Interview with Heather Wilde, Author of The Most Beautiful Insanity

By Lee Anderson

"Drexel Waters was having sex with her from behind. The Ecstasy pill kicked in as he came, and it was Heaven. The most intense orgasm of all time. And all this despite not being able to see her, not even a shape. (The closet light didn’t work.) But there was something extra sensual about this, sex without sight, only the feel of her hips, the slightness of her waist, her pleased whimpering.” 

That's the first paragraph of Heather Wilde’'s new novel, The Most Beautiful Insanity

As you're already gathering, the novel can be a shock to read. It holds very little back. It’s a fictional portrait of the beautiful people and the hedonistic, turbulent way some of them choose to live. When the amoral behavior of one of the characters--a male model--leads to the accidental death of younger female model, it causes a downward spiral for him and everyone around him. The descent includes lots of sex and insanity. Wilde’s writing is Chuck Palahniuk if he had a baby with Anais Nin. So, yeah, it might not be for everyone.

Still, reviews have been great, and Wilde’s novel does also tell a story of hope and love. Even in their darkest moments, people can still feel for one another. They can still heal. Or die trying anyway. 

What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
HEATHER WILDE: When I was six years old, I wrote a letter to my mother that I was running away from home forever and she would never ever find me. Because I was at Dana’s (Laughs.)

What’s the last book that made you cry?
They Both Die at the End. That’s really the title. Even the title is telling you what’s going to happen, and it still made me cry! Like ugly cry until my chest hurt. It was disgusting. (Laughs.)

What is your favorite part of The Most Beautiful Insanity?
(Long pause.) That’s a hard question. There’s some emotional stuff with Ophelia that I always connect with. I think every woman will. She’s complex, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever honestly written a character who was more well-meaning yet evil. That doesn’t make sense, does it? But that’s the best way to explain her. I never knew what she was going to do. It was crazy.

But you’re favorite part?
I didn’t say, did I? (Laughs.) I dodged that question bad. I don’t know. I love all of it. The sex scenes were fun to write. I’d never written anything so naughty and graphic. It was liberating. I recommend to everyone that they write dirty, filthy sex scenes! (Laughs.) It will punch-up your sex life, I promise.  

Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
My God, so many of them. I love buying books almost as much as I love reading them. Just the smell of a new book, y’know? It makes me drunk. But next on my list is Geek Love. I’ve heard it’s disturbing, which I’m down with. Always. I live to be disturbed.

That’s a line from one of your characters, I think. 
Is it? Well, I’m allowed to plagiarize myself.

Where do you write?
In bed usually. Sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop, you know, get my spirits “charged by a livelier atmosphere.” But nothing beats my bed. Just sitting up with my laptop in my lap, letting the ideas flow. In my pajamas.

Which book made you want to become a writer? 
Sweet Valley High.There, I said it. Shoot me. So, yes, I started out mimicking novels about pretty twin girls and their pretty boy problems. And then I learned how to actually write and found a deeper consciousness blah blah. Every writer has to start somewhere though!  

What was the hardest part to write in The Most Beautiful Insanity?
The violence. Definitely not a type of writing which comes to me naturally. I’m more about the love. Still, you almost can’t have one without the other sometimes, especially if the love is that intense. Know what I mean?

Think so. Sounds like a different interview. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I’d love to be taller. (Laughs.) I don’t know. I would change how I can’t spread my arms and fly around all over the place. I would change how mortal I am and never die. How’s that?

If The Most Beautiful Insanity had a movie poster tagline, it would be:
I have it memorized: “Perfect beauty, casual morality, and tragic death mix in this surreal jaunt through the underbelly of fashion…”

Wow. Seems a little long though.
That’s what she said! Hello!


Click on the image below to buy a copy of 
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL INSANITY now:



INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Elise Hayes, “Giving Up”

By Lee Anderson

“You never wanted me to get that tattoo,” sings Nashville recording artist Elise Hayes. “I’m going to get that tattoo.”

This the start to her new single “Giving Up,” (co-written with Johnny Mo)which is about not giving up, an ode to post-relationship defiance. There is freedom in being your own person again, even if you were the one dumped.

The music itself is a tapestry of sorts: sonic styles patchworked together into a compact yet pleasing mix. Pounding drums and sitar give way to softer guitar, then back to drums, which sometimes beat rapidly as a door knock. A wake up call. The song often stops and starts as if her thoughts are coming to her in jagged fits as she’s singing them.

“You never wanted me to have that haircut / Well, now I do…”  

It’s a hard style to pull off but Hayes does it effortlessly. She is a strong singer/songwriter, doubtlessly helped in her confidence from being featured in TV shows, such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” MTV’s “Siesta Key,” and others  She has also written songs for major recording artists while working as backup singer for the likes of Carly Pearce and Blake Shelton.

