KZSC Exclusive: Mild High Club’s Alex Brettin talks microphones, Chicago jazz, and NPR

Robin Estrin and Syd the Kid interview Mild High Club’s Alex Brettin at Don Quixote’s International Hall of Music. Read on to see how a review of the show dovetailed into an area woman’s existential crisis, and be sure to tune in to Syd’s show, “No Pasa Nada” on Monday at 10 a.m. to hear our first and only broadcast of the conversation.


It’s the day before my twenty-third birthday and I’m walking down Walnut Avenue, away from the commercial buzz and tourist-traffic of downtown Santa Cruz. I’ve got Timeline, Mild High Club’s debut album, shimmering through my headphones, and a gentle breeze rubs shoulders with the oak trees lining the street. It’s mid-summer, a beautiful afternoon by anyone’s standards. “I should feel lucky,” I tell myself. “I should want to go to the beach.” 

Not everyone loves birthdays. If you were to ask me about my mental state on that day, the day before the big two-three, I might have offered an image for the feeling haunted: “A past lover reincarnated as the smell of late-afternoon sunlight and pine needles.” 

Or I might set the scene for the feeling stagnant; surrounded by moving parts: “Standing on the concrete median intersecting Chestnut and Mission, waiting for the light to change. Acquaintances in a car drive by.”

Better yet, I’d spare myself the embarrassment of attempted communication, pass you my earbuds, and play Mild High Club’s “Windowpane;” let Alex Brettin do the talking. The entire track is woozy with the nostalgia that pairs with completing yet another revolution around the sun. A minute in, Brettin riffs on his UV-drenched 12-string and croons, “Life/ passes on the right/ Still life/ takes you for a ride.” 

The lyric, to quote again from the band’s oeuvre, “touches me.” It nods to the way I experience time—by fearing that if I don’t aim to constantly account for it, it will escape me altogether. “Windowpane” is a song about trading in fifteen living, breathing sunflowers for an image of them captured in a vase (see: van Gogh). It’s favoring preservation over experience, a sea of iPhone cameras pointed toward a stage. But it also offers some comfort. We are voyeurs of our own lives, yes, but isn’t this photograph gorgeous? 

Mild High Club’s sound is sweet as lemonade, but saccharinely so—something like a birthday or a summer in Santa Cruz, a town that’s built entire industries around nostalgia, a yearning for an idealized past. Seriously, think about it: the sepia photos of blond, sandy surfers at your favorite cafe, the historic beach boardwalk, heck, even KZSC’s own Art O’Sullivan, who’s been bringing you the Grateful Dead, regularly, for twenty years. You can’t walk down a single street in Santa Cruz without experiencing déjà vu for some feeling without a name. And this phenomenon is especially potent, for whatever reason, in the summertime. Maybe it’s the tides. Maybe you’ve lived here a few years and know what I’m talking about. 

Skiptracing, Mild High Club’s newest record, came out with L.A.’s Stones Throw Records last year. The instrumentation is overtly jazzy, a genre-bending leap from the previous release, but for Brettin, who studied jazz music at Columbia College Chicago, it’s a return to his roots. 

“I find myself continually, gradually getting back to jazz, because it’s really the highest form for me musically” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if five albums later, if I get to that point, it is just jazz.”  

But for now, it’s not just jazz. It’s a fusion, a future nostalgic for the past. Imagine throwing Homeshake’s Peter Sagar and Miles Davis into the dishwasher with your favorite minimalist’s Instagram. Add glitter. What you get is stunningly contemporary and eerily classic. Psych pop meets upscale blues bar. Can you hear it?

Supported by San Francisco’s Healing Potpourri, Mild High Club played to a doting crowd at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall on July 11. The band mesmerized, moving the audience from funky to Zen with professional confidence, skipping the banter and drawing the final notes of one song into the first notes of the next. Wrapping up, the second guitarist, the one who, with long hair and shoeless feet, looked more Felton than L.A., took a seat on the stage and struck the first note of the final song, a cover of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” I scanned the room. A dimly lit venue, Don Quixote’s, with its ‘60s era wood moulding and vinyl tabletops—its patrons clad in vintage denim and bartenders old enough to have known Santa Cruz before the earthquake, before the invasion of techies and fancy property developers—was sold this week for 2.2 million dollars.

There was a certain weight to the set, a gravitas. Time slowed and sped up again, and as much as the music beckoned me to presence, I had, tugging at me, the feeling of missing something. I checked my pockets. 

Mild High Club at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall on July 11, 2017. Alex Brettin on the right.

Center Stage: Lucas Nathan of Jerry Paper, Alex Brettin of Mild High Club, and Rikky Gage of The Memories play The Echo in Los Angeles, August 2016.

Jean-Luc Ponty Interview w/ Test of Time’s DJ Carol!

