Tag Archives: Missouri

Review/Interview With Katie Belle Akin

by Randy Wayne Belt (aka: Barley Station)
Previously Published as the Artist Spotlight in Starlight Music Chronicles

There’s no question that Katie Belle is someone with passionate songwriting vision. She knows how to bring the song right home and make you feel what she is feeling as if you were there listening in her own backyard in the U.S. state of Georgia. The song “Georgia Moon”, will potently make you drift off and make time stand still as you feel you are watching the world disappear just as in the lyrics: “All time stands still when your with me here – I’ll watch the world disappear – with you – under a Georgia Moon.” That part of the song will be stuck in your head forever, as well as the powerful lyric: “and the stars align when our hearts collide – in the clouds feels so right – with you – under a Georgia Moon.”

(To Hear it and buy it on iTunes click Here) and/or (To Hear the full version of Georgia Moon on YouTube Click Here)

The song will draw you in by its pure passionate believability. It is, in fact, about a direct experience, in the form of a much hoped for date/romance that ended up not coming to pass. But we’ll find out more about that in the interview. When you hear it, there will be no question that the artists truest emotions went into the writing and production of the song. “Georgia Moon” gives you a down home country feel as well, and stays relatively acoustical until the chorus… then a pulsing bass drum kicks in driving the song home.

Then the snare drum works its way in on the downbeat further driving the song home around the two minute mark. And shortly thereafter, a violin solo ( or fiddle solo, as we call it here in the country) smoothly rolls its way in – it a perfect fit, adding an extra romantic mood to the song in almost serenade fashion and providing the song with the perfect bridge.

Katie Belle

The dynamics of this song make it, what I call, “a stayer”. It is something you could listen to again and again, and the more you listen, the more you like it and the more you feel it.

It is something that if it had the opportunity to go onto charts like Billboard’s Top 100, would find a nice comfortable place and just stay there inching it’s way up until it’s peak and then staying there a long time in that area.

Showing a musical maturity well beyond her years, it is clear that Katie Belle Akin will be around in the music industry for some time to come.

All she needs to do is never give up. If I could personally pass the country music torch of Taylor Swift to a new recipient, based on integrity, humility, likeablity, and pure talent, it goes to Katie Belle Akin.

Her consistency in good songwriting is verified by her other songs, particularly for me, her single, “Fallin For You” which is a very powerful melodic piece, and shows her flexibility in songwriting and vocal delivery. (Click here to listen to “Fallin For You” on YouTube)

Katie now holds the title of Miss US Nation Teen Georgia, and many kudos to her for using this as an opportunity to bring awareness to an important social issue, and one which is a topic that needs to be discussed more. Now, I normally don’t like to pull much from other interviews, but I feel this is a very important message, and before I go into my own interview with her, I am going to quote from Katie’s interview at the beginning of August on A.V.A. Live Radio where she talks about her participation in the Teen Nation Tour (TNT).

Katie writes: “Teen Tour…I have traveled and co-headlined with the Teen Nation Tour ( TNT) this is an anti-bully message tour which travels through out the US to mainly Middle schools and High Schools. I performed with this tour for 16 weeks between late 2012 to late 2014. I have been bullied in school , it started in kindergarten and continued on and off while I was in both private and public school. I suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide.

“I don’t try to hide these things because I feel it is important for others in similar situations to know its possible to overcome these hardships. Teen Nation Tour is a platform for sharing with teens and performing music , it was an incredible experience in many many ways. I have made some wonderful fans through this and am very grateful for having the opportunity.” (To Hear Katie on AVA Live Radio Click Here)

As you might guess, Katie is a very busy young lady and balances a very intense schedule, so catching up with her isn’t always easy, but I managed to catch up with her recently and I suppose since I’m on the topic of tours here, I guess I’ll start my first question in relation to touring!

_______________

Interview

Randy: If you could tour with any other artist or group, what would your top 5 picks be?

Katie: Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown

Randy: Fantastic choices! And what artists/bands were you exposed to growing up and how did that impact the music you have been making and will make?

Katie: My parents are always listening to music; classic rock, jazz and pop rock and country. Music is associated with “setting a mood”, “feel good moments”, “memory making”… when I am songwriting I visualize the reaction my listeners may have, will it make them happy, will it evoke a memory…. This is the type of impact I strive for with my music.

Randy: Do you come from a musical family then? Anyone else involved in music in any way? I always ask this, if you don’t mind.

Katie: My family is artistic but not necessarily completely oriented toward music. My Aunt and Great Uncle are both artists, my mother has a very strong alto voice, my grandma and her grandfather were concert pianist… I am the first to be a singer/songwriter/performer..

Randy: That all counts. Is there a moment for you where you just KNEW you wanted to do music for a living? Tell me about that moment.

Katie: I have been enthralled with performing since I was in elementary school. I took dance from age 3 up through the 6th grade. In middle school I had to make my first major decisions on what to persue… it was either dance or my music. I had known in my heart for a few years music was a passion for me. I had my first songwriting session when I was 12 and literally fell in love with songwriting and the entire process of bringing a song alive through performance and recording.

