Category Archives: Q&A

“Based On Love” Part 4 – A Conversation With Asha Santee


Catch up on parts One, Two & Three.

Ben: So you’ve lived in a few different cities. How is DC different for you, and why are you still here?

Asha: Well, DC is definitely different for me because it’s my first time living in a city life, in the fast paced life. And this is my first time actually, really LIVING.

B: What does that mean?

A: Like, being myself. You know what I’m saying? I date women, and that was always something that… I just never opened up about, when I was in Texas.

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“Based On Love” Part 3 – A Conversation With Asha Santee


Catch up on Parts One & Two!

In this third part of the interview, Asha and I discuss gender issues in music and life, and where inspiration for her music comes from…

Ben: Which artists inspire you?

Asha: A lot of my inspiration comes from Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Tank, Tresongs, Chris Brown, Floetry, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Hiatus Coyote I love—

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“Based on Love” Part 2 – A Conversation with Asha Santee


Catch up on Part 1 here!

When you wander downstairs into Asha’s apartment, you’re surrounded by art on all sides—to the left, to the right—even the ceilings. Every square inch of her apartment is covered in art—most of it hers, some of it works in progress… Just as many musicians feed their brains with music almost every day—to grow their vocabulary, to remind them of their inspirations, to study the writing and production techniques of others—Asha’s visual surroundings are a constant reminder of yet another reason why she’s on this planet.

Ben: Let’s talk now about your art—you’re the only local artist whose work I know I would immediately recognize if I saw it on somebody’s wall.

Asha: Awesome. That’s good!

B: One of the things that I respond to a lot about your artwork is that there’s a certain pop art approach. There are a lot of repeated elements: the heart, the female form—it’s meaningful in a deeper way, but also lighthearted. Maybe that’s what makes it accessible for me. There’s the boombox that shows up a lot, and the record, you know, the recording medium. This could just be me looking for a deeper thing that maybe isn’t there, but to me it goes back to the rhythm thing, the groove thing, repetition—the drummer’s job is to hold it down, and be that pulse. Your art has the same kind of rhythm and repetition to it. Was there a point where you realized “Okay, this is my voice, this is my brand, this is what I want my art to look like?” Do you feel it evolving?

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“Based on Love” – a conversation with Asha Santee

1497498_10151792408327337_814126049_nMy name is Ben Tufts, and I’ve been an active musician in the DC region for over ten years. I’ve always enjoyed writing about music, but it’s only recently that friends and colleagues have convinced me to take it a bit more seriously. I’m really excited  to have the opportunity to contribute to Hometown Sounds!

In the digital era, the way that musicians make a living is completely shifting.  In many lines of work, we strive for “fair trade” for laborers–but nobody pays for recorded music anymore.  My aim with the interview series is not to just profile musicians living and working in the area, but to portray them as complete humans. In other words, I want to let the reader behind the curtain, to learn who the artist is, on stage and off. It’s my hope that when people see these faces and hear these stories, they’ll begin to understand where the music is really coming from.

My first interview is with DC drummer/artist/entrepreneur/educator extraordinaire, Asha Santee. Enjoy!


Based On Love

A conversation with Asha Santee

“It was just immediate shock, because the first thing that ran through my mind was ‘I don’t have a job, I don’t even know if my insurance is up, and I know this is about to be serious, if it’s a broken leg.’”

It was a pick-up game. He’d driven to the basket, their shins had collided. Now, staring up at the sky, clutching her leg, surrounded by people covering their mouths or their eyes, Asha’s whole life plan seemed derailed. Both of the bones in her leg were shattered.

Santee had moved to DC from Houston, TX in 2004 to play college ball for Howard University. She played out all four years of her scholarship, graduated, got a job in admissions, and was being courted to play professional ball overseas. Asha describes the moment that she turned the end of one career into the beginning of another…

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Q&A and Song Premiere with Fellow Creatures

by Tony Porreco

Fellow Creatures 1

In September of 2013, Ugly Purple Sweater decided it was time to call it a day. Over the course of the group’s 4 years of activity and 3 releases, Ugly Purple Sweater consistently impressed listeners with their appealing blend of bouncy indie folk and commanding vocal performances from songwriter Sam McCormally.

