Feeling Seen and Validated: Moonwreckers Examines the Trajectory of Heartbreak and Grief on "Why Look Here?" Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW
 
The four members of Moonwreckers stand against a tan brick wall.
Paul Stiem, Jamus Sumner, Matt Konkle, and Matt Galbraith of Moonwreckers. Photo by Chuck Marshall.

After encountering heartbreak and grief, Moonwreckers understands the importance of feeling seen and validated.

The Metro Detroit-Ann Arbor quartet of Matt Galbraith (vocals, guitar), Matt Konkle (drums), Paul Stiem (guitar), and Jamus Sumner (bass, vocals) explores that emotional need and its evolution on the album, Why Look Here?.

“It certainly is autobiographical. At the time, I was married, and we were having issues, and we did eventually divorce. A lot of these songs were written around the time when I was in my early 30s, so shit hit the fan between us and we had been together since we were 18 years old,” said Galbraith about the band’s indie-rock-meets-emo debut release.

“I didn’t know what a world looked like without that, so I was very lost, and it was scary to me what life looked like outside of that relationship. There’s some coming-of-age stuff in there, too, but a lot of it has to do with that relationship, the struggles and the attempts of trying to reconcile things, and then failing and rinse and repeat."

Moonwreckers examines that trajectory across 12 personal tracks on Why Look Here?. The album’s honest lyrics, plaintive vocals, and evocative instrumentation prompt listeners to process their emotions and struggles alongside the band.

Touching Magic: U-M alum Priyanka Mattoo searches for belonging and understanding in her new memoir, "Bird Milk & Mosquito Bones"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

A yellow book cover for "Bird Milk & Mosquito Bones" and a portrait of author Priyanka Mattoo wearing a white blouse and black leather jacket.

Priyanka Mattoo mines her life in her new memoir, Bird Milk & Mosquito Bones. She reflects on not feeling like she belonged or knowing what she wanted to do. Her years at the University of Michigan offered a chance to explore, and she sought answers to the question of what to do even as she entered the workforce with two degrees from U-M. She writes about how she discovered her path forward as she later found a career and a family in Los Angeles. Along the way, she also contemplates music, cooking, family, and parenthood. 

The search for belonging and understanding identity follows Mattoo over the years and in her writing. In her memoir, she shares about her family’s inability to make a planned return to Kashmir owing to the insurgency in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and how that change of plans set her life on a different trajectory:

In the spectrum of the diaspora, I fall neither here nor there. I didn’t grow up in India, I present as American, and I don’t exactly relate to either. This can be disorienting enough without the petulant urge to scream, It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to move back to Kashmir. I’ve been lucky enough to have a complex and meaningful life. I wouldn’t change a single twist or turn that landed me the partner, the kids, the job I enjoy now. But even if we hadn’t stayed in Srinagar, even if I had eventually left to pursue other opportunities, I still carry an anger and sorrow about having the choice taken away.

Friday Five: The Stellars, Jacob Sigman, "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Kelly Moran, Grant Johnson

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

On the opening track of The Stellars' second album, singer Erez Levin sings, "I wish you didn't live so far away," which is the theme of this Friday Five. All the acts in this edition spent formative years in Ann Arbor before moving on, including polished indie-rockers The Stellars, soul-pop crooner Jacob Sigman, avant-gardist "Blue" Gene Tyranny, experimental pianist Kelly Moran, and sound sculptor Grant Johnson.

Total Eclipse of the Art: Studio Lounge's "Staring at the Sun" ups the band's absurdity, eclecticism, and musicianship

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Studio Lounge

Studio Lounge photo courtesy of the band.

The Ann Arbor-Plymouth indie-rock band Studio Lounge takes a significant step forward on its second full-length album, Staring at the Sun

The record showcases the offbeat sense of humor, eclectic influences, and first-rate musicianship heard on Studio Lounge’s 2022 debut, Amateur Hour. But the 18 original tracks on Staring at the Sun also hang together better as a fully realized album, with new depth to the band's songwriting and more polished recordings from the group's home studio.

