An Introduction to Charlie Leavy

I stumbled upon a Soundcloud account a while back. It belonged to a prolific songwriter from the United Kingdom. Her name is Charlie. She is sixteen. I suspect she have a bit of genius about her. When I was sixteen years old, I had trouble holding major seconds in vocal harmony. I could play four chords on guitar, and my fingers were still getting raw from practice. At sixteen, Charlie has written well over fifty songs, and shows no sign of slowing down. When I last checked in with her, she informed me that in a six day period, she wrote and recorded fourteen songs. Her music can be found here.

MVRemix: How many songs have you actually written?

Charlie Leavy: I have the lyrics to 55 of my songs on my computer but I have actually written quite a few more in the past that would bring the total up to about 65.

MVRemix: What inspired you to play music, and what inspired you to write your own music?

Charlie Leavy: I was inspired to play music when I was very little. I loved singing at home, then I tried out for school plays in primary school and ended up getting a main part in all of them. My love for music developed on from there. I got a small 3 octave keyboard when I was about 8 and started to teach myself, and then I got a larger 6 octave keyboard at about age 11/12 which I loved. I just had a huge passion for music which made me want to learn instruments and sing.

Then for the inspiration for writing songs: I always, from a very young age, made up little songs in my head which I loved doing. Then, I wrote my first song which I named ‘Blank Canvas’ when I was 12 for one of my best friends who was really upset over a boyfriend. Song writing just progressed from there. I loved writing my first song, and singing it after so I just kept writing and I haven’t stopped to this day!

MVRemix: You mentioned you’ve played in bands before. Tell me about them. Do you write songs for those bands as well?

Charlie Leavy: I’ve been in a few bands: The Last Laughs, The Alternatives and Atlas. In the Last Laughs I was just the lead singer and we stayed together for about half a year. We played a gig at a pub and a set for St. George’s Day in the middle of my town. We also did a few school concerts, it was a fun time while it lasted! We wrote one song called ‘That Love Song’, our guitarist wrote the chords and me and our keyboard player wrote the melody and I wrote the lyrics. Then The Alternatives didn’t get nearly as far, we didn’t play anywhere, just rehearsed. And finally, the last band I was in: Atlas. We were a four piece with a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, drummer and I was the lead singer and bassist. This band lasted the longest out of all 3, we didn’t write any songs together but we did have 2 of mine in our set: ‘Be Mine’ and ‘Hello Hello’. We played a couple of pub gigs and a small charity festival too.

MVRemix: What is your set-up?

Charlie Leavy: My set up is in my bedroom. I have a laptop which has Avid Pro Tools software on. I use the Pro Tools Audio Interface plugged into both my laptop and a Studio V3 Tube MP pre-amp. I then plug my instrument/mic into the pre-amp. I have a mic stand which the mic sits in and I also have a pop filter which I use.

MVRemix: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Charlie Leavy: I draw my inspiration from just about everything. My experiences and feelings, friends’ experiences and feelings, nature, the way people are, sleeping habits seem to be a common occurrence too. I love to take things from different angles and write about what I see in the natural world, then link it to a feeling or an experience. I also am inspired by writing with a message. Quite a few of my songs, (e.g: Good Enough and Who Are You), convey a positive message about loving yourself because you’re you and that’s something I truly believe. I think that way too many people dislike themselves and hate their differences, and that needs to stop. Uniqueness is there for a reason.

MVRemix: Tell me about your songwriting process.

Charlie Leavy: My song writing process varies significantly with each song. For the most part though, I write in my bedroom with a wordpad document open on my laptop. There are exceptions though, for instance: ‘Player 2’ was written on the way up to school and ‘Picture Of You’ was written during Form time at school in my planner. I just try to retain the melody that I’ve thought up until I get home and I can work out which chords I should play. Sometimes I write because I’ve found an interesting melody or some gorgeous chords, other times it’s because I’ve experienced/seen someone experience something that I’m inspired to write about, other times it’s simply because I thought up a few lyrics that I feel like writing a song about.

MVRemix: You’ve done most of your recordings on your own. Do you prefer the do-it-yourself method, or do you hope to find a label one of these days?

Charlie Leavy: I love recording at home. It feels like a mini project and I feel so great when I finish. However, I would definitely like to find a label in the future. I feel like with more professional recordings I could do so much more – in my room I am limited. In a studio I could add drums if I wanted or strings, etc and the tracks could be mixed a lot better since I’m still a beginner at that sort of stuff.

MVRemix: Do you see yourself studying music at the university level, or would you prefer to hit the road and tour your own material?