Following the band’s conclusion, McCormally spurred curiosity by signing up to do a stint on bass for Paperhaus, performed solo frequently and above all, said nothing of when or if he’d begin a new full band project. Fast forward to this past August when a new group called Fellow Creatures made their presence known with a single Bandcamp demo and an 8 bit image of McCormally and Ugly Purple Sweater guitarist Will McKindley-Ward. Reminiscent of mid-career Talking Heads and the David Byrne/Brian Eno album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the track (“Shuka Shuka”) features a funkier vibe than most anything in UPS’ catalog.


With only two public performances and a single available recording, we were eager for the opportunity to sit down with McCormally and McKindley-Ward to learn more about the new band before their headlining show this Saturday 11/22 at DC9. In keeping with everything that’s “new” about the band, Hometown Sounds is proud to premiere the very first finished & polished track by Fellow Creatures.

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By Tony Porreco

derek b and w

This past Tuesday, Northern Virginia songwriter Derek Evry released his new EP Down to the Wire. By all indications, there’s a lot going through his head from the his chameleonic nature of the new release. The record features an impressive stylistic palate with tracks ranging from classic, straight ahead pop punk, Buddy Holly era protorock, pop metal and even a languid ballad approaching hotel lobby jazz. Combine this with a social media personality that can be characterized as “absolutely bananas”, and you’ve got a character study that would pique the interest of a veteran psychotherapist who’s heard it all before.

We sat down with Evry to discuss a number of different topics, including the making of Down to the Wire, his long lasting bromance with drummer Ben Tufts, and his vision for the DC music scene. Read the full interview after the jump.

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Interview with Mud Rey


After a few years of honing their blues rock sound, supergroup Mud Rey releases their debut EP Lusi Saturday with a blowout show at Iota in Clarendon, featuring Westmain, the Lauren Calve Band and many surprise guest stars. Bobby Thompson, Tony Moreno and Ben Tufts are deeply committed musicians with connections to a whole lot of DC bands, and this highly anticipated release is sure to draw a large and appreciative crowd. Hometown Sounds recently chatted with the members of Mud Rey to find out about the band, the EP and their thoughts on the music scene in DC.

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Back From The Dead: An Interview with Presto Bando

Photo Jan 05, 2 10 21 AM

Without a doubt, the DC music scene became several decibels quieter in the months following Presto Bando’s final performance on January 4th of last year. Their Southern-fried punk rock was hard to ignore, and singer Brandon Ables’ vocals encroached on the terrain of a deranged “future Dylan”. The band’s live shows were always a highly energized spectacle, and set a high watermark for performance art few other bands were able to match. During the band’s final set, Ables (vocals, guitar) cheerily described the “hatred” he and his bandmates had developed for one another to an uncomfortable audience, urging them to take their CDs, “because we’re just going to throw them in the trash anyway.”

Following their “break up”, Corey Shinko (bass, vocals) and Ables told me of plans to do a “posthumous” release, and this was a topic I pestered them about incessantly throughout the spring and early summer of 2013. Finally, there was an oddly timed July 4th “Pre-Release” Party thrown by Emanuel Pires, who Ables and Shinko claimed to be recording with at his home studio in Annandale, Virginia. Several more months passed, and I admittedly began to wonder if the project had been scrapped before I received a text from Shinko in November asking if I’d like to meet with him and Ables to discuss the now-complete 11 song record, entitled Witchtopher Columbus.

Read our full interview with Presto Bando after the jump, where they discuss the reasons behind their “break up”, the recording of Witchtopher Columbus, and Ables experiences working as an ice cream man.

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HB_full band

By Tony Porreco

As if you weren’t already aware, Hometown Sounds and Showlist DC have come together to host a stacked show this evening at Tropicalia (14th & U), featuring Tereu Tereu, The Jet Age, and Heavy Breathing. In anticipation for the event, Hometown Sounds reporter Tony Porreco sat down with Heavy Breathing’s Amanda Kleinman (Keyboards) and Erick Jackson (Guitar) for a wide ranging discussion including the inspiration behind the creepiness of the band’s live show and the importance of a band’s perceived edginess, the origin story of Kleinman’s signature ski mask look, and their recent reunion to record as their previous musical incarnation, The Apes.

Tell me about the origin of Heavy Breathing’s twisted visual aesthetic.

Erick Jackson: I think that’s what we’re always drawn to in part? We don’t see it as twisted.