Randy: Your song “Fallin For You” is one of my personal favorites – I am such a melody driven person. I love a great melody! When you look back on that song, how do you feel about it now?

Katie: “Fallin For You” was a venture in pulling in some R&B influences and producing it with a country influenced sound. I love this song and have it in my set list for most of my performances. My music originates from real life events and you know…. When a cute boy walks by…. What pops in your head??

Randy: I know what its like to hear your own song a million times and get sick of it, but after a break from it, it can give a refreshing view on it once again. Do you still like that song? Have you gone back and heard it again with a fresh perspective?

Katie: I still love this song, and if time allows it is always my set list!! As far as a fresh perspective, girls are always checkin’ out boys and it’s fun to have a song that speaks to those feelings you get when you are around someone you think is cute, sweet and makes your heart race.

Randy: What projects are you working on right now? I’ve heard rumors of a new EP possibly?

Katie: Since the release of my last EP “ Next Thing in Tennessee” in spring of 2014, I have been writing new music. I released “Georgia Moon” in April of 2015 as a single and this song has done real well. Plans for 2015/16 do include an EP or maybe a full album. Myself and my main co-writer in Nashville are still focused on composing additional songs for consideration for these projects. Also, I am always looking at TOP 40 hits to do re-mixes on and release as singles to give my fans fresh material. My team and I are working on a webisode series to incorporate the cover song LIVE sessions and song requests.. looking forward to getting that under way.

Randy: That sounds fascinating and engaging for sure! So, what song – out of the ones you already released/written, means the most to you? And why?

Card 1

Katie:  The song that means the most to me at this point in time is “Georgia Moon”. I wrote this about a summer romance that really never came to be. I had met a really nice guy at spring break in Florida. He is a Georgia boy but lived about 1 ½ hours from me. We talked and planned our first date, we were going to go fishing in the evening and stay out till the stars came out… well as the summer wore on I realized this was just not going to happen because our phones got farther and farther apart and he stopped calling me. The date never happened and that was the inspiration behind writing Georgia Moon.

Randy: That song is has such a romantic vibe to it, so I kind of wondered if that one would be the one that meant a lot when you wrote it. Are you planning any collaborations or duets?

Katie: I would love to do some collaborations/duets. I have been approached by several different male artists but the timing just haven’t worked out. Also, I am kind of picky about song choices and styles and branding awareness…so just haven’t met the right peoples to collab with

Randy: Yeah, people need to be aware of what style(s) that would work best. That’s great forethought! Now tell me, what has been the defining achievement of your musical career so far?

Katie: Every year I can reflect and choose something that in hindsight reveals itself as an achievement in my 4 ½- 5 years I have been dedicated to developing my music. This year I would say I am doing more shows where I am being compensated than “exposure” shows which generally offer no compensation. That has been great, but a bigger achievement has been the success of “Georgia Moon”. The song has received several nominations in a couple different awards shows as Song of The Year, Modern Country Song of The Year, and for me: Songwriter of The Year.

Randy: I saw and that’s great! So happy for you! As a recording artist myself, I always have to ask this question: What is the writing process like for you? What do you come up with first? Does it vary? Chords, a melodic progression, lyrics, etc.?

Katie: The writing process is not a “scheduled” thing, I always am writing down one liners, adjectives, chord ideas etc…. every day or sometimes just once a week. I rely on all these notes to get things flowing when in my “official” songwriting sessions which I mainly do in Nashville.

Randy: And when you write, do you write on guitar or piano? Or what? How does it work for you?

Katie: I am not a huge guitar player, I prefer keyboards so I work out my chords there first. I typically record to my phone to preserve the idea or my ipad.

Randy: Yeah the phone recorder comes in handy for sure. So speaking of phones and ipads, what’s in rotation on your own ipad… what music are you listening to right now? (like in the past few weeks or so)

Katie: I listen to everything! Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lorde, T Swift, J Cole, Beyonce, Keith Urban, Classic Rock, Lana de Ray… the list goes on… if I hear a song I like I BUY IT!!

Randy: What do you consider the best album’s (as a whole) in the past 10 years?

Katie: I am a singles person: meaning I mainly purchase singles off of albums, so a few of my top favorites are: Zac Brown, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Dierks Bently, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood , Kayce Musgraves, Taylor Swift, Lorde, One Direction, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Christina Aguilar, One Republic, ColdPlay, Ed Sheeran…

Randy: Well, I guess I’m an old school album guy but those are good choices and so varied. If you could play at any venue you wanted at least once in the entire world, where would it be?

Katie: My own hometown, a sold out show at Phillips Arena, and all my solid fans getting the best seats and box seats.

Randy: What words of advice or inspiration would you like to give to anyone who may have a dream to be a recording artist, or be a singer, or dancer, or really anything that is a dream to them?

Katie: If you get the bug-sting young like I did, get involved in musical theater, acting, dance and musical instrument, go to your local songwriter nites and sit in and absorb everything you can. Start songwriting….don’t be shy, get out there and around others who have gone before you. This is a long term thing if you want a career in the music industry…everyday do something… for adults who have that yearning to jump in I would think a lot of the same things apply.