Charlie Leavy: I actually see myself studying Economics at university, it’s another passion of mine. Music is my ultimate passion though, so, I may study Music at university if it looks like I’m going to make it somewhere. I feel like I need something to fall back on if nothing happens for me regarding Music in the future. However, I would love to tour. If there are ears which want to listen to my voice, my voice will get there. I think touring would be incredible and so fun to do, especially because performing is one of my favourite things ever.

MVRemix: What direction do you want to take your music in the next few years?

Charlie Leavy: In the next few years I’d love to have recorded an album of professional quality in a studio. I’d love to be doing gigs a few nights a week too. I’d also love to experiment with some more collaborations. I think my some of my music will stay I the acoustic genre, but I think that some of my tracks will be a full band because that would be amazing to work on! Also, I will definitely continue to write with all sorts of influences like pop, folk, country and rock.

MVRemix: Any thoughts, comments, questions, jokes or manifestos you’d like to leave us with? 

Charlie Leavy: Yes, I’d like to say thanks for this interview! It’s been really fun to do and something which is a great piece of advice…Two little words; be you.


David Bowie – The Next Day album review

Robert Frost once wrote that nothing gold can stay, but he obviously never encountered David Bowie. In the face of a music scene rife with neon-haired starlets and robotic voices over beats that may as well be alien greetings for all the musicality they embody, Bowie has managed to emerge, some 10 years after his last foray into the musical ring, indubitably victorious. But really, is anyone surprised?

The Next Day is Bowie’s 24th studio album and it shows in the best possible way. Where other established artists trying to make a comeback tend to work too hard to reinvent themselves within the confines of an industry that has moved on without them, Bowie sticks to what he knows how to do best — be himself. From its sound to its style to its pace, The Next Day definitely constitutes a blast from the past. It glides along without hiccup, even as Bowie alternates between the quiet philosophies and loud theatrics, opposite ends of the spectrum that somehow worked together to make him famous. A standout track in this respect would have to be “If You Can See Me,” which is rolled off in a style akin to the rock opera or musical theatre genres, essentially narrating a string of events through song.

Bowie’s voice has aged nicely, taking on a worn, hollow quality that lends a certain level of experience and authority to his more musing tracks. He takes on the persona of a wise mentee, someone who has been places and seen things — which of course, at age 66 with a career spanning 40 years, he very much is. As if Bowie’s denial to tour The Next Day weren’t indication enough, one listen to the record makes it evident that Bowie’s so-called comeback is not about giving his career a kick in the pants or trying to join a scene that, if we’re being frank, no longer cares the way it used to. Instead, The Next Day is David Bowie making music because he wants to, because he is a musician, because that’s what he does. The fact that it is doing well on the charts, earning him his first number 1 record in 20 years, is just a happy side-effect, and a testament to his indisputable talent at that.


Makthaverskan – Makthaverskan II album review

The first thing you will notice about this band is that the female lead singer has some pipes on her. The music is a basement band brawl of loud, head-banging, jump-around fun. I could not uncover much on the history of the band, as this is only their second album, and most of the information is not in English. 

While the lead singer has some impressive lungs, the band as a whole is rather lacking. It seems like the kind of thing your little brother’s high school band would throw together. Makthaverskan II shows some slight improvement over Makthaverskan the first, but the core elements are identical. There was not much, if any, musical innovation in their first album, but instead of trying to grow, Makthaverskan did a repeat. Every song tries to be an epic rock anthem. It’s all on the same level. That being said, their new single “Asleep,” is very good. It says everything you will need to know about Makthaverskan. Simple rock songs that let the singer shine. However, it seems doubtful that given the knowledge that every song is somewhat like or identical to “Asleep,” that one would feel the need to listen to the entire album. I found myself getting bored within each song, skipping around the tracks like a busy Chinese restaurant menu. 

There’s nothing wrong or bad about Makthaverskan. There’s just nothing really interesting. There aren’t those moments where you stop and think, “Okay, I’ve never heard that move before.” They played it safe in their debut album, which is fine. It’s unoriginal, but in a comforting way. They can tip their caps to their musical favorites of past. (You will probably find some early U2 in their iTunes playlists) However, by doing the exact same simple safe-playing in their second album it calls to question whether these kids will come out with a third. 


Colleen Green – Sock It To Me album review

It may be only March, but 2013 is already starting to show us what the future of music is going to look like, and it’s all thanks to our advancing technology. Musicians can now fend for themselves with solo projects that produce enough substance and depth to sound like a full ensemble.

