13 07 2013

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!

“It’s important to have goals and dreams,” Alec Stephens III tells me, the lead singer and frontman of the soulful and funky Bushwick music collective I AM THE THIRD, “and to me it kind of speaks to the music that we create, which is positive, but real. Stuff that people struggling could relate to, people hustling could relate to, people striving could relate to… Celebrating where you are and where you want to go – that’s what our music is to me.” Minutes ago I AM THE THIRD successfully headlined the show at Rockwood Music Hall, a two-space venue located on one of the many dimly lit streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s not an easy task for a local music collective – that isn’t even local to the area they are playing – to bring a big crowd for the show that begins less than an hour to midnight on a Sunday, but I AM THE THIRD did just that and the band couldn’t be happier with the big turn-out. It’s now long past midnight and we are standing outside the venue in the breeze too cold for April. Constantly interrupted by the local homeless we are chatting about the essence that makes I AM THE THIRD the band that it is today.


“A lot of people ask me what genre of music we play, and I could never quite pinpoint it. The sound that we create comes from many different musical inspirations,” bassist Kat Melen shares. “However different, those inspirations are blending together really well at this point,” adds keyboardist Brandon Bujnowski. “We’ve been together for two years now and all of our different styles and backgrounds that we come from are turning into one thing that is I AM THE THIRD. We have ‘the sound’ now that we all understand and respect.”

“Prince pioneered the Minneapolis sound,” Kat laughs, ”so I guess we’re pioneering the Bushwick sound.”

We all laugh along, but she is right. It’s difficult to accurately describe the band’s sound. Although deeply rooted in soul, funk, R&B, and indie rock, the music that I AM THE THIRD creates is nothing like any of the mentioned genres. It’s an original explosion of telepathic energy within a large group of people. The musicians are then able to radiate that same energy onto the crowd and pull everyone around them into their own positivity ritual. A tight rhythmic section, consisting of the drummer Steve Rays, percussionist LS Bell, and bassist Kat Melen, provides an ever-present tribal spirit. Brandon Bujnowski’s quick and playful touch on keys dances along to the beat, while Dan Victor’s guitar ties the whole wild rhythm together. As the soulful voice of Alec Stephens III soars over the music you can imagine the risky harmonies falling apart at any second, but they never do. The musicians feel exactly where they are all going with their music and they hit it just right.

“Groove Machine” live performance from Rockwood


“I come from an acting background,” Alec tells me, “but when I moved to Brooklyn I was inspired by the music scene there. Soon enough I wanted to be a part of it.”

“First time I met Alec,” Dan recalls, “he was the MC at a newly formed Potion Collective open mic. He would introduce the bands that went on to play.”

A lot of musicians of I AM THE THIRD met in one way or another through these Potion Collective open mic nights, but Alec was the catalyst that put the band together. “He really has a vision and we let him guide that vision,” Dan explains. “We all come from different backgrounds musically and we all contribute our own personal touch. We create music that truly is a blend. We’re inspired and we’re trying to attain a certain level of being, a connection with people.”


JEANNE MARIE BOES: Hard work breeds sweet fruits

29 11 2012

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!


“Someday I want to make my living just playing music,” Jeanne Marie Boes tells me. This young singer-songwriter from Astoria, Queens doesn’t doubt her upcoming success one bit. “Music is my life,” she says, “I go to sleep and wake up to it. For the last few years I’ve been taking every possible way to make it as a performer and I believe that hard work breeds sweet fruits.” There is not a sign of doubt in Jeanne’s voice and upon listening to her music performed live and on her records I must admit her confidence is well-deserved.

Jeanne on BalconyTV in 2012 – watch the video here

Jeanne grew up in a house where Frank Sinatra was played alongside Led Zeppelin, so her musical background is anything but one-sided. “My parents always listened to different kinds of music and I loved it. We had a piano in the house, so naturally I began tapping the keys and hearing the different sounds it made. I started playing the piano seriously at an early age and simply never stopped. Probably never will,” says Jeanne.

Jeanne’s latest video for “Answered Call”


MARY DESIREE: Music is my sanctuary

25 07 2012

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!


“Music is my sanctuary,” says Mary Desiree. “It’s my shelter from the wind when I feel angry or upset. To me music is like libraries and diners… When I’m feeling mad or upset about something – that’s where I go to find peace. Or I just sit down and write a song!”