Randy: Tell me about your best and/or worst most memorable live performance

Katie: My best performance: I traveled with Teen Nation Tour in 2012/13/14. I remember one Friday afternoon we were in Evansville Indiana and their first football game of the season was that night so the students were ready to be out of school for the day. I gave my talk about “self-worth” and started in on my original INVINCIBLE ( this song has a really good beat and the lyrics are empowering ) the students picked up on the beat and were clapping and stomping their feet , We all started dancing …my second song was 22 by T Swift and that just took them over the top,,,it was magical to have 2500+ students dancing, clapping, screaming etc…. My worst performance: there really isn’t one, I am a very positive person, “worst” is not in my vocabulary…. I try to learn from all my experiences… and love my audience whether its 5 people or hundreds of people.

Randy: That’s such a great attitude! The top 5 most important things in life to you are?

Katie: God , Family, Education ( including music ), Friends and Health ( I need to stay physically fit with my schedule )

Randy: Do you have any upcoming shows or events you’d like to tell about?

Katie: I am excited about 3 upcoming Red Carpet/Awards Shows: Women in RadioAtlanta, The Josie Radio Show Awards, Nashville and The International Music and Theater Awards, Atlanta. I am nominated along with my single “Georgia Moon” in multiple categories, several local shows are booked and my complete show schedule can be found on my Reverb Nation page.

Randy: What are you most appreciative of for all your successes thus far?

Katie: I am so appreciative of the help and support from my parents and I would not be in this stage of my music if it wasn’t for them. I hold in high honor their love and guidance along with the wisdom and love I receive from my relationship and prayer with God.

Card 2

___________________

Back Poster

georgiamoon cover

Katie’s Social Links:

Website: www.katiebelleakin.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/katiebelleakin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/katiebelleakin

Twitter: www.twitter.com/katiebelleakin

You Tube: www.youtube.com/katiebelleakin

Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/musician/katiebelleakin

Advertisements

New Single “Double Star” Coming Soon

Print

“Double Star” is yet another single from Barley Station soon to be released.
The artwork is finished and a release date is set for October 15, 2015.

First released only to fans via mailing list and social networks, the special page made just for this song is now made public and the art and a promo clip are now revealed, and the art alone is stunning! (The page also has the song lyrics)

Go to the page here: Preview “Double Star”

With a reputation of blending and jumping around genres a bit, as usual, this one’s different.
“Double Star” creates a more spacey atmosphere and is a bit more on the adult alternative side of things and it is like a cosmic painting of the heart in sound and lyrical texture. (Somewhat similar to “Never Leave” from the Damaged Goods album or “Dream You Lost” from the album After All)

Cover art for

Cover art for “Double Star”

As one pre-release review stated “Double Star” embodies the desire and longing to have that one special person by your side for all eternity.”

So here is the preview of the beautiful album art which was taken of a real “blue moon”, so we can say  this is “once in a blue moon” single song art with certainty.

Special thanks: Graphics and Cover Art by
CA Marshall – Editor of Starlight Music Chronicles and Magazine

“Double Star” will be released digitally to the following outlets:
Apple iTunes, Spotify, Groove, Deezer, Omnifone,Google Music Store, Rumblefish, Rdio, Slacker Radio, Shazam, Beyond Oblivion, YouTube Music Key, Tidal, 8tracks, Synchtank, Amazon MP3, 24-7, JB Hi-Fi, Yandex, Akazoo,  Rhapsody, GreatIndieMusic, iHeartRadio

Randy’s Reviews and Interviews for Starlight Music Chronicles

Review and Interview with recording artist Melody Lovejoy

Published in Starlight Music Chronicles

by Randy Wayne Belt (of Barley Station)

MLJ5-1200x817

I always love when I come across a true artist in every sense of the word. And I had a good hunch I was right because you won’t find many female country artists with such colorful hair, and large beautiful handmade earrings. And they look great on Edmonton, Alberta recording artist Melody Lovejoy. And she could well be a trendsetter here because her EP “Letting Go”, released in fall of 2014, has already received airplay in Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands.

Melody can best be summed up by her song “Barefoot In the Backwoods” where you will find country music smoothly blended with the roots of rock and a very powerful impassioned vocal delivery. You’ll feel like you are “chasing butterflies and dreaming and running with the wind” right along with her. The same moving passion for singing is felt in an incredible way when you hear Melody’s moving duet with Sawyer Brown member, Shayne Hill. The lyric in this song, “I can almost feel the rhythm of our souls” is rendered even more effective by the sibling-like blend of vocals the two brought to the song.  Read more here:    http://starlightmusicchroniclesspotlight.com/2015/08/melody-lovejoy/

New Single Released: “I’ve Got News”

The new single by Barley station is now out titled: “I’ve Got News”
Those who have heard it have been saying it is one of our best yet.

IVE GOT NEWS COVER1000pix

This new song is the second single released this summer and is a blend of mid western
rock, a little  country and unforgettable guitar riffs.

