At just 19, Melanie Martinez has used every ounce of her budding creativity and sharp eye for aesthetic appeal. Her distinctive look and spell-binding voice made her a semi-finalist on season 3 of The Voice at 16 years old, captured the attention of American Horror Story execs, and recently got her a record contract with Atlantic Records. She just released the music video for the eerie and haunting “Carousel,” and dressed in a fluffy pastel bunny outfit, Melanie sat down with us last weekend at Austin City Limits Music Festival to discuss her upcoming LP Crybaby, her song being featured in the American Horror Story: Freakshow trailer, and what she learned from being on The Voice.
How do you like ACL so far?
It’s really cool. It’s so exciting watching artists I like and just seeing people have a good time and dance and stuff.
What artists have you seen, or who are you most excited to see?
I saw Eminem! I love him. I also saw Lana Del Rey, Major Lazer, and Iggy Azalea. My friend actually dances for Major Lazer.
You were on The Voice when you were 16. Why did you choose The Voice over, say, American Idol, and what were some of the most important things you learned in the process?
I wasn’t really doing anything besides writing songs in my bathroom at the time, and I didn’t really play any shows. So I went out on a limb and saw this ad online for The Voice and thought “why not?” So, I went to the open call at Javits Center, and I just kept getting further and further. I actually auditioned for American Idol when I was 15, but I didn’t make it anywhere. It’s not something that I really wanted to do, it was just something that I did because I had nothing to lose. There was nothing else to do in Long Island.
The biggest thing I learned was just how to perform under pressure week-to-week on live television. I think that awesome to go through before actually starting your career because now when you eventually get on TV again, it’ll be easier. It’s definitely like a boot camp. You go under lots of stress and stuff, so now I feel like I can handle stress a lot easier. It was definitely a huge learning experience for me, and I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing now.
You recently got signed to Atlantic Records (congrats) after you had been releasing material independently. What is the process like after you get off The Voice? How does that all work?
After I got off The Voice, I just started playing shows and kept working at it and writing. Then I got a publishing deal with Warner and just started writing a lot. Then I came out with my single “Dollhouse,” and then earlier this year Atlantic signed me. Now I’m finishing up my album, and it’s going to be released beginning of next year. It has been really fun and definitely an interesting process. Most of it has just been me playing live and preparing myself for playing shows later on.
Emily Wolfe is quite steadily climbing up the Austin music scene. After graduating from St. Edwards University in 2012, Wolfe has made a name for herself in the Central Texas region and has recently garnered the attention of staple news sources such as MTV, NPR Music, Paste Magazine, and more. Her soulful, hard-hitting music is most often described as “folk rock” but can thoroughly be understood by listening to her two 2013 EP’s, which she says span completely opposite ranges of her musical stylings. We sat down with Emily and her band members Hannah Hagar, Sam Pankey, and Jeffrey Olson at Weekend 2 of Austin City Limits to talk about their new EP Roulette, what it’s like being a musician in Austin, and more.
How is ACL so far?
EW: Last weekend we play an after show, and that was great. It was a lot of fun.
Who have you seen, or who are you most excited to see?
JO: I really wanna see Mac DeMarco!
HH: Childish Gambino.
JO. They’re just all awesome.
Can you talk a little bit about your music background and how you guys came up in the Austin music scene?
EW: Hannah and I met in college, and we started writing songs together. We started out just as a duo, and it was more acoustic stuff. Then we got an electric guitar together and started to do more rock and roll stuff. Then we met Sam and Jeff, and we started playing more band stuff, and now we have new member Jack in the band, and he makes it all really full-sounding, so that’s really great.
JO: Sam and I met at UT, and we were both there for music. And Jack and I have known each other since high school — we were both musicians.
Artists constantly praise Austin for how great it receives them at shows, etc. Do you think the city of Austin is the perfect place for artists like yourselves to make a name for yourself?
EW: Austin really is great. There are so many artists and so many opportunities, and it is such a creative city that you can’t go wrong being a musician here. I feel like people here really just know how to watch music, and that’s pretty awesome, too.
SP: I also kind of feel like there’s a downside to there being so many musicians here, though, because that means there’s so much competition compared to other places. If you were a band in a small town in, say, Michigan, then it would be pretty easy to get people to come out to your shows and to be the most popular band in that area. But nonetheless, it’s the perfect city to be a musician and be creative.
You released two EP’s in 2013, Mechanical Hands and Night & Day, and have said that stylistically they’re very different. How are these EP’s different from each other?
