Entertainment, Interviews, Night Life, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Don Michael Mendoza

Photo Courtesy of Don Michael Mendoza

Photo Courtesy of Don Michael Mendoza

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Don Michael Mendoza is charismatic. By day Mendoza works with VIDA Fitness flexing the communications skills he obtained at DC’s American University. By night he’s an actor who performs all over the greater-DC area while working with a wide array of theater companies including brief stints in New York for various creative projects.

He’s also been able to channel that charisma into creating something he believes DC had been lacking – a musical theater cabaret and spoken word series. Mendoza co-founded and now co-hosts the award-winning weekly series La-Ti-Do at Black Fox Lounge in Dupont Circle with friend Regie Cabico. The pair established the idea in the fall of 2011 before launching the series in its official capacity in January 2012. Ever since then, the show’s audience continues to grow and the night-of talent is of the highest caliber available.

Mendoza takes immense pride in being able to provide this type of creative outlet for both audience members and performers alike. So if you find yourself at a La-Ti-Do performance, just know that what you’re seeing is most certainly a labor of love.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

DC was where I was born and lived before my family moved to Pittsburgh when I was 4. However, we always made trips here often because we have a lot of family friends here, so it’s really an extension of my hometown. I officially made my return here in 2006 when I attended American University where I was able to get my own feet planted here and staying here after graduation was the natural choice for me.

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Interviews, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Ben Tufts

Ben Tufts & Friends/Craig Tufts Scholarship Fundraiser Photo/Jason Hornick

Photo Courtesy of Ben Tufts // Photo by Jason Hornick

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Whether he’s on the road or back home in the District, Ben Tufts is a perpetual student and dedicated teacher. If you ask just about anyone within the DC music scene if they know or have heard of Ben, it’s more than likely that they’ll say, “Yes.” He’s played over 300 shows in the past two years, with over thirty bands and artists, covering most of the continental U.S. and has become a cornerstone of the current DC scene.

His devotion to his craft is immeasurable. As a percussionist, Ben has spent countless hours over the course of his lifetime playing all styles of music from classical to hard rock and now teaches a  wide array of students throughout the greater DC area. But despite his busy schedule, Ben still finds the time to host an annual fundraiser at Jammin’ Java honoring the memory of his late father Craig Tufts, who served as Chief Naturalist for the National Wildlife Federation for 33 years, with the “Ben Tufts and Friends Concert” benefiting the Craig Tufts Memorial Fund. This year’s fundraiser is scheduled for August 17.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I was born in Falls Church, and lived in Reston for a few years before my family moved to the Claude Moore Farm in Sterling, VA. Until I was eight, I had a 300+ acre backyard with a bunch of lakes, ponds, and old growth Virginia forest in it. My closest neighbor was several miles away, so books and records became my best friends. We moved to the suburbs later, and as soon as my parents would let me, I was going to shows in DC. I still remember the smell in the front hall of the old 9:30 Club on F street, the scary bouncers at the Bayou, etc.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Stephen Kellogg

Photo Courtesy of Missing Piece Group

Photo Courtesy of Missing Piece Group

Amid the adversity of life, Americana Rock singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg found himself at a crossroads. His band, The Sixers, went on hiatus after nine years of playing together at the end of November 2012. And for the first time since 2002, Kellogg was in a place where he could release a solo album.

“Blunderstone Rookery,” which is scheduled for a June 18 release, comes after the loss of Kellogg’s mother-in-law, grandmother, and the roof of his house. The album features a collection of honest songs written with the hope of leaving behind a positive legacy for his family — a feat that Kellogg encourages all people to strive for in their own lives.

Rachel: “Blunderstone Rookery” is being released at a unique time in your life and you’ve drawn inspiration for these songs from personal stories. What would you say are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while writing and releasing this album?

Stephen Kellogg: The amazing thing about life is that it’s always a unique time in one’s life, because it’s the only time you’ll ever be where you are. We can look back with hindsight and kind of understand or make sense of what was going in a given moment, but often it’s tough to fully appreciate where we’re at while it’s happening. While writing and releasing this album I was very aware that I was in a challenging place because I had lost my mother-in-law, my grandmother, the roof of my house, and my band in the course of about five weeks. Not surprisingly I got kinda sick, and found myself knowing that was going to be something I was going to have to “go” through and “grow” through.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

She Loves DC: Jennifer Vinson

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Vinson

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Vinson

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city as much as we do.

Jennifer Vinson loves music. She loves watching street performers in Dupont Circle. She loves supporting up-and-coming artists on the local level here in her hometown whether it’s at The Dunes, The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Comet Ping Pong, or elsewhere. She loves promoting live performances she’s passionate about. But most of all, she loves getting to genuinely know the people who make the music she loves listening to.

