Zoë Monet Slips Into Summer with ‘Relax’

Originally published on The Knockturnal

The Los Angeles-based R&B trap-soul singer songwriter premieres her latest track, “Relax.”

Zoë Monet quite simply lives up to her name. The stunning songstress is a master painter of sorts, slowly caressing notes while swiftly weaving lyrics into atmospheric tracks that make listeners want to live in her fantastical world. A University of Southern California student and recent Kobalt AWAL partner, Monet is used to her music being called “smooth as silk”– her voice is nothing short of intoxicating. “I love silk,” Monet mused. “It’s such a sexy and glamorous fabric to look at, but also to touch and feel. I want my music to make people feel that glamour, that self-indulgence in a way.”

Monet’s passion for music began at an early age growing up in Boston, thanks to MTV. “As a little girl I was absolutely obsessed with MTV. I would be in front of the TV for hours and hours just watching videos and singing with them, and I adored Beyoncé, of course,” Monet reminisced.

Her parents encouraged Monet to explore her curiosity, eventually putting Monet in guitar lessons around age nine. Soon thereafter Monet began writing her own songs. “I just loved making music,” Monet said. “It has always been a part of who I am; I can’t divide myself from it so I almost feel obligated to pursue it.”

At the University of Southern California, Monet found an even larger platform to create her art, including winning the prestigious USC College Talent Tour and connecting her to Chris Lakey of Kobalt. “I really came into myself after moving to Los Angeles,” Monet shared. “I finally had the space to flourish and become who I wanted to be. I honestly owe everything to my parents who worked incredibly hard to get me here.”

Monet’s involvement in the Los Angeles music scene has furthered expanded her chances for collaboration. Currently Monet works with producers who share beats, giving Monet the opportunity to digest tracks before beginning the songwriting process. “I try to listen to the beat and hear what feeling it’s giving me and then I’ll try to find a melody that fits the tone. I always start with the melody,” Monet explained. “Lyrically, I’m thinking about what experiences I can write about that work with everything. If there are more dramatic aspects in the beat, then that’ll really guide the story I tell.”

Monet looks to PartyNextDoor for writing inspiration, admiring his storytelling ability. “The way he uses melodic motifs in his writing is just unbelievable,” Monet gushed. “I can go back to songs that I’ve heard thousands of times and still find something new that draws me in.” Monet also credits Majid Jordan and Sampha for their soundscapes, and childhood favorites Brandy, Mariah Carey, and Aaliyah. “They just have this warmth in their voice that washes over you, that effect has always inspired me vocally.”

Relax” is a product of Monet’s semester abroad in Milan, a trip that allowed Monet to reflect on her priorities. “I had been holding onto the desire for a relationship for a while and found myself really frustrated by that feeling,” Monet admitted. “I was also detoxing a lot of negative emotion that had built up and being in Milan, away from everything, really prompted that. So ‘Relax’ was the culmination of all those feelings at that time, recognizing who I really was and what I was worth when I didn’t let things hold me back.”

The Rihanna-meets-Flume vibe of “Relax” definitely embodies the free-spirited confidence that Monet exudes. The personal yet universal lyrics (“I don’t need these [expletives] on my timeline/without them I’m doing just fine”) make for a–dare we say, silky–summer anthem; all you can do as Monet croons “relax, relax, relax” over an echoed pulsing ripple beat is lay back and further sink into meditative bliss.

Trust us, after this summer you will know Zoë Monet’s name.

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EaSWay Showcases Self with 'Same'

Originally published on The Knockturnal

Finding a truly raw talent is rare. Discovering one that is unsigned to a record label and writes all of his own lyrics? Nearly impossible. West Coast rapper EaSWay has shattered expectations, with leading rap publications like Hypebeast, High Snobiety, and PAPER taking notice with exclusive track premieres and placing him among Migos and Travis Scott on Best New Artist lists. With new track “Same” dropping this Friday, and his third EP Nothing to Lose set for release December 14, EaSWay’s hustle extends to the holiday season.

EaSWay, born Easweh Harrison, stays humble through his newfound fame. Raised in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco, EaSWay began writing lyrics at a young age, and headlined his first show at 13 years old. EaSWay went on to later graduate from University of Southern California with a degree in Social Sciences. His intellect is evident in his rap lyrics, an iambic pentameter in itself. EaSWay charismatically raps about being a millennial African-American, weaving stories of his struggle with identity with politics of today.

EaSWay also extends his talent to studio art, handpainting canvases for each single and album cover art. Although currently living in Los Angeles, EaSWay never forgets his Bay Area roots, and donates profits of his sold canvases to local San Francisco public school Fine Arts programs.

