Sense of Adventure: Instrumental Duo Mindful Dynasty Experiments With Different Genres on “The Barn Waltz” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Toshana Grim holds a bass guitar and Jason Wiseley holds an electric guitar on stage at Zerbo's Market and Bistro.

Mindful Dynasty's Toshana Grim and Jason Wiseley at Zerbo's Market and Bistro in Commerce Township. Photo courtesy of Mindful Dynasty.

When it comes to creating music, Mindful Dynasty embraces a choose-your-own-adventure approach on The Barn Waltz.

The South Lyon instrumental duo of Jason Wiseley (guitar, percussion, strings) and Toshana Grim (bass, strings) experiments and improvises with several genres—ranging from psych rock to EDM to flamenco—on its latest double album.

“It’s like going through an adventure, and there are highs and lows; there are also fast parts and slow parts. There are parts that are a little funky and maybe ones that make you laugh a little because there’s a wonky note,” Grim said.

“There are also parts where you might think, ‘This is so beautiful.’ That’s just life—in my opinion—because it is an adventure. The more you can just relax and go with the flow, the more fun you have.”

That carefree attitude and creative mindset flow throughout The Barn Waltz’s 17 tracks, which also feature elements of metal, classical, and funk interspersed with film samples.

“I write for everybody, but in my mind’s eye, it’s [especially] for somebody who plays an instrument. … I just want people to feel inspired. I want people to [hear] our music and think, ‘Oh Jason’s goofy, I can do that, too,’” said Wiseley, who workshopped the album’s tracks live with Grim during a past residency at Zerbo’s Market & Bistro in Commerce Township.

“Part of the reason why The Barn Waltz is dark and has all the movie samples is because I wanted to juxtapose the pretentiousness of the guitar playing. I wanted to put in this silly stuff and put in all of the dance music to pull back the idea that to have that level of fun playing music requires you to actually not have any fun at all.”

I recently spoke with Wiseley and Grim about their backgrounds, the origin of Mindful Dynasty, the evolution of their sound, select tracks from The Barn Waltz, the creative process for the album, and upcoming plans.

Memorialize and Remember: Grey Rose Grant's folk opera "Little Histories" explores the death ritual

MUSIC THEATER & DANCE

Grey Rose Grant. Photo by Karl Otto/TheOttoLab.

Grey Rose Grant. Photo by Karl Otto/TheOttoLab.

Grey Rose Grant puts all of themself into projects. 

Their 2019 folk opera Michigan Trees came out of Grant's experience as a trans-femme person. The 2023 chamber-rock opera The Precipice was based on Grant's poems and songs along with the journals of Karl Ronneberg, their co-founder of Fifth Wall Performing Arts. Even Grant's new work, Little Histories, about a mortician looking back on the life events that made him turn to his profession even as they prepare to host a funeral for a former lover, has its roots in the composer, performer, and librettist's North Carolina childhood.

"Little Histories is deeply connected to personal experience," Grant says. "Back in the day I was surrounded by literary nerds and we went through an autofiction phase which has for sure affected how I want to tell stories within the medium of theater. Every little story told in Little Histories has some truth to it: memories of two of my grandparents' funerals; a memory of witnessing a bird fly into a window in high school; the pet cemetery we had in the woods behind my childhood home. That said, these memories are swirled together, misremembered, and injected with a healthy dose of retold mythologies, the story of the birth of the modern American funeral industry, and more. I enjoy beginning from the personal and moving outward from there."

Fifth Wall Performing Arts' production of Little Histories runs January 26-28 at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, and I asked Grant, a 2016 graduate from the University of Michigan who currently works at Ypsilanti's Riverside Arts Center, about their latest DIY folk opera.

Monday Mix: Father Dukes, Lo Dazz, Ownsey, Terminus, DykeChow

MUSIC MONDAY MIX

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Monday Mix.

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

For this edition, we have mixes from Father Dukes, Lo Dazz, Ownsey, Terminus, and DykeChow.

 

Friday Five: Jienan Yuan, Dabrye, Janelle Haskell, Jonathan Killstring, marto.matic

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-19-2024

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

This week features minimalist beauty from Jienan Yuan, a beat-tape teaser by Dabrye, fingerstyle folk by Janelle Haskell, retro-wave by Jonathan Killstring, and experimental musings by marto.matic.

Friday Five: Telesonic 9000, skyline, Kat Steih, Tru Klassick & Ilajide, Live at Fun Fest 2023

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 week features new-wave rock by Kat Steih, slowed-down R&B haziness by skyline, Fundamental Sound Co. concert videos from Fun Fest 2023, a new single and video by rapper Tru Klassick, and a multimedia single by Telesonic 9000.

50 Years of Hip-Hop: Influential albums From Washtenaw County

MUSIC HISTORY

A collage of colorful boom boxes with the word "Washtenaw" across it to represent the recent 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

A salute to Washtenaw County hip-hop artists and some of the influential albums they've made over the years. Graphic by Nate Pocsi-Morrison.

Hip-hop started in the Bronx in 1973 and spread across the world to become one of the most popular and influential genres ever created.

There were numerous 50th-anniversary celebrations for the art form in 2023, and we're working on some articles about the history of hip-hop in Washtenaw County that we’ll be sharing soon.

But before that, we wanted to share some influential hip-hop records made by Washtenaw County artists—as identified through research and interviews with local creatives for our upcoming history pieces.

There were plenty of other important recordings that were cited, too, but we're highlighting these selections because they’re the only ones you can listen to online. (A broader list will accompany one of our upcoming articles.)

Read on and drop us a line at pulp@aadl.org if you want to share stories and memories about the Washtenaw County hip-hop community.

Friday Five: The Boy Detective, JDSY, ness lake, Same Eyes, LinX & KAISTO

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 week features ska-punk by The Boy Detective, electronic all-over-the-placeness by JDSY, indie-electronic emo by ness lake, synth-pop by Same Eyes, and rave music by LinX & KAISTO.

Longtime Ann Arbor music promoter Peter Andrews dies

MUSIC

Peter Andrews around the time of the Freeing John Sinclair rally, 1971. Photo by Leni Sinclair.

Peter Andrews around the time of the Freeing John Sinclair rally, 1971. Photo by Leni Sinclair.

Peter Andrews, organizer of the Freeing John Sinclair rally, Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival mainstay, and longtime music promoter died on December 31, 2023, according to a post by Joe Tiboni on A2 Music History page on Facebook. (Tiboni owned Joe's Star Lounge and hosts the Big City Blues Cruise on WEMU.)

Andrews wrote about his life in the Ann Arbor music scene in The Joint Was Jumpin’: A Promoter’s Story, which was published as an ebook in 2018. You read an MLive interview with Andrews about the book here.

Michael Erlewine, founder of AllMusic, was the leader of The Prime Movers, which was the house band at Mother's, the influential teen club Andrews launched in 1966. Erlewine published a long interview with Andrews about organizing the Sinclair rally; you can download a PDF of the conversation here.

All Ann Arbor District Library pages tagged with Peter Andrews' name, featuring articles and photos, are here.

Friday Five: Tru Klassick, JahSun, DACAMERA, Ness Lake, Lily Talmers

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 week features beat tapes by Tru Klassick and JahSun, drum 'n' bass by DACAMERA, emo-indie-tronica by ness lake, and a melancholic single by Lily Talmers.

Feeling Stranded: Linen Ray Reclaim Their Sense of Hope on ‘By a Thread’ Single

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Rebekah Craft wears a white wide-brimmed hat with a black leather jacket and black-and-white flowered dress. Gabriel Craft wears a white button-up shirt with a black vest.

Linen Ray's Rebekah Craft and Gabriel Craft. Photo by Mike Frieseman.

Despite feeling overwhelmed and heartbroken, Linen Ray refused to give up hope.

The married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) tried to stay positive and calm while helping a loved one navigate a mental health crisis.

But over time, it felt like they were carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. There were moments when caring for another became too much to handle alone.

“Trauma will sometimes cause a person to bury their pain and live in denial. For us, it felt so completely overwhelming,” said Rebekah Craft, who hails from Ypsilanti, but is based in Nashville, Tennessee with Gabriel Craft and their family.

“We weren’t exactly living in denial, but when life comes down on you so hard and you feel helpless, you sometimes lose the ability and energy to express your thoughts and feelings. We were grieving and in a dark place.”

In that dark place, Linen Ray reclaimed their sense of hope and channeled their emotions into songwriting. What resulted is “By a Thread,” a vulnerable new ballad that serves as a plea for help and understanding.