“You don’t get to hold me like you used to,” she sings, her voice a pop-style alto. “You don’t get to call me up / You don’t get to feel the way I loved you / You don’t get a safe place you could run to / You don’t get to write my side of the story…”

The subject of the song’s ire seems to have been a rather pathetic prospect in the first place, especially when she mentions him having his mother do his laundry and pay his water bill. Who needs a parent pay their damn water bill? That’s really about as sad as it gets. Who wouldn’t be better off?

Speaking about the tune, Hayes mentions “this song acts as a reminder to everyone who has ever been broken up with, that you’re worth so much more and sometimes someone leaving you is the greatest gift, even if it’s hard to see it at the time.”

To listen to the new single “Giving Up” by Elise Hayes, please click on the image below:


 Like this article? Please, comment and share!

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Volcanic Grip, “About Me”

By Lee Anderson

You can already assume from the title of Volcanic Grip’s new single “About Me” that it’s probably autobiographical. You can also assume that his real name is something else, though I’d love to meet the mother who would name her baby “Volcanic Grip.” 

It’s a brilliant stage name though. It’s even puzzling as to how no one has ever thought of it before. Still--a name doesn’t mean anything unless there’s something truly good behind it. As John Lennon once said, “It's just that it means ‘Beatles,’ isn't it, you know? That's just a name, like ‘Shoe.’"

Where could such a name come from? Volcanic Grip’s Twitter account’s bio promises us: “Stories and fantasies of the Atlanta native's drug infused and adrenaline driven lifestyle.” 

With this in mind, the beginning of “About Me” takes you completely by surprise. It’s an operatic chorus over a moody piano. 

“I’m not good at pretending, no. Not anymore.” He sings high but without clothes-pinning his notes. The music is beautiful, but you can tell this isn’t going to be a happy story.  

“Got green for my sleeping / Never popping the pink / Too in love with the coke.” 

Volcanic Grip drops his voice, rhymes in Spanish, then sings: “Chaos, the infamy / And séance surrounding me / I pray of a day of / Hmmmm / So I can get higher and higher again.” The song is about him and he’s about drugs.

During the chorus, the drum beat fuzzes out, as if the drumskins hold BB’s on them. Buckshot maybe. (Not sure if this was so thought out, but just making note. It definitely works.)

Turns out “Volcanic Grip” is a name which means something and there’s something truly good behind it. He tells Hype Magazine: “I’m telling stories mostly of where I’m from or what people, where I’m from, would think about – earthly things or political things or challenging things that have to do with different taboos or things that a lot of people aren’t talking about.” 

You can tell, fortunately, the addicted life is a life he’s leaving behind. He sings the lyrics of a survivor and there aren’t necessarily too many of those anymore. 

Actually, the drug crisis in V.G.’s Atlanta doesn’t even make news these days, which is profoundly tragic for any city. Atlanta is especially hit hard, being situated directly in the middle of Tennessee, Alabama, and the Carolinas. This makes the city the ideal trafficking lane. A routine traffic stop in Atlanta once nabbed two cartel workers attempting to smuggle in $2.2 million dollars of heroin. It’s estimated that 13 out of every 100,000 Georgia residents dies from overdose. 

So it’s a shame for such a great song as "About Me" to carry such a sad message. It’s the value of art though—to tell us the truth. To talk about what people aren’t talking about.

The SoundCloud artwork for the single is a photo of a woman’s naked butt. 

To hear Volcanic Grip's new single "About Me," please click on the image below:

  
Like this article? Please, comment and share!

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Ethos, “V: Parents”


By Lee Anderson

Ethos is the stage name for Alex Hlavna, a 19-year veteran of the Cleveland, Ohio music scene where he played guitar, bass, and drums on numerous recordings. He has now released his own song entitled “V: Parents” from his new album Ten Commandments. The V is the Roman numeral for 5, as in the 5thCommandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Each track on the album is titled this way, named after a commandment. Is this some type of “religious rap” or is Ethos being metaphoric? The actual definition of “ethos” is “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.” Judging from such a moniker and from statements he’s made in interviews, it seems his goal is more about making observations, rather than instructing us that “thou shalt not whatever.” It’s a more provocative approach.

The song is a funk-bassline over an electronic beat and soft synths. Meanwhile Ethos’ voice is anything but soft as he raps about honoring your parent, yet entwined in the coils of contemporary concerns, such as divorce, disillusionment, and modern media distractions. When he switches to singing during the chorus, Ethos’ voice is a surprisingly smooth baritone. The soft synths later change into rapid dance notes. Without question, it’s a cool song.

Though called “Parents,” the track is mainly about his father. Ethos raps that “one day you woke up and made it walk through the door and now in the arms of a woman you never met before, you never met before…” Then later: “Oh hey, what’s a Dad? I had two..” Apparently his father has made some mistakes.

