The Archivist's Tale: Evan Haywood Digs Through His Past to Help Define His Musical Future On New Live Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Evan Haywood sits in his Black Ram Treehouse studio holding a red Gibson SG electric guitar.

Evan Haywood features a compelling juxtaposition of sound and genre on his latest live album, Canterbury Tales. Photo by Doug Coombe.

Evan Haywood remembers his first live solo show at Canterbury House in 2014.

The producer, musician, songwriter, rapper, visual artist, filmmaker, and digital archivist recalled feeling nervous about sharing vulnerable folk songs and playing a nylon-string guitar at the Ann Arbor venue.

“It was such a jarring experience almost to go from performing in sweaty clubs and bars where everybody’s dancing … and having a good time to this very stark, acoustic performance where I’m baring my soul,” said Haywood, a University of Michigan alumnus who had previously performed live with the local hip-hop group Tree City.

“I feel like that performance was some sort of watershed moment for me because I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I had never done a performance like that with just an acoustic guitar and myself.”

Fortunately, Haywood’s intimate performance was recorded on cassette by Fred Thomas and initially released on limited-edition tape through Thomas’ Life Like label in 2015. Today, part of that performance now appears on Haywood’s latest live album, Canterbury Tales.

“I spent the past 10 years or so honing them and working on the mixes and cleaning up some of the noise and things like that to get them to the point they’re at now,” Haywood said.

“When you’re dealing with tape, you have fewer options, so you really have to work in a detailed way to be able to massage those recordings and get the good stuff out and take some of the noise down. That’s something I’ve been tinkering with—those Canterbury House recordings—and I feel like now my tinkering is done.”

The Amplify Project and Spin Inc. Bring Detroit Electronic Music Conference to Washtenaw Community College on March 2

MUSIC INTERVIEW

The Detroit Electronic Music Conference logo shows the letters "DEMC" written in red with a gray and red cityscape outline above it.

Detroit Electronic Music Conference promotional poster detail.

After the Detroit Electronic Music Conference was put on hold last year due to a lack of venue, Rod Wallace and Ron “DJ Jungle” Johnson decided to bring the music production and DJ education event to Washtenaw County.

The heads of music nonprofits the Amplify Project and Spin Inc. will co-host the Detroit Electronic Music Conference (or “D Mack”) on March 2 at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building.

“I first met DJ Jungle, who’s the executive director of Spin Inc., at a meeting with Grove [Studios], and they were looking for some opportunities to partner. Spin Inc. came and participated in our TAP IN event in 2023 and we talked about how we could collaborate,” said Wallace. about the free conference, which takes place March 2 and last occurred at the now-defunct Detroit Institute of Music Education in 2022.

“We had a conversation about his interest in bringing back the ‘D Mack,’ and I said, ‘Well, listen, we have a great partner in WCC … and [we can] tie it in with the arts management coursework that we’re teaching.’”

As part of D Mack’s preparations, the Amplify Project and Spin Inc. have enlisted WCC arts management students to help run the conference since their capstone class is built around event creation, collaboration, and execution.

Friday Five: Melody Korkmaz, Jess Merritt, Jim Cherewick, Michael Skib, Bekka Madeleine

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 R&B by Melody Korkmaz, soul-pop by Jess Merritt, indie-country-folk by Jim Cherewick, metallic shoegaze by Michael Skib, and folk-pop by Bekka Madeleine.

Clear and Present: Darrin James looks at marriage, family, and loss on “See Right Through”

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Darrin James wears sunglasses and holds an acoustic guitar while standing next to a river.

Darrin James explores a gamut of emotions on See Right Through. Photo by Doug Coombe.

When it comes to writing about love and loss, Darrin James believes in being crystal clear.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and producer shares honest and vulnerable stories about marriage, family, death, and uncertainty on his latest album, See Right Through.

“A lot of people say it’s heart-on-your-sleeve. I think that’s true and it’s always how I’ve kinda written. This album came from the more reflective side of things, and you have to embrace the vulnerability to write an honest song,” said James, who plays guitar, piano, organ, and synth on his fourth full-length release.

“Sometimes those tropes can express really true feelings … and sometimes when you’re being honest, a song is easier to write. It comes out more like a diary … and you’re staring at it thinking, ‘Now that it came out of me, that’s the song—it’s done.

On See Right Through, James reveals a gamut of emotions ranging from gratitude to joy to grief to hopelessness across seven tracks. Those raw feelings come to life through the album’s personal lyrics, heartfelt roots-rock instrumentation, and dreamy synth and horn textures.

“Those were personal songs that I waited until I had [them], and it made more sense after I had the love songs to counter the sad songs. I thought, ‘Now the whole album can have an arc of not just being a sad story,’” he said.

“Because [the songs] are more personal, they’re also more universal and timeless … Those themes I’m trying to deal with are ones that everyone [experiences].”

Monday Mix: WCBN's Local Music Show, Benjamin Miller, Immaculate Conception, The Boy Detective, Indie Pop Takeout, Sound and Silence

MUSIC MONDAY MIX

Illustration for Monday Mix featuring records, audio gear, and abstract shapes, mostly in teal blue and orange.

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

For this edition, we have studio gigs from WCBN's Local Music Show, an interview with Benjamin Miller, mixes from Immaculate Conception, an interview with The Boy Detective, and new episodes of Indie Pop Takeout and Sound and Silence.

 

All the Time: Frontier Ruckus Explores the past, present, and future on new album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Frontier Ruckus' David Jones, Matthew Milia, and Zachary Nichols stand outside on a wintry day with bare trees in the background.