EaSWay’s upcoming track “Same” epitomizes his message of authenticity and giving back. “‘Same’ is a song about consistency and truth,” EaSWay explained. “It’s just me reflecting on how in life, we all have to grow and live and learn but the goal is to always
remain the same person at your core; at your soul. I’ve always been able to
do that through a strong knowledge of self.”

The album Nothing to Lose similarly focuses on EaSWay’s personal journey. “The upcoming album is a reflection since childhood,” EaSWay admitted. “It was instilled in me at a young age that even though my mom and I didn’t have the best financial situation, I could do anything I wanted in life, and that I would be the only person that could hold myself back.”

EaSWay credits the strength of his single mother for his ambition. “I know I got lucky because not everyone is taught this mentality from an early age,” EaSWay continued. “This project is an exposure of my life and story as an example and motivation for anyone who wants to do anything but believe they can’t. I want them to leave the project feeling like they have Nothing to Lose.”

EaSWay’s rising star status is cemented in an upcoming brand partnership with Calvin Klein Jeans Est. 1948. EaSWay was approached by the brand, currently helmed by Raf Simons, for his unique aesthetic. Like EaSWay, Calvin Klein has stayed true to its roots, albeit gaining a modern twist through the years. “Calvin Klein is a staple of the fashion world. They’ve survived trends and fads and have been around as a stronghold in the industry for decades,” EaSWay mused. “I see similarities in the brand and myself. We both have not changed in search of approval but instead stay the same and consistent because we know it’s good and it’s right. I’m honored that they saw something in me.”

But of course, the partnership is also a compliment to EaSWay’s swoon-worthy look. “What person isn’t a little more turned on when their partner has some Calvin Klein’s on?” EaSWay joked.

Through it all, EaSWay stays true to his upbringing. “God is always the most important constant in my life. The shortlist after that is my family, my music, my friends and my fans. Those are some of the precious things that keep me going every day.”

EaSWay looks towards the future, remaining characteristically humble and philanthropic. “I’m, thankful to be blessed enough that I can make music. A lot of people in the world don’t have the access, safety or ability to pursue creative endeavors so I am thankful that I can use my voice to impact the world. I’m thankful that I can speak for those who are unable to.”

EaSWay’s single “Same” will be released Friday, November 30th. His upcoming EP Nothing to Lose will be available to buy, download, and stream on December 14th.


EaSWay Talks Art, Fashion in Exclusive Interview

Originally published on Vendng Machine

Intellectual and rapper don’t usually go hand-in-hand. But good luck trying to find another way to describe Los Angeles-based rapper EaSway, who drops his first single “All Yours” today from his debut EP The Panther in the Room. 

Born Easweh Harrison in San Francisco, EaSway grew up near the old ’49ers stadium. EaSway was raised in the projects by a single mom, learning a strong work ethic and resilience within the city.

It didn’t take him long to find his passion for music, especially after visiting his older half-brother in D.C. “When I was 11, I found this blank CD back when you could only listen to songs on a Walkman,” EaSway explained. “And I was like ‘what is this?!’ I randomly put it into my Walkman and heard my brother’s voice on it. Like any younger brother, I just wanted to do what he was doing.”

EaSway quickly confronted his brother and joined forces with him to rap too. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I was garbage,” EaSway joked. “But I was a confident 11 year old.” He then began to rap over popular songs and fell in love with the art form.

EaSway’s family soon recognized his ability. His godfather, a recording engineer for Skywalker Sound, gave him a mic set and sound system his freshman year of high school. “He was super supportive of my dreams,” EaSway mused. “I got to stop using GarageBand and stepped up to a better recording studio.”

His rap at the time, according to EaSway, was more “cheery.” But his talent was undeniable. EaSway blew up soon thereafter, and headlined a show at San Francisco famed Boz Scaggs venue Slim’s. “I was a 17 year old with 2K in my pocket from making songs in my bedroom,” EaSway reminisced. “That’s when it started getting serious.”

Fast forward and EaSway is now a 22 year-old University of Southern California student with an academic background in Neuroscience and Social Sciences with a Psychology emphasis.”I’m educated as f**k,” EaSway joked.

The charismatic 22 year-old, humble and funny in conversation. His maturity and charm makes him wiser beyond his years. “When you’ve been making music for half your life, it ages you. I feel like I’ve been in the game so long,” EaSway said. The hands-on artist writes all of his own lyrics and music. “I can’t imagine a world when you hear musician and they’re not writing their own songs,” EaSway. “Back in 1920, there weren’t any poets who weren’t writing their own poems.” EaSway’s poetic lyrics about social change, discrimination, and identity propel his music past just catchy rap: he is making a difference.

