Press Release – 1FM – June 7, 2016



1FM Prepares To Release Sophomore Studio Endeavor This July

On Tuesday, July 19, Philadelphia-based rock outfit, 1FM, will release their second EP. Entitled ‘Wish You Well,’ the record is the highly anticipated follow-up to the band’s debut EP, ‘Burning Bridges,’ which was released in May of 2015. To celebrate the release, 1FM will also host an event in August in their hometown.

Last spring, ‘Burning Bridges’ exploded onto the independent scene to critical acclaim. Fans lauded the effort as well, and as a result, 1FM landed the number one national spot on the Reverb Nation charts for nearly two months. Originally founded with three members, the band eventually evolved into the five-piece outfit that it is today.

With this evolution, the band has ventured into compelling new territory for their second EP. After the launch of ‘Burning Bridges,’ 1FM toured successfully for some time in promotion of the record. After a series of strong live outings, the band added two more members and took to the studio to write and record new content. The process began in the autumn of 2015 and ‘Wish You Well’ took shape after months of dedicated work.

In March, 1FM connected with longtime friend and producer Bruce Wiegner of Overlook Studios to produce ‘Wish You Well.’ With the larger size of the group, 1FM was able to experiment further into exciting new sonic territory. Their second EP isn’t just a statement of their continued relevance – it’s a declaration of the band’s ability to grow and evolve as a musical entity.

“During the process we discovered how much we’ve grown as individuals and as a band,” Tim Laigaie, one of the founding members said. “I definitely think that shows in the five songs on this EP… We couldn’t be more excited for the release.”

In its current iteration, Laigaie performs vocals and is accompanied by Nick Passio on vocals and guitar, Joe Altomari on drums, and newcomers D.J. Kirk and Danny Kirk on bass and guitar, respectively. At the heart of 1FM, the primary catalyst for the band’s creativity is a love of music. Their live shows and EP’s are labors of love – a sentiment that often gets lost in the modern music industry.

Last year, ‘Burning Bridges’ offered an eclectic palette of inspired tracks chock-full of influence from the likes of Weezer, 30 Seconds to Mars, the Foo Fighters, and more. 1FM boasts an impressively diverse culmination of influence – a trait that serves them well as they work outside of the box on each new track.

This year, ‘Wish You Well’ will take cue from its predecessor and continue 1FM down their creative path in ways that are sure to please fans and critics alike for a second time. When the EP drops on July 19, it will be available on iTunes and other digital distribution retailers.

For fans local to the Philadelphia area, 1FM will be hosting an outdoor record release show on Saturday, August 27 at Dave and Buster’s Dockside. (325 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd.) To keep up to date with 1FM on their new release, upcoming shows, and more, visit them on their website and relevant social media.






Owen Stevenson – ‘Right Here And Now’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to shine our gaze onto Owen Stevenson, a singer songwriter who has been lauded as one of the Chicago area’s premier performers. He’s taken the stage at legendary venues like the Cubby Bear and the Hard Rock Cafe, and his previous releases have been met with notable fervor. His latest endeavor, which is due out June 24, is entitled ‘Right Here, Right Now.’ I’ve gotten early access to it, so let’s delve right in. Does it hold up against the bar Stevenson has set for himself?

Now, I’m inclined immediately to like Stevenson. My studio is based here in Chicago, and I love it when a local performer comes across my desk for the Spotlight. Putting my local bias aside, though, his music is rather lovely and enjoyable. It’s essentially singer songwriter music with a pop rock flair. This results in friendly, consistently catchy efforts – something I’m certainly not opposed to as long as the quality is equally consistent.

‘Come To You’ opens up ‘Right Here Right Now’ with a bold statement. Stevenson’s band is sharp, his songwriting is equally solid, and above all, his production is great. I’ve said it many, many times, but it always bears repeating: I get so much awfully produced music. Everything in Stevenson’s mix works, and that’s so refreshing.

One of the problems with writing as a “singer songwriter” is falling into a predictable, trope-filled rut. In truth, the label has become a bit of a stereotype for critics like myself who get inundated with acoustic, pseudo-insightful jaunts through love and tragedy. Stevenson avoids these tropes pretty well by evolving his sound from track to track in a noticeable fashion.

Case in point: ‘Another Day Another Dollar’ evolves from the album’s opening by introducing an uber-soulful soundscape which Stevenson occupies well. ‘Love Is The Best Thing We Can Do’ then incorporates brass sections into that soul with one of the best written tracks on the album. The record doesn’t reside only in that soulful style, however, as Stevenson moves on to some Eagles-style pop rock on ‘Right Here And Now.’