Her passion for music (and the people behind making it) led her toward creating content for DC Setlist  (a site that, ” […] exists to discover and discuss all things MUSIC in DC and around the world. So get in the mix, join the conversation & help us build a community around the DC music scene & beyond!”) and into a life working with some of DC’s finest venues including The Hamilton Live and currently The Howard Theatre.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

Well I was born here.  I’m third generation Washingtonian.  My mother, my grandmother and I all went to the same all girls high school, Holy Cross Academy. Old friends & family are what make it home to me.

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Interviews, She/He Loves DC, The Features

She Loves DC: Pamela Sorensen

Pam Sorensen (@pamelaspunch) and Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving)
courtesy of Geoff Livingston

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city as much as we do.

Pamela Sorensen, much like our team of writers, is passionate about this city. So passionate in fact that she founded her own website – Pamela’s Punch – which, according to the site, has become a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of DC’s social, professional, and philanthropic scene.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I’ve been here since 1990 and never have I left to move to any other city as an adult. Since I’ve held various positions that required me to drive all over the DMV for years, I feel like I know the area like the back of my hand … it’s changed so much, but for the good. The spirit of a wholesome southern, large village appeals to me and at the same time, it’s sophisticated, educated, welcoming and comfortable. Even though I have my “haunts,” exploring new neighborhoods and meeting new circles keeps it fresh.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

She Loves DC: Marlene Hall

Photo Courtesy of Marlene Hall

Photo Courtesy of Marlene Hall

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Marlene Hall is a go-getter. She’s someone who faces the adversity life throws and embraces it. Hall grew up an Army brat and has lived all over the world but it’s DC she calls home.

She takes great pride in contributing her time to veteran organizations and causes like Team Red, White, and Blue. She was also a supernumerary in the Washington National Opera’s Carmen with opera singer Denyce Graves. She recently started her own Public Relations company and also works with Viridian Green Energy where she gets people to switch their utilities to green energy.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

Well, I’m from here.  I grew up here, my parents grew up here, my relatives are here, so this is home. I love being surrounded by family. I have a strong support network because of my family and friends. I don’t need to get plane tickets for Christmas or Thanksgiving as everyone is here. Everywhere I go, I usually see someone I know.

I also love the military tradition here. My dad and my grandfathers all served here in the area.  One of my grandfathers served in the Old Guard and is buried at Arlington.  I too served in the military and being surrounded by military is always home to me. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Mike Mangione & The Union


Photo Courtesy of Mike Mangione & The Union

Mike Maginone is a traveling man in good company while out on the road making music. What started out as solo project well over a decade ago has organically evolved into the band now known as Mike Mangione & The Union. Their melodic rock has a rootsy groove and folk instrumentation gone electric. It’s a sound reminiscent of Ryan Adams and The Cardinals’ early days with an echo of Ray LaMamontagne’s songwriting style.

Mike took some time from the road to fill We Love DC in on where his been, how far he’s come, and what he loves about making music. Here’s what he had to say.

Rachel: When did you first fall in love with music/making music? What was the catalyst for your eventual career in music?

Mike Mangione: I fell in love with music when I started playing my friend’s drums in the first grade.  I always enjoyed hearing music as a little kid, but it was not until I had the authority to create noise myself that I fell in love with the freedom and possibilities it enabled.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, Night Life, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with GEMS

photo courtesy of GEMS

photo courtesy of GEMS

GEMS is the newest creative vehicle for Clifford John Usher and Lindsay Pitts, formally formed in August of 2012. Their sound is dreamy, lush, hypnotic, melancholic pop. Previously the duo went by the name Birdlips, and had a more acoustic driven, organic, though equally gorgeous sound. Both incarnations feature beautiful vocals and highlight harmonies, nestled in layers of lush sounds. GEMS will be playing this Wednesday, March 6th, at Rock & Roll Hotel along with Ex Cops and Dead Professional, before hitting the road to SXSW. (* note- due to inclement weather, this show has been canceled.* )We Love DC got the chance for a brief chat with Cliff this past week, and here’s what he had to say.

Alexia Kauffman: So how did you you first start playing music?

Clifford John Usher: Well Lindsay and I met in Charlottesville, Virginia, I guess it was in 2007, and started playing in a college band that we had, and that band broke up after school, and we started Birdlips then, just the two of us. And then this new band was started this past August. We had known that we wanted to start a new band for a while, so it was kind of a progression.

Alexia: So what brought about the whole metamorphosis into GEMS?