Amanda Kleinman: All three of us are very visual people. So color schemes, all of the cinema from our childhood, the teen culture, the weird eras of kidnappings and bomb scares and Vietnam movies. All the imagery we were watching when we were kids, like New York City.

EJ: Yeah, like basement culture.

AK: All of that, it becomes a part of your neural wiring, and weird childhood experiences expose you to darkness.

EJ: Yeah, we grew up in a time where we were influenced by certain aesthetics like comics and then violent movies and then rock n’ roll and then memories of burnouts and siblings, just stories that you experience.

AK: Music should mean danger, music should be something edgy.

EJ: And I always remembered being drawn to music because I was a little scared of things, where I was like, “Is this good, or is this trouble?” Like, especially going to shows, like, “Am I going to get beat up at this show or am I going to get mugged? Where is this show even at? Is it dangerous? Who’s going to go with us?” There was a sense of adventure. And danger was a big part of it.

AK: And I think even now, our imagery has sexuality: Neither one of us are super sexual people, but we feel like there needs to be some kind of edge.

EJ: Well, I think music should be sexual.

AK: A lot of the newer, younger bands –

EJ: You look around, they’re not very sexual.

AK: I don’t get any vibe from people.

EJ: Everything’s neutered, and not visceral.

AK: Neutered and soft and friendly. I have a hard time connecting with it simply because of how we grew up.

hb_full band 2

I actually get spooked when I see you perform. In an era when there’s a general devaluation of music on account of its availability and ease of dissemination, do you think that the use of “fear” or “shock value” is one of the few tactics remaining to bands to get attention?

AK: I think we’re just getting off. I don’t care what anyone thinks, and honestly, what everyone’s perception is, I’m not interested.

EJ: That’s true. I don’t even think we think of things as, “Oh, this is shocking.”

So the way you present the band (e.g. costumes, projectors, fog) is less about you trying to stand out from the pack, and more of keeping things interesting for yourselves?

AK: There is no agenda. There’s no reward.

EJ: Well, it keeps you busy.

AK: Yeah, I’m busy. But there’s no big offers, there’s no tour bus. We just have to keep getting excited.

EJ: Well, it’s going to entertain you. And then you worry about entertaining somebody. Half of the things we’ve done, I don’t think it’s shock value. It’s more like, “Well, that’d be fun.” or “That’d be interesting.” or “Have we tried doing this? Let’s see what happens.” Because the process of playing shows a lot of times becomes like a job where you know what’s going to happen: You get there, soundcheck. So you’ve always got to think of things that keep it fresh for yourself and you try to do it through the music, but also if you want to have fun, and you want to get loose, because I mean, I think we all play music in the band because we want to get loose.

So oddly enough, your live act is more about you guys having fun and creating an experience for yourselves rather than for the audience?

AK: But I do want to put on a great show. When we started this band, I’d always felt a deficit with Apes. I felt like the visual things that I could conjure in my head could never happen because I didn’t have the resources and I had so many other things to worry about between the van, the sounds, navigating personality disorders in the band… It’s not just about us. I want that shit to look good. And the only time I ever have a diva temper tantrum is when the fog machines aren’t working, or [the booker] says, “No [to the visuals]”, and then I’m like, “I don’t want to play”, because I need that visual component. Or if someone doesn’t do their laser timing right, like, “I did my job! I practiced 8000 times!”

It sounds like you’re fairly selective about the shows you play.

EJ: Well, I think a big thing is we could just do more shows where it’s just like, “Oh, we’re just going to set up and play.” And that’s cool, but we’ve done that a lot, and there’s so many shows where it’s like a four band bill and I always feel like the music’s an afterthought, like, “Oh shit, we’re running out of time, oh shit, can you get your shit on stage really fast?”, and it’s this whole thing where you’re wondering, “Why are there four bands on this bill?” And it becomes this thing where you’re fighting against the environment. “Oh, we don’t have enough outlets for you.” Or the P.A.’s broken.

And so I think with Heavy Breathing it’s definitely a thing where we want to be able to enjoy playing rather than just be like, “Oh, we got here and then it’s a mess and oh shit, we’ve got to get our stuff on stage. Well that happened, I think that was good, right? Was it good?” And then you’re just like, “Well, people seemed to like it.” But there’s no time to actually think about the music or enjoy the music and playing it.

