Tommie Sunshine Talks Activism, Music, and The Power of Everyone’s Voice [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

It takes a lot to put yourself out there every day – to fight the verbal barbs of the internet community day in and day out, to brazenly express your opinion, even if you might experience unwanted backlash. No one knows this truth better than dance music journeyman Tommie Sunshine. Aside from putting music out regularly  over the course of a few decades, he’s also become quite engaged in the latest uprising of social activism that we’ve seen sweep our nation, and beyond.

One night, we were reading a string of  his passionately charged tweets, and decided to ask him to elaborate in a one-on-one interview. The end result was an in-depth look at his upbringing, dance music, and the state of the world we live in today.

TMN: Hey Tommie, thank you so much for taking some time to sit down with us tonight. Throughout the past year, we’ve noticed how big of a role activism has played in your career, and we’d love to get some insight on that. First off, tell us how this all started for you:

TS: The main reason why this of all things connects with me personally is – when I was 12 years old, I was lucky enough to have a cousin who sat me down on a family vacation. He ran with all the big figures of the 60′s. He went to school with Abbie Hoffman at Michigan State, and he was a huge part of the revolution of that time. At 12 years old, I was lucky enough to get this crash course from him of books, films, and albums.

He was like, “track down all these things, and when you read the books, if you don’t understand them, read them again in two years. And keep reading them until you get it. Once you get it – keep reading them. As you get older, there will be things that you won’t believe you missed that.

“Listen to these albums. Digest the artwork. Like, listen to the lyrics. Feel the music and understand it.” He was like “same thing with the films. Really watch these until you get what’s going on here.”

There was too many to mention, but by the time I was 14, my musical landscape was Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead and Jimi, and The Doors. Which, in the 80′s, it wasn’t that far out of the 60′s. Classic rock radio was still playing it, so I wasn’t so much of an outcast for listening to the music.

Where I hit the road bumps was…here I am living in super upper middle class suburbia, southwest of Chicago, reading William Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Tom Wolfe. I was completely stewed in all this counter-culture. What I was reading was so far ahead of what my life experience was at that time, but one of the biggest things that impressed upon me, was the thing that they were all fighting for the most. Besides Vietnam, which was the obvious thing, what all of those kids were trying to do was fighting for racial equality. At that point, in the 60′s, most white people in America didn’t even really think of black people as so much as human.

This was a real tough time. When we discussed all this, he did not instill a romanticized view of the 60′s revolution, he was very candid about the fact that they fucking blew it. He explained to me how they blew it. How it went into the 70′s, and all these things they fought for, they forgot about.

All the people who were young and fought for that went and got high paying jobs, became the same gluttonous pigs that their parents were, and forgot about everything they were trying to change.
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Justin Jay Talks Dirtybird, Larry Levan, and Marriage Proposals [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

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Disciples
They Don't Know (Justin Jay Remix)

This month we had the chance to flex our tastemaking muscle by featuring one of the hottest exports in dance music, who has made a name at the tender age of 21 on one of the hottest labels in dance music. Of course, we are speaking of Justin Jay, and Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird Records cohorts. Last week, the deep and tech-house sparkplug gifted us with a TMN Resident Playlist, and this weekend, we got a chance to get a little more in depth in regards to all things Justin Jay. Check out the entire transcript below.

TMN: First of all, we wanted to thank you for taking the time to be our featured ‘Resident Artist of the Month’. We’ve actually been closely following your career arc since How Goes the Dynamite, which if we’re not mistaken was almost three years ago now, which is absurd to think that you’re only what, 21 years of age now?

JJ: Yeah it’s pretty crazy, man!

TMN: It’s hard to believe how rapidly developed and mature your sound has already become in a relatively short amount of time putting out tangible releases. Especially within a niche in which many American listeners wind up not actually discovering until the usual pit-stops through ‘EDM’, or festival sized dubstep and trap. From a personal standpoint, have you had any exact moments which you feel helped shaped the scope of your music production or steered you away from more commercial sounds?

JJ: Growing up in LA was really powerful because me and my friends were exposed to artists like MSTRKRFT and Justice back in 2007. We got into it then because it sounded new and exciting. That craving for freshness is huge.

TMN: Some of us Ninjas love to geek out about artist’s studios. What programs, machines, synths or anything else are taking up the most amount of your time currently as a producer? And what does your entire studio layout look like when laying down a new Justin Jay track?