Cliff: It was really a variety of factors, I guess. We did Birdlips for over five years, and I think the last year and a half of Birdlips we were pretty certain we wanted to do something else. I think we just wanted a clean break. We wanted to kind of start over in a lot of different areas, and not feel like we were obliged to keep playing old material. We didn’t want to feel constricted by what we had done in the past, I guess. We knew we wanted to do something louder, more electric. We wanted to get away from the whole folk association that we kind of had in Birdlips. It was hard, you know, even at the end of Birdlips we were doing something that I don’t think was really folk at all, and we still felt kind of trapped by the folk or psych-folk genre. So that was a big part of it. And we just had been playing more with electric guitars and with different recording techniques, so it kind of just made sense to us to start a new band. We’ve also been playing with a drummer. Which all the shows we’ve done as GEMS so far we’ve done with a drummer. Although the string that we’re getting ready to do- going down to South by Southwest we’re just going as a duo. Continue reading

Downtown, Interviews, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Behind the National Geographic Story (With Alice Gabriner)

Roman Frontiers

From “Roman Frontiers”; used with permission. The Porta Nigra, or “black gate,” still dominates Trier, Germany. A hundred feet tall, it was built in the second century as part of a wall system four miles long. Trier was a major city in the late Roman Empire, even serving as a regional capital under several emperors. “The light was so good from my hotel room that I put up a tripod and started taking pictures. The gate is surrounded by modern elements like power lines and a gas station, so I captured a variety of ways of looking at it. This was a way of combining both the old and the new.”

Tonight, National Geographic is pulling back the curtain of sorts. One of the organization’s acclaimed draws is its fantastic use of photography to illustrate various articles and exhibits. Many photographers, from amateur to professional, dream of a day when they see one or more of their photos published in the iconic gold-bordered magazine.

National Geographic magazine Senior Photo Editor Alice Gabriner will share with a select crowd at the museum’s Grosvenor Auditorium her process. (The program is sold out for the evening.) Guests will discover firsthand the work that goes in to curating a National Geographic photo show through an insiders tour, as well as a private viewing of Beyond the Story: National Geographic Unpublished 2012, an upcoming photography exhibition featuring unpublished images by photographers on assignment for National Geographic magazine last year.

I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Gabriner before the program this evening. She graciously took a few moments to answer some questions and shared some photos from upcoming projects. Continue reading

Interviews, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Megan Jean & the Klay Family Band

photo courtesy of Megan Jean & the KFB

photo courtesy of Megan Jean & the KFB

What: A spitfire duo playing a fast and fiery blend of folk-Americana-punk-country-rock. Megan Jean sings, hollers, plays banjo, washboard, guitar & more, and her husband Byrne plays upright bass & banjo.
When: They’re on tour now and will be making a stop in DC this Thursday, February 7th, show starts at 9pm.
Where: Desperados,1342 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009.
We Love DC’s Alexia got the chance to ask Megan Jean a few questions, and here’s what she had to say.
Alexia: How did you start playing music?
Megan Jean: I started when I was young, both my parents wrote music, sang, and played. I started on violin, sold it, and bought a guitar when I was 11. I didn’t really know I could sing until I was 15, and started doing musical theater. I went to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU for theater and got a lot of vocal training there, which I learned to apply in club settings gigging all over the city. I guess that’s when I knew I’d be a musician, playing original music.
Alexia: How did you and Byrne come to play music together/form MJ&the KFB?
Megan Jean: We actually dated for a year before we started playing music. I played solo shows, and Byrne split his time between a punk band called Dynamite Club, who’s lead singer was a Japanese man in his underpants, and a great original surf-rock trio called This Spy Surfs. We started playing together in 2006, and the name was originally Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band. We kept my name, because I already had good gigs, and our last name is Klay. The idea was that anyone playing music with us was family. When we went on the road it was just the two of us, so we shortened it to KFB, cause club owners would get mad when they were expecting a full band. Continue reading
Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The District, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Ugly Purple Sweater

Ugly Purple Sweater

Ugly Purple Sweater is a indie-pop-folk group based in DC. Founded by Sam McCormally (vocals, guitar, & more)  and Rachel Lord (vocals, banjo, melodica, & more) in 2008, the band now includes Will McKindley-Ward on electric guitar, Rishi Chakrabarty on bass, and Mike Tasevoli on drums. Ugly Purple Sweater mixes mesmerizing guitar and banjo (and a bunch of other instruments) with beautiful soaring vocal melodies and dulcet harmonies. Their songs often blend darkness with light, minor keys and longing juxtaposed with a bright beat and jubilant vocals. Singer Sam Cormally’s clarion voice has a purity and depth at times reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright. Check out the video for their song “DC USA“, the title track from their brand new EP. Ugly Purple Sweater celebrates the release of said EP, DC USA at Black Cat this Saturday, January 12th, along with Kingsley Flood and Kindlewood!

This week We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman had a chance to ask Sam McCormally some questions, and here’s what he had to say.

Alexia: How did you first start playing music?