Carol of the Test of Time speaks with legendary violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.  A virtuoso violinist, Ponty was the first musician to treat the violin like a guitar, applying the use of distortion boxes, phase shifters and the wah-wah pedal to fuse this classical instrument with jazz and rock! Ponty talks about his vast recording career, his influential work with Frank Zappa, and the freedom allowed by his move to California. Listen to this informative interview here in it’s entirety, and catch DJ Carol every Friday this summer from 12-2pm, bringing you an eclectic mix of rockin, rollin, r&b and soul! Visit Ponty’s website for upcoming tour dates and additional information about the man himself.

Representation in Media and Music is Important

by Kimberly Balmorez (DJ AWKCUARD).
Growing up I really wish I had Filipino-identified folks to look up to. Other than my own family, I wasn’t surrounded by my culture at all and no one in my family was politically or culturally active. That still stays true to today; there’s so much about my culture that I don’t understand. For example, I can’t speak or understand any of my parent’s languages, but I want to be proud and know the history of Ilocanos and Kapampangans. With only so much having been recorded throughout history and stories my parents feel comfortable sharing, it is my own responsibility to keep myself aware and accountable. Luckily, I’ve found a small community of people throughout my college career who have kept me grounded. Through them I’ve found Filipino hip-hop artists and activists such as Prometheus Brown, Bambu, and Rocky Rivera.

Although my upbringings are somewhat different from theirs, it’s been empowering and motivating to see other Filipinos doing work to uplift their communities. If it weren’t for artists like these, I wouldn’t have realized how the implicit violences of societal and institutional oppression have affected me. If it weren’t for their presence in media and music I wouldn’t be as passionate as I am today to learn more about my own culture and be a comrade to others.

My personal advice is to find a platform to express yourself and remember to be respectful of that space. Representation matters.

The Frights at the Catalyst 05.20.2017 Interview

Written by: Serena Ozonur / Audio by: DJ Maladroit

On Saturday May 20, 2017, The Frights played at the Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz, touring with Hunny and King Shelter. As their tour came to an end, I had the opportunity to interview The Frights. The sold-out venue had excited fans lining up to the see the band before the doors opened at 8:00pm. In our interview, we talked about their song writing process, how it feels to be on the road, the difference in albums (in terms of sound), what the band is listening to, and upcoming projects fans should be on the look-out for. The Frights began by discussing the new album, “You Are Going to Hate This.” As Richard Dotson (bass/vocals), stated, “The album cover’s art is 80s’ inspired, particularly Black Flag Covers…really violent, but colorful images.” Their previous self-titled album carries a different sound from “You Are Going to Hate This”. This difference essentially came from the help of Zach Carper of FIDLAR who helped produce “You Are Going To Hate This.” Mikey Carnevale (guitar/lead vocals) commented “he [Zach Carper] was the Dragon Force behind this… he was very influential on this album”.

We then went into the song writing process in which Mikey stated, “What I’m doing now is that I record the melody on phone, take it back, play it on guitar, separate verse/chorus, then put everything together, and if I’m lucky I do a bridge. Then I write lyrics, right before recording the demo.”

The Frights are San Diego Natives, and believe that if they were from anywhere else they would just get blended in with everything else. The Frights were considered to have a “Doo-Wop” sound in their previous record. However, now they don’t consider themselves to have that sound anymore. Mikey believes, “early on in the band, I really liked the “Doo-Wop” sound, but now I don’t even think about it…I wouldn’t say we are a “Doo-Wop” band anymore, definitely not surf-punk. I guess we are just a rock n’ roll band.”

I asked The Frights how it feels to be on the road. They think Vegas being the first stop of the tour was a big mistake. Mikey jokingly stated, “It was super fun, but I feel so bad… the shame is real.”  Marc Finn (drums), added, “We just eat worse and drink more. I mean we are scarfing down some pizza right now.” I asked them who they look up to now, in which  Mikey responded, “I look up to most people, since they are taller than me…” I also asked Richard about his YouTube Channel “Here Lies Music” and I’m sorry to say to the fellow fans that it’s not looking like that channel will be up and running anytime soon. However, when I asked them if fans should be on the look-out for anything new Mikey told me to “tell them yes.” So keep an eye out fans! The Frights, still get very excited and anxious before a performance, which brings us to the actual show. 

This show probably had more people in the air than the ground. The crowd surfing was real. I positioned myself at the very front, right by the stage (big mistake on my part because I left the concert with a mild concussion). Like I said, those crowd surfers were wild, but it was an amazing concert with mosh after mosh. What else would one expect from a rock concert? The band performed hit songs, and a new song at the end of the concert so keep an eye out for that! Songs such as “You Are Going to Hate This”, “All I need”, “Afraid of the Dark”, and “Crust Bucket”. The crowd had amazing energy and so did the bands with incredible opening performances from King Shelter and Hunny. Don’t miss The Frights live, it’s definitely an experience of a lifetime.