EW: Well Night & Day is just very, very different from Mechanical Hands. It’s very acoustic, and basically it’s just very low-key and “for the moms.”
JO: It’s for everyone!
EW: No, it is for everyone! It’s just that my mom is really into it. It’s like a mom thing.
HH: Night & Day is like the rainy day, you want to listen to some music under the blanket type of music. It’s pretty romantic.
EW: Mechanical Hands is just full band, and the lyrics are more abstract and not as straight forward like, “Oh, romance!” It’s more like you gotta think about it more and put your own meaning to it.
For what it’s worth in the current music industry, pop-folk duo Oh Honey have made it a point to infuse their soulful, sunny tunes with a sense of feel-good positivity, and in my opinion, that’s really something we need right now. The duo, made up of troubadours Mitchy Collins and Danielle Bouchard, have recently signed with Atlantic Records and embarked on a tour with James Blunt throughout May. We sat down with Danielle and Mitchy to talk about their new With Love EP, being featured on Glee, and more!
Tell me a little more about your ‘With Love’ EP – what inspired the songs on it?
We write about our lives, loves, and everything in between. Sometimes it’s easier to put something into a song than it is to say it to someone’s face. We write about things we go through and things we wish we were brave enough to say. We chose the four songs on the ep because they all share a message of optimism while still remaining really honest.
Overall, your music seems very happy, bright, and refreshingly positive. What’s your goal with the music? What is the main thing you wish to get across to your audience?
There are enough sad songs in the world, and we hope people will gravitate towards the positive message of our music. Life happens to everyone, but it can’t rain forever. There’s always hope.
Are you excited to be touring with James Blunt?
We have had the best time on tour with James Blunt! The first show of the tour was at the Bell Centre in Montreal in front of 7,000 people–it was incredible and such a surreal experience. James himself is an amazing performer and we have learned a lot by watching him onstage every night. We’re super thankful he took us out on tour.
Your song “Be Okay” was recently featured on Glee and has been gaining lots of popularity. Why do you think that is?
We were so honored to have our song featured on “Glee”– it was crazy to watch it performed on tv. The response has been overwhelming and we are really excited about it. A lot of people have told us they feel inspired by the positive message of the song and that it’s given them hope during hard times which is a really amazing thing to hear. The song is also all about great summer vibes, which I think people are more than ready for after such a long winter!
What do both of you wish for Oh Honey to achieve in the coming months? Any big things we can be waiting for? I saw you recently signed a big Atlantic record deal.
We are really looking forward to finishing up our tour with James Blunt and then hitting the road this summer with The Fray! We are playing some legendary venues like Red Rocks in Denver– it’s gonna be an awesome two months. Atlantic has been amazing to us and we couldn’t ask for a better, more supportive team. We’re excited to be on tour for the next three months, so make sure you catch us at a show!
Local indie artist Nathan Quick is bringing his raw, folky sound to his upcoming album The Mile and will be holding an album release party at Fitzgeralds upstairs on Saturday, April 26th at 8 pm. Special guests will be The Beans, BLSHS, and The Trimms.
The release of The Mile will be a limited run before the album gets distributed worldwide, with each copy costing $5. You’ll also get a signed poster!
Australian trio Panama have recently released their sophomore EP, Always, which has been described as “hopeful house” music. And according to what frontman Jarrah McCleary had to say about the music when we sat down with him, that seems like the perfect description. Check out our interview below, where we discuss SXSW, Australia crowds vs. Texas crowds, and what he thinks about having success in the US music market.
How is SXSW so far?
It has been really busy and hectic. The hardest part is probably just adjusting to the time zone here, actually because Australia is quite a bit ahead in time. We had a great show yesterday with people singing along to the words, which was surprising. I haven’t had enough time to see any shows of the artists I like. I’ve just been trying to get as much sleep as I can try rest the voice, especially for those high notes.
How would you say the Texas crowd differs from the Australian crowd?
I think they’re quite similar in that they’re very friendly. I wasn’t expecting such a warm response. Sydney is quite similar, and the music taste is actually similar, too. I was listening to the radio here as I came in, and a lot of the popular music here is also popular in Sydney. It might be a social media thing now with Soundcloud and stuff like that. Music travels so fast.
How would you describe the sound on your new Always EP compared to your first EP?
A little more intimate. It’s coming more from a personal viewpoint compared to the first EP which had some more concepts of dance music within it. The Always EP can be performed a little bit more acoustic and is about using that particular style of writing and then coming in through a personal standpoint and addressing some things that I needed to address and haven’t addressed in a while. You look back on something and you’re like, “Oh! Now I know what that was about.” It’s kind of like a realization for me. Always is really just a realization for me of things I’ve done repeatedly in the past and pull from. It’s definitely a little deeper – not that the first one wasn’t, but it was just an experimentation.
