Scale Up: Adam J. Snyder Overcomes Life’s Obstacles on “Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea” EP


Adam J. Snyder sits on a wooden bench with his acoustic guitar outside a white house.

Adam J. Snyder creates a comforting sonic experience on his Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea EP. Photo courtesy of Adam J. Snyder.

No “mountain” is too high for Adam J. Snyder to scale.

The Ypsilanti singer-songwriter and guitarist overcomes life’s obstacles to follow a new path on Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea.

“I’ve been pushing against myself, and I feel like I’ve been in the weeds my whole life. I’m in a pretty good place now, and I’m heading in the right direction of where I want to be,” said Snyder about his latest folk-pop EP.

“I went to Nicaragua in March, and I got to spend some time in the mountains. Then I got to spend time surfing on the beach and hanging out. Something about [that] just felt like where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, so that’s my goal.”

As part of that goal, Snyder shares that positive outlook on Down From the Mountain Out to the Sea, which features soft, breathy vocals; concise lyrics; bluesy influences; and percussive, rhythmic, and fingerpicked acoustic guitars.

Those elements create a comforting sonic experience and reflect the hope, encouragement, and determination embedded in the EP’s five tracks.

“I’ve just been feeling a little more in touch with that kind of stuff when I’ve been writing,“ said Snyder, who grew up in Dexter and previously fronted the now-disbanded Dirty Deville.

“When I come across an idea or things that feel right … or I’m just doing what I enjoy, which is playing guitar, I feel more connected to that kind of stuff. I feel like things are in alignment.”

Her Story: Joanna Sterling Chronicles a Trans Woman’s Journey on “Queen of Wands” Album


Mel Clark, Adam Har-Zvi, Joanna Sterling, and Anthony Marchese stand in a grassy meadow with a wetland in the background.

Joanna Sterling, center, shares her experiences as a trans woman on Queen of Wands and features collaborations with Mel Clark, Adam Har-Zvi, and Anthony Marchese. Photo courtesy of Joanna Sterling.

For Joanna SterlingQueen of Wands represents an emotional journey filled with self-discovery, authenticity, and courage.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter reveals her inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a trans woman on her sophomore release.

“It’s very autobiographical, and I did have to cultivate a lot of courage to even write some of these. If you had asked me five years ago would I ever open an album with my boy name before I transitioned—like no, absolutely not,” said Sterling about her new folk-pop album.

“I wanted to open with that song ‘Joey’ because it took a lot for me to be like, ‘You know what, I want to accept my full self, not just me as a post-transition woman, but also who was I before and how that person is still very much a part of who I am today, and my journey that I had to take to become the woman that I am.’”

Sterling documents that journey through 13 cathartic tracks—which range from confessional ballads to rallying cries to melancholic tales—on Queen of Wands. She connects with listeners through honest lyrics, nature-filled imagery, and folk-inspired instrumentation.

“I feel like a lot of the themes that are explored on this album aren’t just about being transgender. They’re really about the journey we all have to take in order to accept ourselves,” she said.

“I feel like I was able to strike a balance by being really honest about some of the specific things I’ve been through, but also make them accessible and relatable to others potentially.”

We recently spoke to Sterling about her background, the album’s tarot-inspired title, the stories behind several of the album’s tracks, her collaboration with producer Chris DuPont and other local musicians, her album release show, and plans for new material.

Friday Five: Marc Taras & "Cuban Fantasy," Kat Steih, DJ FLP, Cowgirl, Mike C521


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 a tribute to WEMU radio host Marc Taras, punky rock by Kat Steih, electronica from DJ FLP, Americana via Cowgirl, and hip-hop by Mike C521.

A Sort of Homecoming: Fuzz Fest 8 and Deniz Tek


Deniz Tek and band on stage at Fuzz Fest 8, Ann Arbor, The Blind Pig, August 4, 2023

Deniz Tek (center), Chris "Box" Taylor (left), and drummer Al King at Fuzz Fest 8 in The Blind Pig, August 4, 2023. Photo by Christopher Porter.