HB_ski mask 2

Amanda, what’s with the mask?

AK: The mask started because Apes toured constantly, and I loved all of our singers, but we always felt like there was a missing human element. We wanted the singers to have more of a banter, more of an ease. And there were also so many nights where you’re in Epsilon, Michigan on a Tuesday night, and it’s pouring, and the only person in the bar is the barmaid… So it’s like this game with yourself: What am I going to do to make myself laugh and feel comfortable before I get on stage? And that ski mask started because I put it on and I stood at a mirror, and I was making scary faces to crack myself up to chill out.

There were situations in the early years where no one knew that I was a little short girl. I had dudes in Cincinnati respond to that [deep, effect-manipulated] voice saying, “I’ll take you out in the parking lot and kick your ass, fucker.” I love that part of the show, I really do.

Talk to me about your robot vocalist, The Rhythm Machine. What’s the source material for the pre-recorded vocals you use?

EJ: There’s all sorts of weirdos, just people blogging that do a cappella, so they sing a bunch of shit and they post it for people to use. They’ll just cover songs and we just take them. But then we take just words —

AK: Or just one syllable.

EJ: Usually just half a word, like “Uh”, “Ah”, and now because of Autotune you can figure out notes that you want to play and then you just keep looping them. You start hearing things, and you go, “Ohhhhh I think they’re saying this.” And then what’s nice is then we’re jamming, and then we can press a button and that voice keeps happening and then we can build around it, whereas a lot times you keep telling a singer, “Can you do that again? Can you do that again?” And they’d be like, “Uh, no.”

AK: Or they can’t remember what they did.


Erick, is it you who rocks the overalls on stage?

EJ: Yes it is.

Where’d you get those from?

AK: One of our friends.

EJ: Sometimes people give us stuff. They’re like, “You’d look funny in this.” Or they’ll give it to you. We just trade stuff.

AK: Yeah, we trade things.

Do you think overalls are sexy?

EJ: I think they say something. They’re creepy.

I read in the Washington City Paper about The Apes’ getting back together to record some new tracks. Is it kind of a one off, or are you playing it by ear?

EJ: Just playing it by ear. It was just so random. Travis [Jackson, Windian Records] was just like, “Hey. Would you do an EP for us?” And we were like, “Yeah, if Paul [Weil] wanted to, our first singer.” And then he came down and we just worked on stuff. We hadn’t played together since 2006?

AK: No, 2005!

EJ: Oh my god. And it was good to play again. It was fun.

AK: And everyone’s so much more comfortable with themselves.

EJ: Yeah, we used to just fight and fight and fight. We were just horrible dicks.

AK: All of us though.

EJ: We were all bad. We were all just rats and just like, “Fuck you, fuck you!” But it was nice to hang out again.

AK: We’ve always stayed friends. He always came to all of our shows, we’d go to his shows. There was always genuine affection.

EJ: I mean, it’s just gross being in a van, and everyone starts growing up. He was married and then had a kid and was trying to both at the same time when there was no money in it. There was a lot of stress and especially because he was living in New York, so it was crazy.

We thought, “Should we do a[n Apes] show?”, Yeah, if time permits I’m sure we would. It’s never been like, “We will never, ever do this again.” It’s more like, “What are you doing Wednesday?”

AK: I have a really old romantic love of Apes: Apes music, Apes stories, and if I think back to the whole time, they were dark times. So I don’t know why, but it’s like the first boyfriend… So would we play a show again? Maybe. It’s not going to be some magic “Fifty years after the couple first broke up they finally got married”. It would be an Apes show.

The music never matured. So it’s like, we can still be dumb, and I’ll still get off a little on getting stupid. But no, I’d be open to it. It would take energy; I really like working on Heavy Breathing stuff.

In both Heavy Breathing and Apes, you play big beat electro rock. Could you ever see yourselves getting tired of that and thinking, “We need just do something entirely different now.”

EJ: Sometimes we do more soundtrack-y stuff for ourselves, but when it comes to live, we have more of a sports kind of mentality where, to us, it’s a sport, and we want to get our rocks off. It’s like a game. We want to get sweaty… I feel like for us, at least, if anything, we’ll get energy out, and we’ll be like, “Well, now I’m tired.” And it’ll be our therapy of sorts.