Ab-Soul at the Catalyst 05.24.2017 Interview

 

Ab-Soul is an American rapper from Carson, California. Ab-Soul grew up in a record store his parents owned, and credits much of his musical knowledge to this experience. He points to Nas, Jay Z, and Eminem as being his biggest influences– pushing him into a rap career. He also credits his rapping skills to BlackPlanet freestyle chat, a site where people freestyle over text, sometimes known as “key-styling.” Ab Soul recorded his first song in 2002, and his most recent album, Do What Thou Wilt, was released in 2016. Do What Thou Wilt includes features from award winning artists such as School Boy Q, Rapsody, SZA, Mac Miller, and more.

 

On May 24th, on the last legs of his West Coast YMF (young mind f***) tour, Ab-Soul stopped by the Catalyst to spit some bars in the atrium and chat with KZSC DJs Kaviar and Jinx for a bit. Peep the interview below!

 

Kaviar & Jinx: Thanks for meeting with us! Great show.

Soul: Of course, of course.

Kaviar: So tell us a bit about Do What Thou Wilt. That’s a satanic reference, yeah?

Soul: Nah, It’s not Satanic. It’s a quote by Aleister Crowley. He’s saying that the righteous will remain righteous and the filthy will remain filthy. And love is the law, love is always the law.

Kaviar: So do you think people are redeemable then?

Soul: Of course, everybody’s redeemable. It’s just a word isn’t it? I make a lot of money off of words, I believe in them.

Jinx: Alright, alright. Can you tell us a bit about your beginnings doing internet rap battles? Did that shape who you are as a rapper today?

Soul: Sure. That was really the groundwork for what I do now. Like that was actual writing you know? It was my journalism at the time. It was a large part of– at that time, which had to be like 2002 or something– the biggest thing more than anything was vernacular. Everyone was trying to get the best rhymes, you know? That’s definitely where I perfected that.

Kaviar: Do you think that the written word is different from the spoken word?

Soul: Certainly– can you say “hate” out of “love” ?

Kaviar: mmmmm

Soul: yeah, that’s right I’d like to see you try that. YMF. (ab souls coined term meaning “young mind f***”).*laughing*  You have just been YMF’d.

Kaviar: Alright, I like that. I’m gonna keep that with me.

Soul: But yeah, going back on it, Aleister Crowley is not a satanist. He’s a Crowliest, he was trying to start his own thing. And Jesus is my idol, just sayin’

Kaviar: Alright we’ll have to do some more research. On another note, your couch talk with Princess Nokia.

Soul: nice. She’s great.

Kaviar: Oh yeah, that’s one of my favorite pieces of art I’ve ever seen, let alone artist on artist interview.

Soul: YESS! I had no idea she was so….soo…

Kaviar: She is awakened.

Soul: Oh yeah, she is awakened. My girl is big with like Allure magazine you know what I’m saying, it’s important that we do a lot more female publications. All the marches and stuff you know, it’s really important. It’s the time, you know, I was rooting for Hillary ‘cause it was the time for the divine female. It’s the time.

Kaviar: Hell yeah

Jinx: So I’m curious with your strong feelings about the importance of feminine energy in hip hop, what’s your take on the word b*****? Do you feel like it’s been reclaimed?

Soul: Right, “b****”– it’s just like the word “n****.” I mean if you was my girl, you’d be my b****. And you’d like it, you know.

Jinx: hmmm okay

Soul: But if I were to say, “b***** get the f*** out my face” then not so much.

Jinx: yeah definitely not.

Soul: exactly, you’d be like “who you callin’ b*****?” you know what I’m saying? It’s all about the way you say it with words like that. Like I said, you can’t say hate out of love. Again, it’s about more than just what it spells. But you know, I’m still doing the research, I’m still learning, trying to figure it all out.

Kaviar: we’re all learning and unlearning!

Jinx: Well we’ll let you go. Thanks for meeting with us! And again incredible show.

Soul: of course! It was great meeting you too, lots of love.

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from left to right: DJ Lyzard, Jinx, Ab-Soul, & DJ Kaviar

 

KZSC is going to Lighting in a Bottle

Remember how dry it was in California last year? Well, this year the festival grounds of Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) has a giant lake where last year there was none! This year LIB will be putting on Lakeside Attractions and Aquatic Art, encouraging you to bring your own floaties and paddle boats. Best of all you will have camping with a view! KZSC’s Crux is headed to the site on Memorial Day weekend to report back on the festival experience–follow the adventures on KZSC’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What’s new to LIB? New art will be displayed throughout the festival grounds including 12 new structures, new interactive experiences such as White Library and Must-Dash 5K, and new yoga sessions and locations to get your day started off in the right way. Whether you are coming to Lightning in a Bottle for the speakers, cooking classes, sunshine yoga, 4am dance parties or the amazing artists and DJs, you are guaranteed to have a jam-packed weekend. And if you are interested in learning how to pack light and reduce your carbon footprint for the weekend you can read this helpful article.

Stay tuned to 88.1 FM for more information and listen to Nightowl with Crux Thursday nights at 7 pm for your Lightning in a Bottle updates and lineup news.

Lightning in a Bottle 2017
Website | Tickets | Facebook | Instagram

Check out some of the music talent appearing this year at Lightning In a Bottle: