Artist Profile: Julian Saporiti

Artist Profile: Julian Saporiti

Artist Profile: Julian Saporiti
By: Devanney Haruta

FEBRUARY 23rd, 2018

ARTIST STORIES

Singer/songwriter Julian Saporiti tells stories of Asian-American history through music in his project, No No Boy.

At Your Heaven, we’re all about listening up close, whether in living room concerts or one-on-one conversations. This week, I talked with singer/songwriter Julian Saporiti, who’s all about sharing music (and stories) that inspire close listening.
Julian and Erin perform for a wide variety of audiences, including university students.

Julian’s project (and PhD dissertation) No No Boy shares stories of Asian-American history through music. With harmony singer Erin Aoyama, Julian has been touring around the country, performing in churches, schools, and community centers. What is now a songbook, a full tour schedule, and a series of educational sessions originally started out as a collection of research projects and a personal exploration of his family’s history:

“About a year ago, sometime right after the election, I was at home in Nashville with my mom, and I just started listening to these interviews that I had transcribed of people that were in these [Japanese internment] camps and other interviews with Asian-American musicians. I remember being at the dining room table, and my guitar was right there, and I just started writing all these songs. Literally while I was transcribing these interviews. Telling these stories through these songs.”

“I remember being at the dining room table, and my guitar was right there, and I just started writing all these songs. Literally while I was transcribing these interviews.”

When Julian picks up a guitar, you can’t help but lean in and listen. Whether playing a song at the kitchen table or onstage, Julian’s a natural performer. Both he and Erin effuse a genuine charisma and sincerity that brings an optimism to the songs despite the bone-chilling intensity behind the stories. That Erin’s grandmother was incarcerated during WWII makes the music all the more personal. For Julian, “it’s really powerful for her to sing these songs with me.”

No No Boy also brings Julian into collaboration with other Asian-American musicians. He and indie-rock violinist Kishi Bashi are playing a sold-out show in Providence, RI later next week, and earlier in the year, cellist Takénobu joined them for a southern tour through Alabama and Tennessee. The project is a commemoration and celebration of Asian-American history that Julian invites everyone to join; his goal is to “spark conversations with people, regardless of their background.”

Kishi Bashi, Julian Saporiti, and Erin Aoyama at Heart Mountain, site of a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming.
[image credit]
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This year, Julian and Erin are hitting the road with No No Boy. Julian has presented his research at academic conferences and has spent countless hours studying ethnographic theory, but where the project really finds meaning, he says, is in concert:

“It’s a really unobtrusive way for people to connect to this history because you’re telling stories through songs about individuals. It’s not hitting people over the head with, ‘Did you know 120,000 people were incarcerated in these camps?’ You talk about actual names of people and what they were doing in these spaces, and how they lived.”

“The world makes a lot more sense when you’re hanging out and singing songs and having conversations.”

It’s definitely a great way to get a PhD, but the project reaches far beyond Julian’s graduate studies. At the end of the day, No No Boy is really about the connections between Julian, his guitar, and the audience: “The world makes a lot more sense when you’re hanging out and singing songs and having conversations.”

They Were Robots Live in Concert, Advice from Drummer Tim Eskey

They Were Robots Live in Concert, Advice from Drummer Tim Eskey

They Were Robots Live in Concert, Advice from Drummer Tim Eskey
By: Katie Murray

FEBRUARY 2nd, 2018

CATEGORY

Alluring Live Music Venue Features Up-And-Coming Alternative Rock Band, and we pick the brains of their drummer

The good vibes were all around as these cool cats took the stage at Alchemy and brought the room to life with their experimental, alt-rock bangers. High-spirited drummer Tim Eskey shared his colorful energy with me in a brief interview about his perspective as a performer.