It was homecoming night on Friday at this year's Fuzz Fest.

Except there were no fancy dresses or ill-fitting suits at this party and the regalia was a little less formal for this annual celebration of scuzzy hard rock and psychedelia. 

Fuzz Fest 8 ran August 3-5 at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, and while the opening and closing days had numerous fab bands with local connections, the most surprising homemade ingredients inside this rock 'n' roll sandwich were on Friday.

The nervy 1980s Ann Arbor post-punk band Nønfiction reunited with twins Laurence and Benjamin Miller; 1990s A2 noise-punks Barbed Wire Playpen got the gang together one more time; and Easy Action—essentially the hard-rock version of Detroit hardcore legends Negative Approach—returned to the venue of its first-ever concert. (It was also the first time Easy Action singer John Brannon, who lived in Ann Arbor during his days with Laughing Hyneas in the late '80s and early '90s, was back inside the Pig since he was kicked out of the club for some reason long ago.)

But the big get on the menu was Deniz Tek returning to play in the city where he was born and raised before moving to Australia and becoming a key proto-punk architect as the guitarist and primary songwriter in Radio Birdman.

Because at its core, Fuzz Fest is a townie party with feedback, always held in August before the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University students repopulate the area, and geared toward the year-round headbangers who fight through the endless warm-weather road closures every freakin' summer.

Friday Five: Deniz Tek


Deniz Tek stands in the door frame for Motown's Studio A. Photo by Anne Tek.

Deniz Tek stands in the door frame for Motown's Studio A. Photo by Anne Tek.

Friday Five is a weekly column that highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.


Ann Arbor produced one of the world's first punk guitarists, a person who channeled the speed and chaos of the I-94 rush-hour drive and influenced ax-wielders around the world.

And while The Stooges' Ron Asheton also fits this description, I'm talking about Deniz Tek.

The Ann Arbor born and raised Tek took everything he learned about Motor City rock 'n' roll in the late 1960s and brought it to Australia in the early 1970s when he moved to Sydney for his studies. There, he co-founded Radio Birdman, perhaps the greatest exponents of proto-punk mayhem this side of his buddies in The Stooges and another all-time Australian band, The Saints.

Over the past 50 years, Tek has continued to pound away on his guitar like a metal-stamping machine, producing steely riffs that draw on bluesy rock 'n' roll but played with linear propulsive power—like Chuck Berry playing a surf song on a buzzsaw.

Tek, now 70, has played in Ann Arbor many times since he left, but it feels especially fitting that he's the key act for this year's Fuzz Fest, the eighth annual celebration of the primordial punk sound the guitarist was essential in co-creating.

As always, Fuzz Fest takes place at The Blind Pig, and this year's edition runs Thursday, August 3 to Saturday, August 5, with Deniz Tek headlining the Friday, August 4 show. (See the full lineup below.)

If you're not familiar with Tek's career, this Friday Five will give you a tiny taste of the man's prolific output in a variety of bands.

But this is a bonus edition of the Friday Five, so in addition to my selections, Chris "Box" Taylor also weighs in.

Taylor, the main man behind Fuzz Fest and a member of Mazinga, will be holding down the bass for Tek at The Blind Pig gig—perhaps even playing some of the face-melting torchers he picked as some of his favorites.

In Short: Ypsilanti's Head Full of Ghosts Packs Powerful Sound Into Concise "654 Seconds" EP


Four men perform on a stage under purple lights at music venue.

Bryan King, James Henes, Geoff Loebe, and Ken Ball from Head Full of Ghosts perform at Ziggy's in Ypsilanti. Photo courtesy of James Henes.

Head Full of Ghosts packs a magnitude of sound into a short amount of time.

The Ypsilanti quartet of James Henes (vocals, rhythm guitar), Geoff Loebe (bass), Ken Ball (lead guitar), and Bryan King (drums), shares hard-hitting, alt-rock instrumentation across a concise EP aptly titled 654 Seconds.

“When we initially got the EP finalized, it came out to 654 seconds [or about 10 minutes in length],” said Henes, whose band also released its debut EP, 321 Miles, in 2021.