David Jones, Matthew Milia, and Zachary Nichols of Frontier Ruckus. Photo by John Mark Hanson.

For Frontier Ruckus, aging represents a mixture of nostalgia, fear, and hope. 

The Detroit-Ypsilanti folk-rock trio of Matthew Milia, David Jones, and Zachary Nichols explores those feelings alongside the passage of time on its new album, On the Northline.

“The main soundbite that Matt has been saying about the record is that half of the songs were written before he met his wife, Lauren,” said Nichols, who plays trumpet, musical saw, melodica, and air organ on the album.

“He said half of the songs are angsty and half of them are happy. I hear a lot in the lyrics about getting older, looking back, and thinking about the future. I think we all feel a little bit middle-aged now.”

As part of that reflection, Frontier Ruckus engages in deep soul-searching across On the Northline’s dozen tracks. Contemplative lyrics, vivid suburban imagery, and wistful Americana, country, and jazz-inspired instrumentation encourage listeners to ponder their life trajectories.

“The feelings and the ruminations on aging and getting to the point that we’re at in our lives … they’re probably a little conflicted because it’s conflicting for all of us,” said Jones, the band’s banjoist-vocalist. “To a certain extent in Matt’s songs, there’s always a lot of nostalgia in a way that’s positive, but sad as well.”

Despite those conflicting thoughts, Frontier Ruckus forges ahead and finds some solace while revisiting hometown landmarks, adapting to everyday surroundings, and welcoming unexpected changes.

“There’s a certain amount of happiness to be where we are now and be past the turbulent days of our youth when we were in the van all the time,” Jones said. “There’s a level of contentment with being in this place that we’ve all settled in that feels good and more comfortable.”

I recently spoke with Jones and Nichols about waiting seven years between releases, dissecting the album’s introspective themes and tracks, writing and recording the album, preparing for two celebratory shows, and going back out on the road.

Friday Five: Evan Haywood, Flwr.Chld and Kapsoul, Cece June, Far Leys, Dr. Pete Larson

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 psychedelic folk by Evan Haywood, hip-hop by Flwr.Chld and Kapsoul, indie-folk by Cece June and Far Leys, and minimalist techno by Dr. Pete Larson.

Weatherproof: Annie and Rod Capps Celebrate Life’s Highs and Lows on “Love and Rain” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Rod and Annie Capps face each other sitting on a blue couch while holding their acoustic guitars.

Rod and Annie Capps explore the importance of gratitude on Love and Rain. Photo by Jen Prouty.

Annie and Rod Capps weather life’s sunny and stormy moments together on Love and Rain.

Those moments also serve as lighthearted and serious reminders about gratitude on the married duo’s latest album.

“There’s an overarching theme of love and rain being that contrast and balance of life,” said Annie Capps, the duo’s vocalist-guitarist, who’s based in Chelsea with her husband Rod Capps. “It’s about not taking the rough stuff too seriously, yet it’s also about being grateful for the good stuff and not taking things for granted.”

The Capps demonstrate that mindset personally and professionally on Love and Rain, which features 10 tracks filled with perceptive lyrics, vibrant Americana instrumentation, and rich harmonies.

“Annie is fortunate because she has an outlet to write songs about these things,” said Rod Capps, the duo’s guitarist-violinist-violist, who will celebrate 30 years of marriage to Annie Capps in June. “My role in the songwriting is to color around the edges. Annie builds these structures, and I help flesh them in and put filigree in.”

I recently spoke to the Capps about celebrating their anniversary, working with their bandmates, exploring different themes on the album, writing and recording tracks for Love and Rain, preparing for their annual Valentine’s Day show at The Ark, and planning for other performances and projects.

Friday Five: variant, Cedar Bend, Towner, Great Arm, Artdogg

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 space music by variant, indie rock by Cedar Bend and Towner, neo-grunge by Great Arm, and hip-hop by Artdogg.

DIY Approach: Manchester Underground Music and Art Supports Local Artists Through Monthly Live Shows

MUSIC INTERVIEW

“Pistol” Pete Midtgard sings and plays an upright bass with The Twistin' Tarantulas in July at River Raisin Distillery for a Manchester Underground Music and Arts show.

"Pistol" Pete Midtgard performs with The Twistin' Tarantulas in July 2023 at River Raisin Distillery for a Manchester Underground Music and Art show. Photo by Chuck Marshall of Life in Michigan.

Back in 1977, high school friends Steve Girbach and John Mooneyham bonded over listening to Rush, Judas Priest, and AC/DC albums after school.

Those listening sessions at Mooneyham’s house in Manchester eventually turned into serious discussions about forming a band and playing live shows.

It wasn’t until a few years after graduating from Manchester High School that Girbach and Mooneyham put their musical plan into action.

“Steve and I were talking and we said, ‘Why don’t we get some gear and we’ll put on shows and festivals?’ We had all these grand ideas people in their early 20s come up with,” said Mooneyham, who now co-runs the Manchester Underground Music and Art monthly concert series with Girbach.

“About a month later, Steve said, ‘I invited some guys over to your house to play some music and you’re gonna play bass.’”

Together, guitarist Girbach and bassist Mooneyham played in two cover bands, Allister and The DTs, and later hosted a music festival featuring 13 acts at a former amusement park in the Irish Hills.

Not long after that, The DTs called it quits and everyday life took over for Girbach and Mooneyham. What they didn’t realize at the time was that initial music festival helped lay the groundwork for what would become Manchester Underground Music and Art in 2019.