JJ: I’m super bare bones. I have a midi keyboard and a laptop, which is all I really use. Although, I recently got a few old-school drum machines, which have been super fun to work with.
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Coasts talks about Coachella, ‘Oceans,’ and Ray Charles [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

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Coasts
Oceans

From a nationwide tour across the states, to an appearance at Coachella,Coasts is dead set on growing their presence. In our opinion, it’s more than deserved. There shouldn’t be any doubt in any music lover’s mind that this Bristol-based five piece are incredibly deserving of the increasing recognition they’re getting.

We caught up with their front man before their show at the Larimer Lounge in Denver. Press play on the tune above, and enjoy getting to know a little more about this quickly rising indie rock outfit.

TMN: Let’s kick things off with talking about the tour that you guys have right now. How’s it going?

Coasts: It’s going super well, like, better than we could have expected. The reception that we’ve been getting from fans has been really good, we’ve picked up so many more fans, which is the idea, you know? We’ve gotten really well with the two bands as well. They’re awesome lads, so we couldn’t be happier. To play and the majority of the shows are sold out is pretty awesome.

TMN: So this is your first time in the US?

Coasts: Yeah. I haven’t even been on holiday in the US. So, yeah, it’s cool to be here.

TMN: Any favorite cities so far?

Coasts: San Fran was really cool, and love Seattle as well. We stayed in LA, and we got to see most of LA because we were there for about 4 days. So that was cool because we got to see more of the city than if we were flashing through, you know? But Denver seems really cool as well. Seems really, like a really sweet place.
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Get to Know: Feed Me Jack [TMN Exclusive Interview/Event Preview]

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We’re really excited to be teaming up with the Make It Funky SF collective to put on a series of showcases in California highlighting local talent. Launching this Saturday, February 21st at El Rio in San Francisco, the first installment will feature experimental indie band Feed Me Jack and the folky, electronic vibes of Mosaics with support from acoustic soul duo, The Kakaroaches making for an eclectic mix of styles. As part of the series, we’ll be catching up with some of the performers to shed light on up ‘n coming musicians. RSVP at the link below. 

Feed Me Jack
Knight Fork

Since we were first introduced to Oakland-based Feed Me Jack a couple years back, they’ve quickly become one of our favorite up ‘n coming indie bands. The collective musical talents of the group have allowed them to perfect, and build on, a broad range of musical styles and influences. Their 2012 debut, Chumpfrey, recorded during their time at UC Santa Cruz, embodies their prowess and versatility, but the follow-up Anatolia EP saw FMJ combining their skill set with a seemingly endless amount of creativity for a cohesive, flowing sound all their own. We caught up with Sven Gamsky (guitar/vocals), Cameron Lampert (bass/vocals) and Jake Thornton (keyboard), 3 of the 5 members of Feed Me Jack (Robert Luisi on guitar/vocals and Eric Lawson on drums are the other two), in advance of their upcoming show. Enjoy the interview below, head to FMJ’s website to grab a bunch of great music and catch them at our showcase at El Rio this Saturday, it’s not one you’ll want to miss!

RSVP: Make It Funky & Music Ninja Present: Feed Me Jack, Mosaics and The Kakaroaches

 

TMN: So, you all first met at UC Santa Cruz. Can you talk a bit about how you all got together?

Sven: It was freshman year when I first met Robert. I was just in the quad, around the dorms, and heard some beautiful guitar wafting down from up high. I just kind of followed my ears and found the room where the guitar was coming from. I didn’t know Robert before that but I introduced myself and showed him a song that I had written. He recorded it and wrote a bass line for that song. That later became “Pirate Muse.” Then, we added a friend of ours who was our old drummer. So we had him and two guitar players, but we played one of the guitars out of a bass amp and had a sub-octave pedal to lower it to that range.

Cameron: So, the original bass player was not actually a bass player, it was just a pedal.

Sven: From that point on, we were kind of moving around until we found the right sound and group. We added Cameron as a permanent bass player and collaborator along with Eric as our new drummer.

Feed Me Jack
Definitely You

TMN: There are so many different styles infused in your sound—ska/reggae,  jam bands and sometimes even stuff like The Strokes just to name a few. Who are some of the bands and artists that influenced your sound?