Your music has been described as “hopeful house” music. In a few words, how would you describe your music to a naked ear?
The music comes from an emotional place. That’s the first thing I would say about it. If I were to describe it, I would say that if you feel something from it, and if it provokes something inside you that means something to you – that’s what I’m going for. It does come from a positive place. I guess I do a lot of writing when I have extreme downs, but I also have extreme ups where I feel good all the time, and my music kind of appeals to those emotions.
You just signed with a new US label. Could you tell us more about that?
Yeah! It’s called 300 Entertainment, and I’m really excited. They decided to step in and release the Always EP. It’s a really, really exciting time to see what’s going to happen. We just got to meet some of the people from 300 in the past couple days, and it’s really fun to have a team in a whole different country. So, at this point in time, it’s just really exciting.
You’ve had a lot of radio success overseas and in Australia. Do you think it’s harder to break out in the US, and if so, why?
Well, the US is a massive country with an incredibly diverse culture. I find that each state is almost like a different country. Say, California and Oregon. It’s different! So I can only imagine how hard it is to reach so many different personalities. Just to get the positive response we have gotten in the states so far is really surprising and positive, because I wouldn’t think about that if I was just in the studio at home, on the piano, writing. It all just happens to bloom out like it does. So, for me it’s all a bonus.
You’ve performed with acts like London Grammar and Solange, who have both broken out in the Pop/Indie world within the past year. Would you say artists like these are examples of where you want to go?
Not really. I don’t know if I want to go anywhere. I just want to find what works for me. I just want to be comfortable with what I’m trying to do personally. What other acts do is what works for them, and I guess I’m not that good at adapting to other styles. I’m best at expressing myself and my feelings and being as talented as I’d like to keep myself! Haha!
Since we are Indie Houston, who are some of your favorite indie artists?
I listen to a lot of old records, actually, so I don’t really listen to a lot of newer stuff. I just like to listen to things that are inspirational and things that I could get some ideas and learn from. I’m into a lot of 1980’s new wave artists, always have been into new wave bands. “Destroyer” from the latest Always EP is kind of a homage to the new wave bands I’ve always been into. I used to play in a new wave band back in the day, too, so I just have a lot of inspiration from that particular genre.
Panama’s Always EP is available now!
I met up with HOLYCHILD, a Los Angeles-based duo comprised of Liz Nistico and Louie Diller, at the back of a sophisticated and crowded bar during their pretty energetic reign at SXSW this year. The two self-proclaimed “brat-poppers” just released their new MINDSPEAK EP and sat down with Indie Houston to talk a little bit about their thought-provoking music video trilogy, SXSW, and their views on gender roles and power dynamics in relationships.
How has your SXSW experience been so far?
Liz: So far so good! This is my first time playing SouthBy, and it has been crazy, successful, but a whirlwind.
How have your shows been?
Louie: We played a show with an artist named MO – she’s from Denmark – and that was really fun. Our label showcase was really great, too. One artist that stuck out to us was this artist named Flo Morissey. She’s this really special voice and talent.
Liz: This other artist named Ceremonies was playing one of the shows we were playing yesterday, and they were amazing. It was such a nice surprise to load up my stuff and listen to them play. It was like southern rock meets Of Montreal.
How would you say the Austin crowd differs from any other crowd?
Liz: Well the SXSW crowd is just down to consume music. Like, New York and LA for instance are very used to consuming music, but they’re not necessarily excited to do so all the time whereas here people are excited to consume the music and listen and find new music. People are so open and cool.
Louie: It’s definitely just more eager ears. Maybe in other markets people might just be skeptical, or they might not know show protocol or how to respond, but here people just really want to get down. So it’s fun for us because we like to get down live, so there’s this nice synergy we’ve been having with the audience here, so it has been really fun.
How does the writing and producing process go for you guys?
Liz: That’s a great question. In general, it pretty much works like this. All songs are written half and half. In terms of chord progression and melody, that’s pretty much 50/50. For production, it’s about 80% Louie and 20% me. Lyrics are about 80% me and 20% Louie.
Could you talk more about the your new Mindspeak EP? Inspiration behind it? Overall themes?