Sam: I personally started playing and writing music when I was really little. I remember when I was about 8 starting to write songs, but having literally no idea how the music I heard on the radio was made. I had a little cassette tape boombox (remember that?) with a microphone, and I would set it up on top of my bureau and record myself singing and strumming guitar. I had a fantasy that I would slip the tape into my friend’s older sister’s tape player so she’d think it was the radio, and that way I could tell what she really thought of it.

Ugly Purple Sweater started 2008, when I surreptitiously intercepted an invitation for one of my other bands to play at a Barack Obama fundraiser. I had been writing some songs and posting them on MySpace (remember that?), and I thought it’d be fun to try them out. Rachel sat in on a couple of songs with me, and those were by far the most popular, so we started playing together all the time.

Alexia: What song or artist or album first made you fall in love with rock music?

Sam: Will (who plays electric guitar in the band) says his first rock and roll love was Jimi Hendrix. I wish I were as cool as that. My first exposure to pop music (and I’m using the “big tent” meaning of the phrase) were my dad’s Simon and Garfunkel tapes. But the first record I ever got excited about all by myself was TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool. I loved that album so much that I actually recited, in front of my entire 4th glad class, the rap in the middle of “Waterfalls.” I still kinda like that song, but needless to say it was not a canonical performance. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with TAB the Band

photo courtesy of TAB the Band

Massachusetts-based rockers TAB the Band have a sound that’s part classic rock, part bluesy, bouncy rock & roll. Formed in 2006, they have released three full-length albums to date, on North Street Records, played Lollapalooza 2011, and have toured with Stone Temple Pilots, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Modest Mouse, among others.  Check out their video for “She Said No (I Love You)” hereTAB the Band plays DC’s 930 Club this Friday, December 28th, opening for Jane’s Addiction. We Love DC asked TAB the Band a few questions this week, and here’s what they had to say.

Alexia: How did the band come together?

Adrian Perry (lead vocals/bass): Tony and I had a duo called “T&A” that was responsible for such hot traxx as “Kickin’ it Colonial”, a rap tune extolling the virtues of our founding fathers. Tony and I had our own bands/projects on opposite coasts but we’d record together over holiday breaks to have some fun in the studio. One of the times he invited a drummer he knew over to put down real drums instead of the drum loops we usually used. We intended to do another goofy rap track but the riff we had was pretty cool and we decided to turn it into a ‘real’ song. That drummer was none other than Ben Tileston. So, you have T&A and B. TAB. Add the Band so people don’t confuse us with the soda. Or the computer key. Or the thing you use to separate documents in a binder. Lou Jannetty, another friend of Tony’s, joined about a year later. He’s Lou the Glue we like to say. Keeps it all together.

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Downtown, History, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Crossing the Northwest Passage the Modern Way: Kite Skiing

Courtesy Sarah McNair-Landry and National Geographic

On December 6, an adventurous brother-sister team visits the National Geographic Museum to share about their experience kite skiing over two thousand miles through Canada’s arctic archipelago. Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry grew up with the Arctic Ocean and sled dogs in their backyard and have trekked across the polar regions since they were teenagers. Their journey saw them fend off polar bears and coping with extreme weather conditions along the way.

Their expedition traces the 1906 Roald Amundsen route through the Northwest Passage. That was the first time that it was actually successfully navigated by anyone following centuries of explorers hoping to discover a way through from the Atlantic to the Pacific north of Canada. The journey began in Tuktoyaktuk, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories and traveled east through Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, and Arctic Bay, before finally reaching the finish line at Pond Inlet on Baffin Island.

Sarah stopped by WeLoveDC to talk about their experience. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with The Young Rapids

photo courtesy of The Young Rapids


The Young Rapids are an indie-rock quartet based in Washington, DC. Their sound blends moody and melodic guitar, melancholic vocals, keys and percussion into an often dreamy, sometimes dancey blend. Check out their album Day Light Savings here.  The Young Rapids plays DC9 this Wednesday, November 5th. We Love DC’s Alexia recently asked the band a few questions, and here’s what they had to say.

Alexia: How did Young Rapids come together as a band?

Colin: We’ve all been musicians in one way or another in a lot of different projects, but Dan and Joe started playing music together in 2009. A year later they called Nick up to play guitar. As a trio, they wrote songs and played a few shows. About a year later, I crossed paths with them. The former sound of the band eventually gave way to a new and more ambitious one that’s still being explored and tempered with.

Alexia: How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t seen/heard you?

Nick: We’d probably call ourselves an “art rock” band. We definitely give 110% at our live shows, and try to have as much energy as humanly possible. I’d say check us out if you appreciate music that is somewhat challenging, yet rewarding in scope. We try to offer as much honesty as we can in every way. Instrumentally, lyrically, and even through our recording techniques.

Alexia: Was there one artist/song/album that made you fall in love with rock music?