His icon, Kendrick Lamar, embodies the link between art and politics that EaSway strives to achieve. “I think Kendrick is the Tupac Shaukur of our generation,” EaSway explained. “I look for poetics a lot for my inspiration. Music can sound appealing and nice but I try to find inspiration in the words that they use.” He also credits Frank Ocean and up-and-coming rapper Smino from St. Louis (“I think he’s the new Andre 3000”) as inspiring artists as well. 

But for his lyrics, EaSway looks inward. “I find inspiration from living within myself,” EaSway perfectly said. “I just try to appreciate everything. When you appreciate the deep breath you take in a day, you notice and appreciate the little things, and that’s what it takes to right a song: notice the nuances of life. I try to open myself up as much as possible.”

EaSway’s artistry isn’t just limited to his music. The rapper paints all of his own album artwork, and plans on selling the pieces to donate to public schools in need of arts funding. His sense of giving back to those in need emphasizes the political grace that he carries himself with. 

And as he grows and lives, so does his music. “Every single new song I make is my favorite song. That’s the goal of an artist,” EaSway stated. “If what you’re making isn’t the favorite that you made, then you’re not improving.”

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Teasley: Summer's Breakout Star

Originally published on Vendng Machine

The perfect summer combination for Los Angeles singer Teasley will always be pineapples and good vibes. And who is Teasley he you might wonder? Well, he’s your new favorite chill artist (you can thank us later).

Teasley grew up singing Michael Jackson and Usher for fun, but began seriously making music in 2016. The sensual star writes his own songs fittingly while at the beach or even working out. “I like to write in the gym, oddly enough,” Teasley told us in an exclusive interview. “I’ve written some of my favorite songs on the leg machine.”

The dance-friendly beats and catchy hooks add a sexy vibe to Teasley’s tracks. “I want people to feel good, free, and like they can do anything,” Teasley said.

His smooth voice and timely drops makes it seem like Calvin Harris and Drake had a love child. Yet his inspirations draw from more classic stars like Will Smith and Bruno Mars.

Songs like “Runaway” echo the carefree nature of pool parties, but Teasley goes deeper with tracks like “Feeling Better,” conjuring a more reflective slower Flume-like feel. You’ll want to crank up Teasley’s EP Feeling Better as you drive along the coastline this summer.

Looking to the future, Teasley hopes to tailor his passion. “I plan my music reaches even more people all over the world, and to be an even better musician,” he said. The aspiring actor also looks to collaborate with Beyonce, Janet Jackson or Kanye West.

Quite simply, though, Teasley wants to inspire happiness with others. “I want my music to be the soundtrack to a great life,” Teasley said. And the breakout sensation does just that.

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DJ ECOOL Talks Music, Fashion

Originally published on Vendng Machine

You don’t know what cool is until you hear Afrobeat artist DJ ECOOL. Based in Atlanta, ECOOL spins his Nigerian roots into each catchy song reggae-cool song. The international star first moved from his home of Nigeria after graduating high school in 2003, first to London then New York. But after visiting his aunt in Atlanta, ECOOL decided to settle with residencies at a variety of clubs.

ECOOL has always been an artist. He started playing drums at age five; his percussion interest led into a “DJ artist type thing.” ECOOL started in 2005 but seriously pursued the trade in 2008. “I really got into it,” ECOOL said in an exclusive interview with Vendng Machine.

ECOOL incorporates modern rhythm to an authentic African sound, showcasing his roots in each song. “You’ll hear everything from hip-hop, Afrobeats, pop, R&B, everything,” ECOOL said. “I’ll take you all around the world in one play.”

ECOOL has worked with artists such as Wizkid, 2Face, and Ludacris, and most notably collaborated with Davido for his breakout mixtape “Back From Lagos VOL 4”. The two have toured internationally together, complementing one another’s beats. ECOOL and Davido have a joint show in New York City on July 22.

ECOOL’s influences range from Jay-Z to Usher, who he hopes to work with in the future. “I like how Puff Daddy carries himself,” ECOOL added, not one to forget the style element of the music industry.

Although a well-loved DJ-- ECOOL was nominated for “Best World DJ” at the 2011 Nigerian Entertainment Awards–- he prides himself on his transparency with fans. ECOOL write all of his own blog posts, read by his 80,000 followers. He even posts comedic Instagram videos to promote his brand.

Yet ECOOL’s true passion is fashion; the DJ has modeled for a variety of outlets, and boasts his outfit selections on his blog with professional photoshoots around city landmarks. “I’m really interested in style. More than the music and everything else, I just like to look good,” ECOOL said. The international element transcends more than just DJ beats for ECOOL. He credits his “good blend” of fashion to traveling around the world for shows. “I just want people to be able to see me and like me just for my style,” ECOOL said.

DJ ECOOL recently released his latest single “Give Dem,” which he describes as his biggest song yet. His inspiration for the track was his familial cultural background mixed American pop culture. “I just did a fusion, afro-fusion Carribbean thing,” ECOOL said.