Oakland California resident and self-proclaimed “stoner pop” musician Colleen Green is living proof: a one-woman show that does it all with a drum machine and an electric guitar. She is about to storm the scene with her first full-length album titled Sock It To Me.

She is clearly influenced by the ghosts of punk rock’s past, most notably the Ramones. It’s no coincidence one of her previous recordings was a song titled “I Wanna Be Degraded”. With heavy, methodical guitar riffs mixed with uncomplicated electric beats, Green shows us she’s not here to mess around.

Sock It To Me is a simple and captivating album that flows fairly well but has some inconsistency that she will only improve with time & experience. It is especially apparent on the tracks “Only One” and “Darkest Eyes”. While the guitar draws me in, her voice is overshadowed and leaves me wanting more. However, it completely rebounds with what is arguably the best on the album, “Time In The World” which brings the focus to the beats and showcases her vocal talent, which are both completely on point on this lively track.

The title track on Sock it To Me is dreamy and futuristic and is the attention grabber on the album, which I was shocked by a note that sounded like my computer was suddenly on the fritz.

Her sound is abrasive yet pleasing, and it shows that she represents the punk rock princesses out there currently struggling to find music to relate to. On the melancholy-toned track “Every Boy Wants a Normal Girl”, she sings about how she wishes she was a normal girl – but only sometimes.

Bonnaroo Announces New Breed of Superjam

Bonnaroo’s Superjam series, long a forum that unites amazing artists for
once-in-a-lifetime performances, has raised the bar once again.

2013 promises to be the year that the Superjam evolves beyond the mostly human talent that the festival has sought out and celebrated in the past, with the objective of redefining its boundaries to showcase the amazing, undiscovered talents of animals throughout the world as inspired by Bonnaroo 2012 superstar Carrie the Dancing Merengue dog of Chile.

The All-Animal Superjam will take place late Saturday night on the Which Stage directly following the headliner.

Bonnaroo and the international arts community may never be the same after this momentous concert that will shatter previously established conceptions of what art and music can be.

There is more groundbreaking exclusive Bonnaroo content where this came from:

Episode 2 of Rap Lines, the new hip hop comedy advice show starring ItsTheReal with special guest Melanie Fiona debuts today on Bonnaroo365.
It’s Dr. Phil meets DMX for a new generation.

Bonnaroo Superjam series Episode 2 featuring D’Angelo’s first US performance in 12 years will premiere this Wednesday, and includes more backstage footage and an exclusive full performance of the
Ohio Players’ classic “Pride and Vanity.”

Episode 1 is available now, only on Bonnaroo365 on YouTube:

Future episodes will include amazing covers of songs by Funkadelic and The Beatles!


Wildlife – On The Heart album review

With this latest effort, 5-man Canadian band Wildlife has made a valiant effort to separate their sound and aesthetics from the similarly named British Band The Wildlife. The theme of the album is all about relinquishing one’s emotions, succumbing to its’ pains and joys.

The album opens with the sound of an organ for “If It Breaks” The organ are not those of the wedding variety, but the ones heard at funeral processions. The vocals sways in, and immediately one can tell this album is going to take a pretty depressing dive. It does, albeit transient. The organ dies out into a single instrument, and it highlights lead singer Dean Povinsky’s vocals well. The lyrics affords the track its depressing nature.

“Though your heart sat next to mine, If it breaks I’ll give it back”

It has a short run of a little over 2 minutes for a beginning track. Maybe too long to be considered an “intro” to the album. As far as commencement tracks go, this did not do it’s part to lead the way for the rest of the album. The next several tracks on that fill out On The Heart are distractingly misleading. The remaining 11 songs are in such stark contrast to the isolated vocals on If It Breaks, it sounds like a whole different album altogether. As I was listening to the album, I noted exactly two things. 1st Song -sweet, heart-aching. Rest of album -shouting, and Drums.

Ultimately, it wasn’t that the album lacked synchronicity, it just should have segued a bit more fluidly. On Born to Ruin, there are drums, rhythmic percussions, and rebellious lyrics that sounds more like an abandoned Springsteen single than the soulful ache of track 1.

The rest of the album is equally fast-paced and uptempo. The songwriting on this album is worth the attention, with strong analogies and coherent lyricism. Bad Dream is a song with a creative story hidden in the lyrics. It tells the tale of 2 lovers, Anemone and Kerosene. It is very literal, the beginning verse is “This is the story of two lovers, Anemone and Kerosene”

Continuing with “Liquid Burning like a torch in the bottom of the sea”

Throughout the album is a very consistent theme of vulnerability and dependance. Dean Povinsky has a lovely, fragile voice that emerges well within all the background activity. On some tracks it works, on other tracks his vocals are one more things lending to the incoherence of the song. It’s a great effort, but the musical torch Wildlife carries for On The Heart is a dim and fading one.