‘Over You’ is an interesting ballad of sorts, because it’s essentially a mostly-positive break-up track. Stevenson muses about his failed relationship and its lack of merit, but also acknowledges that its failure is the catalyst for his life moving forward better than before. It’s a nice change of pace from your stereotypical break-up track.

Now, ‘Right Here And Now’ is a long record, so let’s dig right into the latter half’s most important sections. ‘Save Me’ offers up Stevenson’s best lyrical effort on the record, and it’s matched perfectly with a heavily bluesy electric guitar. ‘Place Called Love’ infuses Stevenson’s musical personality with an Americana-style delivery, something that fits him splendidly.

The finale, ‘Morning Sun,’ is a great track to end an album of emotional turmoil – it’s forward-looking, it’s positive, and it’s a statement of overcoming the obstacles Stevenson hurdles through on the album.

‘Right Here And Now’ is an album worth keeping tabs on when it drops later this month. Owen Stevenson’s nailed his culmination of indie rock and roll that’s injected with soul, blues, and pop.

Jake Ward – ‘Lonely Street’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Last year, I penned several reviews of Jake Ward’s music here on the Independent Spotlight, all of which were remarkably positive. He’s a fine indie country rock artist, and he’s exhibited some impressive versatility in his tunes. His latest endeavor is entitled ‘Lonely Street,’ and it was co-written by Kris Bergsnes, his cousin. Ward and Bergsnes were only recently united via mutual relatives, and as a result, working on the song with a family member has concreted its importance for Ward. Does it stack up against his previous work, though? Let’s dig in and find out.

‘Lonely Street’ proved difficult for Ward to sing because of its array of themes. “It’s country but soulful,” he explains. “We’re all a short walk from Lonely Street.” The song is a spiritual partner to Elvis’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in some ways, since Ward’s Lonely Street is where you’ll find the metaphorical hotel. This space means that Ward has to carry himself similarly to Elvis – with passion that’s haphazardly mixed with loneliness and abandon. He does that very well.

‘Lonely Street,’ as I expected from Ward, is superbly performed. His band is in fine form, and the instrumental execution of the track is fantastic. On the production end, the track sounds great, but some small tinkering in the mix could probably improve it even more. At times, Ward’s vocals are mixed a bit too sharp, while the rest of the instruments overpower him. I don’t think this is a fault of the performance or composition, some levels would just do well to be sorted out in the mix.

Lyrically, Ward and Bergsnes have penned a beautiful tune. It’s simplistic enough to be anthemic and relatable, but poetic enough to harness the heartfelt sentiment that went into its composition. There’s also a sense of hope that ‘Lonely Street’ is wrapped in. There’s a reassurance to the idea that you aren’t the only one on Lonely Street, which as Ward mentioned above, is certainly the case.

‘Lonely Street’ is a fantastic entry into Jake Ward’s catalog. With a few very tiny mix changes, it could be even better. As a lyrical effort, Bergsnes and Ward prove immensely compatible, and should make a point of continuing their collaboration. I’d love to see an album of the duo’s songwriting. It would undoubtedly be Jake Ward’s best work yet.

Exclusive Interview – ALTOSPIN’s Astraer

The following is an Independent Spotlight exclusive interview with the ALTOSPIN artist Astraer.

First of all, let’s put a name to the Astraer project! Who is the primary musician behind it? Is anyone else involved with its creation?

I’m Joseph Papadopoulos and Astraer is my solo project. I made some collaboration tracks with friends. But, I essentially make tracks alone.

Your new EP is ‘Sunless Days.’ Tell us about the creative process behind the record. What inspired you to create it? What did you bring to the project from previous musical endeavors that translated into it?

I started the two tracks at the same time, so they have some similarities, but I tried to keep a contrast between them. For example, ‘Sunless Days’ is more linear than ‘Moonless Nights.’ I chose the names of these two tracks (according to my own feelings) in order to reflect that contrast. I listen to a lot of electronic music genres like techno, deep house, psytrance, and electronica, and I entered into the electronic music world as a DJ. So, I think that a lot of influences can be found in my music.

The EP is an instrumental effort that’s been described as “melodic techno” and “neo-trance.” What separates it from other independent electronic music? Is there a scene within the independent community that creates music like this?