Joe: Definitely not just one. I can remember the white album being played a lot when I was a kid. I was always so intrigued by the “number 9” song. I thought it was crazy weird, so it caught my attention. My dad was a huge Zappa fan. He used to tell me about these parties he’d have with all Zappa playing all night. That always sounded like my kind of party.

Alexia: Are you all originally from the DC area? If not, where are you from? What do you feel about DC’s creative community/scene?

Nick: I’d day Colin is closest to being an actual DC native. He grew up off Macarthur Blvd., which is only a few minutes from the city. The rest of us are from the suburbs. Rockville, Potomac, Germantown. WE LOVE DC :) Really though, we’ve met the nicest people, and played such awesome shows. We receive great support from the artistic community, and we think that people who say nothings going on in DC are crazy. Our favorite artists are from this city.

Alexia: If you could collaborate with one artist/band who would it be?

Dan: I think we’d all agree that it would be someone we actually know. Our friends are in awesome bands that blow us away every time we see them. If we could get some of the folks in PREE, some from The Sea Life, and some from Teen Mom, we’d have a pretty bangin’ lineup. Throw some Shark Week in there for good measure, and that would be pretty unstoppable.

Alexia: What inspires you?

Colin: Everything inspires us to be honest. We just recently moved out away from the city, in a kind of farm house, and it’s really invigorated our creativity. We’re also very inspired by each other. Often times, another persons input can be the most awakening perspective, and that usually gets everybody really excited. All of our newer material is extremely collaborative.

Alexia: Any bands you’re listening to right now that really excite you?

Dan: New PREE songs are stuck in our head right now. Deleted Scenes has been on repeat since we saw them at Red Palace a few months back. We’ve all been delving pretty deep into our record collections which have become communal. Recent mainstays include Donovan, Oscar Peterson, and Paul Simon. Those are literally just pulled right off the top of the record stack. I also just saw this awesome band called Caddywhompus from New Orleans at Paperhaus and they were unreal. Unbelievable.

Alexia: What’s on the horizon for Young Rapids?

Joe: Touring! We’re working on solidifying road partners and a route, and we’ll be on the road in February. We’ve also been writing a lot of new songs, so I’m sure we’ll give a go at recording some of them soon. We have to develop a new recording scenario in the new house, and we’re excited for that. We might try to do some Zeppelin-esque drum recording in our foyer. We’ll see. But yeah, TOUR!

Check out their song “Goods” here. See The Young Rapids play this Wednesday, November 5th at DC9!

The Young Rapids

w/Villains Like You

The Kickback

& Bobby E. Lee & the Sympathizers

Wednesday, Nov. 5/8:30pm/$8



Entertainment, Interviews, Music, Night Life, People, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Shana Falana

photo courtesy of Shana Falana

Shana Falana is a shoegaze/dream-pop band, currently based in New York. They mix dreamy female vocals, often looped and layered, with reverb-drenched guitar sometimes heavy, sometimes airy, for beautiful and sometimes hypnotic results. They are currently on tour, and play DC’s Comet Ping Pong this Friday, November 30th.  We Love DC’s Alexia got the chance to ask the group’s founder/front-woman Shana a few questions this week, and here’s what she had to say.

Alexia: How did you first start playing music?

Shana: Started playing in San Francisco in 1992- got an electric guitar and reverby amp to learn some surf guitar, The Cramps and Mazzy Star.

Alexia: Was there one artist or song that first made you fall in love with rock music?

Shana: PJ Harvey!!!

Alexia: How did Shana Falana come together as a band?

Shana: I have had so many bands for each of my projects with different band names, to separate out all my different songwriting sounds, but 2 years ago I decided to not pick them apart and to make them all one band with different sounds, under my own name Shana Falana. My sound is complex!!!

Alexia: You used to be in a Bulgarian Women’s choir, and mention that it has some influence on your music- can you tell us a little about that?

Shana: Dissonant harmonies are so interesting!!! For me it’s so much more stimulating to my senses and I use them throughout my music. I sang medieval harmonies as well and try to sneak them in there too! In the Bulgarian choir we would sing these chants that are very circular and layered, and when I perform my live vocal looping I incorporate that layering and dissonance.

Alexia: I read that you have more than two years sober now. I am also a musician, with a little over five years sober. I really admire hearing about musicians who are still doing their thing in the rock scene after finding sobriety. How did you realize you needed to stop using? Are there any challenges you’ve found?

Shana: There was a voice in my head four years ago telling me that I wouldn’t have a career in music unless I got completely sober. I will have three years December first! I do everything for my music so I did sobriety too. It’s not hard being around people that are drinking- I really don’t crave it at all, and I don’t lose my gear, and I perform better. The only downside is touring and staying at someone’s house who’s partying and waiting for them to get sleepy.