Get it right from the website at http://barleystation.net

Or for the Apple enthusiasts, on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ive-got-news/id1023309536?i=1023309728

Expect a new album to be out before the year ends as well!

Alice In Wonderland Teams Up With The Mad Hatter

Review and Extensive Interview With Plike

By Randy Wayne Belt – July 13, 2015

In Plike’s newest sonic adventure, Empathetic Apathy, you have Alice in Wonderland teaming up with the Mad Hatter to give us a creation of sounds that explore unrestrained imagination.  Set to be released on July 15th, 2015 it might not be what you would expect out of Austin, TX, but this music is a great fit for any number of gaming formats or movie soundstracks. And in fact,  in the upcoming independent feature film, Windsor Drive, Plike has three tracks that will be featured in the movie!

Empathetic Apathy Cover Photo800pix

In Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you have a girl who goes down a rabbit hole to find herself shrinking or expanding depending on her circumstances.  One can’t help but wonder if there isn’t an unintentional or subconsious reference to the very real but mysterious Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, in which people, usually children, suddenly see things change size.  ASH and Em_1700pix

Now, it’s probably not a well known fact that one of the alternate titles proposed for the famous Caroll story was Alice Among Goblins.  That title didn’t quite work out for Caroll, but had it been the title, with a slightly different story and a bit spookier, and had that work been created today, recording artist Plike may well have been selected to create the soundtrack.

Plike’s sound is self-described as hauntingly beautiful and disturbingly dark, an eccentric layering of natural and organic sounds against heavy digital elements.  I couldn’t find better words than that to describe the music.

From the opening track “Attachment Theory” to the ending “Lessons in Futility” there is a consistent pattern of haunting sounds that lend the music to a few popular formats.  For instance, the song “The Clockwork Girl” perfectly captures the feeling you might have while listening to a series of clocks ticking, only musically, and you’re in a dark room waiting to get out.

It is perfect background music for a video game.  For example, the music would fit well instrumentally with the Number One Best Horror Game of 2013, the indie horror game “Outlast”, and to a lesser degree, the sounds would also work with something along the lines of Skyrim or Fallout (both games made by the same creator).

Mad Madam Em
                                   Mad Madam Em

I could also imagine some of the music working well with some of my own favorite Hidden Object games.  Add the vocals, and you have entered a realm beyond that.  The female vocal samples throughout brought me to think of perhaps Evanescence – only an Evanesceance who who may have been traumatized and was struggling with depression and has overcome it via music as therapy.

In a similar vein of thought, oddly, it has been my experience, that often a very sad sounding song can have the opposite effect of cheering one up.  It’s funny how that works for some people.  So naturally, the concept and inspiration from their last album, the EP  47th Helen was born from Plike founder Mad Madam Em’s own struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that affects 7.7 million adults in the United States.

I discovered Plike while listening to Em’s interview with Jacqueline Jax on A.V.A. Live Radio back in April of this year and was intrigued by Em’s statement “Depression and anxiety make people feel alienated. Sometimes just hearing a song you can relate to can give you the strength to pick yourself back up and keep going.” Such a true statement!  And it was nice to hear someone willing to take on such a subject that tends to be overlooked and ignored and pushed under the rug.

You can listen to that interview and hear the track “Catherine” from Plike’s last EP here:  http://avaliveradio.com/behind-the-music-em-of-plike-on-having-strength/

So to test out my Alice and Wonderland-like assumptions about this newest EP by Plike and see if I’m really on target here, I caught up with the group’s two compositionists, Em and Ash recently and got to hear the new EP before it is released and got to chat by phone about the music and throw out some of my own interview questions for them.


Randy:   This is probably an unusual way for me to start out a recording artist interview, but considering how I’ve just described your music, it makes sense in the fantastical Alice in Wonderland method of interviewing.   What are your top 5 or 10 favorite video games of all time?

Ash from Plike

Ash

Ash:  Silent Hill 2, Skyrim, Bioshock, Final Fantasy VII, Journey

Em: Alice: Madness Returns, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, L.A. Noire,  Katamari Damacy, Heavy Rain

Randy:  I’m not surprised there.  Your music is so fitting for some of those games!  So, music… What made you want to create/do music?  And is it the number one thing you want to do for a living?

Em:  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been drawn to creating art. For years and years I painted and sketched, and I wrote short stories and novellas and screenplays. As a kid I took piano lessons and then guitar lessons, but I didn’t appreciate those lessons until much later on when I started playing bass.

It was about that time that I realized how much I loved writing music. Painting and writing went on the backburner and music became my everything. I found I could express myself artistically through music in ways I never could through painting and writing. If I could choose any career in the world, I would love to score independent films and video games full time.

Ash:  We both grew up in musical families, and later on in life it became an escape for both of us. It was like therapy – a way to cope. It’s absolutely the number 1 thing I want to do for a living, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Randy:  Tell me about that.  How were your families musical families?

Em:  My grandma played fiddle and grandpa played the upright bass and the whole family would sing and have fun playing bluegrass type music.  Ash’s grandparent’s were travelling musicians, I guess they were the blacksheep of the family travelling around playing music in an RV!