Located at 71 Richmond St., Providence

Image via Alchemy

On Richmond Street in downtown Providence lives a hip live music venue and nightclub called Alchemy. This otherworldly little lounge is appropriately named, and it’s an ideal spot for night owls like myself to come out and support their local artists. Just walk inside and the hypnotic ambiance is immediately evident from the multi-colored mood lighting that flashes over a mysterious dark room. Like unveiling a juicy secret, your first time at Alchemy will make you say to yourself, this is my new favorite place. The staff is beyond friendly, too. The kind-eyed bartender was laid-back yet courteous (and also super apologetic), and offered me a free drink after admitting they were out of limes that night. The smell of freshly popped corn filled the air as the employees placed bowls of it on the bar, something for us hungry-for-music attendees to much on while we waited. I made my way over to the arcade games where a pinball machine flashed, and I couldn’t resist playing a few rounds before the show. One of the coolest things about this place is the fact that a sweet view of the stage can be had from anywhere inside. You can take a seat at the bar, get up and dance, or plop down on one of the oversized, cozy leather couches and still get an awesome view of the band.

Step inside for music and fun

Photo by Katie Murray

One of the two groups featured last Saturday calls themselves They Were Robots. The lively crew combines five uber-talented members: Chris Mitchell on keyboard, Mike Cirino on guitar, Matt Smith on bass, Keith Harriman on trombone, and Tim Eskey on drums. Everyone except Tim contributes to the vocals as well. Each bandmate adds his own personal energy on stage; not one of the guys seemed to overshadow the rest, and interlocking vocals give the music a unique texture. I was vibrating with anticipation as I sipped my drink, waiting for them to start the show. The moment they started playing I could feel my spirits lifting. The best way to describe their sound in a nutshell is experimental with a clear alt-rock influence. In the middle of the set, center stage trombonist Keith Harriman asked the audience if we were familiar with the band Cake. I threw my hand in the air as I began reminiscing on the summer nights I’d spent blasting The Distance through my car speakers. Cake does an epic job of smoothly working the trumpet into an alt-rock song, and They Were Robots manages to do the same with the trombone. I have to admit, my favorite part of the show was watching how much fun the band had on stage. There were nothing but passionate and magnetic vibes emanating from these guys as they set fire to the room. The red, green, and blue lights that danced over them reflected the colorful personalities of the bandmates, on radiant display during the set. Even when my feet started to hurt, I couldn’t choose taking a seat over swaying and bouncing to this vivacious bunch. Make sure you check out the band ASAP. Take it from me, their good mood tunes could turn any bad day around with just one note.

The musicians of They Were Robots

Image via They Were Robots

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I was buzzing after drummer Tim Eskey hit me with a wave of positivity during our brief interview. His genuine insight left me eager to hear more and impatiently waiting for my next opportunity to see him live again

How long have you been playing live?

Started playing out when I was around 11-12, with a dixieland band in San Diego. A couple of years later I was playing swing standards with a big band on a yacht club circuit. Then it was a succession of rock, jazz, and fusion bands at clubs, parties, bars, concerts, and festivals.

“It’s great playing with these guys and being part of where they’re going.”

How did you meet your bandmates?

Craigslist! I’d been playing in the Boston area, but recently moved to Rhode Island and wanted to be more musically centered here. The band (They Were Robots) had been together about a year and was between drummers, looking for a replacement. I answered the ad and we got together to see if it was there. We played and I was blown away. They’re talented, committed, and write compelling and challenging originals. Glad I got the gig. It’s great playing with these guys and being part of where they’re going.

Your Heaven Audio has a drum system in the works, what are the biggest audio challenges you face when playing live?

Getting an accurate sense of how the drums really sound in the mix that the audience is hearing.

“Listening to these guys teaches that drummers are sure enough important, but they need to be a piece of the whole, serving the band’s music, rather than flashing chops, just because.”

Who are some of your influencers and/or favorite artists and what do you admire most about them?

Early influencers/favorites were older jazz drummers like Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Tony Williams, Joe Morello, Jo Jones; and some younger cats like Peter Erskine.  In the rock genre, Ringo (of course), John Bonham, Carl Palmer, Danny Seraphine, Neal Peart, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Stewart Copeland, and Dave Grohl are favorites.  Fusion drummers like Vinnie Coliuta blow me away too. That’s a long list, but what they have in common that I most admire is not their incredible chops (that’s just a given on that level) but how they blend with, and make their bands.  Listening to these guys teaches that drummers are sure enough important, but they need to be a piece of the whole, serving the band’s music, rather than flashing chops, just because.