Alexia: Is there anyone you’re listening to right now that you are really excited about?

Shana: Thee Oh Sees, Naomi Punk, Mac DeMarco. Bands to “watch”: Breakfast In Fur, out of New Paltz, New York, and a band we tour with, Crawlbabies out of Brooklyn.

Alexia: What’s next?

Shana: Canadian tour in April, and Europe in May and June. Possibly a 7″ release with two new tracks this spring 2013.


See Shana Falana at Comet Ping Pong this Friday, November 30th!

Shana Falana

with The Deads

and Pinkish Black

All Ages/$10/10pm/Comet Ping Pong


Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Jesse Tabish of Other Lives

photo by Jeremy Charles

My first exposure to Oklahoma’s Other Lives was at this year’s Coachella music festival. I had never heard them before, but had heard the name, and decided to check them out. I was blown away. The five-piece band’s sound is orchestral and lush, blending dreamy, melancholic vocals with beautiful and unconventional instrumental arrangements. Earlier in the year they spent some time opening for Radiohead on tour in the US and Mexico, and are now on their own US tour supporting their latest album, Tamer Animals- a gorgeous, dark, musical fantasy. They play DC’s Rock & Roll Hotel this Friday, November 30th. I recently got the chance to talk with singer Jesse Tabish, and here’s what he had to say.

Alexia Kauffman: How’s your tour going?

Jesse Tabish: Really nice! We’re about halfway through, and we’re headed to Austin right now, so I can’t complain. It’s been very nice.

Alexia: Cool! So how did you first start playing music?

Jesse: Well I started very young, playing the piano, maybe four or five, and you know played music my whole life. Picked up the guitar when I heard Nirvana, just like many kids, and I’ve been writing music for the last fifteen years. That’s kind of all I’ve ever done, from when I was little.

Alexia: So you mentioned Nirvana, who I love- was there any one artist or album that made you fall in love with rock?

Jesse: Oh yeah, I remember one Christmas, when I was very young, my parents got me a little single of “Hey Jude” on a tape. And I remember it was the first time I was really truly taken aback by something, and I listened to that the whole day. I probably listened to that song forty times, just on repeat and repeat and repeat. It was kind of the first moment I was like “Wow!”, really powerful.

Alexia: So do you feel like there’s a scene where you all are from?

Jesse: You know, it’s like an anti-scene, really. We’ve been doing music in Oklahoma for the last ten years, and I say anti in the sense that there’s no collective sound of bands. Which I think is really fantastic. Oklahoma’s a little bit of a lonely place- there’s not a whole lot of things coming in and out of it. In some ways it has this feel of isolation to it, and I think, you know, it can leave artists to kind of have that meditation and to be and grow individually from that, rather than sometimes you get too much of a scene, you get too many bands that are influencing each other too much. But in Oklahoma it’s kind of the opposite. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, Night Life, People, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Silo Halo

photo courtesy of Silo Halo

Silo Halo are a DC-based trio that combines guitar, bass, keys and male and female vocals into a dark shoegaze-indie-dream-fuzz sound. Christin Durham(bass, vox), Christopher Goett (guitar, vox) and Greg Svitil (guitar, keys, vox) have all been players in the DC music scene for years (in bands including The Antiques, Girl Loves Distortion, Victor Victoria, Soft Complex, The Parlor Scouts…) but came to play together in 2010, first under the name Night and the City, and in 2011 as Silo Halo. They released their first album this year, titled Night and the City, on Etxe Records, an independent label founded by Goett. Full disclosure- I first met Greg when I joined the band Soft Complex in 2004, and have remained friends with him since then. I’ve always been in awe of his musicianship, creativity, kindness, and general awesomeness as a human being. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Christin and Chris through Greg in the past year, and one thing that really impressed me about the trio is their dedication to contributing to the creative community in the DC area, not just with their own music, but with tireless enthusiasm and support of others. You can see Silo Halo play Black Cat tonight along with The Mean Season and Golden Looks!


Alexia: How did Silo Halo come together as a band?

Christin: I asked Greg if The Antiques would like to play in my basement when I lived in Arlington. I was playing in a queer-centric 80s cover band at the time, and we would practice and play parties down there, so I eventually decided to put on more formal shows, calling the venue The Basement Speakeasy. That first show with The Antiques and Screen Vinyl Image was December 2008, and it ended up being The Antiques last show. Greg asked if I’d like to collaborate with him for a new project not long after that.

Greg: I saw Christin’s band Victor Victoria and was energized by hearing her sing and play bass, which suited what I had in mind as far as forming a band in which I wouldn’t be the main singer and songwriter.  At the same time I was connecting a lot with Chris, but his band Girl Loves Distortion was still pretty active, and so it was a few months before we could bring him in to write, play, and sing.