Randy:  That’s wild!  Musicians often get a bad rap just because we are different.  And I’ve found that music often runs in the blood.  So now that we are going back in time, what bands or recording artists were you exposed to growing up?

Em:  Up until I was about 13, it was mainly a lot of great music from the 60’s – Simon & Garfunkel, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and especially the Beatles. My godmother was a Beatlemaniac when she was a teenager and gave me all of her old Beatles records. I must have played each of them 1000 times!

Ash:  I have three older brothers, so I grew up on a pretty steady diet of metal music. Tons of Slayer, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, that kind of stuff. Then Nirvana came along and they were game changers. They pretty much blew my mind, because their sound was so new and different.

(After being sidetracked in a long discussion the Beatles, we continued…)

Randy:  What kind of impact would you say that music has had on your music today?

Em:  I didn’t realize until a few years ago what a huge impact the Beatles had on me as a musician. They were so innovative. I fell in love with vocal harmonies because of them. The grunge bands I fell in love with as a teenager in the 90’s definitely had a massive impact on me, especially Alice in Chains. The first time I heard them was the first time I really started wanting to write my own music. They were so real and authentic, and they weren’t afraid to write about taboo topics like depression and drug addiction. I suffered from severe depression from an early age. Listening to them, I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore. That’s one of the main reasons I write music today. I want to use music as a way to reach out to others who are hurting.

Randy:  That’s noble and beautiful.  How about you Ash?

Ash:  The artists I started listening to in my teenage years had the most impact on the way I write music. When I first heard bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory, I guess it just kind of encouraged me to push the boundaries of what you can do with digital music. Since the old school rock format was getting stale at that point, I was looking for new and creative ways to make music. When Fear Factory’s Remanufacture album came out I was pretty blown away – I’d heard metal before and I’d heard digital before, just not together.

Randy:  On now into the present, what recording artists are your biggest influences personally?

Photo from the Empathetic Apathy Photo Shoot

Photo from the Empathetic Apathy Photo Shoot

Em:  I’d have to say Radiohead and The Dresden Dolls. Radiohead is one of the most innovative bands I’ve ever heard. Every album is so different, but no matter how much their sound changes from album to album, you still know it’s Radiohead. That just blows my mind. I hope to continue to grow and evolve as a musician, to keep pushing forward with no creative limitations or boundaries. The Dresden Dolls are such incredible artists, they’ve definitely had a huge impact on me as a musician. Amanda Palmer is so talented and passionate, so raw and real. Authenticity in music is something that I think is very important. I think it’s absolutely crucial to stay true to your artistic vision and write music that comes naturally, instead of trying to write what you think people will want to hear.

Ash:  Björk has probably been one of my biggest influences. Her Debut album is still one of my all time favorites. Her sound was so different from anything I’d ever heard. Squarepusher has been another big influence of mine. I have always had such an appreciation for digital musicians who aren’t afraid to take risks and push boundaries.

Randy:  What’s playing on your ipod (or whatever you use to listen to music with) lately?

Em:  I’ve found so many amazing indie bands and artists this past year! IX is one of my new favorites, their new album “7302” is phenomenal. A few other incredible indie artists at the top of my playlist are De-Franco, Anodic8 and Eyemouth. And soundtracks – I’m hopelessly addicted to soundtracks! Currently I’m hooked on the Oblivion film soundtrack by M83.

Ash: Lately I’ve been on a kick listening to a lot of Purity Ring and The Ditty Bops. Bob Marley is an all-time favorite and he’s pretty much on constant rotation on my iPod. I’m a big fan of soundtracks too. Austin Wintory wrote an amazing score for the video game Journey. It’s one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Randy:  Do you do any live shows? How would you describe them?

Ash:  We’ve been so busy in the studio creating new material that we haven’t put a lot of focus into live performances yet, but we’re definitely contemplating it and putting together some ideas for a live performance that will be visually exciting for our audience. It will depend on what opportunities come our way, I think.

Em:  I haven’t been on stage since I was a kid, but I am really looking forward to playing live! We have so many ideas and we want to put together the best visual show possible, so it might take a little time to get everything organized, but I definitely think we’ll be doing gigs in the near future.

Randy:  What was your best or most memorable performance? (best or worst experience, whatever you like, or even both!)

Ash:  I worked as a professional DJ for several years, and I’ve seen a lot of hilarious happenings, but the worst experience I’ve had was doing a last minute gig with a buddy of mine in Carbondale, IL. I was in college at the time, and when we were offered the gig we were both pretty stoked about it. We drove to the place, which turned out to be the diviest dive bar of all time, in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. All we had was my drum machine and a guitar, and we had no idea what they were expecting us to play. We just got up on stage and winged it. All things considered, I think we did a pretty good job, but it was definitely nerve-wracking.

Randy:   Do you plan to stay as a duo for Plike?  Does that seem to work best for you with how you work?  In other words, do you find you do your best work alone, with another person to bounce ideas off of, or in a larger group? How does that work for you?

Ash: That’s a funny story actually, because we had both worked on music independently and together in the past, and I used to always work best on my own because it allowed me complete creative control. But I’ve come full circle, and now I greatly prefer working with Em because we’re both on the same wavelength and we can easily bring the best of both of our styles together. It just really clicks. ASH and Em_2800teapix

Em:  I totally agree. It took a long time for me to figure out exactly which direction I wanted to go musically. We’ve run the gamut – rock, alternative, industrial, metal, electro-metal, ballads, ambient tracks and a lot of crazy experimental stuff. We’d both gotten frustrated trying create the exact “sound” we wanted the music to have. But now I feel like we’re both on the same creative path. Writing solo is definitely great because you do have total creative freedom, but I’ve had a lot more fun working on the new album with Ash. Our styles mesh perfectly and compliment each other.

Randy:  Have you done any collaborations?  And do you have any plans in the future for collaborations?

Em: I recently did a collaboration with Rob Bryant of Bare Island called “No Time”. He is an incredibly talented musician and producer, and we had a great time working on the track! We actually wanted to try to tackle another collab, but we wound up realizing that neither of us had the bandwidth to make it happen.  (Em sent me the link for that and here it is)

Ash: I’ve done many collaborations in the past, but with Plike’s current momentum, I doubt I’ll be tackling any new collaborations any time soon.

Randy:  If you weren’t doing music, what is the next thing closest to your heart you would be doing?

Ash: I realized early on that it’s crucial to be able to do something that you at least somewhat enjoy, if not love, for a living. We’ve all had soul-sucking jobs that get you nowhere, and life’s just too short. That was what ultimately led me to pursue an education in audio engineering / composition, and today I’m working professionally as a sound designer / composer in the video game industry. Being a hardcore gamer, it’s a good fit.

Em:  The next closest thing to music that I would really love to focus on as a career is narrative design / scriptwriting for video games. I majored in creative writing, and I actually did work in game design for a while. My only claim to fame was penning dialogue for Mark Hamill to read, and actually getting to sit in on the voiceover session! I grew up absolutely obsessed with Star Wars, so that was a pretty major fangirl moment!

Randy:  If you had to pick just one, which of your tunes means the most to you personally?

Cover Plike's debut EP '47th Helen'

Cover of Plike’s debut EP ’47th Helen’

Em:  I would definitely have to say “Lucy”. 47th Helen was inspired by the trauma I’ve experienced, and each track represents a different aspect of coping with trauma, whether it be a step toward recovery, a behavioral or emotional struggle, or a specific symptom that arises for trauma survivors as the brain attempts to process the trauma. My grandmother’s name was Lucy, and she was everything to me. “Lucy” was my attempt to express acceptance, but at the same time it’s an expression of my own struggle to let go of the grief of losing a loved one. This song has actually helped me to move forward and focus more on all the wonderful memories I have of her.

Ash: For me, it would be “Lessons in Futility”. I actually started writing the track about five years ago, but I had hit a brick wall with it and wasn’t sure which direction to take it. When Em suggested we resurrect it to see what we could do with it, I never would have guessed that it would come out as well as it did. We both like for people to take their own meanings from our songs, but with this track we wanted to make a strong statement about the futility of nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare and the inherent fear that those weapons of mass destruction foster in our society.

Randy:  As a recording artist myself, one of the questions that is always intriguing to me is this: What’s the writing and recording process like for you?

Em:  I actually have a little ritual that I do every time I go into the studio, before I start writing. I have a little statue of the Buddha that I set next to my keyboard, and I light a candle. I find it helps me to clear my mind and focus on the work. I generally write songs one piece at a time, so I’ll start with the intro, and usually either a simple drum beat or a bass line. I build on the intro until it’s completely where I want it, then I’ll move on to the first verse, or the next part of the song. Once it’s complete, I’ll move on to the chorus. I used to write everything with headphones and then do the final mix after the song was written, but I’ve found that mixing as I go is so much easier!

Ash:  I usually start with the drums. I think of them as the “skeleton” of the song. Once I get the drums finished, I’ll start on a bass line and build on that. Sometimes the drums will change here or there, or I’ll add additional beats or swells, but usually once the drums are done, the rest of the song falls into place.

Randy:  What do you find most challenging about being a recording artist?

Em:  The toughest thing for me is the challenge of trying to get a message across in a song. I’m not a singer, so it really takes a lot of time and patience to piece together vocal samples to get them to express what you’re trying to say. The other challenge would be mastering. I’m just now starting to learn the mastering process, and it is intimidating!

Ash:  The biggest challenge for me is time. Like so many musicians, I work full time, and quite often I have to put in overtime hours, which leaves me only a few hours a day during the week to focus on music. It’s also been tougher since I’ve been composing music and doing sound design for a living. By the time I get home, I have major ear fatigue, and sometimes even the thought of working on music after work is exhausting.

Em Baker
“Mad Madam Em”

How would you describe yourself as a person? (i.e. funloving, carefree, wild n crazy, introspective, mysterious and brooding, etc) Em, you first:

Em:  I’m very tuned into the people around me, so I tend to feel whatever they are feeling! I’ve been called an “empath” so I guess I’m Counselor Troi from Star Trek. Kidding!! J In all honesty though, the thoughts and feelings of others are truly always at the forefront of my mind, so I guess you could say I think emotionally, and tend to be very sensitive to the emotions of others around me.

Randy:  I can sense that.

Ash:  Em always calls me “Spock” because I tend to think logically rather than emotionally. I’m definitely introspective. I guess the truth is out now that we’re both a couple of Trekkies!

Randy:  If you could tour with any artist you wanted who would it be and why?

Ash:  Definitely Aphex Twin. Richard David James is a true artist when it comes to electronic music, and his style has been so incredibly influential to the way that we think of and view digital compositions.

Em:  Gary Numan, hands down! I’ve been listening to his music for twenty years now, and his sound and style are just incredible. He also has had the courage to tackle some really heavy subjects in his music, something that a lot of musicians shy away from. I just have so much respect for him!

Randy:  I agree!  With the release of your new EP, do you have any thoughts or plans for what you might do next? Or has any new projects been thought about or discussed?

Em:  We actually have two songs already in the works for our third EP, which we’ll be releasing in December 2015. Going forward, we’re planning to release a new EP every six months, until we’re able to focus on our music full time. After that, the sky’s the limit! I’m also working on composing a score for an independent film, and I’m about to start working on a remix track with another electronic artist for a compilation album that will be released by FLOE Records.

Randy: Achievements come in all sizes, big and small.  What would you say is the most crowning achievement(s) for Plike up to this point?

Ash:  Having our music accepted by Pandora Radio was such an honor, I’d definitely have to say that would be our crowning achievement so far. It’s just incredible to have our music played alongside so many other fantastic artists that we have so much respect for.

Em:  I’m incredibly proud that three of our tracks will be featured in the upcoming independent feature film, Windsor Drive. I got to see a private screening of the film a few months ago, and Natalie Bible’, the director of the film, is truly an artistic genius. I really think this film is going to knock people’s socks off!  Here’s a sneak peek:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vacs4-KrBM

Randy:  That’s great!  Best wishes with everything for Plike!  Thanks for taking so much time to chat and let everyone get to know you and your music more.

Em and Ash:  It was so awesome to have the chance to talk with you today, we really enjoyed chatting with you! Thanks so much again for doing this, you’ll never know how much we appreciate your kindness and generosity!!

You can connect with and find music by Plike at the following links:

Homepage:  http://www.plikemusic.com/

Email to:  info@plikemusic.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/PlikeProject

SoundCloud:  https://soundcloud.com/plike-1

Buy on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/katherine/id942729543?i=942729549

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvgHSfR_-8-J4NgzxKbpu6Q

The Story of Door Henge

The Story of Door Henge

by Randy Wayne Belt / also published in American Pride Magazine May 5, 2015

backpossible4It’s a peculiar story of how trash becomes treasure. A story of how album art was made from the changing landscape of an American city.

How often have you driven by somewhere where you lived and were, or at least, were very familiar with, only to find it completely changed beyond recognition years later?  You say to yourself, “It looks so different!” Or perhaps, “I wish I would have known that would be torn down so I could have gotten pictures!”

It isn’t anything spectacular or mind blowing like the Eiffel Tower or the St. Louis Arch you’re thinking of, just a piece of your childhood memories perhaps. Or maybe simply a scene you drove by and it is all changed.  You marvel at how one place can look so different years later.  Oh, to have gotten that last picture!

For many locals in a section of St. Charles, MO right near Lindenwood University, and close to the old Lewis and Clark trail of which we all learned in history, there was a permanent change of scenery that may have them wishing for a piece of that history.  When land owned by the University was sold to allow the building of a supermarket, the result was the destruction of the old homes that rested in their aged place there on that historic land.  The homes people lived in are gone and in their place – a grocery store. But in between those two – came art! Door-hinge-Missori

(a never before seen picture from behind the doors where you can see the surrounding historic homes that were not demolished)

Though the images of history before the homes were destroyed are not available to me, a fascinating artistic scene lived a brief life, speaking its message of desolation, of loss, and of art itself or perhaps a symbol of a doorway to what is new, depending on your artistic perspective.  For what must have been a personal disaster for those who lived in the homes that were tore down, something strangely beautiful showing that from what was old to what is new, sometimes there’s that little in-between that doesn’t last very long but gives a glimpse of art, a gleam of glory, in its own fascinating way.

This interim scene between demolition and construction, was captured and is memorialized in the form of music album art.  I don’t know who took it upon themselves to create the artistic scene that they did with the broken pieces of homes, and memories of the lives of some, but there it was – in it’s own artistic showcase – Doorhenge!Door-hinge-Missori-photo

(this is the original picture that became the artwork for the cover of the album ‘Damaged Goods’ by Barley Station)

And the story goes something like this:

As the homes were being demolished, someone took the pieces and used them to make an artistic statement.  Or maybe they were just being silly or trying to be funny, who knows? But the final result ended up being art no matter how you look at it.  And that art became forever memorialized as the artwork for the entire album package of an album known as Damaged Goods  by Barley Station, a band on its own Independent Label – Barleyfields Records, with one member who lived a mere two blocks from the scene of what is known amongst us insiders now as “Doorhenge”.

For a band whose sound is often defined as earthy, organic, and rustic beneath it but with a view towards tomorrow, this became the perfect album art.  The symbolism of doors that lead to the future and open to the past were perfect.  If you hear the music, you’ll understand why this artistic concept worked so well for the album.  The scene brings to life the albums concept of the lyrics, “We are all damaged goods, uh huh”.

As the album begins, you hear the sounds of broken glass, junk, and other imperfections. And then the album takes many twists and turns.

—————————————–

We wanted an album cover that reflected the theme of the album, naturally, being this is a semi-concept album.  So we spent a couple of weeks working out a really nice album cover collage of various pieces of damaged goods – old things, rusty stuff, pieces of junk and so on. Brian Kious, one of the two vocalists/and guitarist of the double fronted band, put together most of it, sent it to Randy Wayne Belt (the other of the two vocalists/ and its bassist) for final edit, who shared it with then drummer Nil De Silva for his approval. We all liked it a lot. Door-hinge-Missori-photo-3

A lot of work went into it! But then… on one partly cloudy day, Brian was driving past his old neighborhood in St. Charles, MO where he grew up only to discover it was being torn down and utterly leveled to the ground to make room for a huge strip mall, or some type of shopping center, or grocery chain store.

What was once his old neighborhood was reduced to piles of rubble and all the homes were torn down. There were piles of debris, tractors, bulldozers, and torn up trees. He came upon one area where someone had arranged the doors, presumably from the houses that once stood there, into a Stonehenge like display.

Always one to have an eye for art and things that seem to scream ART by their very existence, he snapped a picture of it with his ipod and sent it to Randy suggesting it might be a good idea for the back cover of the album that we had just finished recording.

Randy agreed it was good. Really good! In fact, so good it should be the cover. Now after spending so long working on what was going to be the cover, it takes a good bit of humility to accept the fact that you’ve just taken a snapshot of something that you didn’t even work that hard to get and it just surpassed all the hard work you put into what you thought was going to be the album cover for a really great album.

(I’m sure all of you artists out there know what I mean) Just that stroke of pure chance at the right moment and you have exactly what you were looking for. After a flurry of texting back and forth, we all knew, that this was going to be the album cover. It just demanded to be. We don’t know who set up the doors, but whoever it was just gave us a fantastic album cover!

Now the picture Brian took wasn’t going to work because the resolution and quality was not high enough to convert into artwork without ruining the shot. And, someone was tearing down the doors!! We had very little time to act.   With a high resolution digital camera, we needed to go back… fast!

Here’s the REST of the story – in Randy’s words:

“The sun had to be right in the sky and we needed a day without rain to cause problems. On a day shortly thereafter, I decided it was THE DAY to get the shot. Being a photographer as a hobby (and used to have my own black and white darkroom) I decided the day was right and announced to my family, “we’re going on a little trip today to see “DOORHENGE”. I didn’t use my Chevy Chase voice and we certainly don’t resemble the Griswolds, but it was almost as exciting as traveling to the UK to see the real Stone Henge! This was better than going to the art museum, or the structure park it seemed.

Door-hinge-Missori-photo-4

(the original picture that serves as an inside booklet page with the CDs artwork)

“When we got there it was the most surreal scene. We were really in awe. And when a little kid is in awe of it, it’s really special. It was a strange awesomeness because it was accompanied by a certain sadness for the neighborhood that disappeared and for the people who lost their homes (to whom we dedicated the album).

But in the midst of it all, someone had created this work of art made of doors.  Someone took what was a tragedy for someone else no doubt, and turned it into something that will be the cover of something else that we hope will bring smiles and happiness.  I didn’t even recognized the place anymore. If not for the street signs I wouldn’t have known where I was.  It was strange. This was Brian’s old street!”

Randy continues, “I got picture after picture, angle after angle of this fascinating array of art. Then we drove by one last time and said goodbye to “Doorhenge”.  We knew we wouldn’t see it again.  I asked myself ‘Did they really have to tear it down’? ‘Couldn’t they keep it as a monument even in a small little area in honor of the old neighborhood?’

It sometimes puzzles me the coldness and heartlessness of the way business is done. I’m just only glad that this work of art, this memorial of what was a lot of people’s homes or dorm rooms, or place of residence, will be memorialized in time by our Album cover, the name is perfect:  ‘Damaged Goods’. damagedgoodscover1000pix

Several days later, Brian called me, and said ‘it’s gone!!!’ So, indeed, we captured the photo in the nick of time!”

That’s the story behind the album cover. The songs contained within and the pictures in the artwork all have a story to tell!  In an imperfect world, “we are all damaged goods, uh huh”.

bow2bs2 (1024x806)

(a crop from the artwork inside the CD booklet – the two singers/songwriters and front persons for the band, Brian (left) and Randy (right))

Story and Photos by Randy Wayne Belt  @randywaynebelt

Barley Station:

 
Digital at iTunes: