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Mike’s Arkansas

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Mike Clark, the ever energetic and prolific singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist currently behind some of the most diverse and exciting music happening in Southern Colorado, is as of this writing sitting on a friends’ porch somewhere in Petaluma, California.

His newest project, the River Arkansas (taking name from the river Mike resides by) are midway through their inaugural tour, a month long run of shows in various cities around the Southwest and Pacific Northwest.

Comprised of members of Spirits of the Red City, Clouds + Mountains and Princess Music (not to mention Mr. Clark himself, currently also of the Haunted Windchimes, Sugar Sounds and others), the band draws from a diverse well of influences. On any given track, the band can shift between soul, roots Americana, gypsy folk underpinnings and good old fashioned rock n’ roll with ease and grace. Without feeling at all forced or coerced. What they’ve created, at least in my eyes (or ears, I suppose), is a refreshing combination of musicality that is at once sonically adventurous and still down home; New to the ear, yet somehow known and warming to the heart. But what has always struck me most about Mike is an indelible work ethic, continually reinventing his musical style and doing so without sacrificing what makes his earlier and vastly varied material so unique.

I spoke with Mike via cellular telephone communication on March 17.

PULP// How is tour going so far?

Mike Clark// It’s been really amazing.We’ve had a lot of good luck It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve been really fortunate so far. Tempe Arizona was great, San Francisco too.

So, where do you hail from?

Calhan. Calhan Colorado. Northeast of Colorado Springs. Nice small town. Really easy livin’.

You’re keep busy in a bunch of different bands. Does that come out of where you grew up?

Definitely. I grew up with a single mom who worked several jobs. Worked all day and night, every day of the week. So when I was old enough to make my own money, I shoveled sidewalks and mowed lawns. It’s what I had to do. If definitely shaped my work ethic. You just gotta carry your own share, you know? Not just sit around and play video games all day.

The River Arkansas is your latest musical addition. How did it come about?

Well, I went into the studio as a solo idea, just to record some ideas I had. Just to get them out there. And While I was there, it just kind of sparked an idea to make more out of those few songs. So I started calling some of my musician friends to come in on their spare time and help out with the project, and it kind of just took shape.

How do you feel the record came out?

Great! All in all, it was the easiest record I’ve ever made. I didn’t go in with any specific ideas. This time we went in with a “let’s just go in on a Saturday, and if anything comes out good, then good.” And I feel like I made a better record that way. I usually go into the studio with something like $300 and am worrying about getting something done. This time I had a few more dollars, so I took it easy. We were even arranging some of it while in the studio.

Have you done any recording on your own?

I have tried, and they’re all failures. I’m not tech savvy at all. I can’t even turn my computer on sometimes (laughs). I took a couple stabs at it, but something always went wrong. It’s nice to have someone there to press record that isn’t in the band. You have to be really smart and a special kind of person to pull it off on your own.

Is there anywhere you haven’t been on tour that you’d like to go?

I have never been to the South on tour. Furthest has been Nashville. But I would like to go do Texas, and Louisiana. Maybe not Florida (laughs).

Wow. I would’ve assumed that with the genres you play it would’ve already happened?

Yeah, I always thought that too, but for whatever reason it just has not happened yet. Maybe later on this year sometime or maybe early next year. Hopefully.

Speaking of which, any big tour plans for the River Arkansas after this one is over?

Well, I get home in a few weeks. I’ll be there for five days, then the Haunted Windchimes take off on a big long tour. Then I’ll get home, be there for a week, then the ‘Chimes take off on another long tour. So, any plans I have will have to be for the fall. If anything a mountain run over a weekend or so will be all I’ll be able to do. Maybe a few big Springs and Denver shows here and there.

How does it feel to always be so busy and in so many bands at the same time?

(Laughs) It’s awesome! Really stressful and really easy all at the same time. This is all I’m doing for a living now is music. And you gotta do a lot these days to pay the bills. You can’t just sit around. Plus, I constantly am making music to stay mentally satisfied.

This River Arkansas record is described as an amalgamation of so many different influences. Is that something you consciously tried for, or is that just how the process works for you?

Well, I write a lot. I used to write country western songs, and blues songs. Then I was on a Sugar Sounds soul songs kick. But now, I’m trying to write uplifting folk now. Songs like “I know I’m screwed up, and you’re screwed up. But at least we can be screwed up together,” you know? The album is a collection of songs that work together. I don’t care if they all don’t sound the same. I’d much rather be in a band that ripping soul song, then a blues song and then something else rather than pump out the same 12 sounding songs on a record over and over again. I can’t do that. I can just write what comes to me.