“The only thing I ever wanted to play was drums and, not just by myself, but with just about anybody who would play with me and who, like me, ultimately wanted to play out for other people.”

Any advice or words of wisdom for fellow performers in the industry?

When I was lugging drums to rehearsals and gigs before I could drive, my grandfather, who patiently drove me around, always used to say, “you should have played the damn flute!”  That always used to crack me up because the only thing I ever wanted to play was drums and, not just by myself, but with just about anybody who would play with me and who, like me, ultimately wanted to play out for other people.  I don’t know about advice or wisdom, but I do know that sometimes it’s a grind to get it right and deal with the fact that there’s a lot of competition for good venues these days.  So I’d just remind folks to keep in mind what you love about gigging and to support your fellow musicians by going out and seeing their shows and letting them know when they kill it.

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[image credit]

Playing with the Room

Playing with the Room

Playing with the Room
By: Devanney Haruta

JANUARY 5th, 2018

ARTIST STORIES

A conversation with Monte Nickles

For audio engineer Monte Nickles, “there’s never a solo instrument – there’s always the room and the instrument.” Monte has been working in audio recording for six years with musicians of all genres, from the St. Louis Symphony to the Montana-based Big Sky Trio. He does everything from arranging mics to setting preamps to mixing tracks. But his key to a great recording is not just in the gear: it’s the room acoustics.

Monte Nickles is an audio engineer at Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, MT.

Image via Monte Nickles

When recording classical music at Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, MT, Monte finds that acoustics are essential to capturing a beautiful sound. “In classical, you’re trying to record not only the artist and the instrument, but also the room. It’s the direct sound from everybody as well as their interaction with each other and with the room.” It takes patience to find a harmonious balance between the acoustics and the instrument’s sound. “If you get too close to the piano you can hear the hammers and the mechanical noises, and then if you get too far away you’re suddenly recording the room with someone playing piano in it, not somebody playing piano in a room. There’s a fine line to find that balance.”
“In classical, you’re trying to record not only the artist and the instrument, but also the room.”

In jazz, room response contributes to the style’s aesthetics. Unlike classical recordings, which are often generous with reverb, jazz acoustics tend toward sounds that are clean, crisp, and clear. Many engineers achieve this by recording instruments in isolation, but putting the musicians in totally separate rooms risks minimizing eye-contact between players. “To me it’s never as good if the musicians can’t see each other, because jazz is very interactive. I always try to set up so that they’re isolated but can see each other.”

When you throw an audience into the mix, you enter a whole other world of recording: live shows. The audience, by making noise and even changing the room acoustics with its physical presence, is a key element that distinguishes live concerts from studio recordings. “If you heard just a guitar cab from a live concert, it doesn’t sound very good. The amplification of the room gives some life back to the sound. You can also put a couple mics out in the audience to capture what’s going on in the room.”

Even the outdoors have acoustics
Photo by Redd Angelo, via Unsplash
Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.
When it comes to recording, whether live or in the studio, gear and gadgets aren’t the only essential variables that can bring your sound to the next level. “A good room can make a big difference. It makes the engineer’s job easier, it makes the musician’s job more fun, and it makes the recording way better. I think it’s the one most overlooked things in recording these days. Most up-and-coming people don’t do a lot of experimentation with learning a space.”
“A good room can make a big difference. I think it’s the one most overlooked things in recording these days.”

You have to experiment, Monte encourages. Try the drums in this corner, the guitar in this spot. Move the mics around. Record a sample, listen back. Then move around again, until you’ve found the spot where the room sounds the best. Remember, you’re not just playing in the room, you’re playing with it.

