rawness, they don’t inspire humming or earworm jingles- they make you want to listen again, as if you were hungry for something like this. And I think we are.

The attention that artists and bands like Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy, Palehound, and Haley Heynderickx are getting is notable. These young women are writing songs that ask questions more interesting than the worn out “I love him so much”, “he dumped me,” and “now I’ll be strong” themes of modern pop divas. These young women are writing songs that are more compelling. On my favorite tune from the album, “untitled god song”, she describes god as a woman- “maybe my god has thick hips and big lips… she speaks every language…. she spins me around like a marionette”.

Haley is unsure as to how her journey will unfold, described poetically by her lyrics “my web is still spinning you can’t see it yet.” She needs to be alone and quiet for her songwriting process, but she’s been touring non-stop, performing with her full band, and sometimes solo, all over the world. She is playing this Thursday, September 27, at Revolution Hall with several other artists on the Mama Bird label.

Haley has given so many great interviews, each shedding more light on who she is. Learn more about her by clicking through the links in the story and the additional sources included below.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to the Portland Notes blog. We are looking for a few more writers who are enthusiastic about sharing their stories about Portland music culture, including album and live band reviews. Contact us if you are interested in writing!

Haley Heynderickx website

Rolling Stone https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/haley-heynderickx-garden-interview-705288/

Willamette Week

https://www.wweek.com/music/2015/12/08/introducing-haley-heynderickx/

https://www.wweek.com/music/profiles/2017/03/15/haley-heynderickxs-folk-music-finds-power-in-quietude/

SXSW https://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2018-03-16/sxsw-music-interview-haley-heynderickx/

Stereogum https://www.stereogum.com/1978242/artist-to-watch-haley-heynderickx/franchises/interview/

Pitchfork https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/haley-heynderickx-i-need-to-start-a-garden/

Independent UK https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/haley-heynderickx-video-no-face-premiere-i-need-to-start-a-garden-new-music-a8331941.html

Dr. Something’s “Beaverton TC” is a Quick Pick Me Up

Dr. Something’s new single “Beaverton TC” is adorable, effortlessly enjoyable, and worth listening to on repeat. The chamber pop tune kicks off with a rolling piano riff, evoking the cheery demeanor of the Peanuts theme song “Linus and Lucy.” The contortion of language in support of rhyming makes some of the verses sound almost Shakespearean.

Where do I go
When I’m looking to catch the bus to Tualatin?
Where do I go
When I’m aiming for the heart of the county known as Washington?”

The tune conjures up visions of a musical about suburban Portland, something along the lines of the Simpsons with a twist of Dilbert. Somehow a musical or TV series on transit centers seems timely now that the Portlandia TV series and the Portland culture of the ‘90s are officially over with. Beaverton TC could inspire a TV series about minivans, high school sports, and very friendly naïve people who are barely aware that a city called Portland exists, except for a few restaurants and an airport. I can already imagine a series of entertaining skits depicting Portland musicians, exiled from the city due to high rents, embarking on Tri-Met seeking affordable apartments in the suburbs. These seemingly related species, city-dwelling musicians and suburbanites are largely unfamiliar with each other’s existence, with the exodus of musicians to the suburbs providing fodder for endless parodies.

It is also worth noting that Dr. Something, a.k.a. Alison Dennis, wrote a worthwhile bonus track to promote the new song. She calls it a “jingle for the single”. Alison is working on an entire transit center collection, which I can’t wait to hear. In particular I’m looking forward to hearing about my own suburban neighborhood transit center, the Sunset TC.

Besides being a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in Dr. Something, Alison also plays keyboards and saxophone in All I Feel is Yes and is a live music sketch artist. Her sketches are a hand-drawn documentary of Portland’s live bands and venues, capturing fleeting moments of an endangered cultural pastime.

Catch Alison with her band featuring bassist Jacob Anderson, drummer Michael Wilding, and back-up singing, go-go dancing sensations Amy Baxter, Erika Garlock and Christie Welsh at the single release party on Thursday, Sept 13, at Kelly’s Olympian. Follow her on fb, check out her website, and stay tuned to Bandcamp and SoundCloud for the rest of the transit center series.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to the Portland Notes blog. Also, we are looking for a few more writers who are enthusiastic about sharing their stories about Portland music culture, including album and live band reviews. Thanks for reading!

Cypress Jones Inspires With the Wisdom of His Words

I first became acquainted with Cypress Jones through a music video that he had produced for local chanteuse, Laryssa Birdseye. So when I saw his recent video release for “Know Yourself” it took me a little while to figure out that it was not only his video production, but also his own song and voice. With its positive message and melodic backdrop his new tune “Know Yourself” grabbed me from the first listen. I dug into learn more, and found that Cypress grew up locally, recently moved to LA to pursue his dreams, and comes from an impressive musical family. His father, Alan Jones, is a very well-known local jazz drummer and his mother, Janet Chvatal, is a German opera singer. With a family background in jazz and opera, it’s not surprising that Cypress has a talent for music, understands how much hard work it takes to get anywhere in the business, and has an interesting perspective.