AK: Definitely.

EJ: And volume and noise –

AK: And you feel something.

I enjoy a wide range of live music, and I’ve seen singer-songwriter people, the best of the best, and I’m like, “Wow. That was awesome. Do we want to incorporate things like that?” At one point we maybe had one song that was more chill, and I was embarrassed. I was waiting for the room to be empty.

Where is Heavy Breathing right now? What are you working on for the next few months?

EJ: Probably a new record, because Amanda has a friend in Portland who has a new label.

What’s it’s called?

AK: Eolian Empire.

And it was casual, he asked, “Do you want to do a record?” And we said, “Yeah.” We’ll either do that or make another record and put it out ourselves. We’re at that stage where we have enough to do another record.

Heavy Breathing headlines our show this evening at Tropicalia. Doors @ 7:00, Show @ 8:30. 



Artist Q&A: Jess Eliot Myhre from The Bumper Jacksons

The Bumper Jacksons Press Photo

The hot and sweet stylings of the WAMMIE-nominated duo Bumper Jacksons first reached my earholes at a houseshow in DC, and I’ve been chasing them around the city ever since. I can’t get enough of Jess Eliot Myhre’s voice and Chris Ousley’s whiskey-worthy banjo playing (his massively impressive beard doesn’t hurt, either!).

Jess Myhre, one member of the trad-jazz group, recently sat down with me to discuss DC music and what it’s like to bring old-time music to life.

L: How did the Bumper Jacksons form?

J: The Bumper Jacksons were an offshoot of the Sligo Creek Stompers, a group that still plays around DC. Chris and I wanted to make a new voice for ourselves and set ourselves apart. I really got bit by the bug after spending time in Louisiana – That’s when we started to define ourselves with the New Orleans’ take on traditional jazz.

L: How did that change your sound?

J: We started to play old tunes and incorporate trombones and sousaphones. Now we also play ragtime and old torch tunes, in the style of Bessie Smith. We’ve also been getting into Western Swing.

L: What has it been like for you to bring that style of music to DC?

J: Umm… funny! A lot of people call our music bluegrass, which is also a style of traditional American music, but actually has nothing to do with what we play. Mostly, though, it’s exciting to play in DC because people find our music unique. In New Orleans, there are incredible musicians on every street corner doing what we’re doing. There aren’t as many professional musicians here, but there are a lot of people who love music and engage with it. People have the means to support their favorite artists, which is really important and helps us fund other projects.

L: What is the DC trad jazz scene like?

J: A lot of the folks I’ve met in DC who play trad jazz are older. Sometimes they grew up listening to it because their parents were into it when it was popular. I don’t know many people in our generation to play this type of music, but a huge range of ages come out to shows.

L: The Bumper Jacksons perform in a wide variety of venues. What’s your favorite type of performance space?

J: Some of the moments that I consider real gems come from playing in the street, because you catch people off guard. They aren’t expecting to hear music in the public sphere, and all of a sudden they’re stopping to listen, fascinated by what’s going on. Also, we’ve just started to play swing dances. We’re new to it, so our learning curve is exponential. It’s a big challenge.

L: You just recorded a new album with a six-piece band at Asparagus Media, which is set to drop in May. What was it like to record in front of a live audience?

J: A little difficult, because you can only do so many takes of a song. When recording an album, bands often do 6, 7, 8, takes… or even more. But when you’re recording in front of an audience, if you try that song more than twice, people are going to be bored. So, all of our songs are either the first or second take of a tune. I was shocked by how pleased I was with the result.

L: What’s next for the Bumper Jacksons?

J: Interdependent Pictures is going to help us record a video at a wonderful venue called The Barns at Rose Hill. Also, we’re going to record a duo version of our signature song, “That’s my Gal”, and ask people to submit video of themselves dancing for a huge montage. Finally, Chris and I have been talking about going to the Library of Congress and digging up songs that haven’t been recorded in the last 60 or 70 years. We’d like to make an album of these lost tunes that even people who play trad jazz haven’t heard.

L: Where can fans hear you next?

J: We are playing at Acre 121 on Thursday, March 14. We’re also putting together a CD release party for mid-May, which is bound to be another party. Keep watch on our website for details!

And, last but not least, for your listening pleasure, check out these tracks:

Crow Jane

He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar

Darktown Strutters Ball