This music is more focused on the melodies than other techno sub-genres. But, I think that there are no clear borders for this scene. Some tracks are close to techno music, others are close to house music and so on.

Talking about community, you live in Rennes, France. How does your local community foster your music? Do you perform live? Is there anything about the culture in Rennes that inspires your creativity?

I‘m part of a collective named ‘Mood Krafterz’ that organizes open air parties. There are a lot of associations and collectives that promote techno music in Rennes. I perform live and I was invited to perform at several parties in Rennes and western France.

You’re now signed to ALTOSPIN Records, a rising Canadian record label. What’s it like working with a label that isn’t in the same country as you? How has ALTOSPIN aided you with this new EP?

I’ve never signed to a French label, so I can’t compare it with a foreign label. But, things have been easy and nice with ALTOSPIN, and I really want to see what the label will become in the future.

Is ‘Sunless Days’ the start of something larger? Do you have anything planned next? What direction do you want to move in the industry?

I don’t know. I will continue to do techno tracks and other releases, and see what will come next!

‘Sunless Days’ has some beautiful tracks – it’s particularly accessible, more so than most electronic music. Was that intentional? Who do you want your audience to be?

I think when music (especially techno music) has melodies, it makes it more accessible. I do like techno tracks without melodies, but melodic techno is the genre in which I feel the most comfortable. I don’t mind who my audience is, as long as some people like the music I do and that I take pleasure in doing it.

As a composer of instrumental music, how do you keep each new track different from the last? How do you keep the album interesting and consistent for the listener?

I always try new things and new ways. I try to bring different ambiances to different tracks. But, I also try to link them – to develop a logic between my all tracks, and to have a coherent musical universe behind the Astraer project.

How has Astraer evolved since its inception? ‘Sunless Days’ is far from the first release – several EP’s predate it.

When you finish a track you always learn new things; you always have new skills. You must evolve in your creation process. It would be boring for you and your listeners otherwise.

Finally, on the Independent Spotlight we love to get an insight not only into each artist as a music producer, but as a consumer. If we were to take your iTunes or Spotify library and set it to shuffle, what five songs may play?

It would be: Stephan Bodzin, Wir | N’to, Petite | Ólafur ArnaldsOnly The Winds | Nils Frahm, Says | Jon Hopkins – Breathe This Air


CJ Branch and Mario Crew, ft. Thomas (TC) Clay – ‘Sam’s Invite #Marababy’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be delving deep into ‘Sam’s Invite #Marababy,’ a new track by CJ Branch and Mario Crew that features lead vocalist Thomas TC Clay. (Yes, I know that introduction is a mouthful.) The epic single, which clocks in over nine minutes, is a genre-bouncing jaunt through rather fascinating soul and jazz influence. Is its length as unnecessary as the hashtag in its song title? Or does it stand tall in its lengthy glory? Let’s dig in and find out.

I’m typically very apprehensive of tracks this long in the independent music scene. More often than not, they’re just ostentatious and devolve into progressive rock-esque excursions through uninteresting soloing. Very much to my surprise, I’d actually argue that ‘Sam’s Invite #Marababy’ justifies its own runtime with an eclectic display of a variety of very talented people.

During the instrumental sections of ‘Sam’s Invite,’ one is greeted with a cinematic jazz-fusion of rock and roll guitar and dynamic percussion and piano. Seriously, these performers pull their weight. The first four minutes of the song is an endless cascade of fantastic composition backed by Clay’s vocals. He cries out and yelps in ways reminiscent of James Brown, commanding your attention elegantly.

After that four minute mark, CJ Branch stops the music in an odd moment of confusion. “This stuff sounds weird,” he muses. “These guys are playing jazz…” After his brief interruption, the same composition returns with a tighter, funkier delivery. This ensues for about a minute and a half before the track evolves into an entirely new beast.

That new beast is an even tighter instrumental section that toys with some particularly jazzy notions on bass and piano. The beat is sharp, and it leads the listener out of the track well. I do have a qualm, though. Clay’s presence on the first four minutes is superb. When he’s left in the dust, the band’s musical banter gets a tad old in the last minute or two of the piece.

All things considered, this is really one mammoth of a single. It’s excellent through and through. I just wish Clay had more of a presence throughout the track. The mix may be a bit harsh on headphones, too. Here in the studio, I noticed the later instrumental sections peaking out the entire time. That’s never good news for earbud listeners.

Check out the track; it’s really wonderful and very much worth your time.