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Soul mates: An interview with Colorado’s in/Planes

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I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to our mutual enthusiasm and passion for local music). As a result, I have had the opportunity to bear witness as not only their music but also relationship has burst and bloomed into multiple amazing endeavors. Whether it was their passionate and spirited take on Dustbowl-era Americana as members of folk revivalists the Haunted Windchimes or the wonderfully intimate lo-fi solo albums the both of them have released over the years, these two have a continually impressive musical output and a charm that I have always been excited to delve into. Hell, they even played in my basement once upon a time.

But none of them have struck me quite the same way as in/PLANES has. “Radio Wave,” their first full-length offering via Denver indie record label GROUPHUG, is something altogether different; something wondrously unique. It could be their voices. THOSE voices—honeyed and harmonious—especially whilst entwined in the duets that frequent the songs of in/PLANES. It could be the melodies they create—a riding-high blend of 50’s sha-la-la doo-wop, 60’s sunshine pop and indie-birthed soul—that feels distinctly pop without the trappings of sounding glossy or over-produced. Where tons of modern indie acts are ready to make a loud racket, in/PLANES instead opts to let the grooves play out sparsely and intimately, with inviting musicianship and vocal performances that envelop the space surrounding them. Whether live in concert or in the car, the music of in/PLANES holds on tightly and never lets go.

PULP: It’s weird trying to formally interview you guys; being friends makes it weird to ask you questions in a regular way.

Inaiah Lujan (guitar/vocals): That’s okay.

Desirae Garcia (bass guitar/vocals): We’ll be semi-formal.

IL: Business casual. (laughs)

I did do some research though, and I realized that in/PLANES has been around for longer than I remembered. But this new album is your first full length?

IL: Yeah. This is our first formal release that isn’t an EP. And also first physical release. There is some intention with that. You know that we are champions of analog stuff; Cassette tapes are my first love; I grew up making mixtapes. And CD’s have always felt pointless to me, but for so long we played the game because you used to HAVE to have CD’s on the merch table. But this band has been pretty vocal about our disdain for CD’s; “Radio Wave” is only going to be available on cassette. You’ll get a digital download with purchase of the tape.

Speaking of which, what does the name “Radio Wave” mean in regard to the band?

DG: It’s a line from the song “Why Didn’t You,” a song that is actually not on the record. (laughs). But it’s the very first in/PLANES song we ever wrote. We wrote that song, and it felt like it was part of a totally different project; it felt different than anything we were doing. So maybe it’s a nod to the beginning of the project. We like to think of the song as kind of a breadcrumb to where we are at now.

IL: The benefit of this band is getting to take our time with things; to be more intentional. So now we have been releasing stuff retroactively. The EP we released just last month is stuff we had recorded from our apartment; “Radio Wave” is stuff we put together with Adam Hawkins from Right Heel Music and our drummer Carl Sorensen, and we already have another album in the works.

For me, it also has dual meaning; in/PLANES seems to always create this kind of duality. “Radio Wave” also musically reminds me of when people were only listening to the radio. It kind of plays to idea of this vintage-pop genre we’re kind of going with.

DG: That’s also the music that this record is really inspired by.

IL: The EP feels like kind of a sampler or mixtape for what we’re all about, but this full length is more focused; a little more of that classic pop sound. It’s a fitting title for sure.

DG: Also it’s 1,000,000% love songs; which is bad and good. (laughs)

When you wrote “Why Didn’t You,” did it feel like a song intentionally for a new project?

IL: I think it just presented itself that way; I had been toying around with some chords, and I had been trying to write a song and I didn’t know where to start with melody or lyrics, so I had Desi help me out and it came together really quickly.

In doing so, we realized that we hadn’t collaborated in that way with just the two of us since the beginning of the Haunted Windchimes. At that point, the ‘Chimes had already become four contributing songwriters and had developed a strong formula; in that way it felt like not exactly a departure, but something new that we could try and explore on our own.

DG: It came out really naturally and organically. And it didn’t fit anywhere, either with the ‘Chimes songs or solo songs.

Do you feel like fans of the ‘Chimes and your solo efforts are following you down this path?

IL: I think so. We are all taking a break with the ‘Chimes for now, but we haven’t officially announced that to our fans, so sometimes we’ll get messages asking where we’ve been and why haven’t they heard any news about the band. So maybe some people are a little resistant to it. I don’t know.

DG: It sounds different enough so that some people aren’t going to be into it, which is okay. The other day, someone left a comment on the Windchimes Facebook page asking about us, and another person commented back saying “you should check out in/PLANES and (Haunted Windchimes member Mike Clark’s) the River Arkansas” and the first person commented back “We just like ‘Chimes’ style music,” which is okay! You don’t have to follow us everywhere.

IL: The great thing about being an artist and a musician is the ability to shift gears and follow rabbits down different holes. And with in/PLANES, we’re already trying to get out of our own box and comfort zone. But the common thread that ties it all is that we write all of the songs together, and we wear our influences on our sleeves.

So if you had to explain what you think in/PLANES sounds like, what would you say?

