Photo: Matt Correia
Cosmic Americana Duo Mapache On 'From Liberty Street,' Honoring Neal Casal & (Briefly) Going Electric
The "Life On Fire" singer/songwriters, who drop their highly anticipated sophomore album today, talk recording process, Mexican cultural influences, releasing an album during the pandemic and more...
From note one, the intrinsic musical connection between Mapache's Sam Blassuci and Clay Finch is eerily apparent and feels all at once fresh, timeless and just right. Anyone lucky enough to see Mapache perform live, they understand why the L.A. folk duo has been turning heads with their weaving acoustic guitars and gorgeous yet earthy harmonized vocals create a psychedelic Americana style that once led Aquarium Drunkard to write, “think a blazed up Everly Brothers.”
While the duo's musical partnership goes way back to high school, they went on to crystalize their chops—and their style—together in Grateful Shred, a slightly looser-than-usual Dead tribute band less focused on fidelity in reproducing classic show setlists or tones and more free to add a dash of flair of their own. This music, and this scene in Los Angeles, turned out to be the perfect breeding ground for Sam and Clay's talents, connection and creativity.
As Mapache, the duo released their debut self-titled album in 2017 followed by their three-song Lonesome LA Cowboy EP in 2019. Their sophomore album arrives today, met by both wild anticipation from its stellar advanced singles and widespread uncertainty of a world in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic. But for Mapache, music is the only way.
"Since there is so much uncertainty, it makes it all the more certain that we definitely want to get this record out as soon as possible," said Blassucci
"Releasing a record [now] is maybe better timing if everyone's going to be stuck at home anyway, so if you can't come see us play in a club, you can at least listen to some new music," Finch added.
We hopped on the phone with Sam and Clay of Mapache earlier this week to hear about the making of From Liberty Street, their involvement in the upcoming Neal Casal tribute album, and the first time they plugged in for an electric guitar for a Mapache recording…
From Liberty Street is out Friday, March 20. Can you tell us how you recorded it with Dan Horne [Cass McCombs, Allah-Las}? What were those sessions like?
Clay: It was cool because the studio with downstairs from the house we were living at, so it gave us a lot of flexibility. The first album we recorded pretty much in a couple of days at a studio in the Valley. But having the studio at the house we lived in it made for a much more relaxed environment and gave us more time to experiment with stuff. And it also presented a sort of a unique situation where lots of our buddies were just coming through anyway. The house on Liberty Street was sort of a meeting spot, kind of like a house where people would go to hang out anyway. So there was always awesome musicians around and so our circle friends and artists definitely expanded a lot while we were there, and I think that was definitely reflected in the recording process, too. There was a lot more hands on deck and different sounds and instruments being added.
Hearing about the house, it's hard not to think about the Dead house and what was going on 50 years ago in Haight Ashbury. And do you feel like it's a modern incarnation of that same spirit?
Sam: Yeah, I think it is just how it sounds, living in a house and it has that kind of home vibe. It's different than going into a studio built and dedicated for just studio activities. We were making the music where we were also eating and sleeping and living and listening to music and watch television and all that stuff. So it definitely had a much more homey vibe that was maybe similar to any bands that have taken that approach. Like living in a house and having it be that kind of community that's a seal, yeah.
"Life On Fire" is getting a lot of attention, and It was fun to watch the room come alive when you played it at the release show. Can you tell me where that song came from and what it's been like to see it take off so quickly?
Sam: That song actually we wrote several years ago before the first record came up that we put out, came out. So we have had it for a long time. For whatever reason, it wasn't ready or it feel right to put it on the first record. And we sort of just had it as a jam or like a back-pocket thing that we would play sometimes time, and then we decided to record it for this next or the one that's coming out now. And it was just bare. Before we went into recorded, it was so bare-bones, it was just the two guitars. And the singing the way we did it on Thursday night.