Cameron: The Strokes are definitely an influence and Grizzly Bear. But really, music is derivative and we definitely acknowledge that. I think we love listening to all sorts of different stuff and really, I hate to use the classification of World music because all music comes from the world, but all music finds its place in our sound. Especially guitar music, plus The Beatles and classics like that.

Jake: I would say the first album, Chumpfrey, draws on a lot more of the influences that you mentioned first. We all think that was more of an accessible sound, a little more pop influenced, than some of our more recent stuff. We’ve really been striving to come with different sounds and go in more of an experimental direction while maintaining the influences that are still with us.

TMN: How did that process of putting together something as cohesive as Anatolia compare with the experiences behind Chumpfrey? Was that shift a conscious effort? 

Sven: Yeah, I think it was kind of a conscious effort. The Anatolia EP was an attempt to go with a little more of an atmospheric and visceral sound focused more on the composition, which is just writing a song that doesn’t have any recurring parts. It was kind of a journey from beginning to end. We’ve been messing with the idea that we want to have one piece of music as an album with all the songs bleeding into each other. So, we kind of tried to create transitions that connect the songs to make one larger piece of music—basically like a twenty minute song.

Jake: It was definitely more of a concept album for us and it also marked our transition from college, house-party type of music into a more identifiable sound. Continue reading

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Mosaics Talk their Musical Vision, Influences and San Francisco [TMN Exclusive Interview/Event Preview]

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We’re really excited to be teaming up with the Make It Funky SF collective to put on a series of showcases in California highlighting local talent. Launching this Saturday, February 21st at El Rio in San Francisco, the first installment will feature experimental indie band Feed Me Jack and the folky, electronic vibes of Mosaics with support from acoustic soul duo, The Kakaroaches making for an eclectic mix of styles. As part of the series, we’ll be catching up with some of the performers to shed light on up ‘n coming musicians. RSVP at the link below. 

M o s a i c s
GLAM

The emergence of electronic music has created a fascinating rippling effect across genres as more and more artists find creative ways to combine musicianship with the seemingly limitless capabilities of modern studio technology. San Francisco band, Mosaics, have perhaps one of the most novel fusions we’ve heard yet using unconventional, percussive acoustic guitar to create samples that can be manipulated, arranged and layered with unique vocals into brooding, experimental compositions. Their debut LP, Of Colors, helps establish their forward-thinking sound proving refreshingly original without losing accessibility or catchiness. We had a chance to catch up with Mosaics band members Devon Kelts (guitar, vocals), Tyler Hill (production, keys), Grady Lee (vocals, guitar, bass) and Westin Joy (drum machine, bass) about their collective vision, musical influences and experiences as musicians in SF. Get to know Mosaics below and come out to see them this weekend at our first ever Music Ninja show in the Bay Area!

RSVP: Make It Funky & Music Ninja Present: Feed Me Jack, Mosaics and The Kakaroaches

 

TMN: Can you tell us a bit about how you all first met?

Devon: Tyler and I went to Loyola Marymount down in Los Angeles to study music and composition. We were best friends from college and decided to move up to San Francisco to try to make it as musicians. We did a couple musical projects that were kind of just our own thing but we didn’t really put out anything. Mosaics was the final iteration of those projects where we felt like we had a sound that was something we could stand behind. We needed a passionate musician and strong vocalist to get our LP Of Colors finished so we brought on Grady. It ended up working out really well and he made some really strong contributions in helping us finish the record. Then we needed someone to help us play live—Wes and I were already friends and he was pretty excited about the opportunity so we brought him in. He already has experience with production and has similar musical tastes so it worked out quite nicely.

TMN: Your music falls at this really interesting intersection of folk/acoustic, experimental and electronic. Can you talk a bit about the vision behind Mosaics?

Tyler: I think that the vision essentially started with Devon and I painting sonic landscapes on the computer. We wanted to create a sound that could be considered pop but still is drawing all of this original material in from things we’ve created. When we did our first EP, we had a concept where all the songs heard were coming from the guitar. So, basically we made an album all from samples created from hitting the guitar for drums, creating pads out of the guitar using production techniques and obviously writing melodies with lyrics. Our goal is to make something that is very authentic and artistic, but can still have that pop catchiness and drive.