DG: That is my least favorite question, because it’s so hard to explain. The shortcut i usually go for is throwback, vintage pop with some rock tendencies. And if they’re listening after that, then I’ll just keep talking until they walk away, because it’s so difficult to answer.

But like to go with vintage-pop, because if someone says rock & roll, I don’t feel attached to that. We write pop music; all the formulas, the lack of formulas…

IL: It does feel like something you would turn on the radio and hear in the 50’ or 60’s to me, but our modern influences still sneak in; we’re both big fans of hip-hop and country music, and it all gets in one way or another.

DG: Digital drums are where we lose a lot of people. They’re like “WHAT? Is that a digital drum?” And I’m like, “Yup, it is.” (laughs) It’s those 808 beats.

The electronics are really subtle in your songs though.

IL: I think so too. I think we just want to be able to write a song without putting it in a box, you know? But at the same time, making sure to trim all of the fat; which may be contradictory.

We’re not trying to write complex songs. I don’t like to have any rules, but I do like to set limitations on myself; almost like limiting your color pallette if you’re a painter.

DG: Not to be pigeonholed, but also maintain some cohesion. Present yourself in a way people can understand. I don’t like to tell people what genre of music we are, but it is helpful for us; it makes us more focused.

IL: Knowing where the line or limitation is and knowing how far we can push it over causes a tension we like to work under. It’s good tension.

DG: You can’t put me in a box—only I can put me in a box!

“Radio Wave” from in/PLANES is out 5/3 on cassette via GROUPHUG records, with a slew of release shows and a digital release to come soon thereafter. For full dates and info, head to inPlanes.com

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CO Springs emcee Che Bong goes outer limits on new psychedelic full length

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Electro-Soul Hip Hop | Che Bong – From the dusty ‘Amen break’ heavy loop-gone-psychedelic of album opener Telescope to the lo-fi space rockin’ of album ender The Paradox of Time, CS emcee Che Bong (of Bullhead*ded) has really outdone himself and the genre itself on Telescope to the Heavens. With an album full of immersive and challenging-yet-chill hip hop musicality that owes just as much to free jazz and psychedelic rock as it does to hip hop and neo-soul, Che is on some next level stuff.  Get. On. It.


90’s inspired Alt-Punk | Hooper – “No Monument” from Denver Rock City punkers Hooper does a couple things very well; it provides stellar songwriting and momentum building, gives a healthy shot in the arm of indie-slathered 90s era punk rock, and in doing both provides a direct line to the sonic and perhaps more importantly workhorse aesthetic of the nascent indie punk heyday of the 90s. Trip out on that, holmes!


Blackened Sludge-Punks | Worry – The newest EP from Colorado Springs heavies Worry is not for the faint of heart, smashing heads on the punk rock with a bludgeoning mix of seething sludge metal and intrinsically intense hardcore know-how. Monolithic and absolutely monstrous, the seven raw cuts on A Celebration of Suffering are gloriously bleak, blackened and smolder with an actual extremity that most other “extreme” bands often lack.


Slow Burn Indie Rock | Wrinkle – Mind melding and photosynthesizing the big hook power-pop of early Weezer and the Rentals with the wide-eyed indie bend of Neva Dinova and Cursive, Denver’s indie rock supergroup of sorts Wrinkle are a slackers fever dream; a haze of unaffected yet disaffected indie-fed pop rock that first and foremost rules and that is more commercially viable than them nor I would care to admit on their newest offering A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies.


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

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Raw Rock & Roll and dark Blues collide with Denver’s the Velveteers

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At only six tracks long, this brand new self-titled EP via Denver’s the Velveteers (Recorded on warm analog tape at Silo Sound Studios in Denver) is a half-hour long magic spell; a concoction of twisted psychedelic undercurrent and blues-rock guitar histrionics draped in the smoky and arresting vocals of one Demi Demitro. Demi, along with co-founder and multi-instrumentalist John Demitro, conjure the kind of gnarled, foot-stomping rhythms and riffs that have dual citizenship between the acid-laced Led Zeppelin 70’s arena-rock heyday and the modern fuzz drenched, psychedelic revival of now.

Musically, this 2 piece makes quite the racket. Raw rock and roll power and deep, dark blues mystique collide head on. If you want a band that can riff, look no further! You may snap your neck clean off from all the head nodding you’ll involuntarily be doing. Like a confession to the dark lord himself, the Velveteers pen the kind of dirty rock and roll diddies that are a conduit for the heathen in all of us. With lyrical gems like “You know just what your doing to me / but heaven knows what’s up your sleeves” (off of the sublime album midpoint “Bloody Little Secrets”), Velveteers delve into the dark and macabre underbelly of the mind and bring back blues-laced musical treasures for the world to behold. We should be so lucky.


“The Velveteers” is streaming (and for sale hint hint) via Bandcamp now. Live dates and more info on Facebook.

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