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Luminous Denver singer/songwriter John Statz talks love, passion and the open road

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Conviction isn’t the first word that usually comes to mind while enjoying new artists, but the music and indeed the voice of Colorado based musician John Statz has changed that for me, maybe forever. With a distinct and powerful tonality and carefully crafted ability, John writes songs the kind of heart-on-sleeve Americana-inspired numbers that have staying power, not just on a playlist, but in the bones. On his newest full-length, the aptly named The Fire Sermon, tales of love, passion and loss have swirled through my brain days after first hearing them. Which is the mark of something special; something you won’t hear all the time but should.

PULP: So how is it going? You just got back from tour, right?

John Statz: It’s going well, I’m at I’m at home in Denver right now, which is nice. I just got back from three weeks in Europe and then a couple dates on the East Coast. I’m here for a sec, then in June I’m starting up with some local release shows. Then in July I go out to the out toward the Pacific Northwest.

That’s a pretty busy schedule. Are they receptive to you in Europe?

Yeah. This was actually my sixth trip out there to play. I get a pretty good reaction I think. There’s a small niche of people that are really into Americana and singer songwriter stuff in the countries I’ve been in. By no means does it seem to be a super popular genre over there, but for that small niche of people, they are really they’re they’re kind of looking to discover new stuff open to new American songwriters. Playing there is putting you in front of some really loyal Americana fans.

How long has it been since your last full length?

Just a little over two years ago Tulsa came out, in March of 2015.

How have your newer songs changed?

You know, the subject matter has shifted a lot from my earlier albums. Like these are all love songs. Some are fictional, and some are personal. And whether they’re personal or not I think people can identify with that stuff really easily you know. Most people have experienced both sides or all sides of that emotion. The last album was mostly like “here’s a story about a fictional retired football player with head injury problems” or “here’s a story about the daughter of a failed presidential candidate who froze to death”. It was much more topical and so totally different material.

Do you feel like you changed as a musician at all?

Yeah, I mean I think the biggest change I’ve seen is my voice. I’ve been exploring that more and and just trying to sing out more and and I guess just use use more of my voice than I have in the past. I think that their songs on older albums like that I did were like maybe I don’t even really like the album anymore but I still like one or two songs on them.

So are there songs you don’t like of yours anymore?

No, I mean like my first album came out when I was like twenty one, or twenty. I mean, it was written when I was 19. I recorded it and sorted out and I was in college and it’s like fifteen tracks and it’s just like the first fifteen songs I wrote and recorded. No editing, you know. You could’ve taken out five of the songs easily. It’s hindsight. I I don’t know if I even thought I’d still be doing it eleven years later.

What does the title of the new record, The Fire Sermon, refer to?

So I took the title from a TS Eliot poem. One of those really long multi-part section poems. There’s a section called the Fire Sermon. T.S. Elliott is like some seriously academic poetry that I don’t wanna misrepresent; I’m still figuring it out and it you know it’s not the easiest to read, but I ended up reading the poem when I took the book with me backpacking up in the Wind River area last summer with my girlfriend and her brother. You need a thin book you know so I took this book of poems, and I was constantly like flipping back and forth between the poem in like the appendix at the back for an explanation of like what TS Eliot is actually talking about. Almost every line is notated. So, the fire sermon is the second part of this poem, which is exploring his own sexuality and relationships. And HE took that from a Buddhist sermon called the fire sermon as well, which was a cautionary lesson according to the notes at the end of the fire sermon was like a cautionary sermon on the fires of passion and love and hatred like not you know going overboard in any of those things.

So that’s like the lengthy academic version of these are ten love songs of all different stripes. Some of them are break up songs are angry some of them are really joyous; some of them are about fictional characters, some of them are real. I just thought that the fire sermon as TS Eliot kind of presented it via Buddha seem to set it all up well.

Cashmere, from the Fire Sermon, is a seriously great song. Could you tell me a little bit about the writing of it?

Yeah. That one was one of the ones that just came out really quickly after trip out to the Pacific Northwest. a year and a half ago or something like that a friend of mine went out and played some shows. It just kind of came out. I guess sometimes they happen like that and sometimes they’re more laborious. There’s something intuitive about and instinctual about a good melody, and it felt easy on Cashmere.

Did you start working on the songs that became the Fire Sermon right afterward?

I probably wrote a couple of the songs pretty quick after that; I always go in waves. When I’m preparing to release an album after it’s been recorded I’m not usually writing at all, and then  time goes on and I haven’t written anything in months. While I’ve been preparing The Fire Sermon I haven’t written much. I’ll probably start writing in like a month or two.

It is that by design or is that just the way your brain works?

I guess it is intentionally. I’m doing most of the business end of things myself right now for the most part. I had a publicist in Europe, but I didn’t in the U.S., so all of all of the organizational stuff just takes so much time that it seems important to spend time writing songs while I’m doing all of that. I do enjoy the difference; I liked having both the last albums’ recording time booked a few months ahead; I still had to write a few more songs for them, and I like the pressure of like “okay, the band is hired. The studio time is booked. You have to show up with more songs now.” (laughs)

Do you do you feel like it fuels the creative fire?

I feel like songwriting is best when you’re a well lubricated machine; the hardest part of it just like people say about running or anything else is getting started again after a lengthy absence. We’re all at our best when we just try to keep writing I think.

Do you think like labels like Americana or Roots music apply to you?

I mean I don’t think I’m too roots-y. And I think I’ve done albums in the past that have been much more Americana than this newest one’ though the newest one has has a good amount of Americana on it too. I feel like you know it’s it’s such a hard genre to pin down, but to me it it’s when I hear a certain guitar tone or guitar lick, that’s what Americanas to me I guess. Not so much a label.