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Adventure Galley Interview

Adventure Galley is a Portland based band that found its origins in Eugene Oregon. They recently released a new single called “Semantics,” which can be found here:

George Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. Back in the day, we did our undergraduate work together at the University of Oregon. I caught up with George over the Internet a few days ago. 

MVRemix: What have you boys been up to these days?

George Schultz: Aside from the usual RV parties, house shows, and general debauchery, Adventure Galley has been writing new songs, which we plan on eventually making an EP out of. We’re also getting ready to release that album we recorded all that time ago. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re looking forward to getting that album out there and focusing on touring and writing more.

MVRemix: You just released the new single, “Semantics.” Is this a preview of things to come? 

George Schultz: Semantics isn’t necessarily a single, though many folks have been referring to it that way. Our intention with that release was to show another side to our music. Most people are familiar with our tracks Addict and Weekend Lovers, which are very in-your-face indie pop songs. Semantics is more laid back and experimental in sound. We wanted to show the folks at home that side of our sound. We enjoy non-standard chord formations and general weirdness in our music and you get a taste of that with Semantics.

MVRemix: I heard you guys were operating out of an old church, is that true? If so, how did that come about? How do you like the space?

George Schultz: For the first time in a couple years the band is all living in the same city. Since February half of us have taken up residence in a 19th century church in SE Portland, OR lovingly referred to as the Funky Church. We filmed our first music video (for Weekend Lovers, which you can see here) at the Funky Church last March and after meeting the residents we slowly started taking over rooms as they opened up. It’s a beautiful space and we have set up a home studio where we are able to demo new music and work out of. Every once in a while I wake up in the morning and get a very surreal feeling like “wow, I live in a church, this is strange, but I like it”.

MVRemix: Is there an Adventure Galley tour on the horizon?

George Schultz: We’ll be doing a bit of touring this summer and fall. We’ll travel around the west coast and hit up the usual spots. More on that later!

MVRemix: From what I understand, there are multiple songwriters in the band. Is Adventure Galley a democracy? How do you guys choose what songs to play?

George Schultz: The dynamic in our band seems to be fairly different from most of what I’ve seen of how other bands function. Whereas most groups have a primary singer-songwriter, we all contribute to songwriting, but when it comes down to it, David and Aaron are the primary creative directors. They each have very different styles that have amalgamated into the sound that is Adventure Galley. We are democratic but in that effort we end up moving in multiple directions every time we write a song together. It’s not simple, but nothing ever is with this band. We don’t want simplicity, we want innovation and beauty.

MVRemix: You wrote the song “Addict,” which won a Toyota music contest a few years ago. Is there a story behind the song?

George Schultz: Well once upon a time in 2009 we wrote Addict, a charming little four chord pop song that we loaded up with as many hooks as possible. In 2010 we decided to record the Right Place to Be EP, on which Addict is a track. One day I was on the internet and saw the Toyota Rock the Space competition and submitted Addict. It was really a fuck it, why not? kind of moment. I didn’t have the expectation that we would win and I didn’t even tell the rest of the band I submitted it until I got a call saying we had made it to the semifinals. After a few rounds of voting we won the contest, got a record deal with Myspace Records and the rest is history. When Myspace went under they gave us the masters to our album and we now get to own our own music. It gives us creative control, which we like, but it also puts a lot of responsibility in our hands to make it a great album before we release it without any additional financial backing. That seems to be the nature of most music today; unless you have somehow developed a lot of hype, you have to make your own way in the world of music. I have developed a great respect for artists who manage to make it through their hard work and creative initiative as opposed to having a good publicist that pushes them as a commodity. It’s a difficult business to be in, and we were very fortunate when we won that contest because we were given an opportunity that is practically impossible to come by in this industry: a no-strings-attached record contract. As far as the song goes, it’s a lot of fun at shows, it’s a good dance track and it’s undeniably catchy. The lyrics were written by myself, David and Aaron and I can’t really say what they’re about, though the themes seem to tie into psychological chaos and addiction. It’s funny, I’ve been asked about the meaning of the lyrics many times since that song was recorded 3 years ago and my answer always seems to change. A song can mean many different things to someone over the course of the years, it’s a matter of listening to it at the right place at the right time.

MVRemix: Any last thoughts, comments, jokes or rebuttals?