There are upsides though: “The purpose of divorce is so that we can converse like we never could…” Ethos’ voice and lyrics carry a hint of hurt, but he still empathizes with the difficulties his father must have experienced. “I would like to dedicate this song to you, Dad. I still love you…” 

No parent is perfect, but there is a natural resentment towards moments where they might have fallen short. “We don’t want our kids to make the same mistakes, but we keep on keeping on making them. / Monkey see, monkey do. / Yeah, I’m talking to you…” 

Ethos soon lays down some poignant advice for the other dads out there: “Keep your kids accountable / Let them think for themselves / Don’t let them be a dick…” Wise words. No one should want to raise a kid who’s a dick.

Fortunately, it seems Hlavna’s father has definitely managed that much.

To hear the new single "V: Parents" by Ethos, click on the image below:


Like this article? Please, comment and share!

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Jules Walcott, “Déjà Vu”

By Lee Anderson

Born in New York, singer-songwriter Jules Walcott has experimented with just about every musical genre imaginable, even opera, even classical music. She once fronted a Long Island-based hard rock outfit. Considering this, it’s no wonder that Walcott’s newest single, “Déjà Vu,” is hard to pin down. She calls it “dark alternative pop.” We’ll go with that.

The song begins with a pounding piano line backed by soft strings. A warbled electronic voice struggles to be heard. That’s when Walcott’s voice comes in: “I was happy by myself,” she sings. “Single in my life. / You looked at me and told me that / You were single just the same…”

It’s easy to see where this is going. 

“I can’t believe I fell in love / To be single again.” Walcott’s voice sounds wounded but never weepy. This is where the déjà vu comes in. The song is about the futility felt when trying to find your soulmate. Just when you think you’ve left the single life behind you for good—poof!—here it is again. Welcome back. Thought you were going somewhere?

The problem, of course, is that men are shit. The male subject of the song has deceived her. “Why didn’t you tell me that you had bad intentions? / While I was planning for us, you were making the next plan…”

In the end, however, it’s always for the best. “Your time’s up, time’s up / And now I’ve made my mind up.” She is obviously going to be better off as most women are when shedding losers who lie. It’s just never easy or fun getting blindsided.

“Déjà Vu” is a song for female empowerment, which somehow manages to avoid self-pity or soap box sermonizing. The track also remembers to be melodic and memorable while remaining somewhat stripped down, making each contributing part of the song all the stronger. Apart from Walcott’s robust voice is a punctuating bass and “take THAT” finger-snaps. 

It’s a song about a woman anguished and shaken, but undeniably capable of recovery. Love just sucks. Thank goodness. After all, it’s where some of the best music comes from…

To hear the single “Déjà Vu” by Jules Walcott, click the image below:



Like this article? Please, comment and share!

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: Sundogs, “Legends In Their Own Minds”


By Lee Anderson


Sundogs is the Seattle songwriting/musician/producer duo of Stan Snow (Guitars, Vocals) and Jed Moffitt (Keyboards, Vocals), both veterans of the industry. Legends In Their Own Minds is their sophomore effort and is being billed as an audio and video album. The videos were filmed simultaneously with the recording sessions using a combination of green screens and CGI. The music we hear during the video is the actual music being played. Or 90% of it is anyway. This is made believable since they are often wearing the same clothes from one video to the next.


It’s evident from even viewing the video for the song “Johnny”—a dive-bar rock jam numberthat this isn’t a band that takes itself too seriously. The title of the album should have been a clue as well. “If it sounds good to us and it’s something that we like listening to over and over,” says a statement on their website, “that is the driving force in how we write, arrange, produce and record. We are doing it for the pure joy of it.” 

It shows. Their videos involve the two men playing with various hired musicians and backup singers in front of images that either directly or indirectly reference the lyrics being sung. When Snow sings, “Johnny, you’re lookin’ for trouble / Dumber than a bag of hammers.” We get the image of an array of hammers. When he sings, “You drive down to the local church / All riled up, you’re gonna blow it up instead.” We get the video clip of a building exploding. It rarely gets more complicated than that, which is pretty endearing. There are even parts where Moffitt’s songbook on his piano, which is evidently green, shows up as a transparent rectangle. Their DIY aesthetic carries an irresistibly goofy charm. It kind of makes you wish you could’ve been there and helped out, too.

“Snowman” shows Moffitt taking over the singing on a Steely Dan-style track (Funny enough, Moffitt has a passing resemblance Donald Fagen), which equates chasing the Yeti with chasing your dreams, using the beast as a metaphor for the way in which your dream can often turn the tables and chase you instead. “I have heard there is a snowman in the mountains of Tibet. / A monster from my nightmare, a beast I’ve never met. / He keeps on running faster, the closer that I get…” The video shows the two men and other musicians playing before a collage of snowy backdrops with an animated version of the Snowman himself dropping in, looking appropriately angry and fierce.