Chris: Greg and I met via a regular community potluck of musicians, independent music label types, and recordists.  We connected on several levels musically and personally.  As The Antiques reached antiquity, I became aware of the new musical project. Christin and I met at We Fought The Big One, and that was another strong and instant connection.

Alexia: What song or artist first made you fall in love with rock music?

Greg:  There’s a clear moment when rock n roll gripped me, which happened when I was ten years old, sitting two feet in front of the TV.  The Ronettes came on, singing “Be My Baby.”  Years later, I learned that the clip I saw was from Shindig in 1965.  Their time and place was mysterious to me.  At ten years old, I couldn’t place where or when they came from, and the music didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before.  It still doesn’t.  The sound was just enormous.  I was mesmerized by their voices and how they looked and how they moved.  A few months later, I discovered that my older sister had a tape of the song- it was the Dirty Dancing soundtrack- and I thought that she must be the coolest person on earth to have the capability to cue up the Ronettes at the drop of a hat.  During my teenage years, the whole Ronettes catalog became some of the most important music in the world to me, and as an adult, it still is.

Christin: Speaking of The Ronettes, one of the songs Greg saw Victor Victoria perform was “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money, so seeing me sing Ronnie’s parts probably solidified his notion to ask me to make music with him, or at least that’s the theory I like, haha.  A friend at the Christian school I attended for grades K through 3 played me “Crazy For You” by Madonna on her walkman.  I’ve loved the devil’s music ever since.  My older sister got me into bands like The Cure and REM at an early age.

Chris: I would have to credit my older sisters with my musical tastes and exposure as well.  I have vivid recollection of my sisters and their friends sitting around and spinning their vinyl, socializing and discussing music.  Most of this would now be classified as “first wave” music.  However, the first really transformative musical experience for me was seeing Public Enemy play to a stadium full of people in 1992.  The visual imagery, the ferocity, the command of the crowd, and the message were amazing and changed how I thought about recorded music.  I’ve been an avid concert goer ever since.

Alexia: What inspires you?

Chris: My loved ones, friends, and neighborhood.  Ordinary folks doing extraordinary things in their own way, on their own scale.

Greg: People’s lives, whether they’re those who I know, or those who I see on screen or hear or read about.

Christin: I’m a highly empathetic and emotional person, so I’m easily moved and inspired.  Like most people, it’s easier for me to say what I don’t like and what doesn’t inspire me: indie brodeo, reality television, money, career, capitalism, suburbia, shopping malls…

Continue reading

Interviews, Music, We Love Music

Q&A with J. Tom Hnatow


I first became acquainted with the soulful, sweet pedal steel guitar styling of J. Tom Hnatow pretty recently, whilst listening to, loving and obsessing over the last These United States record, released earlier this year. As I like to say- I may be late, but at least I made it to the party. Hnatow is skillful on the pedal steel, playing with nuance, subtlety and heart, but can also totally rock it out, and plays many other instruments as well. He was with TUS for seven years (starting out in DC), five albums, and about a thousand shows, living mostly on the road. He has recently left the band, moved from North Carolina to Lexington, Kentucky, and is now on tour playing guitar with The Mynabirds (another band with DC roots- front-woman Laura Burhenn lived many years in DC.) Amidst his busy tour schedule he took some time to chat with me on the phone about music, icons of the pedal steel world, leaving These United States, and more. You can see Tom play with The Mynabirds this Friday, October 26th at Black Cat!


Alexia: So how did you first start playing music?

Tom: I was forced to take piano lessons when I was a kid, like 8 years, and I hated it! Absolutely despised it, and, I think my Mom said something like “When you turn fifteen you can quit.” So I was like “Ok, cool, I’m out!” And then I sort of stumbled into playing guitar and thought that was pretty cool, and kind of went from there.

Alexia: And how did you get into pedal steel?

Tom: How did I get into pedal steel? I think I stumbled into it, because I played banjo and I played lap steel for a long time, and realized that what I was doing on the lap steel, there were a lot of things where I was trying to imitate a pedal steel, so I thought “Oh, this’ll be really easy! How hard could it be? I can play slide guitar!” And I learned rapidly that was not the case! I’m just sort of stumbling my way through it.

Alexia: Um, for stumbling you’re doing a pretty damn good job! (laughs)

Tom: (laughs) It’s smoke and mirrors! It’s an illusion.

Alexia: Was there any artist or album that first made you fall in love with rock & roll?