George Schultz: I don’t know if your readers are aware that you are a proficient Tuvan throat singer, but my new goal as a songwriter is to write a club-banger of a track featuring your majestic Siberian-style vocals. So they should keep an ear out for that when it happens.


The Virgins – Strike Gently album review

The first full length album The Virgins composed had a 90’s rock feel to it that was up-beat and energetic. Their new album seems to have jumped back a couple generations into the 70’s. This change in style/genre from album to album surprised me; they have succeeded at emulating a sound from the 70’s, with a progressive flair complete with a full vocal change and instrument tone down.

In “Flashbacks, Memories, and Dreams” you find a glimpse of the traditional band, but for the most part the lead singer Donald Cummings seems to have scrapped everything that was the old band and tried something new.

New doesn’t necessarily mean better. Although their sound shifted significantly from a Smash Mouth-esque 90’s rock to something reminiscent of Pink Floyd, they have nothing to offer as far as originality or distinction.

In its entirety, Strike Gently is an album that’s better listened to with a herbal additive. There are mellow tones and smooth rhythm that will soothe you right into a summer afternoon, but any track you listen to won’t be memorable and will fade into the background.

This mediocrity in sound also comes through in the lyrics with nothing to write about other than failed love, teenage years and a load of cliches, there’s nothing exciting, new, or inspirational about this album that warrants a purchase.

Although I’m not elated with the package that is the “Strike Gently” album their efforts still ring positive on a few notes. In their previous album it was for the most part, cut and dry recorded track by track and mixed. In the new album they recorded together as a band – in most cases, this is a bad thing, but not here.

This style of recording gives the whole feel of the album a live ambiance, and it really works well with the new style they have fashioned. There is a substantial amount of audio that is detected by different microphones not intended to be picked up.

They were on the brink of something special. A lyrical makeover that consisted of more than failed relationships and “could have beens” is a good place to start. Also, reverting back to the vocal style that Donald Cummings had on their previous record could help. Let’s face it, unless you are Bob Dylan or Roger Waters this type of vocal range doesn’t work.

Though I am not a fan of the new album I do think that in time when “The Virgins” figure out what they want as a band, they will have an opportunity to find some true success.


Suuns – Images du Futur album review

To properly view Suuns’ Images du Futur you have to take it outside the guise of what other artists are doing around it.  One can compare each track to another similar example from another similar artist because let’s face it, for the untrained ear the general analysis leans towards comparing an artist to another. However, for the sake of time, I’d rather discuss what the album actually is, and why I enjoyed embracing it with naivete.

The simple synopsis: Images du Futur is the perfect album to begin an all-nighter.

On a more focused analysis, the album has an overarching flow that feels purposeful and beautiful. The lyrics of Ben Shemie are almost impossible to discern on most tracks, but for some reason you don’t feel like you’re being left out of the loop. After all, this band alters keys within a track, sometimes multiple times, without surrendering the original identity of the song. The talent necessary to pull off the risks in Images du Futur are impressive – coupling dissonance and sweet sub-pop harmonies, jazz / minor guitar intervals and raucous guitar noise.

“Powers of Ten” is probably the hardest rocking of the album. Bound well in time by a great rhythm section, the screaming guitars don’t feel painful, but encouraging enough to hold out for Shemie’s simple melody. “2020” starts with a similar blend to “Powers of Ten” but, in this case, the keyboards easing the dissonance of the guitars odd chromatic scale. By the time we land on “Minor Work”, the more intense “noise” subsides and overarching harmonies couple with indie-rock guitar intervals.  “Edie’s Dream” jumps even further away from harsh melodies, dipping into easy-to-decipher lyrics- “I have a fear do you know what I mean / these same visions / these same visions / It’s so real/ This way I feel… Years and years to change.”

“Sunspot” and “Bambi” then reinvigorate the rock that was exchanged for introspection in the middle of the album.  “Bambi” gets more dancy and dark and uses Shemie’s prickling voice to help build towards an album climax at “Holocene City”.

Traipsing in an odd scale for interludes, “Holocene City” feels like a hint of enlightenment by Suuns. With a coastal midnight drive feel – this track is a night-driving tune – and finally seems to grow out of the cold darkness of Suuns’ Montreal lair.

One of the first champions of dissonance in American music, composer Charles Ives, once said: “the word ‘beauty’ is as easy to use as the word ‘degenerate’. Both come in handy when one does or does not agree with you.” In the case of Suuns’ Images du Futur, both degenerate and beauty can have their own case in the Suuns’ limelight.