“Fallen Hero” sounds like Tom Petty in a good mood. This makes sense considering the song was inspired by him. Their site mentions the time Tom Petty once advised young songwriters to “listen to the song ‘Big River’ by Johnny Cash about 60 times, and you’ll write something.” Petty himself is the “Fallen Hero.” I guess “fallen” because he died. Doubtlessly speaking from their own experience, the song itself is a warning to those young musicians: “Drive west to the City of Angels / Blue sky, stars all around / They’ll sign you up, and take all your money / You got the goods, you’re the new kid in town…”

The rest of the album includes a collection of fun grooves and impressive jams, varied in style and tempo enough to stand apart from one another. The highlights are the tracks “Hope,” “Already Gone”, and “Did It Really Happen.” Snow and Moffitt’s songwriting and musicianship are more than adequate. Though Moffitt has the stronger singing voice, Snow can definitely shred the fretboard when necessary. The songs are the type that don’t sound especially deep until you read the lyrics. There’s actually some heavy stuff. I can see why they include them on their website.

Speaking of that website again, you can stream the entire album by visiting there. Please, click on the image below to visit: 


Like this article? Please, comment and share!

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: American Authors, “Seasons”


By Lee Anderson

The Brooklyn alt-pop band American Authors first made their presence known with their first triple-platinum hit song “Best Day of My Life,” which made it to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track appeared in film, television, video games, and sporting events. It was literally everywhere. Their 2014 album debut, Oh, What A Life, went gold. Two years later, their sophomore effort, What We Live For, featured the song “Go Big or Go Home,” another Top 20 hit. They’ve played every music festival from Lollapalooza to Reading to Leeds. 

Now it’s time for the band to write the rest of their story (Get it?) 

American Authors consists of four members: Zac Barnett [vocals], James Adam Shelley [guitar, banjo], Dave Rublin [bass], and Matt Sanchez [drums.] To record their third and newest album, entitled “Seasons,” the band holed up in a Tennessee mountainside studio surrounded by wilderness. “It was so inspiring,” said Sanchez. “We put our emotions and visions through this distillation process as the weather changed right before our eyes.” Hence, their choice for an album title.

The album starts with “Stay Around,” a heavy, stomp-beat tune with rapid rhyme vocals, bordering on hip-hop. “Say Amen” is a slower, hand-clap-infused tune with a chorus sounding at home in any radically modernized church. 

“Calm Me Down” is more piano, more groove. Again, the singing and lyrics come dangerously close to rap: “That day in New York I spun out, I fell short, but I felt close to you / One night in Detroit I thought there was no point, but I felt close to you / Everyone telling me what to do, what to think, where to be… ” It’s a song about that person we all know who always seems to have the right words to say to make us chill when things go haywire.

“I Wanna Go Out” is a track that I can’t help feel was inspired by the cabin fever that must’ve set in from being so isolated in their isolated studio. “Let’s get wild and make a memory,” Barnett sings, his voice higher and higher. “I wanna go out / Out of my mind…”

 “Neighborhood” is a somber, coming-of-age acoustic number about leaving behind what’s familiar to find yourself. “Can’t Stop Me Now” is an upbeat anthem, predictably about defiance, despite “hanging on by a thread / hanging over my head…”

“Deep Water” is a meditative piano, hand-clap combo in contrast to the next track “Bring It On Home,” another travel song about the joy of returning as a new person from a long trip. “Before I Go” has us setting off again in search of answers. “I hope I find a piece of mind in all of my wo-wo-wo-woes / I hope the pain it brings a light to my broken so-wo-wo-wo-oul…”

Seasons closes out with the strong but short “A Real Place,” the album’s best track. Here Barnett’s voice sounds its most wounded and soulful. “Turns out I was lost / I was busy with a lover / God knows I never loved her at all / I need somewhere to fall…” Another song that I feel was inspired by the band’s surroundings while they recorded.  It’s also the song which best captures the overall theme of the album. (Perhaps should’ve been the album’s title?)  

Seasons is an impressive effort for such a young band, though I could’ve done with at least one “rock out with our cock out” number to shake things up. Show off that youth and vigor, instead of so much seriousness. For the most part, this is an album largely concerned with the healthiness for the soul that travel brings to it. There’s a motif of places inside the heart and outside the mind, places journeyed to and journeyed from. Of starting out somewhere, setting off, then returning home, scarred but wiser. Maybe that’s why American Authors sound so much older than they are.

Check out the music video for American Authors' song "Neighborhood (Featuring Bear Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE):


Like this article? Please, comment and share!