All instruments enter into a relationship with the room in which they are played

Photo by Wes Hicks, via Unsplash

Artist Spotlight: Jesús Florido

Artist Spotlight: Jesús Florido

Artist Spotlight: Jesús Florido

By: Katie Murray

DECEMBER 8th, 2017

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Talented violinist takes the CloseUp System on the road

With 30 years of experience under his belt, Jesús E. Florido is a highly experienced violinist and an exquisite talent. After trying the CloseUp String System he was thoroughly convinced that the revolutionary features of the technology make it a breakthrough system. Coming from a brilliant musician who has tried countless other amplification and recording systems, his fond opinion of the system was certainly not overlooked.

Jesús stands in front of a wall, holding his violin

Jesús Florido, violinist extraordinaire

Image via Jesús Florido

“I have tried them all.”

The CloseUp System was made by musicians, for musicians like Jesús

“In my 30 years of playing amplified violin, I’ve always been looking for the best sound, the best violin, the best bow and the best amplification. It’s like these guys designed exactly what I had in mind, and I am very happy to be working with them closely, because it is revolutionary. Amplifying an acoustic violin has always been a challenge. I’ve tried them all, and then this past year I found the CloseUp System by Your Heaven Audio.”

“We compared it in the studio with high end mics, it was as good.”

Jesús is a discerning listener who knows what he wants to hear.

Photo by Jeff Fasano

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

Why the CloseUp system works for Jesús…

“It is very easy to use. It holds easily; you can put it in and out, and it’s not intrusive. This one has the perfect sound. It can also model and equalize your sound on their proprietary software. You go online, you test it for your violin, and it sets the perfect EQ for your violin. It’s unbelievable. We compared it in the studio with high end mics, it was as good. I can have a high end violin and just put it in the f hole and it works wonderfully.”

Jesús will soon be touring the world with Sonoro Latino

Image via Jesús Florido

Jesús’ upcoming world tour with the CloseUp System…

“I mean it was unbelievable, we were very surprised and very pleased that I found this mic since i was looking for a system for my new upcoming world tour with Sonoro Latino. I needed to find the perfect sound for this because it is an acoustic show and I want to have great sound. This system accomplishes them all. Ease of use, no feedback, great sound, and the EQ system software is amazing. We can’t wait to get on the road and show you how good it sounds.”

Jesús wearing coat, hat, and scarf

Coming to a venue near you…

Photo by Jacob Mendez

“We can’t wait to get on the road and show you how good it sounds.”

The Theory of Composing

The Theory of Composing

The Theory of Composing

By: Devanney Haruta

December 1st, 2017

ARTIST STORIES

What’s music theory got to do with it?

Music theory can come in handy when analyzing a Beethoven quartet or a horror movie score. But what about during the actual process of composition? This week, I talked with a couple local musicians to learn how they use music theory when composing.

Image by Wayne Topkin, via Unsplash

Mark Benis, a video game and film score composer, studied music in college and is now in graduate school for composition at NYU. He uses theory to maintain a creative flexibility in his character themes: “Say you’re writing for TV and don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen later in the series. You write a theme for a character, say they’re a very headstrong, aggressive person. If your main motive is big Taiko drums and guttural men’s choir, but they have a very tender scene later in the series, you’ve kind of written yourself into a hole. If you write a motive that can imply all sorts of harmony, you have more possibilities.”

Lamplight City, a video game scored by Mark Benis, scheduled for release in 2018

Illustration by Francisco Gonzalez

“If you write a motive that can imply all sorts of harmony, you have more possibilities.”

Theory also helps him translate a director’s instructions into musical notes: “If we’re talking about a client-composer situation, it’s the composer’s job to interpret what your client says into musical language. When they say, ‘I want this to be darker,’ does that mean they want the same melody but just want you to orchestrate it for cellos and double basses? It’s interpreting their words into theory and seeing if you can accomplish the changes they want.”

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

I next talked to Cory Broad, who plays acoustic guitar with the band called ., or One Dot. Cory’s been playing and writing pop and rock songs for 15 years, and this September at Brown University, he decided to take a class in music theory.