Tom: Yeah. Well, I didn’t listen to rock & roll as a kid much. I wasn’t that into it, and it wasn’t that my parents banned it, but we just weren’t allowed to watch MTV, and I just really was not exposed to rock & roll. My Dad’s like a real jazz guy. So, for some inexplicable reason, and I still don’t know why he did this, when I graduated from junior high school he bought me the Led Zeppelin box set. And I don’t think I’d ever heard a note of Led Zeppelin, other than, you know, of course “Stairway to Heaven”, and I was just floored by the fact that this music existed! So I was like “I’m going to play guitar,” so of course my first band was like Led Zeppelin riffs played even stupider. (laughs)

Alexia: Are there any people in the pedal steel world who are inspirational or icons to you?

Tom: Yeah- there’s a guy named Ralph Mooney, Waylon Jennings’ long-term sidekick, and he is just absolutely one of my favorites. And Ben Keith , I think he’s the only steel player who played on any Neil Young records, and I just love his playing. It’s just like so simple and beautiful and perfect. You know, any Neil Young song you hear the steel and it’s just like, it just couldn’t exist otherwise. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Sharon Van Etten

photo courtesy of Sharon Van Etten


Sharon Van Etten has a beautiful, pure, at times haunting voice, which she uses to bring her dark, hypnotic songs to glorious life. Her songs are vocal and guitar driven, dreamy, dark, moody rock with a folk influence. The Brooklyn-based Van Etten has released three albums to date- 2009’s Because I Was In Love, 2010’s Epic, and this year’s Tramp. She is currently on tour of the U.S., and in December will head to Europe and Australia. Sharon Van Etten plays DC’s 930 Club this Thursday, October 25th. Amidst her chaotic tour schedule she took a few minutes to answer some questions from We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman.


Alexia Kauffman: How did you start playing music?

Sharon Van Etten: I took piano lessons, violin lessons, clairinet lessons, then I was in choir and musicals.

Alexia: What music did you grow up listening to?

Sharon: Neil Young, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez (parents)
Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Screaming Trees, Guns ‘n Roses (brother)
Julianna Hatifeld, Lemonheads, Mazzy Star (sister)
PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Sonic Youth, Frente, Murmurs, Portishead

Alexia: Was there any artist or album that first made you fall in love with music/rock?

Sharon: Neil Young

Alexia: How did you start writing music?

Sharon: By making up words ad singing to chords I didn’t know existed yet. It was terrible.

Alexia: What inspires you?

Sharon: Everything. Love.

Alexia: Are there any singers that have been really influencial to you?

Sharon: PJ Harvey, Rufus Wainwright

Alexia: You’ve been touring a lot- do you have any favorite or really memorable moment from tour?

Sharon: Getting stuck in the mud at a festival and having the tow-truck get stuck and we had to get another tow-truck to get the two of us out. Ha!

Alexia: If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?

Sharon: PJ Harvey

Alexia: I saw that you worked with The National’s Aaron Dessner on your latest album, Tramp- what was the experience of making this album like?

Sharon: Working with Aaron was amazing. He pushed me to try new things and he helped my ideas flourish in his instrumentation.

Alexia: Who are you listening to these days?

Sharon: Angel Olsen, TEEN, Triffids, Nick Cave, The Rolling Stones, Robyn Hitchcock, John Cale.

Alexia: What’s on the horizon for you?

Sharon: I have three more tours: US, Europe, then Australia. Then in January I am taking a three-month break to decompress, rest, write, and hopefully record. I really miss having a normal life.


Check out Sharon’s song “Warsaw” and “Serpents” from her latest album, Tramp. See Sharon Van Etten live this Thursday, October 25th at the 930 Club!

Sharon Van Etten
w/Damien Jurado
get tickets here!

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Dark Dark Dark


photo courtesy of Dark Dark Dark

Dark Dark Dark hail from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but spend much of their time on the road. Their sound blends moody piano and clarion female vocals with understated percussion and layers of cello, accordion and horns to create a dark, dramatic and beautiful melange. Dark Dark Dark is currently on tour in support of their new album Who Needs Who, and you can see them play tonight, Monday, October 15th at DC9. We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman got to have a little chat with Nona Marie from Dark Dark Dark recently, and here’s how it went.

Alexia: So how did you first start playing music, and singing?

Nona: Well there was a piano in the house, and we always just played.

Alexia: In your family house?

Nona: Yeah, in my family house, when I was a kid.

Alexia: And how did you start singing?

Nona: My mom sang a lot around the house just listening to the radio and, I don’t know, singing in the car.

Alexia: Are there any singers past or present that really inspire you?

Nona: I mean yeah, every singer inspires me. It’s my favorite thing.

Alexia: Are there any artists or albums that first made you fall in love with music?

Nona: Yeah, I guess I really loved listening to that Joni Mitchell Blue record- that was a good one.

Alexia: How did Dark Dark Dark come together?

Nona: We just, Marshall and I just started playing together in Minneapolis, um and then just started traveling around and meeting people and playing with different people, and sort of over time it became what it is. Continue reading