“Join Us” is a perfect way to lead off the album; less than a minute long, it includes echoes of ’60s/’70s garage rock psychedelia as it invites listeners on this album’s journey. “Day With You” is sweet and wistful, while “Constipation Station (Exit Strategy)” is an all-too-relatable reaction to a lousy job. And while some songs display an underlying seriousness, the band sometimes goes all-in on pure silliness, such as the pirate tale “Arrgh!” or “Dimo’s,” a brief ode to the beloved Ann Arbor deli and donut shop

Studio Lounge consists of Ryan Hasani, lead guitar, synths, vocals, and production; Constantin Balan, rhythm guitar, accordion, lap steel, and vocals; Dani Balan, bass and vocals; and Max Wilkinson, drums and vocals. The band plans to busk all summer at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and Eastern Market in Detroit and posts all its upcoming concert dates on Instagram.

The band members recently answered a few questions about the new album via email:

Hip-Hop Hooray: New U-M exhibit looks back at 50 years of the music and culture

MUSIC PULP LIFE INTERVIEW

Exhibit co-curator Dani Williams stands next to the hip-hop divas wall.

Dani Williams stands next to the hip-hop divas section of U-M's Hip Hop @ 50 exhibit at Haven Hall's GalleryDAAS. Photo by Lori Stratton.

I remember the moment I fell in love with hip-hop.

It was 1985, and my older brother had rented VHS copies of the films Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo from our local video store.

Seeing the breakdancing prowess of Kelly, Ozone, and Turbo in the films instantly captured my attention and spurred nine-year-old me to experiment with some moves of my own.

While I couldn’t quite emulate the popping, up-rocking, down-rocking, or power moves of the films’ heroes, I embraced a love of dancing and developed my own quirky style over the years.

As I grew up, I danced to the music of Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Young MC, MC Hammer, and others.

By high school, I had started learning about three of the five elements of hip-hop—rapping, DJing, and breakdancing—and would encounter the other two—graffiti and historical knowledge—as an adult.

Today, these five elements provide the foundation for a hip-hop history exhibit curated by the University of Michigan’s Department of Afroamerican and African Studies and on display at Haven Hall’s GalleryDAAS through September 4.

Known as Hip Hop @ 50: Defs, Dates, Divas, Detroit & Dilla, the exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the culture and explores its evolution across music, society, fashion, language, entertainment, and politics.

Friday Five: Harper, The Missing Cats, Premium Rat, Charlie Porter Quintet, ness lake

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This edition features indie-gaze by Harper, jazz fusion by The Missing Cats, pop-punk by Premium Rat, trumpet jazz by the Charlie Porter Quintet, and electronica by ness lake.

Ukrainian Folk Group Kommuna Lux to Perform July 27 for Saline's Acoustic Routes Concert Series

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The seven members of Ukrainian folk music group Kommuna Lux.

Kommuna Lux features seven classically trained musicians from Odesa, Ukraine. Photo taken from Acoustic Routes’ Facebook event.

You’d be hard-pressed to think of a more fun, entertaining way to support Ukraine than to see Odesa-based, klezmer /“gangster folk” band Kommuna Lux play at Saline’s Stony Lake Brewing Co. as part of the monthly Acoustic Routes concerts series on July 27.

“Sometimes opportunities just fall into your lap,” said concert series founder Jim Cain, noting the band reached out to him about performing.

“In the 10-plus years I’ve been doing this series in Saline, word has gotten around about us across the country and internationally. We’ve had bands from Northern Ireland, Canada, England, Scotland—the music community’s so tight, especially bands who tour a lot, that we can punch above our weight class. Yes, the venue’s a brewery, but there’s a listening-room vibe, and one hundred percent of the ticket proceeds go to the artists.”

That last point is often a big selling point for Acoustic Routes, since, as Cain notes, by the time touring bands pay for hotels, gas, and food, there’s often little money left.