Mary Desiree, the 21-year old singer and songwriter from Queens comes across as a quiet girl with a radiant smile, but this is a classic case of don’t-judge-the-book-by-it’s-cover. Her music speaks of heartbreaks and loss. “Music is very personal to me,” says Mary. “Every song I write is based on something real, something that I have experienced. This is my way of dealing with things.” She admits, however, that the first few songs she ever wrote were a lot happier. “I was a high school sophomore taking vocal training classes and writing a well-structured song was a homework assignment. And just like any normal sixteen-year-old I wrote about love and wore a heart on my sleeve. It was very cheesy. But that was years ago. Time passed. I got introduced to new things. New experiences happened. My view on the world had changed and, naturally, so did my songwriting.”

Now Mary Desiree is a waitress and a mother, but often enough she picks up her guitar and makes the magic happen. “Having so much to do every day makes me tired and more irritable. And when I get irritated – I write. It’s a great way to release emotions. Anger is my inspiration nowadays and songwriting is my way of coping with it. I realized that the songs that I wrote when I was upset and angry – they are the most beautiful ones. It’s strange… I am normally a pretty happy person.”


DeFaced by Michael Stahl: Refused Are (Not) Fucking Dead

23 04 2012

DeFaced‘s Michael Stahl graces SNT with a concert review… !

In January, I wrote here that The Shape of Punk to Come, by the Swedish hardcore band Refused is a must-own album due to its uncanny levels of creativity and staggering influence on the world of heavy music. I’d also mentioned on a few occasions that the anti-capitalism/anti-establishment/anti-anything-organized lyrics contained in said record are still incredibly relevant and “could give the Occupy movement a potential rallying cry.” Thanks to a twist of fate, or sheer laziness, Da Leopard finally posted the piece about a week ago [ed’s note: i resent that..], days before Refused were set to play the yearly Music Festival To End All Music Festivals, also known as Coachella, and two sold-out nights at Terminal 5 in New York City, none of which I was aware were in the works upon penning my article last winter.

Incredibly, I was able to, not only seemingly score tickets to last night’s Terminal 5 show, but I hijacked them off StubHub just this past Tuesday for seventeen bleepin’ dollars! Throw in the required overnight shipping and fees and I swore that my fake Refused ticket was in the mail. But, oh no, by Friday afternoon my very legit-looking pass was in my hand and I cradled it like I might imagine one would a baby sloth who had lost its way.

Sunday had come and, wondering when the jig would be up, I anxiously handed my ticket over to the girl who really looked like she wanted to be there, so she could infrared Star Trek laser blast the barcode and, potentially, allow me into the venue. Alas, God saw that the ticket was good.


DeFaced by Michael Stahl: Five Rock Albums You Should Own

16 04 2012


That Inspired Big-Name Acts You Probably Don’t Own, But Totally Should

A Blessay by Michael Stahl

Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts
Released: 1998 Genre: Punk/Hardcore/Emo/Screamo
Influenced: At The Drive-In/The Mars Volta, Isis, Thursday, Panic! At The Disco

From the moment this album begins with a sound byte declaration of “They told me the classics never go out of style, but they do, they do. Somehow baby, I never thought that we’d do too,” privileged listeners become immediately cognizant of an impending assault of creativity comparable to few other sources. Now over 13 years old and the extreme polar opposite of “dated,” this work of Swedish hardcore rockers sounds as fresh and edgy as ever, thankfully rendering that intro’s self-fulfilling prophecy unfounded. Pit Shape against any punk album since and many would have a fit trying to comprehend how it has gone so unnoticed in the mainstream and calculating an assumed release date would prove equally as trying. As the United States continues to toil in rocky, murky economic waters, the opening lyric “I’ve got a bone to pick with capitalism / And a few to break” could give the Occupy movement a potential rallying cry. From “Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull,” the newly-hooked travel through some radio station signals (interludes that were totally jacked by Panic! At The Disco on their work A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out) to land on “Liberation Frequency,” a track about the band’s desire to hear more envelope-pushing music dominate the airwaves, vocally highlighted by: “We don’t just want air time / We want all the time / All of the time.” After the eardrum clapping “The Deadly Rhythm” (with jazz ensemble intro), the more catchy “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine,” and the acid jazz break “Bruitish Pome #5,” the album’s cornerstone track “New Noise” begins to unfold with marching band drums building upon a repetitive guitar sequence. After a slowed-down house music sidestep, vocalist Dennis Lyxzen returns to yelp: “Can I scream?,” hoping that the louder he offers the option to listen to more challenging works of art, the more people will heed the call. Some of the most incredible audio engineering exists midway through this LP when, as “New Noise” comes to a prolonged, screeching close, a live speech about capitalism actually being “organized crime” is blended in as a skit/intro to “Refused Party Program,” creating the illusion that the previous song was being performed on stage all along. More calls for revolution are announced in “Protest Song ’68,” a plea for people to revert back to the proactive mindset of the 1960s. By the time one gets to the tour de force “Tannhauser / Derive,” exhaustion may have settled in, but the Celtic violin startup will redux the hype that has been similarly insisted upon by Dropkick Murphys in their more recent and popular classic “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” Front-to-back, The Shape of Punk to Come is a must-own and appears to only have grown in terms of relevance and importance.


FUCTIPHINO: live + interview!

10 04 2012

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!

FUCTIPHINO: 1) A mystical animal; 2) #%^&!@$?/*; 3) A punk rock trio from Brooklyn, NY.

Lee Pilgrim drives me to Brooklyn and I meet up with the rest of FUCTIPHINO around 1pm. Their practice space is located in the basement of an apartment building, on one of Bushwick’s residential streets. They’re hanging outside, sipping their morning coffee, and Babs is cursing out loud at the paper cup for being too hot. Tim Skrewd is chewing his sandwich and complaining about a headache from a party he went to a night before. It’s still just a casual Saturday morning for the three of them although the time is long past noon already. Once Tim’s sandwich is gone they go downstairs, plug in their gear, tune up, and pound through their set which takes approximately twenty minutes. The music is quick, loud, simple, with a few curse words here and there. But hey, it’s punk rock! And as opposed to many punk rock bands – you can actually hear what these guys are saying. “We don’t crank our instruments up to the max like most bands do,” Lee Pilgrim tells me during their cigarette break, “our lyrics are just as important as our music. It would be good for people to hear what we have to say.”

Who are these three guys, you ask? Fucked if I know!

No, seriously, I’m not being rude. FUCTIPHINO, pronounced “Fucked-If-I-Know” as you might have guessed, is a simple-minded and straight-forward punk rock trio from Brooklyn, New York. “Why do you spell your title this way?” I ask the lead vocalist and bassist Lee Pilgrim. “Well,” Lee tells me, “imagine, that you’re in a safari, right? You’re wearing the whole hunter gear, have a gun by your side and you’re driving around looking to kill the infamous, bloodthirsty Fuctiphino. Get it?” That pretty much sums it up, I think.


THE KILLS celebrate their first decade

3 03 2012

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!

The time is 7:30pm and it is cold outside, but the line to enter Terminal 5 is close to the 12th Avenue by now. Luckily I’m near the door, dreaming about the heat inside. The entrance is just a few feet away from me.

This is what myself and many others are doing hours before celebrating the 10-year birthday of one of the most prominent and iconic indie bands of the last decade. Consisting of only two members – British multi-instrumentalist Jamie Hince and American vocalist Alison Mosshart – The KILLS is a minimalistic but cardinal project. Neither one of the musicians was a newbie in an independent rock scene back in 2002 when they formed the duo, yet this particular band brought out the best in both of them. The KILLS is a loud fusion of blues and garage rock wrapped in lo-fi aesthetics and an insolent attitude deeply rooted in punk. Judging by the fact that this is the most sold-out show I have ever seen at Terminal 5 – their bluesy groove speaks to a wide audience.

The doors finally open and I make my way into the second floor balcony where I’ll stand for the rest of the night. This concert will be filmed from various angles and simultaneously broadcasted over the internet. From above I see a camera by the soundboard, a camera on the left side of the venue, a couple of handheld cameras laying on stage and it is obvious that there is a lot more I am not seeing. The broadcast is scheduled to start at 10:30pm.


TOOL: Carrying the Psychedelic Torch

6 02 2012

We’re really excited to welcome another brand new writer to SUGAR -N- THUNDER: Ignas Bautrenas! An avid concertgoer and music lover, Ignas is going to crank out some killer show reviews for SNT, and we can’t think of a better band to kick it all off with than the psychedelic experience that is none other than TOOL live!

To experience the magic of TOOL has been on my bucket list ever since the sophomore year of high school. I say “to experience” because this alternative quartet from Los Angeles, California has always been notorious for using impressive visuals during their concerts and emphasizing the importance of the live performance to the overall artistic theme of the band. In simple terms – their show and the mystique surrounding it is an experience that is never the same twice. I had never been a fan of metal, and that is a category that TOOL frequently gets dumped into. However upon listening to their third studio album Lateralus back in 2001 I was struck by how different this haunting music was from anything else I had ever heard before. I became a fan, but I never had the chance to see them for myself until tonight…

February 1st of 2012: TOOL is storming at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey for nearly two whole hours.

First of all I would like to apologize for the lack of authentic footage. Usually the “No Cameras!” notice on the ticket gets treated as a joke, but not this time. The doors to IZOD Center opened up extra early and security drilled each and every single person stepping inside. No cameras, not even the small pocket ones. No drinks from the outside. Nothing dangerous, not even a wallet chain. And absolutely no drugs. Everyone found with any of these has to either throw it out or walk back to their car and leave it there. This is no joke and leaves me disappointed. I was looking forward to snapping quite a few pictures of the lasers and the band submerged within them, but that can’t happen. I guess I’ll have to do it next time, when TOOL come to New York City and security will be less uptight about it.

Inside – overpriced merchandise and overpriced beer. This is another stab, but it is rather expected from a gigantic venue that normally hosts sporting events and thousands of thirsty fans. Remember the prices at New York’s own Madison Square Garden? Everyone agrees it’s a bit too much, but oh well, Budweiser is not why I came here anyways.

The openers Yob, a doom metal band from Eugene, Oregon composed of two bassists and a drummer starts around 7:45pm and plays a short 40-minute set. All I can say is that this collective would probably be a whole lot more impressive in a small venue. I want to hear the details of their heavy droning sound, but lack of good acoustics don’t allow me to. But they are an opening band after all, so the soundboard operator has to make their performance less rather than more. On this particular night Yob is simply not equipped enough for the massive space of IZOD Center, but I do hope to see them perform again in a smaller and more intimate venue.

The break is short. The lines at the beer vendors had now quadrupled in length and width and the floor of the men’s bathroom is stained with blood.

Nobody knows what happened there.

Half an hour passes by. The stage gets cleared from Yob’s equipment and the lights dim.

And there they are.

Danny Carey sits behind the drums, Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor pick up the guitar and the bass respectively, and the short instrumental intro explodes into the first track of the night – “Hooker With a Penis.”

Only then I spot the one who most of the people are here for. The charismatic singer Maynard James Keenan is not a traditional frontman. He’s hidden somewhere in the shadows between Adam Jones and Danny Carey’s drumset. He cannot be seen clearly, but he knows every single pair of eyes at IZOD Center is looking at him. He claims that every single live performance of his is a spiritual experience for him and he chooses to concentrate on delivery instead of bathing in the spotlight. He remains in the dark for most of the show making weird gestures and straining his vocal chords. He is heard much more than seen.


DeFaced by Michael Stahl: LEGO Creative

19 01 2012


A Blessay by Michael Stahl

A recent Newsweek article about falling levels of creative aptitude in American children over the course of the past two decades is incredibly alarming if one subscribes to the thought that there is a correlation between a person’s creative ability and their chances of constructing a thriving life of productivity. E. Paul Torrance did and he was dubbed “The Father of Creativity.” Torrance was able to whip up a series of tests that have become the “gold standard in creativity assessment,” which are still used today. Scores have been decreasing, after holding steady for thirty years, which likely comes with little surprise to even the most casual of pop culture observers, who have watched sitcoms dematerialize into reality television and Hollywood produce countless unoriginal movies either based on already-published works of literature or previous films. In the first week of 2012, Jersey Shore unleashed their fifth season on the universe with promises of more “crazy” antics and nine of the top ten grossing films in America are either film versions of another’s written work or a sequel, with the lone exception, The Darkest Hour, having “a flatlining screenplay and [an] absence of even a single compelling character.” (Perhaps the next winter solstice will bring a more favorable “spiritual transformation;” the doom and gloom is already here.) However, a subtler trend has also emerged that further exploits a lack of priority placed on creativity and it lies in the recent advertising campaigns for one of the nation’s most beloved toys: LEGO bricks.

Currently, LEGO heavily promotes their play sets, which come with pieces more intricate than ever before and instructions that are similar to those for IKEA furniture.


The advanced LEGO technology has made it difficult for children to create their own unique toys because the pieces included in the sets are specifically designed for kids to construct the model on the front of the box, with the directions also stifling independent thought on the part of the builder. Furthermore, the commercials barely have the presence of a child at all. Faceless fast-motion hands put together a toy that resembles something kids have recently seen in a movie or a cartoon that miraculously comes to life on its own. Capitalistic cross-promotion is at work here, creating a greater disconnect between the builder and the authenticity of what they have assembled.