Here is the second part of our spotlight on artist performing at this years Boomtown Backyard Showcase taking place March 12 and 14th.
Mike Mains & The Branches
Formed in Texas, Flourishing in Michigan, this indie rock collective has spent the last few years making waves everywhere around and in between. Following the release of their debut album, Home, Mike Mains & the Branches used their unique sound, captivating live performances, and relentless touring to carve out a firm place for themselves in the hearts of indie rock music fans everywhere. Spring 2013 brought them a national tour with Relient K, Hellogoodbye, The Rocketboys and others, and an exceedingly successful PledgeMusic campaign (119% funded by fans) to record their sophomore record, Calm Down, Everything Is Fine. The time-frame surrounding the recording of the new album was by the far the most challenging and most rewarding experience of the bands' career--between getting their van and trailer stolen/ re-recording/ band members and team members coming and going, they truly couldn't have chosen a more fitting album title. And despite it all, they captured that tension and channeled it-- in the form of 11 brand new songs that they are excited to finally share with the world. New York Minute Mag said it best: "In a time of Bieberesque silliness and hipster pretention, Mike Mains & The Branches are a voice of reason." Calm Down, Everything Is Fine on 2.18.14.
Drawing from Harry Nilsson to Billie Holiday, The Kinks and The Beatles, but taking thoseinfluences to a trippier, weirder place, Denver-based five-piece VARLET just released its debut full-length American Hymns, the follow up to The Drifter EP (self-released, 2011). American Hymns juxtaposes Varlet's signature dark, indie rock psychedelia and lyrics against bright—even poppy—instrumentation.
Navigating through ragtime, jazz, and rock and roll, Varlet holed up for 10 days at Hideaway Studios (which has also housed My Morning Jacket, The Swayback) in the mountains of Colorado, along with friend and engineer James Barone (of Tennis) to record an album that comments on contemporary America. Reflecting on the album as a whole, lead vocalist Lilly Scott states, "Every song on the record works as its own self-contained story, but those stories all correlate back to the same idea—trying to liberate yourself physically and emotionally in a country where it feels impossible to do so." On American Hymns, Scott's classic vocals have matured into a strong, consistently nostalgic jazz falsetto, while Varlet's music is more complex, varied, and interesting. A handful of songs on the new album have Lilly sharing lead vocals with drummer Will Duncan, while the rest of the band appears as a catchy, call-and-response chorus in unexpected moments. The album ends with the surprisingly straightforward "Borealis," a haunting mosaic of stories that bind us all together, a collection of American hymns.
Varlet's music has appeared in performances at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Spring 2013 ad campaign for Born/Born Crown Shoes, and will appear in the forthcoming European airing of award-winning independent film The Silent Thief (starring Frances Fisher, Kurt Fuller, Toby Hemingway).
Ten months old and 90 shows in, garage-soul upstarts Ark Life have toured coast-to-coast, sharing stages with Ringo Starr, Gregory Alan Isakov, PHOX, The Moondoggies, The Head & the Heart, Mount Moriah, Ryan Bingham, Ivan & Alyosha, and more. A mile high rock&roll ocean, equal parts mischief and heartthrob, they pull as much inspiration from contemporaries like Heartless Bastards, Elvis Perkins, and Sallie Ford as from the band's enduring loves for CCR, Motown, Tom Petty, and the classic campfire singalong. Ark Life spent fall 2013 recording its debut album with Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats in the producer's seat, with an eye towards spring 2014 release.
A. Tom Collins
Before you ask – the answer is “yes”. a. Tom Collins is the great-great-grandson of Tom Collins, creator of the eponymous gin cocktail. Other notable relations, near and distant, include British monarch Anne Boleyn, second-man-on-the-moon Buzz Aldrin, fictional detective Hercule Poirot, and saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
But here we are, in the present moment, the only time that actually exists – according to Zen Buddhism (and The Stooges) – and a. Tom Collins walks among us; taking note of the wilderness of horrors and occasional blips of joy that are this waking Life – and turning them into boozy, moody, stomp-and-wrangle-worthy anthems of the Now Times.
With inexhaustible insight and a smoky voice, Collins slithers, smooths and seduces his notes into your skull and soul; lilting and tilting the moments between awareness and suffering; the hot potato game of tragic flaws; leaning on and propping up love, alternately.
When not hammering at a piano and caterwauling the damnable Truth with his amazing band, the Proletariat, a. Tom Collins enjoys raising rare and endangered cacti (and other select succulents) in his sprawling conservatory, non-competitive baton-fighting, and sitting alone in a darkened room smoking bidis and watching 16mm loops of WWI newsreels.