But in the case of Kommuna Lux—a group of seven classically trained musicians who blend vocals with clarinet, accordion, trumpet, trombone, acoustic guitar, and percussion—its current U.S. tour is primarily aimed at raising funds for its war-torn home country.

“The needs of the people [in Ukraine], the scale of it, is hard for us to really comprehend,” said Cain. “One of the things that’s fascinating to me is the diaspora. Here in Michigan, I’ve had Ukrainian people reach out, and the Jewish community as well, offering to help spread the word about the show.”

Monday Mix: Miller Brothers, Far Leys, The Nuts, Cedar Bend, Djangophonique, Bob Sweet Quartet, Pink Marlena

MUSIC MONDAY MIX

Cassette tape with MONDAY MIX written on it.

Original version of cassette image created by Vika_Glitter/Pixabay.

The Monday Mix is an occasional roundup of compilations, live recordings, videos, podcasts, and more by Washtenaw County-associated artists, DJs, radio stations, and record labels.

This edition features sights and sounds from the Miller brothers, Far Leys, The Nuts, Cedar Bend, Grant Johnson, Djangophonique, Bob Sweet Quartet, and Pink Marlena.

 

Theatre Nova co-founder Carla Milarch has hopped through every level of theatrical life

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Carla Milarch in a black Theatre Nova T-shirt.

Photo courtesy of Carla Milarch.

When Ann Arbor audiences think about Carla Milarch—co-founder of Theatre Nova and former artistic/executive director of the Performance Network Theatre (PNT)—they may recall a performance she gave, a production she directed, a theater she ran, or more recently, a play she wrote.

Chances are, they will not imagine her changing a litter box—for rabbits.

Milarch and her husband, actor/director Phil Powers, share a home on Ann Arbor’s West side with their son, William Tyrone Powers, a senior at Skyline High, and four rabbits. The family had tried adopting kittens, but William broke out in hives, and they had to give them up. They tested him for dog allergies. No dice.

Now there are rabbits—four of them.

”Rabbits are misunderstood pets,” says Milarch, who at first kept them in cages. Now they are free to roam the house. She finds them similar to other pets: like cats, they sometimes want to be left alone (and can be litter-trained); like dogs, they sometimes demand attention. Sometimes high maintenance, one rabbit with poor balance required a ramp to get onto the bed and watch TV with her. Milarch built one. 

As it happens, Milarch was trying to create an environmentally friendly landscape for her home and was studying permaculture, a mix of urban planning, gardening, and homesteading, when the pet crisis occurred. Rabbits made a lot of sense. “We grow things in a regenerative way, using compost. I like being outside a lot. It must be in my blood,” she reflects. “I grew up on a farm.”

Not that she wanted to spend her life on the farm. 

Can An Actress Teach a Robot to Feel? “Doctor Moloch” grapples with the question at Theatre Nova  

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

An impressionistic drawing of a robot hand and a human hand reaching out to touch, set against a blue background.

Detail from Theatre Nova's poster for Doctor Moloch.

In May of 2023, a group of researchers, engineers, and corporate executives at the Center for AI Safety warned of the existential danger of artificial intelligence (AI): “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” they wrote

Later that year, the Screen Actors Guild negotiated a new contract. In addition to wage issues, the actors were concerned that background roles would be created through AI and fewer actors would be employed. Most of the union’s demands were met, but the producers won the battle over keeping AI as an option.

Carla Milarch, whose play Doctor Moloch opens July 12 at Theatre Nova, absorbed all of this.  She also read articles by those who thought AI would enrich our lives and by people who believe there are pros and cons. [Read Pulp's profile of Milarch here.]

She couldn’t get the question out of her mind: Is AI a friend or foe? She thought about it while gardening. She thought about it while doing dishes. And a play began to take shape. “I have an idea bubbling, and characters, and then it takes on a life of its own,” she says of her writing process. 

That’s how her title character—a doctor created by artificial intelligence—was born.