“Once again, it's another testament to time-stamping [in terms of] where we are as a band at this moment. We have always enjoyed when things have a reoccurrence, so the number thing will most likely be a part of us as we move forward.”

Head Full of Ghosts also incorporates prog-rock sensibilities throughout 654 Seconds, which features three contemplative tracks about authenticity, inner struggles, and change.

To learn more, I talked with Henes about the EP’s tracks, the creative process for the EP, the band’s new lineup and electric sound, the band’s musical influences, and upcoming plans.

Friday Five: Allan Harris, Gvmmy, Fantishow, Othercast, Choke Uno & Foul Mouth with Tru Klassick & J-Classic


Friday Five cover art

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

This week features jazz vocalist Allan Harris, hyperpop hip-hop by Gvmmy, electro-IDM by Fantishow, spooky trip-hop by Othercast, and hip-hop by Choke Uno & Foul Mouth featuring Tru Klassick & J-Classic.

Personal Investment: Blind Liars Explore Self-Worth and Authenticity on “The Ringer” Album


Blind Liars' Jon Root, Eric Bates, Schala Walls, and Mari Neckar gather together at an arcade.

Blind Liars' Jon Root, Eric Bates, Schala Walls, and Mari Neckar examine self-worth and the deep emotions that accompany it on The Ringer. Photo by Kyla Preissner.

For Blind Liars, a debut album provides a vulnerable outlet for understanding one’s self-worth.

The Ypsilanti indie-rock quartet unearths deep emotions from the human psyche—including shame, disappointment, and loneliness—to reveal an authentic sense of self on The Ringer.

“A decent amount of what we have on the album deals with failure and loss and picking yourself up from it,” said Schala Walls, one of Blind Liars’ lead vocalists and multi-instrumentalists. “The very act of writing this music was kind of an investment in my self-worth, so all of the songs kind of reflect that.” 

Alongside bandmates Jon Root (lead vocals, songwriting, keys, guitar, bass) and Eric Bates (drums, bass, guitar), Walls channels personal experiences of social alienation due to neurodivergence and queerness across eight cerebral tracks. (Bassist Mari Neckar joined after the album was recorded.)

The Ringer features intimate ballads, howling sing-alongs, and emotional tales steeped in ‘60s prog-rock, shoegaze, and a kitchen sink-full of other influences.

We recently spoke to Blind Liars about the band’s formation, its newest member, the album’s theme and sound, the writing and recording process, upcoming album release shows, and future plans.

"Lean In" and Listen: Ness Lake's Chandler Lach on bedroom emo, prolific songwriting, and digicore


Ness Lake trio standing outside Ziggy's in Ypsilanti. Photo by Kris Hermann.

The trio edition of Ness Lake—Jack Gaskill (drums), Chandler Lach (guitar, vocals), Marco Aziel (bass)—standing outside Ziggy's in Ypsilanti before a show. Photo by Kris Hermann.

Chandler Lach explores raw emotions and deep themes of love and heartache on his new album as Ness LakeI Lean in to Hear You Sing. Released in May as the follow-up to Ness Lake's 2022 record, Yard Salethe new album displays Lach's evolution as a songwriter and a more expansive sound as an arranger, lacing his indie-folk pop with electronics.

The Ypsilanti-based Lach is turning Ness Lake into a full band with Marco Aziel (bass), Jack Gaskill (drums), and Tanner J. Ellis (guitar), and the quartet is woodshedding this summer to prepare for fall concerts.

I talked with Lach about his beginnings as an artist, his writing process, what he's been listening to, and I Lean in to Hear You Sing. 

Friday Five: Miller Twins, Adam J. Snyder, Studio Lounge, Vitamin TI, Dykechow, Bubu


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 modern classical / exploratory jazz / power pop by Benjamin and Laurence Miller, folk by Adam J. Snyder, quirky pop by Studio Lounge, retrowave by Dillan Pribak, and dance mixes by Vitamin TI, Dykechow, Bubu for the ongoing Immaculate Conception and MEMCO series.