Liz: Definitely. We just released it on March 4, and it’s essentially about the role of the female in our culture from different angles. So “Every Time I Fall” is about me being frustrated to be called “girlfriend” because it puts me in this gender stereotype that I am rebelling against. So, it’s essentially about the contradictions that I feel being female in our culture and being pressured to look or act a certain way and making decisions about acting and looking that way or not. I feel like it pretty much sums it up in the videos that accompany the EP. I wrote and directed three music videos to get with 3 of the songs to kind of show the evolution of objectification. So, that’s essentially what the message behind the EP is.
I was watching this video trilogy earlier, and it was really interesting. Could you talk more about these videos specifically?
Liz: So, I wanted to convey this feeling of objectification and the contradictions that exist around it. So, essentially what I feel is pissed off that people objectify women and that women are sold and used in advertising for other products. That’s something that bothers me. However, if I go out and don’t dress up or look cute, then I will feel self conscious about not fitting in that role. So, I was just thinking and thinking about that concept and about how that contradiction exists within me. So, the first video is about the power that one can feel from being objectified. In the first video, the girls have the power. They know they’re cute, they know the guys want them, and the guys at that point don’t have the power because they know the women are the objects that they want. The second video is the turning point where the women give the men the ability to judge them. The final video is where the men have the power to judge, now they have the power in this dynamic. And the women are upset for putting themselves in that situation but are still going through the motions because they put themselves there.
Louie: Yeah, so as much as it’s about the objectifications of women and the contradictions within that, it’s also about power dynamics in relationships.
Liz: Yeah, definitely. I thought about these videos so much. It was a very long process to write and direct them, and it was the first time I have ever done that. But that’s the overarching concept in them.
So, Louie, what would you say your role is in the videos? I noticed you kind of get pushed around by the girls.
Louie: Haha, yeah! Liz, what would you say my role is?
Liz: I like using Louie as a male who neither confirms nor denies the existence of these contradictions, which is kind of the role that I feel a lot of people in our culture take. Yeah, we all see that this is a problem and that it is detrimental to people. We all see that people are hurt or lessened in a certain way because of the way that capitalism has pushed this on us. But at the same time, how many people are really doing anything about it? So, that’s what I like to use Louie as. I don’t feel like that’s how he is in normal day-to-day, but in videos I like to use him in that way. He’s there, but he’s not there. He’s not doing anything to fix the problem, and he’s not doing anything to contribute either.
Louie: Yeah! You’ve never told me that, but that makes sense. Also, I’m not an actor. So it’s easy for me to kind of do the music things and be straight-faced.
Definitely! It’s also about that, but if you were to watch the videos without even thinking about that stuff, it’s all just really colorful and fun. So how important do you think the style is? And how important do you think a music video is to a song?
Louie: I think it’s pretty critical. Liz has a really strong sense of visuals. That’s sort of her department.
Liz: I want people to see it and be like, “Oh wow! This is really interesting to watch, and it’s really pretty. I like the colors, and I’m stimulated by what people are wearing” and have a very cursory experience, because I feel like that’s how we watch things. And I’m almost trying to get this subliminal message across. I’m really obsessed with composition and what people’s emotions are on film, what they are doing. But I wanted it to be deep-rooted. So, you watch it and then you’re like, “Wait a second. What did I just watch?” And that’s the approach we have with a lot of the messages in our songs. Yeah, this is poppy, this is nice to listen to, and you’re singing along to the lyrics but all of a sudden you’re like, “Wait, what is that saying?” I just like making everyone think, so if we can do it in this way, I feel like it could reach a much broader audience.
Louie: Yeah, and that is HOLYCHILD – drawing people in with familiar ideas and themes and visuals and catchy hooks but challenging them simultaneously in more subtle ways. That’s what HOLYCHILD is about.
In your songs, do you ever draw inspiration from other artists or genres? I noticed in “Happy With Me” that it’s kind of Jamaican and Reggae, which is interesting.
Louie: Yeah! We definitely do. “Happy With Me” is actually an Afro-Brazilian beat, and I understand how it could be taken as Reggaeton or Jamaican, but I’ve gotten pretty deep in studying and playing Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music. So, it’s an Afro-beat that inspired the rhythm, yeah.
Liz: But in general, yes. We are definitely influenced by other genres.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you’re listening to right now?
Liz: I’m really into Sam Smith right now. I think he’s really cool. “Money On My Mind” is tight. Chet Faker is killing it. The new St. Vincent is tight.
Louie: I know Phantogram is kind of mainstream and everyone knows about it, but I’m into it! It’s hard to deny. I also really wanna hear new Little Dragon, too.
Liz: We’ve been listening to a lot of Yacht. They’re great. We’re basically just really obsessed with music and are listening to all kinds of music all the time.