Know Yourself” is an inspiring song about… knowing yourself and how important and tricky that is. Check it out and learn more about Cypress, his journey, and his purpose in life in the interview below.

(Explicit)

PN: I first became acquainted with you through a music video that you had done for Laryssa Birdseye. Your videos are great!  So I was surprised when I saw your new video for Know Yourself. It took me a while to figure out that it was you, and your song. Can you say something about what inspired that song for you?

CJ: Thank you for the kind words! I have been rapping/producing pretty seriously now for about 14 years, just not in the public eye. It has been a long personal journey of deciding who to be and how to present myself if I ever decided to release music. One of the main things I’ve figured out recently is the most important thing is to get to know yourself, then present yourself and your story to the world. If you are authentic, you may never fall in line with the mainstream and be as big as you always dreamed, but you will be fulfilled, and actually have a chance of touching people in a meaningful way. This is where the idea came from, and I decided I wanted to share it, as well as just make a fun song for people to vibe to.  

PN: The song is described as being “car freestyle”. Can you describe the writing, performance, and production that goes into this kind of song?

CJ: This song was made completely in one night, from the beat production, to writing and recording. I have a lot of big productions in the works to start off my career, and I felt like if I didn’t just release it now, I may never get to it. So, I decided to jump in the car, and do an equally to the point video production to go along with it so I could edit and release immediately. It’s not a music video, but also not a live freestyle, so I just came up with a name and decided to run with it. I am hoping once I release my next “Real Music Videos” fans will come back to it and have a greater understanding of who I am. Doing these run-n-gun songs and shoots is pretty fun, so I may do something similar every month from now on.

PN: I heard that you are originally from Portland and just recently moved to LA. Why did you move?

CJ: I moved to LA for a couple reasons. First of all, I went through an incredibly traumatizing break-up, and it was time to change scenery and get my head straight. Second, I realized that although it is possible to “Make It” in Portland. Ultimately, everyone eventually ends up in LA once they find success. It’s just where everyone and everything is. Since being here, I have realized it is the perfect place for me right now. Being surrounded by so many of the most successful and motivated people in the industry is a breath of fresh air for me. When there are so many people better than you, hustling harder than you, there is nowhere to go but up if you have the right attitude and keep humble. I am learning an incredible amount, and fast. My heart will always be in Portland, and once I find the success personally, and commercially that I am looking for, I plan on moving back, or at least living there half time. I miss it very much.

PN: Some of the lyrics in the song make it seem like you have been working on freestyle hip hop for quite some time. Is this your first song and/or music video? Do you have more song concepts ready to record or perform?  Any plans to do more with this, or to perform live?

As I said before, I have been doing Hip-Hop for about 14 years now, since I was 11 and living in Germany. In the last 6 years, I have released a video here or there, but really only because I love doing it. I would just set up the shot and have my friends film it, whoever was available that day. If people watched and enjoyed, I was happy. Only now am I considering really pushing to do this full time. I have 5 videos in the works at the moment, including my first big budget song and video “All I Want” which I am very excited about. Right now I am polishing up the songs & videos, and building a plan on how best to release them so that this next push can really start off my career. I make at least 2 songs a week, and have for as long as I can remember, so I have no lack of material, it’s just deciding which ones to release and when to build the image that I want and to peek people’s interest.

PN: “Know Yourself” is uplifting and positive. But, a lot of hip hop seems kind of negative and sometimes derogatory towards women. Do you have any thoughts on that?

CJ: I have decided with my music that I want to be a positive force, but that’s just the true me. I am a positive and upbeat person and want to give that part of myself to the world. Everyone has darkness in their lives, and some artists feel like that darkness should define them. I have no problem with that, as long as concentrating on that darkness makes you happy. I know that for the listener, sometimes someone opening up about the darkness in their lives can help you navigate through it. Being derogatory towards women, or anyone for that matter is not helpful. There’s a fine line between expressing your feelings, and attacking an individual or group. I do not condone any of that. Love is the name of the game in my world.

PN: Who are your influences- in music, video, life, etc? 

My father and mother are my two biggest influences. My father, Alan Jones, is a respected jazz drummer in Portland, and my mother, Janet Chvatal, is an opera singer over in Germany. They have both been successful in this industry and taught me everything I know. They are as supportive as it gets, and give me knowledge on life and my career every day. I am truly blessed to have them. Rap-wise, I am a huge fan of Eyedea, Aesop Rock, Slug, Big L, Talib Kweli just to name a few. I gravitate towards lyrical rap, although recently I have learned how to appreciate pop more, and am adapting just a little, style-wise, to reach the most people possible. 

PN: What haven’t I asked you that I should have? 

CJ: Ha ha, I enjoyed your questions. Maybe: “What do you feel like your purpose in life is?” And my answer would be, to make art through whatever conduit I can, to bring people joy and to be a friend who is there for you, whomever you may be, whenever you need me. I want to repay the artists who helped me through my pain and have saved my life so many times.

Check out Cypress Jones’ new tune on youtube, fb, and Spotify.

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