“Give Dem” is off of his upcoming “world” album. ECOOL is collaborating with artists around the world to create a unique sound that transcends genre.

In the meantime, though, catch DJ ECOOL spinning while on tour. “I’m guaranteed to keep you on the dance floor,” ECOOL said.

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Far From Heaven, Close to Stars: StarBenders Release New Single

Originally published on Vendng Machine

Atlanta-based glam rock group StarBenders released their new single “Far From Heaven” today in preparation for their next album. Their first live performance of the single is marked to be at a charity concert this Friday, benefitting Lost-N-Found, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the overwhelming amount of LGBTQ homeless youth in Atlanta.

StarBenders is part of Institution Media, a fast-growing record label founded by former Lady Gaga music director and instrumental genius Nico Constantine. The track was mixed by Mark Needham of Killers and Fleetwood Mac fame.

Atlanta-based glam rock group StarBenders released their new single “Far From Heaven” today in preparation for their next album. Their first live performance of the single is marked to be at a charity concert this Friday, benefitting Lost-N-Found, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the overwhelming amount of LGBTQ homeless youth in Atlanta.

StarBenders frontwoman, lead guitarist, and sole lyricist Kimi Shelter’s gravelly voice is reminiscent of classic 70s rock. Talented Shelter  leads the powerful group consisting of drummer Katie Herron, bassist Aaron Lecesne, and drummer Kriss Tokaji.

Check out their live performance of their hit “Downtown.” Their raw talent is rare in the days of autotune and studio after-effects. You’ll want to see these guys rock out live. Trust me. Maybe it’ll be in your stars to see StarBenders when they visit your town.

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M-A grads stay connected with their Jazz-Funk Band

Originally published in The Almanac

Dinosaurs may be extinct, but great music doesn't die. A local band, made up of four childhood friends who all graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School in 2011, hopes to keep their music alive. The band, named Tyrannosaurus Sex, plays mostly jazz-funk, influenced by a variety of rock bands. 

Its members are guitarist and backing vocalist Stefan Turkowski, drummer Colin Sutton, bassist Jonathan Wyatt, and lead vocalist and guitarist Noah Stid. The band has released two albums, "Barely Covered" in Februrary 2012 and "Rough and Dirty" in October. T-Sex has played at a variety of bistros and cafes throughout the Bay Area, with their most recent show at the Brainwash Cafe in San Francisco on Dec. 29. 

As drummer Colin Sutton explains it, the boys were "friends since the beginning" of elementary school and began jamming together starting freshman year. It was a smooth transition since "we have all been playing and jamming for years. ... We all kind of know how each other operates," he says.

Each played an instrument and taught one another guitar and bass. By junior year, the band was officially pieced together, and by senior year, it won M-A's annual Battle of the Bands contest.

They have limited time to play together. Each member attends a different college so they keep in contact by sharing music files by computer. "The common thing now for college bands since technology is so great is to ... use DropBox to share GarageBand files or recordings back and forth and then add to it," Mr. Sutton says.

Each song is started by a band member who lays a foundation and then shares the fragment with the other band members via DropBox. Most of the second album, "Rough and Dirty," was written this way. 

"One of the interesting things about this technique for songwriting is ... everyone fills in the gaps on their own in totally different ways," bassist Jonathan Wyatt says. "And then when we come back together, you can have these totally different images about what the rest of the song is going to look like."

Such a patchwork method of song collaborations based on riffs or singular beats can sometimes create a rift in the group itself. As guitarist Stefan Turkowski says, there tends to be some disagreement about the direction of songs. "There's definitely some tribulations," he adds.

"And trials," Mr. Sutton chimes in. 

The band practices when all its members are in town, which happens only when there are breaks from school. The group has songwriting sessions, with everyone jamming on guitars to experiment with various sounds, as well as formal band practice. This past summer band members consistently practiced every three days to gear up for their August sold-out gig at Angelica's Bistro in Redwood City.

The main focus of the group is the instrumental sound, complemented by the deep voice of Noah Stid. As the main singer, he takes on the responsibility of writing the lyrics. "The lyrics usually have a lot of meaning behind them; we just tell him not to write about his girlfriend too much!" Mr. Sutton jokes. 

As a unit, the band is mostly influenced by Gov't Mule, a Southern folk-rock group formed out of the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers. T-Sex covered two Gov't Mule songs on their first album. Yet the members have a conflicting preferences when it comes to music, ranging from bluegrass to metal. Their friendships and professionalism transcend individual quarrels, they say. The band, Mr. Sutton says, "is really what all of our tastes come together as."

Due to the geographical complications, the band members question their longevity. They hope to have a professional recording produced within a year, and are determined to work hard in preparation for that, and to avoid going extinct any time soon.

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