When Cory composes with his band members, theory is never a big part of the composition process. It’s more about the vibe of the music, and less about harmonic complexity: “I’ll write songs [with chords] I-IV-V, playing everything on the guitar with parallel fifths and octaves, and I’m pretty chill with that. It’s not very theoretically complicated or particularly harmonically interesting. I’m more concerned about the words and the emotions and the performance.”

Cory Broad plays acoustic guitar with the band . (One Dot)

Photo by Thea Monje

“Having the theory is helpful sometimes, and then it’s pretty easy to just ignore when I don’t want to use it.”

Cory sees theory as a tool to use when he needs it, and ignore when he doesn’t: “Whenever I pick up more theory I get concerned that I’m going to lose some kind of naiveté or something that I wanted to maintain in writing or doing music. But I don’t think that fear has been true. Having the theory is helpful sometimes, and then it’s pretty easy to just ignore when I don’t want to use it. If I need to think through something, then I’ll try to turn on some of the random theory stuff I have floating around.”

Whether you’re writing scores for films or playing and recording for yourself, music theory can be a great tool for tackling technical problems. But if you want to just zone out and groove, diving headfirst into a deep analysis might not be necessary. How do you use music theory, if at all, in your music?

Artist Spotlight: Albert Chang

Artist Spotlight: Albert Chang

Artist Spotlight: Albert Chang
By:  Devanney Haruta

NOVEMBER 3rd, 2017

ARTIST STORIES

Musician, Filmmaker, Magician

Albert Chang – musician, filmmaker, magician – is this week’s artist spotlight. During his tour with acclaimed singer-songwriter Dia Frampton who starred on The Voice, Albert performed with his CloseUp System at Brighton Hall in Boston and talked with us in the green room.

So, you’re a musician and a filmmaker and a magician. Can you tell us a little bit about that, how you integrate these three aspects of your creative character?

I began as a musician. My parents got me started off with piano, and eventually when I got to high school I decided to focus on the violin. And in middle school, I picked up magic, and there’s a lot of similarities with magic and music. Magic involves a lot of finger dexterity, but it also is a performance art. You’re trying to convince your audience, or make them feel something using something that isn’t necessarily tangible.

Then in college, that’s when I started to get into filmmaking. I borrowed a mixer from an a capella group that I was a part of, and I was like, “Hey, I’ve seen all of these YouTube covers, I think we could do one, too.” And so in a day, we just recorded and filmed the video, put it out, and we got a huge positive reaction from our college community. And that was kind of the catalyst for it all.

Albert Chang (far right) plays violin with singer-songwriter Dia Frampton on their 2017 tour.

Image by Your Heaven Audio, LLC

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

I used to think that you needed really expensive cameras in order to shoot YouTube covers, but as I did more research, I realized that all you needed was a DSLR camera and a set of lenses, and you can get professional-looking videos. And so I created a YouTube channel and combined all my passions: magic, music, and videography. My handle on social media is “SleightlyMusical.” It’s a play on words – “sleight” is actually from “sleight of hand.” I try to combine slight of hand with violin playing, all the while shooting in really scenic type of areas and venues. And so I’m hoping to continue to do this in some greater capacity in the future.

“Magic… is a performance art. You’re trying to convince your audience, or make them feel something using something that isn’t necessarily tangible.”

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

To string players or classical musicians who are trying to “make it” in this current decade… I think social media that is relevant to your audience is more important now than it’s ever been. Classical music is very, very competitive, and there’s not a crazy amount of jobs. It’s important to diversify your skill set and not just try and get orchestra gigs. Think about doing recording sessions with an artist, doing sessions recording scores for video games or short films, and putting out your own content on the internet. You have YouTube, you have Facebook, you have Instagram, Soundcloud… you have all these different platforms that you can use to showcase your talents. If there isn’t that niche for you, you need to carve it out for yourself.

Interested in doing your own acoustic recordings? The Your Heaven team has some tips for setting up a home studio.

Image by Paulette Wooten

“It’s important to diversify your skill set. Think about…putting out your own content on the internet… If there isn’t that niche for you, you need to carve it out for yourself.”