Devon: We wanted to unite things. Often times really unique ways of playing the acoustic guitar are kept in a purist category. Meaning that they just play the instrument and nothing else. It’s very seldom that you see people with unique approaches to acoustic guitar uniting with the world of electronic production. Our goal was to find a way to unite the two in a tasteful manner and maybe, in that unification, to create something that’s new and novel.
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Tory Lanez Talks SwaveNation, Al Pacino & Valentine’s Day [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Ever since Kanye West dropped 808s & Heartbreaks it seems as if the line between rapper and singer has become increasingly blurred. Guys who followed his lead, like Drake and Kid Cudi, only pushed the boundary further, influencing a whole generation of up and coming artists who now take inspiration from their examples. Similarly, the idea of a rapper-producer is no longer a foreign concept either. J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. are two names that come to mind in that realm. Because of this, the whole idea of an artist becoming completely self sufficient is no longer entirely novel. Until now though, it can be argued we had never encountered anyone who was equally talented at all aspects of their craft. That’s where Tory Lanez comes in.

As a musician, Tory refuses to be classified. While all of the artists we mentioned are probably best known for one aspect of their skill sets, Tory prefers to be recognized for everything he does. Rather than being known as a rapper or a singer, for lack of a better term, Tory classifies his music as “Swavey,” which is basically the idea of fusing together all aspects of his art and striving to be the best at everything.

The Toronto native has been labeled “next” for quite awhile now. While that term is vague to begin with, there is no doubt that a certain level of expectation comes with the title. To his credit though, Tory never lets any of that get to his head. If you ever have the chance to watch him live, you’ll notice that he has undeniable charisma, and brings a raw energy to his performances, yet he still retains a certain sense of humility that keeps him grounded through it all. What’s even more special though is that Tory doesn’t draw a line between him and his fans, instead choosing to embrace them as family. After each show he’ll hold meet and greet session where he gives everybody the time of day–no rushed photographs, no quick autographs, no fake smiles. He will have legitimate conversations with every single person until he is essentially forced out of the venue.

Before his recent show in Chicago, we had a chance to catch up with Tory and discuss his upbringing, his mindset in the studio, and find out what truly separates him from the rest of the pack. If you have the opportunity to check out Tory live, we highly recommend it. His next show is this Sunday in Denver, but you can find the remaining dates for his Lost Cause tour on his official website.

Tory Lanez
Diego (Prod. Tory Lanez x Play Picasso x Ozhora Miyagi x Mr. Punisher)

TMN: This is basically the second leg of your Lost Cause tour, with the first ending last fall. How has the experience been so far, and what does it feel like to be headlining your own shows?

Tory Lanez: It feels amazing man. This is the second leg, so basically the second tour I’ve ever really headlined myself, and I’m just blessed to see fans–well, I should never call them fans, I always make that mistake. I’m so sorry to the SwaveNation for that. I call them citizens, and I’m glad to see citizens in every place. It shows me that this SwaveNation thing is really real, it’s really a nation. When I see so many different people in different spots, it’s like we’re really all a movement, so it’s just a blessing to be in my own setting, to inspire them and to lead them with direction when I go onstage.

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Grandtheft talks festivals, Heroes, and Butter Chicken Roti [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

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Grandtheft & Lambo
Butterscotch

Now that we’re only a few weeks out from teaming up with Awesome Factory to bring Grandtheft to the 1UP, we feel like it’s the perfect time for you to get to know a little more about this Torontonian producer/DJ. So sit back, press play on his freshly released track, and enjoy the read. When you’re done, click here to pick up tickets to the show on February 26th.

TMN: Hey man! Thank you for taking some time to answer a few questions for us. First and foremost, talk to us about the monster tour you’re on right now. How are you holding up?

Grandtheft: I haven’t really stopped touring for the last year. It’s been totally insane and also the best year ever. I am holding up ok but i have probably shaved a couple years off my life hahaha

TMN: We’re looking forward to having you at the 1UP here in Denver. Are you excited to come back to the Mile High City?

Grandtheft: SO excited to be back in Denver. Such a sick music city and just quality vibes all round.

TMN: You have a few festivals on the tour as well, including Spring Awakening, Wobblefest and Ultra. We’re curious – do you prefer the intimate club setting, or the rowdy, expansive festival setting?

Grandtheft: I like both equally. I like creating a contained vibe in a venue or club setting. I In my eyes, I make more club music more than the typical ‘festival bangers’ heard at main stages. But i love to do my thing in front of a festival crowd. The energy of such a big group of music-lovers can be really something amazing.
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