These new songs are somewhat unlike your older albums. There’s a bigger cinematic feel to it; these songs you could almost see on TV shows and in movies. Is that something you might have been going for?

Well, I’d give mostly credit for that to Megan Burtt who produced it, and it was her band the Cure for Love that we used on the recording. She’s a Denver songwriter and she’s great. This is her first time producing an album, but she had she just seem to have a lot of visions and ideas for with these songs could go. And we went went big on some of them, and I’m jazzed about it. I’ve never had songs that sound like this.

It has a sort of crossover appeal.

Well, I really like pop music, but and that’s a really wide genre as well. And I think that these songs  are my version of pop music. They still have good lyrics, but the melodies are, you know, infectious as well and I don’t know…I guess I just was trying to do smartly written Pop Americana. I don’t know if that’s even a thing.

I think it is now.


The Fire Sermon from John Statz is out now on Why River records as digital download, CD or 12” vinyl. Pick it up and find out more about one of Denver’s best kept secrets at johnstatz.com

 

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Boulder indie-rocker Eric Dorr’s debut EP shines bright from the get-go

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The indie music camp has sure seen quite the split over the years, with the early college-rock station inspired purists of yesteryear often scoffing at the larger influences that pop and electronic music have had on the genre within recent years, going so far as to call the genres original intentions “dead.” Which, my friends, is dumb as hell. Sure, we all love our Superchunks and our Dinosaur’s Jr, but to call an entire genre dead is to negate the existence and unyieldingly diverse essence of a new batch of DIY artists.

 

 

To do so would also discount Boulder songwriter Eric Dorr, which is something I will not stand for. On his sublime Dream Routine EP, Eric has managed to exude a work that combines the recognizable mishmashes of so-called “original” indie tenets of singer-songwriter espousal and heart and weave them delicately with an undeniable feel-good brash-pop fabric and subtle electronic flourish, with songs like album midpoint track Leaves veering into electronic territory (albeit with heart and songwriting chops firmly intact) and album closer Next to Me echoing the undeniable good vibes of Jimmy Buffettalbeit updated for the youngins but still taking listeners to Margaritaville regardless. The resulting album is full of sweetly tangible indie rock that goes down smooth.

 

 


 

Eric Dorr’s Dream Routine is available for digital and physical purchase now via Bandcamp. For show dates and more, head to Dorr’s Facebook page.

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The Country-Punk fury of COS Tejon Street Corner Thieves is a sound to behold

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COS: Rip-Roarin’ Countrypunx | Tejon Street Corner Thieves

The hard tourin’, hard livin’ trashgrass heroes the Tejon Street Corner Thieves are back and better than ever with their new album Goers. While their 150 proof still of americana, bluegrass, and country-fried punk have been a fan favorite for a while now, they’ve somehow managed to outdo themselves on Goers, fuel-injecting this into a new batch of tunes that take said formula and rev it up even further with a newfound sweetness and storytelling ability.

 

DEN: Garage Rock Reverberation | Henry & the Kissengers

Bombsaway, the new six song sonic offering from Denver’s perfectly named Henry and the Kissengers, is hi-watt garage-rock hip shake and retro-fed psychedelic squelch personified, a perfect marriage of the Kinks grit and the Byrds sheen. Unsurprisingly, the entirety of the album sounds and more importantly feels like an unearthed relic straight from your grandparents attic via the free-love 1960’s. Don’t take the brown acid!

 

DEN: Double Indie-Pop trouble | Kissing Party / Bleak Plaza

At 3 songs each, this split album between Denver’s Kissing Party and Bleak Plaza masterfully showcases both groups in sharp, succinct bursts; tracks 1-3 showcase the largely uptempo and raucously jangle-pop of Kissing Party, with the last 3 delving into the swirling, hazy psych-pop of Bleak Plaza; offering listeners two great tastes that perfectly complement one another.

 

DEN: Ska-Jazz Mastery | Dendrites

Fun Fact! Not only is the term “Rude Boy” a dank Rhianna song, but a classic term for followers and fans of Jamaican ska and reggae music. And my newest fave batch of Rude Boys are Denver’s Dendrites, who make the kind of tightly coiled and energetic jump-up instrumental ska tunes that will no doubt have you dancing the dang night away. Pick it up. Pick. It. Up.

 


 

All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

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Like an 8-bit joyride, catch Denver’s glitch-pop Goremall

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If You Like: Com Truise • Nintendo • Chromatics • Sega Genesis

Nostalgia season is upon us, and I’m not immune to it. This time of year I often think of the best Christmas I’ve ever had. At the tender age of 8, in 1993, my parents, being of sound mind and parenting, gifted my then and somehow still younger brother and I the Sega Genesis Entertainment System. It was our Christmas Story Red Ryder moment. We did it! For years to come, that game and many others were how we spent probably too much of our free time.

The older I get and the further away from those days, the more something peculiar happens; I find myself humming the songs from those old games. The literal in game old synth-heavy diddies have wormed their way into my brain, to the point where I can tell you which level corresponds with which song. I’m not the only one; not by a long shot. There are now entire genres of nostalgia-based and era-heavy musicians and artists out there.

Synthwave is one of them. Initially an offshoot of the 1980’s New Wave, today’s version is largely an online dispersed and traded music style heavily mirrors the electronica-induced movie soundtracks and video games of the 80’s and 90’s and funnels them through our internet-obsessed culture to create a retro-futuristic sound that can really take you back into time.

 

The music of Denver’s Goremall is one of these time machines. Far from being just retro synth tones with overlaid beats, Arcadeland from Goremall takes it to 88, really capturing the fun and analog-tech musicality of 90’s video games and movies, and in the process transports you headfirst into a simpler and more care-free era.

 


 

Pick up Arcadeland from Goremall right now from Bandcamp

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