And then as soon as we got our friend Austin Beede into play drums on it, that immediately took it to a different feel right away. And then Clay and I had been listening to this one Brazilian record that gave us the idea for the baseline that we were kind of hearing over Austin's drumming, and so we told Dan about that and we kind of worked that in and it just kind of... it was one of the songs that kind of tumbled along in the studio as we were doing it, which is really fun, and it has to be our friend Dusty Ineman came in and played congas on it, which also added a whole 'nother layer that was really unexpected and really nice and it was really fun to watch that one tumble into the song that it became.
Clay: It seemed like there was also a lot of people singing along when we did that one on Thursday, which happens every once in a while, where people sing along. But it was a pretty cool to see people singing along to a song that hasn't been out for very long. That was surprising, exciting.
Oh, definitely. There was a whole group of people in front that seemed like that was the song they came to hear. I also love the guitar solo and the recording. Who played the solo?
Sam: Clay played that solo and it's really, it's funny, I always kind of smile at that solo because it's the first time you've ever used an electric guitar on any recording of a Mapache song, and you can totally tell at least I can totally tell it's him when I listen to it cause it's so delicately played and it just sounds like it's a new element, and I think it's a great solo as well, but it has that kind of vibe.
You also write songs in Spanish always, which I think is unique. It makes me think of Warren Zevon's "Carmelita," your style with that influence. But I've read you both lived in Mexico. What can you tell me about your time living in Mexico and how it influenced the band's music?
Sam: Well, growing up in Southern California, we already were exposed to a lot of Mexican culture that was really important to the music we listened to even before I had gone to live in Mexico, but I did live in Mexico for two years, which obviously was the biggest immersion that I've had into that into Mexican culture and Mexican music. But there always was a little bit of an underlying base of that influenced just having grown up here and having that interest in it, just being here all our lives.
Clay: I think it's interesting, too, that you made that Warren Zevon connection because a lot of people, when they ask us about that influence, sort of seems like it's put together like of from nowhere. But there's sort of a long running tradition of people in our sort of musical world drawing heavily from music from Mexico, too. Like Peter Rowan, too, and yeah, Warren Zevon and even the [Flying] Burrito Brothers, and a whole bunch of artists.
You are on the upcoming Neal Casal tribute album, Highway Butterfly, and I just saw from his posts that you recorded it up at Jim Scott's studio [Plyrz]. Why you picked Neal's son "Wisest of the Wise" what he meant to you as both the musical influence and as a friend.
Sam: Well that song sort of just stuck out to us. It was real simple and had real sweet lyrics and seemed like something that we could play and honor Neal with and do something maybe unique with, too, and make our own spin on it. And it was real cool to go up to that spot in Santa Clarita and mess around in that studio, it's pretty massive and there's a bunch of cool stuff, and a bunch of buddies were hanging out.
As far as Neal, one thing that comes to mind that I think represents well the kind of person he was, I think got really stuck out to me: We opened for Circles Around The Sun for a good handful of shows, and Neal would watch pretty much the entirety of our soundcheck…
Clay: And clap after we finished each song.
Sam: Yeah, which is so rare. I mean especially for a guy like him who tours so extensively. It's almost always, during soundcheck, that's time to take a nap on a couch or at least like sneak out and read a book or look at your phone or something. But it always meant a lot that Neal was just so in love with music that he would even watch our soundcheck. Yeah.
Clay: And that's less of a compliment to our music and more of just a compliment to Neal's feelings about music in general, and his interest, and just sort of like an act of like just showing that he cared. That meant so much to us.
The new album comes out March 20 - how does it feel to be putting out your second album in such complicated times of uncertainty?
Sam: I think it feels like the right thing to do. I think with everything going on, since there is so much uncertainty, it makes it all the more certain that we definitely want to get this record out as soon as possible.
Clay: Going on the road is going to be hard the next couple of months, so releasing a record [now] is maybe better timing if everyone's going to be stuck at home anyway, so if you can't come see us play in a club, you can at least listen to some new music.
As working, touring musicians unable to hit the road now, what are you planning on doing the next couple of months during this time of isolation?
Sam: We're definitely going to do a lot of reading and writing and maybe some recording and playing together. We lived together so we were not too isolated. you know everything we can other than going out into everybody's towns and playing.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show
Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion
There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.